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.

Image of a med tech or nurse poised to do a COVID test.


Art Credit: Virginia Guard Public Affairs

67 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Abby says:

    Charlotte forgot to turn her microphone off when she got the news. She never got used to virtual meeting etiquette. Her TV was always blaring in the background. Not once did anyone say “Charlotte, you’re on mute!” because she never was.

    So, all of us heard it. We heard her mom’s nurse. We knew Charlotte talked to her every day…if you knew Charlotte. We heard the word “died.” We heard her sobs. Tony was so busy talking about KPIs and P&Ls that he didn’t even notice. So, because I scheduled the call, I ended it while Tony was mid “…profit…”

  2. Christy Brothers says:

    There Was a Fire

    No matter how hard I scrub, there’s soot.
    On arms, my feet, my cheeks and chin.
    But I did the right thing. Stopped, dropped and rolled. Even learned to crochet. But damn it, I’ve already forgotten. I waited in lines (seven feet,
    not six) – yelled across lawns. Stared at my phone – tolerated stabbings of hope and expeditions up the nose. I stayed home. The twitching started in bed, alone. Coincidence? Three years ago. A tiny flame, it touched my skin. And staring out an open window into the darkness of the night, a hyperventilating world couldn’t calm my restless nerves.

  3. Simon Smith says:


    The nurse tries to hide her look of shocked recognition; hoping the layers of PPE will provide adequate cover.

    “Tilt your head back”

    The cop suspiciously complies. Wordlessly she inserts the swab, deeper than the test requires, slowly turning it in place. He is holding his breath she notices. His eyes water, jaw clenches. Discomfort becoming anger. Momentarily distracted, she loses count. A few more seconds to be sure.

    As she removes the swab she reminds him, too late:

    “You can breathe normally”.

    Breaking the sample off in the tube she wonders; Will a positive test delay his trial?

  4. Michael V says:


    I saw the man and his face shield, white face mask, and baggy yellow t-shirt. He’s outside this rec center, trying to help people. It is 110 degrees outside and he is still there, protesting, helping the other protesters, feeding them, giving them water, making sure no one is in danger from the heat. This man, he’s out there trying, while I’m in my room, laying on my bed when I should be out there but I keep making excuses, like how I’m tired, or busy, or my parents disapprove, but they are out there risking their lives for us.

  5. S. Tierney says:

    They assure you that everything is alright. Behind three layers of shield and latex gloves they repeat: There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all. “Just close your eyes and open wide.” Why? “So we can be sure.”

    Be sure of what? That black cloud above the city is getting darker, larger, turning the sunlight green. Your fingers tingle. You can taste metal. A bird falls from the sky, lands convulsing before the barrier. The person in line behind you stamps their feet impatiently, vomits. Hundreds more do the same.

    “Open wide, please.”

    You duck under the barrier, and run.

  6. Krystyna Fedosejevs says:

    The New Normal

    Someone sneezes. Another coughs. Panic fills eyes of nearby witnesses in a seemingly tight space.

    Here we go, again. Hand sanitizer. Masks. Face shields. Social distancing, or is it physical distancing? Testing. Testing. Testing. Isolation when positive for the VIRUS.

    I take a stroll in a city park. Mask pulled over nose when others pass by. Paper masks dot our path.

    Inside clinics vaccinations proceed. Needles discarded along with overworked gloves.

    News bulletins dwell on the rising case count, how the world is drowning in waste.

    We’re into a new virus. Have we learned anything from how Covid-19 was handled?

  7. Sara Wynia says:

    COVID Classroom

    Do not breathe. Or, at the very least, breathe shallowly.

    Do not remove your mask. Do not allow your third graders to remove their masks, even if this means instructional interruption every few minutes.

    Remain five feet from everybody at all times, despite the logistical impossibility.

    Do not touch anything. Sanitize every eight minutes: hands, desks, pencils, doorknobs. Don’t worry that your hands are red and raw. At least you don’t have COVID.

    Do not blame your students when you and your co-teacher contract COVID on the same weekend despite following the above mandates. Surely, these rules saved somebody’s life.

