Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Directions

Phoenix flash fiction prompt usery mountain park april 2016 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: Directions”

  1. The Dead of the Morning

    I’d agreed to meet Effie Finecastle at her Weavers studio at 6:00 am. I couldn’t recall ever agreeing to meet anyone so damn early.


    For anything!

    I put my enthusiasm down to finally having a case.

    I’d spend some of the previous evening googling “weaving.” It wasn’t without its residual pleasures. Weaving for Rank Beginners Part One, hosted by a lovely lass, Isabella Hartley, gave me some basic information and a realization that I was in love with Isabella Hartley. Alas, she was either in Australia or England, somewhere COVID would hinder meaningful romance.

    With that idle infatuation shut down, I did a bit of online research on Mona Monterey, the alleged “floosy” Effie felt was trying to weave her lustful bod into the heartstrings of Ervin Finecastle. There wasn’t much.

    Before she’d left my office, Effie had mentioned that Mona had previously lived in Phoenix but when the pandemic arrived, she’d returned home to Canada. That got my mind a wandering. The first time I’d ever given the Arizona capitol a thought was in the opening scene of Psycho. The original one, not the redo. Janet Leigh and whatshisname, the guy who went from acting to ambassador for Mexico…under Reagan, who went from acting to the Presidency…

    I’d finally gotten to sleep after failing to rescue Marion Crane from crazy Norman Bates.

    Now, here I was at the Studio.

    It was still dark.

    The door was ajar.

    I almost tripped on the body.

  2. “Just follow the arrows and keep on until sunset. The ash will disperse by tomorrow, so you’ll need to move fast.”

    That was the last thing he said before he’d disappeared, the flames rising around him and then dying back, leaving the first of his signs. After that, we’d seen his mark everywhere; on billboards, on the backs of eighteen-wheelers, even once on the side of a mountain. But every place we’d seen it, it had been ethereal, its impermanence a reminder that time was passing, that the trail was long and what were we doing here right now? We should be moving because he wouldn’t wait, couldn’t wait, not while the fire was burning through him. The Carpenter would be with us but a short time, his messages for all to see, though few would truly understand them. He wasn’t one for fancy rhetoric; his words would speak for themselves, engaging in our souls like a key, if we could only open ourselves to him first.

    We’d begun in Comfort, then continued west, passing through Roosevelt, Segovia and Sonora, sometimes turning back on ourselves as we followed the sun. The trip we’d begun had become a pilgrimage and a race against the night. We could feel it massing behind us, see the darkening of the skies. If we didn’t hurry, we’d be too late and then we’d be lost.

    I didn’t want to think what the price of our failure would be.

    But I knew it would be biblical.

  3. Title: Cough it up

    Sputter, sputter…cough, cough…vroom, vroom…sputter.

    I was about to heave, hearing that sound pattern for half an hour.

    Gasoline stench was overpowering.

    I remember my words last night – “I don’t give a damn any longer!”

    It looks like I’m going to be eating those words.

    Sputter, sputter…cough, cough…vroom, sputter, sputter.

    If I jump out the door…it will be over in a matter of seconds. I won’t know what hit me. If I stay with this plane, I will see my end.

    “I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean it. I do care, much more than I ever realized. God, please help me get through this, and I will be a different person…I swear.” I heard my own voice over the engine straining for something I couldn’t give it.

    Vroom, vroom…sputter, sputter…cough, cough…

    I looked at the altimeter, and it registered below one thousand, just a short distance between me and the end…just then I saw the mountain I needed to avoid…PHOENIX. Maybe there won’t be any flames today.

    I took a deep breath, and this time it was me gagging.

    Cough, cough…vroom, vroom…sputter, sputter.

    I now had a purpose to hold onto my life. “Honey, I’m so sorry, we’ll work this out. Please God, give me a break, and I promise I will be a man everyone will be proud of.”

    Sputter, sputter…cough, cough…vroom, vroom…sputter, sputter, vroom


    “Honey, I landed in Phoenix, thank God! I’m so sorry, I love you!”

    “You okay…you sound different?”

  4. “I’ve been everywhere man” to quote the late Johnny Cash. “I have been to Arizona, Washington, Oregon, all over California”….(I am trying to make my own version of the song here) several hundred times. Well anyways I won’t break down each place, but the exciting directions we have been, my family, left safely, tucked away memories.

