Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Beyond

colville river flash fiction prompt copyright ks brooks IMG_4601 050513
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, 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 2017.

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17 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Beyond”

  1. “Are you men from California, or did you come from heaven?” Mrs. Murphy asked in disbelief.

    The seven men approached the snow-covered cabins and slowly doled out food to the emerging survivors, lest they overeat and die. Some had trouble walking, several were emotionally unstable. All were emaciated. Thirteen had died over the winter, their bodies buried in snow outside the cabins.

    Nine months earlier they had set out for California from Independence, Missouri, encouraged by what they heard from Lansford Hastings. Hastings, an immigrant, traveled to California in 1842 and saw the promise it held. He encouraged others to follow in his footsteps, going so far as to publish The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California.

    “I will meet you at Fort Bridger, in Blacks Fork, Wyoming,” he had told the party, “and guide you on my proposed cutoff through the Wasatch Mountains, across the Great Salt Lake Desert, and beyond, over the Sierra Nevada, the most difficult part of the journey.”

    By the time the party reached Blacks Fork, however, Hastings had left, leaving them to fend for themselves.

    “Do not take the Hastings Cutoff,” warned journalist Edwin Bryant, who had scouted the route. His warning, left in a letter at the trading post, was never delivered, sealing the party’s fate.

    Among others, the rescue party found the dismembered body of Jacob Donner. While Elizabeth Donner had refused to eat his bodily parts, the rescuers determined her children, unknowingly, were being nourished by the organs of their father.

  2. Walter reined in his horse, still eighty feet from the river snaking through the valley. Dark mountains brooded in the distance beyond the water, yet the valley seemed a living, breathing creature of warm green and bubbling waters for blood. Strange.

    Stranger still, in the midst of a bend in the stream a woman sat, clothed in sodden white, glowing as though a fragment of the sun reposed within the folds of her bodice. Walter stared, transfixed, but the woman did not move. He spurred his horse forward and stopped when he came to the water’s edge. He wished to greet her, wished to say he had never seen one so beautiful, but words failed him.

    She lifted her eyes to meet his, and they were as blue as the sky. “You cannot pass, sir.”

    “I could sit here forever, ma’am, looking at you.” He felt stupid as soon as he’d said it. “But I have business over yonder. The papers I carry must be delivered.”

    “Touch the water, and you are changed forever.”

    Walter smiled and tipped his hat. “If I could be with you, that’s certainly true.”

    “Fifty miles upstream the water narrows. You may cross there in safety.”

    “No time for that.” He spurred his horse. The animal’s hoofs touched the water.

    The woman looked away. A moment later when she looked back, she reached out to Walter’s hat,
    floating on the water, raised it, and cast it away.

  3. Bea Ond’s Plan

    By Annette Rey

    Patrick Ond planned to kill his wife. There was just one problem. She almost always ran behind in deadlines.

    “Have you finished The Guide for the Spencers? It needs to go out tonight.”

    “It will. Don’t bother me.”

    “Well, I’m sorry, Queenie, but the shippers will be here at 5pm.”

    “No need to be sharp. The sculpture will be ready.”

    Patrick paced, there wasn’t much time left to kill her and stuff her into the life-sized angel holding a replica of the Spencer’s dog. He planned to weld the last panel into place, sealing her and the inevitable odors inside. He crept inside her studio.

    Two days later at the unveiling of The Guide over the outdoor grave of the Shih Tzu, Sheila, mourners gathered to pay tribute. Sheila’s owner spoke to Bea.

    “I’m sorry your husband couldn’t make it. He has always been such a part of your work.”

    “And he still is, Mr. Spencer. He still is.”

  4. In 1997, Katelyn was a photography intern for a wildlife magazine when she visited the marsh for the first time. It was beautiful, teeming with a variety of birds emitting a range of boisterous noises. It was nature’s exquisite harmony. Some of her pictures made it into the published copy.

    In 2007, Katelyn jumped at the opportunity to revisit the marsh with a team tasked to write a follow-up article. As they made their way along the muddy path, the silence was eerie. Katelyn was heartbroken to discover the birds had vanished.

