Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Hideaway

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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!

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22 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Hideaway”

  1. “Where is Tahoma, Heseya?”
    “He told me is was going to his hideaway, to convene with the Spirit of the Mountain.”
    “When did he leave?”
    “Two suns ago . . . on foot. He does this four times a year, always at the same times, always two days before the day is the shortest or the longest, or before day and night become the same length. I do not know how he knows when it is time, but he does. And somehow, he always manages to find the feather of an eagle to carry with him as an offering to the Spirit. He says he makes these journeys to protect the memories of our ancestors, the ones buried in the mountains and those whose graves, unmarked, are known only to the Spirit.”
    “I don’t understand, Heseya. What does he mean when he says ‘protect your ancestors’? What is the Spirit protecting them from?”
    “Tahoma’s offerings and prayers are meant to beseech the Spirit to protect the memory of our ancestors from those who would rewrite history and fill the minds of the White Man with untruths about the brutality delivered unto our People.”

  2. From afar it looks like the gaping maw of some hideous rock monster. But it’s to be my hideaway.

    The ascent is treacherous, even though I’m an expert level climber. It’s been a decade since I last free soloed and my pumping adrenaline isn’t helping me concentrate. It would do me no good to end up as splatter paint on the valley floor. The only consolation is that it would do my pursuer no good either.

    Is the information I carry worth him following me into the belly of the beast? Well, that’s a resounding yes. He will follow me into the devil’s lair if need be and use every torture method available to extract my secrets.

    How he found out who and what I am is a mystery, but now that he knows, he’s ravenous. Driven by the age-old human desire for immortality. He is literally chasing the fountain of youth across the desert.

    My palms are slick with sweat as I pull myself over the edge and roll into the blessed shade of the cave. I hear the telltale chink of metal on rock and peer over the edge. My heart pounds. Where did he get the climbing gear?

    I scramble to my feet and dash into the cavern, but skid to a halt as a grin spreads across my dirt streaked face. “Hercules? How…?”

    He holds up a hand to stop me. “Hebe, my love, by the gods I will always be here when you need me.”

  3. “The old men say it’s an opening to Hell.”

    “The old men say a lot of dumb things. Careful, don’t go too near the edge.”

    “You sound like my mother.”

    Pedro punched Carlos, and both boys laughed.

    Their flashlight lit up the cavern down to maybe 300 feet. Both boys peered over.

    “Can you see the bottom?”

    Carlos tossed a rock into the depths and listened. Nothing. “It can’t be bottomless. That’s not possible.”

    “Maybe it’s too far down for us to hear a little rock fall. Let’s try something bigger.”

    Carlos found a larger rock and tossed it over the edge. The boys waited.

    “Ow!” Hollered a voice deep in the darkness, followed by a string of swear words and curses and threats. Followed by a roaring plume of fire.

    The boys screeched and ran, but not before the fire had singed their eyebrows.

    “What have you boys been up to today?” Pedro’s mother asked that night.

    Neither boy answered.

    Pedro’s grandfather noticed their eyebrows and grinned. “Just raising a little hell, I suspect.”

  4. One day Mabel the cow discovered a cave on the Wilkie Farm. Intrigued, she went inside, sniffed around and played with the dirt. She was a little slow in her thinking, but at least now she knew that playing with antimatter and dynamite were bad ideas.

    While she was playing, she discovered a large egg. She didn’t know how old the egg was or, even if it would hatch. But she was determined to do something helpful, so she resolved to sit on it for long periods of time until it hatched.

    After several weeks had passed, Mabel returned to the cave to resume her egg sitting and discovered the egg had opened. For the next two months she looked everywhere for the baby creature she had protected, without success.

    Sometime later, while Mabel was quietly munching on some grass in a distant pasture, and while she was thinking about the little creature that had hatched from the egg she had protected, a ten-foot-tall, three-ton baby Tyrannosaurus Rex emerged from the woods and went on a rampage through the Wilkie Farm. The preserved egg Mabel had hatched belonged to an extinct dinosaur.

    All the creatures on the farm fled for their lives: the horses ran in one direction; the cows waddled off in another direction; the pigs, chickens and goats all scattered to the four winds; and Farmer Wilkie, grabbing his coat, came flying out of the farmhouse yelling,”Why is a dinosaur in my living-room?!”

