Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Wilderness

lake mcdonald glacier national park 102208
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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19 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Wilderness”

  1. “Master Sergeant Cooper! Where the hell are you?”

    That’s the captain’s voice, I thought. What’ve I done now?

    Within a second the shredded remains of a Jeep tire shot through the door leading to the work bay, followed by the captain himself. “Jesus, sergeant, those guys working in the desert near Wad Medani go through rubber like some drunk going through a pint of Kentucky whiskey.”

    It was nine-thirty in the morning at our headquarters south of Khartoum. The temperature was 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

    “Regarding a replacement tire—”

    The captain stopped in mid-sentence and stared at me. “Why are you plugging that tire? Where’s Mohammad?”

    You’re not going to like this, sir. Mohammad, age 14, and his friend, Ahmed Elmahdi, two years his senior, had appeared at our headquarters soon after we arrived in Khartoum, begging for money. It was Captain Kuchinski’s idea to put them to work in the motor pool. Mohammad was given the responsibility of removing and remounting tires while Ahmed was assigned the job of repairing them. Mohammad was by far the brighter, so within a few weeks, I was directed to train him to do both jobs and release Ahmed. Which I did. Yesterday. Now, Mohammad wouldn’t work.

    “Let me see if I got this straight, sergeant. After you trained Mohammad on Ahmed’s job, let Ahmed go, and gave Mohammad all the work—and money—he won’t do anything?”

    “That’s affirmative, sir.”

    “Why?”

    “He thinks he knows enough now to be a supervisor.”

  2. News Release

    By Annette Rey

    The secret had to come out one day.

    It seems the news agencies cannot get enough fodder to smear public figures before they have been legally convicted. John Q. Public has a natural blood-thirst for sensational stories and enjoys seeing icons torn from their thrones. And while I, Crime Fighter Extraordinaire, am now being smeared by every news agency on Earth, I am now forced to confirm personal facts. And though I am not guilty of any crime against society, it pains me to admit that circumstances have tied me closely to the criminal element.

    Oh, yes, you’ve heard the colored stories of my exploits against the Mob, of the ax-shattering of wooden barrels of illegal beer, of the cases of glass bottles of bathtub hooch hurled to warehouse floors, of shootouts with gangsters wielding Tommy guns in a time of drive-by shootings, before that term was even invented (there really is nothing new under the sun).

    And so, the media has not evolved beyond its coverage of the lurid and twisted excitement of expediting the fall of men and empires. They have turned on me now. By inference, they are holding me responsible for sharing DNA with the subjects under fire.

    Every family has a dark side, the black sheep, the people who are better off in the shadows. And so it is with my cousins – Hurricane Ness, Stormier Ness, and Wilder Ness.

    Please don’t hold their escapades against me.

    Regretfully,
    Eliot Ness

  3. Holding My Breath

    I remain just below the surface. My breath yearns to explode, the air fills my lungs like a fat balloon. I squeeze my eyes as tight as my old dress shoes that wait at the base of the bed.

    “Soon,” I hear. Is it Melissa? Did she finally arrive?

    “It’s been soon forever.”

    Soon forever. That’s the story of my life. Hurry up and wait. Isn’t that the saying? Like when I wanted to swim across Lost Raccoon Lake. Man, was I fit then! The water was my second home. Hell, it was my first home of choice. The cabin wasn’t much. Two rooms. An outdoor privy. The road in wasn’t always well-maintained. Henry Carrothers had the contract for decades. Hank knew what he was doing but the youngest of his litter, Lenny, well, there was a reason why he stayed in the valley. Still, it didn’t take many brains to pick up trash and clear roads and such. Hmm. Lenny. Always had a smile for Melissa. Where was I. The lake. The swim. Never quite did that. I wonder why.

    “We talked about that.”

    “About?”

    “About how soon.”

    “Of course.”

    “It’s still not too late.”

    “How can you say that? He’s not…he’s not coming back. Ever. He’s just…waiting.”

    “The offers still there, Mel. We can assist him. You.”

    I remain just below the surface.

    They can probably see me.

    They must know I’m here. Swimming Lost Raccoon Lake. Underwater.

    This time. This time, I’ll make it.

  4. “So that’s it?”

