Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Beyond

Vermillion Lakes flash fiction prompt copyright KS Brooks
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.

Author: Administrators

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Beyond”

  1. The Royal Game of Ur

    In 2022, under the watchful eyes of the Surveillance State, Samantha and Peter snuck away to enjoy a few hours near the lake.

    They played a few games of backgammon, and then decided to race each other along the water’s edge, and so they lined up at one end of a wide path.

    “Say when,” Peter said to his girlfriend, laughing.

    “Now!”

    Samantha got a head start, and sprinted forward, her long hair waving in the air.

    “Hey! Not fair!” Peter took off laughing. “I’m going to catch you!”

    They both ran, impetuous and carefree, along the path, laughing and shouting. And as they ran, they were magically transformed into Lia and Naram, a young couple, who were racing each other in the ancient lands of Sumer, millennia ago.

    Lia and Naram ran through a pasture, filled with sheep. Bells tingled as the sheep moved, and the couple ran past them, laughing and shouting. They were happy and carefree. They were soon going to be married.

    Later, under the watchful eyes of state guards, the couple walked through a courtyard, and secreted themselves away in the cool shade of some date palms. There, they talked and gently kissed.

    Soon, Naram retrieved a game board, some pyramidal dice and other playing pieces, and they settled down to play their favourite game: the Royal Game of Ur.

  2. The ranger had seen it before at this very spot. A lone hiker, more alone than most can fathom, sitting on that same rock looking west into the snow-capped Rockies.
    Always looking, never seeing, often with tears on their face or prayers in their mouths.
    He dismounted and walked his horse towards her. The clop of hooves seemed reassuring to her as she gently turned, unstartled, in his direction.

    “Everything OK here ma’am?”
    “Yes sir, everything’s fine”, as she wiped tears from her cheeks. “I’m camping in the gorge yonder.”

    “Permit?”

    “Oh, yes, right here”. She produced a crisp new National Parks camping Permit.

    “Alright then, Ms. Marek, Can I offer a word before I go?”

    “Regarding?”

    “Occasionally I see a hiker like you looking beyond the colors and the vista. Looking for something beyond their vision and reason. Would you like to talk about it?”

    Silence followed, as the horse snorted at a green fly.
    “I have coffee.”

    “No!” A pause, then, “I mean ‘yes’ I’d like coffee but ‘no’ I don’t want to talk about it.”

    “Fair ‘nuff.” He reached for a thermos and a forbidden plastic cup.

    “The beauty of this spot is lost on those looking beyond it. I’ve been here too, looking for more than nature offers in this perfect landscape. Eventually, I’ve found that what I’m looking for is inside me, not beyond me. Keep the cup, but haul it out with you. Enjoy yourself.”

    Horse and rider moved on up the trail.

  3. “So you do see the beauty of it,” the environmentalist said. This was encouraging. Maybe the forest could be saved.

    “Oh, sure I do,” the developer replied. “Not as it is now, of course, but its potential. Imagine the top of that mountain gone. Forty units built there, maybe fifty. Luxury cabins along the lake. Not too close together. At least five feet between them. And docks for boats. We’d have to clear the area first. Make way for construction crews. Take out the trees…..”

    “The trees?”

    “We’ll put some back. We are not heartless, you know. We realize the need for stuff like trees.”

    The developer closed his laptop, shook hands with the environmentalist, and thanked him for his time. “Don’t worry, we will give your concerns every consideration,” he said.

    The environmentalist knew this meant that five minutes from now, he would be forgotten.
    But he had one last card to play. He knew that the land was owned by a local Indian tribe. If he could persuade the Indians not to sell, the land could still be saved.

    He headed for the Indian bureau in the nearest town, where he found that the Indians were horrified at the idea of selling their land to a developer. He breathed a sigh of relief. The environmentalists had won. The forest was saved.

    Then the Indians proudly showed him their plans for a neon-lit 1000-room casino resort in the middle of acres of parking.

  4. I Have Seen Unicorns

    I had never given much thought to my future. My mind–from time to time–invented scenarios; events that might happen, that could happen. Some were delicious. Others alarming. Some, magnificently pompous.

    Never did I imagine anything that would suddenly put me on the edge of a lake, in a predicament of major proportions somewhere in Wyoming. A vicious storm hovers above the mountains.

    On the edge of a meadow just behind me, relatively unscathed, sits my Cessna 182 Skylane– below a menacing ridge that would have beaten the plane–and me—into unrecognizable pulp. With my jackrabbit reflexes—who am I kidding? I have no idea how I brought the thing down, shoehorned between a stand of aspens and a steep rocky incline.

