Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Staircase

chicago 1996 staircase flash fiction prompt copyright KS Brooks
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: Staircase”

  1. Staircase

    The day was long; and all the while I walked the crowded streets in earnest; I had forgotten many chance encounters, especially gainful employment. It was exciting for a time; to walk through the city streets indeed. It was not long ago that I was reminded by my own carelessness; that timeliness was for the ages. It was 1pm. Upon further investigation of the issue at hand, it was necessary to re-mediate the lunch hour from a meeting with which had no members. Climbing the stair I discovered my co-worker who was blind. My co-workers acknowledge his circumstance and often times offered him transportation to and from my place of employ. A co-worker in a city which was more than thirty miles from here and by a different employer. None such the idea followed his footsteps; foolish in my intent, he was quick to reply.

    “Hello” he said. I said, “hello” and I returned to my place of purveyance. The Italian restaurant was well suited; only by the finest restaurateurs, well equipped to ca-tier as well as list the house wine without circumstance. It was 3pm. The restaurant was right around the corner, in a wins-let of euthanasia. Leaving from there was as simple as saying goodbye. I was not tasked to leave my employer that day; I was asked to keep a time schedule; which would then have to wait, given that there was left a very kind waiter who took my order in the hr department. fired.

  2. “Our unit was pinned down by a German sniper in the bell tower,” the sergeant began. “Trouble was, we couldn’t get a tank in there to take him out. He was taking a terrible toll on our guys. We lost half your dad’s squad just getting into position in front of the church.

    “So, after dark, I worked my way ’round to the back of the building and into the sanctuary, where I crouched behind the pulpit. ’Long about two in the morning, I heard him making his way down from the bell tower—maybe he needed to grab more ammo. It was pitch black, but I heard him. He was feelin’ his way down, careful-like. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. All at once I see the flare from a match he struck on the stone wall of the spiral staircase. He musta thought he’d gotten down far enough so no one would see the light.”

    I almost stopped breathing as I listened to the old man.

    “Anyway, he stopped at the bottom of the stairs. I slowly rose, steadied myself on the pulpit in front of the large crucifix, and with Jesus Christ, Himself, looking down on me, took aim. Then, just as the match began to flicker, I held my breath and squeezed the trigger. The bullet went straight into his chest, and he dropped without uttering a sound. And that was the end of him.”

  3. Staircase

    He’d grown used to talking to himself. No one seemed to notice…or care.
    It was only ten steps down to the river.

    “Don’t have much to lose, do I? Got nothing. Got nobody.”

    He took another step. “Doc says with more therapy I’ll get better. Doubt it…hasn’t worked so far.”

    And another step. “Lost the job. Lost the wife…but hell, she never really loved me anyway, did she?

    And another. “Used to think I had friends. Ha! They disappeared when the money was gone.”

    Almost there. “They say that when you got nothin’ you’ve got nothin’ to lose. Reckon that’s true.”

    One more step. One more memory. “When I was young I thought everything was possible. Challenges enthused me. Waking each morning was the start of another adventure. I was sure I’d succeed. Ha!”

    Now he could see his reflection on the water’s surface. “Can’t swim, so it shouldn’t be SO hard.
    Who’ll miss me anyway?”

    A homeless man was walking along the concrete embankment. “Hey mister, have you got a minute?”

    “Sorry fella, I’ve got no money to give you.”

    “Don’t want money, mister. Just want to talk to someone for a bit.”

    “I suppose you want to tell me a sad story?”

    “No, mister. I’ve always gotten what I deserved.”

    Jason turned and climbed the stairs. “I deserve better.”

    And headed home.

  4. “Shush! He’ll hear you!” the vagrant hissed at his companion. The men were hunched under a blanket, attempting to stay warm at the bottom of a staircase at one end of London’s Hammersmith Bridge. It was late February, 1917.

    “Who?” his friend asked, in a voice so soft his breath was barely visible.

