BeYouTiful YOU {Fantasy Flash Fiction December}

Photo by Peter Hershey

Photo by Peter Hershey

BeYouTiful YOU by Natasha Brown

The sound of her leaky faucet tap, tap, tapping filled Megan’s ears.

She’d lingered too long. Her interviewer would be waiting; the interviewer that held the key to her dream job. Sixteen minutes had already ticked away as she’d sat shoeless on her shabby couch. Her pants were so worn, the zipper was being held up by a safety pin, something she covered by her colorful blouse.

Her single-room apartment held everything she owned, minus the pair of flats she’d lent to her friend, who hadn’t brought them back as promised. “I’ll be there in five minutes,” she’d said, but that had been a half hour ago. Megan couldn’t wait any longer. She would have to wear either her slippers or her ratty tennis shoes, neither of which were appropriate for Bentley & Fields.

A soft rapping came from her door.

Megan jumped to her feet and flew across the rough oak planks. She flipped the deadbolt and swung open the door, expecting to see her friend’s apologetic face. She popped her head out to peer into the corridor, and only an empty hallway met her eyes. She sighed, presuming her ears had played tricks on her.

Before slipping back inside, she noticed a brown shoebox at the threshold. Presuming it had been left by her tardy friend, she picked it up and took it into her apartment. She sat back onto the couch and lifted the box’s lid.

Her black flats were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a pair of brown leather shoes, more appropriate for her father, sat within. At that very moment, her last hundred dollars was diminishing in her bank account. She needed this job to pay her bills and to survive on her own. Plus, this was her chance to do something she could be proud of. Megan’s eyes welled with tears and salty droplets fell into the box.

It was then she noticed the note. Still sniffling, she pulled it out and blinked at the black lettering that read, Wear once and share. Be you—BeYouTiful YOU!

Megan’s phone alarmed, alerting her it was time to get going.

She wiped her eyes and groaned. They might not have been her black flats, but they were better than her ratty tennis shoes. Megan pulled the large loafers out of the box and set them on the floor. One at a time, she slipped them on, surprised they fit her perfectly. She tied the laces, making them snug and got to her feet, pleased with their comfort.

For the first time that day, she exhaled.

Megan threw her tennis shoes and the note into the box and put it under her arm. With her keys jangling in hand, she locked up her tiny apartment and hurried downstairs. A cool breeze met her as she stepped onto the sidewalk.

Instead of dwelling on the bills she needed to pay that month, she tilted her head back while she walked, noticing the skies were filled with puffy clouds in the shape of dancers, fairies and sphinxes. Smiling to herself, she imagined a future she could be proud of amongst the clouds.

She arrived at the address of her interview and peered up the length of the building. Megan wiggled her toes, unable to contain her excitement, having forgotten her shoes. She then turned her attention to the ground and gasped.

Strapped to her feet were the most amazing pair of shoes she’d ever worn. Flowers and vines decorated the velvet heels. Megan stared openmouthed at them, transfixed. They remained as comfortable as the moment she’d first slipped them on, yet they’d somehow transformed.

A chill traced down her spine, and she blinked at the entrance of the building, ready to meet her fate. Megan entered, confident and prepared. She knew who she was and what she had to offer.

When her beautiful heels touched the sidewalk again an hour later, she exited Bentley & Fields employed and overjoyed. The sound of her footsteps echoed down the avenue like the tap, tap, tapping of her dripping faucet in her apartment, but it was now a sound that brought her joy.

As she neared her street, she noticed a man sleeping on the sidewalk. She looked at his unshaven face and layered clothing. Megan came to a stop.

She slipped off the heels, exchanged them with her ratty tennis shoes and exhaled sharply as she stared in the box at what now appeared to be the same pair of leather loafers she’d found earlier. Wearing a grin, she lowered the lid over the shoes and slid the box beside the man, knowing who she was and what she had to offer.

It was his turn to have a BeYouTiful day.

 

Best Paranormal Series Involving Shifters and Vampires

Win some of my favorite paranormal books!

Here are some of my favorite paranormal suspense series with vampires and shifters/weres. I think one of the best things to share are books, so I’m giving away a load of books to some lucky winners!

  • First place wins any SIX books from those listed below
  • Two runners up can select any three

Click on the covers below to see the books on Amazon!

Paranormal Suspense Book Giveaway

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 1) by [Breene, K.F.]

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy Book 1)

The End of a New Beginning {Fantasy Flash Fiction August}

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brandon-wong-263951-unsplash

The End of a New Beginning by Natasha Brown

 

The air was thick. Raif could taste it on his gills.

