Flash Fiction Challenge: Rough and Unready

Frosted Tamaracks flash fiction writing prompt by KS Brooks ALL RIGHTS RESERVED122911 peek
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

They wanted to rough it. There would be no phones, no computers, no contact with the outside world.

Trevor could see the glaring flaw in that plan now. Zack started having acute abdominal pain last night. This morning he was feverish and almost unresponsive. Whatever it was, they needed to get him to a hospital and quickly.

They crafted a makeshift stretcher to carry Zack several miles back to the trail head. When they got there, the car was gone…

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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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Rough and Unready”

  1. ***FINALIST***

    The three of them lugged Zack’s unconscious body on that damn makeshift stretcher for miles. Their trek back to where they left Sheila’s SUV was not an easy one. Exhausted, they collapsed when they discovered it was missing and with it all hope of saving Zack.

    Everything was still wet and soggy from last night’s rain. As Candy kneeled on the wet ground comforting Zack, she sighed “Zack is so screwed; we’ll never get him out now.”

    Sheila put her arm around Candy’s shoulder and said “Not yet, give me Zack’s survival manual.” Then she called out, “Trevor! Get as much wet wood as you can carry, stat.”

    Trevor was up and to the edge of the woods and back within minutes with an armful of damp branches. Candy watched them build a fire, “You’re never going to get that wet wood lit.”

    Sheila briefly looked up, “You are so wrong!” Soon she had a small fire going under the wet wood which soon started sending up billowing clouds of smoke.

    It wasn’t long before a park ranger arrived in a small chopper to check out the smoke, and there was just enough room by the trail head to land. They gingerly loaded Zack on board and the ranger raced him out; leaving them to hike out.

    Candy asked Sheila, “How did you get the fire going?”

    Sheila calmly replied, “Why with the only dry thing we had, the Survival Manual, every single lousy page of it.”

  2. ***FINALIST***

    Sara had married Roy, knowing about his bad heart, knowing what people would think of a young, pretty woman marrying an older man. A year later, when he died of a heart attack, Sara became a very wealthy, young, pretty woman.

    When she married Zack, someone her age, who had made a killing in computers, no one could accuse her of gold-digging. Not this time.

    Zack was frequently compared to Steve Jobs, only a nicer upgraded version. When not working, he liked to get away from 1’s and 0’s and go rustic. He and his best friend Trevor had a tradition of get-aways for a weekend of beer, fishing and no electronics of any kind.

    To show her support, Sara packed a gourmet basket including the exclusive brand of beer that only Zack could seem to tolerate.

    When Trevor and Zack reached the parking lot, better suited as a playground for mountain goats, Zack joked not to forget to set the handbrake or they might have to walk home.

    When the nausea and cramps started that night, Zack thought: one beer too many. Trevor found him unresponsive the next morning and frantically cobbled together a stretcher from an old canvas cot. At the parking lot, Trevor stared in disbelief at the crumpled car resting down an embankment.

    Sara was humming softly to herself. Spare keys. Speciality beer with an added touch of yellow oleander. An even wealthier, young, pretty woman.

  3. All the forest heard them crashing through the brush. Three booted bipeds carried a fourth: male, supine. Their hairless bodies were covered in cotton fibers and animal hide. They stank.

    “Jeff, did you see something over there?” A female staggered into the clearing.

    “Gillian, keep it down,” hissed Trevor.

    The sow had last fed her cub yesterday. She had captured a slumbering Marmota monax; presented the rich groundhog flesh to her son. Now her cub clung to the tree limb above her. Clumsy and curious, he was too young to hunt.

    “Something moved,” Gillian panted.

    “Take it easy,” wheezed Jeff.

    The sow fixed her cub with a penetrating stare. She flexed her paws in the duff of pine needles.

    “Look over by the trees,” Gillian gasped.

    The cub watched his mother rise to a crouch. Forefeet to strike and blind the prey. Hind legs to grip and tear the body.

    “Jeff. Trevor? Help?”

    The sow came out of the trees at a run.

    “Help. Bear!”

    Breakfast was served.

  4. ***FINALIST***

    The first thing Trevor and Mike did was panic. Where was the car? When they set Zack’s stretcher down, Mike could see tire-tracks in the mud leading from the trailhead out to the main road. He knew then they would have to carry Zack the rest of the way to the road to get help. When Mike moved to pick up the stretcher, Trevor stopped him.

    Instead of picking up the stretcher, Trevor pulled a pen knife out of his coat pocket.

    “Whoa, wait. What are you doing?” Mike asked.

    “His appendix burst. He could die if we don’t take it out,” Trevor stated.

    “I don’t know about this…”

    “Just pour some water over the blade.”

    Mike poured the last of his water bottle over the knife. Trevor knelt down next to Zack and lifted up Zack’s shirt. He pressed on Zack’s abdomen, like he’d seen in all those doctor shows on TV.

    “Shouldn’t we talk more about this?” Mike asked.

    “Just shut up and hold him down,” Trevor snapped.

