To these beings, it was not necessary to have hands and feet, for they were meant to fly. At the time of creation, they inherited every one of their owner’s features, especially their will. They were a legion of special messengers entrusted with the most important secrets and since birth; they had a single and concrete mission. They were considered guardians of hopes.
At the time of birth, a flame was meant to be switched on inside of them and, with the help of that raging fire, they should rise their weak vessel beyond the clouds to deliver the message that had been entrusted to them.
It was not an easy task to walk the only path available to them. The violence of the wind increased with the altitude and if it weren’t for that mountain, going up and up and up would not be necessary at all.
It was a mountain of celestial height, tight forests and perennial greenery. It was dwelled by clouds, sources and never-ending life. A sample of what seemed to be the original plan for everything around us. The mountain’s end reached beyond the sky. A line of clouds made up a greyish mattress that was thought to be the end of that giant green. For these beings, overcoming that thick mattress of clouds was their main goal and on that day, it was Jipo’s turn to give it a try.
Jipo was the name chosen by its owner: a 12-year old kid. He had created it to fulfil a town tradition. A small, simple town, with good and regular people, that rested on the skirts of the impressive mountain. On their twelfth birthday, each villager was meant to buy a balloon, place a letter with the dream of their lives inside and light the inner flame.
To finish, they awaited for the fire to do its work and raise the balloon until it went above the highest clouds on the mountain. Jipo had been born to be the guardian balloon of that kid’s dream, that is, the messenger and guardian of his most ardent desire; what he wanted to be when he grew up.
As with every dream, the beginning was full of zest, everything seemed to be an unconditional ally and optimism was the mood of the day. Jipo had no means to express his emotion, but he could not deny his success or the speed of his raising.
The first obstacle for Jipo was the wind, which, as an agent of reality, steered him on a different, unwanted, direction. For these beings, mistakes and lessons happened in an immediate manner. Jipo then knew that the winds of change only seemed to be harsh; but that when you let yourself be carried away they become those invisible breezes that amend and better the path.
Riding on his lesson, the only thing on his mind was the mattress of clouds. That frontier represented the last achievement and right on the other side, a meeting with destiny was expected.
Had he had an inside and an outside, he would have turned to fare well to his owner, although it was not necessary. The child felt a hopeful farewell for the two of them and, before his balloon got out of sight, he added a last wish, saying to whomever would receive it, that it were truly heard. He waited several minutes looking at the emptiness, making sure his dream did not crumble.
Beyond the clouds, reality for Jipo was discouraging. That mattress wasn’t the end, over half of the mountain kept going and it seemed to aim for the sky. The place where dreams come true seemed more distant than ever. With the height there was less oxygen and Jipo was losing the strength of his inner flame. He could feel how the mountain was dampening his enthusiasm, optimism and natural allies, until it brought him to sit down on its lap.
Jipo was powerless against it and fell down among many other balloons. At that moment of defeat and loneliness, he went on to become one of those beings, and though his owner took him for successful, he had no choice but to become another inhabitant on the mountain of lost dreams.
The passing of the years was enough for that town on the mountain skirts to start suffering from tradition Alzheimer. Mainly that idea, now a nonsense, of releasing balloons with foolish dreams that never came true. In that town where nothing ever happened, and less and less was happening with time, its inhabitants started to feel resigned, as silent victims of the mountain, to just live through time and forget about their lives.
—Good evening, señor Marcos. How are you?
—Very well, señora.
—You arrived a bit later today, but anyway, I never understand why you like to work at night. Make yourself at home, I am going to pray and then to bed.
—Good night, señora.
After a long and eventful life, Marcos cleaned pools for a living and he preferred to do his work at night. The bleach he used had helped him to cleanse the water and to bleach his former bad habits. He had bought too many things in his life at a hefty price and now, aged seventy-four, he felt grateful for the last opportunity coming his way. He used the tranquil waters of a pool to busy himself, or better to flee, from the terrible temptations that can be found in the night. His profession fit this town well, a town without spark, where professions were typical of those who fill the space of a lost aspiration.
His hands held the long brush especially designed to remove the leaves and other dirt that kept falling on and inside the pool. Marcos was of the opinion that, in order to clean the water, as well as one’s soul, first thing to do was to get rid of what is not necessary. If not, the good and the bad would get mixed, blurring an important line and complicating the process.
He always proceeded in the same manner, very slowly, in order not to disturb the water. Besides, those first few minutes were ideal to review his day in search of a lesson.
Dozens of years have managed to turn the synthetic material in Jipo’s casing into another layer of the mountain. The only reason he had not been completely destroyed was that his number had not come out. Time had taught Jipo that flying ability was not just a question of aerodynamics, but mainly an achievement of the will, and for those beings with a borrowed will, the chance of taking flight again after sitting down for a while, was practically impossible.
Jipo, although in fact disabled, had never stopped feeling something special inside of him. He felt his inner flame could still be switched on. He listened inwardly and he acknowledged himself to be a guardian of pure convictions, with unfulfilled destiny. A new plan was necessary as long as there was some strength left.
A torrential downpour a few days earlier served to put and end to the draught season and to clean Jipo’s surroundings a little. A few branches that were pressing on him were gone and after a very long time, Jipo felt once again the breeze on his casing, remembering the power of the wind with great joy and now, free of prejudice, willing to go with its flow.
Seven days were gone before the wind took the right angle, another seven days to let his interior dry and seven more for Jipo, after many unavoidable hits and jumps, to finally arrive under the huge mattress of clouds. The air was clear and the town on the mountain skirts could be perfectly seen from his point of view, quiet as usual. Jipo never cared about the reason why, after another seven days, his inner flame was on again. Whoever wanted to philosophize regarding the matter, could attribute it to the sun’s strength during the draught season, divine intervention, a science mystery or even something absurd. Jipo did not have time to reason but only to move. Against all odds, his fire was on again.
