Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Mall

international trade mall ottawa canada oct 2008
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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14 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Mall”

  1. Mall Pox

    “Sarge, this is one for the books.”

    “Whaddayagot Feeney?”

    “A loiterer. Plain…and really…quite a simple doofus.”

    “Is that even a thing these days, Feeney? Loitering, I mean. Not doofus. That we got plenty of.”

    “Right Sarge. A loiterer. Standing right outside that new mall out on the highway”

    “The I Saw the Light and Our Shoppers Will Ascend Mall?”

    “Yup, that one.”

    “What’s this felons name?”

    “Theodore Clupperhouse.”

    “How was Theodore loitering? I mean, what was he doing? Protesting? We had some of those consumer anarchist types back before they broke ground. Then there was that messy blockade…”
    “Nope. Didn’t seem to be one of them. Not so’s you’d notice. He was just standing there…alone…muttering something like…”


    “Like…’Save yourself. The air’s dead. You’ll be dead. We’ll all be dead. Stay out or the Covid’ll get you.’ It’s recorded on my Body Cam.”

    “The Covid will get you, huh? Interesting turn of phrase.”

    “Ran his sheet, Sarge. Nothing much there. We’ve done a few Wellness Checks last couple of years. Works from home. Repairs small appliances for a living.”

    “A lost art, Feeney. I’ve got a toaster that needs fiddling with…anyways, seems to me he was exercising his right of free speech…offering his perspective, however tangled up in his foggy foggy dew-brain it was…and he wasn’t impeding folks who did want to enter the Mall?”

    “Nope. Just muttering…off to the side.”

    “Cut him loose, Feeney. One shopper more or less won’t bring the economy down.”

    “Will do, Sarge.”

  2. Three dolphins soared overhead, balletic and graceful. One arced close by me, chattering as it passed. I couldn’t understand it; it could have been an alien from Proxima Centauri, and I’d still have been no less able to communicate. I felt humbled and ashamed: they’d made all the effort to come here and I’d failed in the most basic of courtesies.

    “He’s trying to thank you,” my companion said, cupping his ear. “Something about a fillet of mackerel you gave his second cousin. It was quite a few years ago; you were barely more than a sprat yourself.”

    I shook my head, trying to remember. I’d visited an aquarium, when I’d been at school; probably on a Wednesday, one May. It would have been a Biology fieldtrip, one of the many I’d endured. Other than that, I had nothing. It could have been another person, in another lifetime.

    A second dolphin joined the first, the clicking of his voice in counterpoint to the other’s. He could have been singing an accompaniment; there was a harmony in what he (or she) seemed to be saying.

    “His friend is a little impatient. There’s something they need to do. There’s something about a bypass, a demolition order, a flight they need to catch. He seems surprised you’re still here; he’d offer you a berth if it was up to him.”

    It was then that the ceiling fell in, lingerie merging with haberdashery. I could never get the hang of Thursdays, especially in June.


    Title: Discoveries

    The walk to the mall usually gave me time to notice things to write about. Today, as much as I tried to see the beauty around me, my grandmother’s teachings kept pace with the sound of my shoes… ‘Give and thou shall receive.’

    It was a breezy fall morning and leaves were blowing across my path. Yellow, brown, red and green. When I studied it – I discovered it was a roll of $100 bills.

    Despite years of writing, and never being discovered, I had something else to write about today.

    I thought about the roll of money all the way to the mall. Who lost it, and should I give it to mall security? It was as if someone heard my questions and gave me the answer I needed.

    They were a family of four, and they were not carrying any shopping bags. The children looked like they needed new clothes and shoes.


    Minutes later, I was surrounded by three news people. “We witnessed what you did.”


    Sitting with my Grandmother that night – “Good evening, this is Bert Jones reporting from the Mall of Good Hope. Well today we witnessed a young man give a family of four enough money to buy what they all needed. In these trying times, it is nice to witness someone giving to others. Please listen to his reason.”

    “Well, if the money was meant for me, I would have found it on my way home.”