  8. Luke Rolfes says:


    Martina knew it hurt, but that was the point. The pain let people know nothing was missed. In the empty cafeteria, she ate buttered toast and a banana, coffee with almond milk. Outside, a million stars glowed. Sometimes, a child would gush. Martina would hum to the gushers, her hand cupping the gauze that cupped their small faces. In the clinic, the lights were sun. It was always day. The parents stepped nervously, covered coughs with shirtsleeves. Their limbs tracked fear like seismograph needles, like polygraph tests. Outside the room, the children belonged to the parents. Inside, they were hers.

  9. Maryna says:

    I looked at the nurse and imagined her wearing a covid mask with a shield. Those days are over, but the nostalgia is still here. Nostalgia for eyes in heavy make-up, the lack of fake smiles, the almost empty stores. Empty because we mostly went shopping after 10pm in those days. Seeing the swab in the nurse’s hand, I think of the impossible. What if I could find a door into my ‘pandemic’ self: that unique burst of creativity, the desire to make something delicious, the yearning to play the piano all day, and that feeling of infinite time ahead?

  10. Fazal says:


    When l unlocked my darkened home, the silence was deafening. No welcoming shriek of my kid sister, no appetizing aroma of my Mom’s cooking, no friendly yell of Dad – ” Hey Sport !”
    All hospitalized. I had always taken them for granted. It needed a pandemic for epiphany to hit me – the most important thing in life is family, the people we love .
    The phone rang !
    It was the hospital , “Terence ? Your family is to discharged today. Home quarantine advised. ”
    I am not religious but l fell to my knees in gratitude. How many get a second chance to mend their lives ?

  11. Geoffrey Morgan says:

    Unwanted Passegers

    Crossing the border into Canada, the virus now needed a visa. No asylum.
    They wanted paper or text proof that no one had one hidden in their trunk, glovebox, or upper respiratory system these unwanted organisms. The latest apple maggots. Asymptomatic, I pulled up to the drive through testing center south of the border. A splash protected technician pushed the longest Q-tip I had ever seen farther up my nose than I thought possible. Tearing up, I held still, strong, wondering if time had stopped. I waited two days for the email. I had no extra passengers. Safe. For now.

  12. Tara Knight says:

    They hated these meetings.
    Legion scowled at the young demon before him, as it prattled on excitedly, tail whipping back and forth. Sniffing disdainfully, Legion examined the creatures suit and tie.
    “We’re in the redemption business, not just the punishment business. We need something to get their attention. Make them afraid. Like the good old days, but better than hellfire.”
    Legion had to admit the Pit was getting full…
    “What’s it called again?”
    “Nasopharyngeal swabbing. Imagine THAT for eternity. It will scare them righteous! The worst CEO isn’t going to risk going to hell if we can bring this in.”

  13. Shirry says:

    The nurse, I’d already forgotten her name, looked past me with the swab in her gloved hand. It must be automatic at this point, a mere routine to get through another overworked day. She asked me to tilt my head back and inserted the swab. Moisture gathered in my eyes, uncomfortable as if it poked into my brain. She withdrew it after some time, dropped it into a sterile container, and walked away apathetically. I wondered if I’ll ever get to be in her shoes. Could I handle it? Would I be good enough? I left to study in isolation.

  14. Kathleen Harner says:

    The world is infected with a serious virus, Covid-19. People dressed in big puffy suits start to surround your area. There is something that’s off with everybody. When it is your turn to get tested, you become squeamish. They put a large swab up your nose and you start to bleed, it drips to the floor. You step in the pile of blood and drag it throughout the facility you got tested. You just contaminated the whole area because you tested positive for having the virus. People start running out of the building and into their homes in a panic.

  15. Jordan Jackson says:

    It was hard to be personable when everyone was hidden behind layer after layer of protection over their face. All around me, people complained left and right about how they couldn’t see the facial expression of those interacting with them. Service workers, minimum wage workers, the person who bumped into you by accident; it was impossible to tell how they were feeling.

    Me though, I thrived. No longer having to fake an emotion on my face when someone greeted me or started a conversation when I was unprepared, finally! I basked in the disguise of the mask, finally care free.

