Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Salt Flats

salt flats flash fiction writing 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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8 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Salt Flats”

  1. “Hard to believe,” lamented the old man. “There was a time when this entire area was a lake–the Salton Sea–one of the most beautiful areas in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.”
    He took off his hat and wiped his brow with the back of his sleeve. “You shoulda seen this place back in the early ’70s . . . small resort towns, marinas, the works! People loved to come here to swim, dine, enjoy life. It was the place to be! And the wildlife? Wowie! The variety of migratory birds was just unbelievable. I’m talkin’ thousands upon thousands of blue herons, eared grebes, and ruddy ducks, just to name a few. If you were a birder—and believe me, they came from all over the country—you simply had to be here during the migrations.”
    “So, what happened?” I asked, trying to keep the area’s dirt and toxic dust from getting into my eyes and nose.
    “What happened? WHAT HAPPENED? First, the water level started to rise, and most buildings along the shoreline were abandoned. Them, them damn fools—I’m talkin’ the government here—reduced the flow of water into the lake and things went downhill from there. They promised to fix the problem, but their word ain’t worth a tinker’s dam! Now you got people sick, businesses shuttered, the environment in jeopardy.”
    All I could do is shake my head in disbelief.
    “I’ve almost given up hope,” he added, a tear in his eye.

  2. “What a horrid desolate place. Why are you stopping here?”

    “I happen to think it’s beautiful! Just pure beauty with no distractions.” He opened the door of the car and stepped out into the salty wind.

    “Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.” The wind whipped the ends of her scarf around her face.

    “Damn right. I’ll take this any day over the crowded city, thousands of cars, everybody crammed into three-storey condos with air conditioners on top. Everything too expensive. Half a million for our condo, and we don’t even own the land it sits on. What the hell kind of a deal is that?”

    “Can we go now? Have you seen enough?”

    “Just let me drink in the beauty and the silence for a few more minutes.”

    “Fine. I’ll wait in the car.”

    The wind continued to howl, and he spread his arms as if embracing it. Sand blew over the hood of car and against the windshield.

    “Had enough?” she asked as he wrestled the car door open.

    “I think so! It’s getting too wild, even for me.”

    He attempted to start the car. Nothing. He tried again. Still nothing.

    Sand was rapidly piling up on the hood. He tried his cell phone. Nothing. She tried her cell phone. Nothing. The blowing sand slowly covered the car.

    Perhaps the next storm would blow the sand off their car. Or maybe not.

  3. Like sands through the hourglass of time, the salt block dissolved. Rivulets of salt worked its way through the desert, heading toward the horizon. A goal for this salt block was to reach the mountain before the end of next year.

    The passage of time is difficult to measure. Day-to-day survival is the goal. Unless someone is keeping track of such things, the dissolving salt would not be noticed. Day-to-day existence is also like a grain of sand or salt—one tiny piece of the larger puzzle. Putting many of these pieces together is the only way to measure time or, more, a life.

    Sometimes desolate, all humans go through their existence not knowing what lay ahead. How many feel so insignificant in the grand scheme of things? How many feel they are less than they were when they started the journey?

    Besides me?

    The distance and the mountain represent struggles people face. For some it seems insurmountable, but bit by bit it is traversed. For that is human nature. Anyone worth their salt would understand. Sometimes life is like this salt flat, but more often than not we stand atop the mountain and peer down, wondering how we ever got through the salt flat.

    As one year blends into the next, I am that salt block. I need to cross this salt flat to get to the mountain. This I resolve before I dissolve.

  4. Sometime after 2AM Aaron was jolted awake. It took a moment to realize the beeping sounds were coming from his laptop. He reviewed the data and then woke up Carter.

    “I’m heading out to the salt flats. There’s a lot of activity from the trackers right now. It looks like the birds are back.”

    “You should wait until the team assembles in a few hours,” Carter replied groggily.

    Aaron continued to get dressed. “Meet me out there if I’m not back. Something strange is happening. We’ve been tracking these birds for four years, and even during a migratory phase, we’ve been able to find them. They’ve never all vanished. Not to mention the data from the trackers is bizarre. It shows that the birds went straight up into the atmosphere. They can’t even fly that high.” He pulled on his jacket, and shoved his laptop into a bag. “Regardless, now it appears they’ve returned.”

