Flash Fiction Challenge: Flowers for Her

safflower field 081013
safflower field
Photo by K.S. Brooks

She was always amazed by the beauty of nature. Thousands of people would probably have driven by the massive field of flowers and paid it very little mind. She needed more than that.

This is the picture she took after she stopped the car. They found her body near the middle of the field…

In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and/or the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. 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!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms.

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20 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Flowers for Her”

  1. Damn. Emergency dentist appointment. Flat tire. Snow. Not a good morning so far.
    Jim cursed at the nuts holding the wheel. With the last one off, he wrangled the flat into the trunk and put the mini spare in its place. Should work just fine to drive in this mess. Right.
    He sighed. Alicia always took the car in for maintenance. Five years without a flat tire or other problem. Before she disappeared. Now the car seemed as angry as he was that she was gone.
    As he put away the jack and closed the trunk, something shiny caught his attention, nearly covered by the snow. He brushed off a pocket camera. Seriously? Digital cameras as litter?
    He pushed the “on” button, surprised that the screen on the back was intact and working. A field of sunflowers. Beautiful. Summer seemed so long ago. Alicia loved sunflowers. Why did she just leave?
    He pressed the “next” button and saw a photo, no, it was a video, of Alicia. His legs gave out. Hallucination, had to be. He pressed the “play” button.
    A gagged Alicia struggled with a masked man. A tinny male voice. “We have your wife. She will die unless you do as you are told. $10,000 in unmarked bills. Place an ad on Craigslist with your email address and phone numberunder lost dogs. Use the title LOST ALLEY DOG.” The video stopped.
    The time stamp was from July.
    Snow fell on the crying man.

  2. A breath of fresh air. Intelligent, talented, uncompromising, a cut above the rest. Independent flowers who could grow in rocks if they had to. Flowers were not born to be fierce. Why would we even try and how do flowers grow in rocks?

    Scar tissue.

    Tough unyielding flesh born of suffering. Growing in rocks is painful. Done because we have to, not because we want to. Being admired for endurance is a constant reminder of the soil we covet. Why don’t our petals wilt under the strain? Our talents, intelligence, and uncompromising nature.

    The idea of being soft and lovely like the other flowers enthralls and terrifies us. To be loved, adored, cared for. What does that feel like? The other flowers glow. It must be wonderful enough to forgo scar tissue, or perhaps they just never had a need grow it in the first place. Scar tissue is ugly, but it makes the longing for soil bearable.

    Over the summer the flowers in soil grow more beautiful and lovely. The few petals we have are lopsided and discolored. We spend our precious sunlight growing roots into rocks. There is nothing left over to look like the others.

    Intelligence and talent become a lonely curse.

    The beautiful ones are claimed by people who love their softness. Surviving loses its appeal. Only when they find my body in the middle of the field do I finally feel the soil, and it was everything I thought it would be.

  3. Sunflowers were always Alicia’s favorite flower. It represented happiness.

    Happiness is just what Alicia craved after ending a recent relationship with a cheating con artist named Rogue.

    Driving down the country road, ready for a relaxing vacation with friends Alicia smiled looking at the beautiful scenery. She was finally free! She had really escaped. She was given a second chance at life.

    long gone were the days of misery and abuse. She really dodged a bullet. She strangely had not heard from Rogue since the break up last month. She was concerned but happy to say the least. It was almost to easy! He said ” her soul would be his forever no matter where she ran” she shuttered at the horrible memory.

    Just then she saw a field of gorgeous sunflowers. So full of life and in bloom. She decided to take a picture to send to her friends awaiting her arrival.

    After taking the picture, a unmarked cop car pulled up. Immediately Alicia felt anxious. She was alone in the middle of nowhere. As the officer approached she asked ” can I help you officer” The officer responded ” do you need assistance? I see your on the side of the road” The officer looked familiar as he came towards her. Her instinct screamed DANGER! It was to late. Rogue grabbed her and carried her in the field. Her fate was sealed. She never dodged a bullet after all. But now, she was truly free forever.

  4. KNOWING GOLD 249 words
    by Janni Styles

    “All of his life the mountains both beckoned and fascinated Amiel. He had never ventured away from the small prairie farm town where he grew safflowers for food companies.

    Did you know Kings and Pharaohs were once the only producers of this flower? Betty had asked when they sat at the kitchen table so many years ago discussing safflower farming.

