Posted in Mystery, Short Stories

Black Balloon

PROLOGUE:

On a chilly gusty evening, underneath a blood moon, a lone, old and worn Good Year Tire rolls into the Welldun City Veteran’s cemetery. It settles against a burgundy granite tombstone that happened to be the final resting spot of a long piece of red ribbon.

 ONE WEEK LATER:

“Mrs. Griswold, if you can’t keep up your mortgage payments, then we will have to take the house?”

“I understand, but my husband just died and I never worked. I stayed home, raised our kids and took care of the house this whole time. I don’t have any extra money or income.”

“Sorry Mrs. Griswold. That’s not our problem. You’ll be hearing from us soon. Have a nice day,” the tall grey suited bank representative grumbled before leaving the red porch steps.

Eleanor Griswold the recently widowed homemaker of 4949 Baylor Dr., in Welldun California, closed her white front door and went back into her four bedrooms three bathrooms house. For a brief moment she looked around her large sky blue living room and appreciated the nice house she still had. Its ceilings were cleverly painted to look like white clouds slowly crawling across the sky.

Admiring her big kitchen, that included a silver dishwasher and a small closet for her matching clothes washer and dryer, she sat down on her light lavender leather couch in her living room. She began crying from the despair of her hopeless situation, the same situation that millions of other Americans have been going through in recent years. She’s about to lose her house.

“What am I going to do?” she asks the empty air while tears drip down her face. She thought maybe she could call her daughter, Judy, but then realized that it’s too difficult to get a hold of a U.S. Army Soldier in Afghanistan. She wouldn’t be able to help that much anyway because she had her own bills to deal with.

Her other daughter, Sally, had died in a helicopter crash a year earlier in Iraq. Who’d ever thought that both of her only two daughters would end up in the military? It seems so unfair that she had to go through so much tragedy in her lifetime.

Her husband, Arnold, who just died of a heart attack three months ago, was a wonderful man who always had her and his family’s best interest in mind. He sacrificed his time, health, and comfort on a daily basis to make life a little easier for his loved ones while working at the very unregulated and polluting local tire factory.

Eleanor forced herself to stop crying and get up off the couch and figure something out. She thought, maybe she could get a job somewhere. Maybe she could even work at the locale fast food drive thru. She’s seen senior citizens there before.

Remembering her friend Gale, she found her situation quite appalling that Burger Queen’s wages barely allowed Gale to keep up with the payments for her house slash transportation. Fast food couldn’t cover the bills including a mortgage of $3,500.00 a month, so that plan wouldn’t work. Eleanor continued thinking. Maybe she could work somewhere as a babysitter or even as a teacher.

 After pondering on the teacher idea, she realized that that wouldn’t work either because of all of the schooling required that she doesn’t have. Babysitting seemed like something a much younger woman would be better at then her. She finally decided to ease her mind a little by going outside for a breath of fresh air.

Slowly and achingly walking over to her small coat closet next to her front door, she gets out a light blue jacket that would guard her frail seventy-six year old pale body against getting cold, from the mid-day fall breezes.

Opening her front door, she then walks outside. The day is beautiful. The sun is out. The temperature is in the sixties range, and the air smells clean and crisp. She walks onto her front lawn that was not as green as it used to be, now that Arnold is gone. He used to trim it regularly every weekend, if he wasn’t entertaining the two girls he loved so much with piggy back rides, board games, and tea parties featuring rude interruptions from the notorious Teddy Bear terrorist organization: F.U.Z.Z.Y.

Eleanor walks the perimeter of her now very dry and browning lawn, trying her best to enjoy what little time she has left with it. She stopped watering both the front and back lawn to save money. She notices the gopher holes and the various petrified animal droppings, rudely scattered around by the careless neighbors, that she really needed to clean up sooner or later. She thought to herself that none of that would even matter anymore because all of this would be going anyway forever.

Inspecting her white wooden fence, she noticed it was in bad shape and needed to be repaired. Her sprinkler system hadn’t worked for a long time either and this helped to harden the soil to the point of difficult penetration. Then she brought her gaze to the beautiful tree that was the center piece of her front yard.

She was proud of its height, being fifteen feet tall. Her eyes appreciated the extraordinary range of white, yellow, red, and at times, even purple leaves. Eleanor always liked to walk under it to breath in the light fragrance of honey.

This time there wasn’t much happiness felt while under it. Accompanied by a strange smell of burnt rubber, the sadness and despair running deep within her gave way to tears drenching her cheeks again. She got closer to the trunk and leaned against it. Staring at the lower branches, their versatility could be seen. The tears keep coming and she seems to be unable to stop them this time.

After about three minutes, through the lens of tears covering her grey eyes, she sees something peculiar hanging from one of the lower branches that is sprinkled with purple leaves. Sniffling and wiping her tears away, Eleanor tries to clearly see, the anomaly hanging from the branch. At the same time the temperature has dropped by five degrees and the sky is strangely starting to get darker and gloomier. Clouds are coming in and they aren’t very white.

She walks closer to figure it out and her suspicion is correct. A black balloon on a long red ribbon. It’s tangled up on the branch. Eleanor untangles it and looks at it closely. While she struggled to decipher the shadow she can vaguely see inside the balloon, a thunder clap roared and momentarily startled her.

