Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Deadwood

deadwood at night 101408
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.


Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left.  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!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2016.

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15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Deadwood”

  1. When the Zombie Apocalypse came to Deadwood, the citizens were hard pressed to resolve all of the death and destruction. The actions of the living trying to protect themselves was more destructive than anyone imagined. No one had foreseen all the accidental shootings, injuries, hackings, murders and massive property destruction.

    Finally, things calmed down enough for the Sheriff to call a town meeting outside on the front steps of the Deadwood Town Hall, “There are to few of us remaining to handle all of the remaining zombies. So we have outsourced a Zombie Disposal Service to take care of our Zombie removal situation for us with dignity.”

    Three men in bright orange vests stood up behind the Sheriff and one of them stepped up to speak, “Hi! I am Nigel and this is my Zombie Disposal Squad. We are here to take care of your Zombies! The three of us will go through your town cleaning out this unhealthy menace. In the past, many people have locked their dear undead in attics, cellars and garages, or even hording their decomposing remains in storage bins. So please when we come to your street bring out your dead and undead zombies, or just ask us and we will do it for you with dignity. Last but not least, Zombie Pick Days are Mondays and Thursdays!”

    With that said, the Zombie Disposal Squad climbed into the cab of the town garbage truck and headed out on their first Zombie garbage collection run.

  2. A writer on the road

    Today I met a writer. Not a famous one, but a nice guy, indeed. He tried to explain to our group, seated at the next table, what does it take to be a writer like him, living far from home, driving from a small city to another, teaching people interested in learning to write. Listening to him, so passionate, my feeling was that I would have to live like him if I really wanted to understand his motivations.

    When the conversation was over and he left, through the window next to me I saw him walking calmly toward the old hotel on the corner of the street. And I wondered if he lived on the road just to write, or he wrote just because he lived on the road.

    The fact is that getting to know him made me think about the small and the great stories of everyday life, and that a writer can choose between living them or just watch. Of course, good writing demands talent and hard work, but the road, whether it is real or metaphorical, has to be treaded.

  3. Carly stared at the intersection of Sixth and Vine. Lights illuminated the pavement and brick facades in a warm, golden glow. Not a spec of debris marred the streets or sidewalks.
    She leaned back, stretched her aching back and let a smile of satisfaction cross her face.
    The film crew would be here in the morning; and by nine, bedlam will have broken out.
    Carly tried to picture the streets and shops full of townspeople fighting alien robots.
    She couldn’t.
    Luckily, that wasn’t her job. She provided the setting, others provided the action. She would love to see it all. But she was paid well to be done and out of the way. It was time to move on.
    A door opened behind her.
    Before Carly could call out, bright lights blinded her.
    She blinked rapidly trying to see who was there. “Don’t move,” Carly warned.
    “Sorry, I just wanted a peak. Thought you’d gone home.”
    Carly held her breathe as the producer looked around, his head as large as a three story building.
    “It’s perfect.” He leaned down next to Carly and viewed her work from street level. “It looks like a real town.”
    Carly dropped the last of her miniature brushes into her tote box. “I’m glad you like it.” She stood up and looked at the scaled model of the town she’d built. But already she wasn’t seeing it. She was seeing the space station she’d be working on tomorrow.

  4. I suspected something was wrong when my normally talkative girl friend seemed at a loss for words this morning.

    When I asked her why she was so quiet, she said she was tired and had nothing to say. I should have let it go, but instead I kept asking her what was wrong and reminded her that we promised to keep no secrets.

    In retrospect I wish I had kept my mouth shut, because what she told me shattered my world.

    As tears rolled down her face, she told me she didn’t think she loved me anymore. She said the spark that had once brought us together was gone and that we’d fallen into the boring routine of everyday life.

    I told her that I love her, but she said that love wasn’t enough, she wanted passion. I didn’t understand, but promised her that I would do anything to fix this.

    She said she needed time to think and would stay with a friend until she could decide what she really wanted. I begged her to stay, but she packed her clothes, kissed me goodbye and walked out.

    I haven’t cried in a long time, but today the tears flow uncontrollably. I contacted her sister and she reluctantly told me that Sara wasn’t staying with a friend but at the Deadwood Hotel.

    So here I stand brokenhearted at the corner of yesterday and tomorrow, staring up at her hotel window wondering what our future holds.