  5. The Cave
    Jesse K Francis
    She could hear them in the distance. Calling to each other; laughing. She needed to get out of the storm to hide, rest, and let the hunters lose her trail. This storm would wash her trail away. Searching for a hiding spot she stumbled over a rock in the dark and fell. As she laid on her back, rain falling on her face, lightning cleaved the darkness. She spied a dark hole above her in the face of a cliff. Hope flared. Could she reach it? The cave was twenty-feet above her. All she had were her hands and feet. If she wanted to live, she had to.
    She limped to the wall, choosing her route. Reaching up, she grasped a handhold and began to climb. She was relieved to find numerous grips. Half way up, she couldn’t see her next move. Frantically scanning the surface of the wall above her she finally spotted a hold as another flash lit up the night. Seconds later, thunder crashed around her. As the noise of the thunder faded the baying of a dog could be faintly heard. Terror gripped her, and she almost lost her grip on the wall. Breathing deep she focused on her next move. Only another five or six feet to the opening. She would have to hurry. Clinging to the face of this wall with the hunters closing in left her fatally exposed. They could pick her off like swatting a fly on a wall.

  6. Desperate Secrets

    By Annette Rey

    “Jimmy, I’m so glad we’re here. If these walls could speak!”

    “You’re just a romantic, Jen. It’s just brick and wood and cobwebs.”


    The movers did a good job moving the slim 1980 digital piano, a gift from Jen’s great aunt. That is, until they made a rotation to put it in place in the old-fashioned parlor. One of the strap ratchets slipped, the weight shifted. A horrible crunch of old wood along with wallboard dust filled the air. The workmen and the newlyweds momentarily froze, preparing to evaluate the damage.

    “Not so bad, guys. You couldn’t help it. Nothing’s really harmed.”

    “You think, Jimmy?”

    “Yeah. The piano’s not even scratched, but that fragile wallboard looks pretty bad.”

    Jen stared at the wall.

    “What’re you looking at?”

    “Paper. There’s paper inside that hole.”

    Both of them bent down to investigate. Gently they worked the brittle, yellowed paper from the gaping hole.

    Peering at it, Jen said, “Jimmy. This has been hurriedly written. Oh…”

    Jim read aloud, “To whoever finds this – my sister, Mary Hannah and her newborn baby were killed by our mother, Fortune Hathaway on June 12, 1901. I would be next if she found this. I pray for justice. Frank Hathaway.”

    “Oh, Jimmy. That’s so sad. What should we do?”

    “Eighty-one years later? I guess they could set the record straight, but not much more, Jen.”

    “For their memory, Jimmy. We must tell the authorities about this hiding place. Frank wanted someone to know.”

  7. Wind tugged at Lalita’s clothes as she scrambled into the cave. The first large drops splashed on the hot rock, evaporating almost immediately. Lightning laced across the sky and thunder reverberated in the small space. The drops became a torrent.

    Niches, filled with ancient pottery and other personal items, dotted the walls of the cavern. She felt like an intruder and couldn’t shake the sensation of hot breath puffing against her neck. An un-looted, dustless cave didn’t seem right.

    “That was close,” said Jake. “I wonder how long this storm will last.”

    “Not long I hope,” said Lalita. “The cave opening looked like a mouth.”

    Jake laughed, then began shoving arrowheads, bone tools, beads, and jewelry into his backpack. “We can make a fortune on eBay with this stuff! I can’t believe it’s just sitting here after all this time.”

    Lalita shuddered and moved to the entrance. “Put those back.”

    “Finders keeper. The owners are long dead.”

    “I don’t care. It’s wrong. The rain stopped. Let’s go.” Lalita stepped outside. The sun was already out.

    “Jackpot!” said Jake. “A gold bracelet. Just need to get it off this old bone.”

    Thunder boomed. The ground rumbled and shook and a gust of air knocked Lalita down. She turned, heart pounding. All that was left of the cave was a pile of rocks. With a groan, the mouth of the cave reopened. Lalita’s hands shook as she looked inside. No Jake and the cavern was exactly as they had found it.

  8. “There are ancient ghosts in this lava tube.” I am talking to myself and I can definitely feel the creeps, but I know I can’t continue any further with this hole in my gut. Hell… things just got out of control. I was forced to go off-road after the bank went sour. I think I’m delirious, going crazy.