He could remember a day in his youth when the constant smog and cloud cover had parted, revealing a blinding round orb in the sky. The sun. Its light had touched his skin, warming him from the outside in. The muffled squeals from the other children had been muted by their filtration masks, but their pale fingers reached up into the air like he’d imagined saplings might. He’d only seen photographs of trees the way they were before the permanent dark fog had settled over the world. Now, the only plants were grown underground for their sustenance and oxygen. A rare and valuable commodity.

The streets were empty as he turned a corner with his eyes on the concrete. Raif was careful to keep his footsteps from echoing down the humid street. He scanned the windows that had all been painted over, sealing the seams shut as well as covering the glass with a thick sheen of white latex. They’d been told it had been done to help seal out the bad air, but Raif wondered if it was to block out all memories of the past. So they wouldn’t remember what they’d lost.

He hurried by the library. It no longer held books like it had before the world changed. It no longer served the purpose it used to, or so he’d been told by his mother. It was used by the electorate now. The people who governed the civilians of New Brunswick. This was the only building in the city without paint covering its glass windows. He’d seen round faces staring out in the past, but he didn’t search for them today. He turned down an alley, careful to keep out of sight. He’d been warned not to go exploring outside and didn’t want to get caught, fearful of the repercussions. Though he wasn’t fearful enough to remain down in block seventeen with the rest of the moles like him. The below-grounders.

Murky smog trailed after him as he moved in silence. It flavored his gills while he breathed it in. It wasn’t something he’d call appealing, but it was preferable to the stuffy, dankness of being secured below with everyone else. Trapped.

He moved through the shell of the old city like a specter. He was too young to know what the world had been like before the air had chased everyone inside, but he’d seen pictures. Happy faces of families spending time in parks, sporting events or traveling the world. There was none of that now.

Raif made his way to the edge of town, looking over his shoulder, searching for movement. Finding none, he hurried through the mist and down the slope to the trail he’d found one day months ago by accident. His fingertips brushed over the brown stalks of the dead plants as he went. They rustled at his touch as if trying to speak to him, to whisper their last words.

The terrain became rocky, and he knew he was getting close. The brown-tinged fog was so thick, he couldn’t see more than ten feet ahead of him. But here, the vapor tasted different. It was what had drawn his attention when he’d first found this place. Raif climbed down into the rocky cave opening.

The normal orange lens that filtered the haze wasn’t present here. Instead, a bluish tint glowed from the darkness. He took a deep breath, inhaling the oxygen around him. When his breath rasped out, the sound echoed through the watery cavern. Raif walked around the edge of the rocky shore and sat on a chunk of cement, a remnant of the old world. He reached out to touch one of the glowing spores that grew like a toadstool, something he’d seen before in a book his mother used to read to him. However, there was no smoking caterpillar sitting on this one, and the mushroom wasn’t nearly as large as a girl.

A rock clattered near the entrance of his secret cavern, and he looked up to find a human silhouette. He straightened and froze. Had he been followed? Would he be punished for disobeying the electorate? His blood pressure rose as he prepared himself for the worst.

A muffled female voice came from the stranger’s ventilator mask. “Who are you?”

Raif lifted his face to look more closely at her. He thought everyone knew him. If you’d asked anyone from his underground block, they’d be able to tell you who he was. They had their own name for him, Gilly the freak born with gills.

She took a few careful steps deeper into the cavern and stopped, cocking her head at him. Long dark hair fell over her shoulders, and she was wearing tight jeans. The bulky sweatshirt that covered her upper body wasn’t official enough for a member of the electorate.

He cleared his throat. “Raif Stuben from block seventeen.”

“Where’s your ventilator?” She moved even closer. Now, only a few strides away from him.

He lowered his head, wishing he had long enough hair to hide under. Like most other moles, his hair had been shaved to avoid the passing of lice, a common problem in the underground blocks. Raif rubbed his velvety stubble and mumbled, “I don’t need it.”

Her hand lifted, hovering inches from the slits under his jaw. Without saying a word, he nodded, knowing her unspoken question. Did his defect have something to do with it?

There was no doubt she was an above-grounder. She smelled pretty. Like flowers. He didn’t know what kind. He’d only ever smelled the sterile, unscented soap the moles used. But whenever the administrative members of New Brunswick came visiting, the women especially, their aroma brightened the depths of block seventeen.

“I don’t see the fog here.” She gestured to the clear air in the cavern. “Is it safe to breathe?”

Raif kneeled and nearly touched one of the glowing spores. “It’s these plants. They filter the poison from the air.”

He felt her eyes on him, so he looked up at her. She put her hand to her mask and slowly lifted it off, exposing her mouth. She took a tentative breath before removing her ventilator entirely. He could now see she was no older than twenty, near his age. Her brown eyes crinkled in excitement as her lips parted into a smile. “We should tell them. This could change everything.”

Raif returned his gaze to the glowing mushroom and frowned. “They know.”

“What?” she said, clearly confused.

