Flash Fiction Challenge: Winter Ghost

Boots the snowshoe hare by K.S. BrooksThis is Winter Ghost, prince of the Northwoods. He is strong and fast and always vigilant. It must be so, for he is always hunted. Puma, lynx, bobcat, coyote, hawk, and owl have all pursued him.

Today, he follows the deer to a clearing. He sees a human’s hutch and watches as the deer eat food that has been placed on the ground.

The deer have been here before, and feel at ease, but Winter Ghost is cautious. He waits and watches. He hears the clumsy footstep of a human…

In 250 words or less, tell us 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 Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.

On Wednesday afternoon, 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 afternoon, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Winter Ghost”

  1. Winter Ghost knows what a hunter is and this human is no hunter. He puts out bait, paints himself up to look like the surrounding brush, and then hides like a coward in a hutch he has fashioned out of branches and straw. Only when his prey is fully unsuspecting does he release his arrow, often not resulting in a clean kill. Then our brave “hunter” finally shows himself as he stalks the wounded deer down flowing a blood trail and finally finishes it off. Then he posses with the carcass while his admiring fellows take photos to document his “victory” over the wild.

    “Not on this day,” thought Winter Ghost. Though the bobcat and he were not exactly friends, there was a measure of respect built up over the seasons of their game of cat and mouse. Likewise the eagle and Winter Ghost had a relationship of sorts. So when the Winter Ghost thought of his ever present deadly companions, they often showed up. “Come forth Sky Stalker and Tree Pouncer,” thought Winter Ghost. “Come forth and hunt with me for a change!”

    From high above, the hunter heard a unworldly screech causing him to lower his bow. As he looked up, he was swept from the earth by sharp claws, his neck pierce by long white fangs. The last thing he heard was the triumphant scream of Winter Ghost as he fled back to his den.

  2. He froze. Some instinct says that the stiller he remains, the more inconspicuous he shall be. If the human was to see him, he would be pursued again. He stood on a bank of snow, where his white coat would hide him longer. The deer remained still, his body relaxed even as the human lifted a stick upwards. Too high upwards, for its legs do not rest on the ground completely, but it balances with ease. He senses death approaching as surely as he remembers that he is Winter Ghost. He knows that he must remain silent, but his ears flicker back anxiously, drape against his shoulders and diminish his silhouette.

    He can feel his heart thudding in his chest, fluttering beats as the deer takes a step away and to the side. The sudden ‘boom’ sent him scudding into the bushes, his heart beating so fast that he can’t breathe. He doesn’t want to, but a kind of nervous curiosity fills him. He peers through the bushes, his brown eyes widened as he spots the deer, lifeless on the ground. Blood melts the snow around, and draws to mind the times he’d seen his kin stolen by the owl and the hawk. The human crouches over the deer, murmuring something in that language no animal knew.

    He stepped backwards, his large paws silent before the human lifted its head. It looked straight at him, and Winter Ghost did as he did best. He fled the scene of death.

  3. Winter Ghost stayed very still, his pure, white coat blending in with the snow. He heard another footstep, and then a thud. A footstep, a thud. Then, he heard a grunt. He looked at the does, eating happily. They were not the least bit alarmed by the ruckus.

    After what had to be a heavy human huff of breath – because what else could be that loud and obnoxious – Winter Ghost heard twigs snapping. Even as those sounds grew closer, the deer continued their meal. In fact, red squirrels, chipmunks, and songbirds joined them.

    Why were they not afraid? Humans were bad. Perhaps it was the food – perhaps the human had drugged it! Maybe they couldn’t hear the human coming! Maybe they were too sedated to care! Winter Ghost felt he had to do something… but moving into the clearing could expose him to owl, hawk, bobcat, and his other natural foes.

    The crunching and cracking sounds became louder. Winter Ghost could wait no longer. He scurried out into the alcove, his huge rear feet flopping wildly, sending the oats and corn scattering about. The other animals stopped eating to stare at him. It was too late.

    The human burst into the clearing. Winter Ghost froze in place.

    “Good morning, everyone,” the human female nearly sang. “Could you please let Mr. Cougar and Mama Bear know that I’ve got another one?” She dropped the body of a man wearing camouflage at the edge of the clearing.

    “Damn poachers. I guess they’ll never learn.” She winked.

  4. He freezes, knowing this predator is mighty and cunning. They set traps; they kill from a distance. The forest abounds with tales of death and torture. Fearing the human intrusion, Winter Ghost shrinks into the landscape. Inaction is invisibility.

    In his snowbound pause, he sees the deer pick up their heads, listening attentively. Winter Ghost, too, strains to hear.

    A breeze stirs icy twigs, near-silent in their pas de deux. Reassured, the deer bend, graceful as dancers, to swipe another tempting morsel, but Winter Ghost isn’t lulled.

    There. The click, the whir, the sound of death.

    Winter Ghost senses the inevitability, but no animal falls. He holds his breath, unwilling to take in the scent of cordite, the stench of blood.

    The deer have heard it too, arrested at mid-bite. A microsecond pause precedes the panic. Another click. Before the whir, they’ve scattered in wild disarray, but the shooting continues.

    Winter Ghost remains, airless, precise, unwilling to move. The ruthless sound goes on, staccato quick and merciless. Heart fluttering in palpitations, he trembles.

    He wills his muscles still, but the metronome of death clicks closer. Gulping molecules of crisp cold air, he leaps, a trail of icy pellets following his retreat. He dives into the snowbank.

