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.

Photo on a subway full of businesspeople in Japan.Art Credit: tokyoform


44 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Carlton Clayton says:

    I like a subway car. It’s full of strangers. It’s where I go to be one of them. It’s where I go to be anyone or anything I want to be. Or be nothing or no one at all. They ignore you on the train. They see you but don’t see you. They step over you or around you even though you’re a ghost. They frown and shriek and roll their eyes surreptitiously, but they have a story to tell at the coffee counter at work or around the dinner table at home. I am a caricature of them all.

  2. The man with the book is riding. Always the same book and never a page further. It’s some pretentious behemoth of a thing I would have been drawn to in college. He periodically peers up from the pages in hopes of catching someone’s gaze. He wants to be noticed; I get it. The train halts at his stop, but he doesn’t exit the car. That’s new. He rides the train to its final destination, as do I. Anything to witness the unexpected. As the train switches tracks, I ask, “Whatcha reading?” The man begins to sob, and I follow suit.

  3. Geoffrey Morgan says:

    May 2022

    It was lifetimes ago. Seventy years since families climbed out of shelters, stumbling dazed among rubble streets. Our cities burned desert. Our charred hope dug from the broken, rebuilt brick by blood-poisoned brick. Occupied, defeated, the weary, wary, wanted war no more.

    We doze on pristine subways, read the news, stone-faced staring into a hazy and jagged future that cannot be held at bay by dubbed Walt Disney cartoon mice. The big promise – it will never happen again – now booms in threatening foreign voices. Our bones carry too much not to remember, not to whisper, to tremble, ready.

  4. G. Mahoney says:

    My alarm shrieks, breaking the silence of sleep. The harbinger of another day. “This day is going to be a good one,” I declare to myself.

    I hastily gather myself and flee the comforts of home to the discomforts of commuting by train.

    My day consists of licking boots, kissing ass and swallowing pride, followed by another cramped train car back home. Completing another day of monotony.

    My alarm shrieks, breaking the silence of sleep. The harbinger of another day. “This day is going to be a good one,” I declare to myself.

    This is the true definition of insanity.

  5. Tiny Tim in Tokyo says:

    When You Wish Upon A Star

    Arms folded, Kenji stood with his back turned to the Disney Sea sign. He’d made plans for the first date there. Sea all day, then a lap of Tokyo in his GTR in the twilight. The chicks always dig Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge. It beat these gloomy trains.

    But she backed out. Something about a relative in town from Miyagi. Then the next time her parents’ poodle got food poisoning. Then tonight, alone in the office, she said she was seeing someone else. Well, that was news. Kenji pondered. Fate wasn’t being kind. And his requests weren’t too extreme.

  6. Pamela White says:


    I stand alone, beyond what you can see, beyond the train, the loop of ceaseless movement of darkly suited still figures, from small apartments, to sky scrapers, then after work Karaoke, and back to sleep before repeating. They sit in practiced silence, heads bowed over newspaper, bodies pulled in small, eyes not searching others, respectful. I stand alone. Foreign. My Big Easy voice silenced. But I DO intrude. In a flash Big Daddy has defiled privacy, creating the very image that reaches you. You, who may zoom in at will, knowing that your privacy is not penetrated.

  7. Andrew John Banks says:

    People look away when others are fighting in public, which is exactly when the five of us started at each other. If anything, they did their best to pretend we didn’t exist. Charlie took to his book; Fred moved across from him looking away from me, beside himself. I guess he was wondering the same thing I was; Jonathan and Michael had my back, staying with me. But I couldn’t look at any of them. I was left standing in the middle of the subway, ignored, and confused by how we all grew so far apart. Five friends, now three.

  8. Elan says:


    The interior gleamed like the nightlife of the unforgiving city that peered into you with its penetrating lights that never turned off, even shining the face off your buried hopes soured long ago as the linoleum floor, the suggestively damaged hue of rotten optimisms, too spoiled to restore.

    I stuffed my hand into my pocket, feeling the sharp edges of her apartment keys like our bitter affair. (Sakura wouldn’t be waiting up for him. Even Souta-san would learn in time of the wanes men fight desperately against). ‘The train is only my executioner’, I stiffened my posture, ‘and my deliverer.’

  9. Elizabeth Stone says:

    Newspaper Glances

    Train windows bend time; music, faintly, from headphones in front of me. Strangers’ eyes floating above ink, newspaper glances from wandering gazes; wondering gazers.
    Polyester cushions scratching legs below denimed skin; rays disappear in tunnels then abruptly burst anew. There is nothing to do on the train but read and observe; creases in paper eroding deeper. Tea in travel mugs, sips between existing.
    A contentment of this purgatorial line; all awaiting another destination.
    Acceptance of the travel warps; cities buzzing by – some depart, and others arrive, and all continue the perpetual bustle, stealing newspaper glances at one another, a mirror to more of the same.