    She met her parents for dinner a week later, mentioning the birds at risk of extinction. Her father scoffed, stating for the millionth time that she should’ve been a doctor. “That’s a job where you can help. Not this picture taking nonsense.”

    Determined, she wrote an article, accompanied by photos she’d taken of a lovely, but barren marshland.

    In 2012, Katelyn was asked to write an update on the marsh. Her previous article was successful in helping get measures in place that protected certain bird habitats. Katelyn reluctantly agreed, feeling she’d been too late to significantly help that location.

    Upon exiting the truck, familiar sounds vibrated through her. She smiled, resisting the urge to run towards it. The birds had returned, stretching far beyond her line of vision. She took a snapshot of a Marsh Wren balancing on a nearby reed.

    A crew member whispered to her, “In case you ever wonder, this is what your photographs did.”

  5. You got to admit that’s a pretty sight, a lot prettier than the yellow grass and dried dirt that greeted Sally and the kids when we first moved here. Sally has a good heart and didn’t mean no harm. She was just so thrilled with running water after years of hauling water in buckets. All the townfolk seemed to agree, and that helped when the case against Sally come up in the county courthouse.

    What happened was Sally found an old faucet out in the abandoned orchard. It worked perfect, except she couldn’t turn the darn thing off. So she left it running. Full blast. The kids dragged a tub over for washing up. I about fell off my chair when I got the water bill.

    That’s when we found out about water rationing. Who ever heard of such a thing? Water should be free for everybody. But the mayor a couple years ago decided to ration water and sell it high. Yellow grass and empty ponds. And a ton of money for him. It took somebody like Sally to leave the water running in that old tub. And run the water did, spreading out, flowing through the grass, little by little filling up the ponds. And little by little draining the mayor’s reservoir.

    We won. No liability. The faucet’s not on our property. The city crew turned it off and sealed it. Case closed.

    That is unless Sally finds another faucet. She’s looking….

  6. The two fishermen lazily paddled their canoe down the meandering river.
    “So she left, mate?” said the aft paddler.
    “Yeah. Just up and gone,” replied the forward paddler, “The dresser was empty and no cat.”
    “Tough times,” said the aft fisherman using the paddle as a rudder “but, look on the bright side.”
    “Yeah?” asked the forward fisherman.
    “Look on the bright side, mate,” the aft man cleared his throat, “You hated that cat and the little beast hated you.”
    “Fair enough.”
    They continued along for a while coming to a bushy bend where the flooded river seemed to blend with the land somewhere in the grass.
    “What is that up there?” asked the rudder man pointing to a river bank.
    “The river, mate,” came the reply.
    “Nah, over there,” pointing again.
 “There? Where the river is flooding?”
    “Yeah,” this time pointing with his paddle.
    “That’s still the river, Darryl.”
    “That’s life.”
    “A bit on the nose there, innit?” said the front man as they drifted closer to the grassy shore that was and wasn’t the shore.
    “Just a coincidence, I reckon,” Darryl replied, “Janet wasn’t right for you, Gerald.”
    “But we’re here on a river and you start in on the river as a metaphor,” Gerald went on, his voice growing edgy, “A bit convenient, isn’t it?”
    “I’m right though.”
    “Yeah,” Gerald conceded, “Pass me another stubby.”
    Darryl reached into the cooler at his feet and handed his best friend another bottle.

  7. Sarah looks out her window at a beautiful view: early morning, green hills and valleys, a crystal clear stream, and ash-colored mountains.

    Daddy sits down on the bed beside her, gazing at the view.

    “That’s where great grandpa took great grandma on their first date. He took her fishing.”

    Sarah giggles, “Oh what horrible idea. Was she angry?”

    “Furious. But that fury disappeared the moment she hooked a fish.”

    “Did she have fun?”

    “So much so she fell in love with great grandpa that day.”

    Sarah laughs with joy

    Mama enters.

    “Time for bed Sarah.”

    “Oh mom,” Sarah whines. “Just one more story, please.”

    “No. You said that three stories ago.”

    Sarah gives her father a pleading look. He kisses her forehead. “There’ll be more stories tomorrow.”

