Her name was Emily Green. Everybody knew her. She was the girl who played the saxophone and made flowers out of balloons. To her
fellow peers, Emily was just a regular girl who liked music and balloon art.
Emily wasn’t normal, and would never be normal.
Her obsessive compulsive disorder with the balloon flowers made her stand out, sometimes a little too much.
Jamie would often see her come out of class carrying these balloons. Her favorite colors were white and black, and apart from her
balloons, she could’ve been the school Goth. But she wasn’t Goth, no; Emily was beautiful. Short, but beautiful, with ice-cold eyes and
luscious maroon lips.
Emily was untouchable.
No one would ever get close to her.
Jamie looked up from his place on the bench just in time to see her walk out of music class. The curve of the saxophone jutted out the
sleeve of her backpack, and today’s balloon flower had smaller red balloons lining the black orb that was its center. He smiled at Emily,
and when she saw his smile, she stopped.
“Hi, Emily,” Jamie said. “How are you?”
Emily stared at him. Jamie was afraid that her eyes would freeze his mind in an eternal lock that he would not be able to free himself from.
“Fine,” she said, before she walked off.
He could never get through to Emily, no matter how many times a week he asked how she was.
Emily didn’t walk by Jamie the next day. It was odd, and in a strange way, it made him nervous. Emily always walked by, no matter if the
weather was rain or shine. That was Emily.
Jamie looked up and saw a black balloon skirting in the wind, its white tail waving at him before it disappeared into the clouds.
They found Emily the next day.
She’d overdosed on prescription drugs.
That was the rumor, anyway. Who knew what really happened to her? College campus rumors were never something to believe in; Jamie
had learned that right after he heard a rumor similar, that Emily had filled the entire sports auditorium with balloons.
Which she hadn’t, Jamie thought, trying to concentrate on his studies. She never goes near the auditorium unless she has a music recital.
He sighed. He had thought of her in the present tense, when she was obviously no longer present.
Emily was past. She would remain that way.
Jamie would miss seeing Emily walk by with her saxophone and balloons.
When he arrived back at his dorm, his roommate gestured to a package. Jamie frowned at Josh and picked it up, carefully opening the top.
“What is it?” Josh asked.
He pulled the object out.
It was a balloon flower.
“Is that one of those things Emily used to make?” Josh asked, walking over and carefully taking the flower from Jamie.
“I wonder when it was sent,” Josh said.
Jamie looked for any kind of mailing typography on the package, but he could find none.
The only thing that was on the package was his name and dorm number, nothing else.
Jamie couldn’t sleep, and it was because of the alluring presence of the balloon flower lying on his desk. It caught the moonlight shining
through the window and reflected it at him, and every time Jamie would move, the flower would wink, drawing his attention.
Josh sensed his restlessness and sat up.
“You ok, J?”
“I’m fine,” Jamie said, sitting up, looking at the flower.
“You thinking about Emily?”
“No,” Jamie lied.
“It’s ok, you don’t have to lie, Jamie. Emily was a nice girl, pretty cute too. Might’ve been prettier if she didn’t wear all that black and
Jamie nodded. Of course Emily would’ve looked prettier if she had worn different colors, but that wouldn’t have been Emily. She had
been old fashioned, preferring to blend back in time through black and white than be in the modern present in color. That was the way
Emily had been, even when Jamie had first seen her last year, when the two of them first got to the college.
“She had pretty eyes,” Jamie said.
Josh was already asleep.
Jamie heard the sound a saxophone when he was passing the music room. He paused. Emily had played the saxophone.
Curiosity getting the better of him, he walked to the music hall and entered. When he looked around, he couldn’t see anybody.
“Hello?” he asked. “Is anyone here? I wanted to say how much I liked your playing.”
There was no reply.
They held a half-hour memorial service for Emily the following day. There was a picture of her blown up and resting on the stage that
stood outside of the college. Several people came and spoke, but it wasn’t about Emily. No one talked about the girl who played the
saxophone and made balloon flowers; none of them talked about that. They talked about her when she was younger, when she was, quite
Jamie couldn’t stand it, so he walked out. He got a few disgusted looks from some of the faculty and students, but, for the most part, he
left unnoticed. He left unnoticed, just like Emily had in death.
