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.

In the spirit of fun and fairness, please follow these guidelines:
• Post only one story per photo prompt.
• Be mindful of others’ feelings when commenting (keep it positive rather than giving feedback).
• Remember this is a shared safe space for all lovers of 100-word stories.

close up of an aquarium fish

 

Art Credit: Benson Kua

62 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Natalie Wu says:

    The girl who ran away with the fair

    Once, when I was young- and hell-bent on escape- I ran away with the fair. High on sugared wisps of candyfloss, chemical-blue iced drinks and the sticky fumblings of a teenage deadbeat.
    Dad was livid when the police dragged me home. He didn’t speak a word to me for three whole months but made his feelings clear enough with his fists; pounding me, until I became a docile, spiritless pulp.
    They’ve had to amputate his leg recently. Mum says he spends his days weeping into his puréed meat; half-dead, like a funfair goldfish. His hospital bed- a water-filled plastic bag.

  2. Dawn says:

    Mr and Mrs Fish

    The big red sign shouted Sale, Sale, Sale,
    60% off.
    Squinting, they entered, taking the mall escalator behind twins.
    One of the girls, pulled a tongue and Mr Fish,
    did the same.
    Mrs Fish, who hadn’t seen the girl’s action said:
    “Will you stop, you’re worse than a kid.”

    In the cubicle, Mrs Fish tried a bikini,
    a trunkini, a bathing suit.

    The bikini, had a strapless gold top,
    “Can you fasten me up Babe?”

    Mr Fish, gone, wandering in a sea of faces.

    Mrs Fish saw “Manager” badge approaching,
    dirty nails, round glasses, hands reaching out.

  3. Shane Shade says:

    Cthulhu Carnival

    It stares. Unblinking. The eyes never leave me. Even now lying in bed with my back to the aquatic interloper I can feel the weight of its gaze from the carnival fishbowl.

    It knows. Unhinged jaw silently mouthing, “You, you, you….” Mimicking Donna’s last words.

    It feeds. Nibbling constantly at the last quiet spaces in my mind. Reminding me of an ending that shouldn’t have happened.

    It thirsts. Blood being the only satiating tonic.

    It shows. Metal shining like a beacon from the revolver on my dresser.

    It compels. Cold blue gun metal against my head. Trigger taut.

    It Ends….

  4. Mimi Hennessy says:

    The fish, like everything else, was a reminder. It took less than an hour to bag your clothes, pull down the photos, fold the memories flat in a box, and dry my tears. The only thing left was the fish. I knew seeing it each day would just bring me back to the carnivals, the movies, and the restaurants. Consumed by my need to erase you, my mind searched for a solution. I grabbed my phone to text a few friends. Maybe someone would want a pet. But, as I sat down, the fish and I locked eyes. Dumbfounded. Speechless.

  5. Yash Seyedbagheri says:

    Soothing Sterility
    I’m a fish, except I swim between kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.
    I sterilize, wash, dry. Watch episodes of Barry and Curb Your Enthusiasm, semblances of entertainment before the virus.
    I’m swimming in sterile fishbowls.
    Some nights, I open windows. I absorb tree branches shifting, the tenderness of a fleeting breeze. I absorb the thump of distant speakers. I wear widened eagerness, an expression I thought I suppressed.
    Some nights, I try to step out among bars, laughter, bodies.
    Some nights I make it a block. Two, even.
    But I retreat. Wide eyes sink into submission.
    Brave fish are always damned.

  6. School Fair

    Nina’s four, I’m, seven. At the penny-toss Nina wins a goldfish with silvery fins – everyone cheers. I toss all my pennies, win nothing. When it’s time to leave I refuse. Everyone scolds – too old for tantrums. Dad buys a fish, so I’ll get in the goddamn car. I name her Goldie – unlike Nina’s, mine’s all gold. Name yours Silvia, I say.

    Silvia’s fast – finishes everything before lumbering Goldie. Even my fish is a loser. One morning though, Silvia’s gone, nothing left but a silvery fin.

    Goldie bumps her nose on the glass – I got you girl, she says.

  7. Janet Stevenson says:

    Fishy Analysis

    There’s unrest in the aquarium. Finlee, my favorite fish has impulsive behavior that initiates sibling antagonism. Finlee has ADHD. When he gets twitchy, he starts trouble with his unexpected, sharp nips from behind.

    His outrageous fish stories are worse than his movements. Could those thick glass walls distort his outlook? I think he suffers from anxiety or depression and is afraid of what lurks in the dark.

    I’m noticing a different behavior. He’s zoning out too much and stares at humans, mostly when he
    thinks they’re not looking. Finlee, let your freak flag fly, but don’t go fishing for compliments.

