Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Machines

3L0A4461 steptoe butte view 09152019 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.

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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10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Machines”

  1. Night

    Lee stopped to catch his breath. He squatted on one knee and drank from a canteen. Then he checked his surroundings: he saw debris, broken buildings and . . . fire.

    The growing flames lit parts of the city like glowing apparitions, and the wind, anxious to stir the inferno, carried the ashes of a fading culture deep into the approaching night.

    Lee knew he couldn’t stay in one place for long. They were after him.

    They were the infected.

    A strange plague had struck the populace. As a result civil society had collapsed and machines had stopped functioning. No one knew who was affected. People looked normal . . . until it was too late.

    So everyone became a loner, suspicious of their neighbours and paranoid of outsiders.

    Since guns, knives and all pointy things had been banned years before, the only way people could protect themselves was through improvisation.

    What had caused the infection?

    Some said it was because of a virus that had accidentally escaped from a secret laboratory. Others insisted it was due to an unusual parasite; a worm that had burrowed into, and infected, millions of people, allowing the tiny intruders to control their hosts.

    Still others believed it was caused by an aberrant idea that had, by degrees, taken hold of, and infected, the unsuspecting minds of millions.

    Whatever the cause, to the unaffected people still living in the country, the chaotic struggle soon became known as The First Zombie War.


    Mr. Hastings walked into the room with two detectives and stared at the woman before him. “Hello, Sylvia.”

    “Don’t joke like that, Winston. You know I’ve had PTSD ever since the incident.”

    “No. You killed Julia.”

    “What? Don’t be ridiculous. I am Julia. Who are these men?” asked Sylvia.

    “We’re L.A.P.D.,” answered one of them, “and we’re here to charge you with murdering your twin sister, Julia, four years ago and assuming her identity, Mrs. Hastings.”

    “Don’t call her Mrs. Hastings,” said Mr. Hastings, “She’s not the woman I married. Her name is Sylvia Graves.”

    His eyes were puffy and red-rimmed. The face of his presumed wife was ghostly pale.

    “I was going to surprise you for our tenth anniversary, so I had the desert dragged for metal, in the whole vicinity where you and your sister were supposedly attacked – the robbery and murder? You said you buried your rings in the sand.”

    “My sister’s body was never found,” insisted Sylvia, “She was abducted.”

    “With that much blood loss – ” said Winston, “Anyway, now they have Julia’s remains, and most of her jewelry.”

    Sylvia’s eyes widened.

    “Yeah,” continued Winston, “The half-million dollar engagement ring I asked them to search for, the diamond encrusted wedding band and her ruby pendant.”

    “So how can you prove it’s her?” countered Sylvia. “We’re identical!”

    “You were never the same to me,” said Winston, “And besides, Julia fractured her right femur on a ski trip, seven years ago. It’s quite visible now.”

  3. Late summer baked the rolling hills after big green combines had shorn Kentucky blue grass grown to seed the lawns of America. Now grizzled drivers spun around the field in pickups hauling tanks of water to safeguard neighbors from blazes set to jump-start next year’s crop.

    Bosses lit fields with long-handled torches, snaking flames along the outer edges of sunburned fields. Wilted stubble embraced flames with eager abandon that took the field gangs by surprise. With a loud roar of wind, the flames whipped past the field edges, gathering at the center where they formed monstrous cyclones of ecstatic destruction.

    An experienced driver, in forgetful abandon now that field responsibility was someone else’s bailiwick, was taken aback by the deafening roar that grew fiercer as the fire wind gyroscoped out of control.

    With no time to spare, his young passenger clambered onto the pickup bed to fire up a small water pump to calm maddened flames. But the truck stalled in center field where heat sucked gas fumes from a damaged carburetor. The panicked driver pounded the gas pedal and madly cranked the starter as flames converged.

    The engine turned but not before the waterboy, impatient as yellow-red flames licked his bare arms, jumped and ran, leaving the driver to at last pop the clutch and speed across the field.

