By S.Shan (14 years old)
Growing up, I never knew what crippling fear was until I experienced my first hot-air balloon ride. Never ever would I want to undergo that heart racing, palms sweating and bracing myself for death scenario again.
It all happened when my family and I went to Turkey for a holiday last year. We saw a hot-air balloon in the sky and my younger brother wanted a ride in it so badly that my parents decided to give it a go. They figured that as there were no hot-air balloon rides available in Malaysia, it would be foolish to miss the opportunity of having a bird’s eye view from one.
The colourful and cheery signboard at the entrance looked inviting, but when I looked at that humongous gasbag tethered to a basket, I froze in my steps. The thought of being in it made my stomach turn. My brother was flushed with excitement while I was filled with mounting dread at the impending doom as we moved further along the line.
We finally climbed into the big basket that could carry up to six passengers. I wasn’t ready for this – no way! Soon, the burner heated up the air to move the balloon off the ground and into the air. As the balloon ascended, my brother hooted with glee while my fear escalated into a full-blown panic attack. My heart pounded against my ribs and I held on to my mother for dear life.
The pilot kept firing the burner at regular intervals throughout the flight to ensure that the balloon continued to glide through the air smoothly. The balloon suddenly swayed and so did my stomach. I was so nauseous that I could feel bile rising in my throat. I nearly died of mortification when I puked helplessly over the basket.
Four minutes later, the balloon safely landed on the ground. It was the longest four minutes of my entire life. I sighed in relief. A hot-air balloon ride had just become my greatest fear. No more, absolutely no more hot-air balloon rides for me in this lifetime and the next.