Mother's Balloon: Part Two
Featuring a Most Extraordinary Ride
The sky was so blue it was blinding. Or perhaps it only seemed that way to a girl whose eyes were not used to seeing colour so vibrant and pure. Before this insane and extraordinary day of her life, Reyela had never payed attention to the sky and the colours it could turn, other than the odd yellow sunrise if she had awoken very early, and the candy pink sunsets she and her mother used to watch from the front porch. The red Draik could not remember a time when she had noticed the sky in the middle of the day, when it was its typical brilliant blue. Now that she did notice, she found it to be quite overwhelming, and being exposed to such a colour for such a long amount of time made Reyela feel lightheaded... And lighthearted, in spite of herself.
"Well, this is positively the strangest birthday I've had in a good long while! I wonder if anyone else has ever done this before. Certainly no one I know. Imagine travelling like this on a regular basis! Oh, but would it be quite safe? Fortunately, it's the perfect weather for balloon travel on this particular day, but what about when it's rainy? Or when the wind is not exactly right?"
Reyela's rambling came to an abrupt stop when something large and menacing-looking appeared out of nowhere in the sky ahead of her. The giant was white with flecks of silver throughout, and Reyela was startled to find that she could see right through it to the other side.
"What in Neopia...?"
Reyela had encountered her very first cloud. At first she hoped that the balloon would see the cloud and go around it, but then she realized how silly that sounded and laughed out loud at her own foolish thought, simply because, at this moment in time, she was honestly too happy to be angry with herself. She closed her eyes tightly as the balloon gently carried her through the puff of white. But so focused was she on trying to keep her eyes closed, she forgot to close her mouth, and she ended up with a mouthful of the sweetest sugar she had ever tasted.
Reyela's eyes flew open wide. "Tell me I did not just eat a cloud." she said breathlessly.
If she had said it once, she had said it a thousand times, but the words never seemed to grow old:
"This is the strangest day of my life." she declared once again, as the purple balloon brought her out of the cloud and back to the magnificent blue of the sky.
Reyela was enjoying her journey, but naturally she was concerned about when and where she was going to land. She had been floating for a long time now, but exactly how long she wasn't sure. The wide open sky had a remarkable way of making a person lose track of the time. She thought that maybe if she had been a little closer to the ground, she might have seen a clock on a great tower like the ones she had heard about in Brightvale City. Then she would have been able to find out the time. Of course, knowing the time would not help her to know where she was going to land. A part of her hoped she would land as close to her home as possible, but another part of Reyela's heart longed to to get away from her cottage on the plain. She felt isolated living so far out in the countryside. There was nowhere to go except the general store, nothing to see but the same old trees and stream she had been looking at for ten years. For these reasons and others, Reyela had a burning desire to see the world, or at least a different part of Brightvale.
She would have loved to see a city, with high buildings and shopping malls, and expensive dress shops that sold only the finest of silks. She could close her eyes and dream about it. Her vision of the city was so clear, it not only felt as if she had seen it before, but as if she had lived there herself, in the land of lords and ladies, and other fine-titled Neopians. The mighty, the wealthy. The ones fortunate enough to have been born into a life of luxury, with no sadness or sorrow at all. The Neopians who lived life the way it was always meant to be lived, the ones who were truly happy all the time. Those were the people Reyela wanted to be around. That was the person she wanted to be.
Suddenly, an idea came to her. She couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it this morning, when she had first been picked up by the mysterious purple balloon. What if the balloon had carried her away for a purpose? And what if that purpose was to let her experience the world like she had always wished she could? The balloon had already proven itself to be capable of doing the impossible. Why couldn't it be a miraculous balloon that had come to make sure she had a happy birthday after all?
Tightening her grip on the balloon's silver ribbon, Reyela carefully leaned forward to see if she could see the ground beneath her. She couldn't, and a most unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she should never have tried.
"I'll not be doing that again." the Draik grimaced. "I suppose I'll have to wait for this balloon to take me down in its own time. I do hope it's soon — I'm getting hungry."
As fortune would have it, Reyela did not have to wait long for the balloon to decide it was time for them to come down, and the time she did have to spend waiting was easily occupied with questions. Good questions, such as:
"Will the city look very much how I imagined it, or less so?"
"Do I look nice enough to fit in with all the other girls in the city?"
"Once I have finished exploring the city, how will I let Father know to come and pick me up?"
"How in Neopia is it possible that my arms are not stiff after so many hours of holding onto this balloon?"
