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.
12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Tamarack”
Hidden Accomplishments in History
By Annette Rey
So, boys and girls, you know of the puppet-to-boy story, right? Well, listen to this.
With a tam-a-rack-smash, rat-a-splat, chip-at-at, scr-ape-d, sh-ape-d, Mrs. Gepetto formed Pinokette. She started with sifted flour for body, a bit of yeast for height, a tad of butter for plumpness – not too much, a pinch of salt for flavored attitude, and just in time, she added sugar to make her sweet and appealing. With milk for glue, and gentle mixing and kneading, she contoured a female child.
She admired her creation as she pulled her from the oven. She accented her cheerful face with apple cheeks, chocolate chip freckles, blueberry eyes, and a curved peach slice for a smile, and topped her head with delicate tendrils of golden-orange spaghetti squash curls.
Mrs. G laid her darling Dough Girl on sun-dappled grass beside a babbling brook and left her in the company of the woodland creatures to watch over her until a passing Prince would find her, smell her delicious aroma, and put his lips on her sweet, peachy mouth.
The Prince of Pastryville spied her and the rest, as they say, is history. With fairy tale magic, Pinokette became “a real girl”, frolicked with Pinocchio, and married the Prince. They, and all the dancing forest animals, went to Mrs. Gepetto’s Wonderhome for the joyous wedding banquet (as she was celebrated throughout the land as the Foremost Cook and Baker).
And, of course, they all lived happily ever after.
“One of these trees is not like the others. One of these trees just doesn’t belong…”
The children’s song immediately sprang to mind when Johnny first saw the naked black trunk stretching up above the forest.
He was hiking alone in the woods, retreating from the crowds and bustle of city life. He had never started a journey this far north, but it was getting difficult to find a place without unwelcome signs of civilization. The pilot dropped him off, with compass and maps and necessary supplies and wished him luck. In four days, Johnny would circle back and the little plane would pick him up, refreshed and ready to return to the city.
The too-tall black tree intrigued him. What was it? Maybe a tamarack? He couldn’t say for sure at this distance. He decided to hike toward it and find out. Two days of easy walking there, two days back. In silence, on narrow dirt trails. He shouldered his pack and began.
Most of the time, the too-tall tree was not visible. Other things were though. Pop-tops and cigarette butts where he built a fire the first night. A plastic bag floating down the river where he washed. Late in the second afternoon something metallic showed through the trees. As he drew closer he saw that it was a chain link fence, enclosing…
He had to laugh. The naked black trunk was a cell phone tower. Civilization was closing in. Next hike, maybe the Arctic Circle?
“So, what is it about this place? It looks like any other to me.”
“You’ll see. Just have faith.”
He pulled her down the cinder track, deeper into the forest. He gripped her hand more tightly, determined not to lose her.
“Look, you’re going to have tell me.” Alice planted her feet and braced herself, determined not to be dragged.
“Look, we’re nearly there.” Dwayne stopped and looked around, seeing nothing but the larches this forest was famous for. “There’s a clearing ahead – just five minutes away. Just follow me there and you’ll understand.” He let go of her hand and waited. She had to do this willingly.
Alice glowered at him. She turned and took two steps back down the trail, away from him.
“I don’t like this,” she said. “Promise we won’t stay long? It’ll be getting dark soon. I don’t want to be here then. There might be animals – wolves, or even bears. You don’t have a gun, do you?”
“No. Just my trusty scout’s knife.” He grinned, patting the pocket of his jacket. “Now, will you come with me or not? The light’s fading and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can be done.”
They walked on for another ten minutes, their pace slowing until they finally reached the clearing. There were a small number of fallen stones there, the tallest one still catching the sun.
“You see,” Dwayne said, pulling the cord from his pocket. “We made it just in time.”
I make my living as a steeplejack
Have a really nice home in a cul-de-sac
I carry my gear in a gunnysack
And bring my lunch in a haversack.
“Hike in the woods” said my zodiac
Fall had come, says the almanac.
Perfect time to fish for amberjack
And perfect time to view the tamarack.
I was dressed in my anorak.
It was trimmed black-on-black
Not with a lot of bric-a-brac,
It was on sale, bought it off-the-rack.
I rode upon camelback
Much rather be in a Cadillac
But I wanted to sip my applejack
When I went to view the tamarack.
Animals I saw back-to-back
First slithered by a diamondback.
Overhead flew a canvasback.
