Flash Fiction Challenge: Steamed

flash fiction writing prompt fishing the firehole river 102108
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Oscar had been fishing this stream since he was a boy and he knew it like the back of his hand. Today, something was definitely not right.

Suddenly, steam erupted from the ground a few hundred yards away. As he stared in disbelief, a second geyser erupted closer to him.

What the heck is going on?

The water in the stream suddenly turned muddy and he could feel it getting warmer. Bubbles began churning the surface of the water. As Oscar began backing toward the bank, he could feel the river bed shaking beneath his feet…

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: Steamed”

  1. The shore began to tremble. Another spout erupted nearby. Steam hissed and whirled around the riverbed.

    “Damn,” Oscar cried. “This is gonna be another whopper of a quake!”

    He dropped his bamboo pole and ran up the bank to his Mercedes SSK. He jumped in just as another spout reached up to smear the car’s hood.

    “Gotta get back to the studio and warn everybody,” he muttered.

    Breaking the speed limit, such as it was, he raced through bumpy Hollywood and Vine, up unpaved Beverly, and into the studio parking lot.

    They all prepared for the disaster.

    Fortunately, the cracking earth stopped, as if genuflecting, at the front gate.

    A grateful CB decided to honor Oscar’s bravery and devotion to the studio at the coming ceremonial dinner.

    The lights went down. The curtain went up. CB stood center stage, facing the excited audience.

    After his long, thankful introduction, he raised his arm.
    “From now on, this, your award, is gonna be called ‘Oscar,’ he shouted, waving the golden statue overhead.

  2. Oscar tapped his exosolar communicator. “First Officer Oscar Alberius, Scout Division of the IUP Nulli Secundus, reporting suspicious activity.”

    “IUP Sans Pareil receives. Go ahead.”

    “Geological disturbances observed on Elisiayam-7. Mining activity suspected but not confirmed. On personal leave via unicraft. Request permission to join pending scout team.”

    “Understood. Stand by.”

    Oscar was born to biologists on Elisiayam-7, designated a nature reserve by the Intergalactic Union of Planets. Although Oscar spent much of his youth in IUP academies, Elisiayam-7 was home. Unfortunately the Parvomalums, who Oscar suspected of mining beneath Elisiayam-7’s dark side, didn’t care. Practically everyone knew it harbored precious resources far beneath the surface, but they also knew inherently complicated extraction could eventually destroy Elisiayam-7 by altering plate tectonics and the magnetosphere.

    Commander Augustus Bonroy commended Oscar’s service record and approved his participation, contingent upon briefing. He could dock in two days.

    Oscar saw the first Parvo Destroyer at four o’clock from behind Elisiayam-7’s largest moon. Knowing he’d been detected, he activated his unicraft recorder. If he couldn’t escape the five Destroyers an automated message would activate.

    Oscar pushed a red button and completed clearance procedures as he flew toward Stefalto, Elisiayam-7’s tallest mountain. Dodging blasts from closing Destroyers, Oscar flew straight up a cliff until near the ledge.

    The computer continued, “Three seconds…” Oscar flew upside-down into the closing formation. “One second… Self-destruct initiating.” One explosion rippled space like a pebble hitting a tiny puddle. Five more followed in rapid succession. Elisiayam-7 would be saved.

  3. Oscar stood knee deep in the cold stream. Two hours at his favorite fishing spot had netted zero fish.

    Very unusual, he thought. This place is normally a sure thing, but not today.
    “Damn, I don’t think I’ve seen a single fish,” he said dejected.

    Suddenly, the ground beneath him began to tremble. Oscar slowly back peddled toward the shoreline.

    What in the world is that? He thought. It’s been more than 30 years since there’s been an earthquake in this area.

    The ground shook even harder, as he bolted from the stream onto the shore.

    He stood paralyzed watching as an explosion ripped the ground open several yards away. A stream of hot water and steam shot into the air, as the ground continued to tremble and part.

    An oblong object rose through the steam and hovered in the air.
    The object began to spin and flash like a disco ball, as it lowered a contraption that looked like a large telescope. The scope projected a red beam that circled the area until it spotted Oscar.