  4. “H-h-hello?”
    “HELLO!!! Can you hear me!?!”
    “Uh, huh.”
    “THANK GOD! Where are you?”
    “Right here.”
    “I can’t see anything! Where is here?”
    “Outside the store.”
    “Store?! What store?”
    “The lady clothes store. But my mom promised me Legos if I was good. I gotta go…”
    “NO! Please!! Stay! I need your help.”
    “I gotta go back, I’ll get in trouble.”
    “Good, go get your mom. Bring her here. Tell her I need her help.”
    “She’ll get mad I was out here talking to you.”
    “NO! I promise she won’t. You’ve got to help me. I’m hurt.”
    “You look okay.”
    “I can’t move. Can’t see anything. It’s hard to breathe.”
    “But you can talk?”
    “Yes! Yes! I can talk. And I need you to get help!”
    “For everyone?”
    “EVERYONE? There are more?! I don’t… NO! Help me first, then we can help the others.”
    “I don’t know…”
    “WAIT! Don’t go! What’s your name?”
    “MATTHEW! Is there anyone else around?”
    “No. Just my mom and the lady in the store.”
    “Matthew. I p-promise if you get your m-mom, you’ll get more Legos than you could ever want.”
    “Really. Matthew…but…hurry. I’m not good. Don’t feel good…”
    “Tell her Jonah needs help! Matthew? Matthew…”
    “Hey Jonah! I’m back…talk to him Mom.”
    “Honey, they don’t talk. They’re for decoration.”
    “No! He promised me Legos.”
    “Well then, say goodbye to your friend and let’s go get you some Legos.”

  5. I was looking around at all the bright signs as we walked along, my young mind mostly enjoyed the variety, the brighter the better

    Mum carried the few bags in one hand and mine in the other trying to juggle the shopping, read her list and pause at the mall map to figure out where we were going next

    I wasn’t paying attention as she let go of my hand for the hand rail of the escalator so I stopped in surprise looking around to find her again, only to see her being carried up by the metal stairs

    I looked down at the stairs of the escalator and watched them whizzing past sharp and metallic, speeding her away I knew I needed to get on but couldn’t bring myself to make the step as the bright sights and colours faded into panic

    Before I knew it, tears were rolling down my face and the crowd of people behind was getting larger and larger.

    I couldn’t deal with the situation

    Out of crowd came a man who smiled down

    “Are you okay?”

    A shake of my head, he outstretched a hand which I happily took all warnings of stranger danger and fear forgotten

    We stepped onto the escalator together, complete trust in this new person and rode to the top
    Mum was looking around with shock and panic as I ran into her arms barely hearing her thanking the kind stranger over my relief.

    Safe at last

  6. For the first time in months, Mimi and Jonathan were out of their condo. Mimi, especially, was excited to be with her husband heading to the mall.

    She missed the noise and crowds, venturing into stores with gaudy merchandise. Jonathan, a typical husband, was not so excited, but Mimi was pleased that he had agreed to come with her. It was a nice gesture, showing they still had that spark of affection.

    The mall was different in this new world. Yes, there were shoppers but not many. Everybody wore a mask, so Mimi couldn’t read their faces, see their happiness at being in the mall. Everything had been cleaned and disinfected and cleaned again. The walls were shiny from the reflection of the lights.

    Mimi closed her eyes and let Jonathan pull her along, past dark stores closed for good and the few that were open, lines snaking out as shoppers waited their turn.

    It wasn’t the same but thankfully there were memories. Like the first time she and Jonathan had shopped at the mall when he had brought his basketball, expecting a short visit so he could meet his buddies for their pick-up game. He never made it but he kept smiling as they went into store after store, sacks getting bigger and his feet dragging. But no complaints.

    That’s when she knew they were meant for each other.

    She smiled at the memory. Jonathan smiled back and bounced his basketball. For old time’s sake.

  7. “Look! Over there!” The mother touched her son’s shoulder

    “What is it?”

    “A moving stairway! Zoom, up a floor. Zoom, down a floor!

    “Mother, what’s the point of building a machine to do something for you that you can do for yourself?”

    “It shows…um, the originality and inventive tendencies of, um….”

    “Does it work?”

    “Well, no. Probably not for thirty years,” the Mom finished up lamely. Bur don’t you see? It’s historic. A piece of our glorious past. Like..oh…cars for instance. Remember? We saw one at a museum last year.”

    “Metal monstrosities. Big enough to hold six people, carrying only one. Using enough energy to power half the civilized world. Energy wasters, that’s what they were. Not nearly as efficient as tubular underground transportation. Mom, this was built to show how foolish people were and the progress we’ve made. Home-‘n’-School taught me this and everything else I need to know.”

    “Can you read?”

    “Read what?”

    “Candy wrappers, billboards, traffic signs…Anything! And what work are you doing? You’ve never told me!”

    “Mom, stop it! If someone hears you talking nonsense you’ll lose your visitation rights. I’ve got to go now. Be safe.” And he was off.

