Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Deadwood

Bullock Hotel Deadwood 1995
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: Deadwood”



    The street was foreboding. Gaslights gave a ghostly ambience and an occult essence around the dead trees. Deadwood a high stakes gambler had bet that we would not be able to stay one night in the mansion. He wagered our annual income against his luxurious London apartment. Who could resist such a wager? Standing before the mansion, the gaslights went off. With bonhomie we congratulated Deadwood’s dramatics. The door creaked open, the stairs groaned and floorboards wheezed. Such personification! An old gnarled door swung in, but not before we saw that the knots resembled a hideous face screaming in pain. Branches scratched against the windows like malignant spirits demanding entrance. The wind howled telling of horrors. All five of us had resolved to stay awake when Deadwood locked us in the mansion.

    Fearing he would cheat, I placed sealing wax around entrances. I watched Deadwood leave suspecting he would return to turn the wager’s odds. Smith was always in my sight; he was the last to join the group and his background was unknown. The rest were old friends, but greed could turn anyone’s head. A ghost suddenly appeared and Smith vanished. The grandfather clock was large, so I hid in the near shadows. A man in black crawled out. Sticking my pistol in his back, I frogmarched him towards my friends.

    Smith was actually a Chief Inspector for Scotland Yard. Deadwood was charged with numerous accounts of fraud as a result of his out of control gambling.

  2. Dingle Dick Slocum-a Brief Memoir

    “Yup, knew ‘em all. Most of ‘em, anyhoo. Can’t say they all knew me. Someone had to clean up their messes. Messy critters the lot of ’em. Well, not Wild Bill, though I can’t rightly say I knew Bill. I was just a young welp back in’76 when his bucket got kicked. Just turned eight, I believe…yup, born in ’68…and it’s, what, now, March ’43? Yep…turnin’ seventy-five soon.

    My daddy, Salt Lick Slocum as he was known by, though christened Walter, he and me and my older sister, Nell, we arrived in Deadwood in July of ’76. From Chicago, originally. Salt Lick had to lickety-split outta the Windy City on account of some legal misunderstandings with some associates…hogs, I believe was the concern…

    First off, though, jest to set the record straight, we landed in Yankton which was no Chicago but had the makin’s of civilisation and I believe we woulda stayed put but for the gold rush in the Black Hills.

    Salt Kick got a fever yearnin’ and we ended up in Deadwood.

    That town, if ya wanna call it that, was burstin’ with all manner of devils and a few soft feminine angels that summer. Nell was goin’ on thirteen and so Salt Lick had her set up doin’ washin’ for anyone with two nickels to rub together.

    He got me a saloon cleanin’ job…so it was me moppin’ up Wild Bill’s blood…

    So, I guess I kinda knew him too.

  3. Abigail held a finger to her lips. She stopped, listening for movement. “Mummy says we shouldn’t talk,” she said, shushing herself. “She says it’s not secure. She’s given me a long list of things I shouldn’t do. She adds a few more on every day when I tell her what I did when she was out. Sometimes I think she hates me. Wishes I wasn’t here.”

    The odd boy nodded. He looked sad, like one of those clowns from the circus. Abigail could sometimes see through him when he wasn’t paying attention. He wasn’t a man – Mummy said she should never speak to men – but he wasn’t truly a boy either. He was something in-between. Something Mummy should never know about.

    “I’m gonna call you Timothy,” she said. “Mummy calls me Rose. I was June, then I was Cleo and then I was Mary-Ann Marie. We didn’t always use to live in hotels. We used to have a house. I had a dog. A spaniel I called Blue. And I had a Daddy too. But he had to go away.”

    She closed her eyes and she thought. It seemed a long time ago. There used to be something bad that he did that was wrong. It was a long time ago. Mummy called her her Abigail Angel then, hugging her close, kissing away all the tears she’d cried.

    She used to cry a lot back long ago she was a child.

    Timothy nodded. He forced a reassuring smile.


