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.
9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Pioneers”
For Editors’ Choice Award Only
“I recognize one of those antiques . . . that cup over there.”
“You’re kidding. From where?”
“Oh, my mother had something like that in our kitchen when I was growing up in the Midwest; she said she got them from her mother, who’d married some good lookin’, fast-talkin’ man she met at the fair in Union County, Iowa. She said he’d swept her off her feet.
“Anyway, they married, built a sod shanty in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, a few miles north of Oklahoma Territory, and had seven children. Mom was the youngest of six girls. I guess you’d call ’em pioneers.
“Mom said she never had much of anything to her name while growing up. Her pewter cup—like the one on the shelf over there—was one of her only possessions; that cup and a cornstalk doll or two. She also remembered her mother was the one who did most everything to keep the family going. She cooked the meals, made their clothes, plowed the fields, plugged the holes in their sod shanty’s walls, and so forth. Except for leading an occasional hunting party, mom told me her father was pretty useless.
“In fact, mother told me my grandma was so angered by her no-good-for-nuthin’ husband that during the winter months, she took to plastering his newspaper on their dugout’s walls—upside-down—just to get him off his ass.”
Pioneer Stock Images
“It’s the strangest thing,” I say, suddenly, out loud, in bed, sitting up quickly though I had been…malingering, lounging away flat on my back like a slug on fresh chard, you know, it being Saturday and all.
She squirms, rolls over, and asks, mumbling, “You say something?”
“Think I did,” I say.
“Well, what was it?” I have her attention, a not inconsiderable gesture on her part. Mornings are not her favorite time.
“Probably a dream…that’s all I can imagine it was…”
“Okay, tell me, what was this dream?…and make it quick. I’m still tired.”
Of course, I want to get on with it, drag back the dream from wherever it is languishing in my memory. It’s all bits and pieces in my fuzzy morning state,
an ox cart,
mud gully deep,
a slashing rainstorm,
women dressed in pioneer garb soothing the children,
a sudden lifting of the storm,
a bright sun shining down on my face…
“Well, are you going to tell me?”
My silence is irritating her. The dream is smoke, smoke rising from a morning fire near a riverbed, drying out from the storm, a silver plate, a prized possession glistening in the fractured light, gruel cooking in a cast iron pot, mirages of a lost time kaleidoscoping wildly in recall…
I rethink the whole dream. Shouldn’t have watched that old oater last night, Bend of the River.
Don’t know where the oxen came from, though.
For Editors’ Choice Award Only
Life rewarded my parents with 4 children – three sisters and me.
We didn’t have much growing up, but fortunately they made enough to pay the bills.
The most important thing was that we had each other. We were very close. Growing up, we played games, and even went camping and fishing.
Our home was the ‘Cabin of Hopes and Dreams.’ Neighbors referred to our parents as ‘Pioneers.’
Birthdays, graduations, and weddings helped us get together.
Things changed. I guess ‘Life’ got in the way and scattered us. ‘Too Busy’ was heard too often. Focused on seemingly important things.
Then it was funerals that brought us together. Our parents stated they hated that was the only time we gathered now.
I got the phone call from their neighbor.
If they were here today, there would be five generations in this small kitchen.
We were having a ‘Celebration of Life.’ Stories were being told and there was lots of laughter and then finally, sorrowful tears from even the kids.
When the ahoogah horn and backfire of dad’s model T sounded, the youngest of the gathering ran to the only window.
The cabin door banged against the wall – “Thanks everyone for the Celebration of Life,” dad announced hugging mom.
“Let this be a lesson to every one of you,” taking his time to point at even the kids. “From now on, we get together every year, and not over our dead bodies.”
I’ll take that happy lesson.
Very clever! You’ve got my vote.
Albus dipped the dishes in the bucket. The sand scoured them clean, removing every trace of the food we’d eaten. We always ate frugally; we were careful not to waste anything, conscious of the debt to be paid.
A little is a lot when you have nothing to spare.
“Time to go foraging,” he said, brushing the loose grains away.
We were among the first of the adapted settlers. We’d been born off-world. We weren’t true-born Martians – we’d been engineered pre-birth to be able to survive, growing taller but being lighter than anyone originating from Earth. We didn’t need to wear EVA suits, though. We had a lung capacity double that of the earliest visitors to this world.
We were the pigeon-chested bird people who lived on the second planet. We were here to stay; brought here to survive and live out the whole of our unnatural lives. We’d never return to Earth.
I left Albus in the shack. I knew he’d follow me once he’d finished his chores. Communications and pages of endless admin; health checks (mental and physical), telemetry from the solar arrays. We still had to earn our keep, although the benefits of our agreement now seemed weighted towards those who lived back on the full gravity world.
