Flash Fiction Challenge: Innocent

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt copyright KSBrooks all rights reserved blue earth minnesota oct 2008
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Jason couldn’t believe he was finally home. As he drove past the “Entering Blue Earth” sign, his excitement mounted. No one knew his release date had been expedited. Thank goodness for DNA testing and the Innocence Project. All that time in jail…wasted.

He planned on going to his wife’s office to surprise her and then would head over to his daughter’s school. But as he got into town, things didn’t look right. The place was… empty. It was a ghost town. Where was everybody?

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Innocent”

  1. “Am I dreaming?” he thought to himself.

    He reached down and pinched himself on the arm. Nope! He wasn’t dreaming. As he cruised down main street, he saw vehicles in both lanes going in and coming out of town. They weren’t moving, and as they came into better view, he noticed that there were no drivers. The vehicles were just parked there, not moving.

    He headed toward his wife’s place of employment, dodging the occasional car during the drive. He parked the car right at the front door. He hopped out and ran inside.


    He starts yelling “Kelly! Are you here?!… Kelly!!!!”

    No answer. He runs to her office, noticing clothing in random spots on the ground. When he enters her office, he sees her favorite blouse in the seat of her chair.

    “What’s going on here!” He screams.

    He hurries back to the car and takes off towards the school. He runs into a spot where two cars are completely blocking the road. He’s only two blocks away, he’ll run. He passes the cars and sees again, nothing but clothing in the seats. He runs faster, fear gripping his mind.

    He rushes through the hallway and reaches his daughter’s room. He opens the door to find only her.

    “Allie! Thank god you’re here!”

    “Are you ready daddy?”

    “For what?”

    “To go home”

    Before he could say anything else, a light flashes from above. All that remains, sitting where they were just seconds before, is their clothing.

  2. Homecoming (249 words)

    Blue Earth, New Jersey: Population 37. Once a quiet haven in the woods. Just a boardwalk with a grocery store, clinic, and post office. Now, completely deserted.
    Jason Bamgino, wearing a tailored suit and thousand dollar shoes, stood in the street looking confused. “I don’t get it, Dutch. Where is everybody?”
    Dutch Callen, Bamgino’s driver, simply shrugged, “Piece of nothing town anyway. Don’t know why you followed that woman out here.”
    “Hey, run me over to the post office,” He said, ignoring him. “They’ll know something.”
    “It’s right there. Just walk,” Dutch replied, surly after the long drive from Fort Dix.
    “After all I’ve been through seems you’d show some respect,” Jason said.
    “Quit whining. We got you out, didn’t we?”
    Jason shot him a sour look, then walked toward the post office. A tiny bell danced on its spring as he opened the door. “Hello? Anybody here?” He carefully scanned the small room.
    A young man in uniform appeared at the service window. “May I help you, Sir?”
    “Yeah, I…huh…used to live here, and I was wondering: Where is everyone?”
    “Oh, they’re all gone.” he answered excitedly. “Relocated. Big mob murder case. Witness protection, you know. Good thing, too. It looks like the guy might get off.”
    “What about the doctor at the clinic and her daughter? Where are they?” Jason asked.
    “Rumor is she was the key to the whole case. Threw him under the bus. She’s long gone.”
    “Right! Witness protection?” Jason said grinning.

  3. I’m sitting here in my cabin this morning with watery eyes, and a runny nose. It’s the way I am mornings, and it doesn’t matter if it’s August when the heat fries bugs, or it’s January when icicles almost touch the top of my head as I fetch logs.

    I turned seventy-four last week, but the all-day sneezing and nose honking is not new. An allergy pill stops the drips, but I think those pills might do something bad to my liver after a while.

    Last week I pulled up information on Google that convinced me to buy an herbal concoction. I’ll have to drive to Steamboat Springs, the nearest town with the store mentioned on Google. I remember when I was a kid and my dad always took me to the general store up the road in Blue Earth. Natives bought imported herbs and spices and boiled up all kinds of remedies.

    The town sign’s still there, but the General Store closed when Jason, the proprietor, got hauled off to prison. I hadn’t even started school yet, but I remember my dad being upset about having to go farther away from the ranch for supplies.

    As I sit here now contemplating tomorrow, I hope my forty-minute drive to buy a fraction of an ounce of herbal oil that costs over thirteen dollars will be worth it.

    I could order it from Amazon, but sometimes if I don’t act on an impulse, I just forget about it.

  4. ***FINALIST***

    Jason’s been rehearsing his speech the entire drive. Start with a thank-you to all who supported him. Follow with an explanation; the Innocence Project finally convinced the ADA to request a DNA test. Finish with how the system finally did its job and released him on time served.

