Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Driftwood

south beach olympic national park washington june 2001 flash fiction writing prompt copyright KS Brooks
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. There will be no written prompt.

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 afternoon, 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 2016.

Author: Administrators

All Indies Unlimited staff members, including the admins, are volunteers who work for free. If you enjoy what you read here - all for free - please share with your friends, like us on Facebook and Twitter, and if you don't know how to thank us for all this great, free content - feel free to make a donation! Thanks for being here.

13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Driftwood”

  1. Like many other teenagers, Bobby Newman was no stranger to the Chesapeake Bay seashore. Always something interesting to see…always visions of far-away places in his mind.

    But he was surprised to find this specimen — driftwood had become a rarity since the forests were depleted long ago. A log, a little log, carrying a cargo of young greenery. Strange, very strange. He took a tiny segment to his high school biology teacher who had a deep affection for botany.

    “Mr. Green, what do you think this IS?”

    The teacher retreated to his library, well-furnished with reference texts and a microscope. He returned shortly.

    “Bobby, do you have a girlfriend?”


    “Well, if you do then you have a rare present to give her for Valentine’s Day!”

    “I don’t understand professor!”

    “My boy, you’ve found a rare example of Kayu Hanyut. That is: Paphiopedium rothschildianum!”


    “This organism is unique to Malaysia. You’ve found a real ‘traveler’ — came half-way ’round the world to find you!”

    “Bobby, this is an orchid. A very special flower.”

    “Professor — what should I do?”

    “Well young man, if you added a box of chocolates that would be very nice indeed.”

  2. The statuesque women stood in the water a few feet off the shoreline of the tiny island with her gray tapered khaki trousers rolled up to her knees as the waves slapped above her ankles. Her short cropped black tousled hair caught the warm breeze as did her brown cotton buttoned shirt and soiled white silk scarf. It was sunset and there was still no sign of a rescue vessel or plane as her crystal blue eyes strained into the horizon while a tear crept down her face.
    She looked back towards her badly injured companion. The light from the signal fire lit his auburn hair and twisted features. His lanky frame leaned against one immense log of driftwood. He reached forward to tighten the haphazard splint of his blood soaked broken leg. His pale face grimaced as he adjusted the rope and bandages while his limbs shivered from loss of blood. He pulled his brown leather aviators jacket closer to his upper body like a blanket. He took a sip of water from his canteen and nibbled on some dried meat and gazed at the sunset and the women simultaneously.
    The wrecked plane was still on the shelf reef.
    He called out to her. “It’s time for the signal. Use 3105 kHz. The sky is clear tonight.”
    The twelve-year-old kid was playing with his father’s ham radio equipment one evening. Between the strange whistles and harmonic sounds of the atmosphere on a clear night came a voice “Earhart.”

  3. Drifting Would

    I see the sand swallow the sea,
    And the sea rush over the land,
    the driftwood smashing the heart of me
    And the sea washing away the sand.

    Drifting would take me to the edge of time,
    Drifting would shake me like a falling rhyme,
    Drifting would stand silent, mime
    A song of a sorrowful time.

    Landward grow the incorruptible fern,
    Rooted in wood, carved by time,
    Green, in their glory, a living berm,
    Green, so green, like a fluttery lime.

    Drifting would take me to the edge of my prime,
    Drifting would sing of lost summertime,
    Drifting would appease, in pantomime,
    A silent song of a sorrowful time.

    I walk away from the sea and the sand,
    And the sky turns dark and grey,
    The sea churns, crashes onto the land
    As I rush faraway, faraway.

    Drifting once took me to the edge of time,
    Drifting once lifted me from the city, the grime,
    Drifting would favor me with a moment of its time,
    The sea, the wood, the fern, and the rhyme.

  4. Callie had fallen fitfully into a dream. She loved the ocean, but inexplicably did not live close to it. From Nevada, she had visited the ocean a few times and always felt a sense of healing come from her presence there. But in this dream, she encountered a pile of wave-worn beams. Looking around, she noticed some tiny ferns peeking from beneath them. Interesting, to see life in the midst of the death. Gingerly she touched a log, and it was dry, so she sat down on it and looked out upon the water. Somehow the peaceful feeling of the ocean was not with her this time.
    “Man overboard! Batten the hatches! Someone help me!” she heard. It’s a dream, she told herself. But then she began to see wispy forms, translucent men approaching from the water. The waterlogged apparitions came closer, and she jumped up off the log. She was amazed by their superhuman strength as they dragged the beams together. They seemed to be trying to put a ship back together.
    Suddenly, one of the man stopped and walked straight to her. He was dressed in a white puffy shirt, loose cut and with wide sleeves. His pants were buckled below the knees. He looked into her eyes and said, “Find Juan De Iturbe’s ship so our souls can rest! There’s pearls in it for ye.” And then he faded away. She awoke in a cold sweat.

  5. Driftwood littered the California beach where my husband, James, and I donned our scuba gear. Although we were experienced divers of inland lakes, we’d never set fin in the ocean.