    “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”

    Aaron drove to the salt flats, which had doubled in size in one month; another oddity they were struggling to explain.

    Other than the sound of his shoes sloshing through the salty sludge, it was eerily quiet. No birds anywhere.

    Suddenly, a bright reddish light illuminated the area from above. Aaron froze underneath the hovering alien craft. He had no time to react before the heat from the light intensified, reducing him into a crystalized compound. His remains disappeared amongst the milky mist swirling below the surface of the water.

  5. Wilbur Gates finds himself standing in the middle of a vast desert.

    “Where am I?” he asks out loud.

    “Don’t you recognize it Mr. Gates?” a voice behind him questions.

    Startled, Wilbur turns to see –

    A little bearded man in a frock coat and top hat, smoking a long pipe.

    “Who are you?” Wilbur asks.

    “I’m your guide,” the little man responds.

    “What happened here?”

    “You did Mr. Gates.”

    “I’ve never seen this land before in my life.”

    “Of course you have. You purchased it in 2013.”

    “You must be joking,” Wilbur spouts. “I would never purchase a desert like this.”

    “Yes you would. . . if it could make you money.”

    “What are talking about?”

    “This was once fertile land, until you bought it. Soon after, the trees were cut down, the water was bottled up, and the oil beneath the surface was dug up. Everything taken until the land was dead.

    “That’s not true!” Wilbur shouts. “There’s no way I could do all this in my lifetime!”

    The little man replies with a grin, “It took over a hundred years for all this to happen.”

    “But. . . but. . .” Wilbur utters

    Not waiting, the little man continues, “This is your eternal rest, Mr. Gates. . . . No food, no water, no shelter of any kind to protect you. A dead endless landscape of your own creation.”

    And with that the little man fades away leaving Wilbur Gates alone forever.

  6. The elm wood boat rocked on waters infused with the smell of salt. Miron loved this smell. Smelled like home, even if he wasn’t there, even if he hadn’t seen his wife in days and longed for a plate of her salted lamb chops.
    But Miron snapped out of his reverie. The mission took precedence over his immediate desires of the flesh. He hadn’t set sail on the waters of the Dead Sea for no reason. No, he had to catch it.
    The fish.
    There was a breeze that made the surface ripple. But a fish? Animals couldn’t survive in the saline waters. No fish. No reptiles. No nothing. They called it the Dead Sea after all.
    And yet, Miron’s father once told him that he’d seen one. A white fish with yellow eyes swimming in the toxic waters. And thriving.
    “My son,” his father had told him, “if you catch such a fish, you will be rich. The whole world will turn its gaze on you and you’ll attract immense wealth and grow to prosper.”
    Miron’s rugged hands—hands of a simple sheep herder—gripped his humble harpoon, nothing more than a sharpened stick, and stared at the reflective surface of the water.
    And there…the head of a fish emerged! And before Miron could pierce it, the fish spoke like a human: “A dreamer? What a sight! Such a creature is rarer than even myself!”
    And with the spear still in the astonished shepherd’s grip, the fish swam away.

  7. In the shade of the Doum palms, Melaku leaned against his camel and watched the undulating dunes ripple across the sun cracked flats of Afar’s Danakil Desert. He would carry one large, yellow fruit of the trees back to his wife, Kamali, who loved its gingerbread taste. But, first he must collect enough salt to sell at market.

    A gleaming white spot in the distance beckoned him. He trudged forward. There it was. A huge slab of salt. He hugged it realizing he wouldn’t have to slave, digging in the torturous heat. He could sell it and enjoy a splurge at the fair, a magnum of Rum, a new multicolored wrap for Kamali, and toys for their children.

    He packed the slab onto his camel’s back. On the way home he imagined the loser of the treasure weeping for its loss. Maybe he needed money to feed his hungry children? Perhaps his wife needed medication for her illness? Or, it was to pay for his overdue rent? He decided to find and return it to its owner.

    As he approached his tented village, he noticed a growing number of nomads ahead. “What have you there,” the leader shouted “I found this and want to return it to its true owner.” They all cheered.

    It seems his honesty won him the prize they created to find an honest man – enough money to enjoy the fair, a magnum of Rum, a multicolored wrap for Kamali and toys for their children.

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