    But he was not without compassion. He vowed to think up a line of work for himself before their next visit. No matter what, he could never let her or any of the 506 women who called him “son” know his true job. Or their sons’ true fate.

  8. It was a warm day, one of those days where it is so hot you can actually taste the heat…well we had come into the mall to enjoy some of that free air conditioning when we decided it wasn’t quite enough…we needed more.

    So we headed upstairs to get a slurpee, you know the ones from your childhood that were so refreshing – it seemed like winter after you were finished with it. But then it happened, literally the worst thing imaginable, while half way up the escalator it broke.

    Now we were not only unable to get tasty beverages from the heavenly abode above, but we were also jam packed like sardines on an escalator of death…oh and have I mentioned that it was hotter than hot outside? It took about 5 seconds to notice, the stench of death…was it a rotting beluga whale from above, or the 300+ pound man sweating profusely right in front of me? I couldn’t be sure, but I also couldn’t stop gagging and praying to the Lord above for relief please Lord save me, save me from this stench of b.o. and death that I can actually taste, please allow this escalator to move before I throw up causing a chain reaction that is worse than the most vile fate I can fathom. Please let this end…

    As my prayer ended so did my desperation…as the escalator clicked back on, and we began moving to the food court.

  9. Stepping Up

    Tanya’s mother, Alicia, yelled as she raced out, “Stay with Granny, for an hour or two.”

    “But Mo-omm!” wailed Tanya, “My friends are at the mall. Dad’s coming home soon.”

    “You know she can’t stay alone,” answered Alicia, “I understand you’re 17 and want to have fun. But growing up also means becoming responsible.”

    “Uh-huh,” she conceded, then peeked into Granny’s room. She was sleeping! Wouldn’t it be okay to leave her, for just a bit?

    Within a half hour, she was browsing racks of colorful sweaters at the mall, with her three besties.

    Suddenly Tanya heard a commotion.

    “Ma’am, there are no unescorted children in the mall,” said the policeman.

    Granny answered, “No, officer, I heard my little granddaughter. She promised to meet her friends here!”

    Oh no, thought Tanya, ready to hide under the nearest rock. Granny drove here?

    “Isn’t that your grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s?” asked Tanya’s friend.

    “None other,” said Tanya, sinking into the floor.

    Bravely, she approached the officers. “That’s my grandmother,” and then whispered something to them quietly.

    “Oh, Alicia!” cried Granny, “I’ve come to find your little Tanya, who came here all alone.”

    Granny thought she was her mother!

    “Tanya’s fine,” said Tanya, incredulously, “Dad has her. Let’s go home.”

    “Are you sure, Alicia?” asked Granny.

    “Yes. Thank you for looking after Tanya.”

    “Thank goodness she’s safe!” said Granny.

    “I know how you feel,” answered Tanya, taking her hand, even though she knew she had some explaining to do later.

  10. “We call it ‘the dark part,’” I whispered in my little brother’s ear. Even though he was only two years younger than me, I had this arborist sense that I-as the big sister-was there to watch out for him. His face filled with the excitement that reminded me of my first time entering the “dark part,” being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

    “Dark part…” Gene whispered almost to himself, as if in a trance.

    “Yup. The best parts are in there. Cookies, orange drinks, a playground with a ball pit and even a moving staircase so you don’t have to walk…oh Gene there are so many goodies. And Mom always buys us something.”

    Gene’s face beamed like an endless blue sky, as his matching baby blue eyes took in what laid before us. We stood waiting in line at J.C. Penney’s, waiting for Mom to finish her purchase. He started to dance a little jig in anticipation and I was so jealous of him; his waiting adventure to a new world, taking it all in for the first time. But even more so, I could smell the fresh baked cookies as they taunted me with their savory, warm, melting chocolate chip goodness. My mouth filled with saliva and I started to dance in place myself.

  11. Paddy patted Patty’s tummy as the escalator carried them to the mall’s ground level. They joined the crowds of New York City’s Christmas shoppers searching for the perfect gift.

    If they only knew, Paddy thought.

    “I’ll drop into this sports store for a quick look around,” Paddy called out to his pregnant mate. “I know you want to shop around for your gift, too. We’ll meet at the hot dog stand in fifteen minutes.” He already decided what he was going to buy.

    Patty nodded and blew airborne kisses to his puckered lips. She turned and headed for the Little Girl’s Shop.

