Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Smoke

quarry browns lake road fire oct 2017
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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13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Smoke”

  1. The Super Secret

    The use of smoke was a clever tactic of the Surveillance State. Agents used its stealth-like cover when they were ready to make an arrest.

    After firing off a smoke canister in the neighbourhood, several agents entered a house and announced their presence to the homeowner.

    “You’ll have to come with us, sir,” said one of the agents.

    “Why?” asked the homeowner, who was startled by this sudden intrusion.

    “Because you’re under arrest,” replied another agent.

    “What have I done?”

    An agent flipped open his notebook. “You’ve violated the Super Secret,” he said, reading his notes.

    “I never heard of it,” said the homeowner, dumbfounded.

    “Ignorance of the law is no excuse, sir.”

    “But I haven’t broken any laws.”

    “Yes you have,” said an agent. “It’s written right here in my notebook. You’ve violated the Super Secret. This law states that you commit an offence if there is the possibility that you might possibly, potentially, maybe, perhaps or hypothetically do something that might conceivably annoy someone, somewhere, at some time. See? Crystal clear.”

    “I’ve been at home all day.”

    “Doesn’t matter,” said an agent. “What about tonight? Or tomorrow? See what I mean?”

    “Not really.”

    “You might wind up annoying someone later in the week and we can’t have that going on.”

    “So you’re arresting me for something I might do?” asked the homeowner.

    “Yes,” said the agent. “We like to be thorough.”

  2. The air was acrid, ash hanging heavily as Jared stepped to the truck. Slipping a hand into his pocket, he fingered the button Jessie had given him for luck this morning. His daughter had a sixth sense about such things, a premonition he’d need it.

    Fighting this one for close to five hours now, they had it largely contained but everyone knew that circumstances could change in the blink of an eye, or a strong gust of wind. Two units from Wallace had come to assist, he’d buy them all beers later.

    They’d evacuated Canoe Creek and Hunters Woods, two subdivisions to the West despite digging a fire line. A necessary precaution. If luck held, residents could go back by morning.

    Tom approached, looking just as haggard as Jared felt.

    “Preliminary is the blaze started in Browns Lake campground, best guess is a campfire not extinguished properly,” earning a head shake from both men.

    “Signs are posted. Too bad we can’t close the parks when fire hazards get too high.”

    Their radios crackled to life in the thick stillness.

    “All units, we’ve got a jumper at the quarry road near Stonebridge. Not all evacuated there. Code Two. Please respond. Over.”

    “Roger that,” Jared replied as they jogged back to the truck. “Unit 26, ETA, three minutes. Over.”

    Tom drove as Jared thought of Jessie, safe, but others were not, each life precious to someone. Giving his talisman one last squeeze, he donned his glove and stepped back into the smoke.

  3. The basis of comparison had changed over the years. The smoke/smog, which would have been ranked as deadly a couple of generations ago, was now considered normal. It even had benefits, such as greatly reducing the number of live births in their overcrowded society.

    Sometimes, though, it made vision impossible for Fred, even with the infrareds attached to his helmet. But today he could clearly see his truck from ten feet away. What more did he need? He and his partner finished their shift in record time, their load delivered to the incinerator, and now his time was his own.

    Time for Monica, the girl Fred had recently met. Fred knew by touch that she had long silky hair, without too many embedded particulates, and smooth skin without too many crusty spots. Today, with the air comparatively clear, he might actually get to see her, to behold her in all her loveliness.

    As planned, Fred met Monica at the IR Cafe where she sat coyly, waiting. And he saw for the first time her snub nose, half-eaten away by parasites. Her short legs, a birth defect. Her different length arms. But other than these slight defects, she was flawless. Fred was instantly enchanted.

    Monica felt the same. Other than Fred’s lack of ears and his tiny head, he was her dream man.

    It was a match made in heaven.

