Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Road to Autumn

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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!

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16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Road to Autumn”

  1. This is a little ditty about Jack and Diane. They took a wrong turn outside of Durango. They were hoping to suck on a chili dog behind the Tastee Freez, but Google Maps had routed them onto a country road and there was nothing out here.

    “What about McDonald’s?” Diane whined wheezingly. “I would even go for the double cheeseburger. But only if they hold the onions, because onions make me fart like Joey Chestnut after one of those hotdog-eating contests on Coney Island.”

    “And now that I think of it,” she continued continually, “I could be having a hot dog right now at the Tastee Freez, but you took a wrong turn. Just like I did when I married you.”

    Jack scratched his head and did his best James Dean. “It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have wifi to update my Google Maps and that’s probably what happened. And the only reason I married you is because your father gave me that job at his lawncare company, ‘Rain on the Scarecrow.’”
    “What?” Diane screeched, nail-on-blackboardishly. “I thought you loved me.”

    “Change is coming round real soon,” Jack said, “make us women and men. Or maybe the other way around.”

    “Let me out right here,” Diane implored. Right here by the only yellow tree in a whole bunch of green trees. I’m hitchhiking back to Durango and getting myself some Taco Bell.”

    They were just two American kids doing the best that they can.

  2. Road to Autumn
    Its magnificent beauty took me by surprise.
    That’s no reason to run off the road.
    Look at how splendid this view is?
    We agree on that point, and from the damage
    to this vehicle, we’ll be viewing it lengthily, I’m sure.
    Did you bring your AAA roadside assistance card?
    Ha, Ha, ha, you’re so funny! You said your SUV could handle Mt Rushmore
    and much more. You said all your SUV needed was a few sandwiches
    for the conductor. You had me laughing to tears. Now, what’s your plan?

    We’ll set up a camp here and I’ll strike out on foot for the last Park Ranger station
    we passed, ten miles back for help.

    And, I’ll stay here alone, I suppose.

    You’re carrying an unborn child. Ten miles is too far for you to pack?

    We agree on that point, so let’s see if we can both agree on a plan.
    We’ll build a signal fire here and wait for the Park Ranger
    fire spotter plane to rescue us.

    You forget one thing; we’ve just had three days of solid rain.


    Everything here is too wet to burn, and I need to start soon
    if I want to return with help before it gets dark?

    Easy, Peasy. We’ll siphon fuel from the SUV fuel tank, and douse
    some wet limbs. We’ll make tons of smoke that way which is
    just what we need to attract attention, Okay?
    Do you have fire insurance for the SUV?

  3. Rorshach

    I am chained to a chair bolted to the floor, my legs bound, my arms strapped down. The mask covering my face prevents speaking or moving my head. The one pale light overhead casts no shadows on the plain wooden table before me.
    The single door to the room opens and the doctor enters. He sits across from me and nods toward the ever-present guard. I know others monitor our confrontation through the two-way mirror to my left. He opens a portfolio and removes a paper from within.
    “I’m here to judge your capacity to stand trial for your crimes” he says. “I will show you an image and ask for you to tell me what you see. Do you understand?”
    I nod my head as much as my mask allows.
    “Remove his head restraint.”
    The guard complies. The doctor holds up the Rorschach image. “What you see?”
    “I see a stand of evergreens in the foreground. Unexpectedly, one of them is golden yellow, dappled in sunlight.”
    The doctor looks at the image in consternation.
    “A beckoning grey paved road traverses the verdant forest leading to the foothills of a white mountain range hugging a cerulean horizon. Sparse white clouds race across a cobalt sky.”
    “You see all that?”
    The doctor says to the guard “What do you see in this image?”
    “I see a black bat.”
    Looking towards the mirror, the doctor shakes his head, then returns the image to his case and leaves me to my fate.

  4. Early one autumn morning the king looked out the window of his royal chamber. “Ye gods,” said the king. “Leaves on the parapet again. Where is my Counsellor?”

    “I am here, Sire,” said the Royal Counsellor and bowed before the king.

    “There are leaves on the parapet. Summon the guards and have it cleaned at once.”

    “Yes, Sire. May I ask why you wish to have the parapet cleaned so early in the morning?”

    “Those leaves offend me,” said the king. He thrust out his cape, strutted to the throne and sat in royal pose.

    “Your will is my command.” The Royal Counsellor bowed again and headed to the guard room.

    A few minutes later the sound of metal banging on stone could be heard echoing throughout the castle courtyard.