    The waterboy ran on, with strides as long as life itself, pumping arms and legs to fly into the liberation that comes when mighty effort cheats fiery death.

  4. Dry clouds billowed over the land, kicked up by the combines trundling through the parched wheat, blown by a hot July wind, masquerading as warm fog bearing moisture to break the drought.

    Mockery, Julian thought. He watched atop a rise above the expanse of his Uncle Brandon’s fields. The harvest had proven more chaff than grain, giving the lie to their supplier’s claims. These new seeds had been engineered—so the brochures said—to thrive in the drying climate. Instead, they were driving Brandon to bankruptcy.

    In his left hand, Julian’s cell phone vibrated. He glanced at the incoming call. Maggie, his girlfriend, looking for him. She mustn’t know he was here. He had no business in the field. Nobody did. Brandon had invested in automated combines five years ago, when farming still looked viable. Now the machines were more liability than asset. Julian knew, because he helped with the books. The farm wouldn’t survive another year.

    Maggie’s call went to voice mail. She wouldn’t like it, but he’d explain later how, distraught, he wandered the banks of the dry stream a mile south of here, worrying about the future.

    He punched a number into the phone. Fire blossomed in the belly of one of the combines, devoured the dry grass, and engulfed the other machines. It roared over the fields, unstoppable.

    He tucked his phone into his pocket and turned away. Uncle Brandon could call the insurance company later. Better Julian stayed out of it.

  5. Driver’s Wanted

    Flyers littered the bulletin board in the Student Union. Yvonne scanned it every day looking for the right job to help combat the rising costs of her education. Today is the day she mumbled to herself evaluating the offerings. A black page with a golden wheat logo and glittering text caught her eye. It read,

    Looking for eager self-starter, willing to start on the ground floor of a food empire. No experience necessary, on the job training available for the right applicant. Join our family and change the world.

    She quickly dialed the number, explaining no matter the job she could adapt her skill set. The woman on the phone summarized the duties of the position. Trying not to jeopardize her chances of getting an offer Yvonne did not ask any questions. The call ended with her accepting the first available post. Next week starts the beginning of her fight against student debt.

    Her phone buzzed; she clicked open the text message. It read:

    Welcome to the Talbot Farm Family. Please wear thick denim jeans and leather work boots. Combine Harvester Assistant Driver training starts at 4 a.m. sharp.

    Opening the Uber app, she looked up the cost of a ride to the farm.

  6. Tradition

    Pete looked out the window. Plenty of time still. He’d given them his list, and they’d given him theirs.

    That’s how they’d always done it. Three years ago, he’d given Ray a bottle of scotch. Darren had been harder to please, but he’d found him his waltzing green-bellied garden gnome. Rich’s boxset had him in a state of panic, until it finally arrived, one day before the Christmas party.

    Two years ago, Rich had left, and five months later he’d had to let Ray go. Darren had been the last one, but early this summer they’d also parted ways.
    The new guys were hardworking, undemanding and no-nonsense.

    Pete examined the three printouts. No surprises there.
    Premium machine oil; touch-up paint, moss green, gloss; and an oil filter, fine, soft edge. He tapped in the order numbers. Life had become so much easier now.
    His own list had been less modest, but he knew they wouldn’t disappoint him.

    New laws stated robots should be remunerated as humans. But with no expenses, he knew, they saved up. Saved up, for these rare occasions. Like secret Santa.
    Pete looked out the window again.
    They worked tirelessly. Life was good.

