The Plushie Chomby Balloon
It's normal for little children to be excited by a single toy, like a choo choo train, or a faerie doll, or those shiny bicycles that they use to zip freely around town. It is normal for children to grow up too, and forget their childhood days as they get lost in the road of life. Then their toys remain in the upstairs attic, forever covered in dust and cobwebs and almost always forgotten.
But there are some toys that regain their spirit, an audience to the show that they call life. Just like this single balloon, freed from its confines and slipped out of a little Kacheek's hands in the Neopian Plaza, floating high until it disappeared in the vast expanse of the bright blue sky.
It was such that this toy, a Plushie Chomby Balloon, looked down at the world bathed in a different light.
He doesn't know when to pop. When his time came to an end, he wished that it will be with that young striped Kacheek who treated him as his favorite toy. He wished that someday, the air inside of him will be released, and he will float down, down into the waiting hands of his little boy. He likes the feeling of having an owner, someone who will hold him up proudly, like he's the king of the world.
Up there, in the sky, all he saw in front of him were lots and lots of clouds.
It doesn't mean that he can't look down, though.
He followed the little Kacheek. Pity came to him when he saw the boy crying and trying to find him amidst the fluffy white clouds, tugging at the sleeve of his father. "I'll buy you another balloon," his father says. But he declines, saying that it'll never be the same and he will always be his favorite balloon. The Plushie Chomby Balloon smiled at the little boy's promise, trusting that he will never break it.
But of course, some promises are meant to be broken. In time, the air leaked out of his system, until he neared the earth slowly and deliberately. In time, the boy grew up into a fine young Kacheek, and his childhood was but a vague memory.
He became interested in other things, the balloon noticed. He started living in his own neohome, away from his parents, and he spent quite a lot of time playing Cheat. He was light, he was carefree, just like the balloon was when the boy first bought him. The boy was exploring his life, little by little, but sometimes the balloon wished that he'll remember to visit his attic, where his toys lay forgotten.
The Plushie Chomby Balloon wished that he'll remember him too. He is always there; all the young Kacheek has to do is look up to find him.
Of course the boy didn't. He has his family and friends to look up to.
A few more years passed, and the Plushie Chomby Balloon lost more air. His descent to the earth sped up more quickly than what he expected. It was at that time when his string got caught in a tree branch, and he can't pry himself off, not when the leaves are in the way. He thought that maybe this time, the boy will notice him.
But alas, the boy is not a boy anymore, but a man. He became taller, more firm, more serious and stern. He opened his own shop, sold items for neopoints, and wore different colored ties each and every day. As he grew up, his childhood was wrenched farther away from him, until it was a mere speck in the distance, invisible to the naked eye. The little boy inside that man is gone, all gone.
Every day this fine and accomplished Kacheek that he once knew passed his lonely tree. But again, he never looked up. He never did. The Plushie Chomby Balloon almost gave up hope.
Then that time came, the time when the striped Kacheek has his own family to look after, even a little boy that looks exactly like him. The Plushie Chomby Balloon, now deflated that he can support himself no longer, watched the happy family from afar. He knew that hope still lingered inside of him, just like that small amount of air inside his system. Maybe this is the time when the Kacheek will notice him and recognize him as that little balloon he lost years back. Maybe fate will be kind to him and do just that.
But no. It's the Kacheek's son who noticed him.
"Papa, what is that?" his son asked, pointing at his tree branch. He stiffened. He cannot look down, but he knew the sound of the little boy's voice. Maybe, just maybe...
"That's nothing, son. Come on, let's go," the Kacheek -- his Kacheek -- said rather stiffly. He didn't even look up, just like what he'd done in the previous years.
Yes. He should never give up hope.
Hope is something that he never gave up. Hope keeps him stronger and anchors him to the ground, like the tree branch that kept him in place. Hope is something he reserved for his owner, the striped Kacheek that lives in the neohome across his tree, whose son grew up into a fine young boy. His little boy has taken an interest in toys, he noticed, and it was time to bring those old boxes down from the upstairs attic. The striped Kacheek was the one who unpacked them, one by one, and brought out the playthings he had back when he was younger.
"You know, son," he told the little boy, picking up his toy train and raising it into the light. He blew the dust away from it. "My favorite toy is not here."
His son dropped his box of jigsaw puzzles. "What? Then where is it, Papa?"
He shrugged, but his answer was enough to ignite that small amount of hope inside the balloon. Too bad that it's not air.
Hope also keeps him alive. It is a good enough substitute for the air that kept leaking out of him. He was truly deflated now, but it didn't keep him from watching the family grow closer together. They had an affinity with toys. They biked around Neopia Central in the morning. They start solving jigsaw puzzles in the afternoon, then finish in the evening. The Plushie Chomby Balloon felt that maybe now, he'll have his place in the family.
"Papa, what is that?" the Kacheek's son asked yet again, pointing at a tree branch. His father finally looked up and saw something red in the greenery, with a string tied to it's end and tangled in wood. He pulled at it, and it came loose.
Then down fell the Plushie Chomby Balloon.
"It's a balloon," the Kacheek answered, mussing his son's hair and picking it up from the ground. Days of rain and sunshine had caused its color to fade, and it certainly looks like trash. But it looks kind of familiar, like he had seen it somewhere.
"Ever since you took me out that day, Papa, I keep seeing it," the little boy said. "I think it looks nice."
His father smiled. "Yes. Me, too."
And the Plushie Chomby Balloon lay, washed away and deflated, in the striped Kacheek's arms.
Inwardly, he smiled.