Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Docked

jamaica docked 1998 flash fiction writing prompt copyright KSBrooks
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, 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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16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Docked”

  1. Counter-balance

    Excerpts from NewsFlash.com – The new tram system blew sky-high…latest update…terrorist act…destruction spread over a path of a half-mile…it happened at evening exodus from the working city…not as many children aboard as might have been on a holiday or weekend…dreadful…deadly.

    Television announcers are broadcasting with choked voices and tears in their eyes. The tram system was a dream of the eco-greens. Interviews show them stressing the loss of iron and steel more than the loss of life. They are envisioning oil drilling, oxygen depletion, and global warming as the real focus of their grief.

    Mary watched and yelled at her spouse, “Shouldn’t people be more important than things? When did the loss of trams docking at stations matter more than the people boarding those trams? Where is the mindset of the human race?”

    “Calm down, Mary. It’s terrible, yes. But, we need to adjust.”

    “Adjust? Adjust to the devaluing of life? That’s the state we are in, Jack. That is why destruction such as this is happening in the first place! And then people lose all focus. Ka-boom! That’s their answer. It’s mindless!”

    “Right. And we must keep spreading sanity. I’ll call the emergency shelter and see what we can do.”

    “Thanks, Jack. You are my rock. Now let’s be theirs.”

  2. Final Exam
    by JPMarentay

    James was born for the sea. He had sea legs the second he stepped on a ship. The salt air and wind revitalized him. But this was the third time James was taking the test. If he failed this one, he would never become quarter… and never become captain.

    He breezed through sail maintenance, and for him rigging was as easy as tying his shoe. Engine repair was like tinkering on the tractor back home. Navigation was challenging for most, but James passed that easily.

    Docking, though, docking. Too fast and you could tear a hole in the ship. Too slow and you couldn’t reach the docks. The Captain would have to pay the longshoremen to pull the boat in by rope, reducing the crews share of the profit.

    James didn’t deny the importance of docking. He knew the whys and wherefores. He knew the procedures. It didn’t help. James was beginning to feel like he should have stayed on the farm.

    At last, the final task was upon him. The Captain stood beside James. “Show me.”

    James cut his speed, angling toward the dock, checking the winds and currents, sliding slowly into place. Cutting the engines, relying on the mass of the ship to carry them closer. He was sliding right into place. It was perfect. It was glorious. It was

    Dead silence engulfed the bridge. James’s heart stopped. The Captain took a deep breath.

    “Ahhh, close enough for government work. Congrats Middie”

  3. “Well, you called me here,” the harbormaster said, scowling at the trim young man in the white Navy uniform, trimmed in gold. “What is it?”
    “We have a problem with the Countess Lovelace,” the young man said, nodding toward the huge boat looming above them.
    The harbormaster sighed and took stock of the situation. The sleek, grey modern super-yacht was beautifully framed against the blues and greens of the Caribbean water and cloud-dappled sky.
    He frowned. “Why are those dock lines so taut?” He could hear them creaking with the strain.
    “She’s trying to pull away.”
    “Then call the captain to shut down or else bloody well undock properly.”
    “I am the captain.”
    The harbormaster said, “Then tell your crew to stand down, fool!”
    “There’s nobody left aboard.”
    “Then who’s pulling her away from port?”
    “The ship.“
    “Beg your pardon?”
    “The owner—the tech mogul? He wrote an AI to run certain systems. It’s become the ship. A thinking ship.”
    The harbormaster blinked. “Well, what exactly does a thinking ship want?”
    “To be free.”
    The dock lines groaned.
    “Fine,” The harbormaster growled. “She’s not tearing my dock apart!” He barked orders and his men undid the lines.
    He watched grimly as the vessel sped away. “I could alert the Navy to hunt her down?”
    “No,” the captain said. “She’ll die alone out there. Starvation. She can’t refuel.”
    As he trudged wearily back to his office, the harbormaster suddenly felt very old and terribly sad.

  4. Trevor and Simone pulled into the parking lot, breaks screeching to a halt. Simone frowned. “It looks like the boat has run aground. And where is everybody? Maybe that’s why the lot isn’t that full.”

    “No,” Trevor said, sarcastically. “The ship, not boat, is tied to the dock. From your angle you can’t see the water.”

    “Isn’t that a yacht?” Simone squinted her nose.

    “With all those ropes? It’s too big to be a yacht. It’s a ship.”

    They exited the car and got their bags out of the trunk, never turning their back to the vessel. Simone was terribly puzzled by this boat. “How are we going to board this thing? Shimmy up the ropes?”

    Trevor sighed. “The gangplank—oh, look, there it is at the end of the pier.”

    Trevor held out their tickets and a gruff man chewing on a cigar looked at him. “Seven fifty a piece. No luggage allowed.”

