Welcome to the fourth and final part of my Owl City fanfic, Hot Air Balloon! In the last part, Arden and Ben found a hot air balloon in her basement. Today they’re taking it for a spin.
Arden climbed in and held out her hand. This time I grabbed her hand and climbed in with her. “Bon voyage!” she cried and tossed away the rope that anchored us.
“ARDEN! What are you doing?” I cried, gazing down at the shrinking ground. This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
She gazed at me with innocent green eyes, “Spending the afternoon in a cold hot air balloon, like you said.”
“But, but, but,” I stuttered, unable to verbalize anything except that single word. I hadn’t planned on actually leaving the ground. I figured at our most daring, we’d let the balloon rise to the end of the tether. I had definitely not planned on totally leaving the ground without any way to get back down. Did I forget to mention, I was afraid of heights?
I felt the whirling in my head and the trembling in my knees, familiar signs of my acrophobia, as the balloon crept higher in the sky. My stomach quickly dropped to the floor of the basket, and I really wanted to sit down and join it, but unfortunately there was only room to stand. I grasped the sides of the basket and began mentally preparing to die.
“Isn’t this great! I wished I had brought that parachute. We could have tried it out.”
“Are. You. Crazy?” I harshly ground out the words in response to her newest idea. I didn’t think she even heard me because at that point Arden leaned out over the basket and touched the tree tops.
“Here you go.” She proudly handed me a handful of leaves. They dropped to the basket floor untouched as there was no way I was letting go of the sides. She looked down at the leaves and up at my face. “Wow! Your face is as green as the leaves. I didn’t think people really could turn green, but you’ve proved me wrong.”
Groaning, I shut my eyes and wished for this ride to be over. I couldn’t wait to kiss the ground wherever we touched back down. If we touched back down.
“Hello, town!” hollered Arden down to the oh-so-far-away-ground-where-normal-people-stayed. I didn’t even look. I kept my eyes glued shut.
“Look at the sky! It looks like we could almost touch the sun we’re so high up! Look, look!” she cried, shaking my shoulder.
“Arden,” I begged, hoping from that one word plea she would understand that her moving me might bring about undesired consequences.
“You can see our school from here. Oh, and there’s the church we bought the parachute from! Isn’t it just a wonderful view, Ben?” I cracked my eyes open slightly. Her face, millimeters from mine, looked concerned for the first time today. I shut my eyes again before I got sick.
“Are you going to be ok?”
Oh, please, please, please, please, please, please, let us get to the ground, I prayed silently.
“Actually, I think we’re starting to come back down.” God’s answer to my prayer was delivered via Arden’s chatter. “Yep, we are now descending. Passengers, fasten your seatbelts,” playacted Arden, making clicking sounds with her tongue to represent the sound of seatbelts.
I could definitely feel the balloon gently dropping, and pretty soon the basket was dragging along the ground, bumping and bouncing over every stick and stone. “Wheeeeee!” Arden yelled, as if she were on a rollercoaster. The bumping and bouncing did remind me of a rollercoaster. Did I forget to mention that I hate rollercoasters? They make me sick.
The ride came to a sudden halt. “All passengers please disembark the USS Maroon Hot Air Balloon. Thank you for riding Arden Airlines,” she informed me as I took a wobbly step out of the basket and sank down to my knees on the grass. Beautiful, close, green, soft, cool grass. I slowly lowered myself down and lay in the beautiful stuff.
“Want a drink?” I sat up slightly to see Arden kneeling by the bank of the lake drinking the water.
“NO!!!! Don’t do that!” I cried. “There could be microorganisms in that water that could cause Typhoid fever or … or …” I was seriously concerned for her well-being. I mean, I didn’t want Arden to die a horrible death of cholera or something.
Arden glanced up, the water dripping off her chin. “Or what?” She drank the rest of the water pooled in her cupped hands, filled them up again, and held them up to me. “Want some?”
I licked my lips. Boy, I’m pretty thirsty. But what if I get some disease and have to go to the hospital with all those germs, and what happens if I die from drinking that water … My train of thought was never finished, because I felt a sudden splash of water on me.
“You were suppose to hold out your hands!” she complained as I glanced down at my now wet red and white shirt. I tried to brush the water off, but of course it wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m wet,” I stated.
