Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Fire

church creek fire 4 0701 MD205.jpg
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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19 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Fire”

  1. Flame

    Bjorn had always been considered a “weird bird” — something to be said when you consider that Daneborg (pop. 12) as a research station on the east coast of Greenland had far more birds than people.

    Mostly he kept to himself — except on Saturdays when he’d amble to the Quonset hut that served as the local gathering place for his weekly dose of Aquavit. Then he’d become loquacious and espouse his view of life to this fellow park rangers.

    “It’s how you end your life,” he’d assert, “not how you live it. You youngsters come and go, but I’ve been here for over thirty years. I’ve seen it all.”

    “Bjorn, you’re bumming us out — we’re young and have our lives in front of us.” Tommy Watson had listened to this diatribe for two winters now. “What is it you expect us to do!”

    “Listen, Tommy…my ancestors discovered this land. Colonized it. Made possible a future for generations of settlers throughout North America. The least we can do is honor their memories…and traditions.”

    “And they thought…believed…that life never truly ends. Just changes into clouds of a soul carried into the heavens by the wind.”

    “And so?”

    And so, that’s how I want to leave this life. My soul lifted into heaven by the wind.”

    They found Bjorn’s body the next morning. What else could they do?

    They set fire to the house with him inside and watched as the flames carried his soul skyward.

  2. The Fire and Spirits Dance

    In Spain where they burn their witches at the stake, do they have any more witches? Or in Salem, Massachusetts, have all the witches been purged? This church was a heresy and insanity was its core value. Imagine, casting me out, I, the richest patron of the town, just trying in my small way to offer a renewed spirituality, a rebirth so to speak. I know now and the town knows that this cleanse was necessary for our faith.

    The flames are hot… and bright. The black smoke frames our sins and the yellow and orange core shows the bones of our dysfunction. Each generation needs an event that will identify to the previous one, who would keep all things the same, that change is a natural process of growth. We can embrace or bury progress with our fear.

    All the practitioners were comfortable, confident in their faith to ridicule and mock my distress, shun me as I ran sobbing past all the pews of laughing worshipers. Their voices that once raised the Amen in union, and regaled the walls with hymns, no longer cry out in pain.

    Burn, my children and be renewed. You are returned to nature, the bosom of the mother and your souls are free… is that my mother calling?

    “CARRIE! What have you done?”

  3. I watched from across the bay. The fire that saved me. I had no choice.

    It began within a year of my wedding day. The abuse, the manipulation, the demoralization.
    I was never one to believe that love could ever be powerful enough to keep me in an abusive relationship. I never thought it would happen to me. Not with John.

    I’d met him in Mexico. Spring break, my junior year of college. He’d be graduating and I’d complete my degree and we’d marry in twelve months to the day. On the beach where we’d met.

    John charmed me, my parents and everyone he met. Our life was charmed. Everything we touched turned to gold. HIs career was growing successfully. My position at the law firm offered promotions, money and perks.

    We planned out home from the bottom up and it was another dream, come true.

    I began to see John’s anger and his jealousies of my job and my male associates. It only took one business trip with my male superior to convince John I was cheating.

    After nearly losing my life to his last blow to my head, I hiked across the lake and watched our dreams go up in flames.

    You see…I knew John would sleep well after the dosed martini.

    The fireplace had always been his realm, the wood chopping, the grown-up boy scout, lit and tended it. Tonight, it was my turn to build the fire.

    John’s hell-fire.

  4. Survivor Guilt

    “You know, the memory of the flames is so vivid sometimes that I imagine they are still scorching my eyebrows. I see that damn night blaze rising up, rolling over us, roasting us like marshmallows in a bonfire each and every fiery second of each and every day. And her voice. Frightened! Get out, she yelled, over and over, get out, now. Her screams reverberate in me like a crazy frantic metronome.”

    “It was traumatic for you. Perhaps your first real experience of trauma. Remember, you were only…five?”

    “Just about to turn six. I know. But it was so long ago. I can’t shake it. You think it would end. Isn’t it supposed to end?”

    “It will. When it does. What we can do, what you can do in the meantime is learn to manage it.”

    “Manage it? How do you manage nightmares? Staying awake forever?”

