Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Ocean of Sand

Photo by K.S. Brooks. All rights reserved.

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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15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Ocean of Sand”

  1. HE

    “Don’t go,” she said.
    “I’ll be back in four years.”
    “Don’t go.”
    She had removed her shoes and walked barefoot, lean as a strand of grass and warm as the Earth.
    “I’ll be back,” he said.

    The dusk fell, and a gigantic bird spread out its wings and taught him to fly. He broke through the welkin and breathed in the darkness.

    There came a long night. The blue balloon floated in the airless nothing attached to a string of memories. The other end of the string wrapped around his fingers, he watched a tiny figure emerge from the balloon. A barefoot memory-walker, stepping lightly.

    The light flashed, and his world shook and went down, down, down, and hit hard the coveted sands, and it rained fire. The blue balloon tugged on the string, pulling him away from the wreckage of his dreams, into the unknown he had been longing to meet…

    Nobody in town knew where he came from. He had no memory. No possessions. Just a feverish mind full of stories. He traded them for lodging, and food, and that fiery drink that loosens your tongue.
    He described a world that lay on the other side of darkness. He spoke of gigantic birds with tails of flame, and of women with warm skin, who stood barefoot beneath the dusking sky, waiting for their men to return.

    On the day he passed, they found a charred metal creature buried in the dunes. A gigantic bird with broken wings.

  2. This is submitted for an Editors’ Choice Award only.

    “Been a little rough, these last few years, huh?”

    The farmer looked up from his shovel, spit tobacco juice on the ground, and shook his head.

    “Ain’t seen nothin’ like it in all my life, son. Used to be good farmin’ land. A man could make a decent livin’ here back in the day. Crops as far as the eye could see. Good yields, too. And big coin if a man worked the land and tended his fields.”

    He looked wistfully at the horizon, which was barren for as far as the eye could see. Sand! Wave upon wave of sand. A veritable sea of sand. Sand on the ground, sand in the air. You breathed it in when you walked, swallowed it when you talked. It blinded you when the slightest breeze blew up with the setting sun, and if the wind took to blowing, not even taping the windows shut could keep it out. It covered everything, from the counters in the kitchen to the chairs in the sitting room. Upstairs, the dressers, beds, and cabinets were covered in it. As fast it you cleared it out, it accumulated again, a creeping organism that encroached on everything and everybody until it almost drove you crazy. Some never survived, and adding insult to injury, were laid to rest in it.

    “So, I guess it’s time to fence your property in,” I ventured.

    “Hell, son, it’s been fenced. I’m just raisin’ the poles before they’re buried again.”

  3. Ocean of Sand

    “I am here!”, She yelled.

    “See my footprints?” She was horse yelling into the nothing. She couldn’t move, all she had were her thoughts and there was no one to acknowledge her existence, her value, her fear.

    She had regained consciousness to this void, how much time had passed? So tired and confused. She never was a talker, no sense letting anyone know what you’re thinking. She knew the desolation and desperation could not go on much longer or she would perish.

    She tried to identify any shifts in the landscape, a subtle whisper of wind, a change in temperature. She was going mad… down into the nothingness.

    Far away the rumbles, mumbles, creaks, and groans, wait a minute, that was a real groan, coming from inside. She slammed her eyes open. The landscape was refreshed and her footsteps had disappeared. “Noooooo!” was the scream through her tears.

    She saw the movement of the sand as they pulled the sheet over her head and heard the coroner pronounce.

    “Such a beautiful girl, no one will know”, he said as he pushed her gurney into the fridge,
    “she was ever here.”

  4. “Daddy, is that a mountain?” A little girl pointed to the massive wind-created landform ahead.

    “It’s a sand dune, Biscuit. Wanna go check it out?”


    He lifted her up and placed her on his shoulders. Her sand-covered feet dangled over them, dusting his bare chest with tiny particles.

    “How’d it get there?”

    “The wind, Sweetheart. It blew sand from the waters’ edge and it piled up and made these hills.”

    The pair began their ascent.

    “We’re so high, Daddy!”

    The burn in his legs could attest to that. He pulled her down into a squat. “Look there. You can see for miles.”

    “All the way to end of the ocean,” she squealed. “Why does it look different up here?”


    “What’s ‘pospectif, Daddy?”

    He smiled at her version of the big word. “It’s like a different view. Sometimes changing your perspective can change the way things look.”

    “Like make it better?”

    “Usually,” he said. “If something doesn’t look or feel right, a new perspective can help.”