  16. Elizabeth Lawrence says:

    It was the masks that attracted us. A handful of fire, of snarling teeth, the breath of ghouls and goblins, wound into the contours of a human face. They stood in stacks at CVS and Walmart, blind grins and eyes – waiting to be filled. And on Halloween, humanity disappeared, and the world became a playground for the impossible and insane. Because whoever first made the masks bound a dream inside them. A wish, a fantasy, that can only be seen with the eye of the soul…
    But this mask – there is no grin. And the eyes are blurred out.

  17. Sally Simon says:

    Behind the paper-thin robe,

    latex gloves and plexiglass shield used to be a mother who was there when her kid got home from school. Cookies with milk and long division. Wiping away tears when the remainder went on and on. Numbers without end.

    Before the nasal swab, these hands held Binky the Bear in outstretched arms. Plush comfort for a rainy day. Snuggling on the couch next to a roaring fire.

    After a hundred double shifts, a paper mask can no longer filter away exhaustion. A shift calendar cannot replace days lost. The stream of patients never ends. When will
    math be simple again?

  18. Thompson Emate says:

    Troubled Days

    The city is in tumultuous times. Its different regions have experienced catastrophic happenings. The Mayor’s office has lately been flooded with distress calls. He has been reaching out in the best possible way he can. He is on the edge of his seat. He has been commended for his prompt response to troubled regions.
    It was a sunny afternoon. He had just come back from a lunch break when his phone rang. It was another distress call for him to come to the place where buildings had just collapsed in the wake of an earthquake. It was a sombre afternoon.

  19. Steve Coverdale says:

    Harry woke up coughing. Where the hell was he? His mouth was dry, his throat closed up as he swallowed, the pain grating every nerve end. Focusing took all his effort, even opening his eyes was an ordeal. Dark figures, blurred at first began to swim into view. He could see people with masks and face shields and white suits. This wasn’t real, he was dreaming surely. He tried to move his arm and felt a sharp jolt of pain vibrating through his body. He could hear voices distantly. As Harry breathed his last, he heard the words “Patient Zero”.

  20. “County Drive-Thru Testing Site”

    The line of cars started alongside the makeshift tents. It snaked through abandoned fair ground concessions—dotted with wayward cups and haphazard propane tanks—and ended miles later beyond the stockyards.

    Ben fidgeted in the driver’s seat. “This is fuckin’ madness,” he grumbled, “and you hacking up a lung.”

    I lifted my mask to pop another flavorless lozenge, choking back a cough as dry as the Sahara, and cracked my window.

    “Roll it up. Smells like shit out there,” Ben shifted his eyes to the adjacent cattle barn.

    Another cough. Another tear soaking my mask. I hadn’t smelled a thing in days.

  21. Rabab says:


    Masked, l entered ‘Rendezvous’nervously. Properly masked, she was at the last table
    “Hey, Kaira ! Keith.”
    “Hi !”
    My brother had befriended her online and being busy had sent me for their first meeting. He had said she loved sports, rap, metal. So we talked of these disinterestedly.
    Then l said l loved Mozart, books and poetry.
    It turned out we loved the same things. We talked and talked. Then l said, ” l’m Keith’s brother, Ken. I like you too much to deceive you . ”
    To my astonishment , she laughed.
    ” l’m Kaira’s sister , Kelly!”
    Our eyes met in delight .

  22. Rachel Cain says:

    Different This Time

    Daryl says we shouldn’t have come, that once they test it’s out of our hands. But I feel better following the proper steps. I press my hand into Kaylee’s forehead, it’s sticky-hot and she’s slumped in my lap, barely awake.
    There are flyers posted all over town that say what to do with the sick, where to go. But Daryl’s heard rumors. Quarantines where people don’t come back.
    “It’s just like before.” I mutter, kissing Kaylee’s head.
    “You sure?” He asks as a shell-shocked woman is ushered into a back room.
    I stand, just as the nurse calls her name.

  23. Kyle Shiflett says:

    Are you sure
    You know what you’re doing!?”
    “Of course I do!” I do not. “You just need to hold still!”
    “You’ve already poked my eye 7 times! I’m just gonna go somewhere else for my test.”
    In reality, it had been 8 times, but that was beside the point. “No, you’re going to stay right here! There’s no way you’re going anywhere until we diagnose that cough!” Yeah, right. They’ll be here for the rest of the day if that’s the caveat.

