Thursday, June 3

I have a plan. The balloon lurks in the corner, bobbing this way and that. I haven't moved in hours. My back hurts. My eyes are all dry, I blink, but real quick. I don't want it to think I'm not alert. Because I am. I don't want it to think these past days of no sleep have worn me down to the basest of instincts, with parts of my brain shut down and motor functions left to a minimum... because they haven't. I show it that I can still touch the tip of my nose on the first try. See that, balloon?

But I have a plan.

Okay... go. I stand up real slow, eyes locked on the balloon. It watches me as I take a step to my left. Long pause. No, I'm not doing anything. Another step left, closer to the window. And another.

"Hey!" Mr. Happy Puppet Head Yells. "I'm going to the store for some toilet paper. You need anything?"

"No," I croak, "I'm okay."

"Okay. I'll be back in a little while." And the front door slams shut.

I take another step to my left, and now I'm directly in front of the window. I reach behind me, not turning away from the balloon for a moment, and slowly slide it up. People open windows, people need air. Nothing suspicious. I reach into my pocket and take out the philips head screwdriver I've had for the past 34 hours. There are four screws holding the bars to the windows. Safety bars. I find the first screw by feel, insert the screwdriver in, and slowly begin turning the handle. The balloon bobs back and forth a bit faster. It knows.

It takes about half an hour to get all the screws out, the metal grate of saftey bars falling with a dull thump into the uncut grass below. I gather my cape in my left hand and swing my legs out the window, neck craning to keep an eye on the balloon. It begins floating towards me. I slide quickly out the window and run. Run fast without turning around. Run down the street, turn the corner, turn another corner and run run run. Heart pounding, breath breathing, cape flapping crazily, etc.

I get to one of those big strip malls and stop, leaning my hand against a streetlamp. I turn around, no balloon. But I realize I should have closed the window. It'll be after me soon.

"Hey, man, what's up?" It's Mr. Happy Puppet Head. I realize I'm standing in front of the grocery store. "You remember something you needed?"

"No," I gasp. "I just... had to run... go for a run."

"Bullshit, man. You're running away from your balloon."

"No."

"You can't run from it, buddy. You can't run. Like that lady I told you with the goiter." And with that he bobbles away into the store. Bobbles like the balloon. Everything looks like that balloon. The cars, people's heads, their body's like deformed strings with legs and boobs and arms and fat stomachs and stuff.

And behind me is my balloon. My real balloon of destiny. Floating patiently a few feet from me. It doesn't look mad, but it isn't happy either.

The sun beats down on us standing on the sidewalk. I reach out and it floats over to me. I take it's string in my hand, its perfect smooth string with no boobs or arms or fat stomachs or anything.

And everything goes black.

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