(This is a story (edited version) I wrote for Diamond’s Photostory contest. It was very much an impulsive write and I apologise in advance if it appears nonsensical).
I saw him from a distance. It was a mere glimpse, but I registered so much of his face in that tiny fraction of a second. He had a lost expression as he sat staring into space. As I approached him silently, I searched for what it was that had his gaze enslaved.
It was a solitary cloud.
It looked like a thick white blanket that had been rolled and crushed repeatedly, until it had frayed ends and stray threads in all the wrong places. I couldn’t get over how incredibly magnificent it looked, in the messy state it appeared to be in – at first glance, its beauty was in all, that was wrong about it. It was far too different from all the shapeless clouds I’d doodled away when I let my thoughts wandered.
“Hey Sandy.” I’d been so dazed I didn’t notice I’d been standing next to him the whole time. “Hey.” It’s a half-hearted greeting, but I can see he hasn’t heard me. I sit down beside him and we continue to stare at the lonely cloud that appears faintly translucent from the last rays of the setting sun. “Would you miss me if I float away, Sandy?” The question hits me from out of the blue and I’m disoriented at what he’s asked. Did he actually say, ‘float’?
He turns around to look at me and I know he’s searching for an answer in my eyes, one that I’m afraid my brain can’t formulate into words. “You can’t float“, I say.
“I could with balloons.” It irks me how quickly he replies. The fact that he’s actually thought it through, that he anticipated what I would say, annoys and touches me at the same time.
“Of course, I would miss you. All of us would.” That puts him at ease for a second before he tenses up again and sits rigid staring at the last few wisps of the cloud, he’s given so much of his attention to. I suddenly catch sight of a few balloons next to him and the realisation that we’re sitting on the roof hits me like a bus. He can’t have been serious.
“Don’t you think it’s unfair they’re born to soar the skies, that they get to break themselves and stitch themselves back again and disappear and not be asked why they left?” He’s not himself today, but I can hear a pained love in his voice. He just wants answers.
“Life is unfair.” I know my answer is too open-ended and I know it’s not what he wanted to hear as I see his face scrunch up in thoughtful anger. “But it’s still unfair?” He wants me to say yes. “Not to them, it isn’t.”
I feel myself losing patience, I don’t understand where he’s going with this and I can’t walk away, not now that I’ve seen the balloons. “The balloons can’t take your weight.” I blurt out. He stares at me again and it just hurts so much to see him in wordless agony struggling to convey what his thoughts are screaming.
“Cloud, are you okay?” I ask, trying to count the balloons. He stands up and hands me a balloon. “I think it’s cruel I was named for a fluff of white that goes around exploring all day and here I am stuck with no place to fly away to, when the voices inside demand a space to be let out.”
He starts blowing his balloon and beckons me to follow suit. I hold an inflated one out to him with a questioning eye and he shrugs as he ties their strings together. “They’re not for me”, he whispers. We blow up balloons till there’s enough to fill our home.
He takes out a few scraps of paper from his coat pocket and secures them at the end of each balloon. I can see something scribbled on each of them but they’re folded and hidden from view. Once all the balloons have paper scraps of their own, he hands a few of them to me and looks me straight in the eye and says, “Set them free.”
We watch as the balloons float away into the sky without a word of thanks or a farewell stare. ”I felt bad we were keeping them in a drawer when they had so much potential. It felt wrong we were condemning themselves to a sedentary life when they were created to soar. I figured I might send them away with a message or two for the clouds they pass through.”
Seriously? He was guilty about the balloons in his desk drawer? My anger vanishes like the cloud did, as I see my brother staring at the last few balloons. The sky’s a strange tint of royal blue speckled with wispy clouds and an occasional star. For a brief moment, I’m suddenly made aware of the thoughts and efforts he must have channeled into organsing this little escape, because his little heart couldn’t bear the fact that we were ‘holding a few balloons captive.’
He looks perfectly content, his skin giving off a slight glow against the blue sky and we watch as the last of the balloons disappear at the horizon. “You have no place to fly away to, Cloud. But you have family who’ll brave any storm for you.” He turns to me and I go on, “Like the stars that are always there but never seen on sun-soaked mornings, by your side brother, will we stand through thick and thin.”
Dear clouds, Please take our worries with you the next time you drop by, and set them free. Keep these balloons safe till they arrive at the place the lost thoughts go. Sincerely, Cloud Star Stone
And now, meet the siblings of this story!
Introverted Thoughts aka D