  10. Cole Beauchamp says:


    Reminiscing commuter, giddy from last night’s embrace. Stoic commuter, solid feet, hands in pockets, marching through his twenty-year career plan.

    Sleeping commuter, shuddering from too much night-shift caffeine. Reading commuter, brain racing from the euphoria of the final pages.

    Cheerful commuter, smiling everyone on and off the carriage, freshly washed, bright eyed. What’s it like, living so suffused in light? Unemployed commuter, eyes on polished shoes, rehearsing what he offers the company.

    Woman commuter, defined by her singularity in this carriage, burgundy pumps. Hungover commuter, sweaty faced, whose lurch towards the door elicits “This, too, shall pass” from Cheerful commuter.

  11. Naomi Mestman says:

    Sitting in the subway car. Headphones in to avoid hearing other people talking. Public settings give you knots in your stomach.
    A taxi hums at your side. You hop in and direct the driver, “Fifth.”
    The longest block of your life.
    Fifty minutes to the office. Your feet pounding exuding a heartbeat louder than the one in your chest. Grab today’s paper from your leather bag.
    The man in the cubicle next to you is yelling. Relaxing isn’t the word you’d choose. This can’t be real.
    Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. The only thing to calm you down.

  12. Mike says:

    Before a marble-mouthed voice announces the next station, I know where we are by the faint whiff of stale piss. My stop is coming up. It smells like moldy concrete. After years of closed-eye, workaday commuting, I have plotted a different kind of mental map of the underground. Each stop’s greasy, olofactory fingerprints forever streaked across my brain.

    The resident dogs of the Moscow Metro grift around their city in the same way, I’m told. Getting on and off the trains, remembering the best stops to scavenge, to beg, by smell.

    I have a dog’s nose, if not its freedom.

  13. Ryan Babcock says:


    Takako’s ghost followed him everywhere. He hadn’t realized how much weight he’d lost since his wife passed away last December when he put on his blazer that morning. It was March. The shoulder seam sloped past the bone, and he had to make a new notch with his belt. Riding the train into Tokyo, he tilted his head back to restrain tears from spilling over. His Adam’s apple bobbed. They were in love until her body withered into a wisp. To lose her was to lose himself. To forget her was his death.

    Unaware, he would see her again soon.

  14. Amber says:

    A sea of masculinity filled the train. The levels of testosterone constricted my lungs. I slowly felt my femininity drowning. Not one head looked up from a book or a newspaper, they were all preoccupied with the words. Trying to forget the reality of their families breaking or their businesses failing or their debt quickly building up. Not an eye followed me as I walked down the aisle to an empty seat. A level of comfort and safety fell over me as not one man watched me or tried to follow me. The fear of traveling alone abandoned my mind.

  15. First Day

    I’m a disrespectful, selfish, ungrateful son. Mother and father are angry. My younger brother, Asahi, furious. I stole his dream. I escaped first.

    Now, Asahi will inherit the potato farm and a lifetime of dirt, back-breaking work, farming headaches, blinding sunshine. Father will ensure he never leaves.

    I wish my parents could see my happiness being office-bound with city men. Clean fingernails. Crisp suit. New haircut. Civilized.

    I promised, someday, I’d make their lives easier. Maybe they’ll receive me with hugs instead of turning their backs.

    Tomorrow, I’ll try harder for a seat. I’ll bring a book.

    This is nothing.

  16. Christy Brothers says:

    The Lady with Two Red Shoes

    She smiles, then crosses her legs.
    I turn a page. She’s on to me.
    I slide my glasses to the end of
    my nose. Five seats away, my partner
    waits. I scan the train. A sudden
    ponytail? Who is she signaling?
    Three seats to her right, a cough.
    It could be anyone. I keep my hand
    on my pistol just in case. Her
    lipstick and heels match perfectly.
    How does someone that beautiful live so
    corruptly? She smiles again. I pretend
    not to notice.

    “You will slip up.”

    The train halts and I let her exit
    first, following close behind.

  17. Seeing Red

    Minnie’s shoes should be red. Like mine. In the row of black leather, my slender ankle bows into the curve like a thigh sliding open in response. Over my head, Minnie dances, yellow-footed joy: a poster above in the underground aroma of piss and too much morning cologne. She headlines a clackety-clack-track morning commute to another slow train derailment. Men in ties, white shirts, see red and follow that curve to just below my traceable collarbone. Arrested by the hand-perfect shape of my breast, they never make it to my brain. Minnie winks, “I know just how you feel, girl!”

  18. Janet Stevenson says:

    Big City Bustle

    It displeases each of my senses being jostled in a jerky iron horse going about 80mph crammed with passengers packed like sardines.