“It’s why I’m forbidden from coming out exploring. If you’re not interested in answers and only want to maintain the status quo—”

“You’re lying,” she interrupted. Her eyes narrowed, and she backed away from him. “They want to find a solution, my father’s told me so.”

He stood up and sighed. He wasn’t interested in a fight. If she didn’t want to believe him, she wouldn’t. It wouldn’t matter to her that he’d already told block seventeen’s administrator, or that he’d been laughed at.

Raif waited in stillness.

The young woman’s annoyed expression drooped into sadness. Her jaw clenched, and her eyes pinched shut. “I thought they cared.”

 

 

 

What’s in Your Heart {Fantasy Flash Fiction June}

emma-frances-logan-200050-unsplash-smallWhat’s in Your Heart by Natasha Brown

The sounds from the street filled the air: tires on pavement, engines whirring and music pouring from open windows. Everything was as it always was, except today was different. Kara was on her way to the hospital. She’d known it was coming. Her surgery. The doctors had warned her a month ago that she needed it. Her heart couldn’t wait any longer.

Kara’s father pulled up beside the sidewalk outside their city apartment and hollered at her through the open window, “C’mon sweetie. It’s time to go. We can’t be late.”

Kara got in and shut the door, sealing herself inside the sedan. She buckled up and stared out the window at the gray buildings they drove past. The starless sky was dark. It was so early the sun hadn’t yet crowned the concrete horizon. She was too nervous to speak, but that didn’t matter. Her father filled the quiet with his voice.

Kara wasn’t really listening. She was fixated on the answerless questions floating through her head. When she woke up from her surgery, would she be in pain? Would her scar be visible when she wore her favorite V-neck? And would she limited to a life of boredom when she grew up?

Numbness overtook her senses as her father checked her into the hospital, and she was prepped in preop. From there, the sedation took over, and her thoughts quieted until the sound of medical machines beeping filled her silent vacuum.

Kara cracked her eyes and blinked at her surroundings.

“She’s awake.” A voice broke the silence.

She rolled her head on her pillow to find who’d spoken. A young man was standing just inside the doorway. He gave her a smile as he went to pull up the window blinds, letting in the afternoon light. “Did you have to pay for this view?”

Kara squinted at the gray building he was gesturing at. The only touch of color she could see was the patch of blue sky visible above the angular architecture. She returned her gaze to the stranger. He didn’t seem to be joking. She cleared her throat, which was sore from the breathing tube and rasped, “What are you talking about?”

He pointed at the side of the building visible from her window. “I see the ocean. There’s white sandy beaches and palm trees. I can almost smell the sea and feel the breeze on my face.”

Kara frowned. This guy, albeit pleasant, was totally nuts. Did they let just anyone work in the recovery ward? She adjusted her blanket over her abdomen, sensing the painful ache in her chest.

“What do you see?” He came to stand beside her at the bed and narrowed his eyes at the window. “What’s in your heart?”

“Nothing,” she whispered.

The young man’s green eyes turned to her, and he shook his head. “Now, that’s not true. C’mon, what do you see?”

Kara remembered the cottage her father took her to when she was only ten and they had visited family so far away, it had taken a plane and a long car ride to get there. The hum of bees filled the air as they busied themselves with too many bright flowers to visit in one season. She’d pictured herself from another time and place. She’d imagined amazing things in her future. But it was a long time ago.

She shook her head, not wanting to share.

He rested his hand on her shoulder so softly, she wasn’t sure he’d actually touched her. She closed her eyes, feeling exhaustion come over her. When she lifted her lids again, he’d gone.

Kara woke from the sound of her father’s voice. She yawned and moved her arms. A dull ache radiated from her sternum, and she closed her eyes momentarily to grit her teeth.

“There’s my sunflower.” Her father left the doctor’s side to sit on the edge of her bed. “How are you feeling, kiddo?”

She didn’t answer. She only stared back at him with a blank expression.

“It’ll get better. I can get you some more pain meds,” the doctor said and waved down a nurse.

Kara sighed and looked out the window. Bright bursts of color camouflaged the exterior of the gray building outside. Flowers of every shape and hue covered the architecture. Through the wildflower garden, she could even see a cottage depicted in the distance. Her breath caught in her throat. It was exactly as she remembered it.

The doctor followed her gaze and frowned, saying to the nurse, “When did they paint that? It’s a sight better than before. Makes for a good view.”

Kara turned to them. “The guy who was here earlier…”

The nurse patted her arm and said sympathetically, “Oh, sweetie. No one’s been in to see you until now. I’ve been just across from you at the nurse’s station this whole time.”

“Oh.” Kara frowned and returned her focus to the mural out her window.

The sounds of honeybees hummed in her ears, and the fragrance of sun kissed irises, daisies and roses filled her nostrils, bringing a gentle smile to her lips.