Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Netherworld

3L0A5161 coal mine canyon az sm 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: Netherworld”

  1. It was like someone had carved the land from the bones of a giant.

    Perhaps they had. Things had gotten strange when they walked across the bridge between realms.

    Aaron checked the bandana that he’d tied around his face to keep his dust inhalation to a minimum. It was the first time he’d accompanied a caravan along this route, but let no man say that Aaron Swiftknife was dull. Picking up on things had saved his life plenty in his years working as a guard-for-hire.

    A cry went down the dusty line, echoed back by every driver. “Ghosts’ tide spotted!”

    Aaron grunted, slowing his horse as the caravan ground to an organized halt. A ghosts’ tide wasn’t dangerous if you stopped before you got mired in it. The otherworldly fog, flowing on its way to the afterlife, would strip your life away every moment you stood in its mists.

    “They’re been getting worse,” the one eyed caravanner next to him said, resting a fist on her hip, the other holding her oxen’s’ reins, “I need to take up a new route. Netherworld is supposed to be a nickname for this realm.”

    Aaron grunted in reply. The dusty air took on a bone-piercing chill and the relentless smell of hot metal, the smell of a ghosts’ tide tainted the air. The stood still, scanning the horizon for the restless mists.

    Then it was gone as quickly as it came. The call went up and the caravan began its steady plod again.

  2. The Grand Sachem sat alongside his son Tottinoe on the tribal Thinking Log and passed him his pipe, full of the asema only the adults smoked. He was now of the age when the powerful asema would help him dream the dreams of an adult warrior and explore the truths of their people. There were always questions.

    “Father, where do we go when we die?”

    The old man had answered this question many times for other sons.

    “The Great Creator has given us two Manitou. One is in our heart. That one gives us life. The other is in our head and that one gives us understanding and allows us to dream the dreams of warriors. When we die, our heart Manitou stays with the people and all the other Manitou of creation. The head Manitou will seek the Great Creator and join Him and our ancestors at His great lodge far to the west where the sun goes at night.”

    “How far is that, Father?”

    “Farther than a Paugussett can walk for many harvests.”

    The boy took a long pull on the asema pipe. His mind wandered and he struck a contemplative pose.

    “Father, what will I carry when I go? It seems a great distance and there will be strange lands to cross.”

    “Well, son, you will be out of your body. Dreaming and moving toward the Creator beyond the here and now. You will be pure Manitou.”

    “Yes, Father. But, how can I be sure?”

  3. For decades our family has been searching for the portal to the Netherworld. Today my six brothers and I have finally found it. Soon the great treasure will be ours.

    As we pass through the door, we see a land, beautiful in its rocky barrenness. A small, wizened man greets us with a smile. We tell him of our quest for fortune and he points toward a miniature wooden chest. As we approach, the lid opens to reveal the gold filigreed words: PEACE – LOVE.

    “Is that all?” our youngest brother asks.

    “It can’t be,” I reply. “This is not nearly enough gold.”

    We turn to the elf and demand the true, large hoard. Again he points and we see an enormous metal box. The lid opens just like its smaller counterpart. Inky smoke rises into the air. It forms the words: WAR – HATE.

    Before we can shout our anger at the elf, he transforms into an immense golden dragon. Flames shoot from his mouth as he roars, “This is the treasure that greed creates. Now run, and take it with you.”

    We dash toward the open portal. When we pass back into our own world, the black smoke entwines itself around our legs. After we arrive home, all seven of us weep for the “treasure” we have brought into the world.

