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.
15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Passage”
I looked at the column and saw only natural beauty. The rock strata told earth’s history. The well rounded rock edges illustrated how strong wind, ice and water were in carving our destiny. The colours were intriguing -sepia, rust, deep browns, fawns and everything in between. The water running at the bottom was spring fed, icy and pure. The banks along its edge were pitted with fine holes, perhaps once sheltering some prehistoric insect. As a geologist, I found this passage amazing. I was bubbling with excitement until my brother stood behind me.
“Do you realize we have stumbled onto a fortune? We could bottle that water for ridiculous sums. With a little dynamite strategically placed, we could widen that stream into a new age lazy river ride, commercialized by a few automatons.The wider parts could be developed into a wild white river ride. We could build zip lines, a glass floor observatory area, a pedestrian bridge. Brother, we have discovered a gold mine that we could exploit commercially.”
He smiled with pure greed. Whereas I saw the natural beauty in our surroundings, he saw only making money. “Exploit commercially” was his catch phrase. Luckily, the joke was on him this time. On perusing a map, I realized the location of this natural treasure.
Calmly I answered, savouring every word which I knew would foul his commercial plans, “The land belongs to Lord Earling, the great environmentalist.” Hearing this, my brother nearly wept, while I smiled broadly.
She walked near the water’s edge, not to disturb the ants near her feet. She dipped her feet in the cool, clear water. Even though it wasn’t deep, she feared the bottom would disappear, so she skimmed the surface. The air was arid, but full of mystical wind that swirled in and around her. The hair on her arms danced as she climbed the rocks. For she wanted to get a better look at what was beyond the bend. She shielded her eyes from the sun and moved slowly, not to disturb the surface dwellers, for she knew she was not welcomed there. As she secured her footing and placed her hand in an open hole, the sirens wailed. She looked around for covering, but she knew she’d been found and life as she knew it would change forever.
Doing a bit of cleaning. Time to move. Last time, I expect. Merle and I would do this every so often. Pull out old shoeboxes of photographs…I’m dating myself…we both came from shoebox-snaps-stuffed- away-in-the-closet families.
Now it’s just me.
It’s comforting, these old picture memories.
I remember this one.
The twin pools, slipping into the cool water. It was noon, I think. The sun was at its highest peak. The surface was warm. It fooled me but like most things in life, I adjusted, accepted.
“How’s the water?” she asks.
“As refreshing as a cold beer,” I answer.
“Then I’ll join you,” she declares. She removes her clothes, all of them, stands there, the high sun giving her a sizzle before she takes the plunge.
“It is a public park,” I warn.
“Then I’ll be an attraction,” she smiles.
We are there for an hour. No one interrupts.
We get out and she takes a few more photographs.
“See that?” she asks pointing at the rock outcropping to the right of the pool.
“Rocks? Yeah, I see them.”
“You don’t see a dog’s nose…it’s mouth?”
“I see rocks,” I say.
Later, once the pictures were developed, we went through them.
“There? A dog? Now you must see it?”
We were drinking brandy. If she wanted me to see a dog in the rocks, who was I to argue.
I said I did when I didn’t.
Now I see the pooch’s snout.
I wish I could tell her.
I remember coming here twice with my Dad. We had fishing poles both times, and passed many good fishing sites, but both times he wanted to come to this spot.
The first time, we jumped from rock to rock. The last time, I had to hold his hand. I was sweating, and his shirt had turned a darker shade of brown. Seeing his shirt that day, reminded me of the times we threw the football to each other. For some time now, I was the only one running for them.
The last time we sat in this spot, I remember his magnificent smile. The large pool of water had dried into two small pools. Despite his smile, his eyes were tearing.
I asked him if something was bothering him. I remember his answer, like it was yesterday –
‘I was hoping this fishing spot would bring back memories, but it has changed so much. Nothing lasts forever, and I might as well tell you…I’m not going to last either. I’m passing away, very soon.’
I never told him I had read the doctor’s letter he threw in the trash months ago.
That day, the sun was glinting off trout in the small pools. I asked him if he wanted to fish. He said he would rather throw the worms in the water and watch the fish.
Here, with my son today, you have no idea of the joy it is to hear him laughing as the fish compete for our worms.
