Photo Prompt

Each month, we post a photograph as a writing prompt. Post your 100-word story in the comments section, and we’ll choose one to feature in our next issue. To see examples, read photo stories we’ve published in the past.

 

Photo credit: JLS Photography

1,025 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Laurel says:

    Sometimes I sit in the snow.
    It’s a peticular spot, through the neighborhood and park, empty corn fields, along the road. A forgotten nursery.
    In the very back of the property where the old trees stand. Unwanted but proud.
    I sit in the snow, my back cradeled by a timeless giant. Silence abounds
    until geese fly overhead. I watch them in the sky. They bleat, confused. Confused as to why they were left behind in the migration south; confused by the bleakness of winter. They pass overhead.
    I wonder if they watched me too.

  2. Clouds and mist shaded Lola’s eyes like the opaque sheers over her window. I wondered what she saw out of those eyes because I couldn’t see anything looking in.

    Lola sat, still and stone-faced, straight-backed on a hard chair facing the window day after day. When I passed behind her I only saw treetops and shadow from the Jasna Gora, the Catholic citadel of our town. I don’t know what Lola saw, but she’d pick up a pencil and draw her vision from the window with dark precision. It was the only time she acknowledged the details of her life.

  3. Eric Skinner says:

    Harrison’s right leather brogan fits preternaturally in my rib cage. He is my genetically paired middle school tormentor. From our births, mine a year and some odd months behind his, the magic of DNA melded our bodies for this brutish symbiotic exercise — fist and eye socket, knee and groin. Harrison’s oafs signal that I have left the cafeteria making my retreat to the study hall. “Cow-lick! Cow-lick! Cow-lick!” they cackle, mocking my name, Cawley, and summoning my other half for today’s beating. Gathering his breath, Harrison asks, “Why cross my path?” It’s a matter of biology.

  4. Maximilian Lloyd says:

    Caw

    They heard the BANG! From over the gully.
    “I smell blood in the dirt, friend.”
    “I have eaten today already.”
    “Well stay with me still, friend…
    They are going to the pines.”
    “Well now what?”
    “We will wait.”
    They perched on the red Firebird, pink heads still.

    “You filthy son of a bitch, you said we’d split it.”
    He dragged the open case in the dirt, bleeding money.
    “I could’ve drove on my own. Where do you think you’re going?”
    “The gully, you filthy son of a bitch.”
    BANG!
    The vultures watched him in the pines like naked reapers.

  5. A grease-stained fast-food bag flew out of the driver-side window and a full, dirty diaper plopped from the passenger-side window. A flock of seagulls hit the bag, which still had some french fries and ketchup packages. None of the birds touched the diaper though. They’d been around this parking lot before.

  6. Scott Rothschild says:

    As Gus gathered shopping carts in the parking lot, he saw that as a car pulled away, a fast-food bag flew out the driver-side window and a dirty diaper plopped from the passenger-side window. By the time Gus gathered all the carts to return to the store, the seagulls were fighting over the last french fry. He knew the birds wouldn’t touch that diaper and he wouldn’t pick it up. It would just lie there in 95-degree heat and 90-percent humidity until a car ran it over.

  7. Kris Faatz says:

    Winter Birds

    Every winter, thinner ice on the lake, rotting and fragile. Soon the birds will go farther north, chasing the last crystal cold. Today, you and I watch as they come in, and you – who were born of my body, tearing at us both – you say I have more words and hours for my camera than you. But I will be gone before you, along with the lake ice, so I freeze ghosts of birds in silver. On the plate, there is no earth or sky, no aching past or shadowed future. I give you my birds this way: perfect, free.

  8. B.L. Sanders says:

    In chaos and commotion, crows take to the sky. They must hear her voice shouting after them, “Shoo! Go. Don’t come back!” Her words are not what intimate the poor creatures. It is her action, her swift movement that drives them away. This comparison keeps me focused on the road. It’s easier to leave knowing I’m not the first to flee. I’m like the flock of crows in more ways than one. Tears slip as I see an image of his hand leaving mine. I can’t help thinking about my situation and the fact that I am left to my own devices.