    “Yes! What a money shot!”

    Winter Ghost searches his flanks, but he is intact.

    Above he hears a single click. He braces.


    The human footsteps rustle, but in the wrong direction. A miracle escape. He’s lived to tell the tale.

  5. How can this be? The human, female, speaks to the deer in soft voice. Winter ghost feels a pull of peace to come to the human as the deer have.

    He knows he can’t. Humans hunt, kill, with more veracity than the predators that roam his lands. His belly rumbles with the hunger of harsh winter. And the desire comes upon him again.

    He hops forward, a quiet step through the tall grass. Nose and whiskers wrinkle in the morning air. The only predator is this human, but she appears to be, different. Another hop and the grass rustles with his movement.

    She turns to see him at the edge of the tall grass. She speaks to him, the words soothing, calm. The words pull him closer, he can no longer fight the need to be with her, in her arms. Her song, unlike the coyote’s fills his soul with warmth.

    He hops again to land at her feet with the deer and the food so graciously offered. Her soft words urge him to eat, have his fill.

    The deer have their fill of the food then lay down in the tall grass, sated. Winter Ghost feeds, relaxed as she pets his soft fur and ears. The knife that cuts his throat goes unnoticed.

    She makes her way back to the cabin with the rabbit held by its ears. “I have dinner,” she said. “You need to pick up a couple deer so we can dress em out for storage.”

  6. Winter. Trapping season. But ‘bout ought-eight there comes this-here blizzard thet laid down eighty feet o’snow. Nutten wus’a moving ‘cept ol’Jeremiee Johnson’s ghost.

    “Hain’t been so much snow since I wuz in knee-high ta a grasshopper. T’wuz warmer under that thick dirt blanket than outen here.” So he turned-heel back to his grave.

    Cold must’a got ta his bones ‘cause he’d do this same thing ever’year. Valley folks took to saying, “Room-tism settled ta Jeremiee’s bones. Must mean an early Spring.”

    Things went fine fur a couple decades till along comes thet thar conniving groundhog. He up and steels Jeremiee’s thunder fur hisself. But thet groundhog dunn fur-got pair-psycho-jest’s top rules. One, tiz better ta let sleeping ghosts lie and two don’t never steels from dem. Dumb kritter. He thought folks’d take more kindly to a little fur-ball than a grizzled old ghost.

    Shore didn’t set none too good with tha winter ghost either. Most every second day in February Jeremiee takes ta looking like a white rabbit and moseys down to Punxsutawney Pennsylvania with one reason ‘ta-mind… ruin Phil.

    When Phil’s head pops outen that cave, Jeremiee ever so gen-teel-like whispers, “Boo,” in Phil’s ear. Skeers the mother-lovin’ outen Phil. No never you mind thet sunshine, Phil hi-tells it back inside his cave.

    Jeremiah has hisself a good laugh goin’ back to his warm bed. “Teach that kritter ta steal from me.”

    Valley folks kin set store knowin’ thet when Jeremiee’s winter ghost sleeps, Spring’s jest a‘round the corner.

  7. “How do you know that’s him?”

    “Shh, there are many predators that could end your second chance here,” Paddy whispered. “It’s him. From your description, I knew.” Paddy and Kate hid in the tall grass and watched him as he nibbled at the sweet clover. Deer munched at a pile of food nearby, spread in the clearing by a human, like Kate was just days before. Before cancer took her and God brought her to the meadow.

    Kate thought about that day. The day he left. That cold, winter day he walked out of their office for lunch and never came back. Later, she touched his hands, folded gently across his lifeless body, and told him that she loved him. But he couldn’t hear her, he had already been transformed, and was here. That was fifteen years ago.

    A tree branch cracked behind them. Kate’s instinct was to run like Paddy, but she didn’t, instead, she sat motionless. Her white fur blended perfectly with the snow on the ground. She felt invisible as a man walked by carrying a rifle and bucket.

    She watched as the man spread carrots and apples in the clearing, then he left. The meadow was empty now. The deer would return for the fresh food soon. Her friend would return to the meadow soon too, and she would get a second chance to tell him.

    His name is Winter Ghost.

  8. Winter Ghost darted into an overturned barrel and watched intently as the human approached the deer.
    His tummy tightened hungrily and he drooled as the human filled a trough with yummy looking food. Pellets, nuts and succulent hay, his nose twitched at their scent.
    Food had been scarce since the snow came and made it necessary to venture further afield in the search for nourishment. Avoiding being caught by one of the larger predators had sapped his energy; he had had to run for his life almost all the way here.
    The human made soft, soothing sounds and the deer seemed unafraid. He decided to edge closer but before he could move, an animal’s face appeared in the opening trapping him inside.
    It was all white like him and had black inquisitive eyes and a wet black nose. It barked and yapped and growled, jumping off its feet with each sound it made. Winter Ghost backed up terrified.
    “Hey mister, what have you got there?” the human strode over.
    She stroked the furry white animal and peered into the barrel.
    “Well hello handsome, are you hungry?”
    Pulling a handful of food she placed it in front of Winter Ghost, “Fill your boots little guy and don’t you worry about my friend here, he won’t hurt you. He’s just excited to see you.”
    She turned to Mister,
    “Come on sweetie, let’s go fix our lunch now.”
    Human and friend entered their hutch and Winter Ghost filled his belly for the day.

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