Flash Fiction Challenge: Alien Paintbrush

2014 May Day 4 Manzanita Tree Flash Fiction Prompt
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Professor Goodwin always enjoyed taking his class on hikes through this section of the refuge.

But today, something was different – wrong, even. The trees were covered in this strange, colorful substance, unlike anything he’d ever seen before.

“What’s this stuff?” Jimmy asked, touching it.

“I don’t know,” Rachel answered. “But it wasn’t here before that UFO flew over last night.”

Without so much as a word, Jimmy collapsed…

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.

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. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Tuesday night, judges will select the strongest entries, and on Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Saturday morning, 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: Alien Paintbrush”

  1. Leonardo Da Vinci and the Alien Rainbows
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The soul was beyond time and space.

    The essence of all good art.

    Though, technology was the preferred method of evolution – it was not the best.

    Alien civilizations marveled at one thing and one thing only about earth; the Mona Lisa. They could travel light years in seconds, but they could not figure out great art.

    They sent agents into the Louvre to examine the masterpieces. Tried to dissect them like lab rats. But art was the one thing missing from their technological world. What profit an alien if he gains the universe but loses his transistor radio? Without a soul all connection was lost.

    They, the aliens, had thousands of their best researchers on the project. The Mona Lisa was examined with state-of-the-galaxy devices, but beauty did not reveal her secrets to just anyone.

    And without a soul horrible art occurred. Art that was phony and toxic. In short, bad art could kill.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Trees appeared to be covered with murdered rainbows. Dying light like a hung dawn. The colors had no heart and no form. The aliens discharged, from their spacecraft, the failed experiment to decipher the Mona Lisa and their failed attempt to understand inspiration. The trees bled a colorful sap that oozed an apparent lack of
    understanding.

    And the slight smile was what bothered them the most. For a smile, even with all their advancements, was simply off their high-tech galactic radar –

    for a smile was the only real state-of-the-art.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  2. ***FINALIST***

    Jimmy’s hand had merely stroked the fiery colors before he fell to the ground. Professor Goodwin’s fingers searched for a pulse, an attempt that proved futile. The expression on his face sent Rachel into a hysteria. Her screams echoed in the quiet. It was extremely quiet.

    The others mistook this reaction as a signal for dispersal and what ensued was beyond controllable. Mature boys and girls ran amok, entangling themselves in wild foliage, brushing past the painted trees. They fell to the ground one by one. Their bodies lay wasted like lifeless puppets. Professor Goodwin grabbed Rachel by the arm, striking her across the cheek. They both sank to the ground, his arms wrapped around her trembling frame.

    That’s when they heard it. Muffled cries for help drifting in the air. Professor Goodwin cocked his head slightly, carefully deciphering the troubled sounds. Releasing his grip on Rachel, he crawled towards the apparent source. He was inches from the tree that took Jimmy’s life when the harsh reality crept up on him. Jimmy’s screams were barely audible from inside the tree trunk. His pleas for help rooted deep beneath the bark.

    The other trees began to moan, harboring within them tormented cries for release. Their branches began to sway despite the absence of a breeze. It was the dance of death. Professor Goodwin noticed Rachel standing dangerously close to a tree. Its colors blazed in the sunlight. There were no extraterrestrials. Mother Nature had ordered a clean-up.

  3. As Professor Amanda Goodwin rushed over to Jimmy, she brushed the annoying gnats and bugs away from her face and eyes. “These annoying bugs are everywhere!”
    “Rachel what happened?” She demanded.
    Terrified, Rachel hysterically, replied, “Jimmy touched that bright orange UFO gunk and collapsed! You got to save him!”
    Amanda took a good look at the UFO Gunk and realized what it was. Then she turned Jimmy over and was shocked to see how swollen and distorted his face had become. As the gnats buzzed them incessantly, she grabbed Jimmy’s backpack and dumped it on the marshy ground, “Where’s that bug spray? I know I put it in here!”
    Shocked, Rachel exclaimed “What are you doing? Jimmy’s dying and you’re looking for bug spray?”
    Amanda found it, tossed it to her, and screamed, “Just spray the area, now!”
    Rachel quickly sprayed as she was ordered to.
    Amanda continued to frantically search through the dumped contents. Finally, Amanda found their snake and bug bite kit. She flipped it open and grabbed a needle marked Gnats and jammed it into Jimmy’s thigh hard and fast. Within minutes Jimmy’s swelling went down, and soon he came to.
    Bewildered Rachel questioned, “I don’t understand, what about that bright orange UFO gunk?
    Amanda lectured her, “Jimmy’s allergic to Gnats. Next time, please do your homework because that’s not our UFO Gunk. That’s Dacrymyces Palmatus a harmless earth fungus. Now let’s get back to the saucer before this planet kills all of us!”

