Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Migration

flash fiction prompt snow geese 2 bosque del apache 1998
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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12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Migration”


    It started in the Pacific but news travels fast and soon word had reached over the Chupadera Mountains to the peaceful sanctuary of Bosche del Apache. A few disgruntled snow geese were muttering expletives, but by and large there was excitement, anticipation.

    “Did you tell the sandhill cranes yet?” said Bob, tucking his feathers in close to ward off the slight morning chill.

    Bill turned to his friend, “Nope, didn’t. The way some of them are hopping about, figured they knew.”

    “Oh, I wouldn’t assume, could be overactive bladders. Burt told me.”

    Bill chuckled, “You believed him? He told me that humans were the smartest creatures on this planet!”

    That earned a laugh from a few geese within earshot.

    “If they were the smartest, how come none of them are getting ready?”

    Bill and Bob nodded sagely.

    Barry joined them, plopping on the wet grass. “I just dispatched Brad to head over the San Pasqual mountains, spread the word. I’d do it myself, but boy are my wings tired.”

    Bram waddled over, a huge grin on his beak.

    “I heard the dolphins have already left. And they sent the humans a thank you message. Should we?”

    “I suppose, but there’s not much time left!”

    They spread the word, hastily forming a huge 42.

    “Hopefully a plane saw that,” said Bill, silently thinking no bipedal would know what it meant, even if they did see.

    They all took flight, their destination a far better place than the one they were leaving.

  2. Flight Into History

    “Them’s fine eatin’ boy. Yesiree, fine eatin’. And a gift from God, too!”

    “How so, Grandpa?”

    “Well boy, let me tell you a story.”

    “Long ’bout when I was your age, times could be hard. Icy weather froze the ground solid. You couldn’t plant ’til spring. Most game was gone…either moved south to warmer places or was hibernatin’.”

    “Root cellars always ran low ’bout now. And them things your Grandma put up — ya know…jams an’ pickles and vegetables…well, they was pretty much gone too.”

    “But then the first signs of spring would come…sometimes sooner, sometimes later. But they’d come. And with ’em, the birds. By the thousands, millions maybe. They’d blanket the sky as they returned to these parts. Blacked out the sun sometimes. The sound of their wings like thunder filled the skies.”

    “There was so many, you could just wave an old stick in the air and bring down enough fer a fine dinner. Yesiree, them was the days. And we was grateful. A gift from the Lord, fer sure.”

    “In time, though, things changed. They was fewer and fewer every year. Yesiree, things was changin’.”

    “And we wondered…what was to become of us once they was gone?”

    “Well, we’re still here. Doin’ good. But they’ve left us. Don’t see any anymore.”

    “Them Frenchies called them passagers. Means: passin’ through. ‘Reckon they did.”


    [The last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo in 1901.]

  3. Connaught, Erie. 1694

    Maeve paused the dasher on her churn and wiped the mid-September sweat from her forehead. She was tired. Looking east she saw the early Brent Geese watering in Lough Mask. Weary, and now refreshed in their flight from Northern Greenland; by the morrow, they’d be spending winter in the estuaries near Belfast and Dublin. More would follow. She despised their presence, as that last stand of oats hadn’t been cut and God knows, these creatures would soon have at it.

    She rued the day Seamus left. He was a proud man. He joined Sarsfield to help restore the Stuarts. What was in it for him? She knew he never forgave Cromwell for the forced migration of his parents off their land in Cavan. So many of their neighbors became indentured to the Crown’s Colonies, as the land here in Connaught was so unfit for growing staples. But to support this pretender James on the word of the Church? Look what that’s brought us, she thought. Failed crops. Thousands of our men dead abroad. And a few cutthroats left here to bully and pillage.

    We’ll lose this farm for sure. Perhaps the children and I would be better off in the New World. When he comes home; if he comes home, we’ll talk of moving on ourselves. Meanwhile, she thought, I’ll mark the years by the seasonal passing of these wild migrants and pray for the return of my own Wild Goose. She finished the butter.

  4. Today will certainly be the most important day of my life. After all those years spent here, I have decided it was time to move on.
    Too many mistakes. Too many failures. Too many compromises.
    Too much chaos. Too much confusion.
    Maybe there is a place somewhere where I will feel at home, even if it isn’t my home.
    A place where I will be accepted. Listened to. Seen. Loved.
    And what if it was just a dream? What if it didn’t exist and I was just deluding myself? What if my flying and fleeing were useless?
    I guess it isn’t so important after all…
    I have to know. I have to go.
    Do I have a choice, anyway?

  5. Decline and Fall

    Master Wu sat at the window, dabbing his brush gently here and there on the canvas, carefully capturing the grace of birds in flight, as they flew to their migratory lands.

