Flash Fiction Challenge

Today, I’m posting my short story.

Sierra gave me the prompt “Bird with a Broken Wing” by Owl City. It’s a really good writing song.


Jay Hawke drew his pistol and pointed it at the pair of creatures stalking him.

The bolder of the two beasts crept through the snow, its belly low. It looked like a huge pit bull crossed with some sort of rodent.

With his good arm, Jay aimed the pistol. He had to make his last shot count.

He fired.

The creature screeched in pain. It spun in a circle and bolted into the night, its mate behind it. Hopefully, the beasts would stay away for a while. Then again, a downed pilot with a broken arm was probably the easiest food on the planet.

Jay holstered the empty pistol and gazed at the moon, his only light in this world of darkness. No aircraft flew overhead. He’d been left behind, the lone survivor of a lost battle. Most likely, what was left of the Space Force didn’t even remember he existed. No doubt they’d been more upset about losing a starfighter than its pilot.

He trudged through the thick snow. What was the point anyway? If the reports were to be believed, this deadly world’s night lasted at least two years. There was only one way his story could end.

Wind tossed snow into Jay’s face. He shivered. His flight uniform hadn’t been designed for this death world. At least the cold seemed to have partially numbed his arm. Why had he even signed up for the Space Force? Maybe the aliens were monsters, but why did the Space Force have to fight them on their own turf? That move had been suicide. Now, he’d die without ever seeing the sun again.

A rock caught his foot and sent him sprawling.

Jay held back a scream. His arm throbbed worse than ever. He lay in the snow, waiting for the pain to subside. Finally, he mustered his remaining strength and climbed to his feet. He re-tied the primitive sling he’d made for his arm. It needed splinted, but what would be the point? He was a dead man walking.

The snow fell away in front of him. He’d come to the edge of a creek, or what would have been a creek if the water hadn’t frozen like everything else.

There seemed to be some sort of path beside the creek.  The snow had been packed by something. Jay wandered along it.

The path turned away from the stream and into hills. Jay stayed on the path. After all, what else could he do?

He walked along the path for what must have been hours. His legs trembled. He needed rest, but with the cold, stopping would mean death. Even if he kept walking, he wouldn’t last much longer.

Moonlight shown off a wooden door built into the side of a hill. Rocks surrounded it, like some primitive building from ancient history.

Jay paused. This was one of the alien dens. If they found the guy who had bombed them, they’d kill him for sure.

The cold wind cut through his uniform. Did it matter how he died? He’d never survive the night. He took in a deep breath walked to the door. He knocked. Hopefully, it would be empty, then he could go in and warm up.

The door swung open to reveal an alien. He stood half a head shorter than Jay, but the saber-like teeth and muscular wolfish jaws made up for what he lacked in height. This predator could kill Jay with one bite.

He reached for Jay’s good arm.

Jay shied away from the alien’s cat-like claws. Every instinct within screamed “run” but Jay had no energy for that.

The creature lowered his hand and said something in a growling language, then made a waving motion.

Even if Jay didn’t know what the alien said, it was obviously inviting him into its home. It probably wanted to have him for dinner or something like that.

The wind howled. It would kill him as surely as the alien. “Guess I’m dead either way,” Jay mumbled as he stepped into the alien’s home. It was nothing more than a stone tunnel leading deeper into the hill, but it was warmer.

The alien led him down the tunnel, which opened into a large room. At least thirty others lounged around a small fire, everything from elderly with white whiskers to toddlers. By the look of the shades of gray and brown fur, they were probably from two family groups.  All of them watched Jay, like a pack of wolves sizing up a cornered rabbit.

Snow dripped off Jay’s uniform. He shivered and glanced toward a small fire. Would they let him warm up before they killed him?

The aliens all began talking at once. Some clawed the air with wild hand signals and growled. Judging by the looks directed at Jay, they were discussing him.

Jay stood, his legs trembling. Much longer and he’d collapse.

Finally, an older male, his face white with age, strode to Jay. He placed one of his clawed hands on Jay’s good arm.

Jay stiffened, but the alien’s touch was gentle. He led Jay to the fire and motioned for him to sit.

Jay sank to the floor.

A female handed Jay a shallow bowl of something that resembled soup. Another wrapped an animal skin blanket around him.

Why were they treating him like this? He’d helped bomb them, yet here they were, letting him into their home, sharing their food and fire. If anyone was the monster on this planet, it was him, the creature without claws or fangs.

Jay’s gaze landed on a picture on the wall, an image of three crosses on a hill. Somehow, these aliens knew about Christ. Judging by who started dropping bombs, they’d been doing a better job of following His example than Jay had.

Jay bowed his head. Lord, please forgive me.


About Jessi L. Roberts

I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens. I have been published twice in Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickity.
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13 Responses to Flash Fiction Challenge

  1. T says:

    I really enjoyed this piece. The descriptions were excellent!