    “How long have I been out?” I feel cooler now, calmer. The take from the bank was not enough to take this gut shot. How could I know the tellers were packing? I lost the cops when I headed out for the hills then I got confused.

    “Passed out again, damn, this cave is soothing, I think I’ll figure out where this leads while I wait to heal. I don’t feel too much pain anymore. I’m not even thirsty! When I figure out how to get out of here I’m going to order a juicy T-bone and a beer.”

    “Howdy, they call me the Dutchman, where did you boys come from? What’s those shiny golden nuggets you’re trying to hide? We have hit the mother lode!” I’m getting too excited. I’ll just sit next to the gold and rest.

    “How long was I out this time boys? The cops won’t have a clue. We can divide up four-ways and I’ll help carry the gold out. Don’t worry boys, I’m getting stronger, I’ll be good as new in no time.”

    I’m so happy to find like-minded spirits.

  9. Jesse reached down and pulled his sister, Belle, up to the entrance of Robber’s Cave. The swirling Oklahoma winds swept into the opening and hummed melodically through its cracked walls as though welcoming the new spelunkers.
    “Make sure the flashlight in your helmet has new batteries and keep looking back so you won’t forget how to get back in case we lose our way,” he reminder her. She nodded and adjusted her knee pads.
    Once inside the enormous cave they poked and prodded through the rubble beneath their feet. Belle picked up a round metal object
    but couldn’t tell what it was in the dim light of her helmets flash,. “Found something,” she called out and dropped it into her pocket and continued her search.
    “Hey. I got something, too,” he cried. “It feels like the shell from a bullet.”
    The next few hours whizzed by as they explored as much as they could of the fascinating hideaway.
    “I’m getting hungry,” Belle shouted.
    “Okay. Let’s get back to the Jeep and have lunch.”
    After eating, they examined their findings – a gold wedding band and the bullet shell.
    Jesse flipped the shell. “You know, sis, this shell might be one from Jesse James’ gun. And, your ring may have been one of Belle Starr’s. They, and a whole bunch of others, used this place once.”
    An eerie feeling of familiarity suddenly possessed them as they fondled their finds. Overwhelming images floated through their muddled minds. Namesakes? Could it be? Deja vu?

  10. Entombed
    Climbing up to examine the open hole of what could be a cave on the face of the mountains seemed like such an adventure at the time. Jett said, he had done this kind of exploring a lot with his twin brother Jace in high School. “A lot”, is really a relative term. We were just going for a short hike. But, when all 3 of us saw the gaping Hole at the top of the mountain’s face we were so excited about the prospect of exploring a cave all logic went out the window. Scaling the mountain’s face and attempting a decent with no equipment save our hands was the dumbest and most dangerous idea I acted upon yet. Jett, Jace & I made it to the bottom. Of course, covered in dirt, sweat, scratches and the realization of what goes “Down” must “Come Up”. And that’s where the problem lay. The inside of the cave although, jagged with scattered outcroppings or ledges the ascent was just not going to go as easy as falling into the cave. I think it was after trying over and over like some new practicing circus act and repeatedly falling, over and over as the light into the cave faded that the realization hit us. We weren’t just stuck. We hadn’t left plans of our hike or even told anyone or left a note as to our plans. No water, no food, no help. We were entombed.


    Bunny, the lively beagle, ran off just before the Baxters sat down to dinner with their twin boys, Charlie and Andrew. Other things had gone missing lately: blankets, throw pillows, food and bottled water.
    Later, the two 10-year-olds wanted to go looking for their little dog.
    “It’s after dark,” said Mrs. Baxter, “You have to go with Daddy.”
    “We’ll be okay!” said Andrew, “We might know where Bunny went.”
    But Mr. Baxter insisted on leading, and they went in search of the dog. Soon they heard someone screaming.
    As they drew closer to the hills, Andrew whispered, “We promised not to tell.”
    “A girl is living in our Hideaway,” confessed Charlie, “And she has a secret.”
    When they climbed up, several flashlights illuminated Bunny, snuggled up to the screaming girl. Mr. Baxter called an ambulance. He recognized numerous items missing from his home. His boys had been helping her.
    The ambulance arrived with a backup rescue patrol. When the paramedics appeared, the girl yelled, “I’m having a baby!”
    The boys were astounded. Andrew opened his mouth, which remained open. Charlie popped himself in the forehead with his open hand. What a secret!
    One of the medics said, “Kathy, you’ll be fine.”
    “You know my name?” asked the girl.
    “Your parents are looking for you,” he replied.
    As they lowered Kathy down from the Hideaway, she called out, “I won’t forget you!”
    The Baxters went home loaded with household items, and Bunny followed close behind.