  9. Anna Sapp says:

    Outside my childhood home, the sixty-degree air, summer to some, is ice to my lungs, longing for sun. I hold my thinning hoodie tight to my abdomen. Muffled voices beat against the heavy, wooden door at my back. I look to the greying sky in time to see a family of sparrows take off from a cluster of Palo Verde trees and make a “V” formation in the sky. Their instincts tell them they must leave in order to survive, but I know they won’t be gone long. And when they return they will nest on a branch of thorns.

  10. The Hand

    Something dead was in the middle of the street. It had attracted a whole murder of hungry crows. They were pecking at it, screeching at each other, and fighting over it. It was a human hand. I looked around for a human. But, no one I saw fit that description anymore.

    I fought back my bile. I didn’t tell anyone. Karen was driving. Vijay was in back desperately trying to stop Charan’s bleeding. I kept my finger indexed along the slide. I kept my muzzle pointed down. We needed to reach the hospital. If there still was one.

  11. Richard Edenfield says:

    Menthol
    ________________

    The cancer grew on your lungs like a flight of black birds dragged across a breath of sky exhaled by some distant God. They showed the pictures. The dark areas covered 75%. You smoked menthols. That cool sensation turning your mouth into a frozen pond. The children skated there in January. Played ice hockey. You could see a slow pulse of fish underneath. They swam in your dreams and desires. The birds landed and tried to catch them seemingly oblivious to the fact that spring was months away. That haunting sound of scratching like a match drawn across a pack.

  12. Alycia Calvert says:

    It’s an etching. Cold lines scraped on metal or thick paper. A prepared thing. Pre-destined, like a lotto ticket. The answer’s already there, waiting for you to scratch it out. Some art. More like paint by numbers. This one is birds, I can feel it. I took Mark hunting yesterday. It’s that season, just before Thanksgiving, with leaves turning brown and crunchy under foot. I wanted a buck. I guess I shot wide. I missed the mark. While hitting Mark. You’re right, not funny. He’s in the picture, though. See? Just under the birds. Ravens, or are they crows?

  13. Sarah Mcternen says:

    The clouds had rushed in, filling the previously bright sunny sky with swirling grey ribbons. The warmth was drawn from the day, the hope hauled from our hearts. Then the crows came. It started slowly, but eventually, the town was covered in them. Cawing and crying. Their obsidian beaks and sinister talons began dismantling the town. One sliver at a time, their beaks ripped and tore until there was no man or building, no road or automobile left to speak to what existed at this crossroads. The crows erased us and then the sun returned.

  14. J. Talbot says:

    A Democracy of Ravens

    Stand in the snow and listen to deep squawks rising from the trees. One of them has found a carcass and is calling others to join the feast.

    They swoop in from behind you, and the rustle of their wings becomes an arabesque of sound curling toward the forest. When they flow around your body, close your eyes and shed the weight of snow.

    Hear their joycalls fading as they exceed your powers of flight and reach the trees ahead. Pray for a home as adept, vagrant and generous as their conspiracy. Pray for any home, any justice at all.

  15. Pépin says:

    Title:- Provenance

    ‘If it’s true, I’ll buy it.’
    ‘Look for yourself.’
    ‘Wow!’
    ‘Certainly is.’
    ‘Unbelievable.’
    ‘You are not wrong.’
    ‘Gosh, I thought it was a rumour.’
    ‘Not anymore.’
    ‘It must be the find of the century.’
    ‘Exactly.’
    ‘No doubt about it?’
    ‘None at all.’

    ‘Hang on, you can’t fool me. You’ve got verification?’
    ‘Verification, hell I got provenance.’
    ‘Provenance?’
    ‘Yes sir, I bought it from an old lady.’
    ‘Oh yeah, where was that?’
    ‘Behind the Church in Amsterdam.’
    ‘So it’s true then.’
    ‘Darn right it is. You are looking at the original lost crows from Van Gogh’s Wheatfield.’

    ‘I’ll buy it.’
    ‘Done.’

