Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Secret of the Cave

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 2018.

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16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Secret of the Cave”

  1. “Well, we made it. What’s it been? Sixty years the four of us ’ve been coming here?” announced Greg, trying to catch his breath. He set his bottle carrier on the cave floor.
    Ed nodded. “Well, until the early-’70s, it was five . . . you, Charlie, Bill, Jeff, and me. Talk about an unholy collection of misfits!”
    “I know,” agreed Bill, using his cuff to wipe his brow, “though I have to say, I long suspected Charlie and Maria snuck up here more than a few times after school for a little fun, if you catch my drift.”
    Charlie threw a punch at him in the air. “Hey! I thought that was our secret! I’m telling her what you said when I get home. She’ll clean your clock the next time she sees you!”
    Greg lifted the Champagne from its carrier, popped the cork, and, after withdrawing several plastic cups from his knapsack, poured four servings. “Here’s to Jeff,” he intoned, “the best friend a guy could have.”
    They touched cups and emptied them, whereupon Greg filled them again. “Remember how crazy Jeff always was in school, how Sister Theresa was always watching him out of the corner of her eye, tapping her ruler on her hand, and then, WHACK! She’d hit him on the wrist. Not once, but three times. And he never cried.”
    “I know,” replied Bill, downing his second cup. “He was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to die in Nam.”


    The four buddies were on their buddies trip. They’d already been to Disneyland Paris and rode all the fun rides. Their stomachs were queasy because those rolliecoasters are cray-cray.

    They decided they should to take a little drive in the countryside to calm their tummies. Once their tum-tums started feeling better, they stopped in a little town along the Ardeche River to pick up some goodies for lunch.

    Lancelot, whose dad named him Lancelot because of that side thing with a bartender named Gwen, said, “I bought some charcoal and some buffalo burger meat, so we can have a cookout.”

    Patrick barked, “I got some barbecue at the barbecue joint back there, too. So we don’t have to cook if we don’t want. Just eat it cold.”

    “It looks like rain,” Teddy whined, “and I don’t to get all wet.”

    Louie said, “Look up there. A cave! We can get out of the rain and have our cookout in there!”

    The dudes agreed. They went in the cave and lit their charcoal and started cooking their buffalo burgers. Lancelot thought his burger was so yummy, he picked up a stick from the fire and drew a buffalo on the wall.

    Patrick got up for a closer look. He tripped on bear skull and fell against the wall. His hand was covered with barbecue sauce and left a big red handprint on the wall.

    The next day, Werner Herzog showed up at Chauvet cave and said, “What the heck, man??”

  3. Home, Sweet Home
    Our challenge is to turn this space into a home.
    We must use only materials available onsite.
    Only what our bodies provide, i.e. hands, feet, heads, hips etc.
    We can’t make electricity with what we find in this cave.
    Electricity is the exception
    In what way?
    We will be given adequate supplies of electrical wiring and conduit, switches, plugs, and sockets. Light bulbs are available. We must trade for light bulbs.
    Yes. we must develop cave resources into merchandise desirable in the public marketplace and exchange it for commodities, like light bulbs, and solar panels.
    Solar panels?
    Solar power is our exclusive energy source.
    What about a shi…uh, a bathroom?
    Large caves always have ample deep vertical crevasses where body waste may be hygienically deposited.
    Then, how do we flush?
    Caves like this one are formed by aquifers. Look for damp spots, then mine them for water. We’ll become adept with stone tools!
    Stacked stone walls can be used to partition cave space into residential design units, i.e. kitchens, bedroom, studies, entertainment areas etc.

    I move we split up and distribute tasks, then swap after a given period until we’re adept at each other’s skills.
    Here are four areas to start with: find water; find resources; find waste depositories; design an electric grid.
    What about fire?
    Yes, we need light.
    I can’t see my hand in front of my face
    I feel cold rising from the Earth’s bowels.
    Let’s scram.

  4. After leading them from the campsite by the lake where they’d spent early morning fishing without catching anything but each other’s tackle, after blazing a trail through the thick pine forest, after ascending the slope to the rock wall and inching along the narrow ledge, Paul motioned at a gaping hole in the mountain. “Here you go!”

    The three other men followed him inside, mystified. “What’s this?” Roger asked.

    “What you’ve been talking about all morning, of course. And the best part is, nobody knows about this place but me.”

    “So we’re nobody,” Phillip grumbled. His feet had been ready to fall off at the halfway mark, and they still had to trudge back to camp.

