Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Dam

night photo boundary dam pIMG_7521 writing prompt 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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10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: The Dam”

  1. “So, this is Hoover Dam,” I said to my guide as we pulled onto the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that spans the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada.
    “Yep,” he said, glancing to his right while still keeping one eye on the road.
    Fortunately, traffic heading into Nevada was light at this time of night, so he was able to drop our speed low enough for me to take some great shots with my Nikon.
    “The dam was built between 1931 and 1936, during the Great Depression,” my guide continued. “As you can imagine, construction employed thousands of workers; more than a hundred lost their lives. It originally was named after President Herbert Hoover, renamed Boulder Dam by the Roosevelt administration, and renamed again when the original name was restored by Congress in 1947. The lake behind the dam, Lake Mead, when full, is the largest reservoir in the United States.
    “Interesting fact: the concrete in the dam continues to gain strength to this day.”
    “Wow, that’s amazing,” I replied as I continued to click off photos.
    “Here’s another interesting fact,” my guide replied as we approached the west end of the bridge. “Right now, there’s absolutely no water in Lake Mead. It’s bone dry!”
    “What?! What are you talking about? If that’s the case, how is the electricity being used to light up the dam generated?”
    “Oh, that’s coming from generators located at Niagara Falls.”

  2. The Night Sky

    I hadn’t been up there in over a year. It was quite a ways out of town, and enough of a trek that you’d have to carve out a good half day to make it worth your while. And, you know, you get older, you get busier, and you have to start to piece your free time out of ever-diminishing chunks and before you know it, something you really enjoyed doing just gets left in the dust.

    Marriage, two and a half kids, work, they all take their time, demand time, the way it should be I suppose but every demand scrapes away a little skinful of your ever diminishing alone time. I try not to get annoyed about it but sometimes it comes out.

    I’ll have to work on that.

    When I first started dating Jenny, that was our go-to place. A night drive to find some quiet, a little private space for necking, the usual getting to know you dating regimen, I suppose. Some cities had their own lover’s lane, like in the movies, perched on a high hill overlooking the bright city lights below.

    That sort of place.

    We had the dam. It was a sight unto itself. And it was never a place where no one else was at.

    The price of grandeur, I guess.

    And it was grand.

    I need to revisit that memory every so often.

    I have no idea where Jenny is these days.

    Other than in my head.

  3. Dam

    “That’s quite an impressive design,” the power plant manager admitted. “I like the offset spillway in the corner. That adds structural integrity instead of an engineered weakness in the middle, like most old school structures.”

    “Thank you,” the designer responded. “Just remember, the contractor submitting the lowest bid won the job. That doesn’t instill the greatest of confidence despite the innovative design.”

    Both men laughed at that old joke. Five years of inspection and maintenance logs proved the two stepped, stacked construction exceeded the required stress specs. The designer returned to his crowning glory to use it as a template for his next project. The government of Columbia contracted for an ambitious dam on a tributary of the Orinoco, deep in the jungle.

    “This new job has me concerned about social and safety issues. The resulting lake will displace thousands of indigenous peoples, destroying their ancestral heritage. The native populations downstream fear the specter of a towering concrete giant. All issued death threats against me.”

    “I thought the government and the drug cartels were your only threats,” the manager joked.

    “They’re part of the problem, too. That’s why I escaped to this secure haven to work on my plans here. It’s safer, except for the mosquitoes.”

    Slapping his neck in response to the bite, the architect examined the bug. The shaman’s poison blow dart in his palm already delivered its toxic payload. The designer fell to the ground as the painted faced medicine man melted back into the trees.

  4. The turbines thrummed; their resonant note equally a part of the landscape as the concrete raised above him. There was power here, power to waste, this hateful installation ablaze with a host of miniature suns arrayed in defiance of the darkness pushing against them.

    It was unnatural. It was abhorrent. It was unnecessary, an indulgence Men had built to satisfy the demands of a culture used to excess.

    Humanity was a cancer that was running unchecked.

