Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Shadows

grand canyon flash fiction writing prompt 01172017 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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14 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Shadows”

  1. The old man was a mere shadow of his former self. “I remember when we were teenagers,” he said weakly as he lowered his coffee mug with trembling hands. “Your father owned a ‘lowered’ 1940 Mercury 2-door sedan—black—with a flathead V8, full skirts, duals, and a special aluminum flywheel. It could do 90 miles-per-hour in second gear and 100 in third. We spent many a night drag racing on Long Island. Your dad even learned to drive without lights. That trick and the black finish allowed us to ‘disappear’ when the police were on our tail. Ha! We even used to spin around and flat-out pass the cruisers chasing us that were going in the opposite direction. Then, your dad would cut the lights, and while the police struggled to turn around, he would slip the Mercury backwards into the trees so we could watch as they sped by, unable to see us.”

    “My father did that?” the young man asked, hardly able to believe what he was hearing.

    It was clear the old man relished telling this story. There was a twinkle in his eyes that hadn’t been there for years.

    “One day, the police came to your father’s house and told his father—your sainted grandfather, Claudio, God rest his soul—that they if they ever caught your dad speeding, it would be at least ten years before he got out of prison. Well, sir, that was the end of the car.

    “I’ll miss your dad.”


    “It’s beautiful grandpa. So big and wide and colorful.”

    “Yes, it is boy. They don’t call it ‘grand’ for nothing! Your grandmother and I came here on our honeymoon fifty years ago.”

    “I guess you miss her a lot, huh?”

    “Yes boy. We did everything together, went everywhere together. And on the rare occasion when we were apart she was always with me in spirit. I can’t believe that she’s gone.”

    “She must have loved you a lot, grandpa.”

    “I believe she did. And everything reminds me of her. I see her beside me everywhere I turn. Look…over there. See it?”

    “What grandpa?”

    “Why it’s Helen. Right over there!”

    “Grandpa, that’s just a shadow.”

    “No, it’s her. Quick…go back to the car and fetch my camera!”

    As Robbie headed toward the car, Jason ran to the canyon rim…and joined his beloved wife.

  3. The official was interviewing still another citizen who swore he had seen an alien craft.

    “You only think you saw it,” the official said patiently.

    “I’m telling you, I saw it! It was round, and huge. It swooped across the sky, faster than any plane could go!”

    “Your eyes were playing tricks on you.”

    “No! I’m telling you, I saw it. It was a ship, an alien ship!”

    “Seeing is not believing. Let me prove it.” The official turned his computer towards the citizen. “Look at this picture and tell me what you see.”

    “Rocks, sunlight, shadows…” The citizen was already having doubts. “Maybe the badlands in South Dakota?”

    “Wrong. Turn your head sideways and look again. It’s a closeup shot of the bark on a redwood tree. You see how deceptive vision can be?”

    “Yeah. Okay. I guess I let my imagination run away with me. “

    They stood and shook hands.

    The citizen left and the official went to the break room.

    “Cripes, it’s so easy to dissuade these believers.” The official helped himself to a steaming mug of goulop from his native planet.

    “Did you use the old bark-on-a-redwood-tree gimmick again?” asked the 4-armed computer whiz.

    “It never gets old,” said the official, and the room erupted in various forms of alien laughter.

  4. Little Things Mean A Lot

    By Annette Rey

    He had traveled many days and now was standing in darkness, separated from his original pack. The monolith that towered over him and blocked the light seemed to pierce the outer edges of the blue ceiling. Among the crevices of the rising sides of the spear were millions of his kind, scurrying on their way up, and others, focused-eyed, on their way down. Following the pheromones, he joined the downward moving group.

    The underside of the base held a glorious labyrinth of colorful tunnels with shining red soil paths and luminescent rock walls of shimmering blues and purples. Fresh air currents flowed freely and cooled the atmosphere.

    He followed the billions of moving legs whose scraping sounds reverberated throughout multiple avenues that extended into infinity, and branched off, and slanted up, and slanted down. It was a wonderland owned by insiders and unseen from above.

    Brain cells inside almost microscopic heads designed this intricate world. Each pathway led to necessary spaces to sustain their underground lives. Various rooms were relegated to waste disposal, food storage, air circulation, lodging, lighting, and massive dining halls, and the largest cavern housed The Mother who was cared for by a special Nurses breed.

    After his long journey, he saw that amid the seeming hustling chaos lay the rhythm of a team working together for the betterment of the whole. Where else could he find such a place on Earth?

  5. In the depth of one of the distant shadows buried under a kilometer or so of sandstone rubble possibly rests the grandest treasures of the Lost City of Gheji-gheji. My grandfather, like his grandfather searching a century earlier for the Lost City of Z, disappeared somewhere in those gullies and canyonets. It was kind of a family tradition. My grandson tagging along during his summer vacation stood next to me as we gazed over the landscape.
    “Grandpa, is there any way to do orbital scans of the area?” Daltry asked eagerly. He hadn’t really been interested until last winter. I was a bit surprised.
    “I did an orbital last year but came up negative,” I answered his curiosity, “there seems to be too much iron in the rock scrambling the scans.”
    “How about close flyby photography. I wrote an app for web development class in AI recognition of zit size in mass student pictures.” I was curious where he was going with this.
    “I’ll just tweak the parameters and feed the AI with some other stock photos of something Great-Great Grandpa Potts had with him.” Daltry went on.
    “Then scans of the area can be analyzed by the app,” I finished, connecting the dots. Before I could continue, Daltry had his tablet out tapping and slashing away, setting us up for a family reunion of hopefully happy but morbid but circumstances.