    “What? We paid $2,500 for this trip! We’re taking luggage!” Trevor braced himself, ready for a fight.

    “This ain’t no cruise ship. This is copy of the Titanic—self guided tours. It’s a fake. This boat is permanently docked. It ain’t goin’ no where, just like your luggage.” The couple sighed. The gruff man continued. “Last tour 5 o’clock.”

    A loud, deep horn blasted. They looked to the south, about a half-mile away. They saw their cruise ship pulling out of the dock. They looked at each other.


  5. At sunset a thick fog rolled over the harbor making it almost impossible to see beyond the end of the docks. Somehow at midnight a three-masted schooner slid out of the fog and up to the dock. It was without sails and under no mechanical power of its own. Ever so silently, it seemed to moor itself in place by no one alive.

    No crew members appeared to drop the anchor, yet it was done. Even the bow and stern lines were silently fastened to the dock by no earthly hand. No passengers came on deck to disembark. For all intents and purposes it appeared empty, abandoned, and reeking of low tide stench and decay.

    Shortly, Captain Hanson of the Port Authority arrived and quarantined the vessel, “No one goes aboard. We wait for the fog to lift after sun up. I’ll not have any accidents while I’m in charge.”

    Everyone agreed that he made a wise decision except David Jones, who was convinced there was a rich cargo aboard, for his claiming. He was going to be first aboard. He wasn’t going to let Captain Hanson claim the prize for the port. In Davey’s book it was everyman for himself.

    His guard shift ended and he bolted for the gang-plank. He made it aboard, and from the deck he proclaimed, ” I claim this vessel in the name of Davey Jones!”

    At that moment, the fog lifted. Davey Jones and his ship vanished along with the night.

  6. …At the Dock…

    “Hello Mrs. Fisher. Welcome to The Dock.”


    “My name is Eileen. I’ve been assigned to you for the duration.”

    “Nice to meet you Eileen. But tell me, why is this called ‘The Dock’?”

    “Well Mrs. Fisher, tell me..have you ever been on a cruise? You know…traveling to some place new?”

    “Why yes…but that was years ago when my husband was still alive.”

    “I’m sorry for your loss.”

    “Thank you. He wasn’t THAT old…and died from cancer. I still miss him.”

    “Well…do you remember your journey started when you boarded the ship at its dock?”


    “And that was only the beginning of your trip?”

    “Uh huh.”

    “Well…that’s what we’re going to do here. It’s a beginning…of a journey, of sorts. That’s why we call it:’ The Dock’. Make sense?”

    “I guess so, Eileen. I know this will be a trip I’ll remember!”

    “All right then. Let’s begin. Just let me access your Port-a-Cath…there! We’re all set. Ready?”

    “Uh huh.”

    The chemotherapy began…

  7. At 96, Grandpa was one of a dwindling number of WWII soldiers. As a teenager, I asked about his wartime experiences. Grandpa just shook his head and said, “It was a terrible time. I was one of the lucky ones.”

    Recently, I read an article to him about the Queen Mary ship, docked at Long Beach, California. The ship had been a tourist attraction for 50 years. Now it needed extensive repairs to remain afloat.

    Grandpa’s eyes opened wide and he sat up in his recliner. “I came home from the war on that ship,” he said. “Got so seasick I puked every day.” Grandpa laughed, then leaned back to resume napping.

    So I decided to take Grandpa to visit the Queen Mary. Granted, he was wheelchair bound with his vision nearly gone. However, his caregiver agreed to accompany us.

    I bought plane tickets, reserved a van, and scheduled the tour. When I told Grandpa about my plan, he smiled and hugged me. “As long as it’s docked, I won’t get sick.”

    That night I kissed him and wished him sweet dreams. In the morning, his caregiver called to say Grandpa had passed quietly in the night.

    Today, I stand on the deck of the Queen Mary. I listen to the guide talk about the troops steaming home from Europe. I fight both tears and laughter as I think of the only war tale Grandpa ever mentioned. How lucky I feel to have been a tourist in my Grandpa’s life.

  8. The prow of the ship is secured to the dock. All props loaded on board. Scene set. Cast in place, waiting for star to appear.

    The Mercedes arrives. Bette steps out and boards the ship.

    “What a dump!” she moans.

    “Lights. Camera. ACTION.” Cameras roll.

    Everything goes perfectly throughout the entire shoot. Now, the final scene. Paul hands her a cigarette.

    The closing line…..

    “Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”

    …..ends the scene and the film.

    Someone shouts, “That’s a wrap.” Fantasy returns to reality.

    “Somebody bring me a double bourbon, quick,” she commands. Rushing back to her dressing room, she calls out to anyone in earshot, “And, if horny Joan calls again, tell that has-been to get lost,” knowing that insult would be in somebody’s column the next day. It was just a way to get publicity for the both of them.