  8. Matt says:

    When I was a young boy, I always wanted bigger eyes. I was relentlessly teased for my narrow slits, but really if it wasn’t my eyes, it was something else. Eventually, a small darkness grew inside of me. If only my eyes were larger, if only they popped out of my sockets like a bold gem. I thought I would be happy with bulging eyes. If only I kept my heart pure, and not let the water consume me. I was seeking for gold outside myself, but now only do I realize the gold was inside my eyes all along.

  9. Claudia Spiridon says:

    The first time I felt hate for my father was when he flushed Goldy, my pet goldfish, down the toilet. I learned to hate him then for other things: how cold and uncaring he was, how he didn’t hug me enough or too much, how he fought with mum often, how prone to anger and intoxication he seemed, how he cheated on her.

    I hated him for other things until I could no longer feel familial connection or hate at all and yet…

    I hated him most for how he touched me when only Pearl, our new goldfish, was watching.

  10. Hailey Margulies says:

    Big Fish in a Small Pond

    I’m the small fish in a big pond.
    I’ve attended five schools in five years and no matter how many ponds I swam in I always went unnoticed like Waldo in ones of those “Where’s Waldo” games.
    On my way to school I wandered past a pet store. My eyes fell upon a big fish in a small pond swimming along like it owned the place.
    I’m impulsive. I understood that now as I carried the fish in its tank down the sidewalk.
    I chose to be this gold fish.
    The biggest fish in a big pond. I swam along.

  11. Victoria Cho says:

    What a wonderful day. I’ll even venture to say that it’s the best day. I’ll admit I’m biased. It’s not every day you gain sentience. Hello world, here I am! It’s not much of a world, I’ll say. A bit of green, the big wide blue, and me. But isn’t it grand that it’s mine?

    But, what’s that awful thing? That creature with bulging eyes and disgusting gaping hole! The thing distorts its visage and brings up a horribly split appendage to strike at the walls of my home.

    What terror has entered to end my short existence?

    I scream.

  12. Krystyna Fedosejevs says:

    Bubble Eyes

    “Why me?” he asked himself. From childhood he experienced the injustice of being different. How sharp stones thrown at him stung his arms while the school principal pretended all was well. Ridicule. Bullying. He was a victim. Because he appeared unusual? There was a reason for that, a medical one. Would they stop to hear him? A specialty store became his escape route where one day he hit gold. She was perfect. The being of his dreams. He invited her to his home. They would stare at each other in understanding. His bulging eyes to hers. She, a mere goldfish.

  13. The Sales Were Tipped

    Disoriented, a fish stares me down in deepest slumber with surreal protruding, piercing eyes. Why this vision, this submerged, aqueous view of reality? My subconscious desire to swim away encased in scales? Balance scales, no doubt, to weigh it all, to try to understand feeling like a fish out of water. Thoughts slip below the surface, drowning, hoping I can come up for air in time. In time for what? The fairytale of what was to be? Or am I now rescued floating on the surface, no longer submerged, seeing truth from my life raft, afloat but no longer adrift?

  14. Patricia Flaherty Pagan says:

    Since I flushed Freddy down the toilet, Fanny always keeps one bulging eye on me. But we all saw Mrs. Furbottom’s cage open in the backyard, and my sister was the only one who knew I’d kept the hamster when I couldn’t bring her back to Mrs. Rose’s class because the Capital School closed. Mama says that when the states were connected like blue squares on a quilt, every town had a school. My sister has fed Fanny twice since Mama cycled to the Pine Tree Guard meeting in the church with the smashed windows. Mama asks questions. I’m worried.

  15. James Moog says:

    It’s staring at me with eyes like gold foil. What kind of lady keeps a goldfish? I better get out of here before she wakes up. She must be simple or something.

    She was too into the kissing last night. I thought we’d have to make out forever. Then, when we were going at it, she looked me in the eyes, just like that fish. Her eyes were sparkling with smoky mascara.

    That stupid goldfish flapping away in that glass bowl, blowing bubbles…I better get out of here before she wakes up or I’ll feel just like that damn fish

  16. Emily Moog says:

    Ricardo really thought he has seen it all. He has seen secret cubical affairs, angry overeating, people picking their noses and eating their findings, and countless creative ways office workers go behind their coworkers back to get a bigger fish tank(?) But he was wrong. Ricardo couldn’t help but gasp and swim frozen in his tank when he witnessed this new intern shape-shift into a lizard. Lizzy the intern was a lizard person, and that’s when Ricardo realized Tom the art director who always smelled like incense is smarter than he thought. Tom was obsessed with them lizard people!

