Balloon People, The - Part 1

Date Written: 
02/12/2013

 

 

Authors note: This is the focal story from which came my previous story The Balloon Lady. As prodded by my former inflationist g-f, I had to create a world where not only is inflation a reality, but it had to be part of something more complete than just a brief flight of fancy to do with inflation. As such, be aware that this is the Pre-quel to The Balloon Lady, and there are references herein to that story. Also know that this story took on a life of its own as I wrote it, and as such is lengthy and had to be split into parts.

 

 

The Balloon People- Part 1

 

                                                                                                              I

                                                 

 

 

     I awoke with a bad headache and the grit of sand in my mouth.  At first, all I could think of was how rotten I felt, but after a moment a reflex caused me to roll onto my back just to get my face out of the sand.  I felt the sun on my face, and became aware of the sound of waves breaking somewhere near.  My mind was having a hard time coming into focus, and I levered myself up into a sitting position and had enough presence to carefully wipe the sand away from my eyes before opening them and taking a look at where I was.

     The beach I was sitting on was pristine to say the least, stretching at least a mile in either direction of where I found myself sitting. Behind me a hundred yards or so, the tropical jungle began. As my head began to clear, I looked down and saw the rope in my hand, which led back to my now badly damaged boat.  It had seemed to be more than sturdy enough for what I had been doing I thought, but the thought trailed away, and for some time my mind followed into a hazy funk.

     When I came back to myself, it seemed to happen all at once. I was immediately aware of who, and what I was doing, and how I came to be here. I reminded myself that I didn’t know just where here was, but I was sure that I had not left the South Atlantic. I remembered now the opportunity I had been offered to go to an island group south of the equator between Africa and South America.  A research project going on down there had found some interesting immunities in the native peoples to many difficult medical conditions which we as yet didn’t really understand. As a biochemist, I was in just the right place at just the right time.  And also with just the right attitude I reminded myself, thinking of the ended relationship which further spurred me into wanting to get away from everything.

     I was flown to Ascension Island with what personal belongings I had crammed into the biggest duffel bag I could find. What space was left over was needed for the portable computerized field analysis lab unit I was required to bring. For the next 6 days, all I did was take walks around the island, and spend every evening getting drunk with the local inhabitants in Georgetown.

     On the sixth day the freighter that was to carry me to the remote island group came in, and on the seventh day I was on my way. Another 2 days were spent reading and drinking with the crew. The third day found me shaky and nursing a hangover when the first mate found me and said they would be close enough to my destination to be cutting me loose in an hour or so. Within that time, a dark area on the horizon grew larger, and came into focus as a cluster of small islands.

     I was put over in a long, rigid inflatable boat complete with motor. The captain assured me that at these latitudes the seas were more than calm enough for the one-mile trip to shore, and then to cruise around the island until I found signs of who I was looking for. As I started my cruise toward land, I started to feel better from the hangover. By the time I was halfway there, I noticed a reef only slightly off the course I was following to shore and thought it looked interesting enough to cruise around and look at. After all, there really wasn’t any hurry, and the water was clear enough that I could see anything coming up that might wreck my motor.

     I was just coming around the far side of the reef when I noticed the sky getting dark very quickly. I looked up and saw nothing but dark where moments before had been nothing but blue. The squall came out of nowhere. In less than a minute there was a driving rain and howling wind that totally deprived me of any visibility. Even the reef at ten yards away was invisible. My sense of direction was nonexistent. In retrospect I was amazed that I had the presence of mind to secure myself to the boat before throwing the anchor over. The anchor went the limit of its rope, and I could still feel the boat being pulled in one direction by the storm. I tugged on the rope and felt no resistance, in a few seconds I had been dragged out of shallow water into the deep sea.

     I don’t really remember a lot of anything after that. Somehow, the raging sea did not capsize the boat. I had a vague memory of the boat striking hard against something under the water, but I think that happened close to where I had washed up here. For as far as I could see up and down the beach, reefs rose from the sea. From as near as several hundred yards offshore, to several miles out to sea, in very haphazard placement. Nothing larger than something like my boat is going to approach this place I decided.

     My boat looked almost intact from where I was sitting, but on further inspection, I found that it only looked good from one side. Whatever I remembered hitting had caved in the pontoon on the other side. There was no way that was ever going to hold pressure again I decided. Somewhere on my crazy ride the motor had been pulled loose, and the fuel tank had gone over as well. After getting steady on my feet, and doing some more looking, it seemed that the only things I had arrived here with were my duffel bag, the portable lab, and the clothes and life jacket I was wearing. The sea had claimed everything else, including the emergency equipment.

     I dragged what was left of the boat up the beach, and decided to set up shelter for the night before I set out to at least find water. I wasn’t very hungry right then, but after drinking part of the Atlantic, I definitely needed water.

     A fifteen-minute walk up the beach, I saw a parting of the jungle foliage, which proved to be the shallows of a fairly wide stream coming down out of the trees.  Flowing noisily to the sea at this point, I walked a little way into the dense growth before I found an easy access far enough up that I wouldn’t drink any more sea water.  From this point, only a few reefs hid my view of the horizon, and decided I was facing west as the sun was now sinking in that direction.