  16. Richard Edenfield says:

    Counting Crows
    _____________________________

    Place where you drowned froze over like a wound coagulating with ice and a moons tight landscape wrapped around. You used to swim here in the summer where you would collect shadows that fell under trees as gently as dust. Your favorite band was Counting Crows and you listened to “Round Here” so many times it drove me crazy. When I return to this spot every year that damn song returns to my head. When I saw bunch of crows landing on the ice fighting over some food, I had to laugh. Scratching. Wings thumping. A sick wail. Then repeat.

  17. Title: Scammer

    I don’t feel guilty, Abdou says. If they’re dumb enough to fall for it, then they deserve to lose money. He grabs his laptop, swings it around. Look. I make good life here. Earn most in my village. Through the grainy webcam, I can see his leather sofas, carpeted floors. Walls covered with art. This painting cost thousands, he boasts, panning slowly over an acrylic of birds descending on landscape. But how can you take money from innocent people? Vulnerable, helpless people? He frowns, shrugging. How do you sleep? Better than you, he retorts. 100 percent silk, these sheets.

  18. Constance Bourg says:

    The Nothing

    The birds have been with me since age eleven. I say they are birds, but they aren’t. They are more of a nothingness; a kind of blindness contained within the scraggy bird-like boundaries. Where they are, life is not. I tried to drive them away by reciting nightly incantations. I had to make the recitations ever longer, until I fell asleep with the light still on. When I was older, I chased them away with loud music and I scored my body with protective symbols. Now though, I just leave them be and I look to where they are not.

  19. Kelly says:

    Paralyzed I lay in bed unable to turn my head or scratch my nose. If I tried hard not to think about it I kept that imminent feeling of insanity at bay. I didn’t have to look at the calendar to know the date. I didn’t care anymore. Every day was the same. The godawful same. Gazing out the window tugged at my heart. I couldn’t see trees, houses, or people. Only gray and freedom flying. Black crows. Carrying the invisible strings to my heart, like dark dreams, my weighted freedom. I was jealous of birds…so I set them free.

  20. Katie Magoun says:

    A Murder

    They follow closely. Watching and waiting. Judging.

    Lurking behind, dark bodies in sharp relief against the tarnished metal landscape, shadows of the remorse I don’t feel.

    You’d think the noise would scare them away; send them scattering like shards of obsidian blasted from the earth. But the siren song seems instead to beacon them closer. Come. Look. See.

    It didn’t bother me at first. I like an audience, and this is my grandest performance. But an audience leaves eventually. An audience witnesses, absorbs, and moves on.

    This audience never leaves. Leave me alone. Just leave.

    I have work to do.

  21. Eileen McIntyre says:

    The Taunting of the Crows

    My head jerks when the female guard ties the blindfold.
    The noose swings in my darkness. Every part of me quivers.
    “Twenty paces. Quit stalling, Bitch.”
    I stumble and fingernails dig into my arm.
    “Ten paces.”
    Ten paces to leave hell. My body feels limp like I’ll melt into the concrete. Crows taunt with their caws.
    “One.”
    Her grip loosens; any hope of redemption lost.
    Any resolve to fight flows out of me like water. My knees fall to the ground. My head bows to the inevitable.
    I recognize the pleas, the cries, the I love you.
    “I’m sorry, Marty.”

  22. Robert-Lee Roche says:

    The crow was the gateway. It was dead when I saw it, but I’m convinced it sent me here. I walked through the hallway of light, and ended up here. Here is Hollow Stone. A version of purgatory, my version perhaps, I’m not sure. A man named Glen tells me I have to find the crow to get back, but there are no animals here only questionable people. Towns, barren waste, vast ocean, and turmoil to get to the crow that will wing me home. I beg it to help, but it calmly says to me. “No, you are mine.”

  23. Nicole says:

    Vision distorted and body contorted, through a mangled mouth he weakly retorted: “I…won’t…repent…” He didn’t know how much more he could physically endure before his mangled body would retire, this time for good. Yet to his awe, his will to speak truth remained strong. They’d been at it for hours now, since well before dawn. The mass of feathery black maintained their false, unprovable accusations, vicious peck after peck after peck. Relentless. Blood-thirsty. As if with each snip of him some new truth might be reached? The the sun dimmed to darkness, booming thunder charged every particle: clap-crackle-zap.

