The Red Balloon
By Cole H., Gresham, OR
The red BalloonThe Red Balloon
A little girl creeps closer and closer to the only light that was being shed through a small crack in a door that should never have been opened. The weeping became more and more strained, leaving her heart to almost implode. She drew closer to the door, peeking in, sure to not make a sound or move anymore. There a woman sat covered in red, kneeling on the dingy floor next to the rusty bathtub. Water tinted red, collected in puddles across the floor. The woman’s face buried in her hands, dripping with a deep color. A red balloon dangles above the bathtub, dripping with a thick black liquid.The little girl trying not to gasp, takes a step back holding her breath. The floor lets out a long screech as if giving her position away. The distraught woman instantly stops crying, face turning to the cracked door. Complete silence overcomes the house as the little girl tries not to move. The woman lets out a piercing scream, more disturbing than any noise ever heard. Fast paced, woman crawls frantically, growling, and rips the bathroom door open. The little girl’s hand cup her eyes and she trembles for the next moment.
A long gasp. A young woman opens her eyes in her dark bedroom.“It was just a dream”, she reassures herself. The wind is blowing furiously outside, as trees taunt the night. The girl sits up out of bed in the dark room, only light being shed through the window from the moon casting an eerie shadow across the floor. She rubs her face and leans over to look at the clock. “Only 3:14 am”. In an oversize black t shirt and grey knee high socks, she pulls herself out of bed. Leaning over to grab a journal from her desk, she sits down and stares at the cover that reads Lenore. Pages of the book is filled with writing dating back from when she was a child. The freshly blank page stares at her as she closes her eyes trying to remember every detail about her dream. Scribbling down the horror, she taps her long fingernails across the wooden desk. As she finishes writing, she writes down the final thoughts. This one was different, more real. 3:14 am. As she goes to close the book, she flips through the previous pages, all ending with the time 3:14 am.
A familiar voice calls from downstairs. Lenore looks at the clock only to realize five hours have already passed. She blinks and stares at the cover of the journal again. The clouded light now from the sun, misting on the street. “I’ll be down in a minute Nan”, she yells as she closes her curtains and walks to her dresser to find clothes. She slides her black jeans on and oversized green army coat as she looks in the mirror. Her long messy dark brown hair tangles across her arms.The bags under her eyes only seem to be getting worse. Finally, adjusting her silver rabbit necklace, she heads down stairs.
An old woman in the kitchen walks over and kisses Lenore on the cheek, “Happy 19th birthday me love”, she glistens, staring into Lenore’s eyes. “Thank you Nan”, she says walking to the fridge to grab something to drink. “Do you have any plans today? Anything special? Going to see anyone?” The old woman says eagerly. Lenore let out a short laugh while shutting the fridge and standing up while , glancing at the woman. “Not this year”. The old woman let out a long sigh, only to take a deep breath to begin what would only seem like a rant heard many times before. “You know if you keep acting this way, you are ne-”.Lenore interrupts, “ I had the dream again”, rubbing her face. “Was it the same as always?”, the white hair woman grumbles walking away from the kitchen, “I don’t know how much we can take of this Lenore, I don’t know how much you can take of this, it’s best just t-”. Lenore taking a deep sigh “Who is she? I have dreamt of this woman for years, and you won’t tell me.” The woman walks around the house humming, and cleaning things, as if ignoring Lenore all together. “It’s my mother isn’t it?”, Lenore says staring. The old woman freezes, her back facing Lenore. “ Why don’t you go out for a bit, yeah? The fresh air will do you some good, we can talk about this later”. Yeah, alright,” she sighs, “ Uh thanks Nan, i’ll be back later, I guess”.
The cold air burns the skins across her face as she walks in the foggy air. Dazed with her head in the clouds, she walks to the local bookstore to distract her mind but nothing seems to work. She mumbles to herself as people silence themselves till she passes. Hours pass, and she finally decides to make her way home. She opens the front door to find the house empty with only a note saying “I think you know what’s best for yourself now. Please just be careful. I’ll be home in a few days, love Nan”, with a small rusty key next to the note. Confused, Lenore trudges up to her bedroom and throws herself on her bed. She lays with the key held out in front of her face as she tries piecing together everything. Suddenly the room goes black.