  4. Suddenly…silence: no more wailing or screams of horror punctuating the air. Lying prone on the scorched earth, I peer through the thick clouds of gray and brown. I focus my cautious gaze on two uniformed men; the outline of a Humvee barely discernible beside them, its red taillights returning my attention through the smoke and beckoning me to stay down.

    “Stay down,” I thought, “while the rest of you are laying siege to my home. Where is everyone? I need to get up. Help! Why can’t I move my legs?”

    Difficult as it is, my inner demons yearning to break free from the oppressive milieu, I tame the rising anger, my mind wandering off to better days. The fog lifts as I recall another time and place: of garden parties and summer shindigs. Families sharing my street with their daily routines. A storefront around the corner serving as gathering place for kids after school or teenagers contemplating the latest gizmo. The bus stop on the opposite end welcoming routes to different dreams, varied lives. I see my parents smiling; taking my hand. But that can’t be so; they’re both gone.

    A siren punctures my reverie and footsteps approach. Still face down I feel manly arms carefully move me sideways over stretched cloth, barely disturbing my disposition. I am lifted, then carried further away from the scene into another vehicle. A door is shut. Someone checks my pulse; a rush of oxygen fills my lungs. I now feel comfortably safe.

  5. It was the last few minutes of the one-hour SSLL meeting. Hundreds of participants showed up for the blowout in the hangar at the end of the field. They came from all over the world hoping this life changing adventure would forever improve their lives. All walks of life rubbed shoulders. They huffed and puffed in intimate groups changing pleasantries and congratulating themselves. One of them plugged his iPhone into the portable speakers strapped to his back and playfully clicked on a rocking version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

    A gong gonged three gongs announcing the ending of the hour. A hush smothered the room. People shuffled about, joining new friends made at the gathering, or re-uniting with the friends they came with.

    A woman’s voice called out over the heads of the bustling throng, “Think this one’ll work?” She blotted the tears from her eyes. “We’ve been unsuccessful so many times.”

    “We’ll eventually find one,” someone replied.

    All in the group reached into their pockets for the last time and prepared for the finale.

    There were mournful cries of “So long, old friend,” as instantaneous flickers of light brightened the area.

    Echoing groans moaned throughout the smoke filled hangar as the Stop Smoking Live Longer groupies exhaled a final puff of the fortieth cigarette they smoked in one hour hoping the overindulgence of two packs of smokes would help them kick their addictive habit.

    An exhausted sigh of relief rippled through the crowd.

    Think it worked?

  6. Fog. Mystifying stepsister of Smoke and Dark. Like Macbeth’s witches, together they portend the possibility of ill fortune. They obscure the truth as we know not what they hide. When they combine in a foggy smoky early morning urban setting, lives can change.

    Greg was a troubled man. The department wanted him retired for physical issues. With two ex-wives, he was nearly bankrupt. And, he was sick. Mesothelioma, they called it. But he had to keep going, didn’t he?

    It was a Tuesday. Greg and Hank hung off the back of Old Number Three in full turn-out gear on their way to a four-alarm fire downtown. Before their apparatus came to a full stop, Greg raced toward the only evidence of catastrophe: the glow of burning debris through the dusk, smog and an early morning fog off the river.

    “Hold up, Greg,” yelled Hank. “Wait for the Captain’s orders.”

    “Can’t. I know someone in that structure”.

    In seconds, Greg was out of sight in the swirling miasma. Hank fell in with his unit and they attacked the fire in limited light augmented by the engine’s floods. They picked their way through the wreckage, extinguishing hot spots for an hour or so. The sun was coming up and the fog was retreating but the smoke prevailed.

    By noon, dozens of bodies had been found and tagged for recovery. By nightfall, Hank stopped calling out for his friend. The Captain called the crew in. Hank never saw Greg again.

  7. Not Yet

    Jason was proud, very proud indeed.

    As a member of the Longhart County volunteer fire department, he helped extinguish dozens of fires in this rural community.

