Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Cleveland

flash fiction writing prompt arcade building cleveland ohio oct 2008
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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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Cleveland”

  1. In less than 24 hours they’ll turn me into a pile of rubble. Me! After all these years of being a once fashionable mall and favorite location for film noir directors. I’ll be wiped away and turned into a parking lot. Thanks a lot, folks. Okay! Okay! That’s life. Let’s make the most of what’s left of it.

    I’m still able to recognize some of the regular shoppers. There are a just few of them right now. Only three, but better than none. Come to bid a final adieu?

    Here comes Mrs. O’Reilly. She just picked up two bags full of trinkets to keep me alive in her failing memory and lonely room.

    And, there’s Frank and Bella (in the blue shirt) Farina carrying off some of the small props left behind by Warner Brothers. They’ll pick up a nice piece of change from eBay or a yard sale at their trailer park back on Staten Island.

    Look at little Jimmy Sparks doing one of the dance routines he did in the chorus of his last (and only) film. Poor Jimmy. Arthritis is getting the better of him. Hope he makes it.

    When the flag comes down, that’ll be it. Oh, well. Che sera, sera! It was swell while it lasted. Ta-ta.

    “The ending is only the beginning.”

    Clap the clapboard! That’s a wrap.

  2. As quickly as her old frail body would allow, Judith hobbled down the mall’s main concourse stairway. Finally, she arrived at the central court and sat down at one of the tables. She quickly pulled out of her purse the invitation, and once again in disbelief she excitedly reread it, “Edith meet me at two at our favorite table in the mall and I will make you young again!” It was signed Siegfried.

    She wondered if he finally achieved his life quest and discovered the formula for eternal youth. He must have or why else would he contact her like this? If only it were true to become young and beautiful again; she would pay anything to get her youth back. As she sat their a young man approached her, “Excuse me, Edith. Is that you?”

    She stared at him with her mouth agape, “My God,” she thought, “Siegfried had done it. He is young and just as handsome as he used to be.”

    Finally, she mumbled, “Siegfried is that really you?”

    He smiled and replied, “Oh I’m sorry you mistook me for my grandfather, I’m Roy.'”

    Realizing, there was no elixir of youth, she replied, “Oh, yes, how silly of me; how can I help you?”

    Grinning sheepishly he said, “We have a two year old and my grandfather said you might be interested in being our nanny, are you up to it?”

    While thinking of her lost youth, she quickly sighed “Of course I’d love to.”

  3. The agency had described this as a history tour. To Ray, it felt more like an archaeological dig.

    The guide intoned, “You’re now in Cleveland, once considered the capital of the American heartland.”

    Ray looked around in dismay. The tortured rusting ironwork, the enormous fragmented glass ceiling, the twisted remnants of what was once an escalator — it all bespoke sadness and loss.

    “This was known as a ‘mall’,” the guide went on. “It was a place where people would gather to shop.”

    As a graduate student, Ray was doing research for his thesis on the incident which had come to be known as “The Happening”.

    The remaining itinerary involved visits to New York City, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. There remained one question that Ray would have to answer when the tours were finished: would he ever return to earth again?

    Perhaps.

  4. Dear Uncle,
    Right now I’m in the waiting room. Please forgive this short letter; the nurse may call my name any time.

    Seems my mother doesn’t have a sense of humor for the letters I send. One letter in particular was about the vista from my little apartment on Fisherman’s Warf on Lake Erie.

    I bragged about the granite walkway below my balcony. It snakes along a cornucopia of entrepreneurial enterprises designed for our community’s convenience and enjoyment. Directly below my veranda is a crowded exercise gym. Further down the granite street I can see Cleveland University Extension sporting rows of classrooms designed for adult education and vocational training.

    The second tier is a catwalk surrounded by brass that glows from the warm sun peeking down through a vast and sparkling window ceiling. I like my apartment location best because each door on my level is adorned with the kind of palms that were the fashion in the l920’s. Hanging ivy and ferns peak through the brass railings on the third and fourth tiers. I often join my friends for dinner under red umbrellas in the rotunda. Everything I need is right here. Wouldn’t you think mother would be happy for me? But no, I never pleased her.

    Gotta go, Uncle. The nurse is calling my number. Everything will be fine. The last time I was here, the nurse told me the warden told the doctor to be nice.