  4. “We came all this way for this?”
    Lebe glanced over at the Atranan warrior-herdsman crouched next along the crumbling edge of caprock. He chose his words carefully as to not confuse her. “I am afraid, the answer is yes.”
    “This town beyond the valley is nothing but rusted steel and black mud.”
    From the top of the ancient butte, they spied the walled settlement. Thriving with activity, the shanty city, disgusting as it looked, held a small population of FISA citizens. For Lebe, it indicated that the myth held true. Not a soul existed south of the torrid zone. Nothing survived the harsh sun. Yet here sprawled out in front of him, an oasis of life flourished in the desert. “This is the place.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yes. You have to trust me.”
    Fernse-Ber shook her head. “Just like you want me to trust you about the big ice one day covering the world.”
    Lebe couldn’t blame her for not understanding. Most Atrans have never seen the sea let alone a cooler climate. They spent their entire lives in salt and sand and dry heat. He didn’t expect them to imagine a world beyond that. He recalled the world he left behind. A hundred thousand years of Arctican civilisation, facing extinction. “Yes.”
    “Now we go back?”
    “No.” Lebe felt obliged to explain, “If the myths are true, the black fire exists in these parts. Behind those walls lies a mineral that can save our world from the big ice.”

  5. The lading was rough, we had to maneuver past a rock formation and land the module on a plateau overlooking a deep gorge. The landscape was barren, cold and showed no sign of life. The Commander made one final check of instruments and opened the air lock for debarkation.
    Commander Merdock was the first one down the ladder. Once he set foot on the surface, I began my descent. The first thing I felt was a sense of lightness. The gravity was much lighter than our planet, and we had been instructed to anticipate the change once we departed the craft, but I was still in awe. I took a deep breath and kept moving down the ladder. This was my first landing on a distant planet and I had to keep my excitement in check.
    The two of us gathered below the landing module and stared out at the strange alien landscape, and the second thing that overcame me was the dead silence. No wind, no movement, nothing, the only thing I could hear was my own breathing. We were now standing on a planet we had traveled for over nine years to reach. A place, our scientist claimed could sustain life, and our mission was to explore the possibility of establishing a planetary colony.
    As I began taking a tube sample of the soil, the silence was broken by the loud cry of an animal. I turned and looked up to see a giant reptile running toward us.

  6. Intelligence

    We landed on this planet in the USS-2033 last night, hoping to find a habitable atmosphere and a place to settle. Conditions forced us to land on the darker side, when it was night, and the area of our landing can best be described as a “netherworld,” unsuitable for planting trees, growing crops or herding animals to graze.

    My father, Captain Franco, sent out exploration parties in three different directions, to find a better place to settle. If we find a good spot, we can lift off and land again. I’m with my husband Fred Jenkins, and six other crew members of Party 3 in the Galileo, a sturdy camper which is also capable of short flights.

    Our instructions are to travel 400-500 kilometers, make observations of local flora and fauna, record data, collect scientific samples and return. We are to report to USS-2033 every eight hours, and more frequently if we encounter either intelligent life or unusual difficulties.

    “Henry Davis, this is Sylvia Jenkins checking in. Comm 4 to Comm 1. Observing a large settlement of intelligent life over a ridge about 50 kilometers straight ahead. Please inform Daddy immediately.”

    “Roger that, Comm 4. Have you been spotted?”

    Several large yellow humanoids climbed into the vehicle and one of them grabbed the controls. “Yes, they have, Comm 1. Tell Daddy to prepare to meet our ambassadors. We need to determine whether or not your intentions are peaceful, and that’s going to take some time.”

  7. Melissa wiped tears from her eyes. She couldn’t help herself. It was Christmas but the weather was too warm and the jagged mountains in front of her said nothing about winter, only the distance from home.

    This capped the angst she’d felt all year. With both daughters out of the house and spending holidays with each of their in-laws, she and Frank were alone.

    It wasn’t what she’d longed for, dreamed of, imagined.

    She felt silly, but what she most wanted was her thick wool coat with its fur-trimmed hood, the perfect foil for snow and sub-zero temperatures. Her thin sandals were no match for the knee-high boots she wore Christmas shopping back home. Here, they’d be a joke.

    Frank was standing next to her, but Melissa may as well have been a million miles away. She imagined that Frank was happy as a lark in this land of reddish rock and eternally clear skies. He wouldn’t have to worry about chains or shoveling the sidewalk.

