Stella's hot air balloon ride
Photo by Ali Abdul Rahman on Unsplash

Stella

One evening, not too many months ago, Stella was riding in her motorized hot-air balloon when she saw a parachute entangled in some odd-looking space debris. Curious, she maneuvered her balloon to get a better look at the debris and the small animal trying to free itself from the parachute.

Maybe it’s the animal launched from Earth this morning, Stella thought. Her mother always reminded her about those scientific experiments and this morning was no different. “Seems to be happening daily,” her mother said. Stella couldn’t remember the rocket’s name, but no matter, the experiment had failed in her area of the clouds and the small animal was in distress.

Stella pulled on the brakes and flew out of her seat, flapping the battery-powered wings her father had built in case the hot-air balloon malfunctioned. She landed a few feet away from what she could now see was a gray and white mouse.

Desperate for help, the gray and white mouse started whimpering when he saw her and then screeching when she reached out to it. Stella had to think fast. The mouse was trembling at the sight of her. She looked like a giant.

Luckily, Stella had a magical potion just for this kind of situation. She pulled the potion out of her jacket, twisted the cap off the bottle, and gulped it down. In a split second she was as tiny as the mouse.

It was getting darker and her mother would be worried if she didn’t get back soon, but she couldn’t leave the mouse dangling from the parachute. The poor thing was making such frightening sounds they echoed across the sky. She wouldn’t forgive herself if more space debris crossed its path.

“Hi,” she said to the mouse. “I’m Stella. I live around here but I’ve never seen you before. Where did you come from?”

The mouse was crying so much it could hardly speak. “From Earth,” the mouse said, gasping for air. “Do you know where that is?”

“Yes, of course,” Stella said. “And I know you were part of an experiment launched from Earth this morning. It looks like it went awry.”

“I was supposed to land on a discarded rocket stage and float to earth strapped in this parachute,” the mouse said. “But I was ejected from the rocket too soon and my parachute got all tangled up in this space debris.”

“It’s a wonder you’re still alive. Those space particles could have killed you.”

“I’ve been through so much today,” the mouse said. “Why did they have to choose me?” Then the mouse started to cry. “Can you get me out of this mess?”

“Of course,” Stella said. “I will cut the parachute rope with my teeth and free you in an instant.”

“I don’t believe you have teeth sharp enough to cut this rope,” the mouse said. “You don’t even look like you have teeth!”

“Oh, but I do,” Stella said, and then she remembered she was tiny like the mouse and the potion had made her teeth tiny too. Maybe she couldn’t cut the rope with her teeth.

“Just let me down,” the mouse said again. “I’m so tired.”

“I need to go back to my balloon and get the scissors,” Stella said.

Stella flew back to her balloon and reached into the cabinet where she kept her tools and grabbed her yellow-handled scissors. Flapping her battery-powered wings, she flew back to the gray and white mouse who was now hanging by its tail and very close to dropping to Earth in free fall.

Stella worked feverishly to cut the mouse free, and as soon as the rope snapped in two the mouse somersaulted into the mass of clouds below.

Stella jumped into her balloon and raced at top speed down to the mass of clouds. She peered through her binoculars and saw the small animal struggling just on the edge of the clouds. Then he disappeared.

“The mouse will suffocate in those clouds,” she said out loud, but they were much too dense to drive through in her hot-air balloon.

It was getting dark and the stars and distant galaxies lit up the sky, but it was cold and Stella needed to think fast. She could hover over the clouds and then take a chance and dive in as fast as her hot-air balloon would go.

She waited for only a few minutes but as luck would have it, a fierce wind carried the hot-air balloon into the dense clouds. By now, the potion had worn off and she was back to her normal size. She hoped the mouse wouldn’t be frightened again. She really wasn’t a giant.

Then she heard a muffled sound a few feet from where the winds had pushed the balloon.

“I’m here,” Stella shouted. “Don’t be afraid, Mr. Gray and White Mouse.”

Stella maneuvered her hot-air balloon closer to the sound and saw the mouse struggling to breathe. In spite of the suffocating feeling coming over her too, she quickened her pace.

Just when she thought she would never see her mother and father again, the gray and white mouse somersaulted into the passenger seat of her motorized hot-air balloon, and together they left the thick clouds behind.

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