    Swimming under the waves, we were enamored with our surroundings. Return time arrived too soon. When we surfaced to check our bearings, people on shore appeared Lilliputian. How had we swum so far?

    We understood when we dropped below and began kicking toward shore. The current shoved us mightily toward open ocean. To save air we tried swimming on the surface. But waves drowned our snorkels and inflated vests constricted our lungs.

    Bobbing like a ping-pong ball, I tried to control my panic. Then, I remembered my training. “We swim diagonally against a current,” I said. “Like a tacking sailboat.”

    Renewed efforts below the surface brought us nearer to shore. If only our air would last.

    Almost to safety, I glimpsed the large creature approaching us. You can’t scream “shark” with a dive regulator in your mouth. So I grabbed James’s leg, pointed, and kicked rapidly past him.

    When I reached shallow water, I yanked off my flippers and scrambled onto the beach. Looking back for James, I worried that my thrashing had attracted the huge predator.

    Finally, he appeared and strolled toward me. “Did you see the shark?” I asked.

    James inclined his head toward a distant object that was clearly a log. “I’ve never seen a wood shark before.” He grinned. “I wonder what they eat.”

  6. Ocean’s Daughter

    Stone and driftwood and the bitter sea–all is grey, water-worn, salt-bleached and half-buried. Sky merging with ashen waves, one green fern a fleck in winter’s eye, gulls fall silent as a woman rises from the foaming waves, grey with shadow, black with night, her broad shoulders a glistening blue-green sheen of luminescent scales.

    Mother of oceans, she remembers shipwreck, chains red with blood, the king coming down from the hill, his hands soft, insistent. Stormcast, the villagers took her in, for sea’s sacred gift is not to be forsaken. Bereft of memory, naked and alone, she was dark stone upon pale sand, first and always remembering the warmth of their hearth; hard and last the hard imperative of sword and king.

    Villagers’ eyes downcast, she stares as he approaches. As he reaches to touch, she strikes, fingers turned to talons. She takes him to his knees yet cannot escape cold, hard steel, cannot reject his cruel gift of shackles, a dark ship; but in darkness–taste of brine and slap of wave–she remembers, is reborn.

    So the elder stories remember–children placing garlands round her neck, grandmothers singing mother-songs more certain than steel. Wings luminescent and dawn-crimson, in beauty she rises from the sea, come to cast a blood-red fleck from the winter sun’s eye, for deep is mother ocean, and long and well reigns the queen.

  7. What is it about water that is so calming? Karen wondered. Is it the sound of the waves lapping? Is it the repetitiveness of wave after wave after wave hitting the shore? Is it the dragging of a little bit of sand back into the sea? Is it the next wave trying to outdo the last by crashing higher upon the beach?

    Karen wandered wherever her feet led her. Everywhere and nowhere. Her thoughts crashed in her head like the waves onto the beach. Maybe the fresh sea air will help clear my head, she thought as she looked for a spot to sit and watch. Maybe the waves will pull away the sand from my brain and uncover what is bothering me. She looked around—the boulders she often perched upon were not there. She must have walked farther than she realized. She found what appeared to be large pieces of driftwood in a pile and headed for them.

    “How appropriate. I feel like a big log being tossed around by life today just like these were tossed by the sea.”

    The topmost log looked rotten. Termites? This close to the ocean? She looked toward the sea and gasped. She braced herself in shock.


    To the left the horned skull of … a steer? Here on the beach? … or a dinosaur? Buried under the sand? She glanced right and saw a femur, broken off at the knee.

    Nothing made sense. But neither does anything else in life.

  8. The power was still out from last week’s hurricane. Now, Shelly would never deliver her next serial killer novel on time. She screamed in frustration, “I’ve got to get out of here!”

    Slamming the door, she headed for the beach. She became even more agitated and stressed out as she hiked past shoreline debris: mostly driftwood and kelp. She started yelling, “Come on brain, I’m dead meat if I don’t come up with something!”

    Suddenly, Shelly heard a shrill scream from behind, which made her skin crawl. She looked back, but no one was there. She heard that scream again. Terrified, Shelly started to blindly run down the beach. From behind, Someone grabbed her ankle, tripping her. Shelly tried twisting out of his grip only to have him slip something tightly around her neck. On the sand, he started choking her with a wet slimy cord. Shelly tried rolling away, but he tightened it more around her throat. Horrified, Shelly gasped her last breath and lost consciousness .

    The Sheriff watched the coroner shake his head, in disbelief, as he pulled off his purple surgical gloves, ”It looks like she was jogging, and tripped over that piece of driftwood. Somehow, she got tangled in that long strand of kelp. There are no other footprints in the area, and from the looks of it, she panicked and choked herself to death.”

    As the coroner left the beach, he could hear the sea gulls shrilly screaming at him, from behind.

  9. It’s been years since I looked at this photograph. I’m so glad I took this shot on the last day of shooting. It will always remind me of Dick. What a day it was.