  12. The climb up the cliff was going to be tough in the midday heat. Michaela unpacked her gear, retied her ponytail, and shielded her eyes as she looked up at the black cave set amidst golden rock. They would find the artefact which lay untouched for centuries.
    She turned to Simone, and said, “Ready?”
    Simone looked back, the 50km hike from Istanbul, across arid land. They had brought plenty of water – oases were few and far between.
    Michaela, the stronger climber ascended first, hammering in carabiners and throwing a rope . They didn’t want to spend a night in the cave.
    The guardian that the scripture spoke of had given her chills. Sharp talons, a mouth as sharp as a carving knife, a wingspan of over twelve feet. No mention that it billowed fire, though Michaela had thought this a dragon.
    They hauled themselves over the lip of the cave entrance, the older girl helping her sibling up. The cave was pure darkness. Simone flipped on her torch.
    “A treasure unseen by human eyes, those that behold it will be filled with joy” muttered Michaela, reciting from the scripture. The inched forwards, in the darkness. They heard a shrill scream. Simone pointed her torch. In the distance, a gathering of straw and hay. Within, a brood of rare crested eagles. Descendants of the treasure written in the scripture.
    A noise from behind startled them. A creature with a twelve foot wingspan stood at the cave entrance. Their angry mother.

  13. Maybe a shadow

    “It’s a cave. I’m telling you, it’s a cave, ‘argued Marvin.

    “No no no, it’s a depression in the rock. It’s the shadows making it look like a cave,” said Gerald.

    The men took the villagers advice and had been hiking on the Northern path for four hours. The sun was west of midday, and they were tired and hot.

    “Look, what will we lose. If it’s a cave, we’ll have shade and a cool place to rest. If not, we’ve wasted twenty minutes,” said Marvin.

    “Twenty minutes of almost straight up. I don’t know if I can make it.”

    Marvin put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “you wait here, and if it’s a cave, I’ll call you to come up.”

    Gerald sat on a log and watched Marvin climb the rockface. Twenty minutes later, not hearing Marvin’s voice, Gerald called out,

    “Marvin are you okay… is it a cave or a depression… Marvin, can you hear me, Marvin?”
    Shaking with fear, Gerald gathered his courage and climbed toward the dark spot. He heard Marvin’s voice,

    “Stay back, please, don’t come closer, stay back.”

    Looking up toward the voice, he saw Marvin’s outstretched arm waving. With his remaining strength, he reached for it. As he pulled Marvin toward him, the darkness opened, and they disappeared.

    The ground rolled under their feet and they heard a roar of delight. Smiling and patting themselves on the back, the villagers knew the volcano would be quiet for another fifty years.

  14. “You’re the dumbest damned man I’ve ever seen.” He ignored her observation and continued on. Angus, Maude and their mule were on a mountain trail, headed for the top. It’s probably worth mentioning, Maude was tied over the back of the mule.

    During one of her rants, Angus bent over so he was face to face with her. At a whisper, but with increasing volume Angus said, “shut your pie hole, you cow.” Maude never missed a beat. She had developed a rest and rant routine. Walking next to the mule, but not close enough to be bitten by Maude, Angus navigated with a tall walking stick.

    “Where we goin’ anyhow, you moron?” “Gonna see Lucy and Lenore, you three’ll get along fine.” Maude tried to shake her head, “you damn fool, those are your dead wives.” Angus smiled and thought, ignorance truly is bliss. “Ya know Maude, the mouth of that cave yonder, puts me in mind of your big mouth. Three of ya was all good ol’ gals when ya could shut your faces. Course that never happened much.”

    “You and your whole damn inbred family are nothin’ but …” Angus interrupted, “we’re almost there. Inside the cave and realizing he couldn’t beat her in a fair fight, he smashed a rock on her head. After some well chosen words, “see ya,” he pushed her down the well.

    He kicked his heels and yelled, “let’s get to town, there’s courtin’ to be done.”

