The Balloon

Amidst the powdered glitter of city lights, a plain-coloured balloon came to life.

With a slight push, gravity compromised, and the balloon freed itself from the wrist of a child. Beyond its will, it began to ascend, eddying in aimless random swirls. It had no control over itself, and being at the mercy of the wind, it had not the faintest idea where it was heading. As the balloon rose higher and higher into dizzying heights, it thought hard for a moment. There were a couple of plausible endings to this willful journey. The balloon might burst upon its own pressure at any moment, or it might cease its existence against the concrete walls of a skyscraper. The balloon might be torn to shreds, beak to rubber, by a passing bird, or it might be pulverised by a naughty pocket of clear air turbulence. The balloon mulled in silence, wondering which ending would be most forgiving.

As if in answer, a squawk sliced through the night. No sooner had the balloon registered the interruption when a crow appeared head-on. They locked eyes for a moment, each calculating the other’s intention. However, the crow soon lost interest, having decided that a balloon was not a tasty meal. It swooped away and melded into the darkness of the night. The balloon sighed in relief, glad that its ephemeral existence has avoided a bland ending.

On the ground, the child looked up and reached out his hand towards the wayward balloon. A cyclist sped by, splashing a water puddle over the child. When the splash lost itself against the pavement, the child was nowhere to be seen. The cyclist looked back in bewilderment. There was now only the grey tarmac pavement where a moment ago stood a child.

Beyond the skyscrapers, the child rose higher and higher towards the balloon.  He could see the thinning of the clouds and the darkening of the expanse above. It got harder and harder to breathe, and a wave of frost swept over. A pair of clouds came over and wrapped the child in their arms. With a gentle push, they propelled him higher than before. The child could see the balloon in the distance. They are closer now. It was a soothing sight.

Intrigued, the child reached out again for the balloon, at which point a single raindrop landed upon his flabby palm.  There, the mini puddle pulsated gently, full of vigour and hope. Smiling, the child willed forth the raindrops, hoping to slow the balloon. The clouds prodded gently at his ankles, impatient for another upward hoist.

The balloon saw through the child’s game plan and smiled in return. The child did not understand that raindrops would not slow the balloon’s journey. Instead, it would end its journey. But it was all too little too late, for the balloon was way above the darkening clouds beyond the reach of any raindrop.  With this thought safe in mind, the balloon continued its ascent into the dark velvet night, against which the stars, a myriad of faint pinpricks, scattered like specks of luminous powder. The balloon blended in masterfully, itself receding into a single point of light. There it lingered, as if it was meant to be there all along. A distance below, the child, whose face was the face of a person whose world had changed a lot in a few short minutes, watched on with longing eyes, soaked to the skin, at which point the wavering pinprick vanished into oblivion, as if it was never really there in the first place.

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