The slow pace of the leatherback
And tree-swinging of the Silverback.
Felt I was living in a story by Pasternak.
So proceeded to set up my bivouac
On the day I went to the tamarack.
I almost had me a cardiac
When I ran into a Kodiak
Who is a resident of Unimak.
With breath as bad as my cousin Jack
What I wouldn’t give for an umiak
With paddles—that’d be crackerjack.
I could’ve used a medevac
On the day I went to the tamarack.
It doesn’t mean I’m a brainiac
I’m not your average maniac
I’m an arm-chair quarterback
Rootin’ for the Arkansas Razorback.
And next fall I’ll sit with a paperback
For this my mind’s on a single-track
No more treks to woods unless on piggyback
To see that blasted tamarack.
It’s been over a two years since I’ve given up on society.
Since then, I’ve learned how to follow tracks, make fire and hunt. I’ve learned how to trudge on an empty stomach for days. I’ve learned how to find shelter and stay warm.
But being alone, that’s hard.
Sometimes I sit on a bed of leaves and look at the stars and there’s so many of them. I wish I could tell them my name, what I’d done today, how I feel, but they’re so far away from me.
Once I trekked up a hilltop at night with a sharp stone in my hand, and once on top, I gazed down. I saw lights dancing along a track, many of them. They were car headlights of people coming back from work.
That was the world I had abandoned. This world of modernity. This world of selfishness. And yet I couldn’t be angry at it as I once was.
Both the stars and those cars seemed so far away from me.
I wish I could be with my family again and tell them I was a fool, that I am sorry.
Unable to sleep, I waited for the rise of the sun, my last source of comfort, and it illuminated a bent tamarack tree.
I wrapped my arms around its trunk. Its sharp needles pinched my skin and the rough bark scraped my forearms and chest, but I was happy to have it near me.
A raven settled on the barren gray branch of a tamarack, a solitary outpost. All senses alert.
The early morning light was blurred by a wretched billowing haze laced with scarlet streaks and orange smudges, presenting an unnatural glow.
“The castle is on fire!” frantic cries echoed.
Dedicated guards shouted orders among the chaos. “Save the Queen!”
Reaching her was impossible. Aggressive flames thrashed about wildly, the heat too intense.
For decades, the Queen’s thirst for control was unquenchable. All thorns of opposition had been promptly destroyed. Her control blossomed upon fear, weakness, and the suffering of those outside the castle walls.
The horizon was ablaze, speckled by splatters of crimson. Smoke filled the valley of the oppressed with thoughts of a revolution nipping at the napes of every neck. Freedom was a lofty dream, long buried deep. The Queen was an exquisite master at crushing stray seeds of hope, maintaining a tight reign.
Tables had finally turned. Her cruel soul was now buried among the cinders of the once stalwart fortress she’d claimed as her own. The source of the initial spark forever remained unknown.
A fresh path was unfolding; it would find a way to rise up from the papery ashes that danced delicately on the wind. Independence would rise anew, forged amid glorious times and agonizing pain. Prayers said, and tears shed.
A raven cloaked in midnight’s grace watched from atop of a tamarack tree, a solitary outpost. All senses alert.
Title: The Forest Primeval
Trees filled every nook and cranny of this forested valley. Union and Confederate soldiers arrived in vast numbers to wage war between bark, branch and leaf.
The trees tried to warn the soldiers off by waving in the soft breeze, or dropping acorns upon their heads. Unable to knock sense into the soldiers that the love of life was far better than their hatred or wish of death in their hearts against each other, the trees weep sap.
All to no avail, the trees stood by unable to stop the bloodshed, or protect the men shooting behind their trunks. Both sides shot and killed the other as the trees stood by unable to shield any of them. Not even the surviving trees knew who fired first. Unable to take sides as the battle commenced beneath their long shapely branches. With every shot of musket or cannon, a tree was splintered and shattered down to the littered ground.
By days end, the invaders moved off the tree covered landscape leaving behind the littered remains of dying and decomposing bodies to feed the tree roots of this valley. Surely, the trees were grateful for the iron rich bloody liquids and decomposing remains of both North and South now nourishing their tree roots for years to come.
Still the forest mourned the loss of their innocent brothers. Yet this forest primeval was comforted knowing the lost trees would soon grow back stronger like no man planted in the ground could ever do.
A tamarack was the first tree to speak to Kevin, when he was just a boy roaming the Idaho woods. He felt, rather than heard, the command to look up. Above him two magnificent eagles soared around an enormous nest.