    People had warned Amiel off Betty, said she was wild; no good would come of it. Betty proved the most loyal, loving woman Amiel ever knew. A lot of good did come out of loving her. Their three kids were grown and long gone to their own lives though none wanted to inherit the family farm.

    Amiel didn’t think he’d last another year himself. At seventy, he knew he was pushing the river. Thoughts of Betty fueled him daily. Still, he never shook the image of her cold on the kitchen floor. Her sudden heart attack stilled the fields for three years.

    Sometimes while harvesting the flowers, Amiel would halt the combine, barren fields behind him while he gazed over at the craggy, far slung horizon. Irony taunted him; nobody knew when Betty passed that safflower oil decreased cholesterol either.

    Passersby often stopped their vehicles at the edge of the fields to ask if they could take an armful of sunflowers. Some never asked. Amiel neither corrected them nor stopped them. He knew the difference between a safflower and a sunflower and that was all that mattered to him.”

  5. IN THE SUNFLOWER FIELD

    He read it in the paper four days later, Dr. Hennessy, in his office, knowing who she was even before the article named her; remembering how he had found her choice a curious one.
    “The sunflowers,” she had said. “The field north of town. It’s the most peaceful place I know.”
    A young man walking his dog had found her, the dog running off into the field. Had he not, Hennessy imagined, she might still be there, undisturbed, having ventured deep into the wide thick field, slowly, carefully parting the tall flowers for a way through, her battered red Ford back by the roadside.
    “They tell me it’s terminal, that I may have a couple of months at best. Nobody will tell me what it’ll be like, though, not honestly,” she had said, earlier.
    So he described the journey ahead of her, clinically, leaving nothing vague, leaving nothing out.
    “I don’t seem to have many options,” she said, a forced sad smile on her face.
    He talked then, soothingly, gently, never encouragingly, never trying to dissuade her.

    “She’s the fourth patient of yours,” Detective Marcus, a bulky man, sitting in Hennessy’s office the next day, said, “the fourth you psychoanalyzed, in less than a year, to commit suicide.”
    Hennessy gave a tiny shrug, leaned forward in his chair, his eyes focused intently on the policeman. His voice was soft, almost comforting.
    “What can I say…I see many unhappy people.”

  6. The sunflowers remind me of a friend whose smile lights up my heart as the sunflowers light up a field.
    The sky reminds me of how still my mind becomes when I think of him.
    But the mountains wake me up to the reality that I have a lot to overcome if we are ever to become friends again.
    We were once good friends, my friend and I, in fact, he helped me come through the most narrow place in my life, that involved finding confidence in myself. He also taught me to appreciate nature, not just as a photo, but in the moment, like being in a field, warm wind caressing my hair, warm sun warming through my heart and just being at peace.
    We are no longer good friends. We are more like mortal enemies.
    He cut me off, for good reason. I became jealous of this friend, his kindness towards other women. I was possessive, wanting his attention all for myself. In an email I wrote him, I said the most awful thing to him. I told him that he is a womanizer, a jerk, to stay away from me. I didn’t mean it though. I was just angry. I don’t expect a man to understand that when a woman is hurting she sometimes gets nasty.
    He ignores me now, but that picture of sunflowerfields brings me back to the nice feeling of friendship we used to share.

    Eli

  7. “He loves me,” I said with each pluck of a petal.

    “He loves me not,” another phrase for another petal.

    Alone in that sunflower field on a summer day, I waded deeper into the depths of yellow and green. Carefully calculating each step forward, I moved ever closer to the middle. From the fated flower, petal after petal fell in a silent pronouncement of what was or was not to be. With a final step to the middle of the field, the last petal in my finger’s grasp, I spoke, “He loves me not.”

    “No! Please! I love you. I swear! Please!” came his frantic, panicked cries.

    My eyes blazed with anger at the man who had lied to me. I tightened the ropes binding his body rigidly to the makeshift cross I would soon stand upright in the field. All would see his punishment. All would know of his misdeeds.

    Steel glinted in the sunlight as the blade of my knife cut slowly and smoothly through the flesh of his chest. I ignored his pain filled shrieks and focused my attention solely on the task at hand. All must know of his treacherous ways. My knife must mark the words.