     Since I had no easy way of carrying any of it, I drank as much as I could, and headed back down the beach. As I was leaving the stream, I thought I heard voices. I quickly turned and looked back up the stream, but saw nothing. Reminding myself that being totally alone like this tended to make ones imagination work overtime, I headed back to my belongings.

     I spent most my remaining daylight dragging the boat with my stuff further up the beach toward the stream, knowing I would be thirsty again before long. I had brought a decent knife among my things, and it came in handy getting a little camp set up. As the light began to fade, I once again thought I heard voices back in the jungle, further upstream.

     I turned to look deeper into the jungle. The light was fading fast, but I was almost sure I saw two large shadows moving farther upstream away from me.  The sound of laughter drifted back toward me, this time I was sure of it, and I started to move upstream to see if I could catch sight of whoever it was. The two shadows I focused on were still moving away from me upstream, and as I moved along, the density of the plant growth became impossible to move through in the increasing gloom. In what I was sure had to be a trick of the light, the shadows appeared to be moving right through the open area the stream was flowing through, seeming to be moving some 20 to 30 feet above the flowing water. Given the size of them, I concluded that they were much farther upstream, and the apparent size of them was a trick of the fading light and my recent rough arrival here. I returned to my little campsite, and got a fire going.  I had made a lean-to from my wrecked boat, and with what stuff of my own that had somehow stayed dry, I managed to settle in for the night somewhat comfortably. My ordeal must have been very exhausting, since I don’t even remember putting any more wood on the fire before I went fast asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                            

 

                                                           

 

 

                                                                                                                         II

 

 

     I awoke in the shade of my lean-to noticing first how stiff I was, and second that I must have slept very deeply, for my blanket didn’t look at all disturbed where it had covered me. After getting a good long drink of water, and taking care of my other needs, I became aware of how long it had been since I had last eaten. My hunger, as well as my desire to find out whom else was on this island with me, required that I investigate the jungle today.

     Fortunately, I didn’t have to go too far in, still following the stream, before I found a number of different fruit bearing trees. Using a tied up T-shirt as a sack I brought a load of different fruits back to my little camp. Since I recognized only bananas, I opened the portable analysis lab to see if it had survived the trip here. Amazingly it had, but the computer demanded a full two-hour recalibration before it would allow me to test any of the fruit I wasn’t sure of. In the meantime I pigged out on bananas. Most of the other fruit checked out as edible, but some was obviously early in the process of ripening. At least I wouldn’t starve I decided. I re-stowed the lab machine, and headed back upstream to explore my new, and hopefully temporary home.

     By the time I was ready to explore, the sun had risen to the full light of late morning. I once again followed the stream, as I didn’t have the means to hack through the jungle.

This time I went much further in. The growth became thick enough to make the light grow dim, but following the stream assured me of finding my way back.

     I made my way along for over an hour before I came to a clearing where the stream began at a large pool with a small waterfall at the far side. As far as I was able to see in all forward directions, the land rose up steeply. I wasn’t sure how far I would have to walk to find my way around, but it was clear that to continue following the stream would mean more than 100 feet of climbing, if I could find some way to keep moving alongside of the waterfall.

     The water of the pool was cool, but not cold, and as long as I was here, I decided a bath might be a good idea. I stripped down and dove in for a swim. As I pulled myself out of the water after a time, I once again heard voices accompanied by some laughing.

     The sounds were coming from above the waterfall, and it took me a moment to be sure of what I was hearing above the sound of the water. Whoever it was, they were making no effort not to be heard. I scanned the area above. The land here seemed to keep rising up as it moved back further from where I was, and I guessed that I was near the base of a long dormant volcanic mountain. I looked carefully for a long time at the area above the waterfall, and saw two huge round shadows pass briefly across the open area where the water was flowing. For a moment they eclipsed the sun, then moved away further back and upward from where I was. I sat and thought about this one for a moment then decided that if I was going to find out more about this place, it was going to have to be from a different path. I made my way back to my camp and ate some of the fruit that I hadn’t been hungry for earlier.

     I spent the rest of the day walking as far up and down the beach as I could. To the north the beach ended at a series of rocky outcroppings which the sea had eroded away to form a sheer cliff hundreds of feet high and extending more miles further north. As I stood looking at the cliffs and out to sea, I again heard voices above. I looked up quickly to once again see a huge round shadow moving slowly away from the top of the cliff. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be able to climb the sheer faces of rock, I set out south to find the other end of the beach. At no time did I feel any fear for what was going on, but I was getting annoyed at whoever was obviously aware of me, but was managing to avoid any contact. Hopefully they would decide to introduce themselves soon.

     Heading south down the beach the land curved inward after about a mile, and I came upon an inlet where the sea flowed in to a calm little bay that the beach continued to extend around. Walking more easily inland now I again heard voices and the sound of laughter coming from the jungle.