    He raises his hand to wave to the card players outside the old hardware store before he realizes they aren’t there. They’re always there. The single stoplight flashes yellow like always but there are no cars to watch for. His old pick-up slows to a crawl as he turns onto the street with his wife’s newspaper office. No sign of life in the building that should be populated 24/7.

    A dirty flier skitters across the street and Jason is quick to jump out and grab it. Maybe there’s some explanation. The announcement for a full-town meeting at the high school isn’t much but it gives him a place to start.

    Sure enough, it seems every car is parked there, ice cold and collecting dirt.

    But inside is just as empty as the rest of town.

    When he gets to the auditorium, he finds it still set up for a meeting, even a snack bar that’s started to mold.

    There’s a single paper on the table and when he reads it: “Welcome aboard, all who are worthy,” a faint blue light pulses. He’s gone.

    Blue Earth – Population 0. Again.

  5. ***FINALIST***

    Panic set in as Jason went from door to door. No one replied to his incessant pounding. Reaching the end of the main drag he gulped for air and grabbed his chest. He looked back towards his wife’s office door and thought he saw a glimpse of something move quickly into the alley.
    “Hey! Who’s there? Stop!” Jason yelled and ran at top speed to try to catch whomever or whatever was there. When he reached the alleyway there was no sign of anything or anyone. Venturing down the alleyway Jason felt he was not alone. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
    “Hello. Is anyone there?” Jason saw a small pink shoe peeking out from behind a pile of pallets. “Hello, I won’t hurt you. Please come out.”
    Sniffling was audible and then, “Daddy? Is that you?”
    “Katy? Oh my God Katy! Is it really you sweetheart?” Jason’s five year old daughter ran to her Daddy and jumped into his arms.
    “Daddy, I was so scared! Where is Mommy?” She was crying and dirty and looked terrified.
    Jason noticed that Katy’s dress and shoes were covered in dried blood. “I don’t know sweetheart. I was hoping that you could tell me where everyone is.”
    Jason looked into his daughter’s eyes, seeing something strange in them. Just as the hairs on the back of his neck rose again the monster inside Katy’s little body opened a mouth full of fangs and swallowed Jason whole.

  6. ***FINALIST***

    In the Minnesota Penitentiary, Jason often wondered what it’d be like to see the “Entering Blue Earth” sign again. And there, where the factory once stood, towered the old statue of the Jolly Green Giant, so Jason knew nothing had changed.

    The Dakota called the nearby river Makato Osa Watapa, “where blue earth is gathered,” for the blue-black clay on its banks. But the whites pushed out and almost killed off the Dakota long ago. Things do change, though, Jason thought, like the new DNA evidence that sprung him.

    He turned to the dark-skinned man who picked him up outside Mankato, who said he was headed to Des Moines. Why he’d take Rte.169 instead of Interstate 35 Jason couldn’t fathom.

    “Here’s fine,” Jason said, as they turned onto Main, by his wife’s real estate office.

    “You sure? I can take you wherever,” the driver said.

    “No, have to surprise my wife and then my daughter at school,” Jason said. But inside he found the office empty, dusty, the calendars unchanged from three months ago.

    Through his pickup’s window, the driver called, “Seriously, you oughta get in.”

    That’s when Jason realized this was the only vehicle on the street and there wasn’t another soul about. He noticed the blue-black mud on the pick-up’s wheel wells, and remembered the dark crud under the driver’s fingernails.

    “I said get in. Iya, the Camp-Eater’s hungry for white meat,” the driver said.

    Then came that rumbling, “Ho, ho, ho.”

  7. “I cannot wait to see the looks on Annie and little Marcie’s face when they see I’m free!” Jason said excitedly as he was driving home from his release. “They’re gonna be so happy!”
    Jason knew he was getting close to seeing their shimmering smiles when he passed the “Entering Blue Earth” sign. He was so happy thinking about the two of them that he didn’t notice the car following behind him at a distance.
    He pulled into the driveway and ran for the door. He fidgeted around with each of his keys to the door, but none of them worked. “Honey,” he yelled. “I’m home!”
    No one came to the door. Without waiting another second, he kicked the door until it was open. The house looked as if a family had just lived there today, yet no one was home. No Annie. No Marcie.
    He ran to each room screaming for them, but they were nowhere to be found. The car that was following him pulled up. A man dressed in all black walked into the house and hit Jason hard on the head before he even had a chance to react. He dragged his body back to the car.
    “Jason,” said the doctor. “Can you hear me?”
    “Yes.” “Where are Annie and Marcie?”
    The doctor spoke into his recorder, “letting him see a family home didn’t work. Patient still believes he is married to a woman named Annie and has a daughter named Marcie. Final treatment…”


  8. Jason parks his car in front of the empty store nearest the stop sign. This was the sweet shop that served as a big reward for this daughter and it was always our last stop after other Saturday errands.