    Walking hand in hand, towards her new abode, I realize this incredible and generous woman is about to embark on a new chapter with her peers. She has become more complicated though and most times frustrating to say the least. I’ve said too many times that this is what’s best for you. I’m running out of excuses to appease this aging woman I’ve grown to love.
    Can’t deal with her day in day out chatter, as it hardly makes sense. Yet, she hadn’t become deadwood until year before last. Again, it’s just too much to take on. I stop and look into her eyes as she returns my gaze with a gentle smile. I’m just about to say why this is best for us both until I turn us around and head back to what we know, a home we share. A home she will be nurtured, loved and cared for. My mother, my everything!

    Sent from my iPad

  5. As soon as you get to campus, you hear about the Deadwood Inn. It’s not just another campus bar. The whole place is decorated like an Old West saloon, and all the bartenders wear cowboy hats. Oh, and they’ve got some pretty cool bouncers too.

    So of course it was a big thing to score yourself a fake ID so you could see the cigar-store Indian and the mounted cattle horns. I think half the floor had found a way to get in by midterms.

    It always seemed too risky for me. I was an honors student, and getting in trouble could put my scholarship in jeopardy.

    But I was getting tired of being called a sissy, so one night right before Halloween I let a couple of other guys talk me into borrowing an ID from an upperclassman. We both wore glasses, so it would probably pass muster.

    From the sidewalk I could hear the rinky-tink piano, just like in the movies. I imagined myself surrounded by that buzz of happy voices.

    And then we were at the door, staring at the new bouncer. The guy had to be six-five and built like a linebacker, with a buzzcut like a Marine. No way were we getting any fake ID’s past him.

    I was halfway across campus before I ran out of breath. When I got back to the dorm, I just slipped the ID under Bob’s door and slunk back to my room.

  6. People left the hotel ballroom with a variety of emotions. For a few that was amusement; for most it was confusion. A handful more walked into the night, and held hostility – one in particular, great anger.
    It was a miscommunication: Poor connection left recipient believing Patty P. would be awarded, and not Patty G. – who had sat proudly gleaming as the accolades were read, believing they were meant for her. It was pre-ordained. She, like every other in the room, was stunned when the announcement for educator of the year was given to another. Worst of all of it, the woman it was awarded to was not even present to receive the six-inch plated plastic figure, exclusively designed for that evening’s ceremony.
    She was at a medical facility, in the final grips of the bloody c-word.
    It would be weeks before anyone that knew the woman would even hear the news, but when they did, they would smile. It was only the beginning of the conversation they’d share about her. But every parent of every broken child the woman had raised up, every child that had been blessed by her genuine encouragement, every person that had felt her ever-present kindness would smile upon hearing, upon reading, and as they shared the news. Because they had the experience to know, that the award that was mistakenly bestowed, was more rightfully applied than it ever had been.

  7. Agnes wanted to come see it for an eternity. I could have done without.

    “I’d have hoped for a grander spot, dear,” Agnes said as she eyed the dull brown facade under the sign reading Saloon #10.

    “This ain’t it, darlin’,” I said.

    “That’s the name they told me.”

    I didn’t need the light of the turn-of-the–century street lamps lining Main Street to tell this wasn’t it.

    “Still appeals to folks’ vices…gambling, greed and gold fever. But I’ve never seen this place before,” I said.

    “Your eyes aren’t what they used to be. You’re sure?” Agnes said.

    “Too true, but my memory says it’s there, across the street.”

    “Well, I must see where…”

    “It was called Nuttal & Mann’s then. Must’a renamed it #10. I figure it burned down and they rebuilt over there.”

    “Bill, this is…an antique shop,” She sounded more disappointed than I’d figured in finally visiting where her husband died.

    “Yep, that’s what they’re sellin’ around here. Including me,” I said, though I was only 39 when McCall…

    “All right. I’ve seen enough of Deadwood for a thousand lifetimes. Let’s go home,” Agnes whispered as she looped what would be her arm into mine.

    “Don’t want to visit my grave?”

