- Select a balloon. Ensure you choose an appropriate colour for your balloon. Red is puissant and favoured by higher orders, but in the hands of the timorous or unnerved can be fatal; mutilation at a tissue level is more than likely. Green refracts and retains the candlelight; it may be taken into dark places. Blue is generally considered a safe starter’s colour but has soporific side-effects. Grey is resistant to the breath but rewards the brave. You should never, under any circumstances, use purple.
- The neck of the balloon should be pliant and warm to touch. If it is neither of these things, it will be necessary to draw it to and fro under your fingers until it is acquiescent. Pull it taut and pinch. Blow into it, holding lips in a knuckle of flesh. Balloon pumps are outlawed– if you are caught using a balloon pump, you will be removed from your family and friends by force and sent to the Outer Reaches for re-education. There is no ‘first offence’.
- Fill the body of the balloon with your breath. Do not worry, at this stage, about the quality of your breath. Simply watch your breath undulate and unspool. You may find that the balloon appears to tense and then lift, or that a sort of luminescent horripilation is visible across the inner surface of its skin. Do not be alarmed. Keep breathing.
- The correct level of inflation is indeterminate, decided by the flux and vectors in the body-soul of the balloon-filler. Most people find that it takes half an hour for the balloon to enclose the room they are in, the house in its homely horrors, the line of the street. Others, more expert, can enclose towns, fields, forests, skylines, hundreds of individual beating hearts, in the same amount of time. Nevertheless, it is advised that, once you start, you do not stop until you have successfully enclosed your private universe.
- Stars ripple inside the balloon’s skin like cheap glitter. The world is a tiny sugar-glass ball that looks too fragile to sustain any kind of life. Endless blackness is caught and contained within the bright primary circumference of the balloon. Everything in your existence is now inside the balloon, except you. You are holding the balloon. Pinch the neck closed and tie it off. You are still holding the balloon. The universe trembles. You had better be careful that you don’t burst it.
Ka Bradley is an assistant editor at Granta and Portobello Books and doesn't understand how biographies work.