Ah, finally! This was what Tom had been waiting for: true wilderness.
Right at this moment, quitting his job and selling everything became totally worth it. Tom had gotten absolutely disgusted with the rat race and couldn’t deal with it anymore. He wanted to get as far away from people as possible. And now, at last, he was.
As he pondered where to set up his tent, there was a loud noise behind him. Quickly turning, Tom’s jaw dropped when he saw…
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.
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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: Tom’s Turmoil”
… Rats; thousands of them. Maybe hundreds of thousands. They came at him as a mass, a wave of brown, all surging, all turning, this way and that, through the trees, toward the shore of the lake.
Stunned beyond belief, he stood stock still and watched them advance. They reached his booted feet and swarmed him, climbing up his pant legs, jumping at his hands and arms. They attached themselves to his clothing with sharp teeth and tiny claws. They were big, heavy. They weighed him down.
He stumbled backward and hit the ground, hard. The wave of rats rolled over him. The weight of them pushed his head beneath the waters of the lake. He couldn’t breathe. Tiny feet clogged his nose, feet and scaly tails filled his mouth. He tried to scream and couldn’t.
The rat race won.
Tom hiked for three weeks from where he left his Landrover near the Talkeetna River plaza. It had been a rough trek through the dense Alaskan undergrowth, and he was exhausted. He started to set up camp for the night when he turned and saw her standing there.
He hadn’t heard her come through the dense brush. She was carrying survey gear and said something, but in the shock of seeing her, he didn’t hear what she said.
Finally, she got through to him, “Sweetie, I asked, what are you doing here?”
Tom’s mouth finally started to move, but very little came out of it other than a stuttering sound, which made her chuckle, “Come on now! You mean to say you never saw a pretty girl out hear before?”
Finally his voice came back to him, “No, I, I mean yes.”
This made her laugh out loud, “So why are you camping here? It’s not very attractive spot; besides we start construction here tomorrow.”
He stammered, “I, I had to get away from everyone and I just kept hiking until I was nowhere, and this is it. Survey? Construction? What are you talking about?”
“Nowhere huh? Well Sweetie, you sure picked a strange nowhere. Tomorrow, we are putting up a brand new Wal-Mart Plaza here. Now, pick up your stuff and I’ll buy you a latte at Starbucks just over the hill.”
“Suddenly, he realized, he had circled back to where he left his Landrover by Starbucks.
… a gigantic black bear totally unconcerned about the noise it was making, or about Tom, walking within ten feet of his truck. Tom’s heart raced. Man, being that close to something so wild was awesomesauce. This was why he’d come. This was why he’d left those city rats behind. That Walden dude’s the man.
The urge to follow numbed Tom’s fear of appearing on the next episode of “When Bears Attack.”
Light-footed as possible, he snuck through the heavy brush, tracking the bear at a safe distance. Each step enhanced the euphoria he had longed for back among the daily drudgers. When the forest thinned, he slowed, then squatted at the edge of a clearing and took in the intoxicating vista.
Near the river, back dropped by mountains, steam rose off a small pool.
Even though he’d heard of local hot springs, this was the first one he’d come across.
Tom froze, slow blinked twice. The sauna-like pool wasn’t what had him blown away.
Dumbfounded, he watched the bear lower itself into the pool beside three other bears. His bear leaned over and kissed one of the other bears on the muzzle.
“Bad day?” The kissed bear smoothed Tom’s bear’s fur.
Tom’s bear stretched, than spread its arms on the edge of this wilderness hot tub. “Do bears poop in the woods?” It growled, “SOS,DD. Some idiot camped in the passing lane.”
Tom turned away, pushed toward base camp. Man, I got to stop smoking so much dope, he thought.
The rustling of leaves had the hairs on the back of Tom’s neck standing up. When the only thing he saw was a chipmunk skittering amongst the fallen acorns, he let out a relieved whistle.
All the while erecting the one man tent and collecting branches for a fire, Tom sensed he was being watched. With every turn he only ever saw the chipmunk collecting nuts.
After cooking a fresh catch of fish over the fire Tom doused the flames and zipped himself into his tent. With the sounds of water lapping at the lakeshore and crickets chirping, Tom was content at last. Even the rumbling thunder and patter of rain wouldn’t ruin his plans to live free of the rat race.
One thing Tom hadn’t anticipated were the giant mosquitos buzzing around his head. Within the confines of the tent Tom was certain the blood suckers were multiplying by the hundreds. Soon the pungent stench of skunk burned his nostrils. A clamoring outside had him peeking from the tent door to see a family of raccoons rummaging through his supplies. Every hot dog and potato chip being consumed by the greedy creatures.
A loud crack overhead meant the storm had moved in bringing torrential rains. A hole in the tent allowed the once cozy bed to become flooded.
In disgust Tom hastily pulled stakes and loaded up his gear.
When the alarm woke him early Monday morning he made a vow.
“Next Saturday I’ll try it again.”
a rising plume of smoke and ash towering above the remnants of the summit atop the formerly dormant volcano.