      The beginnings of the jungle were thinner here, and as I scanned the trees I once again saw large shadows moving away into the denser parts of the jungle. This time my perspective was better, and I was sure the shadows were high in the trees. I hiked to where I thought I had heard the voices and seen the shadows and looked upward. There strung from tree to tree were networks of vines that had to have been tied there. There were just too many of them going too deliberately from one convenient tree to the next; stretching back into the jungle and laterally off in other directions. I didn’t understand how the vines could support anyone being tied up so high in the more fragile branches at the tops of the trees, but I also knew nothing about the trees that grew in places like this. The size of the shadows I again wrote off to tricks of the light in the jungle.

     I made my way back to camp, stopping only to gather more fruit on the way. The sun was low on the horizon as I got my fire going. Before I realized it I had eaten all the fruit I had gathered, and found myself going to get more. This time I came back with 2 sacks of different fruit so I would be sure to have some in the morning. Again I was not prepared for the hunger that I had, and proceeded to eat every bit of it. By now my belly was distended quite a bit, but not uncomfortably. I threw my garbage into the jungle and settled in to spend my second night on the island, my hands clasped around my pleasantly bloated belly. As the first night, I dropped off instantly, and slept very deeply once again.

 

                                                                                                                        III

 

 

      I awoke once or twice during the night, needing to relieve myself, and drink more water from a container I fashioned from a section of the wrecked pontoon of my boat.

     When I awoke again, it was still dark, and my fire had burned itself completely out. I roused myself to get it going again, and in the light of it checked my watch. I stared at it for a long moment before what I was seeing sunk in. It was 1 am the following morning. Somehow I had slept the day completely away, and on into the following night. The moon was just past a quarter phase, and it was a clear enough night that I was able to see my way to the stream for more water. I wasn’t feeling like going into the jungle at night for more fruit, so I made due with dealing with my thirst. I thought I would be awake all night when I settled back into my camp, but I was asleep once again before I knew it.  When I became conscious again it was morning, and this time I was not alone.

     Across the fire from me sat a light haired man with intelligent eyes, and a smile on his face.  “Good morning,” he said, “and how do you feel after 36 or so hours of sleep?”

     “How do you know how long I have been sleeping?” I responded.

      “Obviously we have been keeping an eye on you. From almost since you arrived here, as a matter of fact,” he replied as his smile broadened. “I am in fact sure that you caught glimpses of some of the people that were monitoring you. Excuse me, I am forgetting my manners. I am Jeremy Brandon.”

     He leaned over the now cold fire and offered me his hand, which I sat up and shook.

“Steven Flinton,” I replied, “and to answer your question, I am quite hungry after 36 hours of sleeping.”

     “Naturally,” he said. The smile never left his face as he reached behind himself, and handed me a sack containing some more fruit, a nutty sort of bread, and some dried fish. “Eat as much as you want,” he encouraged.

     As I ate, he continued to watch me as well as running his eyes over what things I had managed to come ashore with. I in turn looked him over carefully as well. He looked to be a bit older than myself, but his accent, and appearance were definitely not of the native peoples of this part of the world. He was clothed in a simple smock like garment that actually came down around his legs like a skirt, and had a strap that ran across his chest and back that held it up. I thought it looked something like a caveman might wear. It was made out of a brown and fuzzy looking fabric that obviously stretched easily where it went around his large body. I couldn’t judge his height, but he was not what I would expect to meet on an island in this part of the world. He was widely built, and actually quite fat, with a large pot belly that extended out over his crossed legs, and the boobs that extended out over his belly were of a size to make a lot of women jealous Obviously no one here is in any danger of starvation, I thought.

     He noticed me studying him. “You are right,” he said, “I am not native to this island.

 But it has been my home now for the past 12 years. When we were able to get a good look at you, I was chosen to come out and acquaint you with this place, and the people that call it home. Since I am sorry to say also, that your probability of getting rescued from here is quite low in the space of the next few years; owing to the location of these islands, and the surrounding reefs, we don’t get visitors for any regular reasons. Every few years however, one such as yourself gets washed up, and tribal culture requires that you be educated about life here. As it is altogether unique.”

     “Unique in what way?” I asked.

     He threw back his head and laughed. “I am not sure where to begin exactly, but rest assured that even if you are somehow rescued from here sometime in the near future, your life will never again be the same for your having come here. When you are finished eating, and have attended to your other needs, we will talk. You are probably going to have a difficult time with this at first, but I will do my best to help you understand just what life is like here.”

     “Complex and difficult tribal laws and taboos?” I guessed.

     “In terms of moral rules and laws, not really,” he replied. “Just about everything I have run across in that respect makes some kind of sense. What you have to come to understand is the nature of human life here, the culture just follows from that. You will see.”

     He seemed straightforward enough, so I took his advice on eating and taking care of my needs. I returned from the edge of the jungle and sat down across from him with my refilled water container, and waited. He reached behind himself again and brought out a smaller sack that sloshed. He took a pull from it and handed it to me.

     “Here, something that the inhabitants have learned to make very well.”

