Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Keep Out

IMG_9145 flash fiction prompt Copyright KSBrooks keep out oatman arizona
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 2016.

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14 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Keep Out”

  1. “C’mon. It’s perfect. Wait’ll you see.” Sam waved over his shoulder, urging Pete on. In front of the opening he jumped off his bike, dropping it to the ground.

    “Wow,” Pete breathed, “That’s weird.”

    “Nah,it’s just an abandoned garbage bin.”Sam ran to the entrance ad stopped in front of the opening in the rock with Pete close behind.

    “Nope, not a bin.” Sam clambered over the front. His voice echoed as he dropped it over the edge.

    “Hey, there’s a cart here … on tracks. C’mon.”

    The “Be careful,” had just popped out of Pete’s mouth when he heard a thud, an “oof”, and a creaking metallic sound.

    “Sam! What’s going on?”

    Metal creaked, followed by, “Oh, crap. I can’t stoooooop ……,” the sound fading as the creaking sped up.

    Pete climbed up to see. “Sam?” Nothing. No Sam. No cart. Only a distant, fading rumble.

    Afraid he might miss Sam if he returned, and afraid to go for help, Sam sat at the entrance and waited. He shivered as the sun dipped below the summit and left him in shadow. His stomach rumbled with hunger. “Stupid idiot.”

    Just as he finally decided to go for help he heard a shout from far down the outside of the mountain. “Pete!”

    He turned to see Sam trudging toward him, waving wildly.

    “It’s an old mine tunnel – comes out the other side.” Sam plunked down beside his bike, grinning.

    Pete’s stomach growled. “You’re nuts. I’m going home.”

    Sam just laughed.

  2. “And they never found a trace of them two boys?” the old man asked, signaling the barkeep for another shot of whiskey.
    “Nope. ’Twas the strangest damn thing, too. The two boys just up and disappeared one afternoon and to this day, no one knows what happened to ’em.”
    “Did they have any enemies?”
    “Are you kiddin’? How do two 16-year-old boys have the kind of enemies that would make someone want to kill ’em? Oh sure, they hassled the State Troopers some. That Henderson boy—I recall his name being Ryan—had himself a ‘lowered’ 1940 Mercury 2-door sedan, black, with full skirts, duals, and a special aluminum flywheel. It could do 90 miles an hour in second gear and 100 in third. The car had a flathead V8 that was perfect for racing, no third shift being necessary. He and his friend, Joey Martin, enjoyed drag racing in Lake Havasu City, when they weren’t tryin’ to pick up women. Ryan even learned to drive the car without lights. That trick and the all-black finish allowed them to ‘disappear’ more than once when the police were on their tail.
    “Story is, they went up to Oatman late one Saturday afternoon to explore one of the old mines up there, and they was never seen again. Troopers never found the car, neither.”
    “What mine was that?”
    “The Dead Man’s Silver Mine. Closed in 1924 after a cave-in killed 47 prospectors.”

  3. The “Keep Out” sign was an immediate challenge to him. “Keep Out”? He didn’t think so. He had not come all this way, hiking alone over barren cliffs, to be ordered around by a mere sign. How long had the sign been there anyway? It was enamel on steel, a type that hadn’t been manufactured for years, so it had probably been there forever. The warning was most likely no longer relevant.

    His mind was made up. He was going in, and to hell with the sign. Signs were for slugs with no minds of their own.

    He wondered what he would find inside. Maybe an abandoned gold mine. Maybe an underground bunker, fully equipped. Maybe a survivalist’s store of supplies. The possibilities were endless.

    He hitched up his backpack and eased into the narrow opening, into blackness, the walls closing in around him. Maybe he should have left his backpack outside. It’s bulk made it difficult to move forward. He felt for his flashlight but couldn’t reach it. He tried to turn slightly but his pack prevented it. His left arm jammed against his chest. He tried to drop but only wedged himself in tighter. Breathing became difficult. He began to panic.

    Several years later another hiker came upon the same spot and saw the same sign. He also took it as a challenge. And he also never left.

  4. “You’ll die down there, estupido.”

    Bradshaw shot Ojeda a sour look, mopped sweat from the back of his neck with his bare hand, and wiped it on his jeans. He scanned the scrub-covered slopes for signs of movement. Nothing. A musky scent filled the still air, the mountains west of Canyon City cooking in their own juices.