He had felt safe, after all, it had remained silent for hundreds of years. Now it roared back to life.
The location was so beautiful: the fast-flowing river that lay before him promised bountiful fishing to sustain him. Now, horrified, he watched as a flaming orange gusher of molten rock cascaded towards him.
Where to go? Where to run? In this pathless wilderness, the nearest road was miles away — and the lava was moving very, very fast.
Watching the fiery flow enter the river before him as clouds of searingly hot steam drifted his way, Tom muttered to himself: “Umm…bad day for a sauna!”.
“What the hell was that?” I say turning towards the sound.
In the distance I see two men dressed in camouflage gear, carrying weapons, but they don’t look like any hunting rifles I’ve ever seen.
Maybe they won’t spot me, I think.
No such luck. One man waves to the other then points towards me.
They begin sprinting towards me. My instinct is to stay put and see what they want, but these dudes look pretty intimidating and I’m not about to get myself killed in the middle of nowhere.
I run for dear life.
As I clear the first row of trees I hear a popping sound and something flies past my left ear.
“What the hell’s going on?” I scream, as I reach the river’s edge. It’s to turbulent to traverse by swimming, so I begin jumping from boulder to boulder hoping to make it across before they get here.
Halfway across I hear a voice say, “Hands up Johnny.”
I freeze, raise my hands over my head and reply, “This is a big misunderstanding boys. My name’s Tom, not Johnny.”
“Bull.” I hear one of them say as he discharges his weapon.
Something strikes me in the back and I tumble into the cold stream.
I pop up out of the water terrified and watch as they pull off their masks and begin to apologize.
“Sorry man, we really thought you were Johnny.”
“Am I gonna die?”
“No” they reply smiling, “It’s just paintball.”
A tree crashed to the ground about twenty meters where he had set his gear down. The clear cutting crew had been efficient and quiet, at least till they had gotten so close to where he had planned to set up camp.
But it wasn’t the encroachment of the loggers that disturbed him so much. The sign, seen now that some trees had been cut away, the giant sign proclaiming the future home of Flatbush Acres. They followed him. Tom packed up his gear just in time to get away from the next tree to fall. They didn’t stop, cutting and clearing away trees around the area and through where he had staked out a space away from the world.
He hiked back the way he had come only to find that the crew had cleared out a path large enough for the heavy equipment to push through. Bull dozers and diggers had set to work tearing up stumps and leveling the ground. The forest had been cleared all the way back to the side of the road and his car parked just into the first line of trees.
Well, where his car used to be. It had become a dumping point for dirt and rocks. The orange wind sock on his radio antenna fluttered in the wind, just barely visible over the growing mound of earth.
And then it started to rain.
Space. All that was in front of Tom was empty space. Outer space. The world had just ended along a straight line behind him, beyond which only space remained. This is something Tom was not used to in the middle of British Columbia.
And yet, nothing got sucked out into the vacuum. In fact the breeze in the treetops had stopped, the air was still. Tom mustered together all his courage to lean over the edge. He achieved little, something blocked his crossing the line. A dim red glow came from underneath, surely the inside of the earth. Other than that, just more space. Just as Tom started to reach the conclusion everybody on the other side must be dead, a telepathic voice rang in his head. Across all mankind, as he later would learn.
“Earthians! It has come to our attention that our attempts to rejuvenate the universe have caused some inconvenience to your world. We apologize for the miscalculation. Rest assured, the other half of your planet is very much intact. It just shrank along with space itself in the area rejuvenated to about 1% its former size relative to you. A forcefield has been instated to keep the halves from collapsing. You will be reunited once the rejuvenation device is ready for the next phase, until then things have been stabilized for each half. In a mere 247 years, everything will be back to normal. Thank you for your patience.”
The ground vibrated beneath his feet. Tom looked up as the loud rumble directed his eyes towards the terrifying sight. The mountain face was crumbling. A gigantic mass of rock and dirt hurtled downwards.
‘This is your karma.’
The bizarre statement flashed in his mind like a tacky neon sign.
Guru Ram Randy’s pudgy face popped up in front of his eyes. The Guru had introduced Tom to the theory of karma.
‘It is like action and reaction. Good action gets good reaction, bad action gets bad reaction.’
Guru Ram Randy’s words hovered over him. He cursed the day he had taken the Guru’s advice.
Tom had renounced the world, withdrawn from the rat race in search of peace and contentment.
His karma had led him to this very spot. The wilderness would embrace him forever. He got down on his knees and folded his hands.
‘Destiny is not yours to control.’
The Guru’s words badgered his final thoughts.
The deafening roar of sliding earth eclipsed any remaining ray of hope.
Tom braced himself for the impact. His body trembled violently as his nerves went haywire. The distress was so overwhelming that Tom didn’t notice the quiet that suddenly surrounded him. His eyes opened to inspect the damage. The debris of the landslide lay a few hundred feet away.
Tom jumped to his feet in jubilation. His karma had actually saved him. He turned just in time to see the mountain lion leap.
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