    Suddenly a shattering pain ripped through my skull and my eyes filled with the blackness of oblivion. Through the closing darkness I could see the rock clutched tightly in his hand. Succumbing to the weight of death, my last seconds were filled with wondering how he had been freed.

  8. If she’d been given a choice she would have asked for her body to be left in a field of sunflowers. They were so beautiful, so vibrant as they turned their great heads towards the sun. But he hadn’t asked. He had simply dumped her body in the farmer’s field and walked away, certain that no one would find her.
    Detective Evans stood over her slight body, now laying on a gurney. Damn good luck that a hang glider had spotted her and had phoned it in otherwise she would have been there, rotting until harvest time. Bad luck for the killer, of course.
    She had been easy to identify. Everyone in town knew Alicia Knowles, rich widow with a son who’d never done a day’s work, who hung around waiting for the old girl to pop off so he could claim her millions. And here he stood, Jacob Knowles, fat jowls shivering, slobbering into his handkerchief. He’d identified his mother, in spite of the sun and rain damage, the dark cord around a darker neck, the bloated fragile skin. He’d retched, of course, and cried, “Mama, who did this to you?”
    Detective Evans turned away in disgust. Lay-about son, rich mother, slam-dunk, but how to prove it. He looked again at the farmer’s field. Acres of yellow heads turned towards the sun.
    “Who did this to her?” he asked the sunflowers. As if in answer the field of sunflowers turned and faced the son.

  9. Sunflower – Girasol, turning toward the sun. An appropriate name. Two boys rode bikes every day after a baseballl game. They were so used to seeing it, it hardly registered. Until one day they saw the flowers dancing. That’s something new, one exclaimed. The other boy hushed his friend as he thought he heard music. He wanted to investigate, curiousity weighing heavily on him. His friend wanted to go home. They argued, should they explore, or leave. Finally one boy threw a last comment at his friend and rode off. That left the other boy, who now was wondering if he really wanted to find out what was causing the sunflowers to sway like that. Decision time, and again curiousity won out. He dropped his bike down and looked for a way into the field. It was hot and sweaty pushing through the giant stalks and swaying flowers. Right through there, a way into the very center. Once he burst onto the scene, he was glad he persisted. A beautiful young girl, was sitting there and playing a magical tune on a flute. The flowers danced to her music. She looked up and smiled at him. He thought he had died and gone to heaven. But then, did he or not.

  10. The car rolled to a stop and the passenger opened her door. The fragrant smell of honeysuckle wafted past her wrinkled skin as she plucked her glasses off and threw them on the seat. The field of flowers blurred into a palette of bleeding color.
    The driver’s black gloved hand reached over, taking the eyewear. “Will this location suffice?”
    The passenger inhaled, her diminished airway gurgling like spent bathwater. Struggling to make the most of the unpolluted air, she answered his question with one of her own. “Where I’m going…will it always smell like this?”
    “The answer to that sits squarely on your shoulders, Madame. I have no say in the matter. I am merely your escort.”
    She took her cell phone out of her pocket (Extra-large numbers. Ideal for senior citizens!) and snapped a picture of the roadside field. She sent the photo, along with a prepared text, to the local news station. “I believe this will do fine.”
    ****
    The junior reporter glanced at the clock. Eleven p.m. “Hey boss. We just got the weirdest text! A picture of a field of flowers with the caption: Elderly woman killed at midnight by falling meteorite. There’s a set of GPS co-ordinates. Want I should check it out?”
    ****
    To: Beryl
    A certain gentleman in black has made my final arrangements for a true ‘back to nature’ experience. Cremation will not be necessary. Kindly plant some surviving flowers in my honor.
    From: Grandma
    ****
    Mmmm…. honeysuckle.

  11. Tears stained her face as she slipped from the car. A loud snore made her jump and cringe. Last night’s beating marred her face. He never let her stop here, the one place that made her happy. If he woke….She didn’t breathe until she was sure he still slept.

    Bright yellow flowers stretched as far as she could see. They called to her, singing, swaying in the sun; a peaceful contrast to her turbulent life. She pushed through thick stems to take a picture.

    Flower heads pressed against her. Their bright yellow faces bent and swiveled like no plant should. Sweet perfume filled her nostrils. Fear and pain vanished. Sunshine kissed her lips. When she opened her eyes thousands of yellow faces beamed at her as she hovered above the field. She smiled back. What a beautiful place to rest. No pain. No tension. Far from his reach.

