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Lake of Fire: Flash Fiction

Updated on January 18, 2017
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

"Sherpa" C-23

Source

Lake of Fire

Through a window of the Sherpa C23, Craig viewed a panorama of rugged peaks, a twelve mile canyon and an alpine lake. Down there, the Ponderosa pines ruled. But a two thousand acre wildfire, centered at the man-made reservoir, threatened that coniferous royalty.

“Get ready.” The man stood next to the door and slapped the firefighter on the back. The jumper disappeared, and Craig stepped up to take his place. The same bump of fist to shoulder blade communicated both the urgency of the mission and the camaraderie he felt with this band of smokejumpers.

Craig’s chute deployed and, he trained his eyes on the landing point except for a glance at the lake. This was his favorite hike in the Bitterroots, but on this day, the area around the reservoir was being surrendered to the blaze. For a few seconds the smoke cleared and he could see the rock peninsula jutting into the lake where countless times he had pitched his tent. He pulled binoculars out and looked, then put them away.

The ground approached fast. He hit, rolled and came up unclipped from the chute. “Josiah.” He waved to the team leader and the other eight men joined them in the center of the clearing.

“Whatcha got, Craig?” Josiah switched on his two way radio.

“Two hikers are over at the lake on the end of the rock.”

“That area has been closed for days,” said Josiah.

“A little fire never stopped you and me when we were younger, did it?” said Craig.

“They probly got there late yesterday and woke up this morning with the lake surrounded by fire,” said Josiah. “I can’t spare two jumpers, but we don’t have a choice.”

“Let me go alone. I won’t be fighting the fire, so technically it’s not a violation of the policy to work in pairs.”

“Let’s hope Air Tactical splits hairs same as you.” Josiah put a hand on Craig’s shoulder. “We’ll send a helicopter ASAP, but right now, it’s just too damned hot over there.

Craig headed west, guided by a compass and the mountain on the far side of the lake. The wind blew into his face, and the smell of smoke grew stronger with each step until the flames came into view.

Pillars of fire drove upward and ignited treetops. He skirted the worst, and kept to the left of the lake. The wind changed, and Craig faced a wall of fire sweeping across a meadow of dry grass. He ran parallel to the charging fire front and shot into the burning timbers just as the grass fire swept past. I shouldn’t be here. My training taught me how to deal with fire, not my own bad judgement. Josiah would never have knowingly put me in this situation.

A horizontal flaming tornado erupted across his path. The fire swirl tipped to vertical and sent flaming debris in every direction. The lake was his only hope, and it peeked at him through the flames.

Slow motion seemed to be his only speed. One foot went in front of the other with great effort. The lake opened up before him. He burst out of the trees and launched himself, a smoking firebrand, from a thirty foot cliff.


Alpine Lake in the Bitterroot Mountains

The lakes in the canyons of the Bitterroot Mountains were formed when, in the late 1930s, men went in and dammed the creeks to capture the snowmelt to be used in the Bitterroot valley during the summer dry seasons.
The lakes in the canyons of the Bitterroot Mountains were formed when, in the late 1930s, men went in and dammed the creeks to capture the snowmelt to be used in the Bitterroot valley during the summer dry seasons. | Source

Cool water soothed his blistered skin. His head broke the surface, and he gulped in the heated air. The peninsula reached for him from the blazing backdrop. Two figures huddled on the edge farthest from the fire. Craig swam with one arm and held his pack up with the other.

Hands helped him onto superheated rock.

“You should be in the water.” he said.

“We can’t swim,” said a female. “It drops off right at the edge.”

“Grab a log and use it to keep yourself afloat,” Craig said.

“They’re all burning,” said a male.

They shared names, and Craig’s eyes settled on an object that seemed out of place. “Is that a keg of beer?”

“It was,” said Missy. “We carried it here last weekend on a stretcher with our friends. We were so sick when we left the next morning that we forgot it.”

“We can’t get our deposit back until we return the keg,” said Rex. “So we came back to get it.”

Craig kicked the two foot tall tank into the water. It sizzled, and steam rose from beneath. After it cooled, he retrieved it. He pulled a length of climbing rope out of his pack, wrapped it around the keg several times and tied it off. He fashioned shorter lengths into looped handles.

They slid into the reservoir with the beer keg float and kicked until they were in the center. News from Josiah was grim. Cool air from the mountain was descending and mixing with the heat from the fire. The combination created dangerous winds for helicopters.

Rex was the first to shiver. Missy and Craig followed.

“We’ve got to go back to shore,” said Craig.

“What’s happening?” said Missy.

“Hypothermia. The water lowered our body temperatures.” They swam to shore and climbed onto the rocks. The heat felt good after being in the cold water for so long, but an hour later, they were back in the lake. They repeated this pattern until they lost count.

They dozed in the water. Hot air beat down on them. The noise was deafening. Something struck the beer keg, and it rang like a bell. They looked up at the underbelly of a helicopter. A metal basket dangled a few feet away just above the surface of the water.

Craig signaled for more line, and Missy climbed in, and the basket ascended two hundred feet. Craig was last. He wrapped himself in a blanket and joined the others. One of the crew approached with the keg.

“This was tied to the basket when we brought you up, Craig. You want to keep it?”

“Damn right. I won’t let this ordeal be for nothing. These two need to get their deposit back for that keg.”

Early Smokejumpers

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    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 6 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Mr.Centaur, welcome to my hub. Thank you for reading. So glad you enjoyed it. Yes, a cheer for the beer, of which, I also no longer partake. If I did, you would not be reading this thank you comment.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 6 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Nicely done, Chris!

      I'm not a drinker, but its good to see that smoke jumper honoring the beer.

      W.T.

