Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Tunnel

notre dame flash fiction writing 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!

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Tunnel”

  1. Endgame

    There. I’m almost there. They don’t really tell you what it will feel like. What the sensations will be. They do say you will start to lose your senses. Smell. Taste. By the time they go, you’ve pretty much lost interest.

    But here I am thinking about them. Some of them. Food, for instance.

    My first hotdog at the stadium. I was eight. Granddad took me. First semi-pro ball game I ever saw. And I can still see that mustard squirting out onto my shoe. He got quite a chuckle out of that. I never did get the stain out. Wore those sneakers pretty much every day for the next year. By then, they were crushing my feet. Feet got bigger. No money for new ones. Finally, my mother gave them to the Goodwill and got replacements for me. The new-old sneakers fit. No complaint there though I whined for a while. Somebody used to walk in them. Used to own them. Sometimes it almost felt like that kid and me were in the same shoes. I wondered about him for a while. I told her, “Ma, I can smell that kid.” She asked, “What’s he smell like, sonny-boy?” I couldn’t say. Wouldn’t. I guess because he smelled like me.

    Stupid to think about that now. Time’s spiraling down. Here I am wasting it in the tunnel of second-hand shoe memories.

    There were so many other things in my life to remember.

    I hope I get to them.

  2. The two Notre Dame alumni, members of the university’s last championship football team, the Fighting Irish of 1988, stood at the head-end of the tunnel, quietly staring down its length to the field that had awaited them so many times decades earlier. Cigars in hand, neither said a word, apparently lost in their memories of those glorious days and the men with whom they played. They almost certainly were thinking about the ones who had passed: Bob Satterfield, Jeff Alm, Rodney Culver, Kenny Spears, Andre Jones, and now, only a few days earlier, Dean Brown.

    “I still can’t believe Dean’s gone,” said one, breaking his silence after taking a puff on his cigar. “I talked with his brother the night he went to the Cleveland Clinic. He said Dean thought he some kind of respiratory infection. He even texted his wife from the ER, saying he might be discharged soon. But he died later that day of a blood clot.”

    His team member nodded. “Doesn’t seem fair, does it?! I mean, the guy was 44 years old. He was in the prime of his life.”

    “I know, but look at Andre; he was only 27 when he died from a brain tumor.”

    Taking one last look at the tunnel, they turned and walked through the stadium to their car.

    “You know,” said the driver, “back in 1988, we never knew a loss; we were on top of the world. Look what’s happened to us now.”

  3. Wolf Now

    “My father was outraged when they switched the banners to holograms.”
    “Why? Saves labour, and is far more hygienic.”
    “He mentioned something about heritage needing physical presence to root it.”
    “Videos of this tunnel over the years show it better. Fans can see this place from wherever they are.”
    “That was part of his point. Accessing it so easily cheapens the emotional tie, or something like that.”
    “For older generations, I’d agree. But for those born and raised in the digital world, our nostalgia is just a few clicks away.”
    “He had a big problem with that, too. Something about memory filtering emotional content over time: what’s important are the memories that remain. If the moments are always available, you never get to work through the associated emotions, be they good or bad.”
    “I think I understand. Well, on an intellectual level. To understand it emotionally, I’d have to delete a lot… No, that wouldn’t be right. To do it properly, I’d need to grow up with the need to retain moments because they aren’t captured in, or cued by, hundreds of image prompts.”
    “That’s deep.”
    “Not really. He was a man who only had an organic mind to use. Only a few steps from the wolf now.”
    “‘Wolf now’?”
    “No detailed memories; no real comprehension of the passage of time.”
    “Is that such a bad thing?”
    “Actually, now that you mention it: no.”

  4. The Secret Tattoo

    AvidorX stared–as he had done every morning for years–at his reflection in the polished aluminum wall of his bathing area, wondering at the strange hieroglyphs tattooed on his chest. No one, not even the learned Evantine scholars, inhabitants of Shegoth. could explain it. “Our research found nothing,” they told him dismissively as they moved on to a more pressing issue: their tunneling underground in an effort to identify the remains of a past civilization.

    They had already found remnants of a huge coliseum. Rows of crumbling cement tiers encircled a large open area, some of it still covered with what must have been a synthetic shield.