    “No, certainly not that. Nor should you. You survived. Your sister survived.”

    “One sister.”

    “Yes. One. And that doesn’t outweigh the loss of the rest of your family. Your mother cared so much for you, was so brave for you and Selina, that she sacrificed her life to get you out.”

    “I’ve talked to Selina about all this. She sleeps like a rock.”

    “She was younger. I doubt it is totally out of her memory but her youth, she was a little less developed, less aware than you, it’s a blessing for her.”

    “Yeah. A blessing. Orphaned.”

    “Next week?”

    “Yup. Next week.”

  5. Max reaches out to protect his wife as his car screeches to a sliding halt.

    “Did you see that? It’s housekeeper racing to the top of the cliff. What has she done to Ladyderlay, my mansion,?” he shouts, secretly relieved by the fiery destruction before them. The flames from the roaring fire are fanned by the ocean wind. Mrs. D presses her head into his shoulder as he tenderly covers her eyes with his hand.

    “Oh, Max, Max. I’m so sorry,” she wails. “Your beautiful home.
    You’d better go see if housekeeper is alright. She looked so terrified.”

    Max leaps from the car and runs after the fleeing figure, who stops at the edge of the cliff and raises her arms as if ready to leap into the waiting waters. He grabs her arm.

    “Let me go. Let me go,” she cries out, and tries to break away. “I’ll finally be back where I belong. Back with my mistress. I’m coming,” she screams, pushes Max away, and jumps.

    Back with his wife, they sit watching the dying embers of a life best forgotten.

    The director walks up to the car. “Sorry, duckies. This isn’t going to work. We’ll come back tomorrow and re-shoot the scene with Judith up in the bedroom window as flaming timbers crash down on her. I think that’ll be a better ending.”

    Joan looks at Larry, smiles, and holds out her hand. “You owe me ten. Told you that Englishman would change his mind again.”

  6. “This must be a difficult time for you, Chief.”

    “Funerals are always difficult, especially under these circumstances.”

    “What happened?”

    “Well, if you recall, we had that house fire over at Church Creek nine days ago—went to three alarms almost immediately. We were the first unit to respond. The fire marshal’s still attempting to confirm the cause, but near as he can tell, looks like a blanket covering one of the occupants caught fire. The origin appears to be electrical, but that’s still under investigation. Unfortunately, the house didn’t appear to have working smoke detectors.

    “By the time we arrived, the place was engulfed in flames. We couldn’t even get into it, that’s how intense the fire was. Took us two hours to knock it down.”

    “Wow, that’s horrible, especially coming only a few weeks into the new year. Just a tragedy. But even worse, it appears you lost someone from your crew that day.”

    “Doohan? He’s not one of us. Tyler Doohan was an eight-year-old kid who was spending the night in the house because school was off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He woke up and got six people out. Then, he ran back in for his grandfather, Stephen Smith, and step great-grandfather, Lewis Beach. When we were finally able to enter the house, we found Tyler’s body only feet from Smith’s.

    “The boy was a hero. The least we could do was give him a fireman’s funeral.”

  7. This house needs to burn, Gavin thought as he stared at the mansion, officially his mansion as of two hours ago. Its silhouette in the dying sun impressed a sorrowful sense of magnificence.

    The wretched building was the only thing other than money and the company that he inherited from his parents, and he didn’t want it, any of it. He only had bad memories here, and they were quick to resurface even now. He just wanted to forget; destroying the source of his consternation seemed the best way. Selling it would not remove its mark on the Earth.

    Gavin had been born and raised to continue the family business, a company he was always second to in the eyes of his parents. This house had been his prison. Tutors taught him everything; his free time was spent trying to entertain himself alone in empty rooms and staying out of the way of his parents. He had no childhood.

    He wanted to pursue his own future, not one set in stone before his birth. He would sell the company, not wanting to wreck the lives of all who worked there, but this house had to go.

    This decision never wavered as he spent the evening dowsing the rooms in kerosene.

    Finally, Gavin lit the match, staring at the fire that flickered innocently on the stick. After a moment, he dropped it onto the trail of kerosene.

    There was no going back as fire consumed the house.

