*The Fall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A woman who is desperate for a change in her life gets one.


They were of every possible colour. Orange and green, yellow and pink, red and black, mauve and grey. There were twenty of them altogether and they appeared over the hills at sunset. Silently, they advanced towards the village. The sky and the hills were the perfect backdrop for them, messengers of magical journeys, of romantic memories, engineless, and wingless. The enormous balloons with the basket below for the passengers were travelling together that afternoon who knows where.
Claudia, was going to give a glass of water to a patient in bed, when she saw the balloons. She remained where she was until the last one was out of sight. For a brief moment she felt as free as one of the balloons. With the vanishing of the last one she went back to reality, to see the angry face of the woman in bed waiting for water. Claudia waited until the glass was empty and took it to the kitchen.
The winter sun was on the point of lying down. After straightening up the beds and fixing the reading lamps for those who wanted to read, Claudia said goodbye and see you tomorrow. The streets were dark and cold, and the magic had passed, at least inside Claudia’s head
The work at the clinic was not well-paid,but it did not matter too much to her. The old ladies’ home was only a step in the climb to the top. The sight of the balloons had reawakened an old interest of hers. What were they doing up there? Why were there so many? She wondered.
Mark, the man who shared her life, was in the kitchen when she got home.
“Did you see the balloons?” she asked him.
“Yes, I did. I saw them on television. They are rehearsing for a competition. How did you manage to see them?”
“I saw them from the home. They suddenly appeared flying over the hills that are behind the village. What a sight! I wish someone would invite me to go up!”
“I doubt it, unless you know someone. Those who go aboard are usually experts.”
“It doesn’t matter, I’d love to go up if only for a short trip.”
Claudia said nothing more about the subject. That night they went to bed earlier than usual. Mark thought she was in a romantic mood but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Making love to Claudia was similar to trying to wake up Snow White. Claudia was in bed with him, but she hadn’t really been there for quite some time. He hadn’t noticed until then that anything was awry.
When his needs were satisfied, Claudia switched on the television inside her head. The balloons flying and her flying with them. The wind in her face, a feeling of freedom, free from work, free from him, free from all this. I’m more than fed up with this village, it’s too small for me. How am I going to get anywhere in a village such as this? Of course, I’ll have to leave Mark. He’ll soon find consolation in another’s arms. I’m sure he won’t want to come with me to a new place. How can he like such a dead place? were her pre-sleep thoughts.
Claudia’s dreams were not about balloons, as she would have liked, but about stormy clouds moving from one side to another without one ray of sun to break the monotony.
The front pages of the local newspapers had photos of the balloons, with details of the competition and the names of the competitors.

“Please, come in.” The director of the home’s voice gave permission for Claudia to go in.
The lady sitting behind the desk contemplated Claudia. “I see you have applied for a transfer to another home. May I know why?”
“Yes, Madam, it’s because I wish to rise in my profession and saw the vacancy in a nursing magazine, and therefore the application.”
“You’re ambitious, are you? How long have you been here?”
“A year, and I see there’s nothing more for me to learn here. Also I feel the urge to leave.”
“Well, well, I understand. At your age I was somewhat similar. I congratulate you on the decision you have made, and I hope your application is successful. Even though we are going to miss you.”
“Thank you, Madam. Good morning.”
“Good morning.”

From the same window she had seen the balloons, the normal countryside could be seen with smooth green hills and trees dotting the green carpet. The clouds were very white and moved very fast.
At half-past twelve, lunch time for the patients, afterwards Claudia was free to look up a name in a newspaper.
She thought that it would probably be in the telephone directory. She knew he lived in a house outside the village. For some unknown reason, Claudia was determined that the man should take her with him in the balloon.
“Nurse, nurse. That’s six times I’ve called you. Could you bring me a chair, I want to sit with the others.”
“Yes, of course, Madam.”
What a horror all this was, perhaps with a higher post there would be less taking and bringing things from one side to the other. Claudia saw herself as a badly paid servant. And that, soon, a different nurse would be in her place. She was leaving and would be the one giving orders instead of receiving them. In spite of herself, Claudia could not avoid turning her gaze more than once towards the window where the previous night she had seen the balloons.