  15. Jerry noticed Amanda, who he had dated,(a few lunches), talking to Kevin– the office ‘jock’.

    “Amanda, I’ll see you Saturday at the 5K,” Kevin said,” …later we can find something ‘fun’ to do,” he smiled.

    Amanda looked away.

    Jerrys’ temper almost exploded!

    Saturday, Jerry went hiking and climbing; instead of moping about Amanda.

    At his favorite spot, he climbed up to a ledge, and sat in front of the cave. Then, he took photos of the mountain vistas, and sent them to Amanda.

    “Almost forgot…the selfie.”

    Jerry pressed on the screen to take the picture, and a bear who was hibernating, ‘awakened’, and sat up! Jerry saw the bear on the screen! He tried to yell, but nothing came out!

    Quickly, Jerry scrambled out of the cave, and propelled down the side of the rock face.

    “Whew! That was close!” Jerry thought.

    He looked down at his phone, and noticed he had sent the selfie to Amanda. He had sent a picture of himself, ‘screaming’– like a little kid!

    “What is she going to think?”

    “I guess I could always get another job,” Jerry cried.

    The next day at work Jerry saw everyone.

    “Hey Jerry!…I heard you were sneaking around some bears, trying to be their Guru–but they rejected you!”laughed Kevin.

    Amanda, winked at Jerry, “That’s okay, I like men who are outdoorsy and brave, with their own secret hideaway.”

    Then, Amanda leaned close to Jerry, and whispered, “Maybe, it can be ‘our’ hideaway.”

  16. 1859 – The Old West

    Horse hooves approach an imposing mountainside with a giant black hole embedded deep within it. Four mangy cowboys with several moneybags attached to their saddles ride toward the cave.

    “Job well-done boys,” Joe says.

    As the Bandits enter the cave Joe shouts. “Someone start a fire!”

    A match ignites. It’s tossed into a fire pit that explodes into flames.

    Fire illuminates the cave revealing the presence of a man dressed in black. Joe and the others slap hands to their pistols!

    “Who the hell are you?” Joe asks.

    “Name’s Blain,” says the man in black.

    Blain pulls out wanted posters with all the Bandits on them.

    “I’m here for my money,” Blain continues, “I make my living bringing in losers like you.”

    One of the offended bandits shouts, “What’d you call us you lily-livered son-of-a-“


    Blain draws, fires, and re-holsters his pistol in a flash.

    The Bandit exhales and drops dead.

    Joe and the Bandits stare in shock.

    “Posters say “Wanted! Dead or Alive.” If you boys don’t want to take your chances with the hangman I’m more than willing to oblige you.”

    All four men stare at each other.

    The wind blows quietly outside the cave. Suddenly, BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!


    Blain exits the cave carrying the stolen loot and a large sack. Tying the bags and sack onto his saddle, he mounts his horse. Checking the sack, he sees all the bandit’s heads inside. With a grin, he cinches up the sack and rides off.

  17. “We’re dead,” Sam grumbled. He and Irving scrambled up the crumbling slope as rock crunched and skittered off behind, raising a billowing dust cloud that signaled their location. He glanced down at the posse riding hard up the valley. “Nowhere to run.”

    “I got a hideout over this ridge,” Irving assured him.

    Sam spat out a mouthful of dust. “So we’re leading them to it?”

    “Shut up and climb.”

    They climbed another ten minutes, with the riders closing every second. Sam and Irving paused atop the ridge long enough to watch the men below dismount, gather weapons, and head up. Then the pair scuffled down the opposite slope, a dry wave of reds and browns dotted with creosote and sagebrush. “Where’s this hideout?” Sam demanded.

    Irving flashed a toothy grin. “Here.” They rounded a small knob on the mountainside and entered the black maw of a cave that had been invisible from above. “They’ll never find us here!” he crowed, his proclamation echoing in the darkness.

    “Quiet!” Sam whispered.

    Irving snagged his arm, pulled him into the blackness, and shoved him into the wall. “Watch this, my friend.”

    His back pressed against the rock, Sam felt a tingle wash over his whole body. He stumbled backwards and impossibly found himself surrounded by deep forest. “What the hell!”

    “Ain’t hell,” Irving laughed. “I stumbled into it by accident one cay. Don’t know what it is, but unless that posse gets real lucky, they’ll never find us here!”

  18. Sam urged the horse up the scrabbled trail. No sign of the gang below along the green-bordered stream, but he would take no chances, especially with his grandson following behind.