I had my duties too. I was going out scavenging, searching for remnants from both civilisations. Maybe I’d get lucky and find something no one had ever seen. At least, no one who’d originated from the third planet.
Strange how one moment my mind was almost blank and the next, thoughts came tumbling without my permission. Then the thoughts stomped in and took possession of me. One afternoon, it seemed aeons ago, I visited a pioneer kitchen. Basic, no frills, no electricity or appliances. Our ancestors were a hardy lot! Simple practical items adorned the shelves in a sparing way. It was almost to say that the matriarch disapproved of access and favoured sparseness. Being critical, I realised immediately that the double sink was completely out of place. So inaccurate to have a stainless steel double sink in a pioneer home! Our pioneer ancestors would have been dragging buckets from a well, not simply opening a tap!
Why did I remember the pioneer kitchen so well? The mugs, plates, bric-a-brac, and pudding basins really held no curiosity for me. So why was my mind concentrating on that trip? The reason hit me like an electric bolt of anguish. It was the day of the apocalypse so it was etched deeply into my being.
That evening I was sitting on a hillside admiring the sundown when without warning, the sky burnt a putrid autistic yellow. Ominous. Menacing. The very air crackled and spat missiles. The lake boiled. Gnarls in the land satanically cast maws of fissures. Rows of houses disappeared like a line of dominoes into the hungry maw.
My throat burnt with pain and only then did I realise that I was screaming in fear.
Virj strolled through the pioneer museum. He’d never seen such a complete collection of Nineteenth Century antiques. He’d scanned many items and determined that most were genuine, over 500 years old.
In the kitchen he gazed at the pewter plate with the quaint inscription about love and money. He noted the old bottles, pitchers, and crocks. At the tool display he touched the ancient rifle and ax. He puzzled over the adze, not sure what it was used for. But it definitely wasn’t a replica. The Collectors would pay big money for this stuff.
Virj pressed the implant behind his right ear. Lights flashed and chem hazard alarms screeched. Employees and visitors hurried toward the exits.
A docent touched Virj’s arm. “This way, sir.”
“Thank you,” Virj answered. He sidled toward the front door. He waited inside for a few moments until everyone had gathered on the sidewalk. Then he tapped his second implant.
He knew what the spectators would see. First the museum shimmered like a desert mirage. Then a ray of golden light enveloped the building. The entire structure rose rapidly toward his waiting ship. Nothing but a crumbling foundation remained.
Virj whistled happily as he started cataloging artifacts.
When I was in high school, I spent my summers working at the local Pioneer Village, doing living history. When I’d started, I’d thought it was an easy way to earn money for college . Heck, I’d been doing chores around the farm since I started grade school, so it couldn’t be that hard.
Except I’d never considered just how much of that labor involved power machinery of one kind or another. When every tool is body-powered, things look a whole lot different.
There were days when I could barely keep my eyes open when Mom picked me up. There were mornings when I woke up so stiff and sore I wanted to forget the whole thing. But I needed the money, and as the time went by and I built up my strength and stamina, the work got a lot easier.
However, it gave me an appreciation for modern technology that I’ve never forgotten. Now I’m helping design and build our first permanent settlement on Mars, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking back to that Pioneer Village as we find ways to accomplish the necessities of life with the limited resources we can either carry with us or build from Martian materials.
For Editors’ Choice Award Only
National Antiquities Institute
Re: Additions to Museum of the Wild West
Mr. Carl (Podner) Gruber
1211 Grove Ave.
We here at the National Antiquities Institute would like to thank you for your continued substantial cash donation. We rely on donors like you to fund our ongoing search for remnants of our distant past.
Concerning the items you submitted for consideration of addition to our permanent Museum of the Wild West, we are pleased to inform you that we have accepted them for review and have transferred them to our research department for certification. Please be advised that we are in receipt of your donations as follows:
Annie Oakley Oven Mitts – Pair – Not matching, size medium, polyester/cotton blend / Condition: Left – Good, Right – Poor
Wild Bill Hickok Toaster Oven – Missing temperature knob, contains material suspected of possibly being a melted cheese sandwich/ Condition: Fair – Poor
3. Wyatt Earp Egg Slicer – Loose wire / Condition: Fine – Very Good
4. Bass Reeves – Scotch Tape player (?): Believed to be unique / Condition: Not graded due to rarity
5. Billy the Kid Spatula – Handle – broken, Material: Plastic / Condition: Poor
We are most excited about receiving these items. They will help greatly with the ongoing analysis of our “Wild West Gunslingers in the Kitchen” thesis.
Once again, we thank you for your continued monetary support and urge you to persevere with your obviously extensive field work and submission of your specimens to us for consideration.
Arthur Fortescue / Co-Executive Director
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