    The annual BBQ tribute to these local boys reinforced his feelings of worth. He was, as a part of the team, admired and deemed worthwhile. It was all good.

    Granted, most of the conflagrations were small — barns, small family houses that dotted the rural countryside.

    Yet, he was proud that he and his team had never suffered a fatality while pursuing their task. Not a one.

    But this one was different. It had grown so huge, raging through the dry underbrush of the foothills. The thick white smoke obscured the sun…the sky was darkened by clouds of ash. Thousands of acres were enveloped. Hundreds of volunteers from the surrounding townships answered the call. It was huge. And, strangely, awesome.

    Jason was proud to be on the front lines — this was where he was at his best — saving lives, putting out fires.

    He didn’t know…yet…that six of his fellow firefighters had died before the flames subsided.

    He didn’t regret that he had set this fire. Not yet.

  8. The smoke hid the firefighters well. Gave them cover to investigate.

    Harold, the older one, said, “Grab my coat, hold on tight.” Jeanine, the younger one, did so.

    Like a centipede, they weaved slowly, the flashlight in Harold’s hand little help as they poked through the haze and dead trees.

    Jeanine said, “Do you even know what we’re looking for?”
    Harold said, “Hotchkiss said I would know it when…Ah, there it is!”

    Even with the old man’s warning, the sensation of being picked up, spun around, and watching yourself become invisible still threw the firefighters for a loop.

    The vortex spit them back out three days before. A young kid was playing with a book of matches, and one had just burned his finger. He yelped, and began to throw it, but Jeanine’s hand caught him before he could.

    The kid screamed and ran. And the forest didn’t burn. Jeanine said, “We did it, partner!”

    Harold’s only response was, “Why couldn’t I get those lottery tickets with tomorrow’s numbers? And don’t give me that ‘change the future’ crap!”

  9. Career day is an opportunity for students to shadow someone working in a job they want to consider for a life-long career. Very few jobs can be considered life-long. As rapidly as technology and society is changing, it is daunting to think of hitching your star to one job.

    But there are some jobs that are more noble than others and can be life-long ventures. First responders—police, fire, paramedics—are revered and well paid. But there is also a concern that the definition of “life-long” in these fields could easily mean less than 10 years. There is danger involved; hence the higher pay and respect. For some this is a higher calling.

    So when the schools in the Sierra Nevada mountains held its career day, it was a hand-on adventure. They actually went on a call. The chief had proposed doing a controlled burn to show the teens the real inner workings of the department. However, a call came: A real fire.

    This was a situation the firefighters had trained all their careers for and there was a distinct possibility it would be their final fire. There may be no going home if they survived. If they didn’t lose their lives, they would lose their homes.

    The smoke was thick and gray and hot. They didn’t dare let their charges out of the firetrucks. Too much smoke … too much wind … too much danger … too … much …


    Pet Rescue

    The fire raged in the hills, and this crew was making the final evacuation announcement and transporting the holdouts to safety. The smoke grew thicker.

    The truck proceeded slowly down Jasmine Road. “Residents of Carlotta, evacuate now! Fire! Emergency!” blasted the warning repeatedly, interspersed with loud sirens. The truck held five new passengers, wearing oxygen masks.

    A big, sooty Golden Retriever came bounding out of the bushes, followed by a cat, carrying one kitten apiece. The firefighters jumped off the truck, and the animals dropped the kittens at their feet. One of the crew picked them up and asked the civilians, “Who wants to hold these babies?”

    Every hand went up.

    Meanwhile, most of the crew followed the animals back into the bushes. The cat led one of the firefighters to a den where three other kittens were hiding, but the dog barked outside a home.

    The other firefighters went in, and found an elderly couple on the floor. “I couldn’t carry her, and I couldn’t leave her,” he gasped. “And we have a bird!”

    Captain Declan could hear the parrot squawking, “Help! Help!”

    “He’s trained,” said the man, as another firefighter lifted him, and Captain Declan grabbed the bird cage.