    A patrol spotted her car later that day with her husband still passed out in his seat. Searchers followed a wide trail to the center of the field where they found her battered body under a blanket of flowers. Amongst the bruises a peaceful smile graced her face.

    Denials were useless. The officers were as moved by her husband’s tears as he had been to hers. Those same fists that had hit her so brutally shook when they cuffed him. They hauled him away, far from the beauty he denied her. Forever locked in shadows while she soared free.

  12. Sunflowers swayed to the soft breeze’s rhythm. Fallen leaves washed over her body. Detective Grace shot pics of the area but could find nothing to explain what happened.

    He followed the trail through the field from her car but where she lay he found nothing out of place. It was like she came to the center of the field and dropped.

    The swollen cut in her neck, unlike a knife wound, appeared to be the cause of death. Or at least led to the blood loss. He circled around her body, and snapped more pictures. No signs of struggle, no signs of anyone else in the area aside from his inspection.

    He opened his contact list on his phone. Wouldn’t take but a moment to inform the emts by the road they could pick up the body.

    As he slid the phone back into his pocket he noticed a silvery glint of light further into the field. He couldn’t let it go.

    He pushed through the weeds, the reflection led him further into the deepest thicket of wildflowers. The reflected light fell away when a shadow rose up behind him.

    The emts arrived at the scene, how far back was that? He turned back to see a scarecrow loom over the field. The sun had shifted and placed him in its shadow.

    A lopsided smile had been sewn into the burlap of its face. And its button eyes, the button eyes followed him as he pushed past it.

  13. She was fully clothed, lying on her back with arms and legs spread. Her face looked peaceful, suggesting she had gone to sleep in good health and spirit, but had never woken up.

    The cops took 10 minutes to arrive on the scene. They found no signs of struggle on or around the body, nor did they find signs of any intruder other than her. At the autopsy, the skin on her back was found to have several tiny pores, but there was no undue toxin presence. The pores were baffling, and after consultations with her family, a second autopsy was conducted at a federal facility. Again, nothing but the pores was found; none of the explanations offered were convincing. One of the cops at the scene swore that as they lifted the body, he had seen several tiny green tendrils underneath her, which had retreated quickly into the ground.

    A fresh, close examination of the site of death revealed nothing untoward. The death was attributed to causes unknown and treated as a cold case.

    After her death, no crop in the field she had died in and all the surrounding fields ever produced good yields. Except for sunflowers. As the years went by, the farmers could not help noticing that come sun or rain, flood or drought, they always had superb harvests of sunflowers, even when they did not prepare the fields or plant seeds. They chose to keep their knowledge to themselves.

  14. I run into the somber field, shouting her name. She’s not gone. I just need to find her.

    “Shelia! Where are you? I’m here! Please!” The silent flowers crowd me.

    “Please.” I’m surrounded, and I feel so alone.

    They say they found the body here. A petite, young woman. Recently married.

    The flowers sway, as though shaking their heads. And I hate them for it. I hate them. They took her away from me. Before I can stop myself, I’m pulling out the stupid, stupid flowers, screaming. I tear and stomp and rip at the damn things.

    They say the safflowers concealed her body.

    I stop. Trembling, I fall to my knees and bury my shaking hands into my face. “Give her back. Please… Please! Take me! Just… give her back.” I plead. I’m not sure who I’m bargaining with. The field is empty, save for the flowers, which are towering and unmoving.

    They say the smell of the safflowers masked the smell of the body.

    I collapse. Tears fall from my eyes. The field and everything around me seems dark and cold and distant. The flowers cover me, burying me, choking, drowning me. I’m crying out her name, knowing that… she’s gone.

    After a while, I see light. Sunrise. It dawns upon me that I cannot lay here forever. Slowly but surely, I get up and look around me, at the flowers, faces now bright and yellow, which took in my grief.

    They’re beautiful.

  15. Agency

    Yeah, another dead girl in a field of flowers, I’m a freaking lateral-thought exercise. Go ahead with the yes/no questions. See if you can get close.

    —Suicide?

    I wanted end my despair attended by visual joy. Poetic, but no.

    Maybe it’s to get back at my mother who will never be able to see her favorite flower the same way again—at long last paying attention to me.

    Way to undermine my agency by making it all Mom’s fault. Thanks.

