Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Hazmat

IMG_0079 agency cabin 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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16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Hazmat”

  1. Hazmat

    I was trapped in a rustic log cabin. Some fool in a hazmat was sealing the property off. Sloppily, he had not checked if the cabin was occupied. Fear or laziness? Covertly, I watched. Suspiciously – he had appeared from nowhere and worked like a …! The word escaped me; I was feeling nauseating claustrophia. Entrapment meant death, and probably the annihilation of all my species. I had been sent to earth to find an anecdote for the disease destroying my fellow beings. It meant kidnapping a human and torturously draining their minerals. Humans had many faults, but painful prolonged death seemed too harsh a punishment even for a criminal.
    Automaton! The thing in the white sterile hazmat was a machine operated by our deadly enemy the Farangstons. For eons, Farangstons had fought us to win our planet and enslave our people. They had poisoned our environment forcing us to live trapped under our planet’s crust. I think this entrapment was slowly killing us rather than a disease. Taking out my stun gun like some cheesy character from a space western, I burst through the door and stunned the matter in the hazmat. Peering through the face mask was a diabolical machine. Hastily, I found the controller, the dreaded Farangston. Hypnotized, the foul monster piloted his craft back to my planet.

    Taking his life juices to save my species, failed to kill him. Now the captured Farangston is my pet helping us retrieve our former lives.

    “Good boy, Far!”

  2. Title: Unannounced Guests

    ‘A perfect beginning of a lakeside cabin vacation.’ That’s what we said heading to bed last night.

    However, during the night, Nick and Tracy were laughing so loudly, they woke me up. When I went in their room, they were collecting large carpenter ants and putting them in bottles.

    The ants were running across the ceiling and dropping on both of their beds. I went back into our bedroom and noticed the ants were doing the same thing there. However, Marie was still sound asleep, despite the black rain storm.

    Without telling her why, I woke her and said we needed to look at the moon on the lake. Wrapped in a warm blanket, she sat on the porch, with a huge smile.

    “Kids, I’ll give you ten cents for all of the ants you collect in our bedroom.” I went to the phone and woke the owner. “Yes, that’s correct…we have thousands of them invading the bedrooms.” He apologized, and said he would call someone right away.

    Two hours later a guy started spraying the outside of the cabin, but I wanted to ask him what he was going to do in the bedrooms.

    “Sorry about the problem, but I’ll take care of these Wasps right way.”

    “What about the ants in the bedrooms?”

    “You’ve got an ant problem TOO?”

    I took him inside. “Dad, we need new bottles.” They were both standing with full bottles…the kids’ contract will cost more than the rental. What rental!?

  3. The Welcome Hasmat

    You think you’re on an upswinging spiral…that the stars are finally aligning in your favour.

    I admit I’d had a few bumpy years.

    A divorce!

    A hernia operation!

    A slight set-to with the taxman!

    Still, I had my hair and my health and, finally, a dream job: CEO of the Turtleton Tourist Bureau effective January 1, 2020.

    I’d grown up in Turtleton and was happy to move back and give my personal and professional life a reboot.

    Nestled at the base of the Sasquatch Mountains and blessed with the peaceful flow of the Yellowtail River winding through the valley, I moved into my parent’s basement suite and got to work. By March I was ready to launch our new flashy Turtleton brochure and social media offensive.

    We were poised for economic conquest.

    What on earth could go wrong?

    Yeah! You’ve heard.

    COVID-19.
    Knocked me off my ergonomic chair.

    Over the next few months, Turtleton changed. A fair percentage of our housing was secondary housing owned by city folks who lived elsewhere most of the year but came in summers for the warm weather and winters for the skiing.

    In between their visits, many rented out their spare domiciles to locals and weekenders.

    With the pandemic, these cityzens (as I liked to call them) hunkered down in Turtleton. That would have been fine but many still commuted.

    Each time they re-entered the community, my job was to spray ‘em down.