The wind had not just moved Jipo around, but the rest of the balloons in his surroundings, in a selfish effort to intervene in the destiny of that town.
That night, like an ants’ army, commanded by the wind and led by Jipo, those beings, those dreams, rekindled little by little their flames and got ready for their last march, towards the place where dreams become a reality.
It was an amazing show, hundreds of lights descending from the mountain, with the humility traditionally linked to second opportunities. To provide a heroic contrast, it was a stark night. Some of the adults in town, included Marcos, witnessed it and assumed a fire. Some children, who are usually more interested in that dream thing, witnessed it from their windows. Some with fear, others with hope, but all with curiosity. Jipo and his army did not expect an audience but a clear path. However, descending from the mountain was just the first step; fate, life or the day-to-day, who knows, had their own army ready too.
First thing dreams have to confront was an army of prejudices. Other people’s opinions often disguise as realism to destroy early hopes. Their expertise lies in the destruction of ideas and sometimes they strike so hard that they win their battles. Fortunately they represented but the first obstacle and for Jipo, who had survived the mountain, to pass over all the prejudices wasn’t difficult. He had to say goodbye to some of his mates at that barrier, but there was no time to return for the injured.
The second test was a hand-to-hand confrontation with a specialized platoon made up of thousands of fears. Those were very skilled warriors, not in strength or size, but because of their ability to find the weak point in their opponent. Jipo and his mates could not avoid important casualties during that battle. However, they could understand that to overcome fear, it is enough to look it in the eye in order to find an antidote.
For Jipo, the third obstacle ended up being the strongest of them all, even though it didn’t look like it. It wasn’t made of a group of warriors or sophisticated weapons. Jipo and his dream friends must now confront loneliness. A time when, in absence of an enemy, one must confront oneself. It’s the toughest, most honest and humble test that dreams must confront. An inconvenient moment that must be overcome with all the available tools.
There was Jipo, in the midst of that field ridden with loneliness, leaning on the support of his whole army of balloons in order to overcome it. When he understood that the next step depended on him, he let the wind do its thing. He didn’t disrespect loneliness, quite the opposite. He gave it space and used it to see what he had suffered and to take heart for whatever came next. The last, unexpected and fourth barrier of destiny: time.
In the shape of a giant hammer of justice, time rose covering the whole path. Jipo looked at him, and defeated before the start, felt infinitely small and defenseless. Had he had feet, he would have preferred to crawl back. However, his unshakeable stubbornness made him wait there until he witnessed the impossible. Time, with colossal kindness, moved out of the way. He acknowledged Jipo and his friends’ perseverance and let them pass and thus go through the last barrier between them and their owners.
Time loathed the “executioner” label that dreamers had given him. He didn’t understand the hopelessness of someone who pursues his passion, which he assumed would be for the rest of his life. Time had a very rewardless profession. He’d never come to know if Jipo would understand that it was the passing of the years that had allowed him to gather what was needed for that second opportunity. He would never come to know if those beings understood that now that they were willing to exchange their desire to fly for their desire to work, they were truly ready to become a reality.
Time’s wisdom only belonged to him and normally he had no inconvenient in assuming his bad reputation, but from time to time he got carried away by an sporadic selfishness and he moved out of the way for the dreams with the biggest determination.
Jipo just felt grateful for that act of kindness. Now, the whole army of dreams found the city doors open, and thus, each one of them used the breeze that was meant to help them find their owners.
The night was very dark. Marcos was cleaning the pool with philosophical concentration when he felt a light touch on his left leg. He immediately thought that it was one of lady Carmen’s twenty cats, but his heart paused a little when he realized that was not the case.
The apparent cat was shaped more like a balloon, although it was dirty and the bruises hid its identity. It was there on the floor with a very subtle flame at its core. Marcos kneeled over to examine it.
After sixty-two years, it was hard to recognize his own writing, but his doubts vanished when he read “JIPO” on its side.
It felt so incredible that he had to believe it. He was holding in his hands the dream he had as a twelve-year old. Doubting still, he searched inside to find the battered letter in its inner pocket. He opened it and said aloud to himself:
—When I grow up… I want to be a famous singer.
Torn between thinking how that balloon could reach his hands and remembering his dream, he went for the second option. He immersed his feet inside the water, placed Jipo next to him and deigned to think, as it was his nightly custom.
The first thing he did was to remove the word “famous” and return any possibility to his dream. Being a singer, without more ado, seemed a little less complicated. After a few hours, he concluded that the lost tradition should be retrieved in that town, only this time they would not be sending their dreams anywhere. It was better to keep them close and work on them every day. It didn’t make sense to point at the skies when the earth was so close.
He ended his reflection, after a few hours, recalling he had not finished cleaning the pool, and it was nearly dawn. He rose up and placed Jipo on a table nearby, trying not to put the weak flame out since it was still on. He gathered his tools, introduced them inside the water and with a song that sounded like his mother, he started to sing.
Once the first note left Marcos’s throat, Jipo’s flame expired never to return again. It would not be necessary; its objective had been accomplished.
—You still around, señor Marcos? –said the early bird Lady Carmen.
Marcos nodded without stopping his singing.
—I didn’t know you could sing… and very beautifully, I must say.
Time had climbed up the mountain to see everything more comfortably. Right before sunrise many homes in town had the visit of a tiny light. It was a view filled with hope and rebirth. In that town, whose name was never important, dreams and their owners had reconciled, and from that moment on, it was known as “Oniria Town.”