Hot Air Balloon


1. Short Story


I am in a compact space, alone, I feel thousands of feet in the sky but I am only nine hundred yards in the air. The only heat I have is from the fire creating hot air for my balloon, it prevents my moustache from becoming frozen. The weather is horrifying and sets a perfect scene for a beautiful death. 
Imagine a single hot air balloon in your view, in the background is massive black clouds, lights occur inside these clouds and roars follow. It is as if I am in a ship, a lone pilot travelling for Heaven’s gates. I am going on an adventure no man has ventured. 

Below me is a field, with a single man who appears as an ant to the human eye. In the short distance are individual farm houses, no animals can be seen on this night and no detail can be added. Colours of different fields vary but they are all dark. Dark red, dark green, a different shade of dark green and so much more. I wonder what is growing. In the further distance are towns of France; Creil, Meaux, Créteil. Creil is my favourite, definitely. The other’s are small beams of lights surrounded by hills and they are beautiful but they represent the signal for me to land onto an open space, to abort my mission. Creil lacks lighting, it is mad that I can even spot it. It is based on flat land, with little lighting, a silhouette of a town in the shadows of the night.  These towns surround Paris. This is a bright light, too bright to caution me to land but bright enough to be an angel wishing me luck. Buildings vary in size and it is beautiful, my mind plays the noises of traffic and strangers passing, chatting. In the very middle is the beginning of a structure. It is rumoured to become a global icon, France’s treasure and I am alive to witness it’s creation.* Nicéphore Niépce and his brother are currently trying to invent the first engine. We will no longer need to travel by horse, this device will produce the horse power. I’m very excited, it should be a brilliant future for France. Horse power sounds clever… 

This is my suicide note. 

Only a week ago a friend was telling me in a grapevine of local fields that a person soon to die sees their life flash in front of them. This is false. Everything of the present is still present. I smell nothing, powerful wind travels around my skin and under my clothes. I dressed formal for this event, no man wants to take part in a historic event and have their mother judging what they wore. My feel is powerful, shadows push one limb in one position and another somewhere else, rain is heavy on my face and the cold stings me. The gods have turned against me. My sight becomes blurred, like rain on a window and I squint to see but could this be bliss, not to see my end. I taste nothing. 

The man’s voice screams “Êtes-vous prêt?!” I believe it is in my head as I am blind and deaf to my surroundings but with repetition, I am reminded that my foe floats simultaneously to me. I am one of two parties in the world’s most expensive duel. My opposite is the lover of Mademoiselle Tirevit, a beautiful dancer of the opera. Celebrated by I, him and the whole of upper-class France. 
I first saw her during her show, I was with my beloved wife and we were four rows from the front, shadowed by the above pews. My wife during the first act played with the rosary beads, I wasn’t as religious. Mademoiselle could not see me but I could see her, only her. She was beautiful, elegant and amazing. I send her flowers after the show with my name, stupidly confident. She does not show a soul, we meet in various overlayed hotels of Paris. Room above room, private as an apartment, every time I was with her it felt like a holiday. Eventually after all the lust and developing love, we are caught out by her husband. My wife began to become suspicious and I constantly smelt of not her perfumes. We fight publicly on a stone road as my wife watches horrified from her seat outside the cafe. He beats me until my face is bruised and bloody but is prevented to do more by a carriage nearly running us over and local authorities. We share elevated minds but except for this we do not see eye to eye. Over a transfer of letters we agree to duel. In the background of my letter writing over days is my wife in fast motion, shouting and packing and threatening and returning and leaving again until she vanished.

The rain has settled, so has my heart. The dark clouds are still the moon of the night and the thunder & lightning still proceed. My foe is eighty yards south of me. We face each other and await the signal from the ant of a man on the floor. He will cut our cords then I and him will count to ten seconds then fire our pistols. We will aim at the other man’s balloon and end their life in the most anxious, excitable and dramatic way. This will declare who will wed Mademoiselle.

As we float upwards, mirroring each other, he fires a second early to my count, a cheat or a fast counter, whatever he is, he is my murderer. I am not in regret as I could not of lived without that dancer and I will always be on the back of his mind, and hers I hope. I try to hold my position still but soon need to hold on the sides of my gondola as I crash into the plane of France’s farms.

*The Eiffel tower was originally erected 1889.



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