    Mama kisses Sarah goodnight.

    Returning her attention to the view. “Daddy, do places like this still exist?”

    “I hope so darlin’.”

    Mama turns off the light. The room goes black, the only light coming from the view.

    “Turn off the viewer honey,” Mama says.

    “Yes mama,” Sarah acquiesces.

    Pressing a button, the holographic view disappears. The true view outside Sarah’s window is the endless vacuum of space.

    “Goodnight,” mama and daddy say as they leave.

    Sara closes her eyes, dreaming of the day she will walk on a real planet.

    Outside her window an enormous spaceship travels through the endless vacuum. The name it bares, Santa Maria, for it too is bound for a new world.

  8. Beyond

    “It’s just ahead. Over that ridge, I just know it,” Jason muttered. He’d been talking out loud to himself for a very long time now.

    “I’ll get there and then I’ll have it.”

    Jason never tired of walking. In fact, his unending hope energized him. And besides, admittedly he had nothing else to do.

    “I’ll get there and then I’ll have it.”

    No one knew where “there” was or what “it” could be. Jason never said.

    Over time, Jason had worn out three pairs of shoes, dozens of pairs of socks and consumed a mountain of granola bars. He kept walking, having developed a certain pace, almost a lope, that could easily be recognized as his very own.

    He had no family or friends — at least none that anyone knew about.

    “Just a little longer.”

    There was plenty of space in the common area, “home” to two dozen residents.

    Jason’s file read: Length of occupancy: 7 years. Diagnosis: paranoid schizophrenia. Response to treatment: none. Prognosis: uncertain.

    “It’s just up ahead — just a little further.”

    The nurse brought Jason his meds for the day. And a granola bar.

  9. I walked through the trees for what seemed liked miles, through the ups and down of the terrain, lost in thought. Confused, anguished, in turmoil. Where could I go? Who could I count on?
    I didn’t have much money. And I’d left with only the clothes on my back, driven off in the middle of the night, aimlessly, till I wound up at this trailhead in the wilderness. It was isolated, remote and I needed freedom, freedom to think, with no threat of being slapped or punched, having my arm twisted off. I’d ran, not so much for my own safety, but because I was afraid of what I might do. I saw the knife. I wanted badly to grab that knife sitting within arm’s reach and stab him, over and over again. I hated him for who he’d become and for making me want to kill him. This man, I’d loved with all my heart, now broken, made we want to kill. It was that fury, that rage that brought me to my senses. I wrenched away from him, grabbed my car keys and ran out the door.
    The quiet of the forest soothed me; the scent of the pine trees and the song of the birds calmed my nerves and I felt peace settle upon me. At last, I walked out of the forest into a clearing and discovered a babbling brook. I looked to the mountains in the distance, and suddenly I knew what I would do.

  10. “So, this is it? The New Paradise?”

    Hollis nodded, his manner proprietorial. “Yes. It is. It’s the Earth as it used to be. Before we spoiled it. Before cities and pollution and crime…”

    “And civilisation.” Gayle looked back at the space they’d stepped through, the place where the Portal had been now empty of anything that might help them.

    There would be no going back.

    “It’s not so much a Beyond…it’s more of a Before.” Hollis shouldered his bag, one of its biodegradable closures already hanging loose where it had broken. Everything they’d brought was engineered to be time-limited, the Earth’s future sacrosanct. Its timeline was delicate and Travellers couldn’t afford to take the smallest risks. Even now they had to obey strict rules: they couldn’t build shelters unless they used wood and they could only use vines to secure them together. It would be a back-to-nature existence in every way for as long as they all lived.

    “I suppose we’ll manage. We’ve no choice now, have we?” Gayle picked up her rucksack, wincing when she felt its weight on her shoulders. “At least the inoculations should protect us. How many was it they gave us?”

    “Fifty-three,” Hollis replied. “Give or take a few. Although, it’s not likely to be the classical diseases that’ll bother us. There are the Others, for example…”

    Gayle shuddered, looking quickly around. “Yes, I was almost forgetting them. The non-Caucasian and the other undesirables. We’re all here together now. Thank you, Mister President.”

