The Blue Balloons
by Adriana Alarco de Zadra
“María Guadalupe is in the Blue Balloons.”
“The Blue Balloons?”
“The new invention meant to rejuvenate?”
“Exactly. ‘The new form, suspended between life and the outer limits’, as the TV explains. You don’t become old, you never get sick, you oxygenate yourself and absorb regenerating fluids.”
“It sounds marvelous.”
“It is marvelous. Do you wish to try it?”
“No, of course not.”
“Me neither. However, I’m considering it.”
Anthony Lou was really thinking of this new deal. Now that Lupe was suspended inside her Blue Balloon in order to rejuvenate, he had all the liberty to do whatever he wanted without suffering her jealousy and being upset by her fits. He felt defenseless when she annoyed him when he wanted to go out strolling with her to get some fresh air. She reproached him for being the cause of the wrinkles appearing in her face. Even though he always assured her that her skin would become opaque and pale if she didn’t take sun baths.
Of course! But for her, as well as for most people in town, the sun had become enemy number one. Lupe had been warned that exposing herself to the sun’s rays when coming out of the Blue Balloons would be like burning herself in a frying pan. Even though the advertising did not inform of the possible dangers.
GET THE ESSENTIAL BLUE BALLOON
WITHOUT TRAVELING TO THE MOON!
Some other ridiculous phrases could also be seen in the ads that showed a beautiful woman suspended inside a sphere.
BLUE BALLOON, AND WITH NO PAIN
YOU CAN BECOME YOUNG AGAIN!
Even if some people assured that old age was an ailment of the past and that the Blue Balloons were the most important discovery in present times, he believed it was an eccentric and expensive hibernation. But he couldn’t refuse to go along with his wife’s intimate plea.
The city lived at night and the traffic was intense. People hurried to their night jobs along the streets and sidewalks. Others strolled under the neon lights, flashing over the youngsters crowding the corners. Others went in and out through the glass doors at the bars and, even if the faces were sometimes covered with veils, a frantic joy of living could be observed.
Anthony found himself at the Hot Pepper Bar considering himself satisfied to be free for a month. He ordered some drinks of incredible colors which made him feel euphoric and uninhibited.
“Don’t worry about the harm,” emphasized the barman indicating the calendar, “for the New Century’s Eve you, too, can hibernate. The results have become better lately! Nearly half my clients have tried the treatment and become younger.”
“I don’t see that the results are so magnificent, really...” and he turned to look an old man drinking a cup of wine in a corner table. “My wife has been forbidden to go out by day after the treatment because the light can cause irreversible damage.”
“I don’t believe you want to become an old man!” The barman answered, looking at his client’s reflection on the mirror while holding the piece of cloth he used to wipe the counter.
“I’ve heard one needs to rejuvenate gradually because it deteriorates people’s memory.”
“That’s not important. If I become young again, I’ll then have new experiences and new memories! See over there, one of my clients is forty years old, and now he looks like a teenager. Isn’t that amazing?
His client surely looked very young and had a dreamy and elusive way of moving. He probably had a night job and lacked a good night’s sleep. Later, they saw him disappear behind the entrance hangings, pulled away by a gorgeous girl whose age nobody could discern.
A lot of people in Anthony’s office also worked by night and closed themselves in their lodgings during the day, as his boss did. As he was one of the few employees who worked during the day, he felt free and easy without the presence either of his boss or his wife. So that night he lost his head and got carried away by unruliness. He decided to take pills, but they made him loose interest and concentration. The next day he showed intolerance at work, did not finish his pending matters, and produced disorder and confusion in his quarters.
“It doesn’t matter,” he assured himself, “soon Maria Guadalupe will leave the Blue Balloons and fill my life with jealous fits and guilty feelings. I remember she was the girl of my dreams, but time has its tricks and makes you change perspective about the person you love.”
A month passed. The woman came out of her seclusion, and Anthony found her in splendid form. She looked younger, was not jealous and had become the sweetest and quietest woman in the world.
Of course he understood that Lupe had lost her memory. She couldn’t remember him at once, nor the happy years they had lived together. She didn’t remember even the causes of her groundless sentiments of envy towards every woman who passed by his side. This confused him for a while, but he found her so beautiful and delicate that he couldn’t believe what had happened. Of course, Lupe, transformed in this pretty young woman, was not able to relate her experience inside the Blue Balloons, because she remembered little of it.
They slept together and even if he felt pleasure holding her in his arms and caressing her, she smiled gladly but expressed no feelings whatsoever. The most wonderful woman he could ever dream of was at his side, beautiful, smiling. But she did not share his passion. She lay down quietly, nice and splendid but lost in another world. Probably the treatment had exhausted her. He was sure she would remember gradually the happy life they had shared. Anthony thought he had to be patient and canceled from his mind his frustration and unsatisfied feelings. The woman of his dreams had come back.