    “Of course not. I meant before now. This is my land, after all. But hey, you guys are my friends. I’ll share it with you.” Paul slapped the wall of the cave. “It’s perfect!”

    Jim took his time scrutinizing the rough floor and walls and peering into the darkness beyond. “So, what exactly is it, and what has it to do with anything we’ve talked about so far?”

    Proudly, as if he’d made the thing, Paul said, “You all wanted a man cave, right? Well, here it is!”

    The return to camp occurred in deep silence.

  5. Maximillian thrust back his cape, drew his sword and pointed towards the cave entrance. “Mighty men of valour! In this cave lives Cemryntor the great Dark Dragon. It has ravaged our lands and terrorized our people. And now it holds prisoner the beautiful Roxanna, the princess.

    “If we defeat Cemryntor in battle,” Maximillian continued, “and free the princess, then the riches that lay within the cave shall be yours. But there is more. Hidden deep within the caverns, and shielded by the Veils of Valnor, lies the secret of the cave. It is the great mystery of the world for which we have fought and bled these many years.

    “So let us go forward–”

    “Max! Time for bed.”

    “Awww, mom.” Seven year old Max lowered his wooden sword and took off his cape. He knew he would have to wait until he got home from school tomorrow before he could undertake his great quest.

    Even so, Max looked into the mirror that hung on his bedroom wall and vowed an oath that on the ‘morrow he would engage and defeat the Dark Dragon, free the fair princess, Roxanna, and learn the secret of the cave. He vowed that never again would his kingdom be faced with such evil again.

    He would be hailed as a great hero; ballads would be sung about his mighty deeds; and the beautiful Roxanna would become his bride. . . .


    “Awww, mom.”

  6. The men gathered at the opening of the cave, ready to slay the beast that terrorized their small village. For years it has come like a thief in the night, stealing children from their beds and leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

    The mournful wails of bereaved mothers could still be heard from the village below. The beast had struck again, and the men knew it was time act; no more children could be lost to this malicious creature. It was time to slay the beast!

    They ventured cautiously into the blackness of the cave. The smell of death assaulted their nostrils. Someone tripped over a pile of bones, trophies of past hunts.

    The silence of the cave was interrupted only by the sound of footsteps deep within the cave. The men drew nearer to the sound, unprepared for the horror that unfolded before them.

    It stood 15 feet tall, bat-like wings spreading from the fiends back and two horns curled up from its temples. Teeth that could flay the flesh off a man’s bones in seconds formed a mirthless smile on the face of pure evil.

    The men screamed in horror as the beast swooped in an attacked. In an instant, it was over. The village could hear the screams as the men were skinned alive.

    No longer would it come like a thief in the night, to feed on the sweet tasting little beings. These meatier creatures were much more filling.


    The geologist, forensic anthropologist and two physicists stood at the breezy entrance to the cave in California. The first two had been called in to draw upon their expertise; the physicists were there because their names were in a very deteriorated laptop inside the cave.

    Strangely, the model of that laptop hadn’t been designed yet, but authorities were able to call upon their geek gurus to access its drive.

    They also found the oddly situated body of a Ms. Mildred Lubina, another physicist who lived in Texas. Half of her body was skeletal remains — hair, clothing fragments and jewelry; the other half had merged with the cave wall. The body was thousands of years old, but it was determined that she died in her early 40s.

    Currently, however, Milly was 35 years old, very much alive and working on time travel experiments with the same two physicists now discussing her past, or future, demise.

    The area would be excavated; but why here? Milly will volunteer to time-travel backwards, but something went wrong. Part of her rematerialized inside the cave wall. Death happened quickly, for her blood was unable to circulate.

    Future excavations here will uncover things Milly will want to go back and investigate. But not at the cost of her life!

    Who would tell Milly? What else would they find? Would she change her mind about going back there? Maybe they should leave it alone. The biggest question is, could they?

  8. Shhh !!

    It wasn’t much of a living, but it suited him.

    Jason had decided years ago that city life wasn’t for him. He had a little ramshackle cubicle (no more than the size of a telephone booth) which he had built just outside the entrance to the Enchanted Forest national park. From there he offered guided tours to city folk — adventurer-wannabes — escorting them through the trails and dales that comprised the 40,000-acre sanctuary.

    For a dollar-a-head, he’d explain the local flora and fauna, knowledge he had gained during the years of his solitary existence. An occasional “tip” rounded out his income. It was enough for Jason.

    Usually, the tour was predictable and he would hear the customary wide-eyed gasps: “How beautiful”…”What a view”…”So many creatures live here”. Typical city-folk reactions.

