Flash Fiction Challenge: Up, Up, and Away

hot air balloon near oswego ny oct 2008
Hot air balloon by K.S. Brooks

When Janus Yasoprovik was a boy, he dreamed of becoming a daredevil. Life’s currents did not carry him in that direction. He became an accountant.

But Janus was never one to let his day job get in the way of adventure. On every vacation, he would indulge his inner daredevil, in the most unaccountant-like activities he could contrive. From swimming with sharks to running with the bulls, Janus seemed intent on breaking every bone in his body. And he did. But of all Janus’ adventures, it is hard to top what happened on his ride in the hot air balloon…

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.

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On Friday afternoon, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Up, Up, and Away”

  1. “Mom, have you seen that before?”
    “yes, I have.”
    Long time ago your great grand father took me up into a balloon. I didn’t want to go. I cried and hit him, kicked him, pulled at his cloths but he threw me into the balloon and I was too small to get back out. As he climbed up into the basket, he looked evil. His face colored grey, his hands pulled at a rope feverishly until a big sand bag fell into the basket. He turned toward me pushed me down and said, “You will love this, you will have fun or I will throw you over board. Do you want that?”
    I could not answer him, I could not move my lips, my nose burned from a smell I did not recognize. All my eyes could see was the sky, the clouds were moving quickly by, animals forming and dissolving suddenly I felt as if I were swimming, floating on water and I knew. I knew we were no longer on the ground. My heart raced. This man I knew all my life turned and laughed deep from within his gut and said, “Stand up, stand up and meet your makers.”
    I tried to stand, I tried to put my hands underneath me and push myself up but I could not, all I could muster was tears. The tears skipped down my face, soaking my lips, dripping off my chin and he grabbed me. He grabbed and pulled me up into his arms. I planted my face into his chest, covering my eyes but it didn’t work he grabbed my tiny chin with his rough hands and turned me toward the sky. My eyes cleared from the tears, I focused and saw a bird. It flew right toward me. Landing on the basket railing and sang. This man turned to me and laughed and reached out and touch that very bird. I saw beauty and freedom. I found myself welcoming the wind on my face, the feeling of flight, he was right, I found my makers, I found the thrill, I found flying. I found me.
    “Can I do that?” her son asked.
    “Yes, Race you can, we will and today.”
    Suddenly Race felt a sweeling in his stomach, his eyes blinked repeatedly thinking not today maybe tomorrow.
    As they crested the hill, there was a balloon.
    “Thats ours, we are going to meet our makers.”
    “Not today Race,” Race yelled.
    He went to run and Mother grabbed his arm. He pulled suddenly and frantically to release him.
    “No worries,” Mother said, “No worries.”
    “Not today.” he yelled. Suddenly Moms hair on her head began to wave unruly. He hands stern and strong and Race began to fight.
    Mother knew he would love it, but fear over took her as a child and well now its Race and so she decided to stick with the plan… Like his great grandfather, but will he see her as going crazy like she saw him?

    I did not edit this, I wanted it to be from the heart, fresh and real.

  2. Did you know storms and hurricanes are intelligent? Think about the silver iodide and dry-ice experiments in 1969 and 1971. NOAA dropped million-jillion tons on the first hurricane, hoping to stop it. Weakened it a bit for a little while. The other one didn’t slow-down a bit. Ate the dry ice like candy. The storm learned.

    What happened to me? Three things happened – WWII, Africa and ballooning. We were given a crash coarse in the care and operation of weather balloons then given an ‘up, up and away’ thumbs up shake, destination a building thunderstorm in Ethiopia. As it turned out it was good our balloon held extra provisions.

    I could numerate all the events and phenomenon of that journey; watching my partners go crazy, one fell over the side; catching gulls, fish and rainwater. The army listed us as MIA then AWOL then KIA. Imagine their surprise when the Hurricane Recon-Flyboys spotted the balloon over the Gulf of Mexico, caught in the swirl of the newly formed eye.

    Tell you an unofficial secret. That’s why it’s called the 1943 Surprise Hurricane. Officially it was the fact the system went unnoticed until well inside the Gulf where it developed its eye.