Lenore gasps while clutching her chest as she realizes she is no longer lying in her bed. Everything seems hazy and cloudy. She tries to look around but only sees darkness. The faint sound of a child crying is heard from a distance. She starts jogging towards the sound of the child's voice, when a red balloon appears floating in the distance. She follows the balloon, as it only seems to be leading her somewhere. Everything is still black , her mind is racing with fear. Suddenly in the distance, a large broken down brown house starts to build itself before her eyes. The balloon sits on the doorstep of the house as if inviting her in. “I know this place....why do I know this place?”. She places her hand on the doorknob only to find it is locked. “The key...” she says, pulling it forward, perfectly matching the home lock. She wearily steps onto the porch of the house, shaking with fear. The broken screen door creaks as she slowly opens it to come inside. With each step her heart seems to be pounding more and more. The crying continues from a room upstairs. As she takes a deep breath she slowly climbs the steps of the stairs and sees a door with light coming out from underneath it. She is shaking with fear, as her hand reaches for the door knob. Slowly opening the door, she peers inside, to a small room with a broken down bed and a worn down wardrobe. The room smells of molds and something rotten. “This was my room, this was my old room!” she says panicking. The crying is coming from the wardrobe. Lenore walks slowly, to the wardrobe, realizing this was her old home, coming back to life. Her hands trembled as she reached for the handles. She takes a deep breath and pulls the doors open. There sitting was a little girl, only about the age of 5, with long brown hair and brown eyes. “That’s not me,” She says confused, “ That isn’t me. Who are you?!” she screamed.. The girl, clinging to the side of the wall cries. “ You have to be quiet! Or she will hear you!” she whimpers. “Who will hear us? Where am I? Who are you? What the hell is going on?” she yelled again. “Please be quiet miss! She is going to hear us!”.
The young girl’s hand reaches out pulling Lenore into the closet, but Lenore resists. “What the hell is going on, tell me right now, who are you? Who are you hiding from?”, Just as she screamed again, a loud slam came from down stairs. Lenore turns around to look at the bedroom door. Foot steps can be heard from downstairs. The young girl starts weeping even harder and louder. Lenore places her hand on the young girls cheek, “Shhh everything is fine” she says trying to calm the girl, “Just be quiet for a minute”. Lenore quietly shuts the bedroom door and places her ear against the wood. The only sound now is Lenore’s heart pounding and breathing. Suddenly the sound of feet running up the stairs, pound through the house. The young girl grabs Lenore’s hand and pulls her into the closet, shutting the doors. Everything is dark and quiet.
Moments pass as silence chills the air. Lenore holds one hand over her mouth, with the other holding the little girl’s hand. The bedroom door then starts to slowly creak open, the sound of hard breathing echoes in the room. The smell of rotting flesh seeps through the cracks in the wood. Lenore covers her nose, clenching her eyes shut, gagging, trying not to to make a sound. The little girl’s grip clenches harder on Lenore’s hand as footsteps grow closer and closer to the door.Leaned as far back against the wall as she can, Lenore sees a sickly pale hand, missing fingernails and covered in dried blood, squeezes itself into the crack of the door. The door then rips open to a woman, covered in sores, hair thrashed about, bruises and dried and crusted blood, with pelting eyes. Lenore is frozen with fear, this is the woman from her dreams, this is the woman she has been seeing for years in her sleep.
“Did you think you could hide from me?” she screams as she grabs the little girl by the hair dragging her out of the room. The girl screaming, claws on to the floor trying to fight but is dragged down the hall to another room. Lenore stumbles out of the closet gasping for breath and running into the hallway. Just as she turns out of the doorway, the woman drags the girl into another room, slamming the door almost shut, only leaving a little crack. The sound of water pouring starts echoing in the house. Everything becomes too familiar, this is the hallway she always dreamed about, this is the exact place.