  4. …falling to the ground on all fours. Before the professor or Rachel could reach him, he grabbed at his head and began to scream. It was an unfamiliar sound, like a tortured animal and the howling wind mixed together.

    Backing away from her friend in both shock and horror, Rachel tripped and sat down hard. Barely flinching at the pain, she watched numbly as the Professor did his best to console the teen.

    “What’s wrong with him?” She cried, wiping her hands absently onto her jeans.

    “I don’t know,” Professor Goodwin answered, his voice strained. He wrestled with the young man, but his strength was uncanny.

    “What’s going on?” Three more students had arrived at the clearing. Rachel could see the fear on John’s face, but both Megan and Cali were standing silently behind him, their expressions neutral.

    “Argh!” Professor Goodwin shouted, propelling himself away from Jimmy. “He bit me!”

    As John rushed towards them, Rachel tried to stand but found that her legs wouldn’t obey the command. Dazed, she looked down and discovered the same orange substance covered the ground where she fell, and was smeared across her jeans.

    “No…argh…,” the Professor gurgled, rolled away, and grabbed at his head.

    “What the-” John knelt down next to his teacher and reached for him.

    I should stop him, Rachel thought, a part of her still vaguely connected.

    “No. You shouldn’t,” Megan and Cali spoke together, and Rachel knew that they were right.

    Everything was now as it should be.

  5. Rachel, the Queen of Drama in the fifth grade, screamed for the third time since the class arrived at the refuge. Professor Goodwin rolled his eyes with impatience.

    “Jimmy fell down!” She yelled.

    Anticipating this was another prank by the infamous Jimmy Cooper he turned and was shocked to find the boy laying on the ground near a tree covered with an unusual orange substance. Jimmy’s hands were covered with the same orange goo. His breathing was shallow and quickening. The first aid kit on the bus contained an epinephrine injection. Perhaps this was an allergic reaction.

    Not wanting to alarm the children, he played it cool.

    “Children listen. Jimmy needs medical attention. Rachel you take his pack, John and Nick, let’s get him back to the bus.” Assigning tasks would hopefully keep the rambunctious group together.

    “Don’t touch that orange substance on the tree, it may be toxic.” Professor Goodwin ordered.

    Surprisingly, the children did as they were told and together everyone made it back to the bus.

    The epinephrine brought Jimmy to and the children cheered and jumped around excitedly.

    Until Rachel let out another piercing scream. “Look!” Pointing at Jimmy.

    Not only had Jimmy regained consciousness, he also seemed to be morphing before their eyes. Morphing into an orange skinned, green eyed alien. His large, cat like eyes blinked, his mouth formed thick fangs and his ears grew pointed.

    An exasperated Professor Goodwin pondered if there was a cure for alien transformation in the first aid kit.

  6. What no one knew was that Jimmy had a heart murmur and any sudden shock could be fatal. Had it been the mention of a UFO that had sent him into anaphylactic shock, or the strange liquid on the tree, which later turned out to be Baboon droppings moistened into a gooey paste by the previous nights rain? No. Jimmy had astutely spotted that the Professor`s heart was beating on both sides of his chest and that he was one of the aliens and he had lured the party into the woods in order to kidnap them and take them on board their craft. Jimmy had deduced this in seconds using his analytical brain and thought, because of his extraordinary skill, he would be the one the Aliens would want back on their secret world. …
    Jimmy woke with a headache. All around him was a strange luminous glow. Distorted faces swirled in and out of his vision. He tried to move but nothing happened. Then he felt it, the sharp prick of a needle. A feeling of euphoria crept over him. Then he remembered. He must be inside the craft, the aliens probing the inner recesses of his mind and body…..
    `Jimmy!` A voice, muffled, far away was calling him. So they had somehow discovered his name with their devilish experimenting. …
    `Jimmy? ` The voice again, closer, more insistent. `Jimmy, The Professor and Rachel have come to see you. Are you up to visitors yet?`

  7. ***FINALIST***

    The sticky resin began to pulse and grow as it covered Jimmy’s hand. Rachel screamed as it quickly encased his arm and then his torso and finally his legs and his head. The substance continued to pulse and squiggle around his body, but any sign of Jimmy was gone.