    She just knew he was happy here, free from the constraints of home, the things she missed so much that a divorce was no joke but something to consider.

    “I’m sorry about this,” said Frank, wrapping his arms across his chest as if he were shivering.

    “Sorry?” asked Melissa. “This is what you wanted.”

    “Just goes to show…,” he said. “I miss the girls, snow. I even miss shoveling the sidewalk. How crazy is that?”

    “Crazy enough,” said Melissa, leaning into her husband.


    The battery in Juniper’s headlamp died just as she reached the last section of the Runes. According to her translation, the cavern leads to a desolate arid world. Carelessly searching for her replacement batteries, she missed a whole section of text warning of the punishment for unsanctioned travel.

    Juniper left the fissure returned to her encampment. Gathering her research to video chat with her donors, hoping to entice a fearless team of explorers. Johnathan Briggs agreed to sponsor her mission. His only caveat, she hires his squad consisted of a ragtag bunch of fantasy nerds with no combat skills or space travel hours.

    Her expedition crew’s lack of experience increased the risk of the team not returning. Pushing down her doubt, she addressed them with the confidence of a seasoned commander. Tyler, the youngest member, noticed the walls activating as they passed. Juniper ignored the eerie red glow’s final caution.

    The first attack caught them off guard, and a sizeable winged beast snatched two soldiers carrying them high in the air and dropping their bodies onto the jagged hills in the distance. Desperately, the group searched the barren wind-swept terrain for cover and found a ragged rock formation. It worked as a shield against aerial attacks, but the ground rumbled, shifting to devour the communications specialist. His mangled body resurfaced; his reanimated milky white eyes devoid of life growling a declaration of war. The remaining crew scrambled back to the portal, hoping to alert Earth before the impending doom.

  9. A blinding headache greeted me when I woke up. I assumed Blake felt the same. In addition, I discovered that we were both bound hand and foot. Koy’tana, a local shaman and our guide in this wasteland along with his grandson Bai’yasha who worked as translator for his grandfather, had made our evening meal from the remains of a wild goat Blake had shot the day before and some herbs from the aged shaman’s pack. I think Koy’tana had drugged us.

    That he went to such trouble was surprising as he seemed furious with us after Blake had deeply scratched our names beneath some ancient petroglyphs that he had showed us. I had thought that after a time Koy’tana had cooled down.

    Apparently, I was mistaken.

    I called to Bai’yasha and asked what the hell was going on. He said he was truly sorry but his grandfather was extremely angry and told him to tie us up. Apparently, Blake had added our names to the list of human sacrifices left every hundred years or so for a local giant monster known as the “Demon Lizard”.

    “I’m really really sorry”, he said as he hurried to join his grandfather, who had practically run from the clearing, “but you’re on the list now.”

    “Blake looked at me and laughed. “Can you believe that crap? Jeez… human sacrifices for a monster? Really?”

    That’s when we heard the low-pitched growl and the sound of claws on rock.


    “Maybe you’ve heard this before. It goes something like this: You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, and so on and so forth… Shakespeare probably wrote it, or maybe it was part of the Gettysburg Address. Whatever. That is beside the point. The point is I am not as stupid as some people give me credit for. Or maybe gullible is the word I want. Yes, gullible. Apparently you think a photograph of hills streaked white and brown and tan will convince me that such a sight actually exists. You err. I won’t be convinced until I see it with my own eyes.”

    The investor leaned back in his chair and awaited the developer’s reply. The developer sighed heavily, did a quick mental calculation of the cost of a visit to the hills in question, and decided his company could absorb the cost.

    “We will be happy to have you view the area.”

    “By helicopter…”

    “That can be arranged.”

    “My assistant, Miss Shapely, will accompany me.”

    The developer raised an eyebrow at this, but he agreed.

    In due time the investor verified the existence of the multicolored hills, among other things, and he and Miss Shapely had a most enjoyable trip although he decided that investing in the odd colored hills was not for him. Which just goes to show you that the race is not always to the swift nor iron bars a cage.

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