     I took a cautious sip, and then several deep swallows. It was slightly sweet, and left a warm trail into my belly. Obviously he knew a person in my situation could use a good drink. It went down well. As the conversation went on, that skin was needed a bit more.

     “I will start with myself,” said Jeremy. “I ended up here 12 years ago by way of a storm that washed me overboard from a small sailing vessel that myself and friends were sailing from Brazil to South Africa. I was a biological anthropologist specializing in cultures just such as this one, but this place has a set of norms and ways of life that are unlikely to ever appear in any textbooks. The people keeping an eye on you reported that you seemed to have some sort of scientific equipment with you. This caused them to relegate the task of acquainting you with life here to me. What was your field of study in the western world?”

     “I was a biochemist,” I replied. “The equipment they must have seen me using is a portable chemical analysis unit.”

     “Just so,” he said, nodding in satisfaction at the unit. “We may find some interesting uses for that at some point in our acquaintance. Back to the point, I found myself washed up here in much worse shape than you were, not having a boat you understand, and was introduced into tribal life. I want to make it clear that: while leaving here is certainly not impossible, it is unlikely in less than 5 years. There are ships in the lanes that are aware of this place, but they have minimal reason to come here, and the natives strive to keep it that way. This is an out of the way place with little or nothing to offer the outside world. People here know of the outside world, but wish to maintain their distance from its complications. Can you appreciate that?”

     I looked hard at Jeremy for a time. He seemed very earnest. Then I thought of all the crap that went with life in the modern world, and the more I thought about it, the more I found myself hoping that he was telling the absolute truth.

     “I think so,” I replied.

     “Tribal custom requires that the nearest village must welcome anyone washing up on shore. You can opt not to become part of life here, in which case you will be left here to your own devices to survive or not. To survive comfortably however, means assimilating the lifestyle of the natives. The culture here goes back over a thousand years as they have it, and there is quite a bit of history, but I won’t get into that now.  Becoming a part of it will require you adjusting your thinking quite a bit, both from a standpoint of human interaction as well as your notions of what may or may not be possible in the world of nature. Are you with me so far?”

     I nodded.

     “Good,” he smiled, and took another drink from the sack with the liquor in it. “Because this is going to get harder to accept as I go on.”

      “Like most cultures that are tribal, there is religious dogma to explain everything, but you will learn that as you go along. It is not essential that you know it in detail, but having a basic knowledge will help you understand some of the oddities of the people and the way they live. Legend has it that the people here are the favored of the sea and fire gods, and that at a time in the past, the earth gods were angry at the sea and fire gods for bringing the people here. The earth gods attempted to destroy the people through earthquakes. The sea and fire gods caused things to happen that allowed the people to survive the anger of the earth gods. At some time later, the gods all made peace, and the people continued on here, but the changes that the gods caused in the people remain. Religious observations are pretty minimal, with the exception of the religiously inspired festivals or holidays  during the full moon in the mid-month of every season. Are you with me so far?”

      “ Yes,” I said after a moment, “but what do you mean by ‘caused things to happen that allowed the people to survive’?”

     “ I am getting to that, since therein lies the difficult part of your adjusting to life here,” he replied.

     He paused to take another drink from his sloshing sack, and  handed it to me. I was starting to feel a bit more relaxed by now, and so took a good long drink this time. He nodded and smiled when I was finished.

     “Another thing I should mention,” he went on, “is that the culture here is quite peaceful. There have been no major conflicts or wars of any kind in hundreds of years. Other than the occasional arguments between individuals or husbands and wives, this is a very happy and mostly non-violent sort of place. But, the natives here are well aware of the nature of the world outside. We get new arrivals here from time to time, and so long as I have been here all have come to appreciate the way of life here.”

     I gave this some thought while I took another long sip of the obviously alcoholic drink he offered. “So you are saying that every arrival you know of has gone native?” I asked.

     “The option for you to refuse is certainly yours,” he replied. “But, if you refuse you will be left right here on this beach to fend for yourself as best you can. Obviously you won’t starve, but your life will be very lonely while you hope for possible rescue. And, I can assure you that it is near impossible without a boat or climbing gear for you to penetrate further into this island from here due to the density of the jungle, and the steepness of the terrain once you get further in.”

     I considered this all the while looking him over again. Surely such a fat man as he could not possibly climb up such steep rock formations as I had seen so far, I thought. Then I remembered the ropes tied high up in the trees, and the thought of such a fat guy climbing trees seemed even more absurd. Obviously there are pieces to this puzzle that I haven’t seen yet, I concluded.

     I noticed then that he was studying me closely again with a big smile on his face.

     “Oh yes,” he said, “there is much yet you have to learn. But I will ask you what you think about the idea of joining the culture, or remaining here?”

     “Since you seem to come from a western sort of culture originally,” I began, and to this he nodded. “I guess it is safe to presume that there is nothing here that I am likely to find repulsive to me like sacrificial rituals or the like?”

     “You presume correctly on that one. If anything people here celebrate most things to do with life. They are a very open and generous culture in fact. Coming from the somewhat covetous western upbringings you and I both likely had, this might take a bit of getting used to. It did take me a year or two to get adjusted. In fact, the native people are more concerned about just that: the idea that you won’t be able to adapt to the way life is here, and that could cause problems.”

