Seeking A Better Life by Nicola Ashbrook

Anya let the balloons take her upward. She’d waited so long for this she wanted to enjoy it, despite the flying feeling being so alien. She told herself to relax, like she had as a child lying back in the swimming pool, allowing the water to cradle her. 

Some of the strings cut into her tensed muscles; minor irritations distracting from the view. Anya took a deep breath, concentrated on becoming flaccid, imagined herself pliable as an escaped sheet of newspaper, freely buffeted by the wind.  

She forced her attentions away from her body, her vessel; outward, to the world. The sky was bluer up here, somehow, but pixelated as if she could have reached in and taken it apart. Cumulonimbus tickled occasionally, until she floated into a dense patch, discovering they were rubbery and she could rebound from them if approaching with enough force. It was tempting to trampoline from one to another but her need to get wherever she was going held a greater temptation still. 

On she floated, until the sapphire pointillism gave way to magenta. The clouds thinned, ebbed away. Fluorescent green and yellow diamonds began to appear, growing in size and quantity, proliferating until Anya feared she’d be speared by them. But she had little control over the balloons and soon drifted into a large, glowing specimen. It wasn’t sharp as it looked, rather spongy and, when it sucked her in, feathery.  

Anya realised she had been subsumed by the diamond, now travelling inside of it. Anxiety taunted. There’s no turning back. You’ve lost control. We told you so. 

And then she wasn’t.  

The magenta sky had vanished, so too the diamonds, even the one she had arrived through.  

Anya concentrated on her breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Sometimes different is good. Sometimes different is better. This the mantra which had led her here. 

Anya tugged at the strings – a subconscious attempt to feel something, to confirm her continued existence. The balloons jostled one another, jostled her. Tipping vertiginously, Anya stopped fighting them.  

Be brave, my girl: every pioneer is fearful – be greater than your fear. 

Anya looked around. A vista of mauve, violet and indigo lay below; one of emerald, olive and lime above. Mustard orbs hovered between. Anya tapped one with her foot, discovering she could land on it, only floating away if she chose.  

She sat, crossed at the knee, like a child in thrall to her teacher, looking, visually exploring it all. 

And then she saw them: two women – one with yellow balloons, the other blush pink – floating, chatting, laughing. A man carried by bobbing black; children by white, green and blue. A whole rainbow of rubbery spheres, nodding hello, welcoming her home.

Nicola Ashbrook has been writing for a year or two. Her flash fiction and poems can be found in a variety of places online and in print anthologies including with Bath, Reflex, Storgy, Bandit and The Cabinet of Heed. When she isn’t writing she is usually wrangling children and pets. Tweets @NicolaAWrites Blogs at