Now that Emily was gone, no one remembered Emily.
No one remembered the real Emily.
Jamie’s ears rang with an electronic static. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, wondering how long he’d been out. He remembered that he’d
taken the day off to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Where is that coming from?
The static continued until he walked to the window. Outside, people were letting balloons up into the air.
Maybe they were remembering Emily for her strange, odd habit. Maybe they were remembering the individual thing that made Emily
different, that made her eccentric while at the time, beautiful.
Jamie watched the crowd and smiled. His eyes strayed to someone standing in the back of the crowd. The person was so close that he
could make out the white-blonde hair that donned his or her head.
Like Emily’s hair, Jamie thought.
The person turned and looked at him.
Jamie gasped when he saw Emily.
“You’re kidding?” Josh asked. “You saw her?”
“I’m not shitting you, man,” Jamie said, running a hand across his forehead. “She was out there. She was watching them let go of the
“Well, then we know it’s Emily,” Josh said, suppressing a chuckle with his hand.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, you know; Emily liked balloons.”
“No kidding, Einstein?”
“Hey, don’t get mad at me.” Josh raised his hands in surrender “I’m just saying, it’s kinda funny. Maybe there’s another girl here who
picked the habit up. You know, some Goth chick. Those Goth chicks like to imitate people. You know, some of these girls around here
look like Marilyn…”
“I don’t care if they look like Marilyn Monroe or the fucking president of the United States!” Jamie growled, slamming his fist down. “I
saw her. I saw Emily.”
“I’m not saying you didn’t,” Josh said, then stopped, his mouth curling in thought. “Maybe she has a twin?”
Jamie couldn’t take this.
He walked out of the dorm.
He sat by the water, hoping to catch another glance of Emily. Of course, he had low expectations Maybe Josh was right; maybe Emily did
have a twin.
How am I supposed to find that out if I don’t know where the hell she lives?
Jamie shook his head and was about to stand before he caught sight of a fleeing figure. The balloon that flew into the air marked the
person for who she was.
“Emily!” Jamie called, giving chase. “Stop!”
The figure didn’t stop. She led Jamie down the long trail and into the nearby woods, her black cape fluttering about her like wings. Her
white skirt made her glide, making her seem even more ethereal than she really was.
When Emily stopped, Jamie did too.
Something wasn’t right.
The figure turned, and yes, it was Emily. It was Emily all right. But something had faded in her eyes. The once calm, serene eyes had
hardened. Just looking into Emily’s eyes made Jamie feel like an iron needle was being forced into his mind.
“Emily?” Jamie asked, brushing away the pain.
The girl shook her head.
“You’re not Emily?”
Once again, the girl shook her head. This time, a smile curled from her lips.
“Then who are you?”
Bending down, the girl drew something in the dirt with her finger. Light burst from the insignia she had drawn. It lifted from the ground,
then twisted, spinning, until it came in front of Jamie.
It was a pentagram.
“What are you?” Jamie asked. “Are you some wicked creature that has taken over this poor girl?”
Emily flashed white teeth.
“ANSWER ME!” Jamie screamed.
A low fog surrounded his feet. Jamie looked down and frowned as he saw them disappear beneath the white smoke.
This isn’t good…
He looked up.
Emily was gone.
“Aw shit,” Jamie groaned, making a circle, finding himself surrounded by trees. “Someone, anyone?”
The trees shifted, and for a moment, Jamie thought they had moved. Their once normal-looking limbs had suddenly taken on a demonic
appearance. The cracks in their bark had become eyes and mouths, gaping maws that threatened to swallow him up. And their limbs, long
with cracked and wrinkled fingers, reached out to grab him.
“No,” Jamie said, tears escaping his eyes. “Don’t…. Please… EMILY!”
The sweet but oftentimes strained sound of a saxophone filled his ears. He ran toward the sound, and when he did, the trees took action.