    Beyond the wall, dark waters piled high against the arc rising from the river’s bed. There had been a village here, a village now lost under billions of gallons of meltwater and rain, the tears of the corrupted world drawn together in one place. Lives had been lost: there was nothing that Man ever made that came without a price.

    And yet, here he was, playing at being a god; but seeking humility.

    He had a button readied to press. And so many deeds he needed to undo.

    The Architects of the Change had all been common folk, people united by a mutual disgust of technology’s so-called progresses that had remade everyone’s world. Satellites and spaceships were steps too far, the labours of humble men better suited to the land at their feet, entrusting the business of life to the eternal sun and the ever-constant soil below.

    But there would be losses if they followed this route. Sacrifices everybody would need to make.

    An eruption of light shattered the night, heralding a new beginning.

  5. The Dam

    Heavenly to be on the move again with greater numbers and a set purpose. We decided to move towards the city but with great caution. Not knowing if we would encounter rotting corpses or open hostility after the apocalypse, had made us rethink our every move.

    A rushing sound pounded our ears- a great dam. Problem- the road across was broken. Solution- ask our engineer groups. They suggested two men climbing down to the water to find a worthy boat, then rendezvousing with us further down the river. On my amateur rappelling, I was chosen to use a raip to climb down to the water’s edge. My heart jumped to my mouth and I was so near to blacking out, but through luck and stupidity, I landed on firm ground. My legs jellied. No superman!

    The first boats were battled, but yielded feasts galore. Without thinking of others we gorged and drank. Feeling no less selfish or unworthy, we found the perfect boat.

    We rounded the corner and into view at last. Priceless! Our friends’ jaws dropped lamely open as they saw us dressed as aristocracy navigating THE yacht! It had all the bells and whistles and then some. The Super yacht to beat all yachts had luxury, mega appeal and decadence. Huge salt pools, supersized whirlpools, helipads, classy chef’s kitchens, complete wineries, abundant pantries, myriad lounge bars, decadent chandeliers, grills, pizza ovens and underwater observations. If the yacht did not possess it, it was not worth possessing.

  6. Damn Dam

    “Evenin’ sergeant… tell me, what‘d the fish say when it swam into a wall?”

    “Captain, I kinda don’t think that’s appropriate right now… “

    “Dam! Har, de har har… fish said “dam”… get it?”

    “C’mon Cap… we’re looking for a kid here.”

    “Hmph, s’why I had ‘em turn on the lights. Carry on, sergeant.”
Sergeant Blackstone hurried over to his officers who were clustered by the safety railing on the outflow side of the dam.

    “Anything new?”

    “No sir”, responded Jelinek, one of the more street smart of the group.

    “Why do we have these lights on, sarge. It’s the middle of the night and we can’t see shit up here now… b’sides they don’t do no good to see the water down there. It’s gotta be like five hundred feet.

    “Captain nitwit’s idea”.

    “Figures. We are lookin’ for the Donaldson kid, right?”

    That Donaldson kid… a real piece of work… a truly entitled teenager…. always in some kind of trouble… trying to a daredevil… a real glory hound. Always trying to be famous. We’ve picked him up a lot, mostly for minor things: trespassing, public nuisance, shoplifting, trespass, etc.

    This time he parachuted off the top of the dam… he was gonna film it and put it on the internet… bragged it would go viral. Typically, brainiac didn’t think it through. His parachute got caught in the current and he was dragged downstream.

    Well, he’d get his wish… sorta. He’d be famous for a little while.

  7. Interpretations

    A crowd surrounded an artist as they admired his latest painting called The Dam.

    “Most people who see this painting,” said the artist, “think it is simply about a dam. But I tell you, it is about so much more.”

    “How so…?” someone shouted.

    “It is difficult to explain,” replied the artist, touching his forehead. “You see, there is a great contradiction in my work. My mind… my very nature… is contrary to this world. You might say, I am the opposite, the complex half of a simple shadow.”

    “Please, sir,” someone else shouted. “Explain your work.”