  24. N Ferrin says:

    Vision distorted and body contorted, through a mangled mouth he weakly retorted: “I…won’t…repent…” He didn’t know how much more he could physically endure before his mangled body would retire, this time for good. Yet to his awe, his will to speak truth remained strong. They’d been at it for hours now, since well before dawn. The mass of feathery black maintained their false, unprovable accusations, vicious peck after peck after peck. Relentless. Blood-thirsty. As if with each snip of him some new truth might be reached? The the sun dimmed to darkness, booming thunder charged every particle: clap-crackle-zap.

  25. Dan Alexander says:

    Myth

    Raven. Rhymes with grave man. Not with his father’s name, though that man’s hair maintained its raven hue ’till the grave.

    Ravens. Living myths in the bone-branches above. Silent, as if they weren’t there at all.

    Historically, ravens are associated with the norse god, Odin. The All-father knelt beside his dying son and whispered a word, rumored to be “resurrection,” into the grave youth’s ear to comfort him during the afterlife.

    He is. No more.

    During the second requiem, no one is here to whisper into this youth’s ear. Too late, he realizes that Odin is just a myth.

  26. Karla Keffer says:

    Julian’s shooting at crows again. He does it to forget he’s gay. He takes a liter of vodka and a shotgun up the mountain and picks them off, one by one. When he comes back down, he thinks himself cured. But in the back of the Packard with Emily Arcenaux that night, he can’t stop thinking of Clark Gable. He’s feeling her up and he’s dreaming about Rhett Butler carrying him up the stairs. The next morning, he eats cold tamales from the can and goes up the mountain again. Pick, plop, pick, plop. Murder in the first. Sweet release.

  27. Lucy Grace says:

    At 4.55pm the path sparkled miniature gems, crunchy underfoot. Maria sat on the freezing bricks of the low wall. Starlings chattered at her from high wires, gathered for a noisy bedtime outside closed eyes of houses opposite. Her foot hurt – the broken glass had cut a red spiderweb map on the sole.

    By 5.05pm Maria was dressed in the clothing hidden in the alleyway. She would miss her kind neighbour.
    She held the money and the train ticket paid for by her sister, an Anytime Single. Maria supposed that she was, now, and she set off up the darkening street.

  28. Emily Hallblade says:

    Company

    The first thing I noticed about her was the tattoo on the back of her neck. She sat in the pew in front of me, sandy hair thrown into a messy bun. I couldn’t quite make out the number of crows on her skin. Her head tilted to the side as she jotted down the verses Pastor Lucas recited, devouring the sermon I was blocking out. I thought about the crows I had seen on my drive over. Fierce yet fragile. Determined yet doubtful. I wondered why she chose them to be her permanent companions. I never got to ask.

  29. Terri Ross says:

    Absolution

    Black robes hover around him like he’s road kill. My torn habit is soaked with his blood. I kneel on the pulpit and pry his fingers from my silver plated crucifix then pull it from his body. I remember the first time.

    He cornered me in the confessional.

    “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”

    “Kneel, my child, and I will prey upon you.”

    The crucifix is passed around until we all have blood on our hands. He gasps asking for last rites. Dark eyes dart around the room. No one breaks their vow of silence.

    My penance… his seed.

  30. Nick Petty says:

    On a Tuesday morning last March, a tattered crow appeared during his commute, perched on the seat opposite, its head tilted, its beady eyes unscrupulous. Alighting in his shuffling footsteps, it followed his stoop through the streets, and nested in the faux foliage by his desk. It pecked at his colleagues, at his friends, at his family, and cawed in the corridors, in the pub, in the night. Attracted by the clamour, a murderous, feathered squall now flocks above, casting shadows across his path, misremembering his dreams. Though he can’t fly with them, he knows one day he might try.

  31. Nicholas Archer says:

    Dream Of Freedom

    Mary painted big black birds landing on a foggy lake with vague trees in the background. She wished she could be as free as a bird; flying off to a happy place of love. Free, what a nice thought: free from her parents, free from the nightly activities, and free from this disgusting yet modern house. Mary put her hand on her swollen belly; free with the child she would bare her parents. She was only twelve but one day she would escape this place of dark lust. Until then she would paint great black birds and dream of freedom.