    “Stay back!” Professor Goodwin said.

    His words had come too late as Rachel backed into a gloop covered branch and then fell forward into several other students. Each of them fell prey to the resin as Jimmy had. The professor watched the children fall like dominoes with his mouth agape.

    When the last child had fallen, covered with the sticky resin, he closed his mouth and his lips twisted to a smile. This situation would fund his research grant for the next twenty years, he was sure of it. He pulled out his phone and snapped pictures of the children’s cocoons, and wished that he had had the presence of mind to start collecting data sooner.

    Professor Goodwin stepped over Jimmy’s cocoon as he moved away from the affected area. He needed a stick to poke at the resin.

    He turned his back to Jimmy’s cocoon, to all of the children as his thoughts turned to his future life of luxury researching this phenomenon. He never saw the puff of smoke that exhaled from Jimmy’s cocoon as it split down the center. He never saw the tentacle that stretched out to snake its way around his leg.

  8. Rachel knelt next to Jimmy’s unconscious body and watched as the orange mass absorbed into his skin and turned the veins in his hand black. The inky mass spread across his body, up his neck, and pooled around his eyes. A scream tore through Jimmy as he shook. It was too much. Rachel forced fists over her ears and buried her face in the dirt until the sound stopped. When she sat back up the blackness was no longer there and his eyes were open.

    “Thank God you’re alive. I was scared to death.”

    The being inside of Jimmy studied this new soft peach colored flesh as it scanned his host’s memory for names. His name was Jimmy. And the girl next to him was Rachel. “What happened?”

    “You touched that orange crap and passed out.”

    He stood, wide eyed, “Earth! This is Earth. We need to leave, now.”

    The foreign being froze in place as those surrounding him began to stare up at the sky.

    “No! It shouldn’t be happening so soon.”

    Jimmy grabbed a handful of the orange material from the nearest tree, wiped a small dab on Rachel’s neck, and pocketed the rest. “You won’t be able hear me but this will hurt like hell. I’m so sorry but we have no more time.”

    He threw Rachel over his shoulder just as she started to shake and ran deeper into the woods, leaving the others.

  9. “Check out the weird goop covering all the trees,” said Jimmy. “It looks like Starburst vomit.”

    “You’re disgusting,” said Rachel. “It wasn’t here yesterday.”

    Jimmy laughed. “Maybe your imaginary space aliens left it last night.”

    “The UFO was real.”

    “Sure it was.”

    “That’s enough,” said Professor Goodwin. He didn’t have the patience for their bickering.

    Every shadow in the refuge made his skin prickle, like they were being watched. This place normally teamed with wildlife, but they hadn’t seen a single bird all morning. The rest of the students clustered together as silent as the woods. Only Jimmy and Rachel seemed unaffected.

    He studied the vibrant yellow and orange growth coating the tree. “Let me collect a sample then we’ll go back to the classroom.”

    “I got it,” said Jimmy, as he yanked a handful of the stuff. A second later he collapsed.

    “That hurt,” said a strange warbling voice. “How’d you like your skin pulled off.”

    Rachel screamed and pointed at two eyes on what the professor had thought was a tree.

    “What…who…?” Professor Goodwin couldn’t seem to put two words together.

    The tree like creature poked at Jimmy’s prone form. “Your boy tried to mutilate me.”

    “Tr…tree.”

    “Yes, I’m a plant. You humans are so animal centric. The name is Michelangelo Bernini Trillian.”

    The Professor pointed a shaking finger at Jimmy. “Dead?”

    “I thought you creatures were supposed to be intelligent. He’s breathing. My natural bio-toxin just knocked him out. Now get out of my sculpture.”

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