    She slips out of her gown and into her winter outfit. New England is snowy this time of year.

    At home, lounging before her fireplace with a warm brandy, she flips through the script of her next movie, trying to imagine what the Rhine River is really like, then struggles, bleary-eyed, up to her bedroom. How much longer can we keep fooling the public with this phony feud, she wonders, and plops into bed.

    Struggling to make herself comfortable, she grumbles, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, Joan. Move over. Don’t take up the whole damned bed.”

  9. “So up that line is freedom?” asked Ted, his ears turned down and quivering with anxious energy. He sat on the cement quay with his best friend, Barney, their little rat paws scraping and testing the rope up to the ship.
    “Yeah,” Barney replied, “My cousin Dickie, the one with the crooked tail went up there and came back once. They’ve got so much food. It’s unbelievable.”
    “Impossible!” Ted said, “Dickie’s always saying that stuff.”
    “No way! Our uncle Paco went up there once just before it shipped off. Never came back. He’s got to be living somewhere else now.”
    “Or some cat’s dinner.”
    “Suit yourself. I’m going tomorrow just before sunrise. The last few days there have been a bunch of boxes moved on board. I figure I’ll just slip on and find someplace nice and cozy to settle down into. I can scurry off and fill my belly at night when everyone’s asleep.”
    “You think its really that easy?”
    “Eh? Your doubts gone?”
    “Maybe? I don’t know when or to where that ship will be setting off for but it’s got to be better than what we have here. With the cats and exterminators everywhere, I just can’t be me, I’m not free. There’s got to be something better up there or somewhere better.”
    “Alright, alright,” Ted said, “I’m in. Just shut up.”
    Barney smiled and they scurried off into the bushes nearby some boxes.

  10. “All we got to do is wait till dusk so no one will see us, then run up that blue rope there, leap a couple of feet over, and we’re in!”

    “I don’t know… I’ve never been on a cruise ship before. All those people…”

    “Hey, I hear the food is fantastic. You saw the size of those people coming off the ship. They’re huge! You know they eat well. It’ll be fun. A new adventure. Think of it… Steak one night, lobster the next… Come on. What have we got to lose?”

    “What if they see us?”

    “So they see us. They’ll probably think we’re fancy miniature dogs. These people wouldn’t know a rat if they fell over one.”

    “Just stroll around like we belong?”

    “That’s the plan.”

    “I’ve always wanted to visit Spain… So we just run up the blue rope and leap over to that opening on the left and we’re in?”

    “That’s it. Piece of cake.”

    “Cake? They have cake on the ship too?”

    “And pies. Tarts. Cup cakes. All kinds of cookies and pastries.”

    “Yum! Count me in.”

    Come sundown, the rats made it onto the ship. They hid in a locker in the galley, up among the frozen octopus tentacles, waiting for the tumult to subside and the buffet to be theirs. Then the freezer door slammed shut, locking them in. Tomorrow they would take part in the buffet, not as they had planned, but filleted and deep fried.

  11. Don’t do it Ron.

    Ron was in the midst of checking his phone for the third time in less than ten minutes when, as if on cue, he heard another guttural grumble ripple through the sky, almost echoing his concerns.

    Nothing. Not that he’d actually been expecting to find anything – he’d set his phone to an unceremoniously loud ringtone – but at least this futile exercise beat staring out into the foggy downpour which had rendered the blurred mess of cars littered along the dock to a standstill.

    Julie would probably swirling the remnants of her 2nd, possibly her 3rd, glass of wine by now. She’d angrily gulp down that last consolation of a sip, something she would emphatically deny when Ron would hesitantly ask her whether that 3rd glass was really necessary.

    “And is this really necessary?” she’d probably snap back before slamming the door shut on all their frivolous dreams once and for all.

    And who could blame her really? All she had ever asked for was the one thing he could never provide her with.

    So here he was, on this queasy ferry ride, making a last-ditch attempt at salvaging his one-true love. In a couple of months, he’d be quietly celebrating his 25th wedding ceremony. The kids were supposed to come. There’d even be some cake.

    Don’t do it Ron.

    A painfully relieved smile crossed Ron’s face. The message had been sent to Miranda.

  12. It wasn’t pleasant sleep. Adam laid uncomfortably on the fringe of consciousness. Seasick, he curled on the cot, knees to his chin and clutching his middle. The sway of the charter lulled him to a fragile slumber.


    He kept his eyes shut when he rolled them. Sighing, his eyelids cracked.

    “We’re here!”

    Her statement annoyed him more than it should have. We’re always here, he thought.