     “What sort of problems are they worried about?” I asked then.

     “Since you indicated you are a researcher, I think you will understand. Until recent history this may not have been a cause for concern, but in the past 50 or 60 years there have been more opportunities for visitors to come here. As I said, we do get occasional visits from independent freighters and the like, and the possibility of you leaving here at some point in the future is not out of the question. What concerns the people here most is that someone may try to return with teams of people intent on studying things here and exposing the culture to the world. People here have NO wish to be studied, or for anyone to come here seeking to exploit anything here even if it seems like there is little here to exploit. I should tell you also that in my time here a few people have chosen to leave. All have returned.”

     “Okay then, I guess I have to ask: What made them all return?”

     Jeremy laughed loudly, and took another drink from the sloshing sack. Handing it back to me he replied, “the crazy nature of life in the world they left, or the peaceful nature of life here, or both. I know that when I have had the opportunity to leave it wasn’t hard to decide I liked life here. Please excuse me for a moment.”

     With that he bounced to his feet and headed for the jungle at a bouncing walk. I stared at him as he went now noting that he wasn’t quite as tall as myself, and looking at his round fat body I estimated he had to weigh close to 300 pounds. Yet he moved as quickly as a skinny teenage boy. Either the drink and being tired was getting to me, or this was another piece of the puzzle of this place that as yet made no sense.

     Jeremy returned from the edge of the jungle and dropped into a sitting position once again with his legs crossed. By now the sun had moved into a position of late afternoon.

     “So,” he said, “what do you think you want to do now that you know some of the ways things are here?”

     “I am still uncertain about a lot of things, and so have lots of questions. You have been a bit enigmatic about some aspects of life here,” I responded.

     “I know you certainly have a lot of questions, as did I. And, as is so often the case, the answers I will give will likely open the door to more questions. The best thing I can tell you right now is that I have been totally honest with you in that there is nothing here you will find any moral opposition to from a cultural standpoint. Of that I am certain. Further, things will be better answered if you choose to come to the village that sent me and you can come to understand the way things are in a more direct, or interactive manner.”

     That said he drank again, and once again handed me the now lighter, but still sloshing sack.

     I took another long drink while I considered. The idea of being left on this beach all alone was not very appealing, and who knew how long it was going to be before another storm came along?

     Jeremy seemed to be reading my mind.

     “Oh yes,” he said then, “the storms that come up at this latitude are quite intense. They can make life quite uncomfortable without proper shelter.”

     At that moment a long yawn took me, and I heard myself saying; “Then I guess I should see what life is really all about here.”

     Jeremy smiled at me then as I felt myself nodding. “I thought you would make the right decision.” I heard him say as I slipped in unconsciousness once again.

 

                                                                                                                         IV

 

 

     Jeremy sat for a time as Steven Flinton went from a doze into a deeper sleep. The sun was beginning its descent marking the close of the day, and he looked off to the horizon where a gray band was stretching across the sky. The village shaman had said a storm was to arrive this night, so it was important that he convince the newcomer in time to bring him to the village before the weather got ugly. Everyone that came here inevitably would find themselves sleeping long and deep for the first few weeks, and so the arrangements to bring him without causing any alarm were simplified.

     After he was satisfied that the newcomer would not easily wake up Jeremy rose and flipped the remains of the boat back to normal. It would never be water worthy again, but it was otherwise structurally sound he decided. He moved the portable chemical analysis unit in and secured it. Then he carefully moved his new acquaintance in and loosely secured him with such straps he found. He finished by placing any other items that Flinton had about from his arrival here, and then extinguished the fire and erased any trace it had ever been there. He looked about to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, and satisfied, he sat on the edge of the boat to wait. Only footprints in the sand remained, and the storm would erase them. No signs left that anyone had come ashore here, he thought. For the moment the warm breeze was at his back coming from the jungle behind him, but with the storm coming in he knew that was going to change sometime soon.

     The sun had dropped a bit lower on the horizon before he heard the sounds of talking and laughing coming from the jungle. He looked in the direction of the sound and saw some very large shadows high up at the edge of the trees. Five large and somewhat spherical, and somewhat human shapes drifted out from the jungle forty to fifty feet up. They became smaller and became more human shaped as they slowly descended to the ground a few hundred yards up the beach from him. He stood up then as they approached.

     The group consisted of three women and two men of varying heights, but all were quite large and round, more so than himself, but that also would change soon. They were laughing and talking as they approached, passing around some sloshing skins filled with the same fermented drink he had shared with Steven Flinton until he had passed out.

     The first woman in the group was Shara his wife, and she approached and gave him a hug.

     “No problems?” she asked.

     “Not really,” he replied. “He is quite intelligent, and therefore very inquisitive, but the effects of our drink, and what the local food is doing to his body caused him to pass out again before he could press me for too many details about life here. It really is better if he gets it firsthand I think.”

