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.
13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Lightning”
Spring Storm 1919
The air was corpse-still that morning. No breeze. No wind. Barely any breath. The boy was in the north field as the sun rose. “Bring them in, laddie,” he’d been told by his father. “First thing. Don’t like the looks of that sky.”
The herd was small. Last years drought had taken its toll, withered away at least half the stock. The war had also taken its toll. His uncle Walter had perished in ’17 on some wart of the earth known as Hill 70. His father was never the same after Walter’s death. They had always shared their parents farm, meant to work it far into the future, their children hearkening the same sure path.
Now, there was no clear view.
He felt the sky darken before he saw the clouds stampede in from the north. A crack snapped loudly but it seemed miles away.
“Why me?” he thought. For a time, he’d considered taking off. Leaving Alberta behind. Living a different life. Maybe go to Vancouver, become a sailor, see the world. They did say there would be no more wars, that mankind had done so much damage to the earth that war would be banned.
He could almost smell the sea.
The sky cracked again. Like a bone breaking.
The animals scattered.
He had failed.
Suddenly, the heavens lit up.
A hellish aurora.
He ran for a tree, shelter from the storm.
Lightning smashed into his skull and he was no more.
She always made him crazy. With passion, jealousy, or wistfulness. She had been his lifelong obsession. When she left the first time, he cried. When she left the second, he rejoiced. When she left the third and final time for the investment banker, he was morose.
Now in their seventies, she called in winter to tell him that the banker had died. She had plenty of room on Marathon Key, and the cottage in Quonochontaug. Would he like to join her? He would; for a visit. They talked of memories, money, and love. She thought the deal was clinched with the romance of the Keys and the familiar sex. But he still had his doubts and prior disappointments. He demurred to summer.
Summer came early to his farmstead in Greenville. The smell of sweet lavender blooms filled his nostrils as he sat on the veranda sipping his julep. Thoughts of her never left his mind, no matter the logic he used to consider their relationship. Cards and calls had been exchanged many times since the winter, and although the pleas for forgiveness and reconciliation seemed slightly desperate, he knew that their togetherness was inevitable.
The first of the summer’s evening zephyrs was building below the ridge to the southwest as they have been in Carolina for thousands of years. With them came the thunderclouds. As he sipped the last of his julep, a brilliant strike from Thor’s Hammer lit up the western sky. His decision was made.
“You sure this is far enough?” Clem asked, glancing back at the cabin they shared with their buddy, Sam.
Roscoe shrugged. “Hard to say. Once I thought my old mule was no more’n a hundred feet away, but he was a lot further than that. Took me all day to catch him.”
“That’s ‘cause when you wasn’t looking, he kept moving further away, that’s all. But I know what you mean. ‘Member that tree? We was hunting, and it was powerful hot, and we saw this here tree off aways. Looked like a shady place to rest awhile. But turned out it wasn’t no tree, just a stick in the ground, no more’n two feet tall.”
“We know how big the cabin is, and it’s staying put. Sun’s hotter than the insides of a tater on the fire. I say this is far enough.”
Roscoe plopped down in the tall grass and fanned himself with his raggedy hat. Clem plopped down beside him and did the same. They hadn’t long to wait to see the results of Sam’s tinkering with his newly acquired second-hand air-conditioner. First came the blast, then the blinding white light exploding from the earth to the sky.
“Yup, you were right. Sam and ‘lectricity don’t mix,” Clem said.
“Don’t suppose he’ll try that again,” said Roscoe.
Both men sat in silent contemplation for a moment, then Clem grinned.
“Leave it to Sam to go out with a bang,” he said.
Yohan gazed at the darkening sky and thought of Hannah. Hannah, strong as the oxen she stood behind as she ploughed the ten acre field. They had been good years, golden corn as far as the eye could see.
They had fled a war-ravaged country, stood proud as they took the oath of allegiance. The government had given them land, ten acres of fertile soil on a rolling, alluvial plain. They had worked hard, built a clapboard dwelling, hoped for children that never came.
But that was in the past. Hannah was no more, struck down one shimmering afternoon and trampled in the dust by her beloved oxen.
He had tried for years afterwards, set his seed in the parched dust bowl, and prayed. But the rain never came, the sky a stubborn azure blue.
The plough is rusted now, its dulled blade reared against the roofless barn. An owl circles, its piercing eyes looking for somewhere to roost. Beyond the rolling land a wolf calls to its mate. Yohan sits on the porch, rocking gently in the chair he and Hannah had bought at the Country fair. The sky is black, spits of rain mottling the wooden porch. Yohan pauses in his rocking and relights his pipe before sucking the acrid smoke deep into his lungs. He had buried her out there, beneath the once rich, fertile soil. No vicar, no ceremony. Just him and her.
As the lightning splits the sky he smiles. Late. Everything was too late.
The scent of ozone clung as they strode down the familiar corridors. Nods and smiles from colleagues, the occasional smirk elicited mixed emotions. The assignment hadn’t been the most popular one and while Lorn and his team had been thrilled to get a green light for a go, many saw it as a lost cause and not worthy of the time or resources spent.
Prime entered the room, gesturing for them to sit. “Report.”