  32. John Dorroh says:

    Food Fight
    Thanksgiving lunch was an open invitation for parents and family to eat with us. Kids fought for those warm yeast rolls, usually not for blood. Mrs. Brooks–Johnny’s mama — took off her shoes, placed them on top of the table, and began stealing rolls, stuffing them into her jacket pockets, cramming a few into her mouth as she pilferred her way through the room.
    We loved it and loved Mrs. Brooks! “Go, Mrs. Brooks!” we chanted.
    Big Will grabbed her wrist and shook free his roll. She stuck her finger in his gravy and a seriously fun food fight followed.

  33. Jim Byrnes says:

    The Doings of Crows

    The birds moved across the field, behaving like a group of unruly teens. The flock was a relatively small murder of crows with wings flapping wildly and their raucous calls echoing through the morning air. Were they playing a game, or was I witnessing something more serious. Closer observation revealed that they were occasionally crashing into one another, attempting to gain the dominant, or lead position. Why this behavior mattered was a mystery to me, but it was obviously important to the crows. Eventually they calmed down but it was impossible to determine if any leadership issues had been resolved.

  34. Mary Wang says:

    He scraped the flesh of his palm over the window pane. Winter had settled in quick this year, and he could feel it breathing death down the back of his neck. He had tricked it before, but the oil, wood, and wire were now gone.

    Something cold bit deep into his skin, and he wondered how it felt to break into pieces, eyes frosted and breath crystallized. He exhaled. He would find out soon. The ice was shifting – blue, black, black, black. The strangled noises outside did not bother him anymore. It was only the murder of crows, thinning down.

  35. Cindi Acker-Hein says:

    We flew hard all night and finally settled on an icy pond. Honks was certain we’d been there before, but Beak said, “No, all ponds feel like home; that’s how it works.” Honks ran around squawking, “We’re home, we’re home!” because that’s Honks, and there’s no stopping him. Dusty giggled, which was what he really wanted—they were promised and it was high time to seal that deal. But Beak said he hadn’t meant it literally and anyway, we had another long day tomorrow and if we were ever really going to get home, we’d better settle down and rest.

  36. Cheryl D Ireland says:

    Sylvia told herself that she had returned simply to remember things as they had been, rather than convolutions of her mind.

    The desk drawers still stuck as she tugged them open. Though empty, she remembered them full.

    The bookshelves still appeared to be lined with her favorite books, as though she had never left.

    And for the first time, she really looked at the tree outside the door, the door that had previously blocked her view of nature.

    Sylvia had returned to find the truth in her past, but left to grieve how much she had missed along the way.

  37. Victoria Dudley says:

    “When the hurricane came, I remembered the god sleeping in the clouds I learned about in Sunday school who punished the wicked”

    Nothing remained. Cars were overturned in our front yard. Our new tile floor was cracked between hexagons. I told my mother it was too cold to sleep here and she stayed on her knees anyways; she was trying to find the last of the family photos scattered in the rubble. She found a photo of me held between her and my father’s arms, both white smiling at my baby body. My father didn’t come home last night, but the wedding ring did. We visited our neighbors, but there was no answer at the knock. When the night came, we ran.  

  38. Matt Crowley says:

    Most of what’s been plundered is unremarkable, bits of home that can be re-purposed most anywhere. But each of what seems anonymous is unique for its absolute danger to humanity.

    There’s evidence the ruins have only recently been abandoned, if the freshly gnawed remains of some small mammal can be taken as a sign of life, of defiance against the meaningful obliteration visited upon this place. Curious to see because contamination registers as complete, survival should have been impossible. Then there were noises.

    Our evacuation wasn’t imminent, had never been. Our suits were damaged, rations low. In desperation, all’s defiance.

  39. Sarah L says:

    Temporary Arrangements
    This would do for the night. True, the broken door and holes in the walls would do very little to keep out the cold, but this shack would block the snow and provide a much needed hideout. I turned my attention away from the damage to the rest of the room. It didn’t look much better. Tile and counter suggested this was once a kitchen, before time took its toll. It was barren of personal objects; obviously abandoned for a while. I grumbled at the cold and picked my way back through the rubble. Perhaps another room would be warmer.

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