Flash Fiction Challenge: River Gods

flash fiction race boat writing prompt
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

The River Gods is an annual speedboat race down 10 miles of the Tuscahana, a twisting length of water that eventually connects to the Mizzoula.

The boats are capable of speeds much greater than is permitted by the narrow and frequent bends of the river, making this one of the more dangerous races in all watersports.

Perennial contender Mark Mayfield was having the best race of his life and would almost doubtlessly have won. But he saw something happening on the bank as he rounded the final corner and decided he had to act. It cost him the race, but it made him a hero…

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 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.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories 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: River Gods”

  1. They’re calling you a hero Mr. Mayfield. How do feel about that?” Eva Lang pushed the microphone in Mark’s face, demanding answers.

    After breathing life back into the drowning boy, Mark didn’t have time to formulate much of an answer. “I just did what anyone would have done in the situation.” Shivering from the cold and shock of seeing an elusive legend, he wondered if anyone else had witnessed it.

    “No need for modesty Mr. Mayfield. The title of River God was within your grasp. How do you feel about losing that?”

    Reporters, he thought. “Excuse me Ma’am, I need to go warm up.” He escaped the interview while Eva and her cameraman continued broadcasting without missing a beat.

    “This is Eva Lang on the banks of The Tuscahana River where we just witnessed a miracle. Mark Mayfield, moments away from crossing the finish line and claiming title of River God, jumped from his speeding boat to save the life of a small boy who nearly drowned after falling from his raft. Mark, you may not be River God but you are a hero. Back to you Steve.”

    Heading in the direction of the authorities, Mark wondered if anyone would believe him. The deep and winding Tuscahana was home to a legendary river monster. He never believed the legend until today.

    They needed to believe him in order to keep everyone out of the water. The boy hadn’t fallen in at all, he was going to be lunch.

  2. He felt the adrenaline, as he hugged the final turn. At close to 120MPH, his craft threw a roostertail over two hundred feet high. The crowd went wild. Everyone knew the race was his. He could see the finish buoys on the horizon. Now, after six consecutive placements without a victory, Mark Mayfield was going to win the annual River Gods.

    He was about to downshift for a spectacular finish. He even toyed with flooding the fuel with a final infusion of nitrous, but a flash of orange caught his eye. He paused, and cast a second glance towards shore. The finish was beckoning, the crowds in a frenzy. Yet he was the only one that could offer aid in time. He killed the engine and cut the wheel.

    Mark coasted up to the river’s edge. He could hear the piercing shrieks. He saw fiery hues of orange flickering through the branches. He jumped out and acted. His help was needed; a life was in peril.

    Three boats zoomed past. Each won a podium finish.

    Mark coasted across the line in fourth place. As he stepped out, reporters swarmed the dock. He may not have won the River Gods, but he won the hearts of everyone who witnessed his heroic act.

    Sheila McMurtry was first for an interview. “Mr. Mayfield, you had this race in the bag. Was it worth throwing it all away?”

    Mark slipped the tabby kitten out of his jacket. His smile showed that it was.

  3. “One more turn, baby, and we’re golden,” Mayfield muttered to his boat, The Blue Betty. He bent low over the wheel and nudged it left. She made the turn perfectly, just like she had every other turn.

    If Mayfield had looked ahead, he’d have seen the flags marking the finish line. But he didn’t. He was looking at what was happening on the shore; in particular, the giant robotic dinosaur charging its ocular heat rays to blast a couple of teenagers.

    “RoboRex,” Mayfield groaned. “Not again.”

    He throttled Betty down hard, yanked the wheel. She spun around and slammed sideways into the riverbank. Mayfield didn’t have time to grab his helmet, mounted on Betty’s hull. Sprinting, he unsnapped his coat pocket and pulled out his SpectroBlaster.

    “Hey, Robby!” he shouted, skidding to a stop. “What’s the matter, did you miss the breakfast buffet?”