“Hello, Mark. How was your day?”
Mark raised his head from his book and stared affectionately at a good-humoured Claudia.
“Hello, what’s happened to make you so happy? Has your salary been raised?”
“No, nothing like that. It’s just that I feel well.”
Claudia thought to herself that of course she felt well, tomorrow she was going to see the aeronaut during her lunchtime. She would wear something pretty to help convince him that it was worth the trouble taking her up with him. Then there was the other business, the application, well, poor Mark, but it’s not as if we were married. We are free to do what we please. There will always be a woman for him. Perhaps that’s why it’s so easy for me to leave him. I’m going too fast, first of all I’ve got to convince the man with the balloon to let me go up with him. Claudia was very feline during the whole evening. Mark had not seen her so happy in a long time.

Claudia slept badly and woke up with the sensation of anguish and terror, Mark was deep asleep at her side. She felt afraid and didn’t know why.

The next day Claudia got up late. Mark had already left. At least, he didn’t ask her why she had stayed in bed. The weather was cold and gloomy. She wore a white angora sweater and her good coat. Bad luck if Mark saw her dressed up.

Claudia spent the morning tensed up. At lunchtime, she took a taxi and went to meet the aeronaut. He wasn’t at all how she had imagined him to be, he was the most ordinary and average man.
“Good afternoon, Miss.”
“Good afternoon, Sir. I rang you to see if you would let me go up with you in your balloon next Saturday.”
“Have you any experience?”
“No, I haven’t. I’m sure that with a few suggestions from you, I’ll be able to accompany you.”
“I’ve got a wife who usually comes with me. So I don’t see why I have to take you.”
Claudia refused to give up. “Please, take me with you. I’m not asking for much.”
She gazed at him with her head to one side.
“Well, I don’t know. What am I supposed to say to my wife?”
“That you are doing a favour for a poor girl, to give her an illusion in her life.”
“Well, put like that, I don’t think she’ll be angry.”
“You’ll take me up then?”
“Yes, I’ll take you. But you must follow my instructions to the letter. Understand?”
“Of course.” And Claudia gave him a friendly smile. “When may I see the balloon?”
“Tonight, if you can come.”
“ Yes, I can come tonight. What time?”
“At half-past seven. Is that all right for you?”
“That’s fine. Where shall we meet?”
“In the pub, the Mad Horseman. Do you know it?”
“It’s behind the market, isn’t it?”
“Exactly, see you then. By the way if you change your mind call me. I don’t want to be waiting for someone who isn’t going to turn up.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there, and at the arranged time. Goodbye.”
Claudia went off to get a taxi home. It had almost been too easy, perhaps she would have problems with him.

She phoned, “Mark, is that you?”
“Is that you Claudia?”
“Look I have to stay a bit longer and then I’m going to see one of the girls, so I’ll be home late.”
“What time are you thinking of coming home, so I know how long I have to wait up for you.”
“Don’t wait up for me. When you get sleepy go to bed.”
“You know I can’t sleep without you.”
“Oh, Mark don’t be so tiresome. I’ll be back as soon as I can. See you later.”
How boring Mark is. He had better get used to sleeping without me because soon I shan’t be there to help him sleep. All this is his fault for not being more ambitious. Claudia hung up with these thoughts in her head.

The Mad Horseman was a very busy pub. It didn’t take Claudia long to find the aeronaut. “I’m not late, am I?”
“No, you’re on time. Like a drink before we leave?”
“No, thanks, I prefer us to go before it gets much darker.”
“Afraid of he dark?”
“No, it’s only that I don’t want to be away from home too long.”
“My car’s over there under the tree.”
Claudia felt very strange, it was a mixture of excitement about the balloon, of being with an unknown man on a dark country road, and of having lied to Mark. Although this last one didn’t upset her so much, thinking that the result justified the actions.
The car stopped near a hangar on the edge of a village. They got out. The man walked in front of Claudia. He gave her a torch and as she held it, he unlocked the padlock. At first, the light inside the hangar hurt her eyes, soon she saw there were many baskets and ropes.
“I’m going to show you how a model works. You fix the earth baskets, then the balloon must be inflated with hot air from the flame from the gas. When the balloon is inflated, you let the earth baskets go. In order to go down there is a rope that lets the hot air out little by little. Have you understood anything?”
“Yes, but I’ll need to study it.”
“I’ll go over it again with the model, till you have it perfectly.”
“Very well.”