    Sam waved him on up and then spurred his trusty mount.

    He wondered what price he’d pay for trying to stop the bank robbery. He knew those masked men and they knew him. He kicked himself for endangering the 12-year-old with him.

    Soon they reached his hideaway. He bounced down from his horse, took his rifle from the scabbard, and grabbed the reins of his grandson’s mount. “Up to the cave.” Sam pointed to the opening above them.

    The boy scrambled up the rust colored shale and dove into the cave. Sam slapped the black horse on the rump. “Go,” he yelled. The big stallion bucked once, whinnied at the boy’s horse, and both horses raced off in a cloud of dust.

    Sam climbed up and settled next to his grandson.

    “Now we wait. If we’re lucky they’ll follow the horses and leave us be.”

    Suddenly, the hair along Sam’s neck bristled. He had learned to trust those signs. Without waiting, he rolled onto his back, grabbing his rifle and firing at the shadowed figure jumping them.

    The mountain lion fell to the cave floor dead, the rifle blast echoing around them.

    “No rest for the weary,” he said as he rose to his feet. “We run while luck is on our side.”

  19. As young teens we searched and played in the hills beyond our small town. The five of us made hideaways in all the caves around, except for one. The myths and tales told about that one cave made us hesitate to get near it.

    The story was told that anyone entering would never come out. A demon lived within its depths. None of us had the courage to test it.

    When I grew up and had children of my own, we went back to that small town as part of our vacation. Our twelve-year-old son told us he was going hiking in the hills with his friend Jerry whom we brought along. I warned them to stay away from the one cave for we didn’t know what was in it.

    It turned out that was like dangling a carrot in front of Jerry and Tom. They headed straight to that cave. In an hour they were back showing us what they had found. Bones. We took those pieces of bone to be tested and found they were bones of many animals. The coroner told us that probably a bear lived there and any unsuspecting animal wanting safety or a hideaway would become a meal.

    I looked at my husband and said, “As kids we were wise because of fear. That bear would have enjoyed eating us.”

    He said, “That bear is probably long dead or our boys would be missing.”

  20. The light was failing on the steppe as Bren pulled dirt over his brother’s body. It had taken most of the morning to hunt this oryx. Their father had taught them how. To separate one from the herd and run her down. Your skin will weep and cool you, he said. Her skin will not weep. She is faster but she will tire and stop. That is when you take her.

    He also taught Bren and Kell to watch for the big cats that roamed the steppe. Your oryx, when her blood spills, the lion may come. Be watchful.

    The boys praised each other’s prowess as they pulled their spears from the oryx and knelt with their flint knives. They were young and flush from the hunt and did not heed their father’s warning. The big cat was low to the ground and they did not see her until she was upon them.

    The cat caught Kell by the neck and shook him until his spirit fled. She tossed him to the side and squatted to have her fill.

    With her belly full, she retreated. Bren rolled his brother’s body into a shallow and covered him with dirt as best he could. He cut away a haunch the cat had left untouched. It was dark when he found a cave where he would sleep until the light returned. Bren climbed up and dragged the haunch in behind him and did not know what he would say to his father.

  21. Everything hurt as he slowly hiked.

    He looked at her picture. She was lovely, young, and vibrant, her backpack towering over her. Her smile said it all.

    They came to this wilderness as often as possible, but never often enough. Each time was special, rediscovering the area. Once they had gotten lost as they bushwhacked off trail. As they pushed through the undergrowth, they saw the cave. Looming overhead, it looked shaded and inviting. The rocks crumbled as they scrambled up. Entering the coolness was relief from the heat. They drank water and shared a trail bar. Later they slept in each others arms.

    It was difficult to find the cave the next trip, but it became their place. Could he climb to the entrance now?

    As he struggled up the incline, he saw the cat. She looked at him from above. As he slipped on the rocks, she disappeared.

    He crawled into the coolness, panting from the struggle. Everything hurt. Not much longer. He leaned against the rocks. He washed the all pills down with the last of his water. Holding her picture, he smiled. “Coming, dear.” His eyes closed, but he still saw her face.

    As night fell, the cougar moved. She had cubs to feed, and food was scarce. She padded down the rocks, past the cave where she had seen the human. She smelled food. As she pulled the body from the cave, something hit the rocks, and she paused. She sniffed the picture.

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