The Solution

camping site

© Pamela S Canepa

“This is a good place to camp, Dallas. Let’s stop here.”

“We could keep hiking and find some place less rocky, Grant. We’ve got another good hour of daylight.”

“Listen brother-in-law, I’m not as young as I used to be. Let’s rest here tonight.”

Dallas laughed. “That’s ex-brother-in-law to you. Julie and I have been divorced a year now.”

Grant pulled off his backpack and started rummaging around inside. “You know Julie called me the other day.”

Dallas had taken off his backpack and was getting out his sleeping bag. “You can’t believe everything she says, Grant.”

“She said she didn’t get those bruises from falling down the stairs like you told me.”

Dallas looked up at Grant and froze. “Hey, you don’t need that.”

Grant aimed the .357 magnum at Dallas’ face. “You’re never going to hurt my sister again. No one knows we were going camping together. They’ll never find your body way out here.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of June 6, 2017 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the photo above as an inspiration to create a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long with 150 being the ideal. My word count is 156.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to

22 thoughts on “The Solution

  1. I do believe I have seen this plot device before. It offers much potential for subsequent unfolding of a police investigation after someone (e.g., hikers, park rangers) discovers the body, or the man’s disappearance is reported by an employer or friends (possibly by a new, hopeful, girlfriend). It can even be developed as a complete fantasy (or dream) that ultimately dissuades someone from taking a murderous course of action and convinces them to pursue instead some more constructive course, in a surprise ending. I seem to recall another alternative in an episode of “The Outer Limits” that incorporated something similar into a sci-fi mental-disfunction treatment scenario whereby someone was compelled to experience such a fantasy (in multiple variations) in order to accomplish their rehabilitation.


    • On further reflection, I imagine a prescription for a course of treatments using the sci-fi therapy capability mooted above. The patients would include all three characters, Julie, Grant, and Dallas. Each would be required to experience the entire scenario as seen through the eyes of the other two patients in addition to their own perspective, beginning with the events leading to the violent encounter between Dallas and Julie, continuing with that encounter, the subsequent conversation between Julie and her brother Grant in which he learns of and observes her injuries, the planning of the camping trip between Grant and Dallas, the murderous encounter between them, and the subsequent investigation and revelation of whether Julie was unaware or complicit in the murder (and perhaps the trial, incarcerations, and any execution scenes, as well). The scene you described above, James, would be the introduction to the story; the details of which would unfold along with their precursory background during the various replays experienced by each character.

      Reading or watching the entire repetitive therapy process would overtax the patience of the average reader or screenplay audience, so perhaps only those portions which reveal essential details of the whole story would be described or presented; but certainly they would occupy a full-length film. The directorial process could be very interesting, trying to decide the most appropriate or exciting or suspenseful order in which to present the scenes that reveal each addition key detail to solving the puzzle of the film’s dénouement — perhaps to find out whether any of the events actually happened, who might be executed, or if this therapy had been somehow initiated to prevent what might have occurred if some external agency had not intervened.

      There’s a lot of opportunity here for each character to experience multiple scenes of waking up from an alternate-universe nightmare, along with uncertainty about which universe they were in (or if, indeed, they had actually awakened or were just beginning another phase of ongoing nightmare), and whether making just the “right” decisions in a subsequent iteration of the “game” could end the nightmares and return them to their “own” universe. [“There’s no place like home… (tap, tap, tap), there’s no place like home…”]


      • Actually, your comments remind me of an episode of “The Outer Limits” starring Carroll O’ Connor (All in the Family), Barry Morse (The Fugitive, Space 1999), and Grace Lee Whitney (Star Trek) called Controlled Experiment. O’Connor and Morse play Martians who use a time controlling device to attempt to understand murder.

        The action takes place in the lobby of a shabby hotel. Whitney plays a jilted lover planning to shoot her boyfriend in the hotel lobby. The two Martians play and replay the scene by shifting forward and backward in time, change variables to witness different outcomes. I don’t recall how things worked out, since I haven’t watched the episode in decades.

        I suppose you could be suggesting something similar with my scenario.


      • I believe I’ve conflated several episodes (and, possibly, multiple shows such as Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Amazing Tales, and perhaps more). In one, a convicted murderer (a pool maintenance worker, I believe) is forced to relive the experience of his crime until he “gets it” and understands how horrific it was. In another, a man protesting his innocence is forced to experience multiple re-iterations of his trial and execution where each character playing one of the roles plays a different role in the subsequent iteration. I forget who was controlling the process, but I recall it as a no-win, no-way-out situation. I believe there was another variant or two of a similar theme, but, like you, my clarity of memory has suffered with the passage of time — and I have not been sufficiently diligent to try some Google research for this plot theme.


      • Your comments remind me of how some Orthodox Jews believe that when a person dies in their sins they are sent to hell, but not forever, only until they are purged of their sins. After that, they too have a life in the world to come.

        I’m also reminded of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called A Matter of Perspective. Riker is being tried for the alleged murder of a scientist. Each witnesses testimony is programmed into the holodeck and recreated for the court, illustrating the different perspectives of each person.


    • I was actually thinking more of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. The longer story would be of Grant’s frustration around Dallas’ continuing domestic abuse and what to do about it when his sister won’t press charges, then the build up to how he convinces Dallas to go on a camping trip without telling anyone. The show ends without the audience actually witnessing Grant pull the trigger, assuming he probably does, but then perhaps, he relents, so there’s an unresolved mystery.


      • The unique ” I” in each of us can make all the difference, despite the similarities in experiences and stories. Perhaps , it’s more about how we choose to see and narrate them .


  2. I can understand Grant’s motives but am not convinced he was doing the right thing. He was undoubtedly a loving brother and hated the fact that Dallas had abused Julie, but taking the law into his own hands is still not a great idea. But his actions do lend themselves to the start of a great story! Fiction and real life are different things and what happens after this scene could be developed so well in a novel. A well written and vivid story.


    • Thanks, Millie. I don’t necessarily condone Grant’s actions but I can see why he’d take them, especially when he thought a legal means wouldn’t solve the problem. I like writing about flawed humanity. We make decisions that are often wrong, but clearly understandable.


      • It must be hard for people who feel let down by the legal system and I agree that Grant’ s actions are understandable. His motives and actions have formed the basis of many stories, both true and fictional. The fact that humanity is flawed is what authors rely on in their characterisation. Readers don’t like, or believe in, a perfect character. Happy writing, James!


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