A Fool’s Journey
It was a challenge I couldn’t refuse. To travel to the most distant corners of the world in a hot air balloon, it sounded like an amazing adventure to me.
I would be following in my great-grandfather Phileas’s footsteps and I dressed up especially for the occasion in a frilly white shirt, bow tie, breeches and a big purple opera coat and top hat.
I climbed into the basket and before I knew it I was rising up into the blue skies above Old London Town.
You could say that the Wanderlust that rose up in me was genetic. I was descended from a long line of explorers, not just the great Phileas, but Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus as well.
If travel broadened the mind, then mine was as open as a prostitute’s front door, if you pardon the expression.
The air was fresh and clear but it took a while to become acclimatised. At first I was light-headed and I saw flashing lights in my eyes due to the change in altitude and oxygen levels.
Steadily I headed eastwards towards the rising sun. I passed over seas and hills, mountains and rivers, deserts and great green forests.
Eventually, the balloon began to lose altitude as the fuel tanks emptied. I drifted down into a strange town of tall white palaces with onion-like domes and red cobbled streets. I landed in the market square where brightly coloured tents filled with strange and exotic produce crowded around me.
I heard a scream and looked around as mounted guards with scimitars rode through the crowds swinging swords that ran with blood. I ran down a side alley and hid in a doorway. The sound of horses hooves diminished into the distance. The door against my back opened suddenly and I fell into a room lined with red silk. A mysterious woman covered in a floor-length indigo kaftan sat and played a xylophone-like a demon possessed. She smiled at me and flashed her black lined eyes. The xylophone appeared to be made from animal ribs, human even. She stopped playing and laughed at me. Her hand reached out and gave me a lacquered card which I placed in my pocket. Then she handed me a cup and bade me drink its fragrant contents.
I passed out.
When I came to, I was lying in my bed in my tiny little flat in Camden town.
It had all been a dream, but the colours, sounds and smells had all been so vivid.
I laughed at the strange things that had happened in my dream. That I was related to famous explorers, that was a joke. How strange our own brains can be.
I leaned across to my bedside table and found a red lacquered card, like the one the woman had given me in my dream. It was a Tarot card, the Fool. I remember my old grandmother who used to read the cards, she used to say,
“Ahh, beware the Fool, it means you’ll be going on a strange journey.”
Was I going to go on a strange journey, or had I already been?