The gully turned again. Ahead, he could see little but its walls, rising toward the blues of the sky, but beyond the bend there was something else. Something that made his skin itch like a second-hand suit from a goodwill store.
He continued to move ahead, more slowly.
“Hey mister; are you lost?”
The voice was a young woman’s, her voice a light contralto. He imagined she was close by, just out of sight. He looked up and then around, trying to determine where she might be. He saw no-one, so he continued forward.
“You know you shouldn’t be here.” That voice again, this time louder, more insistent. She sounded like she was annoyed, wanting him to turn away. She might not want him to be a witness to what she was doing there, out of sight, in another turn of the passage. He considered himself a man of God and had heard stories of the desert people. There was usually a grim end to those tales; a lone traveller going missing and never being found. A solitary vulture, soaring overhead. Coyotes and other predatory creatures. The victims’ bones were rarely discovered; their remains subsumed into the sand, becoming the grit that rode on the wind.
He went on, a feeling of dread infecting his mind.
“Have you ever been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault?” the woman asked, a smile in her voice. “I need you to give me some details, your next of kin, for example.”
It was nearly dark already. The sun had been rolling slowly over the horizon when we entered the crevice and, though we had been working our way across the wet rocks as quickly as we could, the beams of light that managed to enter this far were turning from burgundy to a hazy blue.
Hazel was far ahead of me. This wasn’t her first mission and, even though she hadn’t told me to my face, I could tell it wasn’t her second either.
She disappeared around the bend. “Hazel!” My voice echoed through the tight corridor and the sound of it, louder than I’d expected, and, I hate to admit it, more panicked than I’d wanted, startled me and I slipped. Hazel screamed.
In that instant I forgot everything that I’d been told. ‘Don’t touch the water’ – I left the rocks and ran, water splashing everywhere, deep, up to my waist. ‘Don’t make a sound’ – “HAZEL! HAZEL, Are you ok!?”. ‘Don’t be afraid’ – my heart swelled up like a terrified pufferfish and lodged itself in my throat. I had to get to that corner. I stumbled through the water to where Hazel had vanished, hoping against hope that she wasn’t gone and I wouldn’t be left in this death trap alone.
I rounded the bend. Hazel stood facing me, her hands on her hips, the full command behind her, and a smirk on her face that only she could wear. “See,” she laughed, “I told you he wouldn’t make it”.
Out of the darkness William came, dragging his feet, carrying heavy weapons and armor upon his back. He stops the moment he sees the light.
A towering mountainside. At the base a long narrow passage. At the end of the passage a white light. Standing next to the entrance, a large figure dressed in dark robes, holding a golden staff.
“Good evening, sir. I am a lost knight in search of the Holy Land. Would this passage lead there?”
“It will take you where you need to go but only a clean soul may exit the passage,” the figure said.
William takes a deep breath, mustering up some courage.
“I am a knight blessed by god. My purpose is true.”
“Purpose shall not guide you to the light,” the figure remarks.
“And what — pray tell — will?”
He ponders the figure’s words.
William slowly enters the passage. As he walks a strange sensation occurs, and the surrounding passage fades away.
An endless white void. Out of nowhere images of William’s life appear. Feelings of joy and regret wash over him. Until a final image begins to unfold, filling him with horror.
“No! I am a knight blessed by god!” he shouts. “My purpose is true! That was not me! That was not me!!”
The darkness surrounding the image engulfs everything, including William.
Out of the darkness William came, dragging his feet, carrying heavy weapons and armor upon his back. He stops the moment he sees the light.
Layers of tan loomed above me as I continued down the narrow canyon. Grandfather had told tales of others who had returned from this quest with broken minds and spirits. I still chose this path, despite my parent’s objections.
A breath caught in my parched throat at the sight of gray rock. Voices whispered; offered respite from my thirst, but it was a trap. This canyon was sacred, especially these pools. I ran my hand over the smooth stone, careful not to disturb the mirror like water, then left; taking nothing and leaving only prayers.
“Turn back.” More words echoed around me. “You do not belong.”
I couldn’t stop now. Burning sage and other herbs filled my senses as I passed into a hazy cloud. Vague forms circled me, close, yet insubstantial. Unafraid, I stood tall and bared my soul to their scrutiny.