    • johnmariow profile image

      John Gentile 6 months ago from Connecticut

      I love this fast paced story. It is engaging and enjoyable. Well written. I wish you the best of luck in the competition.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 7 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Cam

      Great story, I loved this story.

      Lawrence

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 7 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Deb, It definitely moves fast. The "fill in" was the 700 words or 40% of the original 1700 word story I had to cut out. I've been encouraged by others to wait for several weeks before rewriting. I hope that yields a short story that is rich with characterization as well as action. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 7 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      This moves a little fast for my liking. However, when you get to fill it is, it will be a wonderful story. Best of luck!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 7 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Shauna, thanks for reading. The NYC Midnight Challenges are lengthy events. This is my story for round one. All 2100 writers participate in rounds one and two. We accumulate points in the first two rounds within our own groups. The top five writers in each group in terms of points will proceed to round three. Then the top five in round three will proceed to the final round. This will last until sometime in December. Round two will begin in mid September. Results from round one will be announced just before the beginning of round two. I hope that gives you a better idea about what is happening.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 months ago from Central Florida

      They sure went through a lot of trouble just to get their deposit back!

      Great story, Chris. When will the winner be announced?

    • jgshorebird profile image

      jgshorebird 7 months ago from Southeastern U.S.

      Good story -- even shortened.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 7 months ago from Southern Illinois

      The ending made me lol. You took me on an adventure that was full of excitement. I could see the action clearly. I hope you win. I am running late due to my laptop crashing when I attempted to download the new windows 10, why I do not know...Great story!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      Sounds good. Pace is crucial to Flash Fiction and so you're right. I say so often that they must flow..must run like a river ...my Tragedy of The Telephone Call is very much like that.

      Yes, that's a nice idea. I like it. Much Love, my Brother.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 7 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      manatita, you hit the nail on the head. This story was 1700 words long. I conserve words whenever I write, so there really weren't 700 words of fluff I could throw out. I took out very important parts of this story. This is really only the skeleton of a story. I don't think the prompts gave me any problem. What I really like is the pace it reads at. One year ago, I would not have been able to write this story. Not like it is now. It would have been filled with passive language and "as" and "ing" verbs, all which slow a story down. Now I can do that, and I learned in the forum of the very competition I'm in right now. So, you said the story is missing something. How about Less back story. It will begin with Craig in the forest fire and will end on the plane. There

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 7 months ago from london

      Nice story. Your prompts are my kind of thing except the reservoir bit. You know I love your work Cam and you have done a great job, but this one feels like something's missing. I have had to reduce some of my work for narrative poetry, which has to be done in 3 mins. Not always easy.

      You speak of constraints...well? Do you think it affected you? Sometimes the theme chosen can be the problem. All the best with the competition.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 7 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Larry, the genre has a lot to do with it. Action/adventure, horror, suspense, thriller, all will probably have fast pace most of the time. Romance, drama, even comedy can be done with a slower pace. To hold the readers' attention without action, to me seems very difficult. The writing would have to be very good. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 8 months ago from Oklahoma

      I love a fast pace, but I like a slow, traditional pace at times, too. Sometimes I feel like there's no room for traditional pace anymore, and it makes me sad.

      Great read.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 8 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thanks Bill. I'll keep going back. I always win because I learn something new every time.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 8 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Becky, thanks. Your thoughts are wanted and anticipated.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Another good one, Chris! Some day soon you'll be winning these competitions.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 8 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      Truly awesome story. I love how fast it moved. I do not think it suffered from being shortened.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 8 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Eldon, I appreciate the encouragement. While this story still needed some work when time ran out, in some key ways it is the best I have submitted in three years to the NYCM flash fiction contest. Passive wording is under control, I don't have a mile long dialogue (like I did last year), and everything seems to be believable. So that takes care of past mistakes. I am hoping for a good showing in this first round.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 8 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      John, I appreciate you jumping in and commenting. The story was up for a week with no comments. I finally emailed Ann and asked her to see if she could access it. She could, but finally I just reposted it. Things look better now. This story was about 80% ready for being submitted but time ran out. I would have rewritten the opening and all the dialogue. Much of that is all first draft material. I'm hoping that for the first round I can get some points on the board. We shall see in a few weeks.

    • Eldon Arsenaux profile image

      Eldon Arsenaux 8 months ago from Cooley, Texas

      Awesome! All parameters met in a natural way. The action succinct. The beginning pulled me in. It takes talent to create flash fiction. Keeping things concise. This will definitely be a contender in the contest. Keep 'em comin Mistah Chris Mills! :)

      Adios,

      -E.G.A.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

      I love this story, Chris. You met the prompts of Action/Adventure, a reservoir, and keg of beer brilliantly. Good luck in the contest.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 8 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Ann, me too. I've never had this kind of experience with a story before. I'm getting a lot of readers from the competition, but they comment over there. We will see how this one works.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 8 months ago from SW England

      Hope you get more comments this time, Chris!

      Ann :)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 8 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      The following comment was left by Hubber, annart, who was helping me when the previous posting of this story did not seem to be visible to my hubber friends. I deleted the original post and reposted here. I didn't want to lose Ann's comment, so I am including it here with this comment....

      By annart: I'm surprised there are no comments yet. I'm late getting to this due to lack of time but your email sent me straight over!

      Great story. I can see the location clearly and the sense of urgency comes through - plenty of action! Love the way you've included the keg!

      Just two things -

      1. 'Craig’s chute deployed and, he trained...' doesn't need a comma.

      2. The last line would have more impact without 'for that keg', in my opinion.

      Maybe something's up with the HP system. I hope not. I'll email to let you know I've left a comment. I've also noticed there is another hubber under the name of Chris Mills (no pseudonym) - I don't suppose there's any interference there, is there? Just a thought.

      Best of luck with the competition, Chris!

      Ann

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