    We traveled because my dad competed in the Scottish Highland Games, Heavy Athletics. He won, a lot and was an extremely strong individual. Maybe I’m biased but his trophies say otherwise. Of course, the other men were large as well, leaving me to assume the average size of a man stood at least 6 foot and well over 200 pounds.

    After said adventures, over many weekends, I would return to school with bagpipes playing in my brain. The vibration of it lingered for a day or so. It was insanity to me. But I watched in awe as my dad swung around, his green, blue, black kilt twirling, tossing the hammer toss. Running full bore as he flipped the caber at a perfect 12 o’ clock, winning him state champion that year. Grimaced through the strong man, two weights like a metal suitcase in each hand, around and around he would go past designated markers.

    Aromatic food filled the air, Scottish dancers who I adored with their plaited hair. Their colorful outfits of matching blouse, kilt and argyle socks, with care.

    But mostly, I remember the happiness that exuded us in that moment.

  5. Title: Reading the Signs

    “We’re gonna die-ie-ie-ie! Petrified carcasses. Tortured bones strewn across the desert floor. No one to—”

    “Get a HOLD of yourself man!” Jake was rapidly going to pieces. “It’s only been five hours since our balloon crashed and we weren’t that far from the city. It’s gotta be close.”

    Jake, wild eyed and drenched with sweat, froze in mid-rant. Then without warning, he lunged at Caleb. “Only five hours? Five hours? We’re walking in circles, our phones are dead and there’s no one to find us!”

    Caleb’s head snapped back and forth as Jake shook his shoulders. “DUDE! STOP it!” Actually, Jake wasn’t exactly wrong. They were lost and the searing sun was taking a toll. Maybe he shouldn’t have told Jake to duel the cactus on that last ridge. After all, Jake nearly had him convinced too that it was John Wayne risen from the dead to lay down the law.

    Fighting through a splitting headache, Caleb shrugged out of Jake’s crazed grip. “Stay focused.”

    Jake calmed. “Right. Be smart. Look for tracks.” Jake proceeded carefully, scrutinizing the stones, and then bent down to place a pinch of sand on his tongue. “The Saharan nomads taste the sand to find their way.”

    “They navigate sand dunes. You’re eating dirt.” Rounding the edge of the next hill, Caleb looked up exasperated. “Hey! Phoenix!”

    Jake sniffed the scrub brush. “Pay attention to detail.”

    Caleb tugged at Jake. “No—Phoenix! You can’t read the signs without looking up.”

  6. “Follow that sign. She’s there.”

    I glanced at the word phoenix written on the hill, and rolled my eyes. We’d been driving around the country for weeks on his quest. Gramps’ obsession that Nana was still alive had worsened as the cancer progressed. This trip was my way of humoring him. At least he’d die happy.


    The car screeched to a halt in front of a darkened office building. My heart pounded. “Are you okay? Do you need the hospital?”


    Gramps was out of the car before I unbuckled. For a sick old man, he moved fast. I rushed to catch up, then stopped. Power radiated off him, making my body tingle. No alarms sounded when we entered. Nothing stopped us as we walked to the elevator. A wave at the keycard slot started it moving. It opened on a cage filled laboratory.

    “I’m here, my precious.”

    Tears streamed down his face as he pressed his hands against the bars of a cage. The bird inside chirped weakly. Most of its feathers were gone, and puncture marks lined its skin. My hands tightened into fists. Whatever these people were doing was wrong. Just as I reached for the latch, flames filled the cage. I gasped and jumped back. It was over in a few seconds.

    “Gramps, what’s going on?” I asked, as he gathered the ashes.

    He held out his hands, smiling. Instead of ashes, a little red and orange bird sat there. “Say hello to Nana.”

  7. Trailblazer

    He left home almost a month ago on a journey that, to his knowledge, no one had, before him, undertaken. There were no directions to follow. No cautionary information to guide him. His destination, only a glowing image in his mind. Before he reached his Nirvana, there were hills to climb, mountains to cross and the desert? The desert alarmed him most. His conveyance was slow. Balked at the slightest urging to speed. It must have water—frequently–or it would stop. There would be no water in the desert.