    Right now, I’m shaking uncontrollably. Just lost my lunch in the tall weeds beside the lake. And until I quit shaking, I can’t punch in the number for rescue. Besides, I don’t know it.

    Right now might be a good time to contemplate my future. I’ve never stopped my frenzy long enough to recognize the truth: I have no idea what happiness is. What a meaningful relationship would bring to my life. What’s actually out there besides my mundane day-to-day existence.

    It’s peaceful here. I won’t be hurried or rushed. There’s time to figure it out. Other than a pain in my wrist, I am in one fantastic piece.

    And just beyond the trees, I think I see a unicorn.

  5. ELIGIBLE FOR EDITORS CHOICE ONLY

    The sky was overcast, but the beautiful mountain trees reflected on the surface of the lake more brilliantly than they did in the sunshine. Her sister lay somewhere near the bottom; Ellen was sure of it. The recovery teams dragged it and dragged it, until their strength was gone, and other teams from neighboring towns replaced them, but it was a useless exercise. Her sister’s body was down there, mocking all attempts to find closure.

    Ellen had often thought of going the same route, but knew she couldn’t put her family through that, all over again. She just liked to sit on a rock by the side of the lake, thinking morbid thoughts. She didn’t notice when someone came up behind her, but jumped when she felt that person sit next to her on the rock.

    “Stella?” she gasped, “Are you real?”

    “As real as you are,” her older sister answered.

    “Am I dreaming?” asked Ellen.

    “No,” answered Stella, “I am alive. I have been here several times, watching you.”

    “How could you do that!” she cried, “You had to know it was killing me! And Mom and Dad!”

    “I had to disappear for awhile. I’m so sorry. It took courage to return. Give me a little more time,” answered Stella.

    “If I tell them any of this, they’re gonna lock me up!” said Ellen, bursting into tears, grabbing hold of her sister, “Oh, what does it matter? You’re back from the dead!”

  6. RESCUE AT SEA

    The wind had strengthened; it was blowing the clouds away, but building the chop on the water. Its threat remained.
    She had kept an on-and-off watch over the bay. All morning. She glanced again at the clock. Twelve-forty. She lifted the phone receiver to make sure the lines to the mainland hadn’t been blown down. The dial tone hummed.
    The little rowboat rocked obediently at the dock.
    She checked the clock, then scanned the surface again. Something.
    She twisted the binocular lenses into focus.
    Damn. The wind was picking up again. The larger chop was enough to hide something low in the water…not very big.
    She raced to the dock, lept into the boat and began shipping the oars. The thole bobbed up and down and both hands were necessary for the port paddle. The other side only took two tries and she was splashing around, pointing the bow toward the bobbing orange object. She had to twist often to stay on course because the wind moved her and the target constantly. Bare toes slipped on the muddy, bloody ribs.
    Closer. She could see…her.
    The wind shifted to finally help close the gap.
    The girl, clinging to the adult life jacket, reached out to her, the jacket scudding away in the chop. Armpit deep, she struggled to utter the single word: “Mom!”
    “Dad?” The woman asked.
    “Dead, I think. There was an explosion….”
    The woman nodded, smiled and released the girl’s’s hands.

  7. I was sitting on the hood of my car, admiring the lake when she walked up. Her perfume, as it always did, filled my senses like a shot of whiskey.
    “Look at that sunset,” she said.
    “Going to be a beautiful night, Kara,” I said, not daring to look at her, not wanting this to end as it always did.
    “Why don’t we do this more often? The lake is just down the street from our house, for crap’s sake!”
    I nodded, trying to avoid all the things that triggered her before, and, by now, it was a long list, but she was worth it, worth it all.
    “Eventually, it will all stop being so crazy.” I felt the car rock, I swear I did, as she leaned against it. That mix of lilac and lavender was working its way down my spine by now, and I didn’t want to move. I never wanted to move.
    And the moment came, like the moment always does, no matter what I say.
    “Fine then, I’ll pack up and be gone by the morning!”
    It doesn’t hurt to the point of tears anymore, at least.
    I relive this night every chance I get. Because it’s all I have left of her, even if, as I know, it’s not really her.
    But I have to figure out where she is, or what’s happened to her, or I’ll never be truly free.

  8. Born and bred in New York City, I am working on my Ph.D. in history. My dissertation is “The Westward Expansion and Settlement of North America.” Despite the research, my committee insisted I physically go west. How could I truly comprehend the hardships early settlers encountered without actually walking the terrain? How could I fathom carrying all of my earthly possessions in a Conestoga wagon, keeping an eye out for Indians and rattlesnakes while my family walked behind the wagon?