    Taking a deep breath, Trevor stabbed the knife into Zack’s stomach. Zack screamed out in pain.

    “What the hell are you doing?!” Zack shouted.

    “Your appendix burst. We need to take it out…” Trevor replied.

    “What! No it didn’t. I just have food poisoning!”

    “Wait, what…?”

    “Yeah, remember that weird fish we ate yesterday?”

    “Shit. Well, now what am I supposed to do?”

    Instead of dying of appendicitis in a cabin in the woods, Zack bled out in the mud.

  5. The snow tipped trees stood in silent juxtaposition to the rising panic in Trevor’s head. Pieces of the shattered car window glittered among the shallow tire tracks, leaving little doubt as to what had happened to their car.
    With grim amusement he pictured the carjackers running out of gas, stranding them too. However, Zack’s groans pulled him back to reality, and he took stock of the situation.
    “Okay Zack, we have no car, no phone, and our backpacks. What would MacGyver do in this situation?”
    Zack shivered silently, so Trevor answered himself absently, “He’d probably build a helicopter out of rust shavings and a flashlight.”
    Trevor put his face in his hands, despairing at the hopelessness of the situation. Wide eyed, he looked up as a thought struck him. “I can’t build a helicopter, but I may have a lighthouse.”
    With renewed vigor Trevor dropped his backpack to the ground and began digging through it. Tucked at the bottom was the new flashlight his brother had given him before he and Zack had left. “You can use it to scare away the bears” his brother had taunted. At the time, Trevor had just rolled his eyes, but it may save them yet.
    Scaling a nearby tree with the flashlight tucked in his pocket, he looked around frantically. In the distance he could just make out a cabin. Pulling out his flashlight he aimed it and began signaling the only Morse code he’d ever learned, and hoped someone saw his S.O.S.

  6. Zack’s abdominal pains are quickly forgotten as six axe-wielding men walk out of the woods; encircling the friends. No words are spoken as the plaid covered men close in on the unsuspecting campers. Suddenly, one of the men laughs.

    “Seems dat der fella is in pain. Whachu think, Reg?”

    The bearded man on the opposite side of the circle nods. “Appears so, Ted. Maybe he ate sumtin’ poisonous.”

    Another man adds, “might be dem mushroom I added to his stew when he weren’t look’n.”

    All sex men laugh in near unison.

    Trevor stood still – paralyzed by the situation. There’s nowhere for him to go, nothing for him to do. Even if he is able to fight one, or even two of them off, the rest of the maniacs would easily take him down. Zack is as good as dead, and had been so since last night. It’s only through Trevor’s blind determination that he had made the trek back to the car with his friend in tow. Now it’s plain to see that all of it was for nothing.

    Trevor has no idea what these men want, or why they chose him and Zack as targets, and he never would. As each axe hacks into his flesh, every ounce of blood stains the ground red and every agonizing scream belted from his lungs, his dying thoughts are simple.

    Why me, God, why me?

  7. The old Jeep must have exploded into a billion, microscopic, god-forsaken pieces. Trevor cursed, wishing for the eightieth time he’d brought his sat phone. “Well, bud, looks like I’m hiking for help.”

    “I always knew it would end like this,” Zack whispered.

    “Say what?” Trevor leaned close, ignoring his shaking hands–must be adrenaline.

    “I’ve dreamt this a thousand times, bringing us here. I must die.”

    The stress made Trevor feel pissed. “No, you must NOT die. We survived Iraq, we’ll survive this.”

    “I’ve been here, seen this. I just didn’t believe it’d really happen. She’s gotta live…”

    “Calm yourself, man. Just a little SNAFU. Do you remember how far to the nearest settlement?” Trevor hefted the stretcher, sweat congealing under his gear.

    “She loves you,” Zack coughed. “I’ll sacrifice, to save her.”

    “Shut up–you’re going home.”

    Trevor’s terror subsided when Zack finally quieted. He fixated on pacing himself. Trevor doubted rescuers came by often, but he’d get Zack to safety.

    But then Zack had to speak. “Be good to her. Like you’ve been good to me– Thanks, dude.”

    “No goodbyes!” Trevor roared, plowing onward. But the stretcher jerked while Zack’s scream embedded shrapnel into Trevor’s bones.

    Suddenly, Trevor noticed the keening began in his own throat, not Zack’s. And he was saturated by frost. Pine needles bored into him from below, concern plastering the familiar faces hovering above. Zack crouched besides his friend, his hand heating Trevor’s shoulder. “Dude, it’s all cool. We fight the same demon.”

  8. ***FINALIST***

    After stopping for Mexican, the scouting group soon realized they shouldn’t have challenged Zack to eat that fifth bean burrito.

    “Come on Trevor, we have to get Zack to a hospital!”

    Scared for his buddy, Trevor snapped. “No sh*t Jack, why do you think Marty and I carried him back here from the trail head? No thanks to you.”

    “You were the one who left the keys in the car for someone to steal!” Jack bit back.