    Today, AvidorX drove The Digger, a huge and complicated machine, into a deep excavation. Then, with the rapidly rotating horizontal drill, probed into the age-old layers of sediment beneath the coliseum ruins.

    Suddenly the drill broke through into a long, dimly lit passage. AvidorX saw pictographs of ancient combatants–large men wearing strange costumes and even stranger head coverings. He flipped on The Digger’s search beams and caught his breath in a moment of shocked surprise.

    There, on banners hanging from the ceiling, were hieroglyphs identical to the tattoo on his chest.

    Shaken, pale, he shuddered at the thought of what could possibly link him to this ancient culture. Perhaps it would mark him as an outcast. An unbeliever.
    Whatever might happen, he would have to keep secret forever the origin of his tattoo.


    Title: Notre Dame Blue

    It was a sad week. We knew my grandfather was in his last days, but it still hurts when someone passes. He was MY hero.

    He never cursed, he never lost his temper and he constantly reminded me of the values of a good person. He not only mentioned them, but I saw him live by those same principles.

    When we cleaned out his storage unit, we found a foot locker with my name on the label.

    I couldn’t wait to open it, and Danny was very curious too. When we finally opened it, there were things in the Army-green-wooden box that he never mentioned.

    I knew he was in the Army, but he never told me he was awarded the ‘Purple Heart.’ When I handed it to Danny, I was glad he had interest in it, so I could try to maintain my composure.

    When I could speak, “Danny, it is awarded to soldiers wounded while serving. Your grandfather never said a word about being injured.” I wasn’t surprised.

    Then I saw it, and unfolded it, a picture of the Notre Dame tunnel fell out of the faded-blue football jersey. The signature on the back was ‘Frank Leahy ’41.’ I thought green was the Notre Dame color, but I had proof in that year it was not.

    I studied Danny. and thought to myself, I promise to do my best to bring you up the way Grandpa would be proud of us.

    “You okay, Dad?”


    Win one for the Gipper

    Nikki loved her history class. She clicked the silver button on her pen to a fast tempo in her head. Professor Duncan slowly handed out the research assignments. Each bundle of pages dictated half of the grade this semester.

    The folder thudded on her desk, her fingers flew over the cover, revealing her topic. Her heart sunk. Instead of a great woman or king, her subject was a picture of a tunnel with old Notre Dame football banners hanging from the ceiling. There had to be a mistake. Notre Dame football was not a real topic of history, as the rest of the class filled out of the room. She cleared her throat.

    “Professor Duncan, there has been a mistake you assigned me a college football team for my project. Can I please get a different topic?”

    “Nikki, like it or not, college sports teams help define American Pop culture. Have you ever heard win one for the Gipper?”

    “No, how is that relevant?”

    Professor Duncan slid his laptop into his leather shoulder bag smirking, “I don’t know, why don’t you do some research.”

    She pounded the keys of her laptop with Professor Duncan’s words and hit send. Her eyes widened, reading about George Gipp, the Gipper. A world-class athlete in his prime killed by strep throat. She rubbed her throat and swallowed hard as she took her last antibiotic. Opening a new search window, she typed the effects of antibiotics on the deaths of college athletes.

  7. So here I am, creeping like a lifetime thief into the arena, where so much has lived and died. Light at the end, they say. Light at the end, I can see, but light is not what I want. The virus has stolen the light. I want chocolate-coloured comfort of darkness to wrap me in its soft blanket of ignorance, so that I don’t register the record of the past. How can I face them now? Champions all, cheering lifting them, year on year, until the axe fell and the money ran out. The hands of childhood mascots are imprinted on the rails, peacock pride parading for the crowd. All gone. I wrap myself in my own arms, the only ones left, and savour the smell of the banner dust, before I take them down, close the doors and walk away, the crowd’s roar singing in my ears, undefeated still.

  8. “Hey Grandpa, look it all those flags!” exclaimed five year old Calvin has they rounded the corner and were confronted with the long tunnel down to the field. Calvin’s grandpa was an administrator at Notre Dame and was giving him a tour of the stadium while Calvin’s parents were enjoying some free time in town.

    “Well Cal, those banners represent all the national championships of the esteemed football program here at the university. That 1924 one was the year of the Four Horsemen and the first …” So began a long litany of football lore as they proceeded across the field and sat in the now empty bleachers that had bore witness to some of the greatest moments in college football.