    “I’m certain it’s T.J. Cobden-Sanderson. Followed him to his shop once. He’s been coming here almost every night since the summer of 1916.”

    “But what’s he doing? What’s that bag over his shoulder. It looks heavy.”

    “I know. Some nights he can barely make it to the center of the bridge, having to stop and rest many times along the way. And even when he gets to the center, he has trouble swinging it to the parapet. See! He’s struggling with it now.”

    The two men watched as the man on the bridge finally shifted what appeared to be a large leather pouch from his back to the bridge’s low protective wall on the southern side of the span. Once it was there, he hesitated but a moment before emptying the contents into the frigid water below, whereupon her turned and made a hurried exit into the night.

    The vagrant’s companion shook his head. “Strangest thing I ever saw. What do you make of it?”

    “Well, I hear tell,” said the vagrant, “he’s destroying the punches for his DOVES typeface to screw his business partner out of his half of their work.”

  5. He emerged from the blackness of the tunnel into the glare of sunlight. Another deadly silent day. He slowly climbed the stairs, going from dark to bright. Maybe it would still be there; maybe it wouldn’t. He couldn’t be sure.

    The city was an almost perfect construction of concrete and steel. The steel draw bridge, like a huge fallen metallic warrior; the building opposite holding thousands of workers in its glory days. But those days were gone.

    He walked on, across the bridge, to the point where it ended and the highway began. An ideal place, with a slight dip to collect a bit of dust, a little dew, shielded from the bright morning sun but exposed to the gentler rays of afternoon.

    There! There it was. Ten years ago, before the plague, a city worker would have killed it without a second thought. But the city workers were gone and everything had changed. This was their hope for the future. He knew not everyone would agree, so he kept it to himself.

    He crouched over it. Gently reached out and touched it. If he was lucky he might live to see the city become green again, to see hope and optimism fill the hearts of the people. This was just a start, this single little blade of grass.

  6. Death Angel?

    By Annette Rey

    The heat had been unbearable for weeks. People clustered indoors, escaping to air conditioning. Those who didn’t have AC sat outdoors praying for the slightest breeze and listening to the rattling of the struggling AC units throughout the neighborhood. Dogs laid panting in the street and chickens pecked lethargically at pebbles. The sandy desert streets reflected and intensified the surface heat, making the residents feel as if they were sitting within a campfire. They watched the rising heat waves and were mesmerized by them. The curving waves of air distorted the view, including that of an outer staircase leading to the second floor of an adobe building across the rural road.

    A pale child appeared at the door to the balcony of that staircase. Completely dressed in white, and looking freshly pressed, he descended the steps. He walked through the illusive waves, looking like an angel, or a small saint, like the religious icons the people clung to as talismans.

    As the people watched, the strange child turned and faced them. All movement stopped. All was silent. Then someone screamed. A woman appeared at the balcony from which the child descended.

    “Mi espouso esta muerta!”

    The people in the street began to rouse, “Adoracion’s husband has died! Someone go help her!”

    It was then they remembered the child. His visage melted away. The people clutched their rosaries and dropped to their knees.

    They had been visited.

    And the child would one day return.

  7. She was a liar, and now they knew it. Utter humiliation. The moment Edgar said, “Hi Farmgirl Aislinn,” her carefully polished veneer slipped away, and her presentation stuttered to a halt. All eyes in the boardroom swiveled in her direction.

    Someone said, “No, this is Linn, one of the marketing leads…”

    Another voice, “She grew up in New York. Reclusive wealthy father.”

    Edgar’s smug response, “Try a farm in Ireland.”

    Amid the confusion, she escaped. After emerging from the subway, she stopped at the cement staircase not quite ready to go cower in her studio apartment. The last year rolled through her head. Initially, she thought she’d fit in better if she concealed where she came from and shed her accent. She never intended to create a fake backstory…that just happened.

