Victor tugged at the rigging and twisted the rusty knob on the gas tank. He didn’t like leaving his family’s lives in the hands of a second-hand balloon, but what could he do? Everything was gone already; he was lucky to have found this under all the other rubbish in the dump.
“Here, Papa.” Maddie handed him her small, floral bag filled with all her worldly possessions.
He looked in her eyes and smiled. “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“Is there room, Papa?” Jacob clutched his bag close to his chest. “I don’t really need it if there isn’t.”
Victor took his son’s bag and looked inside. Tears flowed down his cheeks. “There is always room for our dreams.” He tucked the wrapped notebook and Maddie’s bag into a small cubby in the balloon’s basket.
Maddie went in first, then Jacob.
“Victor,” Rose said, wiping the tears from her husband’s face, “we are doing the right thing, aren’t we?”
He held her hand against his cheek and closed his eyes. Silently, he nodded and took a deep breath. “It’s the only way.”
Victor helped her into the basket, then he climbed in and turned the knob on the flame. The family waited and watched as the sky filled with balloons. Friends and neighbors made the same choice they had. Many would, some didn’t. It was the only way.
As the balloon tugged against its last connection to the Earth, Maddie screamed and pointed. Victor turned and saw the horde of Invaders, wearing their strange red painted leather armour and waving their jagged swords in the air, come marching over the hill.
No one knew where these strange people had come from. It had only been a year ago when radio waves from space had been received that proved they were not the only inhabited planet in the universe. Then they arrived with their great big ships. First, they took over Washington DC. No one had cared when they publicly executed their President, most people didn’t like him much anyway, but then they started turning people into slaves.
The world had been so divided against each other that they could not stop this mighty external force and now they had made it to California.
America was finished. Only one country now held any chance of resistance. They were going to try to make it to Russia. His grandparents had fled from there to escape Communist ideology and now he was trying to go back. He hoped the little bit of Russian he remembered being taught on his Grandmothers knee would be enough to get by.
Victor jumped into the Balloon basket and cut the rope. The wind picked up and they drifted off, just in the nick of time.
The prevailing wind blew them Northwestwards across Oregon and slowly out to sea.
Rose began dishing out some of their meagre food rations, bread and cheese, when she started laughing, hysterically.
Victor grabbed her arm “What is it?”
Rose replied through giggles, ‘Our passports are under the cheese. Why are we hiding these?’ ‘I was trying to hide the cheese.’ Victor giggled at her. The mood instantly lightened in the small basket when Rose and Victor smiled as the horde disappeared under the canopy of the forest below. Victor leaned over and whispered, ‘let’s try to set good examples for our children.’ Rose nodded as he kissed her cheek.
The asylum seeking family sat in the basket quietly wincing in unison as the wind whipped tore through the worn woven wicker. Rose could see the kids were shivering and getting scared. Out of her gear bag, she pulled out a sleeping bag a bundled it around her children. ‘You guys want to play a game?’ Just as Rose was about to tell the kids she could hear screaming from below. Victor peered over the side and discovered the horde descending upon a group of children. The children were screaming and running but Victor knew that it was useless. The horde did not have to chase the children.
The swords were magical. One wave and the children stopped running and turned. Helpless they began to march back towards the horde.
Victor sat back down and smiled at his family.
Rose gripped his hand tightly. Her husband was a caring man who often felt the pain of others. She knew that it hurt him that he could not save everyone.
Tears gathered behind Victor’s eyes and he turned his head away. He could not let his Rose, his strong wife nor his children see them fall. He was the strong one leading them away. Taking them to the last place on earth that was safe.
Suddenly there was a roaring sound and the balloon swayed madly. Victor and Rose popped up to see………