    “The beach was pretty down there, but it’s prettier up here, huh?”

    He squeezed his daughter tight. All had felt like despair two hours before, but she had begged for the beach. The paperwork on his desk, all of which foretold disaster, nagged him, but he couldn’t resist her pleading eyes. Here, on the sand dune, he realized the power of the wind to change the landscape. And he felt that wind at his back now—all because of his little girl.

  5. Footprints

    They told me I was “stubborn, headstrong, reckless”. Maybe they were right.

    Said I shouldn’t go alone, without a guide or maps. Yeah, good luck with maps out here. It’s an endless ocean: no landmarks…featureless with windblown mountains of sand.

    I told ’em I had the Land Rover, plenty of gas and a compass. Was only ’bout a hundred miles or so to Timbuktu. No problem.

    Didn’t expect the engine to overheat…only had water enough for me. Guess I made a mistake. Then I lost the damned compass: no problem. Just face the sunrise and north is over my left shoulder, I thought.

    And, if I walked a bit, surely I’d find some tracks…people had been traversing these routes for centuries. Surely…

    Yet that was days ago. Not sure how long. But the nights are freezing and in the daytime, I broil like a damn lobster.

    Water’s about gone now — but, LOOK!! Footprints. I can follow them and find a settlement or oasis. Something…

    Two days now I’ve been following ’em. Nothing. And I’m so tired, so thirsty…

    WAIT a minute !! These footsteps look familiar. A second set…just like the first !!

    Oh no!! Could it be? These footsteps are MINE !!

    Jason’s trail was lost in the ever-shifting sands of the ocean that is the Sahara.

  6. Desertion

    “I ran into Oliver a few days ago and he asked about Jimmy. Don’t think he believed me.”

    “It always was a wild tale,” she said. “And sad.”

    “Wasn’t a tale, Sal. Wild, maybe, but true…straight to the absolute core. But you’re right, it is sad.”

    “We agree on that. As sad as a…a dead puppy. Which is always sad. Still, sad or not, I’m not sure I ever fully believed your story.”

    “You and Oliver. Doubting Thomasinas, both. Look, I was there. It still seems…unreal to me. It started so innocently.” As I began yet again, I could hear my mother say…you sound like a broken record… “Jimmy had a hunger to visit Utah…Moab, in particular. A lifetime of watching all those John Ford movies, he said. Red Rock, Sandstone Hills, Monument Valley. He pleaded with me. ‘Take me. One last trip.’ So, I caved. I’d plenty of reason not to go. Work. The cost.…but he was so pathetic. So, our bucket list road trip to Moab was born.”

    “He was dying, Henry. You knew he was. A car trip…to the Southwest…in the heat of summer. What were you thinking?”

    She was having none of it. I don’t know how many times I’d rattled on about giving up my hard-earned vacation to help my friend. We did the tourist thing. And that last day, pulling off the highway, the heat, me grabbing a few zee’s, waking up, finding Jimmy gone. No trace. Except footsteps fading into the inferno.

  7. Crawling over the dunes in the blistering heat was unbearable. If we could just make it to the top we’d be saved. My daughter was clinging to my back, weeping, while my wife, a few yards behind, toted our son. She seemed to be humming the song we danced to at our wedding.

    “We’re almost there,” I called without turning. “When we get to the top we can roll down the other side into the ocean.” My voice crackled. It felt like my throat was filled with crumbled egg shells.
    I reached up and dug my burning hands into the hot sands pulling myself up inch by tormented inch.

    At the crest of the dune there suddenly appeared a small grove of
    palm trees, their fronds gently swaying in the wind beckoning us.
    Was it a mirage?

    My wife called out, “Oh, darling, let’s dance on the patio under those
    lovely palms. I’ll make some iced tea. Let’s hurry.”

    She saw them, too. They must be real. I stood and embraced my daughter. She thanked me and kissed my cheek. We turned and waited for my wife and son. They ran up to us, smiling and laughing. The green grass was comforting. We reached the cool shade of the palms, enjoyed a group hug, and joked to see who would be the first to dive into the blue waters.

    A whirling dust-devil wiped everything away. I sank to my knees and succumbed to the sands, alone.