Next day, Anthony saw her asleep with her red hair spread over the pillow. She had no wrinkles, even if she was already fifty. He had also the same age but upon looking at the mirror, he reckoned that he looked very much older. His face seemed wrinkled, his eyes looked bulky and swelled because of the exotic drinks, the pills and the disorderly life. His body didn’t obey, having lost the flexibility of other times. He felt guilty for his wife’s indifference. He didn’t excite her anymore.
“I’ll have to hibernate, too,” he promised himself.
It was not the first time he thought seriously about the rejuvenating experiment in the Blue Balloons, so fashionable in this days: “Blue Balloon, and with no pain you can become young again!”
The next day he decided to become young and walked over to the city center. He had asked Lupe’s mother to look after her daughter and keep her away from the sun. When arriving at the Blue Balloons Institute he found a nice and cozy atmosphere. He observed the oxygenated balloons, floating without gravity, where men and women rejuvenated under a sign that read: “Essential Blue Balloon.” The patients, each inside a balloon of blue plastic material, rested under the translucent walls of a pyramidal environment.
“Don’t do it,“recommended a workman with a blue uniform showing the name Blue Balloons in white letters. Anthony watched the old and crackled man with surprise.
“You could do it yourself,” he answered. “I believe it would help you.”
“I already did it.” A few tears rolled down the old man’s cheeks. “You can’t believe it, but I’ve hibernated several times.”
“If you’ve done that, at this moment you should be a baby,” Anthony pointed out, with serious doubts on the old man’s mental capacity.
“I wouldn’t do it, if you ask my advice.”
“My wife has tried it and is now a splendid woman.”
“If you say so...”
Anthony strolled away turning his back on the mad old man.
He registered with the Blue Balloons to become young and healthy, along with a group of eager, middle-aged laborers. The rejuvenating treatment lasted one month, and he would spend all that time inside a balloon in health and comfort. He had already asked for a month’s vacation from work and, to obtain priority, paid in advance nearly double the sum he had paid for his wife. He would be out in time to take part at the End of the Century’s festivities. Therefore, he should follow the rules and abide the instructions of no sun baths and no repeated treatment before six months. The assistant assured him that the wrinkles would disappear, his skin would stretch and he would become more vigorous, more manly, more enthusiastic.
This was a promising outcome. But they also told him not to worry if he didn’t remember where he lived or if he had temporal amnesia at the end of the treatment, because the memory would come back with time. The flashing signs of BLUE BALLOONS assured that this was the latest invention, the most current and modern and one everybody should try. The revolutionary treatment of the year. By the quantity of people who wished to become younger, it could not be otherwise.
Already tranquilized and covered only by a light mantle of a spongy material, he entered his oxygenated balloon. He leaned back, observing the surroundings. The balloon rose into the air and glided inside a huge translucent pyramid. Hundreds of blue balloons floated in space around him.
A feeling of happiness seized him. Huddled up in a fetal position, he felt as though he were back under his mother’s protection, everything stable and in harmony. All around him, suspended in this peculiar environment, other balloons floated, each of which with a client seeking the same answer: YOUTH.
Other balloons arrived from the left angle of the pyramid while through the vault were withdrawn those who had completed the cycle. Indeed he seemed to recognize familiar faces, could that woman be his mother-in-law? Could she have left Lupita alone? It couldn’t be, he considered... or at least... But was forced to put away these disturbing thoughts and drowsed in the mist of sensual and lustful steam, bearing in mind that he shouldn’t worry. At this very moment he was a quiet and contented man who was going to live his youth again.
Clouds of steam arrived intermittently with different odors inside his sphere. He breathed, and his lungs filled with vigor, his veins palpitated boisterously, his smile became more and more a joyful laughter. From the inside, he could interrupt or open the steam valves, which surrounded, nourished and preserved him. He decided that more fluids meant more youth and kept the valves open all the time he was permitted to do so, without exhausting the mist.
The decrepit old man must have been mistaken. Nobody could become a wrinkled raisin in so nice and agreeable place, in a Blue Balloon that hydrates your skin, improves it, rejuvenates it, smoothes it. The cubicle was filled with music, magic, happiness. It was like a drug. He was hiberbluing... he laughed at the word he could not remember having heard before. He felt so joyful that he couldn’t even remember what his name was. John? Mathew? These names sounded familiar. Maybe his name was John Anthony or Lou Mathew...
A few days later he forgot what he was doing inside the blue balloon. Probably he’d been born there and had been living like a cell since someone created him.
At a certain time he touched himself with his hands and began to discover his own forms. Felt he had a mouth and also eyes. Even though he didn’t know what they were for, it felt wonderful having them and not being a plain surface. Nevertheless, at times he recovered his memory and felt sure that this joyful sensation was going to finish at some time.
Copyright © 2004 by Adriana Alarco de Zadra