    With deep reluctance I went to Kansas. News flash: it’s not flat.

    I had contacted a history professor out there who agreed to drive me to a location where I could truly see the land like the migrants did two hundred years ago. No signs of civilization. We made camp at a lake with a mountain on the other side. In the distance were more mountains. They seemed so close, but were in reality miles away.

    “Imagine walking 20 miles a day—anywhere,” my colleague said. “Now imagine you’ve been doing that for a month and you come upon this scene. What’s your first thought?”

    I shook my head. “I can’t imagine. ‘Here’s a good place to set up’?”

    “No. You’re heard reports about the Pacific Ocean. You’ve heard reports of fertile soil, of land as far as the eye can see.”

    I looked at him. “But where is everyone?”

    “Exactly. What’s beyond this lake? What’s beyond those mountains? What’s beyond those trees?”

    Just more and more … beyond.

  9. ELIGIBLE FOR EDITORS CHOICE ONLY

    “We must leave, tonight!” Half-fang said to the pack gathered around him. While hunting, he had found black liquid seeping from the rocky lakeshore nearby and recognized the danger immediately.

    “What’s this about leaving our forest?” Long-muzzle, the current alpha, growled.

    “I found crude by the lake. It’s only a matter of time before our hunting grounds are lost. We must leave.” Half-fang begged.

    “We’ve hunted here for generations and dealt with harsh winters, dry summers and bears. None of which were threat enough to scare us off. We’re the canine guardians of all who dwell in this forest, and all who dwell in this forest tremble at the sound of our howls.” As Long-muzzle spoke his volume increased, until he finished with a howl, which, of course, set the rest of the pack off. All but Half-fang, who knew the truth of the danger they faced.

    The pack’s howling died off and Half-Fang sat with his ears back, realizing he wouldn’t be able to save them. Long-muzzle stared at his rival, trying to goad him into a fight for dominance. When Half-fang tucked tail and turned to leave, the pack burst into yips and barks, celebrating their Alpha’s dominance.

    Half-fang headed west toward the snowy peaks in the distance. Better to leave the pack than to stay and watch the valley destroyed. Man would be here soon in search of the black substance he had discovered on the shore. He knew, for once, the lone wolf would survive.

  10. BEYOND

    Before the dust bowl hit the mid-west, my grandparents looked to moving to California. Erskin Garrison, the oldest of the seven sons and three daughters had followed the wheat, fruit and other foods that needed harvesting which took him to California to work.

    Soon after, the family arrived in San Gabriel, California, Walter, the ninth child of the ten, fell off the back of a moving truck when he was seven years old. His head hit the cement and was crushed. He was unconscious for 18 days. The doctor said he would not live. Hettie, the sixth child, and their mother Nancy took turns for days lying on Walter to hold him down in his delirium, so he wouldn’t injure himself. Finally Nancy said, “Operate.”

    A Doctor Rand came from San Francisco to do the surgery. One side of his head was completely crushed with absolutely no hearing. And the other side was damaged. Evidently his brain began healing itself. He had to relearn walking, talking, hearing, and using his hands. His parents put him in a special school. However, he was in his own grade level by the age of twelve. He lived with a steel plate in his head for the rest of his life. Walt, as he was called by the family, was the last of the Garrison siblings to die in September of 2000 at age 83 – the only one of the ten brothers and sisters to live to the end of the 20th century.

  11. “Her whole life has been about looking elsewhere.”

    “She was never happy with the now; always aiming beyond the mountain, to the next adventure. What is wrong with her.”

    “Job in hand here is better than the potential of a better job abroad.”

    Those words still ring in my head today, despite the fifty-year older brain. Mother and Father, Gramps, my oldest sister and best friend—and I know they meant well.

    They failed to realize that happiness ensued for me away from the constant pressure to perform. I was far removed from the comparison with peers on our progress since those days of naivete.

    It started with the need to breakaway from the sheltered upbringing by opting for the state-run university in lieu of private Catholic school.

    Then, it was the sense of altruism that drove me to civil service and pittance for pay opposing the path of private enterprise.

    Political upheaval led me to seek livelihood across the sea, in fields beneath my capability or training. Feigning humility in deference to insecure colleagues was the order of the day. Did it bother me? Not one bit. I kept the embers aflame waiting till I could make my light shine again.

    And yet, despite that relative freedom, I still hanker for more. Restlessness still reigns despite the distance, and the times past. Indeed, what is wrong with me.

    Life is short; learn to savor the journey, even if takes one yonder into the unknown. Steadily, I keep on.

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