  8. I won’t let them win.
    Even though I cannot feel the soles of my feet from walking barefoot on these burning dunes, I fight with all I’ve got. My ankles sink deep with each step, but it doesn’t stop me from trudging forward. Forward to where? Forward to someplace else.
    My friends, my family, my motherland…they have all abandoned me, branded me a devil-worshiping-heretic corrupted by degenerate Jinns. If only they knew how much I cared for them.
    The village elders gave me foul water that tasted like urine—and I suspect it was just that—and told me to never come back again. My family cried. I did not. I’d need to stay hydrated to survive the murderous desert.
    I wipe the sweat off my forehead and lick the palm of my hand. That’s all the water I have left.
    A few hours later, my throat is as dry as the sand around me. The sand muffles the thump as I fall to my knees. I order my body to get on its feet. I fall sideways instead.
    I breath from my mouth and feel the dusty sand coming in scraping my throat. I do not have the strength to close my mouth.
    I am done. I am truly done. Soon, I will die and the dunes will swallow my dead body.
    Under the red sky of a setting sun, I hear the grunts of camels and then of a man.
    “I think he’s still alive.”

  9. Brent tumbled down the side of another sand dune, landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom. Three days of wandering this desert under an unrelenting sky. No food. No water. There wasn’t even night on this desolate world, only glaring daylight. The only signs of life he’d seen since arriving, were the dried bones of past prisoners. This wasn’t a punishment. It was torture.

    Spitting gritty particles out of his mouth, Brent struggled to his feet and trudged on. Before he got caught up in it, Brent used to believe in the criminal justice system. That was before he was set up by his best friend. Franklin’s liberal use of bribes had ensured Brent’s conviction.

    “Die, or go insane and die.” Those were the choices they gave him before digital transportation. Brent had another – escape and revenge.

    The sand beneath his feet shifted, pulling him toward a dark opening. “No!” he cried, scrambling away from the sinkhole.

    Nails and fingers raw from digging at the coarse sand, Brent fell into the pit, wondering what other hell awaited him. For a moment, he hung in midair, then woke in the prison transport center. He blinked at the giant hourglass on the table, watching as bits of old bone fell into the bottom portion. Was it real?

    “You’ve been granted an appeal,” said his lawyer, holding out a credit transfer tablet.

    Brent smiled as he approved the extra ‘lawyer’s fees’. This time he’d have his revenge.

  10. Millie stretched out on a poolside recliner in the sweltering desert heat at the ‘Ocean of Sand’ resort. She slathered more coconut butter sunblock on her delicate skin. She noticed, whenever she came out to tan, a handsome guest quickly appeared on the resort’s second-floor balcony overlooking the pool. Not knowing him, she nicknamed him, her voyeur.

    However, she enjoyed teasing him with her almost total nakedness, except for her small green string bikini. He would sit up there sipping a pina colada and pretend not to notice her. Whenever she got up to leave, he would always go back inside and disappear from the bar before she could meet him. He was driving her crazy with desire.

    Today, it would be different because she had a plan. He came out, she undid her bikini top clasp and laid face down in her recliner hoping this would entice her voyeur to join her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a waiter bring him a pina colada, and then her voyeur said something to the waiter, who looked her way. She twitched her hips ever so slightly teasing her voyeur.

    A few minutes later, the waiter brought her a pina colada, and said, “This drink must be for you. It is from the blind man on the balcony, he told me to give it to the woman with that wonderful coconut butter aroma.”

  11. “Let’s hope we’re not too late to rescue at least one,” the girl said. She squirmed in her seat as much as the handcuffs and restraints would allow. They were far from the city, the only car on a lonely road.

    “We’ll stay within the speed limit,” the detective said. “You’re lucky the judge let you do this.”

    “I know. But you have to see this for yourself.”

    The detective looked at her. “Tell me what you saw.”

    “You don’t know?”

    “No, and I don’t want to know. But I don’t want any surprises either.”

    “Babies. Human babies. Left in the desert to die.”

    The detective felt a chill down his back. “What are you saying? Why would anyone do that?”

    “I don’t know. But they are. Look! Over there! A dark spot near the top of that dune. A baby!”

    The detective saw it too. He couldn’t tell what it was. It seemed to be moving. Or was it just radiant desert heat waves?

    He stopped the car, pulled out his binoculars.

    “Is it a baby?” the girl demanded.

    “Can’t tell,” the detective replied. “I’ll go take a look.”

    He left the car running, for the girl. The temperature outside was over 100 degrees. He scrambled up the dune to the dark shape. To his relief, it was only a plastic bag fluttering in the breeze. He almost laughed. He had come so close to believing the girl’s story.

    Then, to his horror, he saw his car driving away.

  12. Another dune to cross. Terry thought he was almost there, but he couldn’t make it. A discarded canteen, now dry and discarded a few feet away. The desert heat was relentless, oppressive and would claim him. He knelt in the sand and knew this to be true.