    Defeated, Aislinn started her ascent, halting when she saw a dandelion growing in a crevice at the foot of the steps. Here this was a weed, but back on the farm she recalled them as buds of gold that littered the vast green fields. Once they transformed into delicate puff balls, she loved to pluck them and make wishes before sending the seeds scattering away in the air. Every wish was identical: move to America and make it.

    Aislinn had come too far to give up her aspiration. This is where she belonged, amongst the tall buildings and busy streets. More composed, she slowly took one step at a time completely lost in thought. She would fix this mess.

  8. Lord High Commander Argon’s golden galactic transport landed atop the bombed out ruins of the Lincoln Memorial, for the Earth Conquest Day celebration.

    The five-story high Empire Conquest Staircase slowly spiraled lower until the tip of it dug into the ground claiming the Earth for the Empire. In silence, the Imperial red victory carpet slowly materialized across the mall ruins all the way to the steps of the abandoned ruins of congress. Hundreds of thousands of Galactic Shock Troopers stood, at strictest attention, along both sides of the red victory carpet awaiting their Emperor and their High Lord Commander.

    When the Emperor and Lord High Commander appeared on the platform at the top of the Conquest Spiral Staircase, all their troops, in unison, clicked their heels and wildly swung their arms in the Galactic salute, chanting, “Zorgon! Zorgon! Zorgon!”

    As Commander Argon returned their wild arm swinging salute, his arm accidentally struck the back of Emperor Zorgon, who lost his balance, falling off the platform, tumbling down the staircase to his death.

    A stunned silence quickly spread throughout the Storm Troopers, then a new cheer could be heard coming from their lips, “All Hail Emperor Argon! Argon! Argon! Argon!”

    Still atop the staircase, Emperor Argon whispered to his most trusted aide, “Well what do you know, they bought it. I guess what worked for Zorgon when he became Emperor, still works for me, too. Oh, before I forget, requisition an elevator for this transport.”

  9. Standing across from the drawbridge, Marissa and James held hands.
    “Imagine where we’d be if I hadn’t taken those stairs,” Marissa said. He smiled back, answering with a hmmmm.
    “This place will always be special but why come today?” Marissa asked.
    James let go of her hand and walked closer to the bridge. Marissa starts to follow but hesitated in the cold air. He pointed to the shadowed stairs.
    “Over there. A loose stone,” James said, “There’s something I need to finish.” Marissa looked at him confused.
    “The night we met, I was collecting a package,” James continued, “That stone is a drop. I believe the microfilm inside might show the names and addresses of every Soviet spy in the city.”
    “Why are you telling me this? I thought you were a bank account manager.”
    “My cover. There was nothing in that stone that night and I finally figured out why.”
    “Why? What do I have to do with it?”
    “My contact was later found dead. In time I finally worked out who the killer was.”
 “The only other person in the area that night.”
    Marissa backed away slowly before turning and running.
    James didn’t even bother to turn. He did laugh to himself while talking out the tiny rolls of film and holding it up to the sun.


    The physics of engineering are at the root of every project. While esthetics are important and the actual application of the finished work is the final goal, nothing is realized without a keen grasp of the materials used and the specific energy properties of the various components. Richard understood this well. While other branches of science were considered sexier than physics, he got a thrill from learning about the physical characteristics of objects and how they could be applied to new and exiting uses. Understandably, his excitement was not shared by most folks.

    “Dad, I don’t care if steel can bend. Mom, Dad’s nerding up the dinner table again!”

    Richard ignores his daughter and turns to his wife who braces herself for what could be yet another long explanation of the fascinating properties of bending and stretching metals.

    “Honey, you understand that most people think a stationary object is at rest. In actuality, all metals are malleable because they consist of layers of atoms that slide over each other and…”

    “I know that Richard, I did take science classes in high school, you know.”

    “Yes, but with my new discovery, that movement will allow for a stretching application never before seen. What I’ve created will be used world-wide and…”

    “Richard, eat your meatloaf, it’s getting less malleable.”