    Oh well, it was a living.

    Last stop on every excursion was at an enormous wide-mouthed limestone cave with a crudely stenciled sign in front”

    Warning !! Private Property!! KEEP OUT !!

    As they returned to the park entrance, a particularly attractive participant named Alice turned to Jason and asked: “Mr? I thought that this was government land. How could one individual have a claim to some of it?”

    “Well, years ago the feds gave people an opportunity to claim a small piece of it as their own. Some did.”

    “So, what do you call that cave we saw a little while ago?”

    “Oh that’s easy little lady: Home.”

  9. “No way!” said George, arms folded, chin jutting.

    Robert mirrored his brother’s pose, looking off into the distance, far away, where he hoped a future remained. For both of them.

    “One of you boys will have to jump,” their father stated, “The gods require it. It’s tradition to offer up the youngest. That’s you, George.”

    “Only by two minutes,” George muttered.

    “Still, it’s tradition,” said Uncle Joe.

    “Do the pine gods care which of us jump?” asked Robert. He’d only just heard about the 20-year-sacrifice, but there had to be another way. He felt George’s anger, his longstanding resentment for being the younger. Perhaps it had been justified.

    “What if we find someone else?” George asked.

    “We can’t sacrifice some stranger,” said Robert, knowing that didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t it be better? Robert glanced at the edge. He could jump. Maybe the pine boughs would soften the fall. He couldn’t just stand by and watch his twin die.

    “No, that wouldn’t be right,” Uncle Joe said.

    “Wait,” said George, “Is this what happened to Uncle Mark? You threw him over.”

    “He jumped.” Father looked down at his feet, turned away from George just a fraction.

    “He wasn’t a nice guy, your Uncle Mark,” said Joe, “It was for the best.”

    “For whose best?” cried George, leaping toward Uncle Joe, who stepped aside. George’s arms windmilled wildly, as he teetered, leaned, fell.

    “George!” Robert’s arms reached out, too late.

    “It’s for the best,” said Uncle Joe. “Tradition, you know.”

  10. The descent was a tricky affair. All five women had to simultaneously control the rate of their drop while using their helmet lights to look down the hazardous shaft. As each spelunker approached the floor, stalagmites made for the final obstacle of avoidance. One false move and the result would be a human shish kebab.
    Susie was first to the bottom. She reached into her pack and pulled out a flare. ” Tanya, watch yourself!” She used the reddish sparking light to help illuminate the floor spike directly beneath her friend.
    Finally, the cave divers all caught up with Susie, marking the first portion of their trek into darkness. A brief sense of accomplishment was in order, as they all stared back up to the mouth of the cave that was well over a hundred feet above their heads now.
    Beatrice removed a high powered LED light from her utility belt and shined it along the wall. ” You guys, over here.” She found the path to the next step of their journey. Her flashlight shone on a hole in the rock to their right. Only three feet in diameter, the passage was not for those with claustrophobia.
    ” Are you kidding me?” Tanya asked while looking at Beatrice with an incredulous glare. ” We are going to have to crawl on our hands and knees!”

  11. Dr. Wesley Q. Rimback, dentist, enjoyed vacations as much as he enjoyed drilling and filling. September was the perfect time. All his junior patients were back in school, teeth filled and straightened and cleaned, and the end-of-the-year crush of senior patients needing to get the drilling done before the end of the year had not yet started. Dr. Rimback was free.

    Last year at Mt. Rushmore he particularly admired displays of the huge drills and picks, like enlarged versions of dental tools, used in the making of Mt. Rushmore. He had actually handled some of the tools in the small museum and felt a kinship with the workers who had used them. His vacation was thoroughly satisfying, and he came back refreshed and ready for work. Until someone asked, it didn’t occur to Dr. Rimback that he never actually saw the mountain. He was too engrossed in the drills that had created it.

    This year, he headed for the caverns in Missouri. He had learned his lesson. For one week, he would not think of dentistry. Not one thought of dentistry would cross his mind. When he first saw the magnificent opening of the main cavern, he was overwhelmed. He had no problem forgetting about anything to do with his profession. He stared in wonder.

    Then he realized the cavern opening was an almost perfect likeness of a patient’s open mouth. That chipped spot on the bicuspid, the missing upper right canines….

  12. In cave number two Desiree was being tested on what a doctor should know:

    “Aaaiiieee! The doctor told Sami you must cut the stitches or the baby cannot come out. Please cut the stitches inside me,” screamed Mustafa to Desiree.
    “Why didn’t you tell me before? That should have been done months ago.” Desiree looked from Mustafa to the door in confusion.