    RoboRex turned. Its red eyes brightened in recognition. The massive jaw opened in a grinding metallic roar. The whine of the heat rays cycled up.

    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he called. “Look where you are.”

    RoboRex cocked its head.

    “Wrong side of the river,” Mayfield said, aiming his weapon. “Not your turf. Now get out, before things get messy and I have to explain things to the Council.”

    With a final frustrated roar, RoboRex turned and stomped away.

    Mayfield slumped to the ground.

    “Hey man,” one of the teens said. “Who are you?”

    Mayfield heard cheering in the distance. “A loser,” he sighed.

  4. They say when you meet Death everything stops and moves in slow motion. Mayfield was in the lead. As he rounded the last river curve of the race, he spotted the inflatable assault craft hitting the beach by the Finish Line bleachers, right near his family. For Mayfield, his world stopped as he realized his family was about to die. Three armored terrorists seemed to move in slow motion as they took aim from the craft at his family in the bleachers.

    Suddenly, he no longer heard the roar of his engines, instead, he heard raspy words from the empty passenger seat beside him, “Do it and they live today.” From the corner of his right eye, he glimpsed the dark cloaked figure of Death pointing at the bleachers. Again Death spoke, “I can only hold time for so long; do it now.”

    In Mark’s heightened state of awareness, he rammed the throttle of his cigarette boat full force, and jerked the wheel straight at the terrorists. Suddenly, time caught up with Mark as the motors roared and he became air bound. In the blink of an eye, time returned. Mark instantly crashed down on top of the terrorists with a loud bone crushing force of destruction.

    Mark awoke on his back fifty feet from the scene of destruction and burning chaos. When he heard that raspy voice again, “You did good today, you saved your family. Now take my hand, it is time to go.”

  5. The infamous scene from Deliverance played through Mark’s head as he leapt from his boat to intervene in a brutal assault. A knife-wielding man knelt over his naked victim. Mark tackled the man, knocking him to the ground and taking away the knife.
    “Back off!” he warned, pointing the knife at the man.
    “What the hell are you doing?”
    “I might ask you the same thing!” Mark growled.
    “Look!” the man said, pointing behind him.
    Warily Mark turned, and then he saw the “victim”.
    “What is that?” he whispered.
    “It’s been killing my livestock. Today it took my dog. Poor Blue. Durn thing swallowed him whole.”
    It resembled the grub worms Mark used as fishing bait. Easily twelve feet long, its segmented body writhed, injured from the attack.
    “Your dog is inside that thing?”
    Mark crept closer to inspect the creature, noting its swollen midsection. As he watched, the bulge moved.
    Mark descended with the knife. Grayish-green fluid oozed from the path of the blade as he sliced. Gagging, Mark reached inside the belly of the beast and sure enough, he felt a paw. He pulled, and the dog slid out in a gush of foulness.
    The man knelt beside his pet. “At least I can give him a decent burial. Thank you.”
    Suddenly Blue stood, then gave himself a mighty shake, covering them with disgusting worm slime.
    “Blue! You’re alive!”
    The race was lost, but he’d saved a life. Mark was definitely a winner that day.

  6. Ah, the river. This was where he belonged. Anywhere else, he was Mark Mayfield: pencil pusher, divorcee. But here, he was nothing short of a god.
    He felt a connection to the Tuscahana, for all its curves and bends. There was an danger involved, yes, but not without glory. This river was child’s play. This race was his.
    He masterfully manoeuvred the boat, swerving, darting, speeding, flying. The competition had nothing on him. They were but the vulnerable deer, and he was the powerful alligator heading steadily towards…
    He gave himself some pause. The scene he saw unfolding on the banks ahead was just nature. God makes prey. Predator eats prey. And yet the innocent, unassuming nature of the deer tugged at his heartstrings.
    He tugged at the steering wheel, turning the boat sharply. He didn’t crash- he was too much of an expert to do so- but it was enough to scare the deer away, and he heard a loud thump: God kills predator.
    As the other contestants passed him, they smiled. His pompous god-complex wouldn’t survive this. But only Mark knew: he had the power of life and death: he decided that nature would not have its way on his river, that that deer would live. His boat was his chariot. The dead crocodile was his trophy.