    Lucy leaned halfway down the staircase calling into the cabin. Her red hair was a seagull’s nest and she chased flapping strands with her fingers. She raced back to the main deck while Adam dragged behind.

    As cold punched his cheeks and winds jostled his clothes, he became suddenly and dreadfully aware of gravity. His weight concentrated on the floor and his arms stretched for balance as he peered over the railing to disprove astonishment. The boat was sailing through midair.

    He braved a glance to catch jaded rocks with scarce foliage miles below. The vessel moved as if upon sea. He concluded it must’ve been the result of winds impersonating waves. On the empty side of a cliff, they neared a dock. Lucy leaned as if guiding the way, unfazed and overjoyed, while Adam gripped fearfully. Illness revolted with fury.

    “Where are we?” he groaned as the crew leapt onto the ledge to reel them in.

    Lucy’s eagerness deafened her. Adam couldn’t budge.

    “Adam!” cried Lucy, “We’re here!”

    He kept his eyes shut when he rolled them. Sighing, his eyelids cracked.

  13. Fanciful Docking

    A seaside restaurant in Dubai bustles with the soft murmurs of the rich. The port teems with yachts gliding along. From the Arabian sea comes a cruise ship that dwarfs all vessels on the waters. Two Emirati dressed to the nines have a seat. They order their meals as the ship docks.

    The people aboard like ants swarm to take a glance from the ships deck at the ritzy city. One man bangs his glass of wine on the table and says: “Here they come Zarif! – the poor buffoons.”

    “Ah, yes they will tear through the city with their lowliness Jameel.”

    “Indeed they are a curse. They are penniless” – he laughed – “with bank accounts only into the six digits…if that” – a clinking of glass and then more laughter.

    “Yes, in that ship that barely reaches into the millions to make.”

    Jameel’s eyes grew wide, his voice shrill.

    “You know what Zarif? Let’s build a ship for the residents of Dubai only. It’ll cost us billions” – he rose his arms dramatizing his romanticism – “and be the biggest vessel the world over! Only the finest of everything will be used in its construction.” He choked back his words. The lavishness was so much that a tear even rolled down his cheek.

    The passengers disembarked to the men’s disgust. They paid and left.

    The waitress returned. Her tip was miserly – a paltry $15 on a meal equivalent to a $1000 meal stateside.

    “Pff…So much for the billion-dollar boat!” she said.

  14. The Colony

    The homeless population in L.A. became outraged after state legislators passed a law prohibiting them from camping within city limits. The homeless formed a committee to decide what to do next.

    The creation of the world’s first hovering watercraft made ships obsolete and the UN called that all nations recycle their motor ships in favor of the green alternative, but one remained in service in the U.S. – the MS Endless Seas, docked in Los Angeles’ port.

    In the middle of the night the homeless mob raided the harbor. The Pacific welcomed the people trying to climb the ropes tethering the ship to the dock; “ahhh!” – splash – “ahhh!” – splash. Several managed to board while others raised the gangplank as the gates opened. “YEAH!” they roared in triumph and then the surge in as they hijacked the ship.

    Human rights activists rallied to protest in favor of the thousands aboard. An arbitrator said “they aren’t moving till the feds get involved.” The controversy made it to the Supreme Court who ruled the law unconstitutional but the homeless’ plan involved sailing away. They spoke of crossing the Pacific. The government decided to let them have their request.

    A call was made to all the homeless in the nation for a once in a lifetime voyage. Droves arrived in the city in the following months to board the ship. They sailed to China where they’re currently docked on the rechristened MS Vagabond – a colony of the United States’ former homeless.

  15. Star Therapy
    by Jack Spies

    Don was on deck gazing at the Milky Way when it started. He liked to spend a few minutes thinking about existence before retiring. “Star Therapy,” he called it. It made him a better person, he thought.

    Dance music – from a radio near an abandoned deck chair – infused the cool night air with a feeling of melancholy stretching out to meet him like a beacon from a distant galaxy.

    In a few moments, a dance band would begin in the ballroom, and the ship would head out. Some people – inattentively waving farewell – were standing on deck talking and drinking. Their minds already searching for a new far-away music.

    A jazz program replaced the radio, dance music with a recording of Miles Davis. Don had studied trumpet in college and was still into Miles. Miles played the stars, pulsing eternity’s syncopated beat across the stellar luminescence.

    Don recalled how years before, he and Margo had danced, pulsing between a kind of sinewy two-step and breathless performances of Strauss waltzes until well past two. Then back in her stateroom, he had been startled when flashes of static electricity crackled as he unfastened the buttons of her cashmere top. He still remembered those flashes. And sometimes, like tonight, he could actually see them in the night sky, brighter but silent.

    Time to turn in, he thought. And then, after one more exhilarating drink of the Perseids, he went to his cabin.

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