  5. I was in a hut with my agent Matthews, a seasoned smuggler. We met in a casino. Impressed by his crime records, I offered him fifty-fifty partnership in my mission.
    Northern Black Hills is only a few miles from here. As per our information, recently some explorers have found traces of gold in the nearby ancient canyon. And we are going to realize ‘EL Dorado’

    Matthews called me in the midnight:
    — ‘Good news! The government has declared us dead’ his crooked eyes sparkled.
    — ‘Oho! A new life. Golden days are waiting us.’
    — ‘Golden indeed! Let’s just mind the mine?’
    — ‘No worries partner, everything done. Your duty is to pass the gold to the safe custody’
    — ‘Don’t worry genius! I’ll manage the rest. Okay then. Goodnight’

    As soon as he left, two soldiers broke in my room.
    One said, ‘Game over gentleman! Marshal has sent us here to take you’
    ‘Sorry! What do you mean?’
    ‘Well, for your kind information, Mr. Matthews is army intelligence officer. Now let’s move?’

    At this point I woke up, 11:34 pm; obviously I thought it a dream. I am staying in Deadwood hotel on an official research trip.
    The room service came, ‘Sir, someone waiting to meet you’
    Gave me a golden visiting card:

    Mr. Alex Matthews
    Tourist Guide
    Northern Black Hills
    Deadwood

    Unbelievable! I needed a guide. But, Matthews?
    —’Sorry, tell him I don’t need guide’

  6. Verna Addison was not going to take any more guff from Philip Marlow. He was her boss, but he didn’t own her. He had made reservations for her at the Hilton, but she was tired of being the good little employee, always doing as ordered. She had picked up a folder advertising the restored Deadwood Hotel and instantly knew this is where she would stay. The Deadwood Hotel, a little piece of the past. Maybe even sleep under a quilt, with the window open. No AC, no elevators… It would be fun, like living in the old west. And it wouldn’t do any harm. She would still make the required meeting tomorrow afternoon.

    Luckily, the hotel had rooms available. She checked in with no problems. The desk clerk accepted her company credit card and gave her a room key, an actual metal key, not a piece of plastic.

    She climbed the stairs to her room. The bed was small, covered with a real patchwork quilt. She opened the window wide. A light breeze ruffled the curtains. She stripped and happily wrapped herself in the quilt and prepared to dream of the old west. But she couldn’t sleep. Noise from the casino downstairs came in her open window. She closed the window. The heat was oppressive. No AC. Damn!

    Rivulets of sweat ran down her body. She thought longingly of AC, of a pulsating shower. She dressed, checked out of Deadwood, and headed for the Hilton.

  7. I heard the din of saloons and saw a glow of street lamps in the night sky. Deadwood SD was a boomtown. One of the first in the western territories to have electricity. Soon the railroad would be making its way through. The trail leading into it would take me to its center, near brothels and gaming halls.

    As I reigned Rowdy over the ridge an unexpected raucous noise boomed against the rocky hillside and reverberated echoes. Rowdy jerked and stomped his hooves. I soothed him with my calloused hands and gentle whispers.

    Lights glowed like burning flames from windows on stone buildings of all shapes and sizes. A ruckus discharged from mechanical monsters lining smooth and solid streets. Much different then the rutted, muddy streets of the neighboring Sturgis.

    Even brighter lights bore down on where Rowdy and I stood, unmoving. Rumbling vibrations had Rowdy rearing up and tossing me onto the hard ground. I could only watch as he galloped off, disappearing over the ridge. I froze as one mechanical horse after another, thundered by. Their riders looked like big burly men. Instead of cowboy hats, their long hair flew in the wind like Indians.

    I saw a silhouette of something that resembled a locomotive in the distance horizon. It was sleek and all but flew over the ground. A loud blast into the night signaled its warning.

    I’d heard Deadwood was the most progressive city in the west, but this was ridiculous. It was 1885…wasn’t it?

  8. The hotel stood on the corner of a dusty town not far from ‘Vegas. Inside its run-down eatery, Durwood held forth at the bar so he could see everyone at the tables. A few regulars hung around, but mostly it was a new crowd every night.

    “Listen up, ye who’ve lost hope!” he thundered. “Ye think there’s nothing ye can do. ‘Our oppressors have all the power,’ ye say, ‘so what’s the use?'” He scowled at them. A few groaned and looked away. “Well, I’m gonna tell ye something ye can do,” he stage-whispered. All looked up.

    “Time was, we were proud and free. Everyone looked up to us. We had our own land, but our oppressors said we had too much. So ye tell me,” he shouted, “what did they do?”

    The angry crowd shouted back, “They took our land!”

    “Yes!” he thundered again. “And they’ll make us excavate filth! Sure, some of the womenfolk sneaked off to ‘Vegas, and wore those fancy, frilly hats. Others had it worse: they lived solitary lives wrapped in sterile loneliness. But most of us had to live crammed together in flimsy little houses.”