    The Custodian nodded, his dark skin reddened further by the dying light. “The last glacier. After that’s gone we’ll have nothing other than what’s already in the ecosystem. Filtration will only do so much, so after a while all the water we have will be contaminated. The scientists warned us, of course, but nobody listened to them. Nobody who had enough influence anyway.” He began to lead me away, our being here already raising the risk we’d affect its integrity. I’d pulled a lot of strings to be here but he’d a higher calling than most. The lives of us all might depend on his stewardship.

    I followed him, head downcast, trying not to disturb anything. Even now there were plans to carve the glacier into smaller pieces, corporations vying for the opportunity to sell ice on the open market. Commodity futures, they called it, selling on natural resources to the highest bidders, accumulating profits now in the hope their shareholders could remain afloat when the economy fell away, their rainy days beginning when everybody else’s finally stopped.

    “Maybe we can organise a protest? The people need to be involved in this. It’s the future of the species at stake after all.” I noticed a plastic neck-yoke that had been used to hold a six-pack of cans together and pulled it out of the ground.

    The Custodian shrugged. “We tried that years ago. It might have made some difference then. There are some battles that are unwinnable.”

  5. Can you please, just once, show me a picture with someone in it? Just one lousy person? How am I supposed to be inspired by a sleep-inducing picture of perfect tranquility in a totally serene setting?

    Maybe I could imagine an enemy tank roaring over the top of the hill, guns blazing… No… Guns blazing at what? Empty landscape?

    Maybe a little dog, lost and alone in the wilderness, waiting forlornly for its owner to return. But where would that lead? Dog and owner reunited (bring on tears of joy) or dog and owner not reunited (bring on tears of sorrow). Oh, please. Give me a break. It’s been done to death.

    No one ever answers me.

    So I just sit in my molded plastic chair that never moves, hooked up to tubes and wires that never fail, and look at the picture and wait seven minutes or seven days or seven years for the picture to change. And remind myself that I signed up for this, trained for this, looked forward eagerly to this. I remind myself that I am the first to make the long long trip to Alpha Centauri. I knew what I was getting into.

    But I wish I had had some say in the choice of pictures.

  6. With eyes glued shut, he wondered how long it had been? Minutes, hours, days?

    His lips parted and spilled red-hot iron onto his tongue.

    His throat attempted a moan but barely managed a rasp, the sound whipped from his mouth by the sobs of the fluttering wind. Her cold tears splashed his face, and her quivering breath, though born of sorrow, refreshed him.

    He opened his crusted eyes.

    Smudges and smears casually merged into familiar forms. The revelation, however, cut short the wind’s cool relief, for it caused him to recall the source of his loneliness.

    The sky was a fiery demon’s roar and the color of fallen angels. His eyes closed against the oppressive clouds that heaved, hoping he could forget them. But the desolation remained, for his heart was as much a waste as the terrain that was his bed.

    Inhaling deeply through stale marshlands and musty reeds, he hoped to find the stench of man or beast. His mood dipped further when he perceived nothing living. Even the plants smelled dead.
    He didn’t know where the people had gone, but he was certain the sky was to blame. The day it changed was the day they stopped coming.

    He drifted into a deep slumber and was visited by floating dreams: children who once played among his rolling green foothills, lovers who found refuge in his shadow, and champions who answered his call and in doing so touched the stars.

    Maybe when he awoke, they would come again.

  7. Doggone It!

    I’ve lived in this village all my life. Actually, my family has lived here for generations.

    Over the years the town has grown quite a bit with each family contributing offspring necessitating new homes. Some would say it’s been a population “explosion”. But I reckon it’s just good healthy and natural growth.

    Sure, some winters have been particularly hard making it difficult to keep everyone fed. And some summers were blisteringly hot. We all sought the coolest place in each of our homes. But overall we’ve prospered. Myself, I’ve created quite a family and together with my extended clan enjoy a harmonious existence.

    But now the developers come, wanting to undo it all. Something bigger and better they say. I don’t agree. This has been my home for years. The bulldozers and cranes and concrete trucks are looming on the horizon. I can see the end of life as we have known it. But there is nothing that we can do. They’re bigger and more powerful than us little guys.

    It’s not easy being a prairie dog.

  8. “Where is this place, my brother?”

    Najur and Maku stood knee-deep in the cold highland stream. Their wide eyes were fixed on the distant mountains.

    “Beyond,” said Najur, “beyond those peaks, I’m told.”

    Maku regarded him for a moment, and moved forward.

    “We have made this journey for a long time,” Maku said, “and there have been many mountains before us.”