  24. Marilyn Moseley says:

    Springtime sunshine showered wispy trails of dust in the room. Fighting with the covers, Annalise weakly pulled her arm from the thin blanket to touch the dust as it swirled around her eyes. Could today be the day?

    Nurse Ronda bustled into the room. Holding the test swab, dust bounced off it too. Annalise groaned as the swab rolled deeply, again today as many other days.

    Today though – today was different. NEGATIVE! Annalise’s fingers slipped through the sunshine dust, and its warmth healed her heart. Springtime sunshine dust lingered as her breath flowed easily now, and Nurse Rhonda smiled too.

  25. I pulled the latex glove on, keeping the end pinched in two blue fingers until the last moment so it snapped into place, like a television surgeon. I slid my PPE on and felt the bile congeal inside me. I hated these people. I hated this place. My bedside manner had boiled down to a disinterest and irritation. A patient spattered my face shield with projectile mucus last night. Projectile mucus. I became a nurse to face a childhood filled with hypochondria. A coming-of-age self-inflected exposure therapy. Now I’m in the middle of a god damn plague. I’m quitting. Tonight.

  26. Cassidy Henggeler says:

    A Second Chance

    Lying in that hospital bed, watching the nurses running by the door. All of her family was there but they could not see her. Being sick and having nobody to really talk to. The only interaction is the nurse swabbing her every few days to test and avoiding the spread of covid with dividers. Walking around the room when she felt really good and strong. The nurses would laugh when she would dance to the theme songs on the tv. Showing everyone on the day she got out, it is a second chance to really live, so she took it.

    By Cassidy Henggeler

  27. Bradley A Irlmeier says:

    I started my journey with a few others, never realizing that our time together would come to an end. I knew Newton’s words—that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—but My initial optimism crumbled in an instant as the disease descended upon us. I felt powerless as people around me were struck down mercilessly, while I was left unscathed, alone and helpless against a relentless ghostlike enemy. Now that the walls were closing in around me and all I could do was hope that I could keep you alive long enough to witness the end.

  28. Zach Covington says:

    The Artist Touch

    One swipe back and forth, it was her passion. The artistic colors mix as she safely wears her shield, and mask to avoid unwanted splatter as her work fought back at her. It was her first love, to pick up the brush and paints away. Her work reflected in many ways, from blank canvas to life. The pale canvasses walk up in search of her magic touch. Here she swabs away all day and night for these countless blank canvasses in search of a touch of color back into their lives. Her touch saving life one swipe at a time.

  29. Grace CH says:

    Seen and Unseen

    The nurse holds the testing stick like a stylus, or a screwdriver. Given the choice, I’d rather be a canvas than a nail. To distract myself, I glance at her eyes. Concentrating, she doesn’t look at me, and I notice her thick mascara, dark and heavy above the white mask blocking her nose and mouth. We all have our vanities. Ugly florescent light glances off the nurse’s face shield, near-blinding me. As she leans in close, my gaze falls to the parts of her that remain uncovered: wisps of dark hair, a stretch of vulnerable neck. What germs linger there?

  30. Forest Gray says:

    His COVID gift

    His dry cough demands me. I hold on to this: The Borrowers, grandmother’s quilt, the window open to spring nights. I loved that book. Little people making use of misplaced things, never anything really lost. I imagine: I could sneak around, accumulate small things. A needle for protection, a coin as a shield. But I’ve lost bravery to black eyes, a broken wrist. I enter his room, look at his sallow, hateful face. “Where the hell you been?” he snarls, pulling my swollen face to his lips. “Here,” he whispers, “we’ll enjoy sharing this.”

  31. Andi Green says:

    My dentist looked like an alien. Masked and helmeted over her hijab, impossible to tell if she was smiling or grimacing, and her voice was muffled.
    Protective glasses, a mask and a helmet offering ‘direct splash protection’
    Lie back, open wide. Any problems here or here?
    My tongue tried to reply as she poked a mirror onto my molars.
    Making me feel infectious, exposed.
    Will this examination reveal that I have it too? This plague that’s killing indiscriminately.
    She carried on poking and plaque removing.
    Between each patient all must be scrubbed and sterilised.
    I get home and scrub myself.