  11. The two strolled to the edge of the river. She turned to face him and sighed. He reached out and brushed a tear from her cheek and stroked her long, blond hair.

    “Gayle, don’t let those pretty blue eyes weep. Do you like it,” he asked, sweeping his arm over the expanse before them?

    “I just can’t believe it, Joe” she answered. She reached up, ruffled his crew cut and playfully tugged on his denim shorts. “Every place you’ve taken me to today is exactly like home. It’s wonderful.” She pressed her head to his chest.

    They embraced for a moment. The gurgling waters seemed to echo the delight in their hearts. They turned to leave and heard a couple in the distance talking about the view.

    “Want to stop and chat a bit with them,” Joe asked?

    “No. It’s remarkable. I can hear every word they say. They look just like us, happy as we are, too. Let’s hurry home, pack our things and move back here. We’ll fit in fine.”

    “Gee, Gayle, they’re all gonna go berserk when they finally find there really is some form of life in other parts of the universe. What a whirlwind that’ll create!”

    They slipped into their concealed saucer and silently swished through the billions of stars on their way to their home planet. Joe plugged a thumb drive into his smart phone. Judy Garland began crooning “Over the Rainbow”. The doppelgangers tenderly joined in.

  12. Killer Instinct

    She was tempting and temptation and moved like a beauty queen sizing up the competition. When she stopped, he made his move.
    “Hello, beautiful.”
    “Raymond.”
    “Serene.” Deep breath subdued anxiety. “How are you?”
    “You look like a corpse in that police uniform.”
    Cold green eyes scurried up and down his body. Five years gone and he still loved those green eyes that turned him into jelly. Some things never change.
    “I called you.”
    “And?” Serene jabbed him in the ribs. Hard.
    “You know why.” Raymond managed a weak smile.
    Two weeks ago, they met to make peace. He’d hit her instead.
    “About the memorial, I-I think we…”
    “He was 5 years old, Raymond.”
    He looked away. He had to. “I know.”
    Her eyes narrowed in pain. “Police still looking for the bastard who killed him.”
    “Listen to me!” He gripped her hand but she yanked it away and drifted to another fragrance counter.
    Raymond followed. He had to.
    “So you agree we go-” he said.
    “I’m leaving town,” she said. “I need time Raymond.”
    “What? No!” His fist curled into a ball. “He was my son too dammit! Five years of keeping secrets and you can’t even say his name.”
    “You wanted to meet. We met.” Serene opened her handbag.
    He saw them closing in. Three cops. Two guns. His and hers.
    “Don’t. I’m beggin’ you, honey,” Raymond said, “You gotta turn yourself-”
    Good thing her gun jammed.
    He shot her.
    He had to.

  13. The ghosts of Gravestone Castle watched as the tour guide pointed at a sword exhibit, “And with this sword, Bruce the Brave single handedly bore down upon his enemies, charging straight through the front ranks, at full gallop with sword held high …”

    Bruce’s ghost moaned, “Not that again, just once I wish he would tell the truth!”

    Lady Gravestone’s ghost chuckled, “Please Bruce, not that again! Do you really want him to tell everyone about your cowardice, and how you accidentally charged the wrong way into battle?”

    Perturbed, he looked askance at her, I hate the part where he says, “Showing no mercy, he swung it low striking into the enemy masses, chopping off head after head.”

    “Yes dear, it is a bit monotonous. I forget, how many did you really kill?”

    “You know, not any of them: all the praise should go to my brave steed for trampling them to death … even though he was panicking and I lost control of him.”

    The tour guide continued on, “Then without warning, his brave steed collapsed, pierced through the heart, and Bruce the Brave was disemboweled, dismembered and beheaded.”

    Shouting at the tour guide, “That’s not what happened, you liar! Just look in my sepulchre! I’ve got all my body parts.”

    “Yes dear, we all know, your horse tripped in a hedgehog hole and collapsed crushing you, and they brought you back in one piece. Just wait until he dies, you’ll have the rest of eternity to straighten him out.”