    “Roper said Carmichael came here.”

    Ojeda shifted the pack on his back and nodded toward a pillar of rock split by a huge gap where an iron door bearing a red warning sign barred the way. Above, barbed wire flagged with more warnings guarded the mountainside. “Here? Then he’s dead. You want to join him?”

    “Don’t be a wimp.” A six foot three ex-Marine turned border agent, Bradshaw feared nothing. His colleague Ojeda nearly equaled his strength and training. He shouldn’t have feared much, either. What had spooked him?

    Bradshaw marched to the mine entrance. The crunch of Ojeda’s reluctant footfalls followed. As the men passed from brilliant daylight into cool shadow, Bradshaw switched on his flashlight.

    Ojeda tugged the back of Bradshaw’s shirt. “Dangerous place. Why would Carmichael come here?”

    “He was looking for something. Be quiet.”

    They walked in silence for a quarter mile.

    “Ah ha.” Bradshaw stopped and pointed. Ahead, a glare of light revealed jeeps, crates, milling shadows. “Can’t get over the wall? Go under.”

    Cold steel pressed against Bradshaw’s skull. A hammer cocked.

    “You’re supposed to be one of us, Ojeda.”

    “That’s why I warned you. Estupido.”

  5. The barbarian horde crossed the Rubicon and finally reached the gates of Rome, however, the gates of Rome were closed.

    “Open the gates!” Baldur the Invincible hollered, but no one responded to his command. He ordered soldiers to climb the gates and open the gates. Soon the gates swung open to show one old roman standing there.

    “I’m sorry we’re closed for the Celebration, you’ll all have to try again tomorrow.”

    Baldur became outraged, “Don’t you know who I am? I am Baldur the Invincible conqueror of all Italy. I demand you let us pass or you will be executed!”

    The old man replied, “Well, it’s none of my business, but you will just have to get in line. Today, we are being conquered by Lord Lardor, and tomorrow by Blotto the Bold, and after that it will be your turn. All the chariot parking spaces are taken, and the inns and stables are full. I’m sorry there is just no room for your horde in Rome, today. You really should have made reservations before you invaded. If you want to, you can wait outside for two days and call it a siege. Take it or leave now!”

    Baldur consulted with his closest advisors, and then announced, “Well, putting it that way. Rome is now under siege. Oh, do we still have to make reservations for all twenty-five thousand of us?”

    The old Roman smiled, “Yes, and a ten percent deposit, or I won’t hold your reservations!”

  6. The sign was clear. We were not wanted here. DANGER! KEEP OUT, it said. Seemed pretty unambiguous to me.

    “What do you suppose it means?” Felice asked.

    A smartass ‘duh!’ started to percolate out of my mouth but I’d learned that my initial response to her curiosity impulses was usually a misstep, so I held fire, went with the obvious, “it’s dangerous, I guess. They’re concerned about liability.”

    A broad grin erupted, the kind she often used. She knew what the rest of the world wanted, and it rarely suited her. “Or that’s what they want us to think.”

    “It’s working on me,” I offered, a little too quickly. I rarely measured up to her adventurous undertakings. Our desert hike had taken its toll on me and we’d only been walking for twenty minutes.

    “Oh, Freddy, you’re so full of fear. Some days, I think you’re afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Of course, it’s working on you. You’re like all the rest of the milquetoasts. You see a sign and its like…the burning bush. Look at it. A little hole in the earth. Sure, we could walk around it but then we’d never know the mystery. I want to know what the danger is. So, I’m going in.”

    With that, she climbed the barrier and disappeared in the dark.

    Later, the Sheriff asked, “You let her go by herself?”

    “You had to know her,” I said. “She was a crackerjack spelunker. And I do miss her.”