  6. “Come to us.”

    The incessant whisper echoed in his ears. He looked out across the canyon with its colorful crags and plateaus. A quick glance back up the switchback showed only reddish rock and sky. He rubbed his cramped legs. It was getting late, but something was out there. Something called him deeper into the canyon.

    “Come to us.”

    “Who are you?” he shouted. “Where are you?”

    His voice echoed in the silent air. Even the birds had abandoned this stretch of the Chaha’oh trail. He licked his parched lips, indecision eating at his resolve. Common sense said to go back, but he couldn’t stop now. Loose gravel slid under his feet and he tumbled down the trail. Jagged rock raked his flesh. Finally he stopped, head hanging over empty space. Heart pounding, he scrambled away from the edge of the cliff and pressed his back to the rock wall. Blood dripped down his arms as he gasped for breath. A growing shadow swallowed the rainbow hues of the canyon. Enveloped in darkness, he sank to the ground, cold, sore, and afraid.

    “What am I doing here?” he muttered, wishing he hadn’t climbed over the closed trail gate.

    “Come to us.”

    Light flickered behind him and a wave of heat brushed his face. He turned and stared at the small cave and crackling fire that hadn’t been there moments before. Huddled near the blaze, he drifted off to sleep as the cave opening vanished and the shadows began to feed.

  7. I could see the North rim of the canyon and wondered how long it would take us to reach it. The screeching siren sang louder as the police car got closer.

    “We better get movin’,” I sighed, reaching over, nudging her gently. I hoped my playfulness would ease her anxiety. She looked at me, her eyes filled with trust.

    Pulling onto the highway, I floored the pedal and roared off towards the North rim. Couldn’t decide which was prettier, the glorious colors of the canyon flashing by, or the adoring one beside me, her long, red hair whipping straight out behind her tilted head. What would I do without her? Ten blissful years of faithful love and devotion. I pulled her closer. She reached up snuggling her head against my neck.
    We rounded a curve. I could see the canyon’s North end.

    “Just a few miles more.”

    The siren’s wail made me look into the rear view mirror. There they were.

    Our engine began sputtering. No more gas. We rolled to the side of the road. I reached back and sadly fondled the two bags of money I stole from the casino.

    “Out of the car with your hands up,” a cop shouted, pointing his gun.

    “Guess it’s the end of the road,” I whispered. We climbed out. She stood devotedly at my side. I leaned over and kissed her forehead.
    Hugging her, I begged, “Please. Please. Would you see that my loving Afghan gets a caring home? Please?”

  8. #182

    Angie parked the truck and hopped out. She surveyed the familiar canyon terrain, barely aware of the gravel crunching underneath her boots. The heat seared her back as she heaved the shaking box from the back seat.

    After pulling on thick brown handling gloves, she carefully opened the top and brought out a beautiful red-tailed hawk. With skill that experience brings, she positioned him so his back was securely against her chest. Her father, the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center Director, told her never to treat the animals as pets. It was imperative that they remain wild in order to survive after release. She looked down at #182, and knew she’d done everything right. But sometimes the cases were so special they stayed with her. #182 had been deliberately hit by a car while he was feeding alongside a highway. It took months of recovery time, but he was a fighter. Finally, he passed every test he needed to in order to be cleared for release.

    Angie took a step forward, memorizing his unique chocolate-brown color pattern, and then let #182 go. She watched the bird soar across the clear blue sky, eventually disappearing into the shadows that played between the mountains. Blinking away a tear, she sighed; the special ones always managed to take a little piece of her heart with them. As she walked to the truck, Angie smiled when she heard #182’s trademark high-pitched screech echo across the canyon, definitely a happy refrain declaring he was home.

  9. Looking down from the observation perch, I thought this has the dumbest assignment our art teacher ever gave us. We were to sketch our view of the mountains in a lesson of “perspective”. It was a day-long field trip to this remote area. Yeah, it was pretty, but my brain just wasn’t getting the “differences” I was supposed to be seeing.

    I quickly sketched, not really taking any interest in what I was seeing. The sun was hot and sitting on the ground is just uncomfortable. I looked at my classmates’ drawings, hoping to gather some inspiration. Why couldn’t I see what they were seeing?

    As the day wore on, the blazing sun lessening its grip on all of us, our eyes could focus better on the landscape. Suddenly, ridges had appeared where earlier was a flat, dull surface; colors and striations where an hour earlier was one flat, blinding hue. Depth and height and nuances popped into view like so many kernels of popcorn showing the edges and variety that was missing earlier. We stood there, mouths agape, at the brilliant sight.

