"A Balloon of Nightmares" by Ally N.

A 2019 Young Writers Flash Fiction Contest Honorable Mention

The balloon is the color of midnight.

This fits because this balloon in particular is not a happy balloon. It is rumored to hold all the evils and sorrows of this world.

I don't know if that's true or not. But this is what Grand-mère has always taught me.

Audrick is beside me, shifting uneasily on the pavement. The growing storm rises behind us, blowing eerie winds through our small town of Copper Coast. I glance back at it, looking at the dark clouds looming like masses of black-stained cotton.

"Eloise," Audrick says, a note of worry in his voice. "I think we should grab the balloon and go. Let's just do what we came here for."

I nod and do what any good best friend would do: the exact opposite. I run towards the storm and away from the balloon, fear coursing through me. I don't want any part with that balloon, no matter what Grand-mère tells me I'm destined to do.

I refuse to pop it.

Because if I pop it, and what Grand-mère has said turns out to be the truth, then I will be releasing not only other people's nightmares, but my own as well. And if I have to see Papa die before my eyes one more time...

...I don't know if I'll make it.

Audrick screams my name behind me. "ELOISE! ELOISE! COME BACK, IT'S DANGEROUS!"

I don't know how to make my feet stop. I keep running towards the storm as though I have a death wish.

And just as I fall to my knees, letting the wind and rain batter me like an autumn leaf, I see something through my soggy strands of wheat-colored hair.

The balloon. It came for me after all.

Just like Grand-mère said it would.

author photoAlly N. is an avid reader, writer, and piano player. She has been writing since 2nd grade and hopes to pursue a career someday. Her favorite authors include J.K. Rowling, Shannon Messenger, and Suzanne Collins.