    The sun was shining. The pipers were happily fluttering and flapping about the the shore and driftwood. We had been rehearsing all morning and now it was time for the take.

    I started the scene by giggling and running down to the water’s edge, with Dick close behind, laughing. When we got to the driftwood, he grabbed me and swung me around, crushing me closely to his tanned chest.

    “You look absolutely marvelous in that bikini thong,” he whispered, wrapping his hard, muscular arms around me and pulling me down onto the sand.

    The scene was shot in one perfect take.

    We got up and brushed off the clinging sand. I noticed the small pieces of driftwood below the large logs. They reminded me of Dick in that scene. We headed to the catering lunch carts for a quick snack. Later in the day I went back and snapped that photo.

    “You were pretty good there, Dick.” I smiled, reaching out for his hand.

    “Just look what I had to work with.” He laughed, and gently smacked my bottom. “You’re positively astonishing, Liz. Can’t wait until we’re married.”

    “Oh, neither can I,” I answered, remembering the pieces of driftwood.

    The Sandpipers fluttered and flapped their approval.

    What a day it was.

  10. They kicked along the beach, sand flying before their feet, Richard and Randi, mirror images, male and female, dark hair rustling in the sea breeze, gull screeches filling their ears, dark scent of marine life filling their nostrils, shadows swimming through their almost-old brains.

    “Dad always liked you more than me.” Richard kicked extra hard. A galaxy of sand grains spun before them.

    Randi smiled a honey-sweet smile. “I’m the girl.”

    “I’m the disappointment.”

    “The thief,” she agreed. “The embezzler.”

    “I beat the rap.”

    “Your lawyer double-talked the jury into a stupor.”

    “And so doing drained my life’s savings.”

    She tugged at his arm as she had done when they were kids. “Anyway, he’s gone. Heart stopped mid-beat, eyes glazed over, no fog on the mirror set to his lips.”

    “Leaving you everything and me nothing.” Richard stopped and swept the beach with narrowed eyes. He lingered over a snag of decaying red-brown driftwood nestled in the sand, working its way into or out of the earth. “I’m penniless and days from homeless.”

    “I won’t see my brother homeless.” Randi tugged again. “Come on!” She pulled him to the driftwood and poked at it with her toes. “What do you suppose is underneath?” She nudged a piece of it away. A hermit crab scrambled out of the tangle.

    Richard watched the crab. “Strange,” he said. “He died just in time.”

    “Yes,” Randi agreed. She tugged at him again and smiled her sweet smile. “But why should that be strange?”

  11. It had been more than a decade since my last visit, but I still remembered the path. Scrambling down a rocky section one could finally see his makeshift hut. A pile of driftwood tucked into the base of the cliff, that had somehow avoided detection in the years since the hermit had passed away. I ducked my head and stepped into the small, dark space. The hermit had always frightened me as a child and even though he was long gone, and I was older, the nervousness remained.

    It was a spartan space, a few pieces of salvaged wood turned into a table and chair. Bits of debris scavenged off the beach. Old ration tins, glass fishing floats, and unmarked bottles littered the floor. My curiosity sated I turned to leave when something flashed from the upper corner of the driftwood wall. Stepping closer I could see a small semi-hidden shelf with a few abalone shells and a small metal box. Gingerly opening the box I discovered treasure within. Inside were vague clues to the hermit’s identity; a faded photograph of a young smiling couple, a tarnished military medal, some coins, class ring, and a baby’s shoe carefully wrapped in linen. After gently inspecting each item, I put them and the box back into its hiding spot, left the hut and returned home.

    Years later I heard a storm had destroyed that section of the cliff…a pile of driftwood and memories gone to sea.

  12. It was like something out of Tolkien. A skinny, pale Ent.
    The log rolled of its own accord. Out sprung two spindly arms, twiggy fingers at each end. The log walked its torso upward, bending about halfway down, creating a triangle with the beach as base. Jake thought of a boxer rising from the mat.
    The other section split into two legs. The arms bent then sprang back, launching the thing upright. It staggered, though Jake noticed a grinning mouth beneath beaming eyes.
    Twelve feet tall now, the Ent swayed in the breeze, emitting a noise that he assumed to be laughter. Its pale eyes spotted him on the dune and the being went serious in an instant, fake-coughing into its delicate hand, frowning. It didn’t stare long, however.
    The Ent closed its eyes again, and raised its arms skyward like a preacher. High up, its thin fingers wiggled, from which orange sparks popped.
    Jake sat rapt, so focused on the flashing that he nearly missed the small piece of yellow paper drifting downward. With fragile-looking forefinger and thumb, the Ent plucked the scrap from the air and smiled.
    In three steps it had crossed the beach Jake’s direction. It bent, as if bowing, and held the paper out to him. He took it and examined.
    A lottery ticket. For that evening.
    Jake snapped his head back up to inquire, but found no Ent, only a pale driftwood log lying on the beach before him.

Comments are closed.