Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Signal

survival signal in snow by KS Brooks
Image 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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8 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Signal”

  1. The snow-laden mountain sides gave the appearance of a leopard about to pounce on its prey below. An overnight blizzard had added 2 feet of drifted, white powder, closing the ski runs for God-know-how-long. The locals referred to the conditions as “White Death,” for to ski on it, much less be anywhere near it, was to court the Grim Reaper.
    “Ain’t seen nothin’ like it in all my years,” remarked Ned Anderson, the local park ranger, his eyebrows and mustache encrusted in ice. Anderson had been responsible for the area some 17 years now. This morning he was leading the team responsible for avalanche control. By mid-morning they already had established a base to the right of the resort’s major ski run, well below where the new snow pack presented the greatest danger.
    An orange signal flare, used to warn away skiers and rubberneckers alike, had been lit when they arrived. Forward of it stood the small mortar that would be used to launch explosive rounds intended to initiate an avalanche. Today they would be using charges of TNT, which in and of itself presented risks.
    “Careful with those charges and detonators!” he hollered to his team, as one man retrieved the TNT from the back of his truck and a woman withdrew the detonators from the vehicle’s glove compartment. “We don’t need a repeat of what happened last year to Jim Hammond, when he carried both in the back of his pickup and blew his rear-end to smithereens!”

  2. Signal
    “I said save it until we hear planes or copters,” Gabe cried as Chuck popped the smoke signal. “We wasted the first two, and that’s our last one.”

    “We didn’t waste them. They did their jobs and even stained the snow vibrant orange. I guess what I heard wasn’t search planes.”

    “Yeah, and it snowed each night covering the orange stain outside our snow cave. So we wasted them.”

    “Wasn’t this crazy to come out here, Gabe?”

    “No, Chuck, we’re experienced cross county skiers. We always trekked these trails, and we blazed half of them. It was a freak storm, and we made a poor decision, not turning around as soon as the snow started.”

    “This slope never had an avalanche, but it kicked our butts. We were lucky to survive. Our lucky last signal canister will bring help. I’m cold and hungry, but not wet, so that’s a plus. Let me rest a bit. When we hear the choppers, I’m popping out of our hole like a jackrabbit.”

    “That’s fine. I’ll stay on watch and will wake you when I hear engines.”

    Chuck never awoke from his nap, and Gabe spent his last hours composing a letter to both families. It snowed again that night, eradicating all signs of their orange stained snow cave entrance. The ski patrol found their remains during the spring thaw. His last lines in the letter said don’t cry for us, we died doing what we loved. Who else can say that?

  3. Portend

    The signs were everywhere I suppose. The nightly News, which some of us followed like lemmings 24 hours a day, a boon to those who required constant reminding, invariably presented a doom scenario. Even the information outlets that modified facts to soften the blow occasionally lapsed into truth-telling. Or at least the pretense.

    Around the world, fires burned. Some were manmade. Others seemed to be the result of hot-blooded Mother Nature.

    Her fury knew no bounds.

    As we found out.

    In the last days, I stayed with Jackson. We had met originally at university fifty years earlier. While I had spent my life in an unending frenzy of conspicuous consumption, he had repaired to the outback, a little cabin high in the hills of the Kootenays. There he raised goats and quite a few children.

    We had maintained an infrequent snail mail correspondence and as the earth seemed to have reached its last legs, as smoke swirled in almost every quarter of the earth, we agreed to meet. I motored up to the base of his mountain in the late spring. Floods were everywhere but I was fortunate to avoid catastrophe.

    He welcomed me with open arms. “You will stay to the end?” he asked.

    “That could be a while,” I replied.

    He smiled. It was a familiar grin. It was what had attracted him to me decades earlier. Bridge in the cafeteria.

    “We are well provisioned,” he said, “so we will see.”

    We had not long to wait.

  4. The Red Flare

    The red flare wasn’t a signal for help.

    It was a marker… and a warning.

    Will anyone believe my tale?

    There are times when I cannot accept it myself.

    I, Roger, had joined an expedition. We were attempting to climb one of the most inhospitable mountains in the world. It was a difficult trek, and along the way, we were subjected to extreme winter conditions.

    Half way up the mountain, Hans, the leader of the expedition, stopped, and signalled for us to join him.

    He was standing next to a crevasse. Above the blustery winds, he asked for volunteers to investigate something unusual he saw at the bottom of it.

    I volunteered along with two others.

    We descended by ropes and were soon at the bottom of the icy chasm. There, just a few feet away, was a rectangular-shaped granite box of immense proportions. I judged it to be approximately twenty feet long, twelve feet high, and fifty tons in weight. Its construction was perfect in every detail. The mystery of its builders and their civilization were lost to us.

    Consumed by curiosity, we immediately set about to open the lid, which was of tremendous weight. After some effort we managed to pry it open enough to peer inside…

    “Continue, Roger,” prompted the professor. “What did you see?”