    You’d think I’d be afraid of ballooning. Wrong! I’m a balloonist for NOAA. Storms talk to me. I feed them candy. But, call me superstitious; just before lift-off, I raise my thumbs, give them a little wiggle and say, “Up, up and away. I’m good to go.”

  3. Janus’ balloon gently lifted off just before dawn. As the sun rose, the sky turned a brilliant blue. Not a cloud in sight, just a gentle breeze pushing his craft east toward the rising sun. Looking to the north, Janus noticed a small dark spot on the horizon. As he watched, the dark spot grew into a towering line of storm clouds. Within seconds, his small craft was swirling toward the eye of a powerful hurricane. Faster and faster his wee basket spun until his vision faded to black as he fell to the floor of the craft.

    Janus was woken by a small white dog licking his face. His vision still foggy he examined the small white terrier who was affectionately reviving him when the dog spoke.

    “Hello friend, that was a close one. You should be okay; I gave you my most healing licks!”

    “You speak?”

    “Oh sorry, were you expecting ‘woof!’?”

    “Where are we?”

    “Well its not Kansas and you don’t look like Dorothy.”

    “Will you lead me home?”

    The dog sighed as he spoke, “I can show you the way but I can’t not go with you. Would you do me a favor?”

    Janus didn’t hesitate in saying yes. The dog immediately looked much happier. “I would like you to take some manuscripts to my colleague?”


    “Well, former colleague and if it’s not too much trouble could you tell her I love her very much. Oh, and tell her this : Woof!”

  4. There’s not really that much derring-do in a hot air balloon if you ask me. They go pretty slow, and not very high. It wasn’t about being in the hot air balloon. It was about what I was going to use it for.

    I’d asked the folks at the local alligator farm for permission to run across the tops of their gators – you know, like Roger Moore did as 007 in Live and Let Die – but they always said no. So I figured – just mosey on down in the balloon, hold onto the side of the basket, run across those buggers, then fly out. What I didn’t figure was that the balloon would slow me down, and the gators could run a lot faster than me. When they started lunging up and snapping at me, I tried to hoist myself back into the basket. I wasn’t quite fast enough, and one gator managed to latch onto the flap of my pant leg. I tried kicking him with my free foot, but he wouldn’t let go. He was dragging the balloon down! The pilot fed the flame, but it did no good. He panicked and yelled, “Lose your pants!” What choice did I have? When my pants and the gator dropped, the balloon shot straight up and zoomed north, out of control.

    We careened wildly into an estate garden party, knocking many of the attendees, including my ex-wife and her new husband, into the swimming pool. So, it wasn’t a total loss.

  5. Janus could remember that fateful day as if it were yesterday. The emotions were still very raw and very real to him as he lay in his hospital bed in traction with a broken leg.

    It was a beautiful morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico and a perfect day for a balloon ride. Janus and his girlfriend, Leona stepped into the basket with the pilot and co-pilot.

    Everything was going as planned, the balloon lifted off without issue. The champagne was served and the couple toasted to their happiness and undying love for one another while viewing the most spectacular sunrise over the city.

    Janus then got down on one knee in front of Leona and held out a ring box.

    “Will you marry me?” he asked.

    “Yes, of course I will!” Leona excitedly responded.

    As they both were caught up in the moment, the pilot realized that they were descending a little too fast and tried to compensate by quickly turning the burner mechanism to high. The jolt tossed the couple to the floor of the basket, but no harm done.

    Once the balloon had landed, Janus whimsically decided to carry his fiancée out of the basket. Fate had other ideas as he stumbled with Leona in his arms over the cable that anchored the balloon. They both suffered fractures, with Janus absorbing most of the impact. Leona fractured her wrist.

    Smiling at one another, they both agreed it would be a great story to one day tell the grandkids.

  6. Five, four, three, two, one…

    Wind rips at my face as I dive off the balloon. Adrenaline surges through my veins. Free fall, the ultimate thrill. Then the rope jerks up. I whoop as my body springs up toward the teetering balloon, then down again. Each bounce of the bungee decreases in stride until I sway upside down a thousand feet above the ground. Blood rushes to my head. Life as an accountant is boring. This is anything but. I continue to hoot as they pull me back into the swinging basket.

    “You idiot!” The balloon pilot’s face is almost purple and his eyes bulge. “Are you insane? You almost tipped the basket.”