  7. The deep, resonant ping of water droplets meeting the thin skin of the waters surface sent shivers through my ears as I rested them in the cold sheet of metallic fence. “I wonder what’s down there,” I imagined as pictures of empty caveways filled with darkness waiting to be traversed did just that across my closed, dreaming eyeballs; “I guess I’ll have to see…”, the thin icy wire, shifting brilliant red dust as the hinges squeaked open from my determined push and the rusted lock holding it closed popped off. My first step, damp and splashing as I make my way into the calling darkness of this abandoned structure. It was clearly used without much mind of keeping it safe after it’s use had been spent so I treaded carefully, examining every square foot of rock I splashed over, darkness telling me to turn and wave light of day goodbye… I pulled out my lantern and let it sing. Walls cold and dribbling guided me to where I didn’t know I was going. The path was winding, choiceful and confusing, but I needed not explore the other halls because somehow I knew what end I was searching for. Feet soaked and cold, my lantern just about at the end of its resources, I am met with a door large, hard, and cold; dribbling as the rock that surrounds me. After wondering at it for quite some time, my light fades away. The seal, i saw, was thick with metal oxidized. I feel to remove the glass that once protected the bright flame, but now would only hinder my progress, and begin to blindly chip away at the rust with my now tired and sleeping lantern body, listening to the echo as my hands repeat and repeat the patternous slamming of metal to metal. After long, the door I once saw locked by time and moisture now only awaits to be ripped off its hinges and walked through. Which is exactly what I did just then.

  8. Marty was tired and hungry. He and his dog, Rambler, had been following the old woman up and down the forest trails for days now. They barely stopped to eat or sleep. The old woman had more stamina than he. Marty had to admit that. He just wished she would talk to him instead of mumbling under her breath all day long.

    His job was to make sure she made it to the hideout in the mountain. Weird thing was, he didn’t even know where it was. Only she knew. At least he hoped she knew. Half the time she walked so fast he and Rambler could barely keep up with her. The rest of the time she seemed confused and stopped to look around a lot, especially up. The hideout must be high on the mountainside. Either that or she was watching to see if they had been followed. And she kept muttering about a door.

    The door was key. He had to get the old woman though that door. Otherwise all was lost. The stone in the pouch around her neck, along with her knowledge of what to do with it was the planet’s last hope. There were people behind that door that would know what to do.

    Marty realized they had been steadily climbing for some time. They rounded a bend in the trail, and there it was, the door in the rock. The old woman bowed solemnly, turned and passed through the door.

  9. The morning sun began to creep up behind the distant mountains. Doc crawled out of bed and did a few bends and stretches. His mouth began to water as the delicious smell of brewing coffee and frying bacon filled the room. “Better make sure everybody is up and ready to go back to work,” he muttered.

    They sat around enjoying their last cup of coffee just gabbing about nothing in particular, just like they do every morning at breakfast.

    “I’m so tired I just want to go back to bed.” “Always complaining about somethin’ or other, aren’t you.” “Stop looking at me like that.” “Gotta get more band aids when we’re back in town.” “Gezuntheit you old goat, you.””Oh, I just can’t wait till she bakes another strudel for us.””Okay. Finish up and let’s go to work.”

    They all got up and started to clean the table, brushing the crumbs from the biscuits onto their licked-clean plates. The silverware was put on a tray along with the cups and saucers. In the kitchen, they realized the cooker of all that great food wasn’t there, only her clean,
    whiter than snow apron hanging near the stove.

    “Well, maybe she went back to bed. Let’s let her sleep. She deserves it. She’ll make a great dinner for us when we get back.” They headed for the door and stepped out into the brisk morning air on their way to the mine and happily started singing “Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho. It’s off to…………”

  10. ♫♫ Home, Home in the Range ♫♫

    “C’MON, BESS !!”

    Gol-durned, dad-blasted rocks ain’t got no smaller, no softer neither. ‘Been back and forth so much over the years, reckon I coulda named ’em all. Shoulda.

    “C’MON, BESS !!”

    Them was some good days, back then. Made some good finds, found a streak now and then. Had me some fun spendin’ my poke at the town saloon. And them dancin’ girls was MIGHTY purdy! Ain’t been much paydirt last few years though. That mine o’ mine done played out in ’03, but it was hard work & good times while it lasted.

    “C’MON BESS, you long-eared, sway-backed, cussed stubborn critter !!”

    Yessiree — good times. Back before the settlers ran off the game, bought up all the good land and tries to cityfie durn near everything. An’ now they have the gall to tell me I don’t belong ’round here no more. Should find me some ole folks home, settle down and wait for my heavenly rewards! Me. Why I been here since ‘fore some of ’em was borned!

