A fun festival event goes horribly wrong.
| I am excited. We are the main event. We are standing in a roped off area of the County Kildare car park looking up at a giant orange spheroid shape filled with fire. My boyfriend is operating the source of the flames. Why? Because he loves me, and I asked him to. While County Kildare was part of the birthplace of Samhain, it's modern cousin, Halloween, is only just completing the loop and catching on. Every year fewer turnips are carved and more pumpkins. Every year, fewer soul cakes are baked, and more pre-packaged candies were handed out. |
This year, I am going to give the kids at the harvest festival a treat none of them would expect. They may even think it's a trick at first.
"Are you ready?" My boyfriend, Rory, asks as he holds steady on a rope that extended upwards from his hand. I hoist 6 large burlap bags of candy donated by the local women's auxiliary into a large wicker basket. I step into the basket. I'm so excited I can barely stand it as the flames roar above my head. I'm buzzing with anticipation like a honeybee in a rose garden.
"Yes!" I try not to squeal like a 12-year-old girl, but dang it, I was excited.
Rory is grinning from ear to ear. I can tell he's excited too. He releases the rope and runs towards me. He leaps, gazelle-like, over the edge of the basket. I pull the throttle lever and I feel the bottom of the basket lose traction with the paved surface of the car park. The hot air balloon takes flight. I see a Vauxhall coming towards us and swerve, its driver looking wild-eyed as the car slides to a stop, the bottom of the basket barely clearing the roof of the car. We move on. We go higher and higher, over the tops of cars and lorries. I can see the glow of Dublin's city lights on the far eastern horizon. The sun has set, darkness has fallen, and my boyfriend and I have risen. We pass onto the festival grounds. I can see the cityscape stretched out around us. People are looking up. Men are gasping and pointing. Mothers are calling attention to their children and pointing skyward. People of all ages are mesmerized by our approach.
Rory points to the west, "Scott, do you see that?"
My eyebrows go up. I see a streak in the distance.
I look down.
"We'd better hurry," I say as Rory is already opening the bags.
Like a carnival barker, Rory leans over the basket, "Come one, come all, come young, come old. We have a treat for you! No tricks here, boys and girls, no siree!"
He takes the first big handful and flings it over the side. Everyone - every age, every gender starts collecting bits of candy while oohing and ahhing over the spectacle in the sky above them. I get in on the festivities. I'm just window dressing. Rory's voice carries like cannon fire in a cavern, so he continues his barker routine. He should be wearing a white and red striped shirt, but it's just a hooded sweatshirt from Boston College, USA.
The rumble of thunder arrives. We know time is short.
"We should hurry," I say, taking more candy and shoveling it overboard to the giddy townspeople below.
Rory turns to say something, but it is lost. I see something coming. Perhaps subconsciously as I doubt my actual eyes and brain work that fast. The streak. It strikes the metal rod holding the propane tank and burner in place above our heads. How it doesn't kill us instantly is a mystery I'll ask God on Judgment Day.
"Shit," I hear Rory say, throwing one of the full bags of candy overboard. The fire extinguisher is underneath. I'm pulling on the vent rope to lower us down. The closer to the ground we are before this thing goes further to hell, the better. The fire extinguisher is no match for the growing inferno above us.
I can hear the screams below. They can see everything. The whole of County Kildare is about to witness two people die in a fiery hot air balloon crash on the festival grounds. The fire gets away and races up one side of the balloon. The exhalation of air pushes us the opposite direction from the rupture. I can hear the people running and yelling below. They aren't sure exactly where or when the balloon will crash, and they don't want to be under it.
I saw Rory take the tow rope and fling it. What is he doing? There is a woman dressed as a Druid priestess standing on the balcony of what appears to be a castle. Am I dreaming? Am I already dead? She catches the tow rope and pulls with all her strength. She and Rory manage to hit the castle and the basket rests on the balcony just long enough for Rory to throw me out of the basket and jump out himself. I realize that it was the fade of an amusement park ride. Rory, I, and the Druid priestess run down a staircase and make it to the ground.
I think my heart will explode. The hot air balloon took off again and left an ashy impression on the castle wall. The balloon only made it to the far side of the ride before finally being consumed by the flames and crashing into an abandoned popcorn trolley.