     Jeremy took another drink from one of the skins and looked his wife over with some lust. By the standards of the western world she would certainly attract a lot of attention for her size were she walking down any street in America he thought. If she actually weighed as much as her size made her appear an educated estimate would put her around 500 pounds, but he knew that if she stood on a scale right now she might not even weigh 80 or 90.

     While he was thinking the others in the party were making sure everything in the former boat was secure including the sleeping passenger. They then were securing a rope harness to it with strong cords coming out with two on each side, and one at each end. Jeremy walked over to inspect the work, and tested the security of each rope. Transporting the newcomer to the village shouldn’t be difficult, but since he had come ashore here where the access to the interior was almost impossible by foot, it required a bit more planning. One of the men came over with a skin of the drink and Jeremy accepted it. He took a few good gulps. Might as well enjoy a buzz while getting this done he thought.

     “Kubar says tonight’s storm may come up more quickly than usual, and we shouldn’t delay when the wind turns,” Yuri informed him while he drank.

     Kubar was the village shaman, and predicting the weather was among his duties. Fortunately he was remarkably good at it, and this knowledge made him more comfortable with what they had to do. A very sudden storm could make for a lot of problems with the transport.

     The sun was starting to sink by now, and while the breeze was still coming out of the jungle, the sun was making the dark gray band of clouds on the horizon more apparent. Shara came over to him then and suggested that they get fully ready then so as they could move as soon as the wind shifted. Everyone agreed this was the best plan considering the possibility for things getting tricky.

     Each of them then put a loosely woven and obviously over large harness over their heads. The weave of the harnesses allowed for arms to pass, and there were many feet of loose harness dragging on the ground at all their feet. Each then positioned themselves at one of the ropes coming from under the boat where Steven Flinton lay in deep sleep. The ropes from the boat were secured to the bottom of the harnesses they wore, and as the sun settled now into the band of approaching storm clouds and the light began to fade each of them slowly began to enlarge.

     Even though this had become part of his very existence over the past 12 years, doing this was yet still something that made for an extremely exhilarating feeling in Jeremy. He closed his eyes for a moment and concentrated. He felt his belly pushing out, and his arms began to ride up as he enlarged from the sides and back. He felt his wife’s expanding body next to him push into him as she rapidly inflated. Women it seemed, could inflate more rapidly than men; a reality that Jeremy had often wondered about over his years here. He concentrated harder and took in a few deep breaths as his boobs surged out against the harness. While the women would certainly always have larger breasts, the men of this place were probably the only men on Earth that could be rightfully referred to as very busty he thought to himself as he felt his legs being absorbed into the now much larger roundness of his ballooning body. Next to him his wife was approaching what he thought of as the balance point. She was by now becoming huge, and he knew she was at a size where she was about to become buoyant in the air. The webbed harness he wore was no longer loose and dragging on the ground, and he could feel that his expansion had reached the level of his knees as the netting of the harness stretched and wrapped around him. He could see that the other men were similarly enlarged, and suddenly noticed Yuri’s wife, Bincy, had left the ground and was bobbing at the length of the tether rope which secured her to the boat where Flinton slept on unaware of what was happening. In the next moment his wife left the ground and joined Bincy bobbing in the air, and in the next moment the third woman, Rana, also left the ground, followed by her husband and Yuri.

     Since he had been more deflated than the others, it took Jeremy another minute to inflate to where he felt his own feet leave the beach. They all had stopped at that point where they had become buoyant, as the breeze was yet coming from the islands interior and blowing out to sea.

They all felt the gentle push of the breeze as the human balloons all bobbed and bounced on the ends of their ropes. For now there was little else to do but talk and wait for the wind to turn.

     Had Steven Flinton awakened, he first would have heard the talking and laughing coming from above his head, and learned that he was the first new arrival here in almost 7 years. He would have been surprised to look up and see six large somewhat human shaped balloons tied to his boat at differing heights so as to give each of them ample expansion room. Such a very strange vision would find no frame of reference in his experience or his scientific mind, so the people floating above him were speculating on what his reaction might be if he were to wake up. Fortunately they also knew that this was extremely unlikely. The process that had begun when he took his first meal of the local fruits of the island caused long periods of deep sleep for up to three weeks. Jeremy hoped that the newcomer would adjust to the reality of becoming a human balloon easily.

     As they talked and laughed the breeze that bounced them against each other and kept them pushed towards the sea slowly died. They were finally still in the air as the sun dipped further behind the band of gray clouds that now seemed to be closer. They waited a bit more until Bincy couldn’t stand it anymore.

     “Come on,” she said then, and with that commenced inflating herself more.

     After a moment where the others satisfied themselves that the wind really had gone still, the other five began to enlarge themselves further. Bincy had stopped after expanding her diameter another few feet, and waited for the others to catch up. It was important that everyone have about the same amount of lift, or the contents of the boat might be dumped out. So when everyone had caught up to Bincy they all continued to slowly inflate. Jeremy was on a longer tether than his wife next to him, but he felt her enormous boobs brushing up against him as she grew bigger, and felt a sudden hot feeling in his groin. He couldn’t see over himself to actually look at her, but she suddenly laughed.