    Later that evening, Calvin’s mom asked about his day. Cal got all excited and ran through grandpa’s stories. “What a scary place! Four Horsemen destroyed a whole army! Paul Horny was magical and got a High Man trophy even though he lost a lot. A guy named Jerome Biggest turned into a bus! Coach Lou wanted Coach Jimmy’s bum. Alan Page, the giant, became a Purple People Eater! This guy Jungle Jim Quinn could be everywhere at once! And a guy named The Zipper made a big speech, became President and died of pneumonia. Oh yeah, and some guy from Montana became the greatest quarterback ever.”

    “Well that’s quite the tale!” chuckled mom.

    “I know! I told grandpa everybody knows Tom Brady isn’t from Montana.”

  9. It’s the white light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what it’s all about. When you die.

    Harvey, a nice guy most of his life, healthy until the last two years (hard to beat cancer), had a good life. He couldn’t complain. And if he did, who would listen?

    Eighty-seven years old. A long time, no disagreement there. Oh, he kinda wished he’d held on for three more years just to beat his old man, who lived until his was eighty-nine. In reality, all that stuff was out of his control. Harvey knew that and—being the kind of guy he was—accepted it. When it’s your time, it’s your time.

    So, here he was in a hospital room, all sorts of monitors pasted over his body and tubes and “lines” hooked into his bloodstream and stomach to provide nourishment, medication, and, let’s not kid ourselves, pain.

    All part of the game. And Harvey was if nothing else, a believer in the game.

    Which was why, as he peered at the light at the end of the tunnel, he—metaphorically—sat up in shock, There, his entrance to the afterlife, was festooned with Notre Dame football championship banners. Hooray! If you were a fan of football and Notre Dame football in particular.

    Harvey was neither. Baseball was his game and the Yankees were his team.

    Obviously, somebody had screwed up. He couldn’t be heading to wherever by way of Notre Dame football.

    Do over!

  10. That big lug told me he was going to take me into the Tunnel of Love on our date tonight, so I slipped into something loose, but slinky — hot pants and my see through sleeveless t-shirt.

    I heard his Harley roar into our trailer park. He screeched to a stop at our front door and blasted his bike’s two-trumpet horn.

    “Your honkin’ honkie’s here,” mama called out. “He’s gotta let the whole world know he’s ready to be adored. Dump the chump!” She flipped the ashes from her stogie, sighing in despair, as I slithered into the night.

    With my arms wrapped around his body, I pulled myself up to nibble his ear, and was startled. “Hey, big guy, the carnival is over there. I thought we were going to the Tunnel of Love?”

    “We is, sweet thing. My love of pizza!” He slapped the horn and laughed. “When we get through this tunnel, we’ll be at the battle of National Championship for Pizza Maker of the Year,” he blubbered. “I’m votin’ for the one who makes my favorite – a deep dish pizza with double the anchovies.” Wiping the drool from his chin, he parked next to a sleek Yamaha and disappeared into the crowd. He’d rather have pizza than me? I couldn’t believe my ears. Should’a listened to my mom.

    I slid off the bike and hitched a ride home with a muscular biker giving me the eye, and wondered, what the heck are anchovies???

  11. Back in the old days, sports reporting was a man’s job. Women’s sports just weren’t a big thing when I was growing up, and female journalists weren’t welcome in the masculine world of men’s sports.

    Locker rooms were one of the big issues when those first pioneering female sports journalists were getting into the field. I know it sounds incredible now, but back in those days people were horrified at the thought of women reporters participating in the locker-room interviews right alongside the male reporters. Like none of us had brothers, or we were going to lose our innocence somehow.

    Honestly, there’s nothing sexual about it. These guys are professionals who’ve just finished some very physical work. They just want to get out of their sweaty uniforms and wash up, while we’re focusing on getting that unfiltered reaction to a play, that pull quote that’s going to get those viewer eyeballs, those reader click-throughs.

    Yeah, there’s the occasional smartass who pulls something off-color for stupid yuks, but in this business, we call that Monday. If you can’t handle it, nobody held a gun to your head and made you get a job in sports reporting. Find yourself another line of work and leave more room for the rest of us.

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