    “No! I don’t want to see the remains of that calamitous woman lying next to you. If she isn’t in Hell, then that lying whore’s probably there mooning after ‘her’ Wild Bill. She’ll never get another look at my Mr. J.B. Hickok.

  8. “Hey, guys!”

    Lars stopped, his head buzzing, and tried to wipe the rain from his glasses. He was bleary-eyed. It had been a long time since he’d been out with anybody wandering from club to club, testing the limits of his alcohol consumption and his checking account.

    It had been an off-the-cuff invitation to join the guys after work on this St. Paddy’s day. He was surprised because he was by far the oldest and newest employee at the call center. Normally, he would’ve bowed out. He wasn’t Irish for one thing. For another, he got the impression that the guys considered him deadwood except for his wallet.

    More importantly, he was expected home.

    At the last club, Lars, not as naive as he appeared, stopped buying. He sat at the table, looked innocently about, laughed at stupid jokes, tried to make witty come backs, and generally ignored the silent push to get him to buy again.

    The guys got the message as they unceremoniously grabbed their jackets and headed out into the rain singing some Irish ditty while he emptied his bladder in the men’s room.

    Out on the sidewalk, the wind and rain pelting him, he spotted the guys hunched together as they plowed their way along the sidewalk. He could catch up to them and they would smile and slap him on the back. Then what? An emptier wallet? An angrier wife? Still, he needed to show these guys a thing or two.

    “Hey guys!”

  9. I, Deadwood

    They call me deadwood.

    I stand with my brothers and sisters, solitary, yet together, as we line a street with no name, being watched by anonymous passers-by, lost in a sea of silence.

    Standing among my brethren I try to speak. But my words morph into whispers, and they fall silent on the street. It is a silence that deafens the mind. It reverberates in the consciousness of time and trembles before the great unknown.

    How long have I been here? I do not know. My thoughts are hazy, since I do not reckon time as others do.

    It wasn’t too long ago when I stood in a grove of the strong and the living. At that time, fields were my vistas and mountains were my walls.

    In the Happy Time, before the Great Harvest, I was tall, with many and varied branches that extended outward in all directions, like so many thoughts.

    Now I have no branches.

    I stand among my brethren, even as deadwood surrounds us all. We are witness to a barren landscape that has been ravaged by the fire of time.

    There are no more majestic trees. They are long gone, cut adrift on a sea of empty ideas.

    A hole exists in the stream of consciousness. It is found in sleeping minds. It is a strange mix of hypnosis and collective madness.

    No one is left to contemplate this process of decay… except among my brethren… except among the deadwood.

  10. Matt bought Mr. Woods bar and restaurant after he died. He named it the Dead Woods Inn.


    A pigtailed seven year old girl let Tom, the CPA, in the front door of the restaurant.


    Tom shook his head at Matt and asked, “How did you make money in the middle of a pandemic?”

    ” You know we had the B&B upstairs. People wanted to stay when they found out we had spirits,” Matt smiled.

    ” What?”

    ” Totally true.”

    ” Mr. Woods started showing up, right away. But then, the plumbing and electric went haywire.”

    ” Sounds unnerving.”

    ” We had to call in a ghostbuster.”

    Tom looked skeptical.

    ” She was the consummate professional, a professor at the University.”

    ” Really… You believe this stuff?”

    “You would too… she started getting information about everyone in the bar.”

    ” Like lottery numbers?”

    ” No,” Matt laughed, but suddenly became very serious, “she received information that our bar managers’ daughter was sick, and needed surgery.”

    Tom looked at his watch, “Taxes look good this year, I have to get going.”

    ” I’m happy we made it through.”

    As Tom started out the door, he stopped and turned, ” The little girl…did she have the surgery?”

    “No…” Matt said, looking at the floor.

    ” Why not?”

    “Emily died before they could figure out what was wrong.”

    “Emily?” Toms eyebrows shot up.

    ” Yes, the little girl who answered the door. She’s still with us. She wasn’t ready to cross over.”

    “Maybe we’ll meet in my office next time,” Tom said, hurrying out the door.

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