  8. Husband Toast

    Gorza’s long, rubbery red tongue was licking the single fat eye above her nose when Zeet came up beside her and irritably elbowed her.

    “Stop licking your eye. It’ll get infected,” Zeet complained and folded her arms, eyes on the house that stood engulfed in flame in the distance.

    Gorza rolled her big eye and sucked her tongue back in her mouth. The flaccid tongue slapped between her tusks as it disappeared within her leathery lips, spraying an irritated Zeet with spittle in the process.

    Gorza and Zeet were standing yards away, and yet Gorza’s purple fur felt as singed and sweaty as if she were standing in the midst of the flame. She could hear her husband’s tortured screams as he burned alive, and the smell of his charring flesh made the acid sick rise in the back of her throat.

    “You boarded all the windows, right?” Gorza said miserably. She took out a clothespin and pinched her nostrils shut with it. Beside her, Zeet was doing the same.

    “He’s not gonna come roaring outta there, is he?” Gorza pressed. If her husband escaped the fire alive, they were both dead.

    “I boarded them twice,” answered Zeet. “Stop worrying. One he’s dead, we can spread him on toast. Maybe waffles.”

    Gorza looked glumly at her furry purple toes, the claws of which had torn through her house slippers.

    “It’s for the best,” Zeet said. “He tried to eat the kids, honey.”

  9. Deidre paused on the trail to enjoy the sunset, but an eerie glow competing with the horizon distracted her. A burst of dark smoke smeared the sky, sending chills down her spine. She immediately ran towards the cabin that was roughly a mile away.

    As she rounded the bend her worst fears were confirmed; her beloved cabin was engulfed in flames. Blazing. Intense. Embers skimmed the breeze. Ash drifted. There was nothing to save. She dropped to her knees, trying to catch her breath in pungent air that seared her throat.

    Her thoughts were jumbled. Did I leave the stove on again? A candle?

    This had to be her fault. Her daughters had been telling her for months that they were worried about her bouts of forgetfulness. She’d become a master at brushing off their concerns. Whenever there were moments that she actually thought something might be wrong, she’d ultimately convince herself it was a normal element of aging. Anything else was too scary to face.

    She’d managed a clothing store, raised two amazing daughters, and she’d always been independent. After their last argument over…well, whatever it was about, Deidre decided to go to her cabin to relax.

    A siren blared in the distance, but it offered no solace as the tears poured.

    Deidre used to believe that she’d always have the memories of watching her children grow and of the years with her parents before they’d passed away. Now her memories seemed like delicate strands, easy to incinerate.

  10. All In The Family

    My Uncle Harold is the smartest person I know. At the age of eighteen, I have come to rely on him for everything. God forbid if he dies anytime soon. You see, I’m not skilled in anything. As my uncle says I am a beauty who will never need to do any heavy lifting for money.
    At dinner I asked him, “Uncle Harold, what makes you believe I will never have to work? Are you a psychic?” Hmm, this was intriguing. My uncle, a psychic? I sized him up from across the table. Mostly bald. A few strands of white hair. Smart eyes. Intelligent face. But, no, no psychic features.
    He hushed me. The six o’clock news was on. It had all his attention. The home was engulfed in flames.
    “It’s time,” he said as he walked towards the door.
    I followed him all the way to the car.
    “Well, get in,” he said. “We have to go.”
    I sealed my mouth. Good things come to those who wait. Right? I felt the heat before I saw the blaze. My uncle drove as close to the fire as he could get. A woman dressed in black stood in front of three body bags. She crossed herself as we approached.
    My uncle pointed to the black, plastic, body bags resting on the dirt. “You see there, Muffy, that’s why you’ll never do any heavy lifting. Five hundred thousand times three. Why that’s a mil and a half.”