    Najur stared at the horizon.

    “Not like these, my sister,” he said.

    “How do you know? They all look the same to me.”

    Maku was tired of the quest, wearied of expectations to no avail. Najur was leading her on a fruitless search for something that did not exist.

    “There,” Najur pointed, “do you see that cloud beyond?”

    Maku searched the skies. She would travel with Najur one more Moonset, then slip away and turn back toward home. The meadows were getting fewer. Maku’s patience had run out.

    “No, I see no special cloud, my brother.”

    Shrouded in a mist upon the tallest peak, The Keeper watched Maku and Najur in the far distance. All of them sought a wilderness, not knowing where they lived or roamed.

    Some sought what they possessed forever, and, some abandoned the quest never knowing.

    Maku and Najur sat down in the gilded meadow.

    “Tell me once more. Where is this place, my brother?”

    “Just beyond.”

  9. Lying on the sands of Miami Beach, two teens contemplate the millions of stars in the night sky.

    “Earth is part of these stars, too. Heck! Why would anyone think that out of all these stars, ours is the only one with any life. How can that be?” he asks.

    “Impossible. Gotta be others. Probably look just like us, too,” she sighs. “Gimme another hug.”

    “Hey!” He points to the sky. “Wonder what’s on that one flashing by?”

    # # #

    “We’re getting near Pluto,” Joe called to Gayle. “Wanna stop by your folks’ condo?”

    Gayle grinned. “Let’s.”

    The saucer dipped over the lake on the wilderness side of the dwarf planet and
    floated over the crests of the hills. The free resort condos, supplied by the galaxy’s
    Unlimited Support For All Retired Senior Cosmopolites, glowed in the light of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon.

    “There’s Mom’s place,” Gayle cried. “Park on the slab near their intergallactic modem.”

    They were greeted by Mom and Dad and their six-legged Chihuahuasaurs yipping and yapping in welcome.

    After a leisurely dinner, they relaxed poolside talking about life on Pluto and plans to teleport to Saturn next year on Mom’s 150th birthday.

    It was time to leave. They kissed their goodbyes.

    On their way to the saucer, Joe handed the control pad to Gayle. “You, like all women, are a great driver.” He winked, knowing the compliment would boost her ego. “Take us home.” He leaned over and lovingly patted her rounding stomach.

  10. The war had ravaged the planet. The land had mutated, a result of the poisons and radiation used during the conflict, making food impossible to grow.

    Johan and his sister were orphans, their parents lost to the war. They heard rumors of a place called the Golden Lands where golden wheat covered everything as far as the eye could see.

    They searched for years.

    Eventually Johan’s sister fell in love and left her brother. Her last words were, “Sooner or later you just have to start living.” And with a final hug Johan continued on alone.

    After even more years of searching and after all the sacrifices, finally Johan found the Golden Lands . . . and they were beautiful. Tall golden grass across vast endless fields, a crystal river reflecting golden sunlight, gorgeous untouched lands going on forever.

    Johan’s heart filled with hope. His thoughts were about the future: freshly grown food, no more starvation.

    Racing through the tall grass Johan stopped after feeling sharp pains cutting into his legs. His pants were bloody and shredded as if he ran through a field of razors.

    Touching the grass Johan discovered the shocking truth about the Golden Lands. Everything was made of gold. Gold, a worthless commodity in a world desperate for food and fertile lands, had turned this place into an eternal golden tombstone.

    Johan left the Golden Lands realizing life was not there . . . just a reminder of death.

  11. The tour guide, announced, “Welcome to our next stop on our Galactic tour, Trashinia. Please open your Galactic tour book to chapter twelve where you will discover that Trashinia is a primitive planet with only plant life, rocks and something called water, for you all to enjoy.

    Yes, That’s right nothing else lives here any more. Neither man, nor beast, nor sea creature. That’s right, feel free to enjoy the fresh air and scenery. Yes, when our survey team of experts arrived to evaluate Trashinia, it was discovered that it was infested by some very strange two legged, one headed, demented creatures marooned here. They claimed the place was their ancestral home called earth.

    Let me see, oh yes, here it is. Turn to page ninety-seven, see it says right there in black and white … The infestation claimed it was Earth, but as everyone knows, earth is just a myth in the great galactic database of everything. NO THE EARTH NEVER EXISTED! SIR GET DOWN!

    Yes, it’s safe, a sanitation team was sent in to wipe out the infestation, disinfect and sterilize the environment for your tour.

