Week 22 Flash Fiction Challenge: Search Party

Photo by K.S. Brooks

Winter is nipping at the heels of fall. The air is cold and crisp. Squirrels cavort among the denuded stands of oak, ash, hickory, and maple trees.

The small covered bridge allows a narrow paved road to traverse a placid stream. In the distance, crows caw at some disturbance.

Your character is part of a search party looking for some missing campers. He walks out on the end of the little pier hoping not to find a body…

In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted.

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Photograph by K.S. Brooks, used here with the photographer’s permission. Copying or reproduction of any kind without express consent is prohibited. All rights reserved.

For a more detailed explanation of the contest & its workings, please see the post called “Writing Exercises Return with a Twist” from 12/24/11.

By participating in this exercise the contestants agree to the rules of the contest and waive any and all further considerations or permissions otherwise required for any winning entries to be published by Indies Unlimited as an e-book, showcasing all the photos and with the winning expositions credited appropriately and accordingly.

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5 thoughts on “Week 22 Flash Fiction Challenge: Search Party”

  1. Phil walked down the pier, the water-swollen planks sturdy below his feet. He was tired, physically and emotionally, after a full day of searching for two young men reported missing. They had set out for a one-night camping trip in Hickory Forest and had not been heard for nearly four days. Those two young men, Alex and Robert, had been Phil’s nephew and his nephew’s best friend.

    Arriving at the gazebo at the end of the pier, Phil looked out towards the old-fashioned covered bridge, wishing he could feel as tranquil as the water it spanned. Phil leaned against the gazebo’s railing as tears cut icy rivulets down his face in the chill air. Phil had watched Alex grow up from a precocious little toddler to the selfless young man he was today. He just had to be okay. He just had to.

    Wiping his tears from his face, Phil turned as a voice called to him.

    “Sir, are you okay?” asked a spindly middle-aged man in a puffy coat as he approached Phil.

    “Actually, I’m looking for two missing campers. One’s tall with curly brown hair, the other average height with short blonde hair.” Phil explained, not getting his hopes up.

    The man drew a gun from the inside of his coat, pointing it directly at Phil. Phil’s blood began to run as cold as the waters below his feet.

    “I know just where they are. Why don’t we go pay them a visit?”

  2. As Sean walked down the pier, he was filled with a growing sense of dread. The crows fell silent as approached the small wooden gazebo structure at the end of the pier. The only sound was his foot steps on the wooden planks. The water on either side of him was mirror smooth. The air felt heavy and Sean heard each breath he took, every beat of his now racing heart.

    Please, don't let me be the one who finds their bodies!

    It was exciting, when the search began. Sean was confident that he could find the missing youths safe and sound. But after a long day of looking in all the likely directions, he had resigned himself to the fact that after all this time the search was not going to have a happy ending.

    Sean walked purposefully to the end of the decking under the gazebo and braced himself for what he expected to see. Two young boys floating in the water. He looked down on the mirror like surface of the water below and waited for his eyes to adjust. There was a red sneaker floating just beyond the shadow cast by the pier.

    Sean jumped as his radio broke the spell of silence which had over taken the pond. “Sean, do you copy,” the voice on the radio said. “This is Sean, over,” Sean replied steadying himself against the wooden upright.

    “Sean, we found the boys. They're okay. Come on in.”

  3. Joe distracts easily. Before stepping into the dim covered bridge, he glances at the water and plunges into his childhood throwing stones here to hit fat catfish lolling in the shallows. He mostly missed. Later he threw pebbles at girls lolling nude as catfish in the shallows, didn’t miss. Later still, they–

    Now he must locate the same girls, Edna May and Edna June, older, too plump to besport themselves nude in shallows. Last glimpse reminded him of catfish.

    September too chilly for bathing, he must think seriously: where are they? Alive? Intact? Joe can deal with catfish, not corpses.

    If corpses, it’d be vultures, not crows, circling downstream.

    So he checks for catfish again. No little bones to stick in craws. He caught, skinned, eviscerated, and cooked four over the campfire their first day out, and the twins ate more than anyone. He’d promised more… Gotta catch—

    No, gotta hike downstream, maybe where the crows are…over the edge of the woods, that bramble patch too thick to penetrate. Maybe the girls are wolfing down summer’s last blackberries, though they’d get more scratches than berries.

    Must have been scratched bloody enough to attract flies too. Vultures on the ground. The scratches on whatever leftover scratched-up flesh are too wide and deep for thorns. A bear.

    A bear means Joe gotta vamoose, catfish or not, not here anyway. Upstream they have a cabin with locks on the door and shutters. Hanging from the rafters, their provisions—and his rods. Gotta–

  4. Harvey walked to the end of the pier and looked timidly into the dark water of the lake. He saw nothing but a reflection.

    But it was not his reflection.

    The face staring back at him was of a young boy. The boy’s eyes were closed. He was wearing a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. The boy looked very peaceful.

    On the off-chance that this was a body and not a reflection, Harvey knelt on the edge of the pier and reached down to the cold water. He touched the surface, causing an expanding circle of small waves to disturb the image. When the water calmed, Harvey saw his own reflection in the water.

    Harvey got up and took out his walkie-talkie. As he was about to signal that everything was clear there, he glanced back to the water. The boy was back. His eyes were open, staring plaintively at Harvey. The reflection raised its arm, silently pointing to the east of the lake.

    Compelled beyond any reason, Harvey ran down the pier, calling for assistance on his walkie-talkie. He headed in the direction that the reflection had indicated. In less than fifteen minutes, he came upon a brush-covered hollow. He pulled the brush away to find all five of the missing campers. They groaned slightly with chilly thanks as they heard him relay that they were alive.

    All but one.

    Harvey looked closer and saw the serene face of the boy from the lake. He was smiling.

  5. Search Party

    Jeff walked to the end of the little pier and glanced at the red covered bridge up stream. He shivered in the late autumn chill. If there were any bodies under foot, he didn’t want to find one or all of them.

    A family of four, husband, wife and seven-year-old twin girls had vanished from their campsite into the Vermont forest, four days ago. Their backpacks, sleeping bags and food were missing, indicating the family may have gone on a hike and became lost. He looked into the still water under the pier, saw a piece of paper stuck on an upright twig on a small branch. He got on his knees, picked it up and read the childish printing.

    BAD GUYS HELP

    Squirrels chattered. Crows cawed in the distance, agitated by a disturbance. Jeff’s stomach knotted. Two lifers had escaped from the Rutland prison six days ago, eight miles from the campground.

    Before Jeff could snatch his radio, a volley of shots echoed through the naked trees. He held his breath. An eternity of dead silence hung over the forest.

    Abruptly Sheriff McKane’s gruff voice cracked from the radio. “Two in custody. Family located and freed, unharmed. Return to the staging area.”

    Squirrels scampered beneath the hickory and oak trees gathering nuts and acorns. A flock of blue jays scolded each other from the ash trees, ending a perfect autumn afternoon. Jeff sighed with relief. His psycho brother was in custody again.

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