After that, he spent his free time wandering through stands of tamarack, listening to their conversations. Often they spoke among themselves, discussing the need for rain, the coming winter, their drying needles.
Over the years, other species of trees trusted Kevin with their secrets. Sometimes they offered advice – how to brew healing tea, where to hike, how to find hidden photo opportunities. He showed appreciation by helping them when possible. He trimmed diseased branches, cut back choking mistletoe, even tried to combat the deadly bark beetles.
After he’d joined the Forest Service, however, he began to hear cries of distress. Trees called for his help to renew their family. They asked for fire so their young could start new lives. But how could he protect his beloved trees by destroying them?
Kevin began to feel their pain, ending every day with a throbbing, nauseating migraine. Finally, he carried matches into the forest and answered their call. He realized, though, that any judge would declare him a criminal or lunatic if he said the trees requested the blaze. And he could never survive being locked away from his cherished forests.
So, as the flames rose through the branches around him, Kevin sat quietly resigned on the forest floor.
“I don’t know why I listen to you. We should have stuck to rock climbing.”
Red-faced, Mark hung upside down, four feet off the ground, amid a tangle of leather straps, rope, broken branches, and dead tamarac needles.
“Hey,” Jerry objected. “How was I to know it was ready to break?”
“I told you it was dead. It’s probably been dead for years. You’re lucky I’m not dead, too!”
“Why, would you have sued me if you’d died?”
Mark struggled against the jumble of climbing hardware and wood. “Just get me out of here, will you?”
“Okay, okay. Are you hurt?”
“Just bruised and scraped and slashed. I think.”
Jerry went to work on the mess but didn’t have much luck. It looked topologically impossible. How had Mark gotten twisted into all this stuff in the first place? “Did you at least get it?”
Mark glared at him. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you looked at it, the knots constraining him prevented him from slugging Jerry.
“Hey,” Jerry objected. “Don’t blame me for that. You were at the controls.”
“This whole thing was your idea in the first place!”
“Oh, be quiet and hold still. You’d think I’d purposely tried to kill you.” Jerry took out his knife and began sawing at a rope. “I just wanted my drone back.”
Charlie, a young chipmunk, wandered too far from home one day into a grouping of trees he did not recognize while foraging.
Suddenly out of nowhere a vicious snowstorm hits. So quick does it arrive that Charlie knows not what to do. He looks and looks but cannot find the path leading home amongst the fierce winds and heavy snow.
Leaving his foraged food to the storm Charlie quickly climbs the nearest tree to find shelter.
Charlie tries to cover himself using a fallen pine leaf only to have it quickly blown away leaving Charlie no other choice but to curl up into a ball and accept his fate.
Watching Charlie slowly suffer from the harsh snowy winds breaks the heart of the tree he is freezing in.
Wrapping its piney branches around Charlie the tree forms a protective ball to shelter the poor chipmunk. The fierce winds tightly pack snow onto the ball changing it into an igloo keeping Charlie toasty warm and safe all night long.
In the morning Charlie finds the right path leading home.
With the help of a gentle wind the friendly tree waves goodbye as Charlie heads for home.
It was one of those cool autumn afternoons when I spotted the hunter crouching behind a tree. The barrel of his rifle drifted from side to side as though he was targeting his prey. So intent on his sighting, he didn’t hear as I crept closer. Tough luck! He wasn’t going to get away with it.
A soft wind loosened some of the golden colored needles from the grove of Tamarack trees. They floated silently, carpeting the welcoming ground.
I inched closer to the hunter’s back. A twig snapped in the distance. Startled, we both glanced in that direction.
She suddenly appeared from her hiding place behind the shrubs closest to the pond’s edge, tilting her head side to side. What a beauty! The hunter aimed through the scope of his rifle. I jumped from behind my tree and let out a whooping holler. The frightened fool dropped his gun and turned to face the scare of his life. “What the…..?” he screamed. “You idiot! You scared the wits out of me. Why did you do that? There goes my Thanksgiving dinner!”
We watched her flap her wings, frantically gobbledygobbling as she scooted between the trees, racing home to her flock and waiting chicks.
Shaking my head, I walked away and thought, it’s a sin for anyone to kill any living thing like that. Just go to the supermarket and buy one that some heartless, miserable wretches have already deprived of life. The sighing winds seemed to agree.
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