    He noticed a vehicle in the distance, traveling fast and leaving behind a huge cloud of dust.

    It stopped at the other side of the intersection. He did not recognize the car and when the tinted windows automatically cleared he saw a man he did not know.

    Jason begins walking toward the stranger’s car. “Where is everyone?” He calls out. “Where is my family?”

    The stranger was silent. When Jason gets closer he hears the words “Get in and all will be explained.” He did not see the driver open his mouth. The words just seemed to be in his head. Jason looks at the creepy silence of the buildings and gets into the car. Something about this feels familiar.

    Jason slowly wakes up in a brightly light room with several people standing at his bedside. He vaguely recognizes his wife but somehow knows she is not. He recognizes others in the room, but again there is no memory of how. Someone very official looking storms through the door. He does not look happy and in a loud voice says “The next phase was not ready! Who can explain this early arrival?”

    Jason yells out, “I caused the early arrival and just what do you mean by next phase?”

  9. ***FINALIST***

    Jason thought he was being paranoid. His current cell mate, Carl, said this would happen.

    “Believe me Jason, when you get out you’ll think you’ve gone crazy.”

    Jason shook his head, parked his car, and entered the large three story building.

    He sat and waited.

    An hour passed, still no one came to usher him in.

    “This is ridiculous. I’m going up.”

    Jason boarded the elevator and pushed the number three.

    Nothing happened.

    He mashed the glowing three once more.

    Still no movement.

    “Forget it, I’ll use the stairs.”

    Jason opened the door marked first floor and started towards the next landing.

    First Floor

    He continued his ascent, taking the steps two at a time.

    First Floor

    “Is this some kind of joke? Very funny you guys.”

    First Floor First Floor First Floor

    He burst through the nearest door, sprinted into the street and didn’t stop until he had gone the five blocks to Addisyn’s school.

    He entered the school but instead found himself back in his car, beginning the journey to Charlotte’s office once more.

    He tore at his hair.



    Charlotte’s office phone rang.

    “Hello? This is Mrs. Thomas. Yes, Jason is my husband.”

    “I hate to tell you this Mrs. Thomas but we found Jason this morning. It appears he has taken his own life. We wish there was someone to question, but as you know Jason was placed in a single cell a year ago.”

    The receiver fell from her hand.

  10. ***FINALIST***

    “Tell us again, Grandpa.”

    The old man fogged up his glasses and wiped them. Then he dabbed his eyes. “You’ve heard this so many times, children, I suppose one more time won’t hurt. And you make sure that you don’t ever forget the inhumanity of Interstellar Incarceration. It was my case that had it abolished, after my return.”

    The little ones climbed onto his lap and he wrapped his arms around their waists.

    “In 2036, I was sentenced to life on the Interstellar Penal Colony 23. Only people with a life sentence were sent to IPC’s since once you’re out there, time is different and returning to your home – as it was – is never an option.” He paused. “They said I…I was involved in my parents’ disappearance which was not true, of course. My wife — ”

    “Mary,” said one of the older ones.

    “And you had a daughter, Chase,” said another.

    “Yes. Mary hired a lawyer from the Innocence Project. See, they believed in me. And luckily, the authorities kept all the old CODIS records safe and secure. It took 127 Earth years to prove me innocent.” He inhaled his oxygen. “On IPC’s first return trip, they released me. I was forty-two and finally going home. But to what? All I wanted to do was see my wife or go to my daughter’s school. She was thirteen when I left. But it was all gone. They were gone. Long gone. And I had to start over.”

  11. Innocent

    Jason parked in the middle of Main Street, locking the car out of habit. A flimsy plastic bag blew past, then snagged in the tree across the street. How could there be no dogs barking? Or birdsong?

    The windows of the downstairs diner were covered with a thin layer of grime. Jason shaded his eyes to peer in at the empty tables, chairs, and plates. It could have been a doll’s house. He took a deep breath and tried the handle to the second floor stairs. Unlocked. He started climbing.

    Maybe he shouldn’t have kept his release a surprise. The last time he saw Aimee, she was so excited about exoneration, so sure of the new DNA evidence. Even little Kate had offered him a shy smile. Daddy was coming home. They had never given up on him.

    Jason hesitated, hand on the knob to Aimee’s office. He blew out his breath and walked in. There were papers on her desk and a coffee cup with an island of mold sitting beside them. A fine silver powder dusted the seat of her chair.

    The synth DNA had been expensive, the bribe for the evidence locker even more. What could he do? Tell Aimee about the affair? Say her sister had threatened to ruin everything? No, he just needed to fix it. Jason dropped his face into his hands. They said it would be expensive, but they didn’t tell him the price.

    Sheila Scobba Banning

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