    “What’s all that racket?” screamed the queen.

    A servant bowed. “The king has ordered the guards to remove leaves from the parapet, my Lady.”

    “What? This early in the morning?”

    “The leaves have offended his royal personage, my Lady.”

    “Idiots! Their using metal pikes against stone. Why aren’t they using wooden poles instead?”

    “I don’t know, my Lady. Shall I go ask them?”

    “Do something! The noise is driving me batty!”

    “Yes, my Lady.”

    A few minutes later the servant returned.

    “Well?!” screamed the queen. Her voice was scarcely audible above the banging of the pikes.

    “No one thought of it,” yelled the servant.


  5. It was an autumn day just like this when we met. Clear, bright and something else too – there was a sense of optimism in the air, lingering woodland scents and a fresh breeze causing the falling leaves to form a multi colored layer along the ground. I recall her face, the outline, the determined profile combined with a delicate fragility that made me want to approach her but also disappear out of fear of startling her. I did neither as she sensed my presence and turned.

    “Good day to you” a warm smile broke out “My dog is playing games with me and has gone in his own direction. Have you seen him by any chance? A mighty big lab?”

    “Afraid not. Maybe he caught the scent of something interesting?” I reply while observing her expression and concluding that she seems quietly confident that he will return. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask the animal’s name as he came bounding towards his mistress with his tail wagging rapidly.

    “Teddington! Where have you been boy?”
    She swarms him with affection and for a second I feel like I am intruding upon an intimate exchange but she quickly looks up, gazes at me directly and tells me her name. Hannah. That was the beginning of my life. She woke me up to what beauty meant – she taught me how to capture the moment and make it last. Today is the end. I find the spot or more or less anyway. I take a deep breath and scatter her beautiful dust. The leaves crunch beneath my boots.

  6. Standing atop a knoll not far from the house, Henry Stevens surveyed the hills and trees his grandfather had homesteaded, a scene so familiar, so wondrously rural, so beautiful. A panoply of seasons and colors! Now a scene he must commit to memory when soon all he will have are memories. Vague, shifting, receding into a dark place within his head.
    Tuesday, headed home mid-afternoon from a trip to the feed store in town, he pulled his battered pick-up truck into a service station along the main road. Using the public telephone, with trembling hands he dialed the only phone number he could remember. His wife’s calm, pleasant “Hello” failed to soothe him.
    “Tildy,” he said, his voice shaking, “Tildy, I don’t remember how to get home.”
    For several weeks now, he had forgotten small things: keys, his wallet, meetings. He had forgotten, for days, to feed the cow. She did it without calling his attention to it—because they had been married for thirty-two years and she loved him.
    Now, fearful, phone to her ear, she said softly: “Henry, let me talk to one of the service station attendants. I will ask him to bring you home and I’ll drive him back to town while you rest. And Henry, dear one, we will get through this together. I promise. Because I love you.”
    And, staring at the autumn beauty outside the big dining room window, she allowed herself to cry.

  7. When Winter Comes

    Winter will come. I know that. It always does. I may not want it to. But there is no choice. The seasons control everything.

    We are at their beck and mercy.

    I know that with all my heart.

    Yet, still, I resist.

    A little.

    Why, I occasionally wonder? Why do I resist?

    Well, you see, I am a warm weather fellow. I embrace warmth. I love heat. I dream of summer. Winter is a dark devil to me, a cruel, cold encumbrance.

    I can’t help that.

    It’s just the way I am structured.

    I know my seasons.

    But there is always the challenge.

    Take Lucille. My love. She…she was a December baby. So, I should have known better. I should have managed my hormones way more efficiently.

    I should have picked a hot-blooded summer lover.

    But, who can? I ask you. Who the hell can?

    Not me.

    It didn’t help that we hooked up at the local ice rink. I can hear you scoffing. Ice rink? What kind of fool are you?

    A fool in love. That sort.

    The ice rink was a one-off. I’d planned to go to the movies.

    Titanic, eh.

    It was twenty years ago.

    I came late.

    The tickets were gone.

    The evening was a bust.

    That’s how I fell in with the winter crowd.

    Ice skating…


    But there was Lucille’s heat.

    The ice literally melted around me.

    So, it wasn’t the road to Autumn.

    It was a winter road to love.

