Balloons and Stars

There was once a distant land populated by youth and plentiful in ores and vegetation. It was bordered by jagged mountains to the west and vast seas to the east. It was a land that was free and young, much like those who peopled it. It was a land that lay like a clean slate, ready to accept whatever design its owners put upon it.

The young people of this land had their minds fixed upon a single dream. They wanted a way to leave that land, and to explore the lands beyond the seas and behind the mountains. After having explored their own land so thoroughly so as to know that there was no way of leaving by foot, they had decided that flight was the best way to explore the world. They had found records of others before them who had taken to the air, and now they thought to do the same. Ideas evolved into talk. Talk evolved into action, and soon they all had an idea of what they needed to do. They scattered across the land in search of materials to make their ideas a reality.

There was one young man who, amidst all the commotion, sat down and began to draw. He had listened to the others’ ideas. He had mentioned his own ideas, but his ideas were too slow and laborious for the liking of the other young people. The others had dispersed and left him alone, and yet he continued to draw. The sun slowly glided overhead as the young man’s pen carefully illustrated his ideas. The other young people returned, each carrying the materials they had gathered to make a way to fly.

And all this while, the young man continued to draw.

Each of the young people in their own time returned and eagerly plied themselves to their tasks. Each worked alone on their own project. They sat in the grassy fields as they wove large sheets and dyed them in brilliant colors. They carefully joined the sheets together, according to their design, to make enormous sacks. Then they took fresh, green branches and meticulously wove the branches together to make huge baskets. Then they each made and stoked their own fires. In those fires, they melted ores. They carefully poured the molten ores into molds and let the metal cool. Before the metal could fully cool, they hammered it into rough shapes. These rough shapes were put together to make or to join parts. The parts, once all together, made simple burners.

And all this while, the young man continued to draw.

Though the other young people worked independently, there were striking similarities between their creations. They all worked at their own pace and finished in their own time, but it was clear that they were all following the same pattern. Each was unique in small ways, but overall, they were the same. Each of the youth had constructed a balloon.

And all this while, the young man continued to draw.

With the enormous sacks made from sheets fastened to the huge baskets made of green branches, the young people applied their burners and began filling the sacks with hot air. Slowly, the sacks began the billow and swell. Great balloons began to slowly sprout from the green fields and bloom with radiant colors. Each balloon took its own unique shape as it slowly lifted itself from the grass. The young people looked up with dreaming, eager eyes.

And all this while, the young man continued to draw.

Finally, the first balloon stood high enough for its creator to step into the basket. The young owner of the balloon gave the burner another great blast, and the balloon gently left the ground by a few inches. Everyone cheered and renewed their zeal in getting their own balloons ready. Time passed, and more balloons left the ground. Brilliant colors that had adorned the fields now graced the sky.

And all this while, the young man continued to draw.

The balloons rose higher and filled the sky. The riders admired each others’ accomplishments. They talked and laughed high in the air.
The balloons rose higher and higher, drifting lazily in the breeze. Their shadows meandered across the fields they had left. As the balloons floated further away from each other, the riders began to look around. In one direction lay the vast seas. In the other direction reached the mighty mountains. And beneath the balloon riders was the land they had left. Their exploration of the world could now begin.

And all this while, the young man had continued to draw, still grounded upon the earth where he sat. But finally, the young man stopped drawing. He placed his drawings down and laid them out before him so he could cast an eye across them. Being satisfied that the design was good, he set out to gather materials. He gathered ores, various plants, and pure minerals. Then he built furnaces and stills. He crafted tools and molds. He constructed scaffolds, racks, and hoists.

The sun began to set. By this time, the many balloons that had set off from the same grassy fields were scattered far and wide. Some wandered over the sea, and others drifted through the mountains. Some floated high above amongst the clouds, and others hovered only a little higher than the trees.

The sun sank below the horizon, drawing night’s veil across the sky behind it. The young man continued to work. The furnaces were lit. The stills boiled. The molds were prepped. Through the night, the young man refined the metals and extracted chemicals from the plants and minerals. He made many mistakes, and several times he had to start over, but each time gave him a chance to do better. By and by, the furnaces burned low, the stills grew cold, and the molds were discarded as each item had served its purpose.

Morning found the young man pouring over his drawings. Only a few balloons could still be seen. The others had wandered far away. The young man took the metals, the formulas, and the tools he had prepared and slowly, carefully, methodically began combining pieces. He frequently consulted his drawings. A frame placed, a metal sheet fastened, a tube connected; piece by piece, the parts began to take a greater shape.

The day wasted, and still, the young man toiled. Night shaded the sky again, and a single balloon wandered across the pale face of the moon, through a sea of stars, and vanished into the dark distance.

Morning came, and at long last the young man was finished. He put down his tools and stood before his creation. He gazed up at its great size. He ran an eye along its gleaming fuselage and admired its powerful thrusters. He contemplated its clever design and savored its elegant form. It was a work he could be proud of; a work he could call good. The sun was just beginning to rise above the horizon, and this morning the young man would rise with it into the vast skies.

He climbed into the cockpit and closed the glass canopy. He flipped a switch, and the engines whirled to life and ignited with a roar. The young man applied the throttle slowly, and the craft gently lifted off the ground. He rose higher and higher until the other side of the mountains came into view. He flipped another switch, and the craft launched forward and accelerated with great force. Faster and faster, he jetted across the skies. He soared over mountains. He raced across seas. He rocketed through storms. The wind held no sway over him, and no mountain was too tall to block his course. He guided his craft around the world where he pleased. He flew over many balloons that had been scattered by the whim of the winds. The riders of each balloon stared up in awe as he sped by.

He climbed higher and higher, and the blue sky slowly began to give way to the stars; not because night was coming, but because the young man was leaving the sky behind. Not only was he leaving the sky behind, but the entire world, too. The young man looked up to the stars, just as he had on those long nights when he was still on the ground, but now he left the world behind and began his travel among those stars.

The young man had shown the world what it means to fly. He had shown what planning and preparation could accomplish. And he had shown that, though they were easier and faster to build, balloons were nothing but hot air.