  14. This World Is Not My Home

    Ben slammed his boot on the brakes then stormed out of the pickup truck with his father’s colt special revolver in hand.

    “Jasmine,” Ben shouted as he made his way down the dirt trail. “Get outta that lake now. You ain’t marryin him.”

    The crowd of dark faces turned to Ben and smiled. No fear. Only peace.

    Jasmine and Harold stood in the lake holding hands next to the preacher.

    “Ben, I love Harold. What you and I had is gone.”

    “We can work it out,” Ben said.

    Jasmine smiled. “You don’t understand. I’m sorry, Ben.”

    Ben pulled out the revolver and pointed at Harold. “Jasmine, I ain’t gonna say it again.”

    Harold released Jasmine’s hands and walked toward Ben grinning.

    The choir began to sing This World Is Not My Home.

    Ben fired twice and missed. Harold nor the crowd flinched.

    Before Ben knew it, Harold was hugging him and whispering in his ear.

    Ben dropped the gun and hugged Harold back. Tears poured down Ben’s face. Joy replaced hate in Ben’s heart, a feeling he has not felt in years.

    Moments later, Ben sat on the hood of the pickup truck and watched the ceremony.

    “You will find what you’re seeking when you love others,” Ben whispered.

    A pretty girl approached Ben, smiled then said, “Would you like a piece of cake?”

    Ben’s heart skipped. “I would love a piece.”

  15. “The stream is flat, it doesn’t look like a river at all,” Wyatt said.

    Josh arched an eyebrow. “Does it look like there’s enough water for the horses?”

    “Yep.”

    As their stallions rested and nibbled and sipped, the two men looked at the prairie ahead. Wyatt sighed. “We’ve been riding for days. The mine was beyond the river, beyond the prairie, beyond the next town. Now, it’s beyond the mountains.”

    Josh also sighed and slowly nodded. “It almost doesn’t seem worth it, does it?”

    “I dunno. Maybe it’s there. Maybe we’ll strike it rich. Maybe we’re too late.”

    The men sat in silence. Wyatt shook his head. “We’re at a crossroads. If we don’t go we’re quitters, if we do go and there’s nothing we’re idiots.”

    “I wouldn’t say we’re idiots. We’re humans. We always think there is something better out there. It’s why Eve ate that apple. She was told no, but ‘what if’ entered her head. What if we strike it rich? What if we hit the mother lode?”

    “And what if we don’t?”

    “True. But you won’t know if you don’t try. What more do we have to lose? We’ve gone beyond our endurance, beyond our patience. Now we just need to go beyond those mountains.”

    Silence again. Wyatt walked toward his horse and prepared to mount.

    “I hate when you’re right. But I hate it more when I don’t know and I just keep asking questions. We’ve come this far; may as well have a look-see.”

  16. The door crashed open as Bobby burst onto the front porch. He buttoned up his jeans and leapt down the steps. The soft ground squelched between his toes as he raced towards the river.

    A woman with dishevelled hair wrapped in a sheet hurried onto the porch and called after him. “HEY! HE’S JUST A BOY.”

    Bobby waved his hand dismissively. He didn’t have time for this, the Sheriff was closing in. He bent down and scooped up a crumpled green bill. A trail of bank notes led down to the river. He squeezed the bill in his fist, before throwing it away.

    His jeans darkened as they absorbed the morning dew. He skidded to a halt when the trail ended. The river rumbled past, shimmering in the morning sun. Goosebumps swept across his bare chest as a cool wind whipped through the long grass.

    “JIMMY.” He watched and waited.

    A small mop of blond hair popped up beside the river. Jimmy waved, beckoning him to follow.

    Bobby ran towards him, sinking into the marsh surrounding the river. He squinted as the sun bounced off ripples and eddies, blinding him.

    “Hey, Mister.”

    “Jimmy!” He waded towards the boy, glancing at the empty burlap bag resting on the reeds. “What do you think you’re doing?”

    Jimmy grinned and held up a green paper boat. “This paper folds good.”

    Bobby eyed the boat, before turning his gaze to the river as a fleet of hundred dollar bills sailed away.

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