  32. Glen A Palmer says:

    Fourteen Days

    We are all victims—-familiar words: “COVID-19;” “PCR test;” “Fourteen days to flatten the curve; ” “Follow the science;” “Wear your mask;” “Double masking is better;” “N95’s are better;” “Take the vaccine;” “Li Wenliang;” “Obey the lockdowns;” “Get the booster;” “Our patience is wearing thin;” “You won’t get COVID if you get the vaccine;” “Symptoms will lessen if you get the vaccine;” “Ivermectin is just horse dewormer;” “Superspreader event;” “Myocarditis;” “Ventilators;” “Families separated;” “Wuhan lab;” “Vaccine mandates;” “Millions dead;” “Ivermectin is effective;” and “Andhra Pradesh.”

  33. Jordan Borges says:

    “Ok, you’re all set. Please have a seat while we wait for the results, and welcome to Brazil.”

    “Thank you.”

    The lounge made a good waiting room. Plenty of chairs, plenty of people watching. I joined Marcela in the corner.

    “I hate airports.”

    I nodded. “I know.”

    She watched as a shouting businessman passed, mask dangling from his ear.

    “I hate people.”

    “I know.”

    I took her hand. She squeezed without looking at me.

    Our results came simultaneously. We took our certificates of clean health and walked into the humid air to bury her grandfather.

  34. Bernardo Miller-Villela says:

    by Bernardo Villela

    At checkpoints we have to mask up and pack heat.
    The Erelong Virus is the worst in a century of viruses. It’s twice as contagious as any heretofore known illness. And that’s only part of the risk.
    Compulsory testing checkpoints have become so common that some who bristled at them now succumbed and some who welcomed them now raged.
    Rage didn’t arm us though. A positive test now meant execution, as did resistance.
    Mathematically those dictates made sense, but mathematicians weren’t asked to shoot. If a vaccine is really too far off to quarantine the sick, just drop the bomb.

  35. Pamela Horitani says:

    Yikes! What have I gotten into? That’s the question I asked as a newly hired Nurse Aide. I thought I would change bedpans, check blood pressure – routine stuff, but instead found myself thrust into the thick of a viral pandemic. A deadly one. Next, the unthinkable. My mother arrived on a stretcher before being placed on a ventilator. A picture of me swabbing her appeared in our local news. Then a silver lining. Weeks later, it was me assigned to roll Mom out of the hospital into awaiting applause. And that’s when I knew I was meant to be there.

  36. Cheryl Snell says:

    After our shift we’re too tired to unmask. We sit on the front porch, gathering strength to unlock our door, when our new next door neighbor comes bounding over with a box of cookies. No mask. He hastens
    to explain it with his inventory of vaccines. I’ve never actually met someone who died of the plague,
    have you? he sneers, and I have the urge to show him the urn of my sister’s ashes. We receive his gift,
    and sensing our chill, he turns to go. You can remove those things now, he adds. This is a real safe neighborhood.

  37. Sherri Bale says:

    I felt the familiar swab enter my left nostril and pass through my sinuses on its way to its target. It gingerly approached my cerebellum, finally hooking its prey. The grayish prize traveled its mucus-y route pulled along by the technician’s steady hand, squeezing thru my sinuses, then nostril, then out to freedom.

    The tech slipped the organ into a plastic bucket, slapped a label on it, and handed me a sheet of paper.

    I was to return in two weeks when my refurbished brain would be ready. Meanwhile, don’t sign any legal documents or make any irreversible life decisions.

  38. Holly Ellison says:

    Another One Bites the Dust

    “Head up,” she orders.

    I squeeze my eyes shut.

    “This won’t take long; just a few swipes.”

    I say nothing, feeling like I’m about to be shot. The swab enters my nostril and creeps up to what I think is my brain. I instantly try to pull away. She holds it up there, twirling it around in circles. Eleven times.

    “Doing great,” she tells me as she extracts the thing from my brain, nose, or wherever it’s been.

    “Hopefully, you were not exposed to that mystery dust, or you’re going to have to move.”

