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.
13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Infestation”
The plague of locusts finally reached Washington, an emergency meeting was called in the White House. However, it did not get very far when Senator Locutia stormed out of the negotiations, cursing them all, “A plague on both your houses!”
No one took him seriously. After all, like all the rest of them, he was only there for his own best interests, and not willing to negotiate anything.
Their President sighed, “Just once, I wish he would agree on a course of action. We’re running out of time, soon all the crops will be gone and there will be mass starvation.”
He heard a soft voice behind him, “How much time do you think we have left?”
However, he was unable to say anything. He shrugged his shoulders and returned to the negotiations. Someone broke the silence, “Why not take him at his word? A plague on both our houses would reduce the population enough, and there would be more then enough food for the survivors.”
The thought of a biological plague turned their President ‘s stomach. A maid quietly entered the room, very quickly she spotted a small group of locusts by the emergency exit. Quietly she went about her cleaning. Then with broom in hand, she moved ever so slowly toward the bugs.
“Then it is agreed …” The Locust President ‘s voice stopped in mid chirp, when the maid’s broom came down hard on top of them, crushing all of them.
I took the last drag of my Marlboro, crushed the butt with the toe of my boot and headed back into the store. Whoa! There she was looking at the box of chocolate covered beetles I left on the counter. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She looked up and smiled.
“Why, hello. Long time no see.”
She reached up and mussed my hair. Her chinchilla boa slipped from her shoulders revealing tantalizing memories of absolute bliss.
“What the hell you doing here,” I croaked.
She left me at the altar two years ago. I spent those years mending a broken heart by breeding these beetles on sugar water to sweeten their taste and start a new business. I was more than successful. Wall Street Journal gave me a front page spread above the fold.
“Thought it was time you knew why I didn’t show up for the wedding,” she smirked. She flipped open the box and chomped on a semi sweet, double-dipped, beetle. “Mmmmm. Delicious. I order mine from the Plaza.” She popped another one. “I found out you were pleasuring those twins from Albuquerque just one hour before the ceremony …..”
“Hold on,” I shouted. “Whoever told you that story was lying. And you left without asking me about it? Two years of absolute misery? Well, revenge is sweet.
It’s your turn to suffer. Pop another goody. I fixed them especially for you and was bringing them to the Plaza for your next order.”
Blindly, unthinking, voiceless, they move through the warm tunnels, automatically being drawn to their targets. In keeping with their secret mission, the absolute requirement is silent assault.
Ugly by standards of beauty, they paddle along using tendrils to guide themselves through the constant flow. Recognizing pre-programmed ports, some adhere to them successfully. Others continue on to infiltrate vital opportunities. The more access areas breeched, the higher the chance to weaken, then destroy.
It is inevitable that the tunnels and wall niches will get hotter. When this sign manifests, success is brought closer. Still, wall tabernacles have to be penetrated, allowing advancement to cooperating entities within the whole where the invaders can do more harm.
On and on they squirm through the receptacle, this temporary dwelling, toward the main control. Once there, success is sealed. It will only be a matter of time.
The irony of all this is, if they succeed, it will mean the sheer death of all of them. Once those in the control room die, they all will die, host and vector.
Without intervention, this is the dramatic, internal battle’s end of acute viral encephalitis.
The moment I stepped off the train in New Eden, I knew I was facing my biggest challenge. While there was no brass band, there was a sad young busker outside the station playing a woeful tune that cast a pall over my usually optimistic exterminator-for-hire mood.
Here we go again,
Locust on the move again,
Chewing all the growing grain,
Thick as torrential rain.
Here we go again
The plague of insect’s swarm again,
Scourging the agri-plain,
Thick as torrential rain.
Of course, it was a co-incidence. She was but a local chanteuse lamenting the pestilence which had befallen her community.
“Mr. Gloom? Welcome.”
Zeke Cakewalk, local Sherriff, and bottle washer, shook hands and poured out the ragged tale of their town under assault.
“Snuck up upon us two nights ago, Mr. Gloom. Never had nothing like this before. Crops always been good. Plenty of water in the valley. Just about the most perfect country to grow food you could imagine. It’s like God turned his back on all of our good works.”
He looked down, kicked a stray pebble, looked up again and said, “You can help us, right? You surely charge enough.”
Gloom’s Extreme Pest Control had a good, thirty-year track record. But the past few years had presented our firm with increasingly complex attacks by a vengeful Mother Nature.
“I’ll do what I can, Sherriff. We’ve had some success with Locusts. Alas, not so much with Boils, Frogs, Hail, and the other popular plagues.”
