The Ballooning Village

I flew into an easy landing, sliding off Sabriel’s back to land on my feet in the town’s square. Where was everybody? Seen from the sky, this place had seemed lively enough—in my imagination, at least.

Sabriel gave a huff; hot smoke shot out of her nostrils in black jets. “I know girl, I’m hungry too,” I said. My hand moved to stroke her scaly head, and my eyes roved over the buildings surrounding us. Brick walls, shingle roofs, most all of them two or three stories high… No one could be seen going into or out of any of them. All the windows in sight were darkened.

I started towards the closest building, and gave a yell when something underfoot squished like an overripe fruit, and let out a loud squeal as it burst under my sole.

I barely had time to examine the yellow splat I’d made, when another… something… sprung up six inches from the first. Like a yellow-ish peach it was, and almost like a balloon in the way it was inflating itself, up and out from between paving stones.

“But what the hell is it?” I whispered, head bent down to the ground. A high-pitched hum came from a hole in its side. “Kind of like a mouth, like it’s singing,” I said, “And look! It’s got a face! It is singi–”

Here I heard Sabriel give a loud grunt behind me. I looked over my shoulder, then turned in a slow circle, jaw dropping. All around my friend and I, filling the whole square, were hundreds of the inflating faces: in yellows, oranges and reds, humming notes high and low.

Sabriel stumbled side to side trying to avoid them, wide eyes trying to see all directions at once. The air was filled with a growing cacophony of voices, all singing loudly. It was almost understandable, almost like the buzzing of a busy town, but in some strange, musical language I didn’t know.

The balloon people continued to grow, humming louder and louder, their eyes to the sky. One by one, they began to lift up into the air. I made my way between them all to put an arm around Sabriel’s neck and gaze in silence. A few moments later and they were all in the sky, and their voices had crescendo-ed from a jarring noise to a striking symphony of unearthly music.

“I wonder where they’re going?” I said aloud. “At any rate, I don’t suppose we’ll find any food here, since no one sticks around long enough to even get hungry!”

My black-scaled friend turned one great yellow eye toward me. “No…” I replied, “I don’t have the heart to try eating them… I mean, listen to how happy they all are!” The strange villagers were now just a big, musical, luminous cloud in the sky, drifting east on the wind.

“I suppose we should get going too, huh?” I said to Sabriel. She gave a long, slow sound; her idea of a sigh.

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Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.