    Please remember, Trashinia is a nature preserve. It is forbidden to bring back any rocks, fossils or bone fragments. Any of these items will be confiscated, and you will be fined 1000 Galactic Credits per incident.

    Now, please enjoy your visit, you have approximately an hour and a half before we take off for that lovely planet Mars, for refreshments.”

  12. Kendra waits until day six to toss her tracking bracelet into the lake. She has no intention of ever leaving this harsh beauty.

    Ever since the Great Devastation, the world has become a sterile wasteland, except for the few Wilderness Preserves. Kendra spent eight years and all her money to obtain her one week Wilderness visa. She’d also spent that time learning survival skills.

    She shoulders her pack and bushwhacks forward, camouflaging her trail well. She expects them to search when the signal ends. She tries put miles between herself and the authorities before nightfall.

    When she stops to make camp, she starts no fire. Instead, she eats cold beans. Then she crawls into her bag and listens to the night sounds.

    She wakes to the sun warming her back. She stands and stretches, drinks creek water and begins repacking her gear. But, as she rolls her sleeping bag, the uniformed ranger steps into the clearing. “Let’s go, Kendra,” he says.

    Tears dampen her cheeks. “How did you know?”

    The ranger points to the back of her neck. “The tracker’s in there,” he says. “The bracelet is just for show.”

    Kendra touches her own neck. “When did you do that?”

    “We all get one at birth,” he answers. “Otherwise, everyone would be running away out here. They all try, you know.”

    Kendra stumbles under the weight of her pack as she follows him back to civilization.

  13. Katie looked around, bewildered by the beauty. The flowers covering the mountains, the light wind rippling the lake. The gray skies dampened the vividness of the colors, but she was impressed.

    “This is the best camping spot,” she told Mark.

    “I thought you didn’t like being in the wilderness,” he teased.

    “I don’t. But this is beautiful; it’s not wilderness.”

    Mark looked at his wife. “What do you mean it’s not wilderness? We’re out in the middle of no where.”

    Katie responded matter-of-factly. “Granted, this isn’t an urban area, but wilderness, to me, means … well, dark woods, animals, overgrowth. This is just a beautiful scene.”

    Mark looked at her. “What?” she demanded.

    “For someone who considers an area without cell phone reception uncivilized, I am surprised you don’t think of this area as wilderness. That’s all.”

    “There’s a difference between civilization and wilderness. I consider this spot civilized.”

    “How?”

    “It’s pretty.”

    “And?”

    “Well, we have our car and a fairly decent road to drive on. That’s pretty civilized.”

    Mark shook his head. “OK, so the snakes are also civilized?

    Katie whipped her head to look at him. “What snakes?”

    “You didn’t see them?” Mark grinned. “They are pretty, too. Nice, colorful stripes.”

    Katie was incredulous. “How could you bring me out to sleep in a tent with snakes on the ground! I told you I hate the wilderness!”

  14. I paused beside a fallen tree to catch my breath, but even now, the song beckoned me on. Golden leaves tumbled through the air, dancing through haphazard shafts of light. In the distance, a glimmer of blue peeked between the trees, shimmering with a silver glow.

    The melody swept through the forest like a warm breeze. A calmness washed over me. Before I knew what was happening, I was running again. Leaves rustled beneath my aching feet. My canteen and mug swung from my backpack, knocking together with hollow glee.

    I weaved between trees, pushing past low branches, and skipping over roots. My hands grew sticky with sap and dirt while beads of sweat clung to my brow. I jerked to a stop as my backpack caught on a thicket. Without thinking, I slipped out of the straps and continued without it.

    Falling leaves danced past my head. The rays of light grew, fusing into a single wall as I raced beyond the trees. The song more beautiful than I imagined possible, drew me forwards. I scanned the shore looking for its source.

    She turned to face me, her long, dark hair dancing in the breeze. Her lips quivered as her song slipped free, engulfing me. Gentle eyes stared back at me, tears gathering within. She turned away and waded into the water.

    I followed, stepping into the lake. Her song reached beneath the surface, embracing me as I sank. I looked up and smiled, even as my breath escaped.

  15. How in the world she asked herself, could a photographer capture such an image? A mountain side glistening with sunlight, well, partially – through a thick haze of smoke and fog from above seems impossible. How on earth could this be? How can a tree line so perfect and straight meet the shore line then suddenly give way to a distinct dark cave like area of forest? How can a forest be born out of such darkness anyway? It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense unless of course, it isn’t of this world.