    The shadows exaggerated the scene. What looked like a straight line of mountain ridge was a shadow filling in a gap between mesas. New rows of mountains appeared where none existed because the shadows, while few in number, multiplied the effect turning the scene into a Navajo blanket lightly draped over the rocky landscape.

    I learned more from this lesson than just art.

  10. The earth shifted beneath my feet and suddenly I hung in the air, suspended. I was falling like Wylie Coyote from a cliff. Only there were no split seconds awarded me at the hand of an animator. Nor was there a white puff of air left in my wake.

    We’d reached the look-out point of the canyon late in the day and the sun sat low on the horizon, putting my wife in silhouette while looking down from above. Her mouth open, screaming my name, horrified as she leaned over the guard rail she’d insisted on standing behind. I’d shrugged off the warning and stupidly climbed over it.
    “I want to get a shot from that edge.” I’d told her.

    She’d looked at me disapprovingly but I was already there. And then I wasn’t. 
     Her green eyes seemed to pierce my soul as I fell further and further away.
    “I’m sorry babe.” I said, hoping my voice would be lifted to her ear.

    The wind pressed against my back. My heartbeat pounded at my eardrums like a bass.

    Her long dark hair blew in a swirl around her head.  A glint of sunlight bounced off the gold band on her outstretched hand. A tear raced towards me, only catching me after death.

    “Look away.” I begged her.
    The shadows grew long and deep on the canyon walls. What a shot that would be, I thought.  

  11. Every summer, Dad piled the family into the van and took them cross-country camping, “Duke stop clowning around and get in the van, or we’ll leave you behind.”

    Smiling, Mom teased Dad, “Now Honey, don’t be so hard on Duke he’s just five and doesn’t understand.”

    Dad chuckled as Duke climbed into the back seat with the rest of the kids. Duke didn’t really understanding why this year the trip seemed different. It wasn’t just Duke ‘s family that stopped smiling, but everywhere they stopped to eat or refuel seemed drawn and tired.

    While driving, everything just seemed to aggravate them. It wasn’t until they hit the Grand Canyon when Duke chased a butterfly to close to the edge of the cliff, dad yelled at him, “Duke stop that! Get back over here now!”

    Dad gave Duke a big hug, “Duke, you’re the youngest and scared me half to death. Don’t do that again, you’d break all our hearts if we lost you. Now join the others.”

    Duke rejoined the rest of us, then as we piled back into the van, I remember Dad crouching down, “Duke, Isn’t the canyon magnificent. I love coming out here because it reminds me that someplace on our world it is still filled with all our hopes and dreams.”

    Smiling with that dumb dog look, Duke wisely and quietly nosed his master’s hand for more scratches, as Mom sat in the car smiling at the two of them.

  12. A coolness settles on the top layer of my pale skin. I feel blood pulsing throughout my body, but it’s not enough to warm. The sun sears, but I only ever get the leftovers from radiation. It is an unforgiving and ambiguous coolness-the depressive chill of a shadow, where warmth is near but never enough.

    Mama and Papa, with the Shadow’s other founding fathers and mothers escaped to the caves of the Jagged Rock before I was born. A spring with a stone roof became the water hole, and they chiseled homes in surrounding orange rock. Population grew and grew. People die but never leave.

    Papa says the Shadow is all there is; “We’re lone survivors of an abominable world.” Papa says, “Don’t ever climb to the Light, you hear?”

    Papa is strong, burly, wise. He loves me with a belt, but he loves me. He loved my brother with a belt too, but Dror didn’t understand. Mama called Dror her little sparrow.

    Dror climbed the Jagged Rock eleven months ago. He never came back, of course. Papa says he died, likely shriveled up in the fiery sun. Papa says no one survives the Light; the Shadow is our only home. Papa says no funerals for suicides making Mama cry.

    “We’re meant for more than this chill, Maura,” Dror once said.

    I don’t want to die-if I do I want a funeral-so I’ll stick with Papa. But I don’t want this chill anymore, and for that, I dream about climbing.

  13. While camping beneath a cliff in Braxton Canyon, I fanned the flames of my small fire. When I turned for some tinder, I saw my shadow flickering on the cliff wall. It resembled a crouched hunchback.

    I shivered and turned back toward my fire. Wrapping my arms around my knees, I scooted closer to the warmth. It was going to be a long, painful, sleepless night. I truly didn’t expect to see the next morning. I needed medical care, but hiking after dark was far too dangerous.

    All night I lay down, sat up, paced, and cursed. Trying to ignore the excruciating agony in my back, I sang and danced to silent music. Often dizzy, I nearly fell on my face.

    Finally, the sun rose and shone brilliantly. Now my shadow on the cliff wall showed enormous bulges protruding from the shoulders.

    Had I known, I would never have left the colony on this solitary trip. My metamorphosis wasn’t due for at least another year. No one goes through that torment alone, without the powerful, addictive painkillers. Yet somehow, I had survived.

    The pain has lessened substantially. So I gather my gear and hold the pack close to my chest. I flex my shoulder blades as I’ve practiced since childhood. Soon my shadow on the cliff top reflects a magnificent winged creature soaring through the sky. I will return to our colony with the news. We can survive our life change without becoming drug addicted.

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