    “C’MON, BESS, we’s almost there.”

    Me and this here mule will be just fine. Don’t need nobody nohow.

    There it is — the ole Silver Streak mine. Still got my legal claim. Reckon I’ll keep the sign, too:
    Keep Out. Seems fittin’.

    “C’Mon, BESS…we’s home.”

  11. “That’s where they keep them,” Tommy says as if he were telling a campfire tale.

    A concerned Billy stares at the KEEP OUT sign on the rusty gate blocking the abandoned mineshaft entrance. “Keep who?” he asks.

    “All the people they experiment on,” Tommy continues with a sly grin.

    Billy, sweating with fear, asks, “Who takes them?”

    “A secret agency, kinda like the one in the Bourne Identity, only they’re not training spies.”

    “What do they do?”

    “They’re trying to make superhumans, like Captain America, but every time they fail a horrible monster is created.”

    Billy’s fear grows as they step closer to the gate. There is nothing but darkness beyond. The dank smell of rotten water emanates from the mine.

    “Why not destroy the monsters?” a trembling Billy asks.

    “They can’t,” Tommy replies. He’s really enjoying this. “The experiments made them indestructible. All they can do is lock-‘em in the mine and hope they never escape.”

    The boys stand next the gate, feeling the cool breeze coming from inside. “Sometimes if you listen closely you can hear them.”

    They press their ears against the gate, straining to listen. . . . Suddenly —

    “RAAAAARH!” Tommy yells, scaring Billy to death! The sound echoes through the mineshaft.

    “THAT’S NOT FUNNY!” Billy yells at a laughing Tommy. “I’M GOING HOME!” He storms off.

    Tommy follows after him, still laughing.

    From beyond the gate comes an eerie moan. A mutilated disease-infested hand reaches through the bars and gently unlocks the gate.


    1. The disco ball hung from a stalactite and scattered flashes of light around the room. Revelers danced hypnotically to the DJ’s relentless thump. Club Cave may smell like bat guano, but ravers line up in the desert heat for hours to get in.
    2. They tried everything. Rewarding Johnny for doing the right thing, and taking away something when he disobeys. Sequestering him in his bedroom didn’t work because his toys were there. It wasn’t until his father brought him to the quarry for “time outs,” that Johnny started to learn.
    3. Cave Flipping was something they did to earn extra money. The young couple would purchase a dwelling for next to nothing, then flip it for a profit. He would chip away at the walls to create more space, and she would make new draperies for the faux windows.
    4. It was day 38 when the third person expired. The first succumbed to the stifling daytime heat, and the second to hypothermia at night. Now hunger brought several more to the brink. The crumbling bomb shelter took another direct hit and everyone was put out of their misery.
    5. They called him “Tutty” or the “Tutster.” King Tutankhamun’s first son died at age three and when his tomb was discovered it left archaeologists disappointed. The idea of burying treasures with royalty had temporarily fallen out of favor and Tut Jr. was buried only with his rattle and his Teddy Camel.

  13. Step one, get past the iron door barring the cave. Luckily, it was only eight feet tall. I grimaced at a yell in my head. One of the down sides of being a telepath was getting sucked into impromptu rescues.

    “I’m coming.”

    I’d slipped past enough ‘Keep Out” signs to understand this one even if I didn’t know the language. I focused on the pipe just above the door. There was a small pop, and then I was peering down an empty hallway. Teleporting had its limits so I decided to hoof it down the steep ramp, keeping an eye out for guards.

    I’d like to say it was my superior stalking skills that I wasn’t spotted, on the mile-long path, but that would be lying. One of the guards at the bottom managed to trigger an alarm before I knocked him out.


    “I am!”

    I fumbled with the keys then heard a satisfying click. The door creaked open…onto another door.

    “You’ve got to be kidding.”

    Three more doors and a leg shackle later the dragon was free, sort of. She trembled as the guards charged, firing weapons. Dispensing with the usual dragon greeting, I grabbed her neck and focused on a field several miles away. A soft pop announced the teleport. Score one for L D, soldiers zero. After a quick thank you, the dragon launched herself in the air.

    Now, if I could just figure out of to get myself home.

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