They giggled and lashed out at him, their long fingers scraping his face. He screamed as a larger tree lashed out with a branch, knocking
him to the ground with a large fist.
“Emily,” Jamie said, his mind swirling, his vision fading.
The trees closed in around him.
When he woke, he was naked, but otherwise unharmed. He looked down at himself and frowned, shivering as the fog crawled up his legs,
pawing at his groin, trying to crawl up his body, to his face.
When he shifted, the fog fled to the ground.
It has a conscience, Jamie thought, watching the fog. This whole place has a conscience.
Jamie crossed his arms over his chest and looked around. He saw a path lined with fog. At first, he sighed relief, but then he realized that
it was too strange. Why would this path be devoid of fog, while everything else was covered in it?
I’m not going to get out of here if I don’t go down there, Jamie decided. Yeah. If I don’t go down the path, I won’t come back.
Jamie began his walk. The fog started to follow, but as soon as his foot left the fog, it recoiled. He turned and watched its attempt. It
reached out as a whole at first, trying to break the invisible barrier. Then, when that didn’t work, it reached out with a thin string.
It recoiled once more.
“Good,” Jamie smirked. “You can leave me alone.”
Jamie turned and saw a tree shift. The thing’s amber eyes watched him, but it made no move to approach him. Its long roots squirmed
around its base, struggling with its weight. Now, out of the ground, the tree’s conscience had to work to keep itself uprooted.
I’m safe, Jamie thought.
Knowing that, he walked down the path, watching the area. The trees and fog continued to follow, keeping as close to the path as he
could. He saw a long figure following him, but it was obscured by trees. All Jamie saw of it was an impossibly-long body, a pair of blue-
green eyes, and a mass of glowing growth.
That’s something I need to watch, Jamie thought. If I don’t keep an eye on it, it might…
He blinked, and when his eyes opened, it was gone.
Jamie stopped and fell to his knees, sobbing. Why him? Why was he being put through this? Was it because he wanted to know more about
Emily? Was it because he wanted to truly know if the girl had committed suicide or if she had been murdered? Or was it because he kept
seeing balloons and hearing saxophones?
No I didn’t do this. I saw her and wanted to know if it was her twin, that’s it. Then I was stupid enough to follow whoever this person is
into the forest and get stuck here.
The trees and fog watched him. Jamie looked up at them and shivered, looking back down the path.
Ok, Jamie said. I don’t know how much further it goes, but I’m gonna keep walking until I’m at the end.
Standing, Jamie continued down the path.
What seemed like hours later, Jamie was still walking, and the trees and fog were still following him. He had been crying on and off since
he had started walking, and who could blame him? He was being followed by fog that wanted to swallow him and trees that wanted to kill
him. His nipples were painfully hard, and his testicles had drawn themselves up close to his body. All the hairs on his body were rigid, on
end, and he was colder than he had ever been in his life.
He could see his breath.
If he didn’t know any better, he’d say he was in Hell.
What am I thinking? Jamie thought, stopping, shivering, grimacing when his arms touched his nipples. I am in Hell.
Hell didn’t have to be filled with fire, and Hell definitely did not need the stereotypical image of a red man with horns. Hell did not need
that. No. His Hell involved a demonic force that was driving him to walk down a long, seemingly never-ending path, naked, with living
trees and fog following close by.
He was at the end of the path.
“Oh, thank God,” Jamie said, stepping off the path. “I…”
The fog rushed up his legs, and when he turned to jump back on the path, it was gone. He heard the screech of the nearby trees and
started running. Warm sweat quickly became cold; hot breaths quickly chilled, and every bit of warmth in his body was quickly zapped
away. Every hair on his chest stood on end, and the ones on his arms and neck were probably weighted down from the cold sweat.
Where am I supposed to go?
“HELP!” Jamie screamed. “HELP!”
He saw a cave and, on instinct, jumped inside it. He screamed as his body was thrown down into darkness. He bounced off of dirt, rocks
and shrubs. His skin tore open and bled cold blood.
