During the summer of 2018 we continued our annual Flash Fiction Contest series, inviting authors to respond to three different picture prompts. You can read more about the series here. Round 2 submissions responded to our photo prompt with the following criteria: here.
Sometimes it was a diving bell carrying them down to the bottom of the ocean. In the summer the stifling heat meant their oxygen was running dangerously low, and the sweet gum balls dinging against the roof were the tapping of some never-before-seen creature looking for a way in until they escaped to safety at the water’s surface.
Sometimes it was a train compartment ferrying them across a wasteland as an unseen murderer picked off the other passengers one by one. When only the two of them remained, one was revealed as the villain, and they squared off on the roof as the train careened out of control toward an abyss.
Sometimes in winter it was a space capsule, and the cold seeping in was the indifferent vacuum of the universe threatening to freeze them as it hurtled through the void, transporting them light years from the small world and the small life where they felt everything existed beyond the five-mile radius of their town and nothing existed within it.
One time, it was a bomb shelter fifty feet underground, shielding them from destruction as the world came to an end overhead. They only played that game once. It left them unsatisfied.
In this way years passed. Childhood passed.
The last time, it was merely what it was, a hulk of metal whose provenance no one could remember, just that it had been sitting at the back of the property rusting into the ground longer than the brothers had been alive. When their dad finally paid the scrap dealer to haul it off, they watched it get hoisted onto a flatbed and disappear down the dirt road leading away from their house. They couldn’t have said what else they were losing, but they were left with the feeling that they would never escape now.
Jeffrey Ricker‘s stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines including Foglifter, Phoebe, Little Fiction, The Citron Review, UNBUILD walls, and others. A 2014 Lambda Literary Fellow and recipient of a 2015 Vermont Studio Center residency, he has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. He lives in St. Louis.