Reyela pondered these questions and others for approximately half an hour, and when at last she was beginning to run out of things to ponder, she came to realize that the brilliant blue below her was being replaced by a lush shade of green. The green of a land that had hardly been touched by neopets, where the trees could grow freely without fear of choking in polluted air, where the grass spanned the area, and would never be trampled with buildings, or covered with pavement. Even from afar, Reyela could tell that this wasn't a city. She wondered if the balloon had made a mistake. If it had come down too early and would go back up when it realized its error. But there was no wind to blow the balloon up to the sky again, in fact, the winds had died down entirely, and it seemed the balloon had no other choice but to land in this highly undeveloped area.
"Oh, just try to fly higher, balloon, please! I wanted to go to Brightvale City, but any city will do! Please, I don't want to see somewhere else in the country. I know all about the country! I have been nowhere but the country, in fact!"
Just as it hadn't listened when Reyela had begged it not to pick her up, the purple balloon ignored her request, and did not even try to go back up.
As the Draik got closer and increasingly closer to the ground, a rainbow of other colours appeared before her eyes. There were patches of yellow and brown, spots of orange and red, and a long stream of blue. On her left, Reyela saw a small beige building, perhaps a shed of some sorts, and on her right she saw a larger building with a pointed roof and walls of dark burgundy.
"That's a curious building." thought the Draik about the second one. "It's very big, probably big enough to be a shopping mall." Reyela crossed her fingers. "Perhaps I've come to the right place after all."
In a brief moment Reyela would realize that she had been sorely mistaken. The closer to the ground she got, the clearer she could see the world around her, and she soon discovered that the yellows and browns were fields of corn and potatoes, and the oranges and reds were pumpkins and gourds. There were rolling hills of the greenest grass she had ever seen, and the long stream of blue turned out to be a literal stream, much like the one behind her own home. The beige shed grew slightly, and the burgundy building was revealed for what it truly was when a brown Kougra in grubby overalls came walking out, trailing a flock of about two dozen Babaas behind him. It was then that the awful truth dawned on her.
"Oh no. Oh no, this can't be true. I cannot be landing on a farm!"
As the balloon slowly lowered, and came to a gentle halt on one of the grassy hilltops, the red Draik went utterly rampant.
"I wanted to go to a city, you stupid, stupid balloon! Of all places, all places in Neopia you could have brought me, why did you bring me here, to a filthy, stinky farm?"
She tried lifting her foot and slamming it down on the ground, in a typical Reyela fashion, but after floating weightlessly for so many hours her legs felt as limp as wet noodles, and she collapsed at her knees and fell to the ground, getting grass stains all over her favourite blue dress.
"Well!" she huffed with indignation. "Isn't this just peachy! Here I am on my tenth birthday, absolutely a million miles away from home, trapped in a place where Snorkels role in mud puddles, and Babaas have complete rule of the land!"
Mustering all of her strength, she pulled herself to her feet only to fall again, this time landing on her back with her eyes looking up at the skies. She was about to ask how her day could possibly get any worse, when out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of something purple fading into the distance. She quickly sat up, and in a panic, looked around for the balloon. It was nowhere to be found.
"You deserter!" the red Draik screamed. "How could you leave me here after getting my hopes up, leading me to believe you were some kind of miracle balloon! How dare you! You trickster! You kidnapper of innocent children! How could you?"
Reyela shouted at the disappearing purple dot until she was blue in the face, and when she was certain that the balloon was not coming back, she crossed her arms and her legs and proceeded to pout longer and harder than she had ever pouted before.
As the day went on, Reyela could feel her strength returning to her wobbly legs. She got up off the grass and began to pace back and forth atop the hill.
"Well this is jolly good fun indeed, but I'd much rather be doing something other than sitting on a hill for the last handful of waking hours of my birthday." She stopped for a moment, and looked down at her feet. "At least this hill is clean. That's probably more than you can say for the rest of this place. I suppose I should be grateful for that." she added, as if she knew the meaning of the word. "Hmm, I wonder if I have landed anywhere close, even relatively, to a city of any kind. If I have, I could walk there, depending on the distance. Oh, why do my wings have to be so little and weak? If I were a better flyer, I would not have been kidnapped by that balloon in the first place! I could have simply flown down from the sky, and I would have been spared the humility of being left here to rot in this hick haven! Stupid, stupid, ridiculous wings!"
The boiling anger that had left the Draik only a minute ago was now back, and hotter than ever. It could be said that the feeling never truly left the little girl who was called Reyela. It was instilled in her heart on the day she was born, and every unfortunate occurrence and sad event in her short life forced the anger deeper into her soul, making it almost impossible to tame. Perhaps nothing could save the red Draik from herself. Save her from her animosity, and the internal pain that never failed to come with it.
But as Reyela was having her tantrum in the middle of the grassy hilltop, a biscuit Kougra was pushing a wheelbarrow down a path that led past the same hill. Reyela saw the young boy long before he saw her, and when she called out to him, the boy froze in shock...
To be continued…