    She watched as the ship returned from its long journey from the unknown, remembering the time many years ago she was taken from her home so far away. She longed for seashores and splashing waves that formed jagged landscapes and mountain ranges that reached so far into the heavens they met the morning sun.
    She never liked the return of the mother ship – casting a shadow so far and wide that the only light to be seen was from the starboard controls as it passed overhead before being cleared for landing. The aliens would be exiting the spaceship soon, bringing with them a new batch of subjects to study. At least they are a friendly species, only looking to gain knowledge from far away galaxies. I do hope this time they brought more humans from earth. Those Martians they brought back the last time are the strangest of them all.

  16. On a recent trip, to a place where unblemished vistas, void of any trace of man bear witness to the master artists creation. I came upon a thing which touched me to my very soul.

    After two days of walking and sleeping under innumerable stars I stood at the base of a sandstone mountain range. Having crevices carved from eons of upheaval. I guessed at the one less traveled and began my climb to see what wonders awaited me.

    As hours passed I went deeper up the canyon. Polished stones all around, slick rock pools, twisting trees clinging to life from the smallest cracks, straining to reach the sunlight. suddenly before me, sitting peacefully against an ancient juniper a human skeleton.

    The body had obviously been here for some time. I took a small book from his well bleached ivory flanges, sat down, and began to read gem after gem about wild spaces being the beating heart of the human experience.

    On the last page of his narrative, it read. “I have learned the language of terra lingua. She speaks to me and I listen to her. If my stinking entrails feed the circle of life, then I have become immortal. And this thought alone gives me solace beyond any material thing on this mortal coil.”

    As I rose to depart I took my knife and carved a proper epitaph in the bark of the juniper.

    “Here lies the broken heart of Alexander Supertramp.”

  17. Jack took a seat on the porch, twisted off the beer cap, and thought about the camping trip he’d just returned from with his youngest son, Michael. He’d taken each of his three sons out on a father-son wilderness trip when they’d turned sixteen.

    His high expectations of how things would go did not materialize. Instead, Michael complained about leaving behind his cell phone, having to help set up the tent, and getting up early. Eventually, he sulked less, but once they returned home he raced straight back to his computer.

    Rich, his oldest son, came out carrying a bag of baby clothes.

    “How’s my granddaughter?” Jack asked.

    “She’s great. How was your camping trip?” Rich leaned against the railing.

    “The lake was full this year.” Jack paused, “I’m disappointed; Michael would rather spend time with technology than his old man.”

    Rich laughed, “I think you were frustrated after each of our trips.”

    “I don’t recall that,” he replied, frowning.

    “I whined about being away from my girlfriend, and Andrew bellyached about missing some basketball thing. We all came away with awesome memories though.”

    “Really?”

    “I remember hiking up to the waterfall with you. Andrew remembers the campfire stories and something about lizards. Michael just bragged about catching bigger fish than you…in fact, did you catch anything larger than a minnow?”

    Jack grinned, “Get out of here.”

    Rich started down the steps, “Just so you know, I appreciate the memories more now than I did then. They will too.”

  18. Across the lake, the grass turned,like lights in the darkness.
    It drew her, like a mermaid’s song, and she wasn’t sure it wouldn’t end badly, but she had to know.
    She rowed the boat towards the shore, the pull of the oars increasing the pull of the sights ahead. Her mind flooded with the alure of what could be.
    A small voice nagged, It’s only grass, what’s so great about grass?
    Another small voice: Could be danger! Got to turn back!
    But the water pushing away from the oars had its own drowning effect, and all voices were pushed away by the draw of what lie ahead of her.
    Maybe a great ball ahead, and she could dance with the partner of her choice,and her choice alone, and all other considerations be damned.
    No, a great army, hundreds of thousands strong, in need of a unique strategy only she could possess and put into action. The enemy faced them and her, screaming their battle cry. Not in the least bit afraid, she raised her sword, the archers let loose, and her own brand of havoc began to carry the day.
    Her beloved, however, still held all sway.
    “Why do you need all of that?,”they said. “All of me is right here, waiting for you to come in.”
    “Why are you interested now?,” she said, not caring about the answer.
    “Because our world is now.”
    In the lake, the boat disappeared.
    And another light arose in the darkness.

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