    Have to say, I kind of enjoyed it.

  4. The Sane Ones

    Michael heard a noise and opened his eyes.

    It was coming from the apartment next door. Children were playing.

    He then wearily walked over to the window and looked outside. He saw teams of anonymous men clothed in hazmat suits spraying buildings. They worked diligently, as great clouds of a mysterious substance covered the implements of life.

    Soon, people ran into the streets and, trying to avoid the mysterious spray, yelled at the men in the hazmat suits.

    “I’m not infected!”

    “Leave me alone!”

    “I’ve been tested!”

    “It’s all a lie!”

    But their words fell on deaf ears.

    The suited men could not stop spraying. They had orders to obey, territory to cover, deadlines to meet. Pathogens, viruses, creepy little bugs and nightmares of the imagination—could not wait. The pestilence had to be stomped, sprayed, killed, eradicated. These men had a job to do—even if it meant spraying perfectly healthy people to do it.

    What’s a few broken eggs in the great scheme of things.

    As Michael watched the men in hazmat suits chase panicky people through the streets, he again heard a noise coming from the apartment next door.

    He turned his head and strained to listen. The children were playing a game. Their carefree laughter seemed like something from another time and place.

    In a world gone mad they were the sane ones.

  5. The Henderson place was the last to be fumigated. There’d been no volunteers for this job; Dwight and Seymour had had to be drafted.

    “Looks like I’ve found the hot spot,” Dwight radioed back. “It’s like walking into a thick fog.”

    Seymour was parked a mile away in the support vehicle. It hadn’t been safe to come any closer: a spark could have taken out the whole neighbourhood. “Any sign of the primary vector?” he said. “Reports received said he’s moved back into the forest.”

    Dwight fanned his gloved hand before his face. It didn’t help the visibility. He was going in blind; he was lucky he’d studied the building’s blueprints.

    There was a Dutch barn at the incident’s epicentre. Some of its walls were bulging, others were missing. It was a miracle it was still standing.

    “I’m going in,” Dwight said, activating the foam gun. “Let me know when the readings begin to fall.”

    Once he was inside the barn, it was clear what had happened. The clapboard siding panels had blown off, leaving only the stud walls behind. Everything was coated in a thick layer of khaki-coloured grease or something similar. Even the air was brown, although it started to clear once he’d blanketed everything with foam.

    “Say, Seymour,” he said. “Any news on the cause of all this? An inquiring mind, ya know?”

    The radio crackled. Seymour was laughing. “It was something to do with a Carolina Reaper chilli and a Bigfoot’s feeding bowl, would you believe?”

  6. “The Hazmat crew is finishing up today on the cabin they were in,” Bill said. “Make sure the White House is copied on the final Homeland Security report.” Bill was the project leader for the most critical and most secretive cleanup in American history, one that was being watched by the highest levels of political and scientific leadership in the country.

    “Now we start with the scorched earth program for a half mile in all directions,” Dr. Smith replied. “That’s double the area that was recommended by Office of Disease Control.”

    “Let’s hope they didn’t underestimate the situation for the umpteenth time–but we’ve accounted for that possibility by doubling the area treated.”

    “Did we ever find the body of the sixth Militia member? That’s the only loose end at this point.”

    “No, only thing we can figure is that he somehow slipped out through the woods just before the raid, but there’s been no clue regarding his whereabouts. I worry that he took the more deadly strain with him–either deliberately or accidentally–and if so all our efforts here could be for naught.”

    “For sure,” Smith said, “the covid variant they cultivated here for their political blackmail scheme would easily spread everywhere in a month. And that could be the end of life on this planet.”

    “Just make sure that opinion doesn’t ever get leaked to the public–they think the covid is finally under control.”

    “Yeah, let’s hope the militias stick to guns in the future.”