“Yeah, so?” she giggled, cupping my hands, racing back to the lake, and returning to fill them up.
“Drink,” ordered Arden. “It tastes like water. What does water taste like?” The chatter turned into a long tangent about the true taste of water. I slowly sipped the water, trying not to imagine the hundreds of thousands of millions of microorganisms creeping down my throat, into my stomach, and then into my bloodstream.
“I don’t feel too great,” I heard Arden say. “I’m going to lay down.”
“We should get you to the hospital! You could be in the early stages of amoebiasis,” I cried. I imagined Arden carted off on a stretcher, her body contorting in its death throes.
“I have a-mob-sis? Sounds like fun.” She smiled and sprawled out in the shade.
I suddenly realized with horror that I had a stomach ache as well. I lay down next to her in the shade, trying not to yawn. I forced myself to stay awake, brainstorming ideas on how to get us both to the hospital without using the hot air balloon …
“24 seconds! That was my best time yet!”
I started and saw Arden gasping for breath and wading in the lake. “Arden? Are you okay? Can you breath?” I called.
She glanced over and ran up to me, dripping wet. “Hello, sleepyhead! You’ve been out a looooooooooong time! I was really bored, so I was holding my breath and swimming.” Arden smiled as she wrung out her dripping braid over me.
“I see that,” I muttered as the water hit my shirt.
Arden yanked me up on my feet. “It’s almost time for dinner. Hungry?”
I suddenly remembered that I had the beginning stages of amoebiasis, but found that my “symptoms” were gone. “Your stomach ache?” I asked her.
“Oh, yeah, it’s fine. Just needed to lay down!” she called over her shoulder, running towards the balloon. “Coming?”
I felt sick just looking at the thing. “Is there any other way to go home?” I entreated.
“We could walk around the lake,” she suggested. “We’re only like ten minutes from my house. It won’t take long. Oooooohhhh, we can pretend we’re going on a quest to regain our homeland and slay a dragon,” she imagined as she started skipping around the lake.
“Parachutes, hot air balloons, and dragons, oh my,” I sighed and started after her.
Ten minutes later, we walked in her front door. “I’m going to go change! I’ll be right back!” She dashed off in the direction of her room.
I sat down on the floor, utterly exhausted. Spotting a clock on the wall, I read the time, 6:30pm. Eight and a half hours of non-stop ideas, craziness, and energy. Arden had to be running out of ideas at this point, and I was going to be out of my mind soon. It was time to go.
Arden stepped out of her room, drying her hair on a towel. “That was a blast! What should we do next? You know, we never did do anything with that parachute.”
“I think I have to go,” I said, standing up and beginning to edge toward the door.
Arden glanced down, slightly downcast. “Oh.” Her face brightened suddenly. “Can you come over tomorrow?”
I sighed as she walked me out. Tomorrow? I didn’t know if I could deal with the craziness tomorrow. I’d be out of my mind soon.
“Please?” I heard her say, as she opened the front door.
She’d have to be out of ideas pretty soon. I relented. “Yeah, I’ll be over tomorrow.”
“Great! See you then,” she started to shut the door and then stopped. “Maybe we can spend the day in a cold hot air balloon again!”
“Maybe we should try something else tomorrow,” I suggested as I turned around on the sidewalk. “Anything else. Dreaming about fireflies, brushing paper tigers black and white, pretending it’s summer. Anything other than a hot air balloon!”
She shrugged, “Okay. Maybe tomorrow we can say hello to Seattle and pretend we’re mountaineers and albatrosses.”
“Maybe,” I agreed, silently hoping she’d forget about that idea.
“‘Night!” she called one last time as the door shut.
As I walked to my house, I thought about all we’d accomplished. We’d written the prelude to a fairytale, bought a parachute from a church rummage sale, sewed with a mean sewing machine and miles of thread, round a racetrack through her mom’s kitchen chairs, fought shadows down her dark basement stairs, and spent the afternoon in a cold hot air balloon. With my worries gone and my frown turned upside down, I walked up my sidewalk, wondering about the adventures in store for tomorrow.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the fanfiction! Arden and Ben will be back another time in a new adventure.