When they left the hangar, Claudia’s ears were humming with so much explanation.
“What is the object of the competition?”
“Only to see who lands closest to the target.”
While she was on her way home, Claudia began to doubt the rationality of her desire and also about that unknown man.
Mark was in bed reading when Claudia entered the bedroom. “How’s your friend?”
“She’s fine.”
“You look tired. I’ll get you some hot milk and biscuits.”
Claudia had a hot shower and got into bed with a tiredness that left her weak.
“Thanks, Mark. Sorry about arriving home late. I feel so tired. Goodnight.” And fell asleep.

Friday brought with it two things of great importance for Claudia, the first was that she had been given the new post and the second was a phone call from the aeronaut reminding her of the time she had to be at the field and the clothes she should wear the following day. The competition was to be filmed by a television company, so she had to make herself pretty, just in case she came out on the screen.
“Mark, I can’t come shopping with you tomorrow as I have to see someone. We’ll meet later.”
Mark didn’t reply. The time for explanations had already passed.
Claudia took a pill to help her sleep. Her last thoughts were that she had to tell Mark she was going to work in another old people’s home, and that he could accompany her if he so wished. She didn’t think he would. He’d try to make her stay. This time she wasn’t going to give in. Opportunities like that only came once in a lifetime. She’d tell him about the new job after the balloon race.

A light rain had fallen during the night. At half-past two in the afternoon all the competitors with their respective balloons and their companion met in a field outside the village. Also the television company with their balloon, other balloons who were not in the race but wanted to watch the race, and a mixed public. Everybody, like Claudia, looked up at the sky, the clouds were getting bigger and she felt a nameless terror. She was anxious and nervous.
“I don’t feel well and it might be better if I don’t go up,” she told the aeronaut.
“Listen! You chased me, begging me to let you go up, and now you come out with you don’t feel like going up. I’m very sorry but, like it or not, you’re going to go up. I have told my wife some silly story so that she won’t be offended by your coming up and not her. Don’t tell me any more about not feeling well.”
Claudia was in a panic. He could force her go up. What could she do?
The balloons were now inflating and ready for their passengers. Beside every balloon was the pilot and his companion. The television camera was working enthusiastically. Claudia made an attempt to flee but the man caught her by an arm and introduced her to the presenter of the programme. The target was a field some kilometres away from the village.
She thought that she felt she was so bad because it was the first time. She had to go up, even if it was just to say she had been up there. How awful! What a sky!
As soon as everyone was aboard someone gave the signal, and like a cloud of insects the balloons rose, into the air. The man sent Claudia a very unfriendly look and the sky above was getting darker and a storm threatening. She had to put up with it and, as it was not a long journey, her feet would soon be back on the ground. She wouldn’t open her eyes till they landed.
What was that noise?
Claudia opened her eyes and saw the man approaching her. She stepped back, escape was out of the question. Screaming was impossible! The last thing she remembered was the colours of the balloon: red, yellow and white, against the grey sky.

The smell was familiar.
She was in a hospital, how was it possible. She didn’t have to work that day.
What was she thinking, she didn’t work in a hospital, she worked in an old people’s home. Where was she? Someone was kissing her. Mark, what was he doing here?
Seeing Claudia’s eyes open, Mark smiled at her. “It’s about time! You’ve given us a terrible shock.”
“What am I doing here? Why am I in bed?”
“Look, you have broken both your legs. Why didn’t you tell me about the balloon? Well, it’s all over now, and here you are safe and sound.”
“I don’t remember anything. I know I was afraid.”
“And rightly so. Something was wrong with the balloon and it fell. The man died and you managed to save yourself. We saw it all on the television.”
“I’m never going up again. I’m going to stay on dry land. Do you know that I was unable to keep my eyes open to see what was below – for fear!”
“So, it isn’t worth going up if you can’t enjoy the panorama.”
“Yes, that’s true. When can I leave here?”
“As soon as your legs are better, and that’ll take some time. Are you thinking of going somewhere?”
“Of course not. Why?”
“Because you won’t get very far. You’re pregnant.”

“Now I understand the nausea.”

Submitted: April 04, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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I loved it! Well written and misleading until the surprise ending. Poor Claudia with her broken legs, but what a delightful ending! Well done, well done! Ja ne

Wed, April 4th, 2012 6:27pm

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