She rushed back in to the house to investigate the round rubber oddity. She places the balloon down on her couch and then hangs her coat up in the closet. She picks the balloon back up and walks all the way through her kitchen to the other side which leads into her dining room. She flips her light switch on to make the chandelier in the center of the ceiling illuminate the room.

She pulls out one of the four black wooden chairs neatly parked underneath her large black oak dining table and sits down. Eleanor holds the balloon closely in front of her face and tries to see what exactly is inside. Upon further inspection she sees that there is a piece of paper folded up.

How weird? she thought.

Eleanor couldn’t believe her eyes. She was so excited by the mystery, that she removed one of her turquoise dove earrings and used it to pop the balloon. Instantly thunder raged across the sound spectrum jolting her once more. After the abrupt noise was finished, Eleanor took in some deep breathes, exhaled, and then grabbed the folded paper.

She noticed that it wasn’t just folded. It seemed to be sealed at the edges with what looked like dry blood. Although not so strongly that it would be difficult to break.

Eleanor carefully uses her right index fingernail to cleanly and neatly break the seal while keeping the mystery paper folded. She slowly unfolds it. She sees, in bright golden letters, a paragraph of a few sentences. At first, she doesn’t notice that all of the writing is reversed and impossible to read except for the top where it says, “Dearly beloved, it’s me Arnold.”

She instantly drops the letter on the table and grasps her mouth with both hands. She’s completely taken aback and totally frightened at this paranormal occurrence. Then she rationalizes that this must be some kind of joke, a cruel prank, or maybe she’s dreaming.

She pinches herself to make sure she’s not dreaming. The pain was real and so is the letter. She picks it up again and sees that it really does say that it’s from her recently deceased husband Arnold, but somehow, everything else is written backwards or reversed.

Eleanor tried to read it backwards and even using a pencil to rewrite the letters proved to be a challenge. She didn’t know what to do. She momentarily pondered different ways she could read it, but nothing made sense.

She left the letter on the table and went to the bathroom. After she washed her hands she looked in the mirror to checkup on her appearance. Glancing at the mirror she noticed how the little boy in the Salvador Dali painting, “Portrait de Madame Ann W. Green et de son fils Jonathan” on the opposite wall, was floating away to the right instead of the left. The lady staring at him was on the left side instead of the right.

Epiphany!

She ran to her dining room and accidently stubbed her toe on the way letting out a loud, “Owww!” She paused for a moment to rub her foot and then quickly limped on toward the table. She got the letter and then rushed back to the bathroom and held it close to the mirror.

The letter said, “My dearest love, life was such a joy and always easier with you there.”

This first line brought tears of joy and a bright smile to Eleanor’s wrinkled face. She smiled with excitement and blurted out, “For me too Arnold.”

She continued reading, “I will always be with you. Never feel alone or ever be afraid because I am still with you. Sally is here too and we both miss you deeply. It’s beautiful here. Everything is bright white and our bodies are made of astral light. We can watch everything in your world from ours. We know that the mortgage people are about to take the house. That’s why I’m contacting you.”

Shivers went down Eleanor’s spine and her skin began to crawl. She stopped reading, walked into the living room, and just stared at the ceiling for a brief minute. She briefly gazed out of the living room window, still in somewhat of a trance and from the side of her view caught a glimpse of some bright white lightning that splattered the sky. The whole thing was a bit overwhelming. Even though she considered this to be a wonderful surprise, it was still very creepy.

Returning to the bathroom, she continued reading, “I never told you about some of the things I encountered while I was in the Army in the first Gulf War. On one of the patrols I fell into an underground bunker that had nothing but pure gold coins. Upon impact I was knocked unconscious for fifteen minutes. After I woke up, I saw all the coins and stuffed as many as I could into all of the empty pockets that I had on my Dessert BDU’s. When we first moved into our house, I buried them in a locked metal container in the back yard.”

“Where? Where in the backyard?” Eleanor yelled out to the letter.

She read, “The container is in the far left…”

All of a sudden, thunder struck again and deeply rattled the windows this time. Being startled by it, the letter slipped out of her hands and fell through the air. It floated left and right and she tried to grab it, but with no luck. Then it managed to land directly into the toilet.

She gasped for air and with much frustration she yelled, “Damn it!” She reached her hand into the toilet quickly and pulled it out. The letters were blurry now and started to drip down the paper. She could no longer make out what it said.

Eleanor fell to the floor and cried and wept for hours. When she finally got the will to rise, she decided that she will just have to dig wherever she could until she finds it.

She changed into her green gardening clothes and got a yellow flashlight. Then she went outside to the backyard in the pitch-black night. Haziness and grey clouds seemed to be moving in now and the air was chilly. She got a brown wooden shovel from her tool shed.

Her first guess was the far left corner looking out from the back door. This was a small area between the beige wooden tool shed and the dwindling white fence. She walked around the tool shed and stopped at the corner. When she flashed her light on the corner area she noticed something odd. She never remembered seeing it before. Maybe it’s because she never went around the shed to inspect the corner. To her delightful surprise, embedded into the almost petrified parched ground, there was an old dried out, faded red, heart shaped reef of roses. Then it thundered, and lightninged, and this time the tears that fell from her cheek were of joy mixed with rain.

Author:

Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only own one encyclopedia.

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