    Declan said to the man, “Your dog saved your lives. He led us here!”

    “But we don’t have a dog!” said the woman, as they helped her up.

    The man looked at the sooty dog. “How’d you know, boy?”

  11. SMOKE

    A fire fighter was awakened to the alarm of a fire near his home in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was dressed for the fire and quickly did the necessary things to climb on the engine with his fellow firemen. Off they went to the fire that was in the neighborhood of his home.

    On arriving he realized it was his house. Where were his wife and two children? He rushed in trained as he was to go in to see who had not made it out. The smoke was thick. No one was in the livingroom, the kitchen, the bedrooms or the bathrooms. He could barely see even with his facemask on. He and the men with him began working to put out the fire in the

    Seeing the fire was under control he looked around again to see if he could find anyone. There was no one, not even their cat was not in the closet where she liked to sleep. So he went outdoors.

    He heard a voice of his ten-year-old daughter calling, “Daddy.” The sweetest sound he could hear. He looked towards her and saw her standing by the junipers at the next door neighbor’s house with his wife and her brother.

  12. The thick smoke of combat shrouded the enemy landscape in a choking, brown smog. Unable to see even a dozen feet in any direction, Alpha Squad’s sergeant ordered, “Tighten up the ranks, we have a long way to go. They can’t see us, and we can’t see them. So, no talking.”

    With nightfall, their visibility dropped almost to zero, “Hold up, Stryker ETA in fifteen minutes. Count off.”

    All eight soldiers sounded off, Sarge was relieved, “Let’s all get there at the same time. Everyone turn on your Virtual Reality GPS units. Anna, take the lead.”

    She clicked her visor on, the ink black reality turned into a barren green landscape with their Stryker vehicle target clearly marked. “Ready Sarge.”

    Corporal Anna Smith lead them out of there, “Hold up land mines sensed. Feeding you the data.”

    The land mines showed up as shiny pink piles of doggie dodo on everyone’s VR headset screens. “Ok, there is the minefield, Let’s get out of here.”

    Minutes later, “Sarge, I got a visual on the Stryker. They are unbuttoned and ready and waiting to go.”

    Quickly, every squad member showed up. Inside the Stryker, the Sarge looked at Anna, “Really, pink piles of doggie doo doo for the mines?”

    Anna grinned, “Yes sir, easier to see on our VR screens than those tiny red mine flags, besides everyone has a natural revulsion to stepping in poo, even you.”

  13. Eric and Bill stood next to the smoke jumpers’ extraction teams’ fire truck – smoke surrounding them, waiting for news of Eric’s younger brother Tommy – if he was alive or dead.

    “How could they be out of radio contact – 48 hours?” Bill asked.

    “They were on a garbage load.”

    “Oh yeah, those small fires springing up, out by the ridge. When did the radio go out?” Bill asked.

    “Right away…”

    “Did they signal?”

    “Yeah, they put the ‘ R ‘ signal on the ground, but it was misread.”

    “The fog… How many miles out?” Bill asked.

    ” About …34. Your radio is all you got – when you’re out there…!”

    “Maybe that’s all you and I got, but that brother of yours, he’s cut from some special cloth…”

    Suddenly, movement in the scrub…

    “Bear!” Bill yelled.

    But instead of a bear, out of the misty fog and smoke, appeared Tommy, and his jump partner!

    “You…!” said Bill.

    “You are a sight for sore eyes…!” Eric said rushing over.

    “Bill, get some water…”

    “Maybe, we should run and IV.”

    “Unless that IV has beer in it, forget it!” Tommy smiled.

    “How do you make your way out…?”

    “My compass, and trusty little map, I noted the areas we burned two weeks ago, a couple extra MREs I always take…”

    “Man… you did get lucky…”

    “Carefully crafted luck..” Tommy smiled,”…this is going down as a good day, in my book.”

    “Any day you come out alive, is a good day! ” Eric said.

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