    “You were the one who said we should leave our phones in it!” Trevor had had enough of the lazy, condescending jerk. “Marty, kick Jack in the ass for me will ya?”

    Marty chuckled just as Zack groaned. It had been a long night and taken all morning to trek back up the trail.

    “Hey Zack, how you doing buddy?” Trevor and Marty set the makeshift stretcher down as their friend got to his feet.

    “Not so great. I need to go find a tree!” The three scouts watched in astonishment as Zack ran for the woods and dropped trou.

    Several minutes later Zack re-joined the others in the empty parking lot, looking pale but far better.

    Happy his friend had obviously relieved himself of the sickening burritos, Trevor couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give Zack some grief.

    “Since we carried you four miles, you get to find a way out of here.”

    Dumbfounded, Zack asked, “So what are we doing here? The car is in the south lot morons.”

  9. After Trevor and Brandon hauled an ailing Zack back to the parking lot, they had no choice but to continue to the main road on foot when they found the lot empty. They vowed to get their friend the help he needed or die trying.

    A car’s windshield reflected a glinting of morning sun from the bottom of a deep ravine. The young man cursed his decision to steal the death trap when, without resistance, the brake petal landed freely on the floor board of the old car. Instead of bringing it to a slow stop the car careened helplessly over the cliff. Blood began to flow from the thief’s fractured skull, staining his vision scarlet before going black.

    Taking the tight curves at breakneck speeds the ambulance driver didn’t have time to react when two men carrying another on a makeshift stretcher came into site. The impact crushed Trevor, Brandon and Zack against the jagged rocks of the narrow switchback.

    The ambulance ricocheted across the mountain road and down the opposite side, rolling several times before landing on it’s side and bursting into flames.

    Two first responders lay burned to death under a ton of twisted metal meant to bring help to a thief that stole the car that may have saved a sick friend carried by his two devoted friends.

    Stranger’s lives entwined by death.

  10. ***FINALIST***

    I’ve never been fond of the wilderness since the incident. My father was out there, minding his own business when he encountered a pack of dirty…

    I never saw the body, but I knew it was ugly.
    The damn creatures. Ferocious, brutal creatures. He never even disturbed them. They’ll tell you: never challenge them, never make eye contact. Knowing my father, he understood. I know, I know he did none of those things, but that didn’t save him.

    I don’t know what it was that brought me back into the wilderness. Call it instinct, call it destiny, but some force compelled me to do so. Perhaps it was the latter.

    Surely, if not destiny, it was then madness.

    Each step was an agonizing mix of discomfort and fear. Each time I saw something move I thought it was them. Each time I heard so much as a-

    CRACK.

    I froze. In the clearing ahead, I saw vague figures. The sounds they made caused me to tremble.

    “Oh God. Oh, dear God, why did we do this!”
    “Zack? Come on, Zack! Wake up!”

    My paws trembled, with a newfound rage. I didn’t know if they were my fathers’ killers, but I didn’t care. Not for their wounded, not for the fear in their eyes. They walked on two legs. I walked on four. I roared.
    They stood still, awestruck.

    Call it destiny.

  11. The ranger station had closed for the season. They had carried Zack via stretcher all the way back and had no other recourse. Jessica pushed Trevor till he agreed to break into the station office and look for a phone.

    “We need an ambulance or something,” she said. “Hell, even if the cops bust us for breaking and entering we should still be able to get some help here.” She glared at Trevor before she stomped over to where they had lain Zack on the ground.

    Amy kneeled over his body. She had past her first year in nursing school and felt out of her depth still. Sure she could check him and get an idea of what was going on but it wasn’t enough.

    George twisted the door knob again. It was still locked. The whole thing was his fault. He had left the keys in the car. But the park was closed and they could get lost in the woods for the weekend. No one would know. But Zack…

    He walked around to the front of the station. The big picture window would give him access, all he needed was a decent rock and then maybe something to help him over the edge.

    He found the biggest rock he could carry and beat at the window to crack it, then he stood back and threw it at the cracked glass. It shattered in a spray and lights flicked on inside the building.

    The three of them were caught off guard by the lights and the sounds of movement from inside the building. They were even less prepared for the shotgun barrel that peeked out of the newly broken window.

    There were no words when the first blast hit Trevor in the face. His head exploded in a shower of lead shot and bone. The barrel turned its attention to Amy and Jessica and fired again. Jessica dropped to the ground and didn’t move but Amy took the shot to the leg. She fell to the ground but clawed and scrambled as best she could away from the weapons assault. She hadn’t made it far when she heard the footsteps approach and then stop beside her.

    “I hoped it had just been your car I would have to dispose of.” The rough voice wheezed out the words.

    Amy rolled over to look up at him and was met by the butt of the rifle to her temple. It was the last thing she saw.

    An hour after he had killed off the sick on, Jeb had loaded the bodies into the back and trunk of the car. There was a lake at the end of the service road into the campground that he could push the car into before he left the area.

    Damn kids. They always got in the way of his good time.

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