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 safety deposit boxes—one with a key in it.

Art Credit: Mark Blanchard

59 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Nicole Broach says:

    His Secrets
    2856. That was all my grandfather could muster up before the heart monitor went flat. We searched for months. Old computer passcodes. Locks on various cabinets throughout his house. We searched until we were mad.

    No one knew he had a lockbox. So much had been locked up our entire lives. We would never have assumed that he would trust a big company to hold his wealth. Considering the rations stored in the cellar, we thought he would keep his secrets close. One might think a heart doesn’t belong in a lockbox. According to my grandfather, they would be wrong.

  2. Sophie Brotemarkle says:

    “Overconfidence”

    Idiots. Nobody would suspect I’d keep the cure in my mailbox. They ask me for it daily, scared that the numbers keep climbing. What they call sickness is a gift. We’ll all be gone, but the younger ones, they won’t remember. They’ll be grateful. Grateful for a world that will be of my creating! I’ve made myself a god; and I’ve done so through science. The armed men outside my building don’t faze me. I’m not scared when they grab me and force me to the ground. Or when they put a bullet through my head. They will understand. Eventually.

  3. John Rivers says:

    “Directions”

    2754 has a ruby necklace that came from somewhere shameful

    2755 has a wedding ring that’s still warm

    2756 has a handful of pages with a whole life written into them

    2757 has a rejection letter, 5 past-due bills, and a handgun

    2758 has a rusted silver key

    That silver key leads to a forgettable locker in a worn-down gymnasium

    In that locker is a lantern, a shovel, and a map

    On that map you will find a freshly-dug hole covered poorly by fallen leaves

    In that hole you will find the love of my life

    Bones, flesh, and all

  4. Matt says:

    The key gets handed to me. 2856, that’s his locker. That’s what he wanted to give me.

    I slide the key in.

    Click.

    Boom.

    It was so sudden. One second he was there and the other he had fallen in the street. The roar of the motorcycle had already begun to fade as it echoed from around the corner. I scream from the window, slamming against the glass, unsure if I’m not loud enough or if he isn’t there enough.

    The lawyer’s teeming behind me.

    “I hope it’s worth it.”

    Nothing I find in here could be worth losing him.

  5. “Now, We’ll Hold Her Forever”

    I cup you in my palm, brushing your curls with my thumbnail. The ringlets, once soda-can width, now spiral like tiny quinoa germs.

    “Show me, Da.” When I crouch, present you to our daughter, she only pokes your plasticized wrist, mumbling about ice cream.

    2856. Still the trial group, but it’s clear Departed Dolls™ perfected their technique long ago. There’s your rooster forearm tattoo, Shrinky Dinked to stick-on earring size. Your lips they’ve painted red: wrong. A color you donned for celebration.

    “Shall Ma come home, or stay here, my love?” I ask, but I’m already palming the storage key.

  6. ALL THE THINGS MY FATHER NEVER GAVE ME

    The bank-teller left me with the wall of golden doors.

    Before Dad left, he gave me two keys, tied to a paper tag with an address scribbled on it, and a number. ‘Whatever you need,’ he said, ‘it’s in this box.’

    I found 2856 and unlocked it. Inside, there was money: enough to make rent. The next day, a gift for Mum’s birthday, and every day after that: whatever worldly thing I needed.

    When my daughter was born, I resolved not to visit the box again, or pass the keys on.

    Some things we need can’t fit inside a box.

  7. “A Daily Reminder”
    Before me is a lockbox stuffed with the memories of my father, the logger, towering over me with his heavy hands. I run my thumb over the raw brass with its dull luster. The metallic smell of filthy lucre, hefty, slams into the back of my nose.
    Whenever a lover reaches for my face, no matter how tenderly, the tumblers fall into place. The box springs open.
    I flinch.
    Six years of MMA fighting, and the flinch still follows me, maybe as a daily reminder to give my kids what I myself could have used more of.

  8. Leo Anthony says:

    In the Corner Booth

    Terrance pushed the plate away. The meat was too tough, the bread too stale. It’d looked like a crummy place, but it was quiet. Thank Christ. The rare luxury of calm. Years it seemed without exhaling. Get this. Wreck that. Hurt this one. Kill that one. He turned over a key in his hand, wondering. It had cost him a shallow wound to the thigh, which throbbed along with his belly. But it was the key that bothered him. Why’d the bastard die for it? What was in that box? The job was to deliver the key. But Terrance wondered.

  9. Luca Ercolani says:

    Safe

    Your keys jiggle frantically. You open one safety deposit box after the other to find nothing of interest at all. This was to be expected, but maybe, just maybe, one of them will contain something valuable enough to keep the business afloat.