    And he was the River God.

  7. Mark Mayfield finally smiled when he sensed nothing short of the heavens opening could keep him from a historic title. Past disappointments now seemed like jewels for the ultimate crown as he neared the final turn in Constance. A blown engine, a controversial photo finish, and a disqualification due to mechanical error had been tough breaks. But nothing compared to the seven years of racing he he’d lost after a crash ten years earlier.

    Mark’s body had skimmed across the water like a skipping stone before crashing into a bank. He spent two weeks in a coma while machines kept his shattered body alive. With his skull fractured and many bones broken, including his back in three places, doctors said he’d probably never walk again. But he walked four years later and raced again in three more, when disqualification nullified a glorious triumph. Now he saw certain victory, until something else caught his eye.

    As Mark rounded the final corner he saw a skydiving journalist bounce off a tree and then the riverbank before disappearing underwater. Constance slowed as Mark circled toward the other bank and back.

    Focused only on the helpless man, Mark never saw the alerted rescue crew recover the journalist—who survived to immortalize the sport’s greatest hero. He also never saw the approaching racer off Constance’s starboard bow. He saw only a flash of light when it struck him in the head, but he would recognize his greatest victory without ever crossing the finish line.

  8. The announcer’s voice crackled over the loud speaker. “It’s Blue Lightning ladies and gentlemen, rounding the final curve at mile ten on the Tuscahana. There’s the checkered flag, ready to greet the new River God!”

    Skimming the surface, crouching mere inches above the water, Mark barely heard the announcer or the cheering crowd over the roar of Blue Lightening’s 2.5 Liter Mercury Racing Engine. His slightest movements affected the ride over the ever-changing contour of the water. Reveling in the rush, the momentum and pride, he could taste victory.

    A blast had his vision veering right. His grip on the wheel tightened. Another flash and an explosion rocked the bank and the reverberations crossed the waters of the Tuscahana. Throwing the boats and their drivers into a tailspin. Leading the pack, Mark regained control of his boat the quickest and gunned Blue Lightening in the direction of the explosions.

    Through the smoke and flames he could see a deck full of screaming spectators, the restaurant itself had been obliterated. Spinning his boat around as he neared the deck he gunned the motor, dousing the flames with a rooster tail of river water. Again and again, he repeated his actions washing away any flames that lingered.

    It was a sweet rush and Mark would exchange the River God title any day for this taste of victory, not of winning a dangerous race but for saving so many lives with his brave actions and quick thinking.

    He was a River God.

  9. Sheets of water streamed behind Mark Mayfield’s speedboat as he turned hard at yet another twist of the Tuscahana River. Adrenaline soared through his veins. Navigating these hairpin turns at high speed took all his concentration. Some called the annual River Gods race cursed because of the many accidents. Still, racers flocked yearly.

    Today Mark’s luck held. His nearest competitor was a half mile back. Eight others had flipped or run aground on the dangerous waterway. Hundreds of people cheered along the steep banks as he made the last turn. Victory hung before him, then a movement in the shadow caught his attention. Golden eyes blinked from the darkness beneath a group of children who dangling their legs over the edge. A mud colored limb struck a stick standing in the water beneath them. The ground shifted. Rows of jagged teeth smiled at Mark as he raced past.

    All thoughts of the finishing the race vanished. Mark yanked the speedboat into a tight turn only inches from the black and white checked strip hanging across the river. The crowd gasped as he headed upstream and buried his boat into the crevasse under the children just as the ground gave way. Mark sat, heart pounding, as a red stain ooze from under the boat, thankful none of the children were hurt.

    No one knew what kind of creature Mark had smashed that day, but there were a lot fewer accidents during future River Gods races.

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