    Two months later in Chicago the prototype is successfully tested. Investors stand on the steps and clap. The Slinky has arrived.

  11. Liz glanced at the text one more time, ascertaining that it was really there on her phone’s screen.

    In fine, black lettering, the words stood out against the white background: I’ll be under the bridge at 5:00.

    Henry had contacted her. It had been four long years since they had been forced to completely cut ties. He had left her, tears forming in her eyes, under the same bridge days before they were to graduate from their respective high schools. She had known it was coming; their meeting and eventual relationship had developed from a chance meeting in one of the local coffee shops. However, his family had wanted him to go to a prestigious university in Europe, and they had always viewed her as a distraction. The best she could afford was the local community college.

    The separation had still hurt.

    Pocketing her phone, Liz slowly descended the cement staircase, hand running along the rough pavement barrier. Her fingers twitched in nervousness; her legs were as shaky as a newborn foal’s. Her mind was filled with anticipation. It seemed almost too good to be true; she was going to see Henry again.

    Rounding the corner, Liz’s eyes met Henry’s unique lavender ones, and she froze. They still held his familiar love and affection. A train roared overhead, drowning out the opportunity to say anything. In the absence of words, he moved forward to embrace her. She could tell he was not going to let her go ever again.

  12. “Follow me, I know a short cut.”

    We were stuck in traffic in downtown Chicago. I was in the back of a taxi, on my way to an interview. I rode the train into the Loop and hailed a cab because I know traffic is horrendous and the cost to park a car is even worse. And since this was a Wednesday, I knew the bridges that traverse the Chicago River were raised and lowered frequently to allow boaters to move their vessels to the marina in Lake Michigan for the summer.

    But luck seemed to be with me as my driver knew a short cut. He claimed. I hoped.

    He pulled into a local garage and scurried toward the river. I saw him about a hundred feet ahead of me, descending. Where was he going?

    When I caught up I saw a stone staircase descending from the busy city street toward the river. There was a path along the waterway, abutting the retaining wall. My driver beckoned me to follow.

    The sun reflected off the light-colored concrete, at times blinding. Shadows were deeper than normal in this early morning sun. We hurried along and I saw a sign on the bridge—that was my street! But how to get there? And how many blocks away is my destination?

    The driver smiled as he pointed to a shadow but was in reality a narrow stone staircase that gently curved along the wall. “That’s your building right across the street.”

  13. Crime Still Doesn’t Pay

    “Well. Waddaya think?”

    Fred glanced at Jinjer and smiled. “Sounds good to me. If you use the gown your wearing, it’ll work.” He straightened his tuxedo and stepped onto the winding concrete staircase. “Looks like thirty steps or so.”

    Jinjer slipped out of her Louis Vuitton heels and snuggled into Aris Allen’s latest style dancing slippers.

    Twirling twice, he reached out, gripped her waist and swung her high above in a graceful arch. Without any music, it was just practice for the movements. She giggled.

    He lowered her onto the second step. Her gaiety changed to sadness.

    “Oh, dear,” she whispered. “What will you do when I leave you at the end of this film. After all those wonderful years together.” She dabbed at phony tears, thinking of her hunky future partner lounging in Malibu.

    “Ah. Don’t worry,” he replied. The thought of the ten million dollar insurance policy on their lives made him grin. Thank the studio for that, and for the gorgeous stand-in, he thought. His eyes searched for the exact position of the wide crack in the fifth step. Hmmm. A lift. A twist. A turn. “Let’s get crackin’,” he cried.

    The poor fool, she mused.

    As he swung her skyward, she caught a glimpse of her young stand-in leaning over the railing, winking and waving goodbye.

    Jinjer’s shoe wedged into the cracked step. Losing her balance, she grabbed his bow tie. Both connivers went tumbling down to their assisted living future.

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