Lenore slowly approaches the bathroom door, heart and mind racing she take closer steps.”You think I wouldn’t notice? You think that you could just hide this from me? Where did you even get it, huh?” the woman’s voice screeches. “I’m sorry mother! I didn’t mean to make you upset, I am sorry! It was for Lenore!” the young girl squealed out. Lenore freezes and suddenly everything is coming back. “For Lenore? For her little birthday huh?”, taunted the woman in a sickening voice, “ I am sure we will be able to give her a real happy birthday, Blair”. “That name!”, Lenore screamed, “Blair!”. Just as she started running towards the bathroom door, the sound of water splashing grew so loud, rushing pain filled Lenore. She fell to the ground covering her ears screaming in pain. In agonizing pain, she crawled her way to the bathroom, her body screaming. Suddenly everything goes silent and the pain is gone. She lays merely a few feet from the bathroom gasping to collect herself. She pulls herself up, peering into the bathroom. The woman sits hunched on the floor eerily giggling to herself. The floor puddled with tinted red water, a balloon floating above the bathtub. “Well happy birthday Lenore, is it everything you could have asked for? I couldn’t ask for anything else, besides TWO PERFECT DAUGHTERS!”, Screamed the woman fiddling with her hair.
“You killed her, you killed one of your daughters,” Lenore screamed , eyes pouring with tears, “you killed Blair!”. She trembled with anger, gasping for breath. “This is what happened! How could you? How could you do something like this? She was only a little girl!”. The woman's laughter grew louder, more menacing. “I was only trying to give you a good birthday, was it not good enough? Blair even got you a present. Your very own red balloon” giggled the woman. Lenore hunched on the ground crying furiously, trying to back away. “You are a monster, you’ve destroyed a young girl’s life, and left me with all of this! I am broken because of you!” she belted out. The woman’s head twitched to the side and let out a huge grin.
Violently, she crawled and dragged herself over to Lenore, pinning her down. Lenore cringed as tears poured down her face, but she couldn’t move, the woman was too strong. “Broken you say?”, the woman giggled, inches away from Lenore’s face, “Now don’t you seem like a real Griffin girl now, Welcome to the family, Lenore Griffin”. Her smile only an inch away from Lenore's, as her rotten teeth and breath peeled away at Lenore’s skin. Her nails digging in deeper and deeper into Lenore’s wrist. Blood dripping onto the rotting wood floors.Lenore took one last breath, this was it. She squeezed her eyes shut and whispered “I am sorry Blair”.
Suddenly a bang from downstairs. The psychotic woman turns towards the stairwell as policemen race up the stairs pointing guns, telling her to let the child go. “Child?” Lenore mumbles confused.The woman starts laughing as they peel her off of Lenore and restrain her. Lenore looks at the stairwell and sees an older woman walking over, who then kneels down next to her. “Come on sweetie, everything is going to be okay now”. The voice was too familiar. “Nan?” Lenore whispered, and the woman just smiles at her and picks her up. As they pass a mirror, Lenore looks and sees the 7 year old version of herself, with Nan.She wraps her arms around the woman's neck clinging on for comfort, as the woman rubs her back and exits the home. Policemen and neighbors crowd the streets as the police car lights dance across their faces. Policemen jot down information as Lenore passes to get to the emergency vehicle. “Time?”, one man asked to another. “The time is 3:14 am, it was the little girl’s birthday for christ sake”, a man replied shaking his head. Being carried, held Lenore tight. “Please take care of me?”,Lenore asks, staring into the young Nan’s eyes. The woman nodded and held her tighter. “Is this how it all happened Nan?”, the young Lenore whispers in her ear, “This is how it all happened” The woman only hugs the child harder.
Lenore’s eyes opened where she laid on her bed with the key squeezing tightly in her hand. She sits up looking at the clock, it was only 2:30 in the morning. She stands up out of bed and puts her shoes on. The wind was more calm than normal. The fog still thick, but with a sense of comfort. Lenore walks to local store with one thing on her mind. As she leaves, clutched in her hand, a white string, attached to a red balloon that followed her as she walked. The night air grew more and more thick and she continued walking passed the sleeping homes. Her hands clenched as she reach the local cemetery, wandering, looking for her sister Blair Griffin. “I know you are here”, she whispers, entering the site. With each gravestone, she grew more and more concerned and frustrated. Until she finally sees it. Blair Griffin October 13th 2000- October 21st 2005 god rest this young girl's soul. Lenore kneels down placing her hand on the cold stone. She pulls a flower out of the ground in the grass and places it next to the tombstone, tying the balloon to it.. “I am so sorry Blair”, she whimpers to the ground. With one last smile, Lenore stands up and starts walking away with her face fading in the night.