    Every impulse in his body told him to run, but he couldn’t move. The red beam grew brighter and a blast of energy sent him flying backwards.
    When he opened his eyes, he felt the hot sun on his face and giggled as he realized what had happened.

    “No more 50’s sci-fi movies and Jack Daniels the night before a fishing trip,” he said as he sat up and rubbed his eyes.

  4. Middleburg was an oasis in the semi-desert called the Karoo of the Cape Province, South Africa. Like all small towns the Church spiral could be seen for miles before anyone approached the town.
    The main road ran past the church. There were no sidewalks and on each side of the wide street, a water furrow flowed. Where a house had been built, the owner had paved a waterway into their yard with stones to keep the damp out of the house, which in most cases was built as near to the road as possible. This left the yard in an unbroken stretch at the back of the house; a yard that usually boasted a fruit orchard and vegetable garden. There was often a chicken run set in one of the back corners of the yard, with a small stable where a cow could be kept; a cow that was milked daily.
    Twice a week, sometimes at the most unearthly hour, the owners were allowed to dam the water in the furrow and lead it into the back yard to water the vegetable gardens that grew profusely in the warm sun of the Karoo. The time allotted to dam the furrow, was set by the Water Bailiff of the town.
    Rita Conradiie decided to see Mrs. Myburgh about cutting out some dresses that she intended sewing. Mrs. Myburgh lived on the outskirts of the town and was the best dressmaker in Middleburg. She was always very obliging and helpful, not taking it amiss when Rita asked her if she would cut out the dresses while she made them up at her home.
    As she cycled down Church Street on her bicycle, she kept thinking of the newest dress designs she had seen in a magazine that she had bought at the local bookstore. As she neared the police station, she recognised the uniformed men sitting and sunning themselves on a bench on the pavement. She pretended that she did not see them, lifting her head as though looking for cumulous clouds that rarely formed in the blue sky of the Karoo. She had no intention of greeting the men, but then her curiosity got the better of her. She had to see what the new policeman looked like. He was Constable Grobler, a man that all the girls she knew in the town had been talking about. She peeked out the corner of her eye, not watching the road and suddenly found herself in an humiliating position on the ground, her bicycle on top of her.
    Constable Grobler who had been watching this attractive young girl cycling down the road, wondering who she was, jumped up to rescue her, but before he reached her, Rita, her arm and knee stinging from the fall, climbed back onto her bicycle and as fast as she could, cycled away from the man she had tried to impress.
    “What an embarrassing thing to happen,” she thought, as she wiped the tears from her eyes, peddling as fast as she could.

  5. From within the steam, the first tentacle erupted. Ten feet away, a second joined. Both moved in tandem, yet independently, as they converged on Oscar. He stood there, dazed, until his faculties could recalibrate. He began to back away towards the shore, and into a third, waiting appendage.

    No head emerged; no body forecast his hunter. Oscar could only see periodic geysers erupting throughout the stream. But the temperature seemed to drop, as his blood drained towards his feet. The only warmth was from his releasing bowels.

    He froze, as he felt the slickened skin wrap around his calf. It was cool, almost amphibian in feel, until slits opened along the underside to reveal rows of protruding disks. Pain shot through his system as suckers adhered and bored into flesh.

    The tentacle began to make its way up his body, alternately squeezing and relaxing, as a constrictor would to prey. His skin tore, and oozed. The creature lifted Oscar about ten feet above the ground, and allowed his limp form to dangle upside down for a moment. Oscar wondered if he’d drop.

    He witnessed a final geyser erupt right beside his hovering head, and then the tentacle suspending him undulated like a whip. Oscar lived long enough to realize that he was about to be slammed across the river bed. His skeleton pulverized immediately.

    The arm simply lifted the shattered morsel over the center of the river, and lowered it into a waiting maw. Cthulhu had eaten.

  6. Oscar finally made it out of the boiling waters of the stream. He barely had time to climb on top of the slippery mossy stream bank as the geyser blew steam high into the air. It scalded his back but he was alive, at least for the time being.

    He stood there looking at the scene of destruction. Slowly he realized the river bank was undulating as if it were the back of some giant ancient creature now coming to life. It was difficult keeping his balance on this slippery surface, but he managed not to fall back into the now roiling waters below.