    As he painted, Wu thought about his country. He knew the State was all-knowing and all-seeing, yet it could not see these birds in flight, or the turning of the leaves, or the inevitable approach of winter.

    Master Wu knew that winter was coming, and that it was part of the endless cycle of change. He also knew that his country, like all nations, were subject to the cyclical seasons of history.

    Spring was the time when a nation sprouted like a bud through the efforts of brave and adventurous pioneers.

    Summer saw the growth and flowering of art, culture, leaders and great ideas. It was a time of vigour and strength.

    Fall signalled a period of decline, and like leaves falling to the ground, a nation’s spirit of vitality and strength also fell.

    And winter saw the inevitable collapse, as barren lands, destitution and envious foes signalled its demise.

    Master Wu thought about these cyclical seasons, and he worried about his country. There were problems in the land.

    He wiped his brushes and laid them on the table. He was an advisor to the Emperor. And he had an appointment to see him later in the day. What should he tell His Highness?

    Winter was soon approaching.

  6. Ellen shifts her camera backpack as she trudges up the steep hill. Yesterday she discovered this bluff was far enough from the crane viewing points to remain isolated from visitors.

    She has been planning this trip to view and photograph Sandhill Cranes for over a year. However, when she revealed her plan to Eric, he became furious, as usual. With his fists he demanded to join her. After all, she could be sneaking off for a liaison with her secret lover.

    Yesterday he accompanied her to several overlooks and grumbled incessantly about how he’d love to shoot those birds. Last night in the motel room she slipped a few sleeping pills into his beer. So Eric was snoring loudly when she crept out long before dawn this morning.

    Now she has reached the top of the cliff. As she stares through her binoculars, the rising sun reddens the horizon. Beautiful cranes begin preening and squawking.

    Ellen places her pack on the ground, removes her jacket and shoes, and raises her arms skyward. She begins chanting the memorized spell. Soon pain shoots through her arms and legs as she feels them reforming. She sees white feathers sprout from her limbs.

    Controlling her excitement she finishes the magical chant. She is ready to join the great migration. One way or another she will gain her freedom.

    Leaning forward, she flaps her arms mightily. Her feet leave the ground.

  7. As the sun began setting, Mac, the first mockingbird, circled above the six hundred acre dairy farm and decided this would be the new place. It was fifty miles from the bigger town, but since there wasn’t enough space, this would have to do. He chose the spot he would occupy for the next few days and nestled in the shade of a juniper bush. Soon, a sky full of mockingbirds began swirling overhead searching for a fitting positions for viewing.

    By early evening, a gathering of thousands covered the area. They twisted and twirled, pecking their friendly long time no see hellos to old friends. Most were chippychirping about who was going to win their yearly three day Warblers Warbling Festival.

    At nightfall all were fast asleep, thankful for such a perfect location. An occasional peep or wing flap flapped in the distance.

    Three wonderful days of exciting new cheeps, chirps, clicks and clacks filtered through the auricular feathers covering their delicate ears.

    And now, time to find out who was chosen the American Idol of Mockingbirds. An eerie hush silenced the anxious listeners.

    Two hunters crept close to the birds. “Hey, Zeke,” one screamed, sending thousands of startled warblers flapping skyward. “We’ll send those beatniks here. Good enough for them birds, good enough to keep those peace lovin’ rock ‘n’ roll crazies away from our town.”

    An angry Mac, and some friends, wondering who would have won, relieved their pungent frustrations on the hunters from Woodstock.

  8. The photographers found the perfect spot for the migration of the white birds from their winter habitat. With mountains in the distance, they hid in a patch of weeds near the pond that was a known stop for birds. They set their cameras on their tripods and waited quietly.

    No more than a dozen birds at a time arrived and about the same number would depart shortly after. Bob was confused—they always heard thousands upon thousands of birds stopped here. He and Tom checked calendars, weather reports, even horoscopes to make sure they were there to witness this great migration.

    After a few hours he dared to speak. “Tom—is it me or does it seem as if the photographers outnumber the birds?”

    Tom sighed. “It sure seems that way. I thought there would be some perched on all those white rocks in the water. I thought it would be easy to see them.”

    Just then the silence was broken by the creak of a car door and the excited barking of a dog, bounding toward the pond. The shocked observers turned to find the culprit to quiet him so he wouldn’t scare the birds.

    A huge “swoosh” engulfed everyone as they turned their attention back toward the pond. Thousands of birds were now aloft, escaping the barking dog. All those white rocks turned out to be birds. They had spent hours looking for birds which were right in front of them, resting and preparing for flight.