     “What I nice view I have of your lower parts my husband,” she giggled. The others laughed at this not so uncommon observation of the effects inflation could have on the libido.

     The end of the boat where Bincy was tethered had begun to pick up from the ground, and a few seconds later the corner where Rana was rapidly expanding also began to try to lift up as well, followed by the corner with Jeremy’s wife. The men continued to expand and a full minute later the entire boat lifted off the sand of the beach. They continued to inflate and as the sun dropped and the day turned into dusk, the six balloon people with their cargo attached to them slowly rose into the still, warm evening air. They had to inflate themselves further to rise above the level of the trees, and still further since they knew the ground rose up as they would move further inland. As yet the air was completely still.

     Carefully using his now shortened arms, Jeremy shifted himself in his harness. The fatness of his arms probably made his movements look very comical he thought, but he succeeded in shifting himself forward so that he was now tilted in such a way that he could see somewhat below and ahead of them. The others were doing the same thing as they needed to be sure they landed in the right area, and more than one pair of eyes was certainly helpful. The end of the boat lifted up a bit higher as Bincy had continued to inflate.

     “We are going to need more altitude than this to clear the escarpment,” she said then.

     “Bincy you just like blowing up bigger for the fun of it,” laughed Shara. 

     “Well, maybe. But you do have to get a lot bigger than usual to get the lift we need,” Bincy replied.

     “Funny how you volunteered us for this chore then, isn’t it?” laughed Yuri as he also expanded to match his wife’s size.

     As they all inflated themselves further, and rose yet higher it was possible to see clearly above all the trees. Still there was not a hint of a breeze, and they hung there motionless in the air enjoying the view. The sky above the island was yet clear, and it was a lovely night to watch the stars coming out above them. Jeremy wondered to himself what his life might have been like if he had never ended up here. Surely he had never imagined himself living life as a human balloon, but whenever he heard news of the way the world outside was becoming, he was more and more certain that life with Shara as an inflatable person was something he wouldn’t trade for anything. Being able to fly was a human fantasy he thought then, but this was not the way he ever would have imagined it. When Steven Flinton had become acclimated to life here, he would have to have some long talks about the nature of this anomaly, which as a biochemist he may have some insights into. For now though, he liked being a balloon man, he thought with a smile.

     Jeremy came out of his thoughts as he noticed that they had begun to move then. A gentle breeze was now coming in from the sea, and the six balloon people were bounced against each other as they began to move out over the trees. Jeremy felt his wife’s enormously inflated tits bouncing against where what remained of one his legs was, and once again had to shift his thoughts before his personal inflation shifted to his groin. Shara laughed as she felt herself bouncing against him, and he knew what she was thinking.

     It was about a mile into the jungle that the land began to rise up sharply, and there fortunately was enough fading light as they drifted over the trees to begin to make out where this began. It was also apparent that Bincy was right about needing more altitude. “Told you so,” she chirped happily as she inflated herself yet more.

     Behind them the breeze began to blow stronger carrying them further into the interior of the island, and feeling this they all again concentrated and enlarged yet more rising steadily up as they ballooned up more and more.

     “Bigger!” yelled Bincy, “or we are going to end up against the escarpment.”

     Below them could be heard the sound of the waterfall, and they could make out the path of the small river that led to it. The breeze became stronger now, and seemed to be pushing them in a course following the river. Once they cleared the escarpment they knew the land would level off and if they were lucky the breeze would carry them right over the village. Kubar had told them that it should work this way if the wind didn’t pick up too quickly. If that happened they would have to deflate rapidly to avoid being carried too far from the village. As it was however, the trip was quite relaxing for them, and they continued to laugh and talk as they flew more inland.

     The wind was steadily picking up, and Yuri estimated that they were moving now at maybe 10 miles per hour. The wind was also being a bit fickle with its currents, and they were now slowly being spun as they moved towards their destination. This afforded them each a view of everything around them as they flew. They passed over two more waterfalls as the land rose up beneath them. Now they were looking ahead more carefully since the edge of the escarpment was at the fourth waterfall. A moment later it was Rana, who was at the forward position at that moment, who shouted: “We need more altitude! We are way too low!”

     Jeremy felt an instant of panic sweep through him, and felt himself expand rapidly as the adrenaline rush swept through him. Around him the others reacted similarly as the sudden panic triggered a powerful inflation response. They suddenly rose rapidly far above the 100 feet of clearance that they needed. As their altitude stabilized Jeremy looked down to see the top of the fourth waterfall and the edge of the escarpment receding behind them. “Yuri,” Jeremy called, “how much extra clearance do you think we made it with?”

     “If you mean how much did we rise in that last rapid ascent, then I think we just added another 300 feet to our cruising altitude,” replied Yuri.

     They were still slowly rotating, but they felt the wind picking up more now. The rotation brought Shara momentarily face to face with Bincy who was smiling happily.

     “So Bincy, are you fat enough now?” Shara asked.