    Three other sets of eyes glare at me. The looks alone make me burst out laughing again. None of them knew of the stunt until my leap to freedom. A young couple huddle together, ashen faced. Their hands clench the tethers holding them in the basket. The third is my date of the week.

    “Hey, Marlene, wasn’t that a blast?”

    Marlene walks the three steps across the basket and slugs me so hard I almost fall out of the basket. Maybe it would have been better if I had. She follows it up with a sharp kick that sends daggers of pain from my groin to my fingertips. That destroys the euphoria.

    “Kill yourself on your own time, Janus.”

    A second later she me hogties me to the floor. Last time I date a rodeo champ.

  7. Janus always wanted to see Mount Olympus from a balloon, he couldn’t pass up the chance. The sunny, warm air in Athens on that spring morning bolstered the excitement he felt.

    Iaret Baris, his contact, had assured him was top notch and they were living up to his words. The set up and subsequent launch of the balloon happened with precision. As it turned out, the launch wasn’t the problem.

    When they hit the ceiling of their max height the atmosphere changed. From clear skies with light wind, to heavy grey clouds and a strong northerly breeze, the balloons were pushed past their original flight plan. To make matters worse, The other two balloons were no longer visible and their radios went silent.

    Mr. Baris translated the words of their flight captain to Janus as he fiddled with the burner in an attempt to lower the balloon to a manageable height. The winds held the balloon fast as they pushed it further north. “Look!” Iaret cried. “By the gods.” His arm bounced with his excitement. Unsteady, he pointed in the distance at the approaching mountain peaks.

    Sunlight cut through the distant sky and splashed across the highest peak, or at least what should have been the highest peak. A golden city rested at the crest of the mountain. Towers cut through the passing clouds as the wind pushed them straight toward the city.

    No movement, no life, could be seen anywhere in the city as their balloon touched down.

  8. Francis surveyed the skyline. “A balloon competition is so exciting!”

    “I’m glad you are enjoying yourself. You are the first woman I’ve ever taken on one of my adventures.” Janus leaned in for a kiss, fingering the ring in his pocket. They felt a bump as a neighboring balloon drifted into their path. Their craft began to falter.

    “What now?” Janus turned to the pilot.

    “We do our best to land her before she falters any worse.”

    “Guys,” Francis pointed, “Power lines.”

    The perfect date was quickly turning into a fight for survival.

    The pilot motioned him over to the second burner. “You see this valve here?”


    “Open it and close it when I say. Do you understand?” Janus nodded. “Good. We need to work together to avoid those power lines and land her safely.”

    “What happens if we hit them?” asked Francis.

    The pilot looked at Janus. “You don’t want to know.” He radioed his ground crew that they would be coming down rough.

    It was eerily quiet as the men worked, their voices the only sound to break the silence. Francis thought she could almost touch the power lines as they drifted past on their descent.

    Their landing was fast and bumpy. As they came to a halt, the basket tipped over causing Francis to land on top of Janus.

    “Are you okay?” he asked.

    “Yes, we’re alive, aren’t we?” They both laughed with relief.

    Just then he remembered the ring in his pocket. “Francis…”

  9. Close to Heaven

    Nothing compares with the feeling of floating above the ground in almost suspended animation. Ballooning captures that sensation, taking your breath away. Working with Sky Endeavors, a local company, I quickly elevated to the rank of Crew Chief. My job? Teaching others to set up the balloon, chase after it, and break it down. If there was extra room in the balloon the pilot would ask, “Arlene, would you like to fly?”

    My mom would help by caring for my son and the pilot’s children and also help chase. Arriving at the field one night I was asked if I would like to fly. Racing to a phone I called Mom, begging her to care for the kids and help chase. She had tons of excuses that evening, but finally relented. When she arrived, I walked her over to the balloon and said, “Hop in, Mom. You can fly tonight.”

    Her eyes grew wide; her smile unending. Moments later I watched Mom gently leave the ground, beaming from ear to ear. She had an incredibly gorgeous flight over a mountain. Upon landing she said, “That is the closest I have ever felt to Heaven!”

    Mom passed away a year ago April 15th. Of all the things I had done for her, allowing her to spend an hour where the sun, rainbows, moon, and stars reside is the greatest gift I could ever have given my mother.

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