One summer a colony of black ants worked tirelessly, as they did every summer, to accumulate enough food to last through the winter. While the ants worked, a carefree grasshopper fiddled without a thought for the cold weather that was soon to come. And come it did. The ants were well prepared with their ample supplies of food, while the grasshopper searched in vain for a bite to eat.
“I am starving. Won’t you share your food?” he pleaded to the black ants.
“No! Those who do not work should not eat.”
“Please, I am starving,” said the grasshopper. “I can play my fiddle in exchange for food.”
“Can you play the classics?” The black ants were especially fond of the 18th century masters.
“No, ” said the grasshopper. “Only bluegrass.”
“Bluegrass!” the ants sneered.
Just then a red ant happened by.
“Bluegrass?” the red ant said. “I haven’t heard bluegrass since I left Louisiana. Come with me. We could use some music, and we have plenty of food.”
Red ants are vicious, but the grasshopper had no choice. He could go with the red ant or go hungry.
So he spent a thoroughly unpleasant winter, with the red ants biting his legs when they did not like a particular song. But he learned the lesson the black ants tried to teach him, and when summer arrived the grasshopper put the wisdom of the black ants to good use.
He immediately signed up for lessons in classical music.
Bill was surrounded. Their incessant chattering filled his ears. Legs constantly scraped across the floor, huge eyes stared up at him in curiosity and grasping hands reached out to him. Just when he thought he could stand no more, a distant pealing took their attention. They scurried from the room, leaving him in peace. He knew they’d be back. Shortly. He had to escape.
As he walked along the hallway, he could hear them behind the walls and scuttling about above his head. Heart thumping and hands to his ears, he ran to the open doorway. Once inside, he slammed the door shut and fell back against it, fingers splayed and palms pressed against the door. His hair stuck to his forehead with cold sweat.
“My God! They’re everywhere!” he gasped.
People sat at the large table or lounged in comfortable chairs around the room. Heads looked up, but no one appeared concerned by Bill’s state or his words.
“They usually are, first day,” Stephen smiled.
“And they’re so tiny, I almost stepped on one!”
“Coffee?” Jane asked.
“Coffee is not going to solve anything.”
Jane leaned towards Stephen. “First grade?”
“Coffee solves everything.” Jane poured a fresh cup, offering it to Bill. “At this rate, you won’t last the school day, let alone the semester.”
Bill pushed off the door, taking a seat at the table with Stephen and Jane.
The bell pealed. He gulped down the hot liquid and braced himself for the next class.
EXT. HACIENDA ESTATE (MEXICO) – DUSK
In the Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca valley below an enormous pastel colored estate stood atop a bluff. In defiance of its surroundings the estate displayed the impression of a fortress. Enclosed within its white washed ten-foot walls; the main house, a courtyard, the guest quarters and stables.
EXT. HACIENDA COURTYARD – DUSK
Seated around a long oblong wooded table a large group of immaculately dressed men and women of Hispanic origin were engaged in intense conversation. Large fist pounded on the table between the automatic weapons, dinner plates, and liquor bottles. The courtyard echoed with yelling as the two leaders of the CHIAPAS and HILDAGO cartels, ALEJANDRO and FRANCISCO, argued over the mysterious killings of rival drug lords. They feared they could be next.
Francisco, you’re not telling me the truth.
I have no reason to lie to you. We are not doing the killing. Besides they die mysteriously. We do not know how.
EXT. ANOTHER BLUFF IN THE VALLEY – DUSK
Two Special Forces soldiers, dressed in foliage green uniforms were stretched on the ground observing the group. The SERGEANT was adjusting a remote-control device. The LEADER stared motionless through his scope.
(looking at the Sergeant)
Deploy the bugs.
EXT. PATCH OF GRASS IN THE VALLEY – DUSK
The miniature black winged drones rose from the grass.
EXT. COURTYARD – DUSK
The courtyard flickered with white light as the bugs exploded over the group. The valley was peaceful again.
An orchestra of black crickets lined up so orderly on the overgrown blades of grass that it seemed practiced.
” ‘And the next song for the day will be, My Back is Sore and I Lost My Fiddle. Everyone ready?’, ” Eli said speaking for the central, conductor cricket.
” ‘Now, you can’t just sit there and hum.’ ”
” ‘Yeah we can. You didn’t teach us the words.’, ” Eli continued in the voice of one of the cheekier crickets.
” ‘That makes sense. Just sing what comes into your heart.’ ”
Eli turned away from the grass, the crickets scattering at the sudden movement.
“What do you think Millie? Remember when we used to play with your dolls and my figures? I had to put those away in the attic today. I’m leaving for college and won’t be able to play anymore. I figured you’d like that joke though. These crickets have been here all summer. I think they might comfort you. The constant chirping would drive me nuts though. Dad is driving me up to college tomorrow. I won’t get to see you until Christmas. I hope Mom and Dad keep the ground clear of snow without me. I’m going to leave Señor Huggins on your stone.”