  11. Burn Baby Burn
    As I rounded the corner on my bike I saw her fiery house fold like a lawn chair and slam hissing into the swimming pool. The following day’s headline would read: “Dog Drowns in Fire” because it was true and because everyone loves authentic irony.
    The lawnmower in the tool shed had exploded launching stored furniture, holiday decorations and bags of Moo-Doo over the garage, setting the house ablaze. My friend Sarah was in hysterics. Horrified, she thought of her diaries and the birth control pills.
    I saw her Dad throw undamaged dining room chairs, two at a time, onto the flaming azaleas (he always hated those chairs). He kicked at a Captain Beefheart record as it melted, form-fit, over a garden gnome. “How Dali,” he thought, then panic: his porn and all the hidden booze bottles.
    Sarah’s Mom was crawling on the driveway, picking up shards of shattered Hummel figurines and weeping, her knees bloody. She looked back at the house and, reality check: a recent affair she secretly wished hadn’t ended. She had kept notes and a few photos.
    I stood behind a tree across the street and wondered: If there were a fire in my house, what would I pray would burn and be lost forever? Ironic, no?


    I kept an eye out just in case anyone was on the dock.

    “Hey Johnny, where’s the paper?” Louis, a short, cocky man with a pug nose and beady eyes approached me carrying a duffel bag containing two million dollars.

    “It’s right here.” I handed him another duffel bag full of blank paper; the special kind used to print money.

    Louis and I had robbed a bank along with a dangerous character called Bruno. Bruno later threatened us and took all the money to his boat. We were stealing it back.

    Louis said, “You drive the money to the house and then come back here. I’ll put this blank paper on the boat and torch it. If Bruno has the ashes analyzed, the test will tell him it was money. He’ll think the money burned. He’ll never suspect we stole it.”

    Later, we were driving back to the house. Louis bragged about his plan. He insulted me, like always, calling me a dope because I wasn’t clever enough to come up with such a genius plan. I hated it.

    An orange light illuminated the sky as we approached the house. It was engulfed in flames. Louis ran toward the house screaming, “My money. No, no, no!”

    Later that night, I was alone in a hotel room. I plopped down on the bed, opened the bag beside me, and started counting the money—two million dollars.

    A wicked grin seized my face just before I dozed off.

  13. After his father lost yet another job, Richard quit school and went to work. Someone needed to care for his two younger sisters and his disabled mother.

    Tonight, as he returns late from his job, he sees a strange light emanating from the front room. Stepping through the door, Richard immediately takes in the scene. His father lies passed out on the floor, surrounded by empty beer cans and cigarette butts. Richard smells scorched cotton and feels the heat from the burning couch. Flames are already crawling up the wall.

    Richard kicks his father awake and screams at him to leave. While his father stumbles out the door, Richard races toward the bedrooms. He awakens his sisters and rushes them outside. He returns to lift his mother into her wheelchair. As he pushes her through the doorway, he hears their little Sheltie yipping in its kennel.

    With his family safely outside, Richard turns back toward the house. Before he can run in to release his pet, flames engulf the doorway and shoot skyward from the roof. By the time the firemen arrive, his home has collapsed into a charred ruin.

    With tears running down his face Richard thinks the unthinkable. He wishes he had rescued his dog instead of his father.

  14. Hair billows behind her in a long raven stream. She stands only a few yards from the inferno. Heedless of the searing heat, she watches the flames leap skyward and the timbers crumble. Those who refused to follow her orders are nothing but twisted ash. Their last moments were filled with torment.

    The look of cold detachment on her face sends shivers down my spine, but it isn’t from fear. She started the fire with nothing but an outstretched hand, untouched by the flames that wrought such destruction. To walk through fire and come to no harm; she’s more than what she appears, more than a beautiful young woman. She is a goddess, strong, and unstoppable.

    Around us people cringe, unsure what to make of their new overlord, but not I. For once, doubt has fled. I kneel at her feet to pledge loyalty and our eyes meet. A small smile slips across her face. She knows that I will stop at nothing to keep her from harm, that my soul belongs to her. Small, delicate fingers rest over my racing heart. A scream escapes my lips as heat sears my chest, but I don’t flinch. Forever I will carry her mark, her brand, her kiss. Within seconds the burn heals, leaving only a hand shaped scar and the memory of brief pain. More follow suit as I stand by her side, but the fear in their eyes tarnishes their vows. They’ll never love her as I do.

  15. I watched the flames burn away my childhood, burn away my memories; burn away the home that had been my very life up till now.

    I watched the kitchen collapse in on itself as the fire engulfed the very place I ate breakfast in every morning. I remember my first meals, sitting in a height-chair, my mother pretending a spoonful of baby food was an airplane coming in to land in the hangar.