    Box 2656 clicks open. The jiggling stops. Now we’re talking.

    Quick math. This should be enough. It’s definitely so much more than enough.

    You remember the old widow who signed for the box. She hasn’t showed up in a while. What if she did?

    You turn your attention to the vault’s door. You know it to be soundproof.

  10. S. Tierney says:

    Sand storms, dust clouds, winters permanent and nuclear – these have little respect for anything vertical.
    And yet, the last structure teetering upon the flattened skyline, the bank persists. Banks always hold commodities of avail and fulfilment.
    This our bellies pray.
    The stone to Christ’s tomb, we roll back the vault’s rusted door. Inside:
    Five-thousand deposit boxes–
    Gutted. Ransacked.
    But one has a key remaining in its lock.
    Therein, all from a paper packet of dried seeds, vines have sprouted, as dense and far reaching as nerves. They are the only thing keeping the bank upright–
    And our thankful bellies full.

    • I enjoyed this dystopian piece and the good fortune that someone thought seeds valuable enough to place in a security deposit box, which makes one think about what is really important.🤔

  11. Geoffrey Morgan says:

    He kept so much in the vault. My father died almost twenty years ago now, but I still go back to that safety deposit box and rifle through what he left behind. For many years, what I found were journals, letters, and photos that spoke of what he had been before the war, before us. I later found sea glass from our sailing trips, lyrics to songs he would be singing when I’d come down in the morning. What he left behind, I no longer need a key to a vault to find. He is looking back from the mirror.

  12. Joseph Spadola says:

    I Ain’t Sayin’ I’m a Gold Digger

    When we got married Stan had four months left to live. His son was a slick finance guy who lived up in New York City. He thought Stan was leaving him everything. He came to visit for two weeks towards the end, but he didn’t lift a finger to help. I was the one changing catheter bags and scrubbing shit off the hospice bed. Two days after the funeral he went rifling through our drawers, looking for the deposit-box key. He asked if I had seen it. “No, honey,” I said, and pressed the jagged metal through my bra.

  13. Claire P says:

    285666

    Bubbe left me a key in her will. It belonged to a safety deposit unit in the darkness of her damp celler. There was always one locked door. She said she would leave me her most prized possessions she had collected with satisfaction since the war. She never spoke about her time in Auschwitz but the number on her arm matched the number on the key.

    Turning the lock, I pull out a list of German names all with red ticks and numbers written at the side. Reaching deeper, I find used bullets with numbers engraved upon them. I smile.

  14. T Marshall says:

    Gemma stopped at the bank on her way home. She unhooked the key from her school lanyard, opened the deposit box and slipped the familiar tin into her bag. Once home, she began her ritual, removing each item from the tin, turning it over, bringing it to her lips. Each one brought back vivid memories. There were ten items, soon to be eleven. Each trinket had belonged to a different person. The wedding ring had been her first, the watch her second. Ten items. Ten relationships. Ten deaths. She put them all back in the tin and began her marking.

  15. Thompson Emate says:

    The Lost Ones

    Their safes were no longer there. The keys were pulled out with the safes. Their sojourn had ended. Their journey amidst others had reached the end of the road. The day does not stand before them like a canvas before a painter. Dawn does not open its door to them. The night does not chauffeur them on a tour. They are no longer saddled with life’s perplexities. Their memories are etched in the minds of those they have left. Their files and documents are not eternally erased. Their void lingers. Every safe has its length of time. Its due date.

  16. “Leftover Dirt”

    True to his word, Uncle Joe took the key to his grave. One stormy night of the cousins working together, grunting, taking turns sharing shovels and the casket revealed itself. The hole was dank and cavernous.

    We drew straws.

    Which unlucky bastard would do the deed? Open the lid and run hands over old Joe’s decaying corpse, digging through gore encrusted pockets.

    I was the loser; but also the winner. I launched out of that hole, smelling of death—key in my pocket—guns ablazing. The conundrum? What to do with the soil displaced by four dead cousins haphazardly astride Uncle Joe?

  17. 2757

    She follows them down the dimly lit passage till they find it. Her mother puts one key in; the man at the bank puts in another.

    Turn, turn, open.

    Peering into the box, she sees two bangles and two creased envelopes that look like they’ve been opened many times. Her mother opens them now; surveys their contents, stuffs them into her handbag. Catching her daughter’s eager eyes, she reaches for the bangles. They admire them together before returning them back to safety.

    Turn, turn, close.

    They step back out into the sunshine, into the smoke and screams, and hurry home.

  18. I inserted the key and turned it, then nodded to the bank man who came and did the same. It was safe. 

    That night was mine alone to bear. I could not bear it in my head any longer. Now it was on paper, what had been done and why, and locked away where no one could pry it from me. 