When he finally hit the bottom, his head swam before he passed out.
Jamie woke because of the cold. He sat up and saw a tree filled with lights. At the very end of the branches sat giant insects that seemed
to be rooted in place. Large light bulbs adorned the end of their abdomens, filling the cave in white light.
Standing below the cave was the girl and the wolf-like thing he had seen.
“Why are you doing this?” Jamie asked.
The girl smiled, stroking the creature’s head.
Jamie fell to his knees and started crying. He crossed his legs to hide his nakedness as best as he could, then buried his head in his hands.
“I didn’t do anything to you!” Jamie sobbed. “I was just trying to find out who you were.”
Curiosity has killed more than cats.
Jamie looked up. The wolf thing stood and slowly advanced.
Yes, the wolf thing said, its mouth moving, as if speaking. Curiosity is something that kills many, many men. You, men who go into space,
who blow up in cylinders of metal. You, men who go below the sea, who drown in catacombs of steel. You, men who go into forests, and
then are slowly eaten and devoured by things that you have no right to know about. You, James, have curiosity, and it would have killed
you if you were not smart.
Jamie looked up.
You are smart, James. You risked your masculinity and your pride to jump in that cave You could have ended your life, simply by
jumping. But you did so anyway, because you were afraid of being devoured by the things outside.
The wolf thing came closer, nudging Jamie’s shoulder with its snout. He shivered, but tried not to look or feel afraid. Animals smelled fear,
they always did.
“Please… Just let me go.”
You, who are so obsessed with a porcelain doll, should know why you came here. Obsession, coupled with curiosity, led you to where you
now are, James. Obsession and curiosity are dangerous when coupled. Do you know that?
Jamie nodded. Of course he knew that. The wolf thing had described his overt curiosity in the simplest word. Obsession. Obsession, over
a person who he had never known. Obsession, over a person he had wanted to see. Obsession, over a woman he could never have.
“Obsession,” Jamie whispered.
Yes, the wolf said. Now stand and touch the thing you have always wanted to touch.
Jamie looked up at the wolf. The eyes that he had thought it had had were nonexistent, simply dark holes where orbs of sight would be.
Jamie stared into those dark pits for another moment, then stood for fear of seeing something he didn’t want to see. He walked to Emily
and looked at her, at the beautiful skin, the hazel-ice eyes, the black fingernails and maroon lips.
She is beautiful, the wolf thing agreed. Touch her, James. Touch her, and see what happens.
Jamie shook as he reached out. He trembled, and for a moment, he didn’t think he would be able to steady himself. When he touched
Emily’s forehead, it was smooth, soft, glossy.
“What is she?”
A doll, the wolf thing agreed. You see, Jamie, there are more dolls than her. Dolls are the people who are different, who have special
things that most people don’t. These dolls are the people who use words to convey themselves, or people who make other worlds from a
simple brush. Dolls, James, are what makes the world go round. And without these dolls, you, your friends, your family; they would not
Jamie shivered. When he pulled his hand away, Emily’s forehead cracked.
And when Dolls die, James, a piece of the world dies with them. Will there ever be another balloon flower in this world, James? Will there
ever be the sound of another saxophone that was so pure and serene as Emily’s?
The sound of Emily’s saxophone filled the room. From the infinite abyss of the ceiling, balloon flowers fell, slowly beginning to fill the
Because she is gone, the wolf thing said. But there is one last chance, James. Use it.
Jamie was swallowed by balloons.
“Fine,” Emily said, smiling.
She turned to walk away. Jamie smiled.
Then it all came rushing back.
The girl stopped, turning, her balloon flower secure in her hand.
“W-Would you like to come to lunch with me?” Jamie asked. “I mean, if you want to.”
“I’d like that, Jamie.”
Jamie smiled, took her arm and led her to his car. The whole time he was walking, he kept glancing out the corner of his eye at her.
As long as he was here, she would be safe, secure, with him.
He would not let the world destroy such a beautiful thing.
He would not let the world destroy Emily Green.
Saxophones and Balloon Flowers
by: Kody Boye