  7. Well, the pandemic is finally over. It took a long time, and cost us plenty. The kids’ schooling, for one. After years of home schooling, trying to cram mathematics down their throats, I finally noticed that playing computer games was sufficient. If you think about it, most games teach everything you need to know. And the kids both got diplomas, which if you think about it, they earned. It’s hard enough trying to learn at home without being taught things like foreign languages or the constitution, which has been broken up and changed so fast it’s impossible to keep up.

    I am not sure how old they are, 27 and 29 I think. At that age I had been married for maybe 8 years, two kids. You know how a pandemic is. You lose track of time. But I am sure it will work out fine for us. Our house is big enough and will be clean enough, once the spraying is done. They can fit wives in and have one kid each. Of course they’ll have to share one room and no yard to play in since we built that rental unit.

    Our lives would be ideal if Harve would just talk to me. Me and Harve, we used to talk about everything. Now he just sits in his chair and grumbles about how wonderful things used to be. I haven’t seen him smile for years. I don’t know what his problem is.

  8. After Mom died, Gram and I lived in our little cabin for a long time. Nobody bothered us. Then one day Gram sent me to our hiding place in the woods. She made vow on our sacred book to remain still and silent, no matter what.

    From my secret place I see the Hazmat teams in their protective gear pounding on our door. Through the window, I can see Gram, too, rocking and ignoring their shouts about plague carriers and vaccines. We both know they’re lying.

    Soon they stop shouting and set up their equipment. A large, transparent bubble surrounds our cabin and seals Gram inside. Then they inject the chemicals.

    As their poisons seep into the cabin, Gram starts to cough and gasp. I almost break my vow, but I know I cannot fight them. Soon Gram tries to rise from her chair, but she falls to the floor. I turn away as she lies convulsing and choking.

    I hear the Hazmat men mumble something about “vermin” and “extermination.”

    Long after they’ve retrieved their sealant and left, I air out the cabin and bury Gram. They don’t know about me. So I pack my things and head for their city.

    My eyes are dry as I make another sacred vow. I will quietly join the crowds, mingle with others. I will infect as many as possible with the deadly plague harbored inside my body.

  9. The Guarded Cottage

    “Ma’am, you’ve got to step back.” The guard looked official in his khaki uniform, but why wouldn’t he let me pass?

    I walked right up to him. “This is my property. I have every right to be here.”

    Well, technically, it wasn’t mine yet. The cottage was still in escrow. But if the inspection had turned up something major, my Realtor would have told me. Neither the guard nor the temporary fencing behind him had been here yesterday. What was going on?

    “I am under strict orders not to let anyone through,” the guard explained. “It’s not safe.”

    Not safe? I knew the small cottage was a fixer-upper, but I was prepared for that. The location was great, and with the divorce settlement, the price was barely within my budget. Miles of scenic trails started just steps from the back porch. I was looking forward to having my own place for the first time in my life.

    I peered past the guard through the fence. A worker in a full hazmat suit was aiming a hose at my cottage!

    Wait a minute…something about the worker’s stance looked familiar. I pulled out my birdwatching binoculars to get a closer look.

    I breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing was wrong with the cottage. It was just another one of George’s stunts to scare me away, but it wouldn’t work this time. I walked out of earshot of the so-called guard and phoned my divorce attorney.

  10. I hate these things: humid, claustrophobic, smell like chemicals. Wearing them is supposed to protect me. I always have the opposite feeling. I feel my life is in more danger every time I put this suit on.

    A green fungus spread over the body in a matter of minutes. I scrape some into a test tube. This is my job, collecting samples of dangerous substances. The money’s great, has to be for the risks, and it’s in the service of humanity; but the thought of what could happen if the tiniest cut penetrated my suit always fills me with dread.

    Looking down at the poor guy lying dead before me reinforces my fears. Twenty-nine, a police officer doing his duty, answering a call to investigate a dead body. Minutes later — dead. Covered with a strange fungus eating away at him right before my eyes.

    I don’t know what this fungus is, we never know. We suit up and collect samples. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll come across something these suits won’t stop, then what?

