Get a grip woman! There's nothing there.

No matter how much she shook her head she couldn’t shake the feeling she was being followed. As she left the insurance building where she worked her pace quickened. She found herself looking at reflections in shop windows, straining her eyes to see if anyone looked vaguely familiar. In front the traffic stopped and she crossed the side walk and decided to hail a cab. This was a luxury she really could not afford, but was feeling so spooked she felt she had no choice.

Once she was home and cooking tea for hubby she felt safer. The fire was roaring, Michael Bolton was crooning at top volume and she allowed herself to relax.

Later that night, as she was getting ready for bed she plucked up the courage to tell her partner her fears. Before she’d got five words out she found herself crying as she related the feeling of being watched. He held her tight in her arms, whispered reassuring words and together they fell asleep.

Saturday morning awoke to a bright blue autumnal day. The temperature outside was thirty two degrees, and she could see that the pond had frozen over. She felt better this morning, for having hubby around made her feel so much safer. In fact she felt so safe she had forgotten about the previous day and after breakfast she picked up her camera and went for a walk. Ten yards outside the front gate she again felt that something was brooding over her. A sense of frustration filled her being and she growled at herself.

‘Get a grip woman, there’s nothing there.’

Half an hour later, had anyone been watching her, they would have seen a perfectly contented woman dressed against the elements. For she was taking photos of rotting fences steaming in the sunlight, frost ravished brambles resplendent in brown when she happened to point her camera towards the top of a tree. That’s when she saw it and her eyes widened and heart stopped beating. Frozen to the spot, telling her legs to run but knowing it was utterly futile she forced herself to face the humongous dark object.

The large object blotting out the sun was nothing more than a large hot air balloon hanging in the sky with a wicker basket strung below. As she looked at it with mouth aghast the balloon silently dropped down beside her and she felt compelled to climb in. Moments later all of her angst, terror and frustration gave way to pure adrenalin filled exhilaration. She screamed with childish delight as the ground fell away and her horizon stretched beyond the edge of the world. She had momentarily forgotten about her camera, but it was soon put into use. She didn’t have time to check aperture and shutter settings, so just slid the dial onto automatic mode and shot away.

Minutes became hours and she’d never felt this free, this sense of wonder, this alive. She was high up now, such that she was grateful she had wrapped up warm before setting off. Even so, there was frost on her eye brows and she needed to stamp her feet continually to keep any semblance of warmth in her toes. She knew she’d need to come down soon, and was just working out how to allow for a controlled descent when she became aware once again that something was watching her. She spun round in the basket, the same fear again welling up in her stomach. Her eyes scanned the horizon, yet there was nothing to see. She stamped her feet again, this time out of anger.

‘Get a grip woman! There’s nothing there.’

The sun was starting to set and the most wonderful hues of orange, purple, magenta and red were filling the sky. So high up the view was beyond any human words and she exhausted the remaining space on her camera’s memory card. That’s it, she thought, time to go home and turned to start deflating the balloon. And that’s when she saw it. She was so alarmed her eyes were fit to pop. There were no words to describe the terror she felt. Even if she could have moved her legs there was nowhere to run.

She was about to pass out when the flashing circular object hovering in the sky alongside her bobbled up and down, and a raft of light fell on her face. It felt warm in the frozen air and her terror was replaced with puzzlement. The light became solid and she found herself being beckoned into the heart of the hitherto unidentified flying object…

Get a grip woman! There's nothing there.

Mark Bateman

Joined August 2008

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Artist's Description

Did you used to watch Tales of the Unexpected as a child? I did and loved it. In fact I used to go to bed, then watch my little 14" black and whit telly with my big toe over the off button in case mum or dad decided to check I was actually asleep..

This story was sparked into life by Jeannette Sheehy’s photo. Don’t look until after you’ve read the story though.

Artwork Comments

  • Banalheed
  • Mark Bateman
  • Jeannette Sheehy
  • Mark Bateman
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  • Mark Bateman
  • iAN Derrick
  • Matthew Dalton
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  • Jeannette Sheehy
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  • MillicentMorrow
  • Mark Bateman
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  • Mark Bateman
  • Mark Bateman
  • Jeannette Sheehy
  • Mark Bateman
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