“Do you seek power, Child?”
“No. I seek truth, knowledge.”
“Be sure. Truth hurts. You can’t unknow something because you dislike it.”
“This is my path, my purpose.”
“What makes you different from those before you who could not bear the truth.”
“Nothing, but I must try.”
Large blue eyes drew closer, studied me. I felt mesmerized in their gaze. It wasn’t until its nose touched mine that I realized how huge this spirit was, or how its iridescent turquoise scales gleamed. Fear never entered my mind. Only awe at this magnificent creature of legends.
“You, I deem you worthy, Sister. Welcome to the flight.”
Oscar Gillespie was a man facing a great transition in his life. A septuagenarian, type-A, alpha-male with a full agenda in the late afternoon of life, and a diagnosis of a terminal disease. His lifestyle was indeed flamboyant, yet fruitful, but now, his obsessive choices had finally caught up with him.
He lay in his hospice bed and listened to the pastoral care worker drone on, about crossing to the other side of something—a river or ocean?
The well-intentioned pastor was talking about how the Native Americans saw death as a moving on towards the west; towards the home of the Creator, beyond the oceans. She talked about How ancient Greeks thought of death as a passage across the river Styx to Hades or across the Okeanos to Elysium.
“Some Sub-Saharan Africans,” she said, “believed that in death, we cross a great ocean towards the west where, if we prepare properly, we can live again. How do you see it, Oscar? Give yourself a chance to visualize it.”
“My life was hard. Hard work, surrounded by hard people. I believe this next transition will be equally hard.”
“What do you see, Oscar?” she persisted.
“I see a passage through a deep gorge or valley of stone, so steep, escape, or return is impossible. What water is there to cross has long since been absorbed by my desires. What lays ahead is obscured by the meanderings of the gorge. Yet, somewhere ahead, I see abundant light calling me forward.”
This birthday was going to be different. No shenanigans from the boys this year. No big bed-sheet banner crying out HAPY B-DAY PAPPY!!!! No gale-force winds scooping him and the banner up in a tangled mess and dumping them in the icy cold river. Nope. No way, no chance, no how. He was up at dawn sneaking out for a quiet day of fishing at his favorite spot, alone, without the boys. A whole day free from Roscoe and Clem.
He caught several fish that morning, and chugged down most of the special water he’d brought from home. As the day wore on, the shadows grew longer and the cliffs seemed steeper. The thought crossed his mind that he had not considered how he was going to get out. Skidding down the cliffs was easy, but climbing back out…? He’d always counted on Clem and Roscoe to boost him up. But today he was stuck.
Just then he heard a nasal twang from overhead. “Whatcha doon down there, Pappy?” It said. It sounded like Roscoe. Or maybe Clem.
“Get on down here and I just might tell you all about it.”
Holding close to her heart was my grandmother, or I should rather call her my mother. My own mother turns out—had left me when I was five months old. Why? It’s not relevant now. First twist in my life. My grandmother on the other hand raised me like the most precious belonging in her possession. She loved me with all her heart. I grew up with no scarcity, never deprived of anything—if it was not my mother’s love. Roads in my life were smooth and straight.
I had made peace with it and never missed mother. Surreptitiously my misfortune had been chasing me all along without giving me the slightest hint. My grandmother, my only ray of light left for heavenly aboard without giving me any warning.
There I was, studying in 7th grade, and no one to be called as my family. What would a thirteen-year-old girl know about the complicated ways to survive in this world? I took up menial jobs. I needed money— to pay for my school fee, to survive. I looked at the twisted turns of the road ahead of me.
“How am I going to keep up with my life?”
The desperation to succeed in life was stronger than ever. I believed in, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Soon I figured out my only passage to a good life is “education.” I gave whatever it took and here I am—a successful entrepreneur with a happy life.
Even though it is cool below the city, the heat is still getting to me, sweat beads run across my head, my neck, my back and even behind my knees. Is it excitement or fear that grips my gut? Below as we plunge farther and farther in the Earth, the dimly lit passageways offer cold relief away from the sizzling sun outside.