    Suddenly, the slippery ground beneath his feet gave way and it began to slide hell bent toward the roiling water. He had to make his move now or never. So with all his strength, he leaped for the new stream bank. He just wasn’t fast enough as his fingernails scrapped the sides of the new cliff face. However, he was able to grab an exposed tree root.

    As the steam slowly scalded him, he hung there getting weaker by the minute. If he could only get a footing on this muddy cliff face he could pull himself up on to the bank. Just as he was about to give up, a strong hand grasped his wrist and pulled him to safety.

    Sitting there exhausted, Oscar was shocked to discover that Og the tribal outcast had saved his life.

  7. Another eruption rocked the ground directly in front of Oscar and then another, throwing him backwards. The stream was superheated to dangerously high temperatures. The spouting steam burned the exposed skin of his face and hands. Throwing his empty fish basket and fishing pole down he tried to stand. His hands were seared as he attempted to push off the scorching terrain. Gaining his footing, Oscar ran at top speeds, leaping from rock to rock until he reached the other side of the waterway. It looked stable but he felt trembling underfoot and continued up the mountain.
    Without looking back, he scaled the ridge until certain he was out of danger. Eruptions and spewing of steam and rock continued behind him. The stench of sulphur filled his nostrils. A cloud of ash and pulverized rock rained down on the valley below.

    Oscar watched in astonishment as the topography of the once familiar valley morphed before his eyes. As the eruptions ceased the steam dissipated and the ash settled to reveal a lake of sapphire blue. The unearthed body of azure effervesced and shimmered under the now brilliant sunshine.

    Filled with gratitude for surviving, Oscar thanked and praised his maker for the opportunity to witness Mother Nature’s redecorating.

  8. As the ground settled, an object shot up through the nearest geyser, then splashed into the water nearby. A fish. He watched it, scales charred black with heat, move beneath the surface. Another was spewed into the air, followed by countless more in rapid succession, landing all around him, until a whole school was soon circling in the water.
    Common carp, his usual catch.
    He scanned the bank and his surroundings. It was early; not another soul was in sight.
    Wide-eyed, Oscar staggered backwards as the cloud of fish descended on him in a churning rage.
    But it was too late. The surging school hit him, and he rebounded off the bank, crashing face first into the muddy water. As countless writing bodies engulfed his own, the force drove him into the lake bed, where his head collided against a rock. He blacked out instantly.
    The next day, Carl Porter stood on the bank, staring out at the sun-drenched lake, where only days ago he had dumped the body.
    He smiled. Another hit. On the Newton gang. An Irish kid, this time…Murphy? McCarthy?
    He jumped as a geyser shot steam high into the air a few far meters away.
    A form emerged from the water. A human one: an arm, grey and swollen with decomposition, its fist clenched. The shoulders followed, then a head, bloated with decay. What flesh remained on the face twisted into a smile.
    Carl’s face crumpled.

  9. As Oscar cast his line, he mourned the loss of civility in his profession – civil engineering – and was glad for fly fishing. It was how he decompressed, had been for twenty years.
    His latest job, a fresh scar of highway near Boise, had claimed more land. Thankfully it wasn’t his. He could always retreat to his small home west of Laramie and hit his favorite fishing spot west of town.
    Yet something bothered him. He had plenty of money. But he was nearing retirement with no family, no wife, and a truckload of unexplained guilt. Somehow, the stillness of the morning told him he’d slashed the earth enough.
    Even the fish were ignoring him. Then into his ears crept a whishing sound, like someone turned on a showerhead. In the distance he saw a spray of water burst forth. It was beautiful, but ominous in its rarity.
    His knees buckled. The riverbed seemed to jerk beneath him, causing him to lose his footing and drop the rod.
    Soon the eruption seemed to gush like a full-blown geyser. Again the earth rippled. Another eruption burst skyward less than fifty yards away. Oscar could feel the hot spray and knew immediately he needed to get away from the river. But to where?
    He turned one way, then another. More geysers emerged, and as the hot mist rained down and he searched for a way out, he realized that the best highway is a necessary one.

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