    It’s not dying I’m worried about, it’s the type of death. I look at this guy and can’t imagine what his last moments were like. I don’t want to end up like this.

    I return to the lab, place the sample in storage, finish my report on today’s findings, give my boss the report, and my resignation. No reason for me to risk my life when all I really want to do is live it.

  11. Jace shook the black paint can as he crept up to the log cabin. He adorned the curved structure with pin-up girls and other old school tattoo designs for five straight seasons. Each year his artwork was sandblasted off the surface, leaving a new clean canvas.

    He spent days creating the perfect new school design, with wild neon colors and a skier’s caricature. The plan was solid. The owner of the cabin had to honor his work, not scrape it off like used gum.
    With a steady hand, he outlined the windows and crept toward the door. He froze at the odd sound of jingle bells. Holding his breath, he scanned the porch. A ring glowed around the doorbell, “I see you. Let’s talk.”

    The door swung open, flooding the porch with light and a large hand came down on his shoulder, anchoring him to the floorboards. Jace trembled, “listen, man, I can explain.”

    “Yes, you can. Why on earth do you keep painting that trash on my place? If you are going to make a mural, at least let me help with the design.”

    Jace shrugged out of the man’s grip, trying to escape. The man caught his hood, pulling him back to the doormat, forcing Jace to surrender his blueprint.

    The man pressed the paper against Jace’s back, tracing the lines with his beefy finger. “Finally, a piece that speaks to me. It belongs on the side of the house. You can start in the morning.”

  12. “My mother is bonkers,” said Linda. She and Jared sat under the apple tree, shaded from the unseasonable heat of this winter, and watched as her mother donned the hazmat suit.

    “Your mother is a wonderful person,” said Jared, keeping a wary eye on both his mother-in-law and his wife. “She can be a bit much. I told you we should’ve done a better job of cleaning before she came for Christmas.”

    “I thought she’d have enough to do with the kids and the presents and all that,” said Linda. “But no, she’s got to clean. Deep, deep clean. Doesn’t she know how this makes me feel?”

    Jared stood up, his lanky six-foot frame unfolding smoothly. “Just tell her to butt out,” said Jared. “She doesn’t respect us. We’re adults. She’s never treated us like adults.”

    Linda jumped up from her seat. “Now you wait just a minute,” said Linda, jutting her chin out, her eyes bright with anger. “Don’t you talk about my mother that way.”

    Jared backed up, his eyes wide. “Hold on,” he said. “I’m agreeing with you. I’m supporting you. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

    Linda shook her head. “It’s one thing for me to complain about my mother, but it’s not right for you to talk about her that way.”

    Jared let out his breath slowly. “Right,” he said as his mother-in-law sprayed down the outside of their log cabin with disinfectant. “Your mother does a very thorough job of cleaning.”

  13. The woman on the phone had said that they usually tried to send two workers, “to minimize the intrusion.” As though the disinfection was the interruption, rather than the positive test that precipitated it. Hell, even the $800 it cost was significantly more intrusive than the two hours that the team was supposed to spend spraying—no, fogging, the woman had been very clear that it was fogging—her parents’ cabin.

    The cabin was small, and her parents needed to share it, even with her dad’s positive result. Who wouldn’t light $800 on fire to protect their parents from this virus?

    Looking on from across the yard, she realized that one of the disinfection guys had been fogging the same spot on the porch for the past 15 minutes.

    How odd. Surely the ventilation outdoors would be sufficient to allow the virus to dissipate? When she’d made the appointment, her biggest concern had been the air inside the cabin, air that her parents would soon have to share again. She knew should say something, but even with half a paycheck on the line, she couldn’t bring herself to confront him.

    Just as she was steeling herself to go over to the porch and say something, the man walked into the cabin, sweeping the fog wand across the doorway as he passed. She felt her shoulders drop.