    The newcomers looked stricken. “But when The Day comes, each of us will be worn, even broken. On that Day, be proud of what ye are at the core, for ye descended from mighty trees. Though ye will be deadwood fit only for recycling, do one last thing: point thyself below the gum line. And. draw. blood.”

  9. If I close my eyes I can see it as it was before that night; quaint little buildings with lit up signs, craft and antique shops filled with assorted treasures. I used to love walking up and down the street late at night after the rest of town went to bed. It was the only solitude I found back then in a town full of busybodies. If only I could turn back time and bask in their attention.

    They said the river, fifty feet below Wood Town, was too far to be a flood problem. I guess they were right. It wasn’t the river that caused its destruction. Six inches of rain fell that Saturday evening just before dinner. A torrent of water rushed down the hills above town, sweeping everything with it. Cars and people were tossed like sand in the waves. Two hundred year old stonework ripped from foundations. Chunks of sidewalk joined the churning rubble as it raced to the river.

    Now all that remains is darkness and debris. Everyone is gone, all of them, young and old. Crumbled bricks lay scattered amidst gutted out buildings that once held thriving businesses and homes.

    I have plenty of solitude now as I complete my nightly walk. No one is here to pester me with questions or babble about the latest gossip. I wish they were. My feet feel heavy, like waterlogged logs, but they leave no marks in the silt filled street. The dead leave no prints.

  10. It was late. Three a.m. The streets were deserted and Phila was on the hunt. It has been far too long since her last meal and her bloodlust was almost uncontrollable. As she walked past an alley, she smelled the stench of a strung out junkie deep in the shadows. Phila smiled at her good fortune.

    She cautiously slipped into the darkness of the alley. Phila still had the look of a young woman easily victimized and that is what she counted on to find her prey. She carefully made her way around the trash cans and debris when she felt a rough hand grab her arm.

    Phila yelped, playing the victim. “Please don’t hurt me! I’m just looking for a place to crash.”

    “This is my alley. You gotta pay the price if ya wanna crash here.” He said, pulling her roughly toward him.

    “Thank you.” Said Phila.

    “For what?”

    “For being my next meal. You look very tasty.”

    Wha… was the only thing that made it out of his mouth as Phila’s hand darted forward grabbing his throat. She slammed him up against the brick wall, his head cracking loudly as it made contact. He slowly slid to the ground. Phila kneeled next to him, leaned in close and sunk her long canines deep into his neck. She was so hungry she quickly drained him dry and then sat back enjoying the euphoric feeling of his warm blood coursing through her body.

    Now it was clean up time. Phila jumped up and pulled down the ladder of the fire escape. She grabbed him by his collar and dragged his body up to the roof. She picked up some old tv cable and tied him up to a large pipe just in case he rose before sunrise. Phila had made a promise to herself a long time ago that she would never make another vampire, so she left him to meet the dawn and burn away to nothingness when the sun hit his skin.

    One day she would grow tired of this endless existence and go out to meet the dawn, but not today.

  11. She knew she’d look tall, silhouetted in the window beside the hotel, watching the bubbles in her champagne glass reach the surface. Fairy wishes, expiring in the pitiless fluorescence.
    “Meet me under The Moons at midnight,” Dougie told her that day, straight after the kiss.
    That’s what the kids called the lamppost across the street: a famous meeting place for beginners.
    She checked the clock above the counter, avoiding eye contact with the doodle man, now reeling in the dying minutes by playing another flip-book show in the telephone directory and firing glances from under a soft eyebrow.
    Twelve-thirty and the street was frigid, silenced by the length of the night and purged of the humdrum by midnight’s automatic reset, probably anticipating tomorrow’s pointless promises.
    She knew she wasn’t sexy like Posie Princeton with her perfect curls and razor blade smirks, but she was clever, and tall. When her dad pinched her fat bits after two or three shots from his late night bottle, it was never funny like his lady friends pretended.
    “We’ll find a cabin in the hills and eat berries,” Dougie promised, during the hug.
    He had thick glasses and squinted when he read poems, so maybe he’d gotten lost in the dark, or beaten up by strangers.
    “Alright, Missy. I’m shutting shop and taking you home,” the man said. “Finish your soda and don’t tell your dad I let you drink from that glass.”
    But she hadn’t told him anything since mom ran away.

  12. “McCall, are you…” Just a sigh on the wind, but I’m sure I heard it.

    I didn’t want to come here. No one in my family has come here since the day my great-great-grandfather shot Wild Bill Hickok after a poker game. They hung Jack McCall for that. Since then gambling and the town of Deadwood, South Dakota have both been shunned by the McCall’s.