    “Samantha…” he cried.

    The tears ran down his cheeks like a brand against his dirty skin. His cracked lips loved the moisture.

    “I’m sorry..” he said. His voice hushed carrying on the desert wind.

    And just then he saw her.

    A quick glimpse. Her angelic blond hair and her tight smirk. A taunt almost. Terry would never get her back for what she did. Could you forget the thievery? The murder of his mother? He hunted her down, as best he could, she seemed to outdistance him. She was a predator. A cheetah . As Terry closed his eyes, feeling drowzy and near blind, he knew Samantha was playing with him. She teased him into this trap. Terry lay in sand, its coarse grit the last thing he felt.

  13. No matter how long Sam looked at that peak, Mabel wasn’t coming back. She stormed off, cradling her heart in her arms for the last time. That, Sam believed.

    Following the dreams of another is easy when you have none yourself. It’s easy for a while, anyway. It didn’t take long for the simple life to bring Mabel such boredom. As Sam climbed the ladder as lead organizer on the circuit, Mabel tagged along as a genuine professional tourist, exploring hundreds of cities across the country all by herself. As Sam worked, Mabel indulged; ordering room service, sleeping in or wandering aimlessly along tree-lined downtown streets.

    When Sam’s workdays turned into worknights, Mabel reconciled that her life should mean more. Every city began to look the same. The allure was slowly dying.
    “I don’t want to be the spectator, Sam. I don’t want to watch people anymore. I want people to watch me,” she often said.

    Mabel mourned for the life she just found the courage to live. Another decade on the road with Sam was more than Mabel cared to endure.

    “I’m not coming back, Sam. This time, I’m serious. This time, I’m done,” Mabel said as she turned and walked toward the dune. Life on the road felt empty for Mabel, but not matter how many times Sam tried to compromise, she couldn’t bring herself to join her sister on the cast of Naked and Afraid. Mabel could have that spotlight all to herself.

  14. Sand everywhere. The heat. The dryness. Water, what I wouldn’t give for just one sip of water.

    Delirium sets in. I can’t tell reality from hallucination. I blink and there, just a hundred yards away is Sally, my little sister, beckoning me to come play with her.

    But she’s dead. Died when we were seven. When you’re twins you’re so alike. When one hurts you both hurt, when one dies you both die. You never forget the day you die.

    I crawl over the next dune. On the other side an oasis.

    I blink.

    There’s my family, just like they were on that day, having a good time . . . and there’s Sally, drowning in the oasis.

    I run, shout, but no one listens.

    It’s just like that day by the river. Her teaching me to swim, me too afraid to go in, the current drags her down, she can’t fight it and I’m too scared to help.

    As I get closer they disappear, they’re not real. Only the Oasis remains.

    I stick my foot in, and to my surprise the water’s real.

    I jump in and splash about. I drink it in, quenching my thirst, saving my life.

    Then I notice something buried in the sand. Upon closer inspection I discover a piece of rotting wood, part of an old sign. Flipping it over I see –-

    Three words: POSION. DON’T DRINK!

    You never forget the day you die. . . . Unfortunately I’ve experienced this twice.

  15. Unpleasant thoughts blow through my mind. I try to forget. But the intrusive storm, like swirling sand, is relentless and piles into deep drifts — stark contours that cling to every inch of my conscience.
    “What are you thinking, Eve?”
    I shake my head.
    “We’re only trying to help.” The man reaches for my hand — a sidewinder, rearing from the dust, ready to strike.
    I flinch, pull away.
    “How about it?”
    “No,” I manage to croak. My throat is dry, rough. I long for a cool drink of water.
    A woman walks in. The steel door swishes closed behind her. “Any progress?”
    The man sighs.
    The woman looks at me. Her left eyebrow slides upward. “Think it’s time to try something new.” She extends her hand. “Come, Eve.”
    I ignore her offer. Drag myself from the table on my own power. My feet slide across the linoleum.
    We walk through the opened door — first the man, then I. The woman follows.
    I can feel the wind. Feel the heat of the sun on my face. Air, scent-filled with the smells of wet grass and sweet flowers, fills my lungs. Peace, happiness. I know what they’re trying to do. But the desert that has become my soul refuses to succumb.
    “He took advantage.” The woman points to a thick tree teeming with shiny, red fruit.
    The man nods.
    “Then why is everything my fault?”
    The woman blushes.
    The man looks away.
    Silence —
    I wade through the sand. Return to my solitary room.

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