    “I, I forgot,” stammered Mustafa. “The doctor told him she sewed the cer, cervix, I think it was called, together so the baby would not come out before it was time. I stopped bleeding so I thought all was going well with the baby.”

    “Of course it was going well with the baby, because it is growing as it should with the stitches holding the cervix together, but it is now time for the baby to be born. The tissue has probably grown around the stitches. Did you want to bleed to death and maybe the baby?” Desiree did not hold back her anger, not caring any longer about Sami, Mustafa’s husband, who was traveling away from them instead of being here with his wife where he belonged.

    Taking the scissors, Desiree closed her eyes as she felt inside her frantic friend. She cut carefully until every stitch she touched was severed. Now her friend and the baby can live if she doesn’t bleed to death.

  13. Four cave explorers made their way towards the bright light at the end of a cavern, “Dawson are you sure we’ve come the right way? It’s too bright up ahead it has me worried. It has to be the wrong tunnel back.”

    Dawson looked askance at his friend, “Bill I told you we were going by a different route back. It just seems different that’s all now stop worrying.”

    Bill turned away from Dawson, he was going to ask the other two if they were worried too, but he could see by the light reflecting off their faces that they believed Dawson. Ignoring Bill’s warnings, they made their way out towards the bright light leaving Bill behind.

    Bill yelled after them, “Guys, I’m just saying the light is too bright. I think we’re miles from the entrance. That bright light can’t be the way out.”

    The three continued to ignore Bill’s warnings as they hiked out toward the light leaving Bill even further behind. Bill turned away from them and retraced his steps back through the caverns.

    He got lost a couple of times before he came across the last chalk mark that they left seven days earlier on a wall. He followed the rest of the chalk marks out of there. Eventually, a bright flashlight blinded him, and he heard a voice, “We found one, maybe he knows what happened to the rest of them.”

    The rescuers never did find the bright light or the others.

  14. Next Week, East Lynne

    The four of them stood there in stunned silence. Finally, Hermes turned to Van and complimented him on his glorious set designed for Red and Jinger’s final dance scene. It will bring the house down, he thought.

    “Van, you did it again. You’re an absolute genius.” He patted Van’s arm. “Steaks on me at the Derby tonight.” Their two friends smiled approval.

    The glowing egg, in the middle of the stage-set cave, stood out like a rising moon. Hermes leaned forward, visualizing how the scene would evolve.

    Fade in with Porter’s latest hit. Jinger emerges from the egg, does a couple of twists and taps, poses, arms outstretched, inviting Red. He leaps to her feet. Then, back to back, they begin their beguine. As the egg slowly turns, forty scantily clad girls gyrate through a vigorously rehearsed routine. Fade out. Howdy-do, Oscar!

    They left the studio and limousined to the Derby.

    Red and Jinger were in a corner booth enjoying a Martini and, with their fingers, were rehearsing an enchanting step on the table’s cloth.

    As Hermes and his friends approached, he tripped over Red’s beat-thumping foot and crashed into their table. The drinks went flying. Jinger screamed as Red’s hand, trying to divert a flying glass, knocked her head against the wall. He twisted his ankle jumping from his seat.

    When Hermes regained consciousness in the emergency room, he wept when told the production was canceled.
    Toodle-oo, Oscar.

  15. ” Are you sure it will be OK? ask ed Jeff. “The elders said this place is taboo.” “Superstitious old fools. Don’t be such a wimp.” That said, John returned to eating his lunch. Always best to lighten ones pack when one could.

    Luke looked at Tom and asked, “I wonder why the elders don’t want us snooping in this cave. Is it sacred or does it hide some treasure?”

    Geared up with boots, knee pads, hard hats and headlamps, the four young men entered the mouth of the cave. Luke noticed that there were several sets of indistinct tracks in the sand.

    “Look here guys. A set of human footprints entering the cave, but I can’t see any heading out. Do you think there is another entrance?”

    “I don’t know, Luke, I had hoped we were the first outsiders to enter this cave,” said Tom. “The tracks don’t look fresh.”

    “Maybe he’s dead in there. Maybe the elders are telling the truth.”

    “Jeff, if you are going to be whining the whole time you can wait here.” That said, John turned and entered the cave. The others followed.

    The lone set of footprints marked their route. After several hours of twisting passages and disturbing an occassional bat, the team entered into a large cavity lined with beautiful formations. And then they saw the shoe. It already had a thin layer of calcite coating it.

    A low growl was the only warning. The cave bears ate well that evening.

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