Eli stood and placed an old teddy bear button no top of his twin sister’s stone before walking past his grandfather’s grave to his car.
“Can you hear me now?”
Jerry adjusted his antennae and continued his climb up, up, up the tall green stalk. Larry was behind him, antennae up. He shook his head. No signal.
They looked to the right at Terry on the neighboring stalk. No signal.
To their right, Gen. Barry and other top brass waited for the all clear. Their combined weight forced the blade down, creating a bridge to the other side.
This infestation had been planned to the smallest detail, including their uniforms—black coats with yellow stripes, just like a fire fighter would wear. The general’s wife, Mary, contributed that idea. No one would stop them or question them. After all, if you can’t trust a fire fighter, who can you trust?
Other troops to the right of the viewing stalk bridge were progressing forward. The bulk of the troops were several stalks ahead, progressing nicely. By nightfall they should reach the driveway and begin infiltration of the garage. Once secured and reinforcements arrived, they would advance east, toward the sidewalk and could then secure their territory of the front yard. The following daybreak, they would sneak into the cracks along the foundation and wait. Just wait. Once they had fully infested the house, could world domination be far behind?
Anandi became unmindful. Last week she made a commitment to her handsome man.
She was relaxing in her bed with granny.
‘Baby, are you in love?’
‘What! No grandma…I’m sure, I mean, I’m not sure that…’
‘That’s it. True love has touched my angel!’
It was a candid proposal. He sang for her. She reciprocated spontaneously, as if, misting each other with tantalizing romance diluted in sweet melody.
But from the next day, confusions were waving her mind. Even her disciplined heart was oozing profound feelings for him, too often. She accepted the most special person she had ever seen. Did she do right?
Anticipations made her swirling like a little girl. She ran to her dad, as she used to a decade ago.
‘Dad, should I trust that boy?’
‘How can I know dear?’
‘Didn’t I show you his photo? You heard his song, remember, you told him lovely singer?’
‘Hmm. By the way, did you like him?’
‘Yah, no— I’m just asking’
‘Listen, love is infestation’
‘Romance infests any naive heart with swarm of feelings’
‘— Feelings are like swarm of locusts, they nibble’
‘At times it would appear pleasing, and sometimes teasing too’
‘So, what to do with the swarm?’
‘You know, not all infestations are harmful; some are beneficial’
‘May be, but how would I decide?’
‘Ask yourself: are feelings for him hurting or healing you?’
‘I know. I have talked to him. We’ll meet tomorrow!’
The pilgrims were sacred. The village had tried before to get rid of them. They came here with their foreign culture, their greed, the strange currency they paid in. They paid in music. Not the crude sounds one would expect from their barbaric kind but actual orchestral music. But music still, not something you would use for payment in any civilized society. Then again, nobody had thought them civilized at first, and science was still looking for ways to discredit their civilization’s acceptance as one.
Then, some started to stay and work the fields. They learned of money, of their value, and how we shared their greed, just directed at other things. Soon they had built their own little village around the destination of their pilgrimages, a village impenetrable to any but their kin by force and law. Yet, the pilgrimage lured tourists by the thousands, pilgrims by the hundreds of thousands, and coin by the millions. This earned them their sanctity.
Their prayer was music, and they prayed outward.
Inward, they were silent. Only their god rising from his slumber had the right to initiate new music in this sacred place.
Inward, there stood but one monolith made by men before the pupils of their god had even started to spread his word.
Here rested forevermore Barnum Quentin, the man who told the crickets how to sing.
Those few of us locked out of the domes cities struggle to survive. Since we drove many birds to extinction, the insects now reign supreme. The swarms devastate our crops almost every year. My family is the only human group for many miles.
This spring, millions of nymphs infested our fields. Now the gigantic lubber grasshoppers swarm over every plant. We will face another winter of near starvation.
I notice a small white and black bird swoop down to grab a lubber. I know the poisonous grasshopper meal will kill this bird. But instead of eating the insect, the tiny bird bites off its head, then carries the body to a nearby fencepost. There it impales the grasshopper on a rusty nail sticking from the post.
I wait and watch. Days later, the bird, which I’ve discovered is a shrike, returns for its dinner. Time has allowed toxins to leach from the grasshopper’s body. Then I notice that every sharp object in the vicinity holds the body of a headless lubber. If only there were enough shrikes.
I realize what my family must do to survive. We take our pocketknives and walk through the fields. Filling our buckets with grasshoppers, we slice off their heads and skewer them on boards of nails.
I believe we can safely dry and store these insects. It will take a lot of time and effort to capture enough. But we have hope. If they must eat all our food, then we must eat them.
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