    She watched the remaining fog billow along the side of the cabin and her brow jaw tightened again.
    Would this really do anything to protect them?

  14. “Hey, did you know there’s guys in hazmat suits over at Bob’s cabin?”

    That’s how it starts. A neighbor drops by with the news, and now it’s deciding time. Is this someone you can trust, or a possible rat? Because if you put your trust in the wrong person and say the wrong thing, you’ll be getting a knock on your door tomorrow night, or maybe the night after.

    That’s how we live these days. You never know whether the person who disappeared was a victim of yet another of those new pandemics that keep showing up, or if that person stepped across any of the ever-shifting invisible lines that form the bounds of our lives.

    In the old days, your best bet in an uncertain situation was to keep it noncommittal. We didn’t talk politics in mixed company, but a pro-forma expression of sympathy for someone’s misfortune would always be safe.

    These days, failing to condemn someone who’s run afoul of the Powers That Be can be as dangerous as speaking out against them. But if someone truly has fallen ill and is being taken away for treatment, to speak ill of them could result in charges of slander.

    Things were so much easier when dystopias were books you could stop reading, movies you could press pause on. Now it’s our daily life, and we must live it as best we can.

  15. Young Jack Pepper handed Mrs. Beadles, his eighth-grade teacher, a ziploc baggie containing a vial with a strange substance.

    “Don’t open it!” he warned. “That’s Covid-77, more deadly than Covid-19.”

    Mrs. Beadles immediately let go, and dropped it.

    “Now you’ve done it!” warned Jack. “Just by dropping it, you could have dispersed the microbes.”

    After Mrs. Beadles cleared her classroom, the police were summoned, who in turn summoned the CDC and Homeland Security.

    Jack handed them an address. “Here’s where I found the lethal strain of Covid-77.”

    “You’re saying you found it. You didn’t manufacture it,” said the investigator, Mr. Sykes.

    “Um,” said Jack, “I’m 13. How smart do you think I am?”

    Meanwhile, a HAZMAT team was dispatched to 911 Rigby Lane, fumigating the exterior of Earl Pepper’s cabin. Then they pounded on the door, stepped back and addressed him with a foghorn.

    Timidly, an elderly man opened the door, wearing his facemask.

    “What are your symptoms, Mr. Pepper?” demanded Ruben, the HAZMAT team leader.

    “Oh, my arthritis is terrible!” he said, “But besides that, my worst problem is loneliness.”

    “Did you say “loneliness,’ Mr. Pepper?” asked Ruben.

    “You people are my only visitors, other than my grandson, Jack.”

    Meanwhile, back at the DHS, Jack explained to the exasperated officers that there was vanilla pudding in the vial, which he asked Grandpa to breathe on; and then, his theory: loneliness is breaking the hearts of too many people — especially those who live alone, during this long, drawn-out pandemic.

  16. Joe went through the same thing every year with these people. He was just sick of it. Cockroaches, earwigs, spiders: the place was always teeming with them. He hated coming here so much.

    Every year they’d say they’d do better before he left, but they never did. Always the same, with food everywhere, empty soda cans, and old newspapers stacked high, the perfect habitat for earwigs. He’d catch them flitting by out of the corner of his eye. Joe couldn’t help but focus on the pincers at their rear, and he always wondered if they would sneak into people’s ears while they slept and lay eggs in their brains. It was enough to make him shudder.

    The cockroaches rarely showed themselves during the day, but Joe knew it was them he heard rustling around inside paper bags strewn across the floor. He didn’t understand how anyone could live this way. They were elderly, but they were by no means lazy. Joe had no clue where someone would learn it was okay to be surrounded by such filth.

    Time for the dreaded knocking upon the door had arrived.

    It creaked open, and a slender, gray-haired woman stood before Joe.

    “Joey! Get out of that suit right now!” she screeched.

    “But Gramma, I told you last year, I’m not eating Christmas dinner here again with all those bugs running around. You never believe me. This year I mean it!”

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