  9. Migration

    My family came to America from Northern Europe, England, Scotland, Ireland and Norway. My mother’s grandparents settled in Kentucky where her mother and father met and were married. My dad’s parents settled in Indiana and Kansas.

    Because of moving from one state to another my parents were able to meet through the mail in California. Her parents had moved to Oklahoma hoping for a better way to make a living. On finding farming did not yield the best in crops, they came to San Gabriel, California, where my mother trained to become an R.N. My dad lost his first wife to typhoid fever and eventually ended up teaching in Santa Rosa/Graton, California. My parents met through her brother Erskin who attended worship to God with my dad.

    Through their marriage my brother and I were born. He moved to Arkansas and I still live in California. Where will our children decide to live?

  10. Sam Baylor was eight years old, when his Daddy wanted to take him out shooting snow geese. He didn’t want to go.

    His older brother, Mark, offered to go in his place. Seven years ago, he resisted Daddy’s attempts to make a man out of him, and he had the scars to prove it. Mama usually took the brunt of his rage, and Mark could no longer tolerate it.

    The family was growing, and earned some money logging, and selling fruit and nuts. The migration of snow geese would provide rich meat.

    Trembling, Sammy went with Daddy to the plain. He didn’t want to shoot the geese, and cried. Mark followed on horseback, pulling a wagon.

    “I’m gonna learn ya how to kill a fat goose,” Daddy was saying, “If you keep blubbering, I’ll whoop ya anyway. Now take this here–”

    Pop. Daddy was dead. Mark rode up from a distance, and said, “He’s been brutalizing this family long enough!”

    Sammy was relieved, yet tears flowed down his face, and he was shaking. He threw himself upon his father. “Daddy, he’s sorry. Ain’t you sorry, Mark?”

    “Yeah, Sammy, I’m real sorry. More’n you’ll ever know. Now what you seen here today was a gun accident, understand?”

    Sammy nodded solemnly. He wrapped his arms around Mark.

    “We’ll take Daddy home, and bury him,” said Mark. “He won’t be beating Mama, or anybody, no more.”

  11. Edmund became conscious of a thrumming, palpable vibration in the air. Swearing, he sprinted to the crawler, entered the cabin.

    He mashed the accelerator, agonizing on the descent into the valley. He dmiried the purples and pinks. The overhead glare starkly lit his former home. Finally! Done with farming, prospecting, the need to hunt for things that were hunting him.

    No more scratching, thirsting, wishing. Heading back to The Mother, like thousands of other homesteaders. His entire 37 years had been spent on an asteroid the size of Connecticut. He stomped again, willing the ancient crawler down the hillside, wonderin what The Mother was like.

    The gorfdag he’d been stalking reared up, startled him out of his reverie, bumped the crawler… it slow motion flipped down the hill, ending half on its side.

    Seeing red from a broken rib, he gasped and jerked awake. He’d only been out for a few seconds.

    Easing the door open, he looked around. Nothing. Stepping out, sighting down the rifle as he swept the area, gritting against the pain, he sprinted.

    “WHOOOOOOG!” The big bull! Gigantic feet thundered towards him. At the last second, he ducked and it swept over him. He fired and it fell. Not a clean shot. Its teeth clamped onto one boot and it screamed a last, moaning breath, his foot still clamped in its teeth.

    A blinding flash of light paralyzed him in realization. He sobbed, spying the column forming in the atmosphere.

    The migration had begun.

  12. Flying South

    by Pat Mills

    As Jackie sat in the audience waiting for her youngest to cross the stage,and received his diploma; Jackie realized that she had been marking her life by the school calendar and the migration of the snow goose.

    Every year, Jackie waited for the snow geese to arrive. But this year it was hard knowing it would signal the last fall together as a family.

    By Halloween most the geese would be gone – just like her last child – soon to leave the nest.
    In the spring, the arrival of the snow geese sent Jackie into a panic. “The last Easter together, the last Easter egg hunt…”she thought, it was almost too much! After waking her husband, again, in the middle of the night he said to her,”You need to have a plan- for you- in the fall…when the snow geese fly south.”

    After the graduation, and her son opens his presents; Jackie’s husband hands her an envelope.
    In it are airline tickets, “Columbia…South America?”

    “Yes; my company wanted a volunteer to trail the university team as they evaluate the forest, versus open field, coffee growing in Colombia.”

    “So, you’re going?”Jackie asks.

    “Not just me …us.”

    “Us?” Jackie asked incredulously.

    “I figured you were up for an adventure.”

    “I guess I am…okay…Yes!” Jackie said, and her husband took her in his arms, and they kissed passionately- for so many reasons.

    “We’ll be flying south with the snow geese,” Jackie said smiling.

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