     “I don’t know if there is such a thing as fat enough Shara,” Bincy replied with a giggle. “When my sister and I were teenagers we used to have contests under the family net to see who could get bigger faster.”

     As the wind carried them more quickly now they soon saw the lights of the village a few miles ahead. It appeared that they were going to come very close, if not right over it.

     “Sorry to say it Bincy, but it is time to start our descent,” said Rana, again at the lead position as they continued to be rotated by the wind which was starting to push them faster now.

     Bincy sighed. “This has been such a nice flight too.”

     “Tell you what Bincy,” said Yuri then, “there will be a transport to the Eastern Beach village in a few days’ time. We can volunteer for that if you like.”

     “That would be nice,” she answered. “I hope it’s a heavy transport.”

     This made everyone laugh as they began to concentrate on releasing the gas they had inside them, and began their slow descent. It took several minutes to drop the few hundred feet to where they were now just above the tree tops, and the wind continued to push them towards the lights of the village. The trees thinned as they approached, now only 100 or so feet from the ground when the wind suddenly picked up forcefully. The village was less than a mile away now. Oddly it was Bincy that made the call to come down in the near field at the western edge of the village.

     “If we come down here, we can have a clear landing spot now,” she called in a voice made very squeaky from the gas she was beginning to let out of herself.

     The others wordlessly agreed and again began releasing their own gas. As they approached the edge of the field they were skimming the tree tops, but as they dropped lower over the field the trees blocked the wind and their approach slowed rapidly. As they came closer to the village they began to drop more, and Jeremy had rotated to the lead position and could see a number of villagers waiting for them in the field. By now they were only 30 or so feet off the ground and several of the men threw ropes with hooks attached which snagged the tether ropes tying the boat to its human balloons. The ropes were secured at the ground and the forward motion of the transport was stopped. The team now deflated themselves more and the boat with its cargo settled to the ground.

     Jeremy slipped out of his harness, and began rolling it up as the others waddled around doing the same. The other villagers came over and began assisting as the wind suddenly picked up even more. Numassa, the village chief, came over to Jeremy and asked how it had gone.

     “Quite well actually,” replied Jeremy. “I think he will adjust as well as I did, and he may well prove to be quite an asset as time goes on.”

     “Good, you and the others come to my home when you are done taking care of things and tell me all about it. We have prepared the place next to Kubar’s for him to finish his sleep of change,” responded Numassa.

     The villagers grabbed the ropes still tied to the boat and carried it into the village to the large hut next to Kubar’s residence. Since all the entrances in the village were of a necessity quite wide it posed no problem to carry the boat in with its contents. Kubar came over when he saw them bringing the newcomer in. They settled the boat in the middle of the main room where Steven Flinton slept on, oblivious to the activities of the evening on his behalf. Several small lights were lit as Kubar entered followed by his daughter carrying some blankets. She folded one up and put it under the new arrivals head, and covered him with the other. With the storm coming in it was likely to get chilly this night. Kubar nodded at this, and turned to Jeremy.

     “My daughter will stay with him tonight in case he wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings,” he said then.

     Jeremy agreed that this was a good idea, and eying Kubar’s daughter with the thought that there were few more pleasant things the newcomer could wake up to. Kubar followed Jeremy’s gaze and laughed as though he read his mind. Bimma was one of the most attractive women in the village. With that Jeremy followed Kubar out and across the large main open area of the village to the home of Numassa where the sounds of laughing and talking could be heard as the team that had successfully transported Steven Flinton here were sharing drink and stories with the others. The wind picked up even more as they crossed the compound, and the first drops of rain began to fall as they entered and joined the gathering. It had been a very long day, and a very good night indeed thought Jeremy as Shara handed him a cup of the local liquor. He drank gratefully as he settled down beside her.

     In the hut Steven Flinton slept deeply on into the night with no conception of the new life he was about to find himself a part of. Bimma watched him and wondered how he would react when he learned all about life here. She had been much younger when Jeremy Brandon had arrived, and had little knowledge of any difficulties he had had in adjusting to the changes that had happened to him. Having been born here she remembered when she had learned that the people of the island were unique, and that people from the outside world could not inflate themselves. As someone that had always been this way she had no idea what it might be like to wake up one day and not be able to inflate herself. The idea was actually very scary to her.

 

 

© Copyright 2013   BTBLL

 

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Average: 2.8 (5 votes)
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Caliban04 (not verified)
Fantastic!!! :D As Always! I

Fantastic!!! :D As Always! I love the lead up, the island really seems like a real place and the people all seem like well-people, not just personalities. I enjoy the lead up, as well as the idea that there is an entire tribe of balloon-people! Amazing!

hfilled
Snore.

Snore.

SvenS
SvenS's picture
Very good!

Well written - it drew me in.   Your descriptions put me in the middle of the story and I am able to visualize what you are writing about.  I think the pace is perfect and I like how you've handled the expostion.  It's a good start to what looks like may be the beginning of quite a series.

Legend
Legend's picture
In impressed with the cliffhanger

There still seems to be more. :(

Kind regards

Legend