The moon shone out from the treacherous night sky – like a pale pearl on a dark blue velvet cloth.

We all looked up, staring open mouthed, myself and the three other passengers, frightened and quiet, being swayed in our airborne carriage. Our hot air balloon adventure had failed.

And now we couldn’t deny the fact that there was no way to steer to land, and no fuel. Just the cold moon staring down at us and the enormous ocean below. Not far below.

Coming to terms with this reality, we were each standing in a corner of the basket; all staring out.

Cold tears pricked my eyes. Behind me in fragments my old life lay. I felt blank. There was nothing I could do, so I leaned my arms on the basket ledge and contemplated the present moment.

We were slowly sinking.

As we neared the surface, the fog rolled in, shading the swell in smoky layers.

Then, James, one of the guys, started to talk; telling stories to fill the time.

He told the tale of the sea voyage from the Grey Havens by Bilbo, disappearing over the horizon to an unknown destination. To the end of all things.

“I remember thinking when I read this as a little boy.” He said, “Where are they going to in their ship? Will they die?”

I responded, “I suppose that they reach actual land and start a new life. Who was on the ship, by the way?”

“The two hobbits,” he replied, “some elves and Gandalf. Moving on to another existence. Like heaven. It was called the Undying Lands.”

“Did they take any food?” Joined in the younger guy. Quite a down to earth person. “We should have stocked up more when we planned this balloon trip. Water as well.”

James and I met each other’s gaze. Regrets about trip planning at this point were futile. But if this guy, Dougal, I think his name was, wanted to occupy his thoughts on practical things, who were we to argue?

“It seemed like a magical ending to the book, almost like the beginning of another story.” James continued.

“I must read it someday” mused Dougal. I was startled at this and felt worried that we hadn’t let him fully understand that there was no way out for us. This was our last night on earth.

I opened my mouth to explain gently, but James imperceptibly shook his head to stop me.

“What about a tale from you, ...

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Nonita Thomas
May 11 2022

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