The sky had been a black and grey swirling mass all of Ali’s life but he knew, from pages they’d found in dilapidated buildings that there was a world beyond. He and his friends had been trying, to the amusement of others, for over a year to scrap together enough of the ancient power, to help them break the sky. This ancient power, a kind of smelly air that burnt, stored in metal tanks, had been hard to find.
Now as Ali stood inside what the ancients called a hot air balloon, the scope of what they were attempting came to bare. Ali had barely climbed any of the tallest structures that still stood, and yet he had volunteered, for this task. Maybe he was mad.
‘Ready?’, asked, Jim. Ali nodded and lit the match. Then he turned the valve and the soft hiss of the gas told him to bring the match closer. The gas lit up instantly. His friends held the threadbare cloth over the flame. This part they had tested before; hot air rose. But could it carry men?
A yelp escaped him as the basket jolted to life and began to lift him. The fabric above him had blossomed and pulled the ropes taut. Ali grinned. It was working. He looked around as he quickly left crumbling buildings below him.
Then the flame sputtered. Ali paled as he saw the flame die. The balloon was still adrift, but in this cold air, that would not be for long. Ali had planned for this over the sleepless nights. He jumped into action. The tank was still full but it was losing air. He needed to relight the flame. He lit another match. It died instantly. Of course, at this height, the damn flame barely stood a chance. He would have to get close to the nozzle and then light it. An easy task when you were on the ground. But now… he looked over and paled. His home was one ashen canvas.
Gathering all the courage he had, Ali held onto the ropes and climbed onto the basket. His muck covered shoes slipped but he grabbed onto the nozzle to balance himself. Grunting at the heat of the metal, he propped himself up and stared at the nozzle. He could smell the gas escaping. He lit the match as close to it as he could. With a roar the flames caught on. Ali instinctively let go but was able to grasp the ropes before he fell any further.
He was rising, the blanket of the sky quickly approaching. Ali wondered what it would feel like to hit the sky. Would it push down? He didn’t get to dwell on it for long as the balloon broke through the sky, light bathed him. He let out a yelp and closed his eyes. So that was the sun. Its warmth blanketed him and for the first time in his life, he didn’t feel cold. It hurt to look at it directly, his retinas still adjusting, but he couldn’t stop. It was beautiful.
He would have to find a way to stay up here longer.