I’ve dreamt, researched and dreamt some more of one day retracing the footsteps of the Knights of the Templar. And my colleague, Mike, and I find ourselves being guided through “secret” tunnels below Jerusalem in the Holy Land.
Claustrophobia is a gnat that buzzes and whispers doubt into my ears. But I shoo it away in a desperate attempt to control my sanity. The labyrinthian tunnels are disorienting me and I pause to steady myself against the cool rocks.
“Larry, you alright man?” Mike grabs my soaked shoulder, startling me into the present. With a big breath in and out, I collect myself, quelling my inner demons.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry. I’m good,” I say shaking off the queer feeling. In his broken Middle Eastern dialect, our guide, Yosef, tells us, “We are almost to the end,” from a few feet ahead.
“Ready?” Mike asks, his head cocked with concern.
I glance up at him swallowing down any resting fear, salivating my dry mouth. “Ready,” I say and push on retracing history’s steps.
Karen moved out west to get in touch with her inner spirit and connection to others. As the Native American Lakota term, mitakuye oyasin, expresses: the physical world is connected to the spirit in everything.
Now, hiking in Utah and facing a dangerous passage, Karen looked at the rock walls on each side of the mystical passage. It was so named because it only seemed like a wind spirit could get through.
Hiking here before, she remembered the trick of only looking up and six feet ahead, not down, to keep your footing on the narrow path. Looking ahead had become a survival tactic for her in recent years as her husband of 25 years had left her for a new lifestyle, ( his words).
Once through, the sweat was pouring down her face. It had been a dangerous part of her lone hike, but it was part of her New Year’s resolution: to forge ahead.
After camping overnight, it was time to head back. But then, she looked at the passage from the other side. It terrified her! Her legs turned to rubber. She made some tea, and sat down on a rock. She closed her eyes, envisioning the spirits swirling around her. Opening her eyes she sat up straight, realizing what this trip was about; coming to terms with the past! Now, I can face what has happened and go forward, she said aloud to the wind, and stood up to take her first step into the future.
The whir of the helicopter echoed off the canyon walls, making it sound as if the sky were full of them. Like that old Oasis video where they used video tricks to turn two British Army choppers into a dozen, except in audio.
Sal fought the urge to look over his shoulder, to search for his pursuer when he needed to focus on keeping moving, keeping under cover. It didn’t help that he was a city boy, born and raised in the Big Apple. His idea of exercise had been a lunchtime run in Central Park, a few blocks from the office where he did articles and podcasts for the finance industry.
Now he wished he’d paid better attention to his grandmother’s stories about fleeing the Wehrmacht and then the Red Army. Not that the Arizona desert was anything like the Central European forests, but just knowing how to confuse pursuit would help.
Back then they didn’t have the tracking technology the Department of Security had. Or telepaths, although those were a lot more rare. The grafts of cat DNA didn’t always work as expected in humans, and then they had to grow up to useful age.
Was that a cave entrance up ahead? If it were deep enough, it would offer shelter, even if they did land and search by foot. And if he were really lucky, he’d find an entrance to one of the tunnels across the border to safety.
“I don’t think I can make it any further,” Patrick said, collapsing to his knees.
“Are you okay?” Kim asked, crouching beside him.
“I just need a minute.” He let his head rest back against the red rock wall that had been carved by ancient waters.
Kim handed him the canteen. He drank some and poured a bit over his face.
He looked up at her with apologetic blue eyes. “I know you really wanted to do this hike, so why don’t you go ahead. I’ll catch up when I’m rested.”
She put her hand on his shoulder. “I’m not going to leave you here,” she said.
“Go ahead, honestly. I feel awful about this. So embarrassing – especially on our third date.”
A half-smile spread on Kim’s lips. “Nah, it happens to lots of people. I’ll just take a peek around the corner and be back in a few.”
“Take your time, and enjoy,” he weakly eked out.
Kim sighed, then headed off, looking back a few times at Patrick in the shade. At a natural staircase, she climbed up, and backtracked to check on her date. His legs were stretched out; he had a beer in one hand, and his phone in the other, watching the football game. That jerk! As she looked down over him, she noticed loose, dusty stones at her feet. With an evil grin, she kicked a shower of red rock over the edge onto him before heading back to her car.
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