‘The Balloon Demon’ is a horror story from Rhys Clarke, illustrated by Liam Callebout (above) and Hollie Joiner (below). It’s the final story in our Halloween series: Five Nights of Horror.
For the past five months, I have been gathering information on this so-called phenomenon. It hasn’t been easy, with most of the witnesses turning out to be frauds or complete lunatics. But I’ve been able to obtain enough evidence of, at least, three genuine encounters with the Balloon-Demon.
I am all alone in this. My eldest son sits cooped up in his room, revising for his A-Level examinations, like he does every night. I am sealed away in my office, examining my notes.
Joseph Berry – 56. Body found dropped from a height of five hundred feet. Died on impact.
Numerous friends reported that he had been feeling depressed about his financial affairs and his estranged relationship to his daughter. Records in his diary claim that every night for the fortnight leading up to his death, he was being approached by what he described as a ‘balloon, made of skin, with a smiley face drawn on it.’
According to Berry, this balloon promised him ‘an escape.’
The diary doesn’t specify what this means. He was not on drugs and, according to the brief discussions I have had with his friends and relatives, most people would consider him sound of mind – if a tad highly strung and bad tempered.
Julia Kaminski – 31. Several eyewitness accounts saw her carried into the air, suspended beneath a brown balloon. At two hundred feet, a grainy smartphone video shows the balloon burst and her falling to her subsequent death.
She lived an isolated life, and it is said she suffered abuse at work. I observed that her flat had been covered with much graffiti of racial slurs. At her house, I recovered two photographs: it is unclear who the subjects are. Possible children? All photographs of herself had been defaced, with the eyes scribbled over or in some cases, stabbed with a needle.
It is unclear whether she did this herself.
Alice French – 9. Disappeared August 26th, 2015. Her parents had been going through an ugly divorce. One of her friends claims her father was putting pressure on her to live with him, making her feel helpless and withdrawn. She was last seen by her sister at a nearby park, ‘walking past the ducks and holding a balloon with a face drawn on it.’
She did not respond when her sister called out her name.
Her sister also told me that Alice was having bad dreams, where Alice would hear a voice telling her…
‘You’ll be happy in the clouds!’
Examining these cases, I believe all three victims were contacted by the Balloon-Demon. It reveals a parasitical pattern to its behaviour, drawn to individuals who are emotionally vulnerable. Specifically, its victims tend to suffer from feelings of entrapment, social paralysis and isolation. Often, the demon finds them when they are under intense pressure or experiencing a period of emotional turbulence.
The Balloon-Demon appears to respond to this with its alluring, deceptive nature, promising them some kind of escape…
What’s that noise?
It’s coming from upstairs.
It sounds like laughter.
I curse under my breath and head upstairs to check. I told that boy he needed to revise! If he messes up his exams…
I step past his jacket on the landing, and open my son’s door.
The room is empty, window thrown open.
Outside the window my son’s body hangs limp, a piece of string tied around his neck, bobbing in the air. His neck is tied to a balloon.
A wide smiling face, its lines dark and moving as if a marker-pen is scribbling it across the balloon even now, beams back at me.