    The artist thought for a moment, and then, as though struck by a force of inspiration, strode across the polished gallery floor, and, gently gesturing with his hands, spoke softly, “How can I explain that which cannot be understood?”

    “But your painting must have an interpretation.”


    Someone in the crowd yelled, “Surely, it must be about the complexity of the modern world.”

    “No,” another chimed in. “It visualizes the advancement of technology.”

    Still another person said, “It captures the stillness of modern life at night.”

    The artist laughed. “Interpretations…”

    “Please tell me,” said his patron. “I support your work and pay you good money.”

    “Money.” The artist looked silently at his patron. Then he turned and walked across the floor, stopped, and, looking wistfully at his painting, whispered so no one could hear, “It is about the struggle of the fishes…”

  8. Connor leaned over Spartan’s shoulder and watched as the older man operated the quad-copter using a tiny mechanical joystick in the tablet’s USB port. Spartan handled the drone with an expert hand, unsurprising given that he’d been a helicopter pilot before an ambush and the loss of an eye had left him grounded for good.

    Through the drone’s camera they could see the entirety of Berthold Dam lit up in actinic light. To the right of the image he could see smaller lights moving along a narrow trail — which matched the intelligence they’d been given.

    “Found them.” Spartan’s accent made his words sound menacing, but Connor recognized satisfaction.

    “Gives new meaning to the old saying so excited they glow.” Connor tried not to sound too satisfied. These were fellow countrymen and -women, led along by an agent provocateur from the Flannigan Administration, intending to discredit the Sharp Resistance.

    “Time to move.” Spartan keyed his mic and gave the order to his teams farther down the slope. With luck they’d be able to stop whatever plot the Administration’s agencies had hatched.

  9. “All teams, commence operation.”

    Alfred kept the scanner on 24/7, hoping for something to break the monotony of forced retirement. After forty years working at the Wellerford dam, all he had was a severance check, his cabin’s view of the valley, and utter boredom.

    Darkness suddenly blanketed the valley, making Alfred’s heart pound. He fumbled for his infrared glasses and scanned the area. Tiny heat signatures raced across the dam’s walkway. Finally, some excitement.

    “911, what’s your emergency?”

    “Terrorist attack at the dam!” he shouted.


    “The dam is under attack! I heard the assault team on the radio.”

    An exasperated sigh drifted through the phone. “Mr. Hobbs. Last month you reported a UFO and someone falling.”

    “Stupid doll.”

    Sparks flashed in front of the dam followed by a loud boom. Then the lights came back on. Alfred’s eyes bulged. Dark lines radiated from a huge hole on the dam.

    “They blew up the dam!” screamed Alfred. “Evacuate the town!”

    “Look again Mr. Hobbs.”

    He squinted at the dam. The “cracks” fluttered in the wind. A moment later, another huge banner covered the fake hole.

    “Happy Birthday, Mr. Hobbs.”

    This was one surprise he would never forget.

  10. Chow Wow

    DAM Prompt

    When I was growing up, that is what I called my uncle. My mom is not around to ask why I called him that, but that’s what I affectionately called my uncle Charlie.

    He lived in my parents’ house and was an alternative dad when my dad was off doing other things. He always came through at Christmas, since my parents made sure I had new snow tires for my car.

    What I did know about Charlie is that he served in the Air Force and was stationed in the Philippines during WWII. He was also in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and helped build one or more dams. What an amazing man.


    “Hey buddy, what the h*ll are you doing with that fresh cement?”

    “Oh, sorry. I felt I put enough of me into this massive dam, that it wouldn’t hurt it any to leave my initials.”

    “Well, you might not think that there would be any problem, but as superintendent of this project, I can’t let you leave your initials in the cement. As a matter of fact, there are five thousand of you working three shifts, and if every one of you were to leave your initials in the fresh cement, that might weaken the facility.”


    “Dad, come quick! I found Chow Wow’s initials right where he told me he left them. Thanks again for the great times! What an amazing sight!”

    C H W – 1941

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