    Sleeping under the stars, his food intake limited, the grind of slow motion travel wearing on him physically and mentally, he was uncertain whether or not he could continue. But admitting defeat would mean the long journey back to ridicule.

    He questioned his intent. Was it worth it? If he died along the way, what would be his obituary? That he was undaunted? That he persevered in the face of danger? Or would it be written with a wink and a nod: here was a modern day fool, no better than Don Quixote.

    Morning dawned. Would it be another day of torment? No. It was no longer just a glow behind the hills or the dream of a fevered mind. Suddenly, there before him were the twinkling lights of the city.

    He jumped off his tractor and ran the rest of the way into Phoenix. He had won the bet. Ten thousand big ones were his!


    Priscilla, the peacock, hopped and skipped her way up to the Phoenix sign pointing its way to her recently met heart’s desire. She had never seen such an adorable creature. He was nothing like the flamboyant male peacocks that strutted for her attention.

    With heart pounding, she remembered their last meeting and her attempts to increase his desire by getting the eyes on her glowing tail feathers to blink bewitchingly. But, no matter how hard they tried, with all their flipping and flapping and twisting and turning, they were unable to consummate their yearning for each other. They wondered why. Maybe today will do the trick, she hoped.

    And, there he was, in all his magnificence, hovering in expectation, waiting for me, she thought. She spread her luxurious five foot long tail feathers, swayed from side to side, quivered occasionally, then closed her eyes in anticipation.

    That gorgeous babe is back again , he smirked. I’ll give it one more shot. If this doesn’t work, well….. He swooped down and nibbled her ear. Then, brushed against her wing tips and poked under each feather. He searched every inch of her warm body, but couldn’t find an entry. Exhausted, he finally stopped. Well, we tried again, he thought. Enough is enough! This just isn’t going to work. I’ll flick off and go find another eager chick.

    Sadly realizing she’d never see him again, the disenchanted peacock turned to watch her hummingbird dreamboat dart out of her life.

  9. “I think I love you.”

    Wilhelmina, startled, looked up from her book so fast that her large, black-framed glasses slid down her nose. “What did you say?”

    Sitting across from her at the oak table in the library was a tall, blond-haired guy about her own age. Wilhelmina eased her frown when she noticed he looked as startled as she was.

    Wilhelmina was a thirty-year-old programmer. Her wild black hair was roped into a full ponytail with a bright red ribbon. A thin oval face, a bit long, was softened with a natural complexion free of makeup.

    “So sorry,” said the guy, closing a laptop. “I meant to say I’m looking for directions.”

    Wilhelmina relaxed and resigned herself to her usual helpful self. She was not being approached by a man, certainly not the handsome one before her. It would be nice to be, if not pursued, at least approached. Just once.

    “I’m Ben. I’ve seen you in the library before so I was thinking you might know the neighborhood. Could you direct me to the nearest Starbucks? I’m new here.”

    “You must be,” said Wilhelmina as she pushed her glasses back so she could see through the lenses and not over them. This guy was at least worth looking at. “Across the street.”

    Ben looked out the window and then turned back to Wilhelmina, blushing. “Could I buy you a cup of coffee?”

    “That would be grand,” said Wilhelmina, a broad smile brightening her serious face.

  10. I saw my first concrete arrow when I was eight. We were flying in Dad’s Beechcraft, visiting Uncle Bob and Aunt Selma in Boise. Miles and miles of featureless land and there it was: a triangular tip and two rectangles behind it.

    I wanted to ask Dad what it was, but he was talking with air traffic control. By the time he finished, the arrow was long behind us. I made enough of a hash of describing it that Dad couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I ended up uncertain I hadn’t imagined it.

    But the sight stuck with me, setting my mind to itching with curiosity. Back in those days there was no World Wide Web, no handy Google search option, so it took years of research. Only when I was in college, doing Air Force ROTC, did I learn the story of how the Post Office had set up a system of beacons in the 1920’s to guide airmail pilots. The beacons had been turned off in World War II and the towers disassembled for scrap, but their bases with the concrete arrows continued to point the way to long-ago mail routes.

    Since I retired from the Air Force, I’ve been flying around the country, looking for the remains of those old beacons. And a few weeks ago, when the GPS went out on my Cessna, I used one of them to point me back on course to the local airport.

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