    The unapologetic noise jangles my thinking and bruises my ears. Some people don’t mind bustling sounds of crowded pavement, but I have recurring amplified sensitivities of things heard.

    I believe a new day breathes at dawn. There’s a brief hush around 4am, almost Zen enlighten after urban rhythms downshift and aggressive neon lights cool in low relief.

    Nowadays the proverbial pale dawn moon inspires me to hear a hallelujah when life has a call that’s hard to hear.

  19. Alaura Vento says:

    Oriental Bittersweet

    This is where I see you again. On a crowded train. You’re wearing the red heels. The ones that remind me of Oriental bittersweet. They make you stand out in a car full of gray and black suits. Your hair is tied back but when you shift strands fall over your glasses. I’m close enough to push them back for you. I wonder what it would feel like to touch your hair. Brush my fingers over your skin. I stand up straighter, push my hands deeper into my pockets, force myself to remember that every part of you is poisonous.

  20. Kathryn says:

    I never realized how bored I could get without it, or how lonely. Here I stand, in a crowded subway car, without phone service. My music is still playing, though I don’t count on it for much longer, and I can’t check my social media.
    The people around me don’t know I lost service, I doubt they even comprehend I’m standing in front of them. They have their faces down in their phones and newspapers. I understand why; There isn’t much to look at twenty feet under the city. I’ll just look down and pretend my phone works.

  21. Asma says:


    Sitting next to each other, wrapped in their own worlds, they could be worlds apart. Reading, fatigued, half- asleep, they are blissfully unaware that they will never reach home. I, (codenamed ) AstaZenca will see to that. I was told l was picked up in the street – alone and abandoned. I got boarding, lodging, militant training – ” just leave the package in a crowded place and get away.”
    Well, that’s not going to happen. I cannot kill parents and allow other AstraZencas to be born. I disable the package and smile with relief. My demons laid to rest, l am finally free.

  22. Maile Allen says:

    He’d dreamed of a larger life, one with purpose, intentions fulfilled, goals achieved. Now as he stepped onto the crowded subway after yet another tedious day at work, void of creativity, mindlessly completing every task assigned by his supervisor, he wondered if it had ever been worth dreaming at all.

    The robotic voice came over the speakers saying, “Hold on.” Automatically, he reached for a spot on the bar but stopped himself mid reach.

    He would not hold on.

    Or sit.

    He would stand, only his legs keeping him balanced.

    A desperate plea for autonomy undetectable to anyone but him.

  23. Katie says:

    The train was full, every one was looking down. Each one of them so unique, with only one thing in common- they were all reading. One man was reading a newspaper, another one a comic. But they all lifted their eyes when another person entered the train. This person was different, he wasn’t reading a newspaper nor a book- he had a cellphone.

    Only a decade or two later the same train stopped at the same stop, everyone with their eyes glued to their phone until one person came on. All eyes turn to them- they are reading, reading a real paper book.

  24. Fazal says:


    We caught the last local by the skin of our teeth. Stan, Henry and I – the trinity of Trinity Enterprises. So late , drivers on strike , we huffed and puffed to the Metro. I stopped short at the crush of humanity. Then reality struck – this is how the other half lived ! Away from penthouses , carpeted corridors, air – conditioned comfort ; tired and listless they were catching up on their reading. Some actually smiling – making their weary way home only to be back the next day !
    No photographers , no reporters, we were thoroughly ignored. We exchanged amused glances. A Reality Check would keep us grounded.

  25. Rabab says:


    Humanity is in suspended animation. The very pulse of life has slowed down. Drained, fatigued , listless, everyone has flopped down on their metal seats to make their weary way home. The distant rumbling of the wheels, the gentle movement to and fro work like a lullaby. Even the ones attempting to read or catch up on their work feel reality slipping away.
    Three stalwarts cool and composed watch indulgently. If this is the life we have chosen , why not make the best of it ? When will we understand life is a journey, not a destination ? It is HERE and NOW.

  26. Spencer Grayson Lenhard says:

    As I run to get onto the bus, all I see are men. No one else, just men.
    I sit by a man who is standing, he looks at me with skeptical eyes and says “Why is a woman on the bus?” But I reply “Why is a vir on the bus?”
    “What dose mean?” “Figure it out”

  27. Tarik B says:

    The Morning of the Attack

    Junpei is worried about his numbers this month. Already had a warning.

    Tamami is happy to be going to work. Since the baby came and her mother-in-law moved in, she’s risked biting through her tongue to keep from screaming. Her husband is useless; he turns into a little mouse around his mother.

    Masahide is sweating. He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand and grips his parcel tightly. Hopes no one noticed. Almost time.

    Some have mastered dozing without missing their stops. Everyone’s sleepy, but Saturday’s coming.

    It was supposed to be sunny.

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