The Balloon Man
In a village long ago and far away, but one not so very different from those today, lived a group of superstitious people governed by poverty and hunger. Hunger not for food, but for money and control over other equally hungry and ruthless people. In this village lived a man, a man different from all the others. Every large grouping of people has one, no matter the century; the simpleton, dreamer, the lost. You see them on the street, exchanging their pride for a few worthless pieces of metal. For many of the lost, either fate, or a succession of unfortunate choices has left them on the side-lines of society, detached from the crowds surging past. However, this particular man was different. He sat in the same room, day in, day out, staring at exactly the same section of wall in front of him; staring, but seeing something besides the brick and mortar that the others saw. He always wore a slightly bemused smile upon his ageless face, a smile that did not belong in this world of shifting eyes and sharp, thin mouths. The other villagers were jealous of his apparent bliss. ‘What does he have to be so happy about; he lives in the same ugly world as us, don’t he? Why’s he think he’s so special, being happy about nothing?’. These were the questions the other villagers asked of themselves, but no matter how many times, they could never find an answer. Unlike the others that had passed through this village, and many others like it, his separation from those around him was not forced upon him by society or inbreeding, as the other villagers might see it, but a decision made. He looked at the world around him, saw all the boredom, hatred, jealousy, pettiness, and corruption, and decided he did not like living in such a world, where brothers betray brothers for the merest chance at wealth. It may not have been a conscious decision, but a decision nonetheless. He looked at the faces surrounding him, young in years, but corrupted by malicious and vindictive...
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