    Check my wrists. You’ll find no desperate red gashes watering the roots.

    –Murder?

    There you go again, stripping me of my story and giving it over to some narcissistic ass. Ooo, why did he dump her here? What message is he trying to send? Screw that.

    A hint: I didn’t die.

    Oh, make no mistake, that’s my body lying there.

    It was my idea to come out here, to confront Mr. Bluebeard of the dead women in his wake. Naturally, he sought to add me to his collection.

    —Body-swap?

    Now you’re cooking!

    The coroner will find that shock killed her before strangulation. Lover boy was indeed shocked to find himself in there.

    I input directions to the other body dumps on his phone and place it near my old body. The police can’t help but nail him this time.

    Fear not, I’ll swap out just before they flip the switch—to his lawyer.

    I stroll from the field wearing the serial killer’s body. Cheery flower heads nod after me.

  16. In The Field

    I feel no shame standing in a field, idle, my face turned up, enjoying the noonday sun bearing down and warming my delicate petals as my head heavily sways and bobs in the light breezes that tickle my flesh. The multitude of others for miles in any direction enjoying the same; we each drink in the quiet solitude and serene beauty around us; nary a sound but for the winds and the whispers of the other safflowers swaying, creating a chorus.
    There’s no intrusion upon our peacefulness, usually, for we detest disturbances that bring us out of revelry. But once in a while, the barren road on the horizon brings noise and generally, the noise passes and we relax once again into peaceful suspension. Though today, a passerby stopped to admire us, left the shining noisemaker, and plowed into the center of us; I was there, angry at her audacity.
    She was beautiful in her own right, but we hated her the longer she lingered; the longer she kept us from our tranquility. As the sun set, she remained, lying on the soil at our feet, asleep. We detested her intrusion. Hundreds of heavy heads laden with seeds pummeled at her, our seeds flying from our faces, resting in her opened mouth, clogging her throat. She scrabbled and ceased.
    The noisemakers won’t depart now. They watch us as the licks of flame for our actions scorch us at the roots, I feel shame now as I burn.

  17. I was always a fan of hers. I like to think that saw it first, how she captured the split second when a stray wind transformed an ordinary field of wildflowers into a tsunami of orange and gold. We can only imagine what she would have accomplished. Rest in peace, Kate, it was awe-inspiring to be touched by your vision.
    I can’t believe she’s gone. She taught me to love the world of small – to let grains of sand flow over and tickle my toes, to observe the harsh lives of ants – certain of their place in the world no matter what the personal cost. In the same way, my mother would have treated this all as part of the divine plan. The artist, exhausted from nights at the hospital, yet tempted by the golden safflower field, the hive threatened by the one person fighting to save their habitat. I can’t bring my mother back, I can’t go back and be there for her, but I can and will continue her fight against the pipelines threatening our way of life. If you believe in Katie Brooks vision, if you believe in her life, join us. Don’t let her death be in vain.
    I’d have given her the world, but instead she gave me hers. My darling wife embraced me with all her heart, comforted this blind man and left me the greatest gift of all, our daughter Carolyn. Kat, I will see you soon.

  18. A car pulled up onto the shoulder of the road and a woman emerged wearing a flak jacket and carrying a camera. Noor watched as she adjusted the lens and took some close-up shots of the sunflowers. Then she got back in the car as Noor continued through the field.

    Noor loved how the flowers followed the sun from east to west and she was fascinated by the swirling pattern of the seeds. Her teacher said it was a design favored by nature, a pattern mathematically formulated by Fibonacci. After the harvest, her mother would soak the sunflower seeds in salt water and roast them. With bird-like efficiency, Noor and her brothers would crack them open and savor their salty goodness.

    Today there were clouds over the land…and not just the cottony ones in the sky.
    As she hurried forward, Noor heard the sound of vehicles on the road. She was used to seeing soldiers and tanks, aid workers and ambulances. Memento mori was a concept she lived with every day.

    She arrived home with her market purchases and began helping her mother with the mid-day meal. With the electricity cut off, they’d prepare the kebabs over charcoal.
    ~~~

    The next day, she ran her errands as usual. She saw butterflies landing on the Helianthus petals and overhead she heard the buzzing of bees. Amidst the cement rubble and the stress of ongoing attacks, it seemed strange to find this oasis of peace and natural beauty.

    Until the drone hit.

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