Lorn cleared his throat, acclimating to the richer air. “All went pretty much as we’d assumed, with nary a hitch,” prompting one of his team to snicker. A glare in their direction nipped that quickly.
“Continue,” intoned Prime in his gravelly voice.
“Soil samples, air, water also verify previous findings. Where we’d hoped to find some improvement, we could find none. In fact, the degradation seems to be accelerating faster than anticipated.”
Prime, grim faced, nodded. “Perhaps there’s still time. Log your full report, but…that showy return…?”
“We’d indulged. Our last meal of Nuggets of Mac; we weren’t as rational as we should have been.”
“I’m aware the usual diet can be detrimental to one’s judgement,” Prime had fond memories of his first off-world assignment there. “I still crave Twinkies,” he admitted.
“Regarding our flashy return, as a large percentage of the population still believe lightning only strikes downward, there should be no repercussions.”
“Indeed, some still believe their planet to be flat!” Prime laughed. “We’ll give them another 100 years, should Earth survive, we’ll revisit.”
The two kids—young adults, really—were supposed to be at church on this Easter Sunday. But the clear sky, bright sun, and fresh buds on the trees got the better of them. Instead of listening to a fire-breathing sermon on this most joyful of holidays, they drove out into nearby quiet places. Rory’s old car, running splendidly, took them to a high lonely place where they would picnic on the delicacies Melinda had sneaked out of the house. There, amid tall trees on a high point, they pledged their love for all the world to see. While neither of their families would be ready to welcome their love, that rich deep connection they felt between themselves was enough. As they laid together on the colorful wool blanket, whispering to each other even though there was no one listening, storm clouds from all directions snuck up on them unawares. Those clouds crashed into one another, letting loose one lightning strike after another, fusing into a massive trunk of electricity that shattered their world and broke open the hard shell of awareness with a clash of thunder that knocked their world off-kilter. Those judging the young couple saw retribution in the storm while those—mostly young—who approved the young couple saw deep mutual love burst into the open. Tears were shed by some and smiles broadcast by others. For the couple, it was an unspeakably glorious day because they knew that such lightning would never strike them again.
No one else saw the lightning, but she knew why it was there. The real trick wasn’t in seeing the strike, it would be slipping away from her Earth parents.
They did their best to shelter her, but the truth was all too clear. Many times in her short life, one emissary or another would show up.
It scared her at first how well she knew the language she never heard. Especially when it came forth from her lips.
When she got older, and things clicked clearer, she began to wonder if she was being protected.
Or lied to.
In either case, her parents became much more observant.
Whether through parental care or knowledge they had that she didn’t, of late they’ve been in her hip pocket.
So she left, expecting trouble.
She went out the back door….nothing.
She went through the back gate, down the alley, out into the fields…nothing.
And there in front of her stood the three newest visitors. They were tiny, childlike, looked at her pleadingly with their oval eyes.
The familiar voices came then, but without their human forms.
“They need you to lead them,” her father’s voice said, in the familiar strange language, “and we are now too old.”
“We shouldn’t have left,” said her mother, “It’s unfair to you, but so it is.”
There was no time for why, so she went to the ship.
The sky lit up like an echo of light from a camera. It cascaded over the plains and through the valley, letting the inhabitants know rain was sure to follow the cloud’s thunderous roar. The Indian Outlaw Choctaw left his hideout refreshed from his slumber, and saddled up his horse.
I go now. Marshal Kanold is relentless in his pursuit of me. He would travel in these conditions, so must I.
Choctaw mounted his horse and galloped into the brewing squall. He was able to avoid most of the tempest, his horse a tornado through the rumbles and flashes. He arrived at the next town and tied up Lightning in front of the post office.
The tall, red skinned man looked at the wanted posters and waited for a spell to take his countenance off the wall unnoticed. He robbed the wall of his presence and walked out unscathed. That done, he headed to the saloon to get a drink.
No way Marshal will find me two towns over.
Choctaw ordered a whiskey and sat down on a stool, smiling and gloating.
“Now son, you can come quietly or there may be trouble.”
The piano player slammed the lid on his sixty six ivories and ran for cover.
Choctaw drank his shot. “How did you find me Marshal?”
“Well son, I figured even an outlaw like you would come in out of the rain sometime. So the first place I decided to look was this town. Safe Haven.”
She started this novel with a great idea as always, thinking maybe it could work. The six words that just might blossom came to her on her daily walk, and when she got home, she recorded them in her laptop writing file.
As soon as she had time after homework then dinner and baths for the children, and stories and kisses and lights out, she returned to her writing desk to scrutinize the idea for worthiness. It still felt fresh and new.
So she started. Made a plan from those six words. They were the opening. The invitation to write. She plotted a simple outline: Macy’s trials and tribulations, her grand recovery, her surprise.
That night she wrote later than she ever had before. She was shocked when she checked the time and realized it was 4 a.m. The kids would need her in just three hours, so she stopped to get what rest she could. The late nights did continue—no longer until four—but with her creative juices flowing, until the creativity just stopped.