  2. Nice! You made me care about Jay really quickly, and I like how you wrote everything: even though it was in third person, it felt like I was really inside Jay’s head. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I think sticking someone in trouble, especially if they’re injured, is a good way to get people to care.
      With intimate POV, what I try to do even in third person is make sure that the descriptions are something that character would use.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sierra says:

    Hi Jessi! I’m sorry I’m so terribly late with this critique 😛
    Anyway, I love what you did with the prompt! Your descriptions are great, not too much, but enough to paint a clear picture of the scene. Same with the background of the story itself, there’s a good balance between questions that keep the reader interested, and information so we know what’s going on.
    One suggestion I have might be to vary the lengths of your sentences, and some of your word choices. But I really like it! Great job! 😀


  4. Hi, Jessi. I am so incredibly sorry for taking this long to get back to you. It was really immensely rude and unprofessional of me, and I hope this critique can at least partly make up for it.

    The concept of this story is really neat and definitely makes me want to know more about the world and Jay’s backstory. The arc of the story was pretty good, but it fell a bit flat for me. This may sound odd in comparison to other comments, but I didn’t entirely feel the tension that should have been evident throughout. He’s expecting to die any moment, but I couldn’t feel it. You definitely have good moments with Jay reacting to danger, but I don’t feel any panic. Maybe that’s the issue for me: sure, he’s a soldier, but there should be some kind of panic associated with nearly dying. Also, the ending feels really abrupt and a bit contrived. I’m all for Christian messages in our stories, but this seemed to come out of nowhere. I tend to have the same issue, so I completely understand how it happens. But it feels hard to believe. I think that could be fixed with some kind of reference earlier in the story, even as simple as a quick prayer for help or a memory of childhood religious experiences.

    As for the sentence variation that Sierra mentioned, I agree. I don’t think it’s an issue of too short or too long; the sentences just tend to be all about the same length. In certain places, you tend to open them all with the subject, whereas a prepositional or verbal phrase here and there could help. Your prose isn’t bad; it just needs to be relaxed on occasion. 🙂

    That being said, there were a few sentences that I really enjoyed, such as “Then again, a downed pilot with a broken arm was probably the easiest food on the planet.” Perfect use of sarcasm and gallows humor. 😀

    This is a good story, Jessi. I really am glad that you chose to participate. 🙂 Also, as an apology, I want you to know that, if you have a short story or more flash fiction that you’d like some feedback on currently, I’d be willing to look it over for you. Feel free to email me at rachelleoneilwriter [at] gmail [dot] com if you want. 🙂


  5. Hey, Jessi. I really am incredibly sorry that I’ve ignored this for so long. It was really rude, and I hope that you can forgive me.

    The concept of this story is really neat, and I’m quite curious about the world and Jay’s backstory.

    The story arc is all right, but, in my mind, it fell a little flat. This may sound odd compared to the other comments, but I didn’t really feel the tension that I should have, with him being in mortal peril for the entire story. Though you used could reactions – stiffening, concerned thoughts, etc., I didn’t feel the panic I would associate with a situation like this. If you really think you’re about to die, there should be some kind of panicked moment, I would think, even for a soldier. Also, the ending feels a bit abrupt and somewhat contrived. I’m all for Christian messages in stories, but this kind of came out of nowhere. I think that could be pretty easily remedied, though, if there was some reference to Christianity earlier in the story, such as Jay giving a quick, desperate prayer or remembering his childhood religious experiences or something like that. It would just make his regret fit better.

    As for the sentence variation that Sierra mentioned, I don’t think they’re either too short or too long. They just tend to be all about the same length, which makes it read, in places, like a monologue. I could also see combining some of your sentences as a good thing. For example, here: “Wind tossed snow into Jay’s face. He shivered. His flight uniform hadn’t been designed for this death world.” You could say, “Wind tossed snow into Jay’s face, sending a shiver down his arms. His flight uniform hadn’t been designed for this death world.” Still, you had other sentences that I really liked, such as, “Then again, a downed pilot with a broken arm was probably the easiest food on the planet.” It’s such a fantastic example of sarcasm and gallows humor.

    Overall, I think you wrote a good story here, Jessi. An interesting character and an interesting world, for sure. 🙂 I’m really glad you took part in this challenge!


    • I’m such an idiot. I should have realized you moderate your comments, like I do. 😀 If I had, I wouldn’t have double posted on you. Sorry…


      • Thanks for the critique! Don’t worry about double posting. I think I’ve done that before.
        I’ll have to work on getting the emotion more detailed. I tend to leave out too many details and hurry things too much, especially when I have a word limit. (If my memory serves me correctly, I almost hit it too.)


      • I’m sure you were close! Word count can definitely be a hindrance on these things. 😀 But you did a good job with the limited words you had.


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