  8. “Hi-yah, Frankie!”
    “Hey, kid. What brings ya to Patsy’s?”
    “You said they had the best food in town, so I thought I’d give it a try. What a surprise to find you here!”
    “Have a seat, my friend. Hey, Salvatore. Salvatore! My friend just joined me. How ’bout a menu?
    “So, what’s up?”
    “Not much. But this does give me a chance to ask a question that’s been on my mind for some time.”
    “That song you debuted on the celebration of your 50th birthday: It Was A Very Good Year. You know, the one with the lyrics, ‘But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of my years . . . .’ ”
    “Whoa, hold on, kid.” Sinatra started to laugh. “I didn’t debut that song. Ervin Drake wrote that piece back in 1961, when he was in a bit of a slump. Fact is, he hadn’t had a hit in eight years. So, he’s talking with an old pal one morning, sits down at the piano, and finishes the whole thing in ten minutes. I’m not kidding.”
    [Salvatore brings the menu.] “Thanks, pal.
    “Anyway,” Sinatra continues, “the Kingston Trio recorded the piece that year, though the song—and the album it was in—went nowhere.”
    “So, how’d you pick it up?”
    “I was on the road one night, driving through the California desert, and heard the Kingston Trio track. I knew immediately: this was the song!
    “Never underestimate the power of serendipity, kid!”

  9. “Joey, I brought you here specifically to give you an appreciation of nature. The beauty of the changing colors, the gentle breezes, the singing of the birds…”

    “Aw, Dad. This looks like where they find mutilated bodies on Fluorescent Files.”

    “That’s Forensic Files, not Fluorescent Files. You’re right, though. It does look like a place where they find bodies.”

    “Can we go look?”

    His father agreed. This was not going the way he had hoped, but at least it got the boy out of the car.

    Joey and his father spent the afternoon in the forest without finding any mutilated bodies, but that didn’t matter. For the first time in his young life, Joey got dirty. Really dirty. Plowing through leaves, digging in a hollow trunk, rolling a fallen tree over to see what lay beneath. He found silence and open space and the freedom to explore. He saw a young raccoon and glimpsed a deer. Joey took a new love for the outdoors back to their city condominium.

    His father’s health was failing, and he was never able to repeat the trip. But Joey vividly remembered the day in the woods with his father, and he repeated it many times with his own son.

  10. On a sunny fall afternoon we cruised through the mountains to see the golden aspen. Following the two-lane road, it seemed like everyone from Denver had the same idea. Cars were lined up for a long way.

    As we crept along, one driver apparently lost his patience. A shiny Corvette pulled into the other lane and raced past our line. We held our breath as the Corvette, still in the left lane, rounded the sharp curve ahead.

    Within seconds we heard screeching tires. When we reached the curve, we saw two bicycle riders lying in the left lane, their mangled bikes strewn across the road. Some people were on their cell phones. Others directed traffic. Still others knelt by the bikers, trying to help. The Corvette driver leaned against his car, parked on the left berm.

    Suddenly, a burly man strode toward the Corvette driver. The big man slammed his fist into the driver’s face. As the driver crumpled to the ground, several other people approached. They began hitting and kicking the man on the ground.

    My husband started toward the mob, saying, “We have to stop this.”

    I laid my hand on his arm. “We should wait for the police.”

    He looked at me. “They could kill that guy before the police get here.”

    I tilted my head toward the bikers, surely both dead already. “We really should wait for the police.”

    My husband nodded. “I guess you’re right.” And we turned away from the driver’s screams.

  11. Title: Seeing is Believing

    I came here today because you and I used to stand right here to enjoy the scenery this time of year. However, it’s so much colder.

    Maybe because our arms aren’t wrapped around each other. Oh, how I miss your warmth.
    We should have both paid more attention to the subtle signs. We were in love, but in denial of things we didn’t want to hear… Well, I’m so sorry my love. I would give anything to give up hours or days today, to have you with me in any condition for years.

    I’m not the only one who misses you. Brandy continually paces the rooms in the house, nose to the floor or sniffing the air. Unlike at home, he is sitting on the cold ground looking at the distant mountains. He looks as sad as I do. He just doesn’t understand where you’ve gone.

    I don’t know whether I saw it first, or whether his quick jump brought my attention to it. There, just over the bed of green trees, I can see your reclining image, despite the many times, standing in this exact spot, I had never seen that before. Brandy is leaping and pulling on the leash like he wants to run and jump on the bed beside you. I think we both needed something like this.

    If this is how God has answered my prayers, I’ll take it. Well, better said, we will both take it.