  7. Eric whipped the sweat from his brow and readjusted his goggles. Through the haze he could see the two threshing machines ahead of him. Each machine cut a swath of wheat the same width as his as they rolled down the golden hillside.
    The noise and vibration of the machine stayed with him half the night, leaving him groggy and irritable as he downed a hasty breakfast at four am so he could try to beat the heat and finish the harvest day early.
    As big as the threshing machine was it didn’t take a lot of attention and he let his mind wander.
    A hundred and fifty years ago when his great-great-grandfather had homesteaded these hills he would have used a team of horses. The teams had grown from three to thirty or more as the fields of wheat had increased and threshing machines got bigger.
    What a sight that must have been! All those horses stretched out in front of you pulling you along. Then he thought about being out in the open, the sun beating down and the dust from all those horses rolling up around you.
    He smiled happily, turning up the music on his ear-phones as the cool air of his machine blew over him. Forget the good old days, I’ll take today.

  8. “Necessity is the mother of invention” is an old saying. My Aunt Hettie remembered a girl named Mary, a bit older than she, who had had polio and was crippled from the waist down. The girl’s brother made her a vehicle out of the back of a wooden chair with wheels where she could lie and pull herself around with her hands. Hettie, about 13, and Mary would meet halfway, about a mile between houses and made a playhouse. She and Mary became the best of friends and spent many hours in their playhouse covering the ground with moss for rugs, broken pieces of dishes, or whatever they could take from their houses. There wasn’t much to take but they were happy with what they had.

    One day Hettie sneaked her sister Allie’s crochet hook out and went into the woods. When she came back hours later, she had taught herself to crochet. Then she showed Mary how. Mary was her only playmate since she had so many brothers at home to keep her entertained. Mary’s family moved to Texas from Oklahoma, and Hettie heard years later Mary had married and had three children.

  9. Jason, the youngest driver to ever make Daytona (as the announcer kept mentioning) was frustrated. Here he was, just coming into the final lap and he was still boxed in. The same six cars had surrounded him for the last few laps and prevented him from taking the lead. There didn’t seem to be any way to escape the high speed prison, but Jason had a plan.

    He knew it was risky, but he he figured he didn’t have much choice.

    As the pack came out of the number one turn and hit the straightaway, instead of accelerating which was the normal technique, Jason slowed slightly. This came as a surprise to the drivers of the vehicles around him and the confining pack burst apart. Taking advantage of a momentary opening, Jason steered into the clear and stomped on the accelerator. He rocketed towards the lead car.

    It was going to be close, but Jason was sure that he was going to be the youngest winner at Daytona as well.

    His radio crackled,” Jason, it’s Mom, your lunch is ready.”

    “Okay Mom”, Jason said. “I’ll be in as soon as I finish this row.”

    Jason shut down the tractor, and stepping out of the tractor’s cabin, he surveyed the field he had been plowing all morning, noting with pleasure the straightness of his furrows. He then looked across the road at the field he was to start after lunch.

    He smiled and thought “Indianapolis 500”.

  10. Three generations sat on the deck in back of Bill Stevens house, in the middle of his 250 acre farm: 63 year old Bill; John, his 32 year old son; and four-year-old grandson Jake.

    Bill looked down hill, seeing the next farm that had sold out to big farming ; with their big columbines raking the earth. Bill considered big farming to be the root of all evil.

    Bill farmed the land like his Daddy and Granddaddy before him: with respect for the land and the animals. Each generation farmed until they couldn’t do the physical work; then, they passed the torch to the next generation.

    John, was observing the same scene down hill. He was thinking that it almost looked poetic: the three columbines moving in a pattern with dust plumes rising around them.

    Little Jake, sat on the floor playing with his farm tractor. Then, he climbed up on his Grand Daddy’s lap, and upon seeing the columbines working downhill, he became excited, ” Look Granddad,” he exclaimed,” those are bigger than your tractor!”

    Bill looked on in disgust. He bit his tongue before responding, ” Bigger isn’t always better Jake.”

    The boy looked at his grandfather in disbelief.

    John’s cell phone pinged, sending him a message from his friend in real estate. The message read: 19k an acre, agriculture; 75k an acre, retail; or 40k an acre, to a developer.

    John would rather face a lion then broach this subject with his father. But, it was all about Jake’s future.

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