Was her idea not the right one? Now all she did was stare out her writing desk window across the field to the tree line before the mountains. That image had given her its beauty, but that was not sufficient. Then one late night, with a faraway storm came a thunderously gorgeous lightening array that lit up her mind again. And with that she wrote to the end.
Crackles and booms resonated all around, as I charged across the field. If it weren’t for the frightened voice screaming in my mind, I’d be running away from this maelstrom. But telepathy was one of my star-touched abilities. So was an inability to look the other way.
Heat slammed my face as I approached, along with the astringent odor of roasted meat. The pizza oven at La Trattoria, was cooler than this place. I drew in some star-touched power to create a heat shield so I could look around without fear of boiling my eyes.
What I saw made me ball my fists. The heat hitting me now came from within. Power exploded with the energy of a small sun from a teen chained to some kind of generator. Whatever crackpot scientist hooked her up to the thing got a reaction alright, just not one that could be controlled. Trying to harness the energy that a star-touched commanded was something best left to those with the ability. Even that wasn’t a guarantee.
Survival odds were against me and the kid, but I had to try. I struggled through thick swirling energy and wrapped my arms around her. Like a puzzle snapping together for the first time, a sense of calm surrounded us both. I felt whole, complete.
As the blaze died and cooled, the girl, sank into my arms. The name, Eileen, echoed in my mind. Years of being alone vanished. I’d finally found my bonded.
To the average person, it looked like a lightning storm ravaging the sky, but Rex knew the truth. The explosion of light was from his time machine as it exited the present and transported him back six years.
Rex began laughing when the machine stopped, and he realized it worked. Life had become a struggle after the layoff. Debt had mounted, he’d lost his house, and his wife had left him. When he stumbled across the blueprints for the time machine, it was as if his prayers had been answered. Since then, Rex had spent two years secretly acquiring parts and building it. He knew it was against the law for unauthorized citizens to time travel, but he had a simple plan; it wouldn’t harm anyone.
He’d selected the date of the largest lottery pot in recent history. He’d win, deposit the money, and return to the present a wealthy man.
It felt strange walking through a busy business district that would become a ghost town in a handful of years.
A voice stopped him, “You’re in violation of the time travel codes and not authorized to be here.”
He faced the Time Continuum Officer, “Please, let me explain.”
“It’s a zero tolerance policy. We’ve destroyed your vehicle. Punishment is erasure from the timeline.”
Rex’s body flooded with fear as he started to back away, “No!”
The officer barely moved, but Rex felt his limbs begin to numb. In mere seconds Rex’s past and present selves vanished from existence.
Lightning flashed across the darkening sky, casting everything in actinic light. Marcus counted the seconds until the thunder rolled in.
Still a good six or seven miles away, but closing fast. Certainly within the danger zone for a stroke from the top of the thunderhead. Not good news for a man hiding from humanity’s conquerors.
The storm would hamper the Kitties’ search, but how much good would it do him, hunkered in the meager shelter of a culvert that could flood at any moment?
He squinted, studied the distant copse of trees. Yes, that was an old country church – but was there a lightning rod on the steeple? Would he be trading one danger for another?
Lightning flashed, and Marcus counted the seconds. Three, maybe four miles now. He might be able to run that distance before the rain hit, but in the open he’d be the tallest thing around. Even if the storm had grounded the Kitties’ little open-cockpit flitters, he would stand a good chance of a lightning strike.
He searched for any other shelter, knowing every minute he hesitated reduced his options. Already he could see the rain like a wall of wetness coming across the land.
Make it definite this culvert would flood. Nothing let to do but run, and hope.
ELIGIBLE FOR EDITORS’ CHOICE ONLY
We was working for Massah Green, pickin’ cotton in the field. Ah had little Jeremiah tied to mah back, but he grew a-restless ‘n fussin’ somefin’ awful. So ah puts him down and he jus’ starts a toddlin’ off, ah paid him no mind, ’cause day was ‘mos done and ah’da fine him fa shaw, in jus’ a bit. There was dozens of us workin’ that evenin’, but storm clouds come rollin’ in and da boss-man, Charlie-O, says day’s done.
But where’s my li’l youngin’, ah can’t tell. Thunder so loud, ’bout bursts my ears. Where’s my baby gone to?
Everybody’s all happy to be goin’ back home, but ah’s a runnin’ up and down da rows a’cotton, yellin’, “JEREMIAH!”
Ah done panic and call upon the name a da Lawd. Jus’ then, ’twas lightnin’ date lit up da sky, ah swears ’twas bright as da noonday sun! Ah’m still runnin’ up and down da rows and suddenly ah hears a noise, ah stops and looks, there’s mah baby toddlin’ between the plants, pickin’ wet cotton lahk he’s a grown man!
Ah swear, if it weren’t faw the lightning from Heav’n above, ah’d never see mah baby boy, but ah see’d ’em clear as day, standin’ there smilin’ at me like he’d done somefin’ wunnerful.
Mah Jeremiah. He gonna grow up ‘n be somefin’. Slave or free, he gonna show everbody. Dat day ’twas a sign from Heav’n above and the Good Lawd ‘n Jeremiah, they ain’t disappointed me yet.
Comments are closed.