    I loved my father. I had loved my mother. Not, though, as much as he loved her fortune. Steep stairs, quick push, and he was a wealthy man. And my head spun with secrets he didn’t know I knew. 

  19. 2757

    She followed them down the dimly lit passage till they found it. Her mother put one key in; the man at the bank put in another.

    Turn, turn, open.

    Peering into the box, she saw two bangles and two creased envelopes that looked like they’d been opened many times. Her mother opened them, surveyed their contents, and stuffed them into her handbag. Catching her daughter’s eager eyes, she reached for the bangles. They admired them together before they were returned to safety.

    Turn, turn, close.

    They stepped back out into the sunshine, into the smoke and screams, and hurried home.

    • Thushanthi Ponweera says:

      Could you please delete this and take my latest entry instead? I figured it reads so much better in present tense! Thank you!

  20. Larissa Thomson says:

    A Safe Place

    The tellers look at me skeptically now. Suspiciously. Not like when I would come in as Mr. Business. When I had clean fingernails and my five o’clock shadow was fashion.

    Now, I have a tarped grocery cart parked outside.

    “Judy” escorts me into the vault, then leaves me to the quiet.
    I pull the key from my coat, open the lock, and pull out my box.

    Inside? Photos of my kids from a lifetime ago.

    I just needed to say hello. To cry. To wonder how they were.

    To remember when I’d tell them, “We’re all one paycheque from homelessness.”

  21. Rabab says:

    SURPRISE !

    I gazed at my captors in consternation.
    “I do have the bank’s master key for the lockers but after me the owner has to use his own “.
    “What if it is lost ? ”
    ” We have to make a new one .”
    ” Enough ! No more excuses ! Meet us Friday night in the bank’s locker room. ”
    Friday night l entered the locker room. Out of the darkness emerged three figures – part of the outsourced cleaning team that had stayed back. I hesitated long enough for them to take out guns.
    ” Surprise !” they said.
    As the cops materialized from the darkness, l said,
    ” Surprise , indeed !”

  22. Jam says:

    “What’s this dad?”
    It’s a bank, son.
    “Oh. So our money’s here?”
    Exactly.
    “And this key will lead us to our room with all our money?”
    Laughter. Not exactly.
    “Oh, come on, I want to see what it looks like all piled up.”
    That’s not how a bank works, son.
    “What do you mean – isn’t our money here?”
    Kinda; It’s invested elsewhere.
    “Invested? We invested it?”
    No, the bank is investing it.
    “So, the bank is making us money?”
    Kinda; but it makes itself more money.
    “With our money?”
    Exactly.


    “Dad?”
    Yes?
    “I – Um – so – wait – what?”
    Exactly.

  23. Sherri Bale says:

    Letter from the war

    When I was a kid she said it was the bank key. I thought she owned the whole bank. I took the key from her dressing table drawer, from under squashed foam hair curlers, abandoned lipsticks, and a dirty plastic comb with missing teeth.
    It opened a small drawer in the bank’s cold metallic room. Empty but for a brittle blue airmail letter I slid into my purse. He was sure the baby wasn’t his, it had been a wild night, but it wasn’t his. Have a good life, he said. Unsigned. From Italy. Posted a month after my birth.

  24. Krystyna Fedosejevs says:

    Key to Nowhere

    Poplars swayed by Norma’s countryside cabin when Henry entered, finding her motionless in bed.

    His mother’s sister. The only relative to make time for his woeful tales and offer sound advice. A special person to him.

    He hoped she felt the same towards him. If not, why would he spend time helping her?

    After the bank attendant handed Norma’s safety deposit box, Henry’s facial expression twisted into a knot.

    No jewellery or other valuables. In the Will, no mention of a gift to him.

    “Because you kept saying you’re doing well financially,” Norma stated. “No need to worry about you.”

  25. Rachel Cain says:

    Uncle Toby wasn’t okay in the end. Probably he hadn’t been okay for longer than we’d realized. Dementia will do that. Turn a goodman sideways. It had taken Mom and I, thirty-six days to get through all the things he had ratted away inside his apartment. Real strange stuff, glued collages, and odd notes he’d scrawled to himself, stashed in every drawer, even taped inside the refrigerator. When we found the safety-deposit key Mom was ready to toss it. But I slipped it in my pocket for later. It felt important to know what Uncle Toby had thought was important.

  26. Christy Brothers says:

    Evidence

    Mom doesn’t see me in the hall. I know what
    she’s hiding. I know what she did. If the police
    show up, I’m outta here. You never saw me. I snap
    a photo just in case. Just in case he asks. The
    man who visits when I sleep. The man who yells
    and wakes me. Why can’t she be a better liar,
    like me? Why can’t she hide her secrets in the
    bushes like the rest of us? Why did I look through
    the damn window? Why did I stay? Mom turns the
    key. It’s done. My fate is sealed.