    Clutching her colorfully wrapped purchase, she plopped next to Paddy. “Is that hot dog for me?” she chuckled, pointing to the sauerkraut laden delight. Before he could answer, she was devouring her new favorite fast food.

    Kneeling at the Christmas tree, Patty unwrapped her package – a Raggedy Ann doll. She smiled and made room for Paddy. He proudly unpacked a Major League baseball. They hugged each other and sipped their warmed eggnog.

    “What a perfectly lovely vacation this is,” she sighed, rubbing her stomach.

    “Too bad it has to end,” he grinned. “Where should we go next year?”

    “Oh, we’ll have plenty of time to figure that out after our suckling emerges.” Patty stood and stretched. “We better start packing our vacation souvenirs.”

    They fastened their seat belts, morphed into their original celestial forms, and zoomed back to their condo nestled in the Milky Way.


    Forgotten Luxury

    Jagged pieces of glass littered the marble floor, glimmering like forgotten diamonds. The skeleton of a door hung crooked on rusty hinges. The building a shell of its former self, a strong wind moved the frame, and it slammed back into place. The sound echoed through the dark foyer.

    Karen’s boots pulverized the shards of glass into sand, announcing her presents to the desolate property. Her flashlight shined on a large square kiosk. Before the war, teenage girls huddled around the map with their Starbucks cups tracing the best route to American Eagle. She wiped the dust away, her finger scrolled over the options stopping on a purple dot at the top of the escalator.
    She closed the gap between the door and the dead staircase, kicking the debris and a disembodied head of a smiling whale rolled, gazing up at the ceiling where it once hung. She took two stairs at a time, turned left, and squeezed through the security bars.

    Fruity scented candles blocked the entrance like soldiers protecting the inner sanctum of a forgotten temple. Slipping by the wax centurions, she crept into the center of the store. Under a thick layer of grime stood her prize—the last ten bottles of Autumn Apple Body Lotion. She opened the first bottle and inhaled, the world around her evaporated. Once again, she was a college student getting ready for Homecoming, not a scavenger clinging to a forgotten past.

  13. Escalator!

    “Come Maa, what are you waiting for?”
    Not seeing Maa next to me, I hollered looking back from the running escalator. My mother was oblivious to me; still looking down at the escalator stairs, and estimating the right time to step up on the escalator.

    I reached up, but mother was still contemplating the right time to step up on the escalator. “The escalator is running with its own vicious cycle.”Angrily muttered Maa.
    “No I can’t do this! This is hard.”
    “My head is spinning and I am unable to focus.” She puts her hands on her hips and gives up, drenched in sweat.
    We could not shop that day in the mall.
    “Maa, next time maybe you should wear pants instead of Saree when we go to the mall.” I suggested.
    “You’ll have an easier time stepping up on the escalator in pants, because you can see your both feet in pants, and have a better estimate.”
    “Don’t try to teach an old dog a new trick.” Said mother without regrets, while busy sipping her tea.
    “But you can get more things done, if you use the escalator mother.”I suggested, leaning on her shoulder.
    “We will see.” Maa teased me with a big smile.
    Next time when we went to the mall, Maa found a spacious lounge with a comfortable sofa, sat with an iced Latte, a muffin, and my 3 years old son.
    “Now go and get things done quicker.” Motioning me towards the escalator.

  14. For us pilot-astronauts, arriving at Grissom City means visiting the Wall of Honor in the Roosa Barracks. There we pay our respects to the fallen heroes of space travel from its beginnings to the present.

    For the tourist crowd, that’s just a necessary way-station on the way to their real destination. You can tell the quality of the tour companies’ training systems by how well the tourists wait through the formalities. If it’s a good one, even the most jaded tourists will stand reasonably at attention and remain quiet, irrespective of whether their hearts are really in it. If it’s a sloppy one, they’ll fidget the whole time, half-heartedly hiding their eye-rolls of exasperation at something that’s just wasting their time. Once I even saw a guy from one of the really cheap outfits sneaking a look at his phone.

    Their real destination is the main concourse, up in Grissom City proper. It’s the biggest shirtsleeve-environment habitat off Earth, two levels of shops, restaurants and tourist kitch. It’s set up pretty much like your typical double-decker shopping mall on Earth, other than being in one-sixth gravity. And it’s as safe as its designers can make it, which is a damned good thing when you consider the kinds of people who are bouncing around in it. Sometimes I wonder how half those tourists manage to get up here without doing any of a dozen things that could kill them dead.

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