The Ghobara Busters

Balloons are illegal in my hometown. There is no rhyme or reason behind the law; they’re simply outlawed- like flying kites, or consuming alcohol, or fucking in public.

Each morning, children are patted down by strange men and women as they enter schools. It’s become the norm. Balloon bearing children are separated from the rest, and forced to stand in various corners of various unfurnished rooms- extended time outs, if you will. They cry and cry and cry. Yet the next day there are repeat offenders. Stupid, you say? You should know better.

Do you know that the average child spends eighty seconds a day thinking about balloons? No? I thought so. Did you know that the balloon industry surpasses the condom industry by a long shot? No? You’d be surprised. Did you know that balloons account for 1/3 of the happiness of the world? No? Enlighten yourself. So on and so forth.

As fabricated as my statistics may be, the Ghobara Busters are very real! Teams of self-proclaimed vigilantes raid households and confiscate all kinds of balloons. Red balloons? Gotta go. Water balloons? I’ll take that ma’am. Foil balloons? Foiled. Weather balloons? Tut tut, you’re better off not knowing. In most cases parents are sent to rehab for balloon addictions and intent to supply balloons, while their sons and daughters are adopted by a senior GB- forever. In some cases, however, the GBs can be more lenient, allowing families to be united once the parents serve above five years in prison. This is usually because someone higher up in the GBs hierarchy vouches for the parents.

Any mention or instance of balloons in movies and television is censored out routinely. The Carl Fredricksen, in the acclaimed Up, all of a sudden seems to have an armchair that lifts off as it wills. The 1956 Albert Lamorisse featurette, The Red Balloon, simply became The Red, and makes no sense whatsoever. So on and so forth.

The GBs have slogans like “Your balloon, my terrorist” and “Make love not balloons.” They rank from “Balloon Patrol Officer” to “Supervisor Darts” to “Chief Executive Balloonmaster,” and are often seen in trios. It’s a ridiculous sight to witness and people don’t exactly know why they’re plucking out balloons from the sky with such innate marksmanship.

The GBs, without exception, wear protective clothing and blinders so they don’t get distracted easily. Once, many years ago, a group of GBs fell in love with balloons after they saw a two-year old girl playing with one that was polka-dotted. This resulted in the group releasing all balloons in their possession to a passersby. The passerby, puzzled by the situation, had scattered the balloons across town, which eventually led to the first balloon revolution. It was a media nightmare, and the GBs’ reputation suffered a massive blow. Some GBs were gunned down at public gatherings. Others were captured and put on display outside latex factories. This revolution was short lived. With new funding, and with a new code of operation, the GBs came back stronger than ever, fighting violence with violence. Sure enough, it was only a matter of time before balloons were gathered up again and set on fire. So on and so forth.

At the end of the year, the GB who nabs the most balloons gets a preemptive presidential pardon. He or she is free to commit one crime- any crime- and get amnesty. Past crimes have included bank robberies, drug trafficking, blasphemy, and fucking in public. Go figure. There’s been no murders so far, but the town anxiously awaits one.

One Ghobara Buster, in specific, was an asshole cut from a cloth above the rest of the assholes. His title “District Balloon Inspector,” was misleading. Round, sleazy and toxic, you could smell the latex (or maybe it was rubber) off him from a few blocks away. We would waddle like the Penguin in Batman, and spat regularly. Legend has it that he held balloon conventions in other towns and enticed balloon aficionados to migrate to my hometown. He would then raid them within the week. Everyone hated him the most, that pompous fucker, but with the law on his side, there was very little people could do. On he went, wobbling, beaming, spitting, flashing his badge. DBI. DBfuckingI.

Politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers have speculated for a while now. Why would something as joyful and innocent as a balloon be considered a town-wide threat? Were balloons harmful? A friend told me once that she had suffered third degree burns all over her body after lighting a hydrogen balloon on fire. But then why wasn’t hydrogen outlawed instead? Was it because there was a shortage of latex or rubber? My town was actually producing more latex and rubber than residents could possibly utilize! Was it because of environmental reasons? If so, why did they burn them to make things worse. Were people using them as condoms? Yes, but that’s besides the point; they could buy condoms from stores even if the balloons never existed in the first place. So on and so forth.

The GBs’ social media team is not helpful in addressing these speculations, remaining mostly silent on the issue. Occasionally, the team would tweet, “Fuck balloons!” or “Balloons are for losers!” The hashtag “#GBsInAction” often accompanied photographs and video footage of the GBs’ raids. The Twitter page has 400k followers. My town has 10k residents.

We’re currently hard at work, planning a second revolution, a mightier and more aligned revolution that rids this town of the Ghobara Busters once and for all. Gut ’em at the roots. Anagram International, the largest manufacturer of foil balloons in the world, has provided us with enough munitions for a small army.

Call me, email me, tweet at me- find me. Balloons were never meant to hang this low.

 

 

Flatland

Precisely one year ago, scientists came to a new conclusion: that the Earth wasn’t round. It never had been. We had been wrong and 17th century Catholics had been right from the start.