    Makes Covid seem so simple now.

  39. T Marshall says:

    You Should Have Worn Protection!

    “I’m going in,” said Dan. “Diaper off in 3-2-1.” Thankfully it wasn’t a bad one. Two minutes later he gave the all clear, “Change complete and we’re good to go.” Charlotte chuckled and shook her silky smooth fists. Her brow started to furrow and her cheeks redden. A look of grim determination took hold as she began to bear down and fill the clean diaper. “Blast!” thought Mum as Tabby shot out of the room. “It’s my turn.” Dan peeled off his mask and skipped into the kitchen looking for a beer. Just one more magical parenting moment to remember!

  40. Luca Ercolani says:

    The patient sat upright, blinding lights above him. The doctor was a nice-looking woman, perhaps young enough to be his daughter.

    “Easy with that thing, sweetie!” he joked, as she neared the swab to his nostril.

    He couldn’t help but gurgle and sneeze, splattering the doctor’s face shield with mucus and blood.

    “Wait, are you not deep enough already?” he mumbled, as she pushed further down.

    “I don’t know if I should be here, miss, please?”

    Almost there, just a couple more thrusts.

    “Are you mommy? I’m scared?”

    One last twirl ended the procedure and all remnants of coherent thought.

  41. Kim Slemint says:

    America is no longer safe. People living in dollhouses, Ransacked shelves. Increased crime and violence. Super-spreader neighbors. I stare out the window of our MIQ hotel and watch people as they laugh, joke and hug, The tide of covid lapping on their shores. They don’t know what to expect. I return my attention to the brown paper bags. The snip of the scissors comforts me as I make ridiculous outfits to share with my fellow inmates on social media. Tonight I am going to be the MIQ prom queen. I have nowhere to go, creative imagination. A ticking time bomb.

  42. Pete Riebling says:

    It was bright because it hadn’t been exposed to the environment. Monte wasn’t a scientist. He wouldn’t have been able to describe in detail the nature of the reaction of oxygen present in the air with the thin layer of copper on the outside of the penny. He knew the other pennies in the pile weren’t dirty, though. The other pennies were tarnished. There was a difference. It was ten years old. Until recently it had been one of fifty pennies in their original roll, maybe. Protected by a wrapper. Not any longer. Monte rejected the impulse to pocket it.

  43. Sam Sheehan says:


    I found the spare keys to your house I seldom used. When I realised how little I have visited over the years my heart ached with regret. I let myself in through the front door and made my way slowly upstairs. I suppose i’m here to help with moving your things but I can’t bring myself to disturb any of the purposefully placed objects around me. I feel you’re about to come through the door at any moment. I take a handful of change from the red tin by your bed for the bus home. I hope you don’t mind.

  44. Sam Sheehan says:

    I found the spare keys to your house I seldom used. When I realised how little I have visited over the years my heart ached with regret. I let myself in through the front door and made my way slowly upstairs. I suppose i’m here to help with moving your things but i can’t bring myself to disturb any of the purposefully placed objects around me. I feel you’re about to come through the door at any moment. I take a handful of change from the red tin by your bed for the bus home. I hope you don’t mind.

  45. Austin Anderson says:

    Lesser Coins

    I dig through loose coins until copper stains my fingertips. My father’s words arise, familiar phantoms in my mind.

    “Never neglect lesser coins. Even pennies become precious to a poor man.”

    Spoken with the wisdom of a mountain monk or a man who knew the pain of being one cent short for a meal. Either way, I was quick to roll my eyes.

    Now, a single penny is the toll to his memories. The same lectures I would have given anything to avoid are the ones I miss the most. Funny how the lesser things soon become the most valuable.

  46. Autumn says:

    Chubby fingers curled around the penny, shifting the carefully constructed tower of dimes and nickels beneath it. She held her breath, penny suspended, waiting for the disturbed coins to clatter against the floorboards, alerting her brother to the theft. But it remained quiet. The silver stayed put. She slid the copper into her pocket crept down the hall to their shared room. The penny felt delicious against her palm: tiny and cool, like a promise. She tucked the penny under her pillow and covered her pillow in her most ferocious stuffed animals. Why should he always be the lucky one?

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