  12. “Ever think about opening the door and jumping out?”

    Zee’s dark shoulder-length hair fluttered in the breeze. She’d cracked the window to get the cool mountain air as she drove the winding road. Waves of green, red, and gold spread before them, glowing in the autumn noon. She glanced at her husband Jared. “What?”

    “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought about it. What if I opened the door and jumped out while the car was moving?” His eyes were on the pavement ahead, tracking the double yellow line as it undulated before them.

    “You’d end up in the hospital, that’s what.” Zee shook her head. Her name was Xenia, but nobody called her that, thank goodness. It meant something like hospitality. She wasn’t feeling hospitable now. A gorgeous day, beautiful scenery, and Jared talking lunacy.

    “If I jumped on the outside of a curve, I might fly. I might soar over the forest like an eagle.” He illustrated that graceful flight with his hand.

    “Or plummet like a stone.” They’d been married three years. She’d been attracted by his quirks at first, but increasingly she wondered if something was wrong with him.

    He looked up from the road and gazed at the distant peaks. Snow glistened on the summits. “We could fly together. Right up to the stratosphere.”



    “Ski if you must. I’m drinking cocoa at the lodge.”

    Jared toyed absently with the door handle and gazed longingly over the outside of the curve.

  13. Road to Autumn

    We take many roads in life. We go from one season to another.

    My newborn baby cried and I was up and had him in my arms immediately. My mother was beside me in that instant. “You’re tired and need some sleep,” she told me. She held her arms out to take him.

    “But he’s my responsibility,” I answered.

    Without another word she went back to bed and to sleep. I know many Grandmas who would have insisted. I also know too many daughters who would have been lazy and gone back to bed and later complained because their mothers did too much.

  14. Gayle drove all night. The dark old house was just around the road’s bend. There loomed ancestral Wiccaway Lodge, left to her in bewitching Aunt Cathee’s will. Not another house nestled in the eerie forest of towering pines. She parked at the front steps, lit a cigarette, and thought, why did she want me here just before midnight of my twenty-first birthday? There’s no one here. I’m alone in this never-never land.

    She closed her eyes, reliving her last visit. Cathee insisted on trimming my fingernails, she remembered, and told me how she wanted to live forever. She accidentally snipped my outstretched thumb, and scooped a few drops of blood into a tiny vial. She pressed me close to her perfumed breast, whispering how sorry she was. Salem, her black cat, rubbed against my leg.

    Gayle crushed her cigarette and entered the gloomy lodge.

    Hanging above the fireplace was a portrait of Cathee, painted on her twenty-first birthday. As the mantel’s clock neared twelve, she noticed a small vial of blood surrounded by fingernail clippings arranged at its base. Mine, she wondered?

    At the clock’s first stroke, a thickening mist began oozing from the lips in the portrait.

    Terrified, Gayle screamed and ran to the door. Before she could escape, the howling mist wrapped around her, devouring her quivering body.

    On the twelfth stroke, Cathee leaped out of the frame, joyously twirled around the room, then smiled at the portrait that replaced hers, Gayle’s.



    Nancy Chase was on her way to meet her husband at their cabin in the woods, with their two children in the backseat of the car. Mike, age 10, was buckled in, and Stella, a toddler, was in a rear-facing car seat.

    The autumn foliage was gorgeous and the windows were open for fresh air. The view was mesmerizing.

    She had only made the trip once before, and the GPS chatted away. The view became so perfect, so symmetrical, that she was convinced that the GPS was directing her car straight into a lake.

    “Oh, no! I’ve heard of this happening! The GPS must be wrong!” said Nancy, panicking. “We have to stop, I can’t go in there!”

    Mike unbuckled, peered forward and screamed, “No, Mom, there’s no lake!”

    But it was too late. Nancy had caused a 5-car pileup in the Harmony Road. There were 3 fatalities and several serious injuries, including Mike. He sustained a spinal cord injury, from which he recovered only partial function. He would never walk normally.

    The judge was very lenient. There was no actual wrongdoing on Nancy’s part, no laws broken. She lost her license, and the insurance companies and lawyers took care of the rest.

    She carried a tremendous burden of guilt. One day, several years later, Mike overheard his mother praying in the next room.

    “Why did You let me do it? How could I have done this?” she pleaded.

    Mike was wiser than his years, and very compassionate. He limped in, and said, “You didn’t do anything mean to do it, Mom. Sometimes things just happen.”

    And he held her.

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