  5. “David and Mary Nolan?” The uniformed man glanced at me over his stack of papers. I nodded. “They gave me up 20 years ago.” The gruff officer nodded and entered a back room. My name is Judd. I was adopted by a loving family who cared for me tremendously, but I’d never had any contact with my real parents. The man walked back out again and read short clipped answers from a piece of paper. “David and Mary Nolan. He’s a doctor, she’s a teacher. They live in Cleveland. That’s all we found. Sorry son.” I grinned. “That’s ok. The grin slipped off my face as I stepped back outside. Cleveland?
    Desperate to find them, I bought a plane ticket for the next day. I had a little money, so I checked into an upscale hotel. I visited every nearest hospital and school around with no luck. I resolved not to give up and eventually checked each one in the city. There was no sign of them.
    My money was spent. With nothing to pay my hotel fees, I carried my bags to the park and found a comfortable bench. Horns blared. People shouted. Dogs barked. A policeman whizzed by. The city seemed so big and lonely. I began to drift off when I heard a voice behind me. “Excuse me, young man. Do you need some help?” I raised my head to see an old man in a doctor’s coat. The nametag read “David Nolan.” “Dad?”

  6. Right at midnight some native tribal group rushed at our camp. While fighting back, I got detached from the rest of my troop. I was firing at random at those attackers. Cartridges finished soon, but the aggressive crowd seemed growing.
    An arrow passed by me, only an inch apart.
    I wished could I shift the time…

    Something snatched me up amidst the air, at about six yards above the ground. Below, those aborigines were taken aback, perplexed. Some kind of smoke was thickening around me. When it condensed, I found myself inside a comfortable coach, somewhat like a copter cabin.

    A mechanical voice vibrated my mind, as if talking to me. I reciprocated:

    — ‘Received your telepathic docket’
    — ‘UFO?’
    — ‘UTPC: Universal Time Policing Control. How could we help you?’
    — ‘Save me from these furious men, just now!’
    — ‘Okay. Shifting you to a safer age… 21st century; spot renamed as Cleveland Arcade, Ohio, US.
    — ‘Hey, listen! How could I return home?’
    — ‘Contact USPC: Universal Space Policing Control for space shift. Then UTPC would take you back to yours natural age. Thank you for contacting’

    The cabin disappeared and I found myself in a fantastic, beautiful building.

    As I looked for my rifle, instead I found a bouquet in my hand!
    I recalled UTPC,
    — ‘Hello, where is my rifle?’
    — ‘You’re in 21st century, 3rd millennium; bouquet is mightier than rifle’

  7. Frazzled and late and dressed in blue, Melody slipped into the seat at the table in the mall’s center atrium. “Moron!” she spat in a whisper as she plopped her blue saddlebag on the table.

    Bernard stared first at her clothes and then the bag. “What the hell? I said change from blue to green.”

    “You said green to blue!”

    “The guy is red-green colorblind! He’s supposed to see you in blue!”

    “And what’s the deal with that door?”

    Subject-changing always was Melody’s best defense, Bernard grumbled. “What door?”

    “You said go through the next door. The service corridors are back there. I got lost!”

    Bernard shut his eyes. “I said go into the next store! Change in the dressing room in the next store!” She pointed a finger in argument, but he cut her off. “You at least got the stuff?”

    “No!”

    “What!”

    “He didn’t have any!”

    “It’s a jewelry store! How can he not have any?”

    “Next time do your research better! They only sell real jewelry!”

    Bernard nearly tore his hair out. “Not bling! Rings! Wedding rings!”

    Melody snatched back her bag and slapped it into her lap. “He didn’t even know what wedding bling was.”

    “How did you find your way out?” Bernard asked wearily. Melody and Bernard, he thought. Bonnie and Clyde, he thought. No contest, he thought.

    “A security guard helped me.”

    “Oh, God.” He looked around. Police were converging on their table.

    “This,” Melody said darkly, “is all your fault.”

  8. I’d never been more than thirty miles from home and living my whole entire life in an itty bitty town, I was deprived of so much. This is what I decided when my family moved to Cleveland and I visited the shopping center for the first time. I was awestruck. It was like a castle to me, so grand and so fancy. I pictured a Queen, or King, walking out of one of the shops or maybe holding court in the atrium with the dome shaped ceiling. Oh, how I wanted to stop in the boutiques and try on all of the gorgeous clothes. I would be like the princesses I had imagined in my dreams. I would have a pair of satin slippers to match each gown and tiaras and jewels for every occasion.
    I stood at the top of the stairs and observed my glorious kingdom. Imagining my handsome prince standing next to me. He in his golden crown, bejeweled with rubies and emeralds. His hair black as night. His chocolate brown eyes surrounded by thick black lashes. He would take my elbow and lead me to the table with the red umbrella. We would be surrounded by my subjects and they would applaud my arrival, awaiting my words of enlightenment.
    “Susie! Hurry up! We need to hurry before the store closes.”
    I’m not allowed to cross the streets by myself yet so my evil Step-Mother grabbed my hand and hauled me to Walgreen’s

  9. When he stepped off the last stair and saw his lifelong Vietnamese pen pal waving frantically from her mobile oxygen tent he soiled his pants.

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