All of a sudden, as if awaiting this realization, freighters and airplanes began to lose their bearings and slip into space, tumbling into a dark abyss that humanity had previously thought to have found meaning in. Satellites drifted away.

Mountains suddenly became thousands of miles tall, dwarfing everything around them. Water from the oceans began exponentially trickling off the edges.

Globes were smashed and maps were hailed.

Environmentalists began constructing boundaries to keep the water on Earth, and construction businesses boomed. Rich people started buying property near the middle of the vast expanse, where the temperatures were hot and constant, and the real estate industry boomed.

Global citizens at the edges threw out their scales, claiming that the scales were over-reporting their weight, and the fitness industry went bankrupt. Miners drilled through the crust and plummeted into nothingness, and mining companies went bankrupt.

The moon was an illusion too. After all, how could a flatland facilitate the orbit of a sphere? The revelation of these facts affected the tides, and more importantly, the Earth’s pathway around the Sun. We were hors d’oeuvres, waiting to be gobbled up. Still, in the chaos, petty arguments prevailed.

Conspiracy theories began to emerge; some claimed the Earth was round, and were thrown off the edge. Some claimed that math and kinetic theories were still valid, and were thrown off the edge. A silly man who nagged too much was thrown off the edge. Clowns, wasps, tomatoes, detritus, all off the edge.

The underside of the Earth, though, was dark, cold and inhospitable. It was widely feared; freezing temperatures and the lack of vegetation made it inhabitable for the overwhelming majority of life. Yet some stubborn and repulsive creatures still crawled out of the void. Enter Donald Trump.

The Smartest Man in Novy Lokatui

He watched the clearing carefully, concealing his meager presence behind a thicket of varicose branches that had denounced their natural guise to favor the enveloping sheets of white rime. There was a man. No, there were two men. Cloaked in the subtlest of cream, it was hard to distinguish them from the ambiance, yet their wispy beards that retained their last ounce of black betrayed them. At a distance, he eyed them meticulously, crooning his neck for a better vantage point. The scythe in his hand glistened in the moonlight, its edge sharp enough to carve puppets out of the mightiest oak. He cracked his knuckles, like a pianist in an auditorium.

The snow came down in thick blankets, suffocating and blinding the men. But these men weren’t ordinary men. Veterans of northern Siberia’s weather, they ventured forward, leaving the subtle refuge of the overarching trees that took hit after hit of frost. The man that led waded through the snow effortlessly, with long, exaggerated strides akin to the romantic brushstrokes of a delusional artist. His compatriot wielded a mid-sized axe tightly in his right hand and followed with his head down, bundled in coarse fabric. Conceivably an apprentice.

Perhaps they had filled their stomachs with brandy and decided to venture out into the vast nothingness that stretched on beyond the horizon in their desperation to survive, the onlooker thought. Maybe they hoped they would run into the occasional ibex, segregating from the males out of tradition; food was non-existent in the winter and wildlife was scant. Firewood was another plausible reason to leave home, lest the home itself become their icy grave.

He blocked any adulterating thoughts from his mind as he began to anticipate their inevitable fates. Go on, he urged them silently. The leader abruptly looked up, as if he had heard the thoughts of the watcher, and began to scan the woods quite near to where he was now pressed to the ground. He raised his hand to alert his companion. The world snapped still; time came to a halt. The heartbeat of the spectator permeated the night. The moment hung in space for a suspicious second, and then the adventurers took one more step forward.

It all happened too fast for the human eye to capture. As the first man stepped forward, something snapped underneath his feet. It was almost like he had stepped on a stray branch, but there was a hint of rope that gave it away. Sure enough, he felt the ground hastily pull away from under him instantly. His companion too, was whiplashed violently upward as the net closed in on all sides.

Within milliseconds, both men went from cautiously treading the spotty vegetation of the north to being suspended four feet above the ground from a bare taiga tree. Both of them had made a similar sound, almost what you would expect from a dog that had been punted in the torso. The second man dropped his axe during the ensnarement. Gasping for air he frantically tried to claw his way out of the mesh. The net had been used for fishing before, and would certainly hold its own. They were a tangle of limbs and anxiety as the fiber bit into their flesh .

The hunter emerged unhurriedly from his sanctuary, gritting his teeth to maintain some feeling in his face. He had waited far too long for this. Sleepless nights, days of starvation and isolation. He needed this. Certainly, he had been craving this. Walking up to the axe, he lifted it from its place, brushing fresh snowflakes off its edge. It was an admirable piece of craftsmanship.

He approached the closest tree to the taiga, a small birch that appeared rather malnourished, and began to take slow, meticulous swings at it. Thud. Thud. Thud. His heartbeat slowed; his senses now more aware than ever before. He would reap the rewards of his disposition. Amid the cries of his prey, he collected his firewood. An onlooking gray wolf shuffled further into the forests.

The man’s stomach growled instinctively as he smelled the fear of his captives. Sensing the hunger in their assailant, they frantically began to say their prayers.