    “See?” I paused in my story and stared into the distance. “I saw a great mystery,” I replied. “And it exists at the top of the world.”

  5. “What is it this time?” Bill Reagan, the search coordinator asked.

    “We found a clue to her location.” Peter, the youngest of the searchers responded.

    They both watched as the black lab got too close to the smoke canister and sneezed. “Oscar NO! Come over here boy.”

    “So, what did you find?”

    “It’s over here written in the snow.” Peter said, leading the way over to an area marked off with broken branches right near the smoking cannister.

    “I don’t see a thing.” Bill exclaimed shaking his head.

    “You could easily miss it, but it’s written right there in the snow. Oscar, show him where you found it…show him boy!”

    Oscar jumped up from where he was and continued leaping up and down over to the area just below the burned-out signal flare.

    “Can you see it now?” Peter excitedly asked.

    “I can’t see anything written anywhere.”

    Peter walked over to Oscar who was doing his best to sit, as he was trained to do. However, the snow was deep and crusted in the area. “It’s written right here, so she must have been here after yesterday’s snow fall. See it?”

    “I think you both are crazy…I don’t see a thing.”

    “Here, look – K. S. Brooks, Photographer.”

    “Oh my God, I see it, but how in the world did she do that?”

    “Mr. Reagan, what I want to know is if she wrote that after the snow fall, why didn’t she leave any foot prints? I know she’s no angel.”


    We remained in the barn longer than anticipated because the snow storm turned virulent. Visibility was impossible. Other than providing us with water, the snow was treacherous. A miracle happened when we found new life. A litter of pups were discovered in the barn, so we assumed that the mother had been killed in the autistic blizzard. Having one puppy each made us feel like the princes and princesses in “Game of Thrones.” This turned out to be very accurate when they morphed into rangy coyotes. In the barn they had shared their warmth, while trekking they were to offer us supreme protection. My coyote pup was blacker than night, more cunning than a thief and more protective than the Queen’s own guards. Accordingly, I named her Midnight.

    It was miserably difficult leaving the shelter for the unknown. Dangerous too as some snow drifts were taller than us. An eclectic group of people left the barn; we represented all walks of life- engineers, scientists, tutors,doctors, bakers, butchers. Everyone except a candlestick maker. Together, we felt that we possessed enough knowledge, strength and smarts to survive after the apocalypse.

    Horrors! Down below us in the valley were piles of dead. First, we made an airtight shelter in a cave before aiming a multitude of fiery arrows. The blaze merrily danced so we ran for the shelter fearing to breathe in the noxious fumes. The blaze had neon orange smoke. This tell-tale augury would alert other survivors to our existence.

  7. The plan had been a quick check of the ski resort to verify that it was indeed being used to recruit agents provocateur. An easy job for a man whose cover identity would make it plausible to take a weekend off to go skiing, so he could get some answers both for the Sharp Resistance and for his bosses back in Jerusalem.

    Mikhael Yehuda had no sooner arrived than the trouble began. Someone had made a mess of his reservation, and it had taken some unpleasant discussion to put things to rights.

    Now he had an interesting problem. While pursuing his quarry on the slopes, he’d taken a nasty spill. At least he hadn’t broken any bones, but his skis weren’t so lucky.

    Normal procedure would be to call the Ski Patrol for rescue. However, his pursuit had taken him onto a closed trail. Being caught here meant losing his lift pass, which would make it that much more difficult to carry out his mission. On the other hand, explaining the situation would blow his cover.

    Sitting here until he died of hypothermia would serve no one. Gritting his teeth, Mikhael set off the orange flare.

    Worst case, he’d head back to Sparta Point with an inconclusive report. Best case, he’d spend the rest of his trip schmoozing by the fire at the ski lodge, and might just glean some information out of the stories the other vacationers told.

  8. It was dark, and she was dying. She could hear nothing but her own breaths, laboured and slow, but each one brought her closer to her end. Her body craved oxygen, and her injuries sought to overrule her self-control, her pain and anxiety rabid squirrels seared by fire. There was nothing she could do but try to wait and stay alive. Her panic would kill her if she let it run free.

    Her injuries? She had a whole catalogue of those. Her collarbone burned with every breath. Her right arm would be useless if she had room to move, her hand tucked up close against her chest. And yet, these were as nothing to her now.

    Her life was like a moth seeking light, air and warmth, the weight of the cold rolling over her like a stone. The snow held her in a night-time embrace, gnawing at her, taking her away piece by piece. If it wasn’t for the pain, she’d be asleep, her light draining away, extinction’s soft kisses.
    But where was her hero? Her Galahad, her protector? Where was her big dog with its barrel attached? Where were the Skidoos ridden by mountain guides? Where were the men with their plastic-bladed shovels, digging her out, pulling her back into the light?

    Where was she herself, in this white, form-fitting casket? She needed to know where she would be going while she remained here alone.

    The light behind her eyes swirled again. A new dawn was breaking within.

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