    The big window of the living room where every Christmas we placed a huge tree was nothing more than a frame where red-hot flames consumed my history. Every year we decorated that tree as a family from top to bottom. My father would always hold up my little sister so she could place the star on top. Christmas day, so many presents packed under that big tree it seemed like opening them would take forever.

    Above the living room was my room. The very place I spent most of my existence growing up. Sleepovers with friends, models I built, G.I. Joe warzones I would create for me and friends to battle Cobra, my first intimate moments with a girl, all done up in that room. Now tears roll down my cheeks as I watch that room collapse in on itself and disappear forever into the fire.

    Finally the fire trucks arrive and begin to dowse the flames but it’s too late, far too late. The house that had been my life for all these years was gone. It was time to move on, build a new house, a new life, somewhere else.

  16. I know… it’s mesmerizing isn’t it? I can’t seem to avert my gaze.; so destructive, so powerful, so invigorating.

    Yes, I admit, I started the fire. Well, I am the vessel that carried out the action anyway. To be honest, somewhere deep down inside me the spark was ignited long ago.
    At first it was a faint whisper. You know…like when you think someone has called your name, you stop to look who it was but no one is there. Ya, like that. It got bolder as time went on. It would call to me seemingly when I needed it the most, “ Jaaason, I’m here for you.” Then with a flash of orange and yellow, it would show itself, just for a brief moment and light up my brain warming me from the inside out. I had always been told how dangerous fire was but somehow that made it even more attractive.
    I prefer to use plain old Diamond Matches. Why? A couple reasons really; 1) I LOVE THE SMELL! fresh sulpher 2) I like the fact some effort has to be put into lighting the thing; holding the tip just right against the strike pad with just the right amount of pressure and speed as to not break the match. It’s a thrill to see the birth of a flame conceived by my own hand. Of course there is the catchy slogan right on the box….. Strike Anywhere Matches. I have definitely taken advantage of that invitation.

  17. The Fire
    “So all of it was just a lie?” Marian asked her uncle. “I was told Aunt Martha was shy and didn’t come to see us for that reason, after their house burned down.”
    Marian’s uncle told her the story: “Your great-aunt had a beau she planned to marry. Then her sister, your grandmother, came home from school and met the gentleman friend. Two months later the sister and the beau ran away to another state and were married. They bore three children who grew up and had their own children. You are one of those children.”
    “Your grandmother went home to visit the family by herself. There was a fire. The firemen tried their best to get your grand mother out of the upstairs bedroom, but the flames were too hot.”
    Marian looked at her grandmother’s tomb in the family plot. Her grandfather had decorated the tombstone with signs of his love and ten years later was buried next to her. Not far away her great-aunt Martha was later buried. The great-aunt never married and never attended family reunions. Her grave marker was as barren as had been her life.
    Marian commented sadly, “Only in death have the two sisters been reconciled.”

  18. Elmer’s stepped off the porch of his new hunting lodge and headed toward the reservoir. He noticed a bunny hopping toward his front yard. He thought to himself, “Easy kill.”

    By the reservoir, he phoned his brother, “Hi Wilmer can you hear me? Guess what, I built a new hunting lodge in the game preserve. Yeah, that’s right! I said game preserve, the one with all the rabbits, woodchucks, and deer on it. You know! Where they won’t let us hunt. That’s right! Speak up, this connection is all crackly! What did you say?”

    Elmer pressed his ear to his cell phone trying to hear his brother over the loud crackling noise. “Oh, how did I buy it? I told them I would take care of all those helpless critters. You know, the bunnies and woodchucks and deer.

    “Yeah, that’s right, I plan to take care of those helpless critters all right with my rifles: bang, bang, bang. Now ain’t that funny, ha, ha, ha, ha! I’ll call you back, I can’t hear you over all the static on the line. It sounds just like green pine trees burning and crackling. Talk to you later.”

    Elmer hung up, but he still heard the loud crackling static. He turned around and watched his lodge burndown. He did not see the bunny with a butane grill lighter in its mouth, heading toward Elmer’s truck where the woodchuck was waiting with another road flare.

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