  17. Cindy Patrick says:

    What is the point? Why do you want to watch me? There’s a greediness in having me on display to soothe, entertain or distract you. Watch me poop, hide in a plastic castle, or try to evade and ignore your attention. Yes, I am captured and you are superior. Am I to be grateful that you remember to feed me?
    I’ve learned to pity you. Watching you move around in your glass house, accumulating prisoners of useless plastic objects. I thought the more you captured, the better you’d feel. Your mouth is agape. You still look confused.
    I’m not entertained.

  18. Jim Byrnes says:

    Fish Eye

    Oh my God, not again. You wouldn’t believe the things that I see going on outside my little fishbowl. I’m pretty sure these people don’t know that I’m actually watching them since they certainly don’t appear to give a dam about any of the things that I see them do. They must think that fish are stupid, but I’m not just any fish. If only I could speak I would let them know, in no uncertain terms, what I think about some of their behavior, but it’s probably good that I can’t speak because I’m not that excited about getting flushed.

  19. Robert Keal says:

    Other Side

    I hate the way they stare. No blinking, slack mouths agape behind a plate-glass screen. Like goldfish in their tank – too passive for my energy. Maybe if I got up, did a little jig as if we’re all in on some big joke. That’d really stick it up them. But those pancake-flat expressions stay put so long I’m not sure there’s any real emotion left. Trial probably took that freshness away.

    Still, I wonder what they’ll try and feel when the volts start, snakebiting my insides to warm paste. How much cooked, crispy me can shock them back to sentience.

  20. Steve Bailey says:

    I thought things were better now that the cat has died. But then that long-distance fight with your boyfriend created a new nightmare when in a fit of anger, you tossed your phone into my bowl. Now his blubbering babble bubbles around me. You know this bowl can act as an echo chamber. I am getting robocalls all the time from Pet Smart and scary harassing calls all the time from Starkist. What is that you pulled out of your purse? A new phone! What? You’re not go to even bother to take the old one out of my bowl?

  21. evan says:

    Moonlight is surgical. It exposes with intent a slice of unfamiliar carpet; the curves and juts of our flung clothing; one protuberant eyeball pressed against the planetary orb of the goldfish bowl.

    Our bodies ambulate beneath the uncut skin of darkness.

    On the bedside table, where that skin has been incised and folded back, are the golden-edged pages of a book; a belt like my father’s; that cosmic eye, questioning.

    He pushes like a laparoscope into me, a blade of moonlight drawn across the dystrophic valley of my back. Can’t he see that everything worth knowing has already been exposed?

  22. Last night I dreamt of goldfish. They say that goldfish dreams represent a part of your life that’s on hold. That pretty much sums it up, literally. Some parts of my life ARE on hold. But the fish in my dream was floating. I am an eighteen year old, class of 2020, girl. I’ve got nothing but time. So let’s stare at my bellybutton of a problem. Sometimes things are paused because they’ve gone stale. I take a look at my phone. I scroll through pictures of my boyfriend. I sigh. I flush the proverbial fish.

  23. Steve Bailey says:

    I thought things were better now that the cat has died. But then that long-distance fight with your boyfriend created a new nightmare when in a fit of anger, you tossed your phone into my bowl. Now his blubbering babble bubbles around me. You know this bowl can act as an echo chamber. I am getting robocalls all the time from Pet Smart and scary harassing calls all the time from Starkist. What is that you pulled out of your purse? A new phone! What? You’re not go to bother to take the old one out of my bowl?

  24. Holly-Anne Grell says:

    My mother’s room is bare, a bed, a sofa, a small TV, and a black TV dinner table. I study the battered table, getting lost in its topography. She sits beside me, staring straight ahead, lip trembling. A show about wedding dresses blares from her television—the young bride emerges in a taffeta ballgown. The bride’s mother starts crying.

    My mother starts crying.

    It’s always like this. Every month, I visit.

    “Where’s your sister?”

    “Mom… Lucy’s dead.”

    My mother cries. They say I can lie—she won’t remember, it’s easier for her.

    I don’t. I’m not ready to grieve alone.

    • Eric Jones says:

      Goldie’s voice bellowed across the restaurant as he chastised me again for the sixth time this week. Nothing I did ever seemed good enough.
      Arriving at work exactly on time meant I was ok with barely getting by.
      Setting up the silverware with the sharp edge of the knife away from the plate made me uneducated.
      As he berated me, I watched his eyes bulged out of his head, spittle flying from his puckered lips. His fishlike features caused me to laugh internally at the accuracy of his name.
      God, I am so glad I don’t have my father’s looks.

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