    It started when I bought one of those scratch ‘n win poker cards. It came up aces and eights – the cards Wild Bill was holding when he died, the “dead man’s hand”.

    Then my new car, brand new, stopped in traffic, just died. The odometer read 1188 miles.

    A few days later my watch stopped, at 6:18. That’s odd, I thought until I realized that’s 1818 hrs in military time.

    My phone kept showing missed calls from 818-1188, though I never heard it ring.

    “McCall, you’d better…” It’s just a scrap of paper rustling in the gutter, but I swear there was a voice.

    So here I am in Deadwood, August 2, 2016, 140 years to the day since it happened. The hair on my arms prickles. Lightning lashes the Black Hills. It’s a hell of a storm – must be what knocked out the power in town. I’m blind except for the strobing silhouettes of lightning. “Black as sin” is more than just darkness, it’s a weight that presses on me, something I can taste in the back of my throat.

    “McCall, look behind…”

  13. “It’s mine, all mine,” Tim Hanks shouted as he stood in the middle of the deserted dusty street.

    His had been a disappointing life: three failed businesses, two broken marriages — and in the last few years he’d barely managed to scrape by. Yet his estranged uncle Jeffrey had not forgotten him in death. The inheritance was in the millions. So he bought the town.

    It was not really a town, not even a village.No…a hamlet. Yes, that’s what it was. A few buildings nestled against each other along one side of an otherwise barren dirt road.

    Tim carried a container of kerosene into the clapboard chapel which was capped by a tiny steeple.
    Methodically, he splashed it throughout the interior. He proceeded to do the same in the remaining structures: Maggie’s Emporium & General Store, Pete’s ten-seat diner, Handy’s Garage & Repair shop.

    Now he faced the desk of the Stuart Hotel: a two story wooden edifice with twelve modest rooms.
    Its Victorian facade bespoke a long-abandoned hope.

    “Good name for a town,” he thought. “Much like my life, it’s a pile of dead wood.”

    He stood in the lobby, enveloped by the acrid fumes. And lit a match…

  14. “Deadwood was aptly named, you know.” Precious turned her head and spit into the dirt road. “Buildings of dead wood, built by dead people.”

    Tripper took a drag from his cigarette. “What do you mean dead people? Like ghosts?”

    “No. Dead in their soul.”

    “Their soul. Sounds like a warm and fuzzy town, babe.”

    After midnight, the town was always deserted and that hadn’t changed in ten years. They slammed the doors on their corroded, duct-taped Nova and wandered into the vacant intersection. The yellow blinking light cast sickly shadows.

    Her wait was over.

    “Pull out the gas cans, Trip.”

    “Now?”

    “Duh. Yeah. How much longer does this town get to exist? No one helped me during that attack. Then they blamed me. Me. And the sheriff’s son gets off. Ten years is too long without justice.”

    “Or revenge.”

    “Whatever. They’re all evil. Every soul.” She lit a match and stared at the flame. “Well? Go!”

    Tripper dowsed each façade with gas as he ran from one building to the other. “Man, this is gonna be sick.”

    Two months ago she hooked up with a Pyros-Anonymous flunky and knew then it was a brilliant move. “It’ll go up like one big bon fire on the Fourth of July.” She spit again. “And they’ll all burn in Hell without ever leaving home.”

  15. Aldacur opened the window of his hotel room and looked out at the empty streets. 4 A.M. Dead Deadwood. Not a living soul to be seen. Everyone deep in sleep. He stepped out onto the sill and floated down to the sidewalk. Some storefront windows beckoned. This very special day will be a happy one, he thought. I’ll do a little window shopping for what I will buy later on to celebrate.

    Those 501 Levi’s brought back memories of the man he drained
    in Heidelberg. Across the street, the light blue babushka made him think of the ballerina in Bucharest. It looked lovely wrapped around her neck when he was through. One or two more stores to go. Better get back to the box before sunrise.

    As he passed the jewelry store he started to glance down at the string of pink pearls. Ah, Bali. Those insatiable twins who brought out his depraved urges.

    Just then a glint stabbed at his eyes. He groaned from the excruciating pain. It came from the golden crucifix that yearned to destroy him. Shielding his eyes with his cape, he turned and fled to his hotel room. He covered the window so no sunlight would get in. As he climbed in and made himself comfortable, he muttered, “Damn, that was close. Can’t wait till sundown. It’ll be grand celebrating my 349th birthday!”

    Clutching a photo of Bela Lugosi, he lowered the lid of his coffin.

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