  27. Nick George says:

    WHEN DOWN, LOOK FOR THE UPSIDE

    Unearthing the key labelled ‘9582’ was pivotal, leading me to the musky underground vault where evidence of government corruption quietly sat. The blood on my hands was justified; I wasn’t a bad person, merely someone with the strength to do what was right for the greater good. Perspiration prickled my forehead as my shaking hand twisted clockwise, anticlockwise, releasing the pressure, ramming it deeper. Nothing.

    Tears welling, I sank to the dank ground, spent, defeated. That wretched key, I’d lost everything to find, burned into my clenched fist. Unfurling my fingers, staring down, my tears turned from frustration to joy.

  28. Britt Henesy says:

    An Annual Airing of Grievances

    Mom had tried so hard to make her five children get along, but even as adults she had no better luck. We were still entitled brats.

    In death, she persisted.

    Inside her safe-deposit box, we found a rare bottle of bourbon, a key to the family mansion, and a note.
    “All that is mine is yours. Share this bottle, your grief, and your love, and you will find yourselves fortunate.”

    On the anniversary of Mom’s passing every year, we would meet, remember, love again, and solve a series of clues together to find our trust fund checks.

    Well done, Mom.

  29. BG Mash says:

    2856

    I like numbers, a lot. I was the 1st kid in 2nd grade to reach 100 in counting. I put this on my 1st resume, under my street address of 2856, 1st Street.

    I paid 28-months rent for box 2856 on the 28th day of 1956. Arriving at my box I scribbled 28×56 on my palm with a black marker. I then peeled the sum of $1,568 from a wad of $28,560 in cash, snapped an elastic on it and slide the dough inside box 2856.

    I’m back 2,856 days later on my 56th birthday. I like numbers, a lot.

  30. Michele Villanueva Rosefelt says:

    A safety deposit box bequeathed to me? A wave of giddiness seeps through me as the bank teller leads me to a secure room. I touch the golden coffer with trepidation. For a moment, I am hopeful – not for money but validation. Will I find letters of regret, acknowledgement and amends from mom? Or will I find an empty shell, like the person I’ve become? Once more her pawn, I feel her eyes upon me, watching her big finale play out. Breaking the seal of deceit, I peer inside. Spite fills the space within. And then I hear her laughter.

    • Joyce says:

      Wow! I can feel the suspense and devastation. Very well done.

    • Nick George says:

      I love this chilling story! It reminded me of when my sister and I were going through our dear mum’s home after she died. We came across a package hidden behind the freezer. Opening it we found two floor tiles, bound together with a folded piece of paper between them. We squabbled over the paper (I won!). I opened it to discover it was blank! We could definitely hear her laughter, although in our case it was mischievous not spiteful!

  31. I had searched the world for the key. Interviewed those who came out of shadows and faded back again. Visited places known to only the unluckiest of dreamers.

    I cannot remember how old I am, or what kind of life I may have had before I began my quest.

    Who would have thought it would have been /there/, this whole time?

    It slides into the lock and turns with just a satisfying whisper of a click.

    Now. My prize. Now we shall see what’s in the box, and I can move on.

    Another key.

    But what lock does it fit?

  32. Safety

    Hank was retiring. He had walked across the Cyclone’s planks thousands of times. How many rivets had he replaced? Safety checks. The steady red glow of neon. A scarf on the track. Birds mangled in the running rails. Everything here designed to sway with the force, like the branches of a tree hit with hard snow and wind. Hank watched the faces fighting terror at top of the steep drop. He once clutched the broken body of a young man who decided to stand up. It still helped him to think of Mary holding Jesus. What a way to go.

  33. Cyclone

    It’s just melancholy, I say to myself as I unwind the filmstrip and look at the stills through the dim light of our attic. Not vengeance.

    Melancholy for that rickety coaster, your hand in mine as we, stomachs churning, dipped and dove, turning green as grass as the car, climbing to the top before pausing, clickity-clackity rattled down the rails again. The story of our marriage, eh, Jolene? That stupendous rush. Them terrifying dips. Your early departure.

    I roll the film back up and put it in its canister.

    I’m off to find Carny Joe now to reclaim my prize.

    • Josh Adetona says:

      A woman named Mrs Emma came to work and kept her belongings such as her car key house key and wallet that contains credit card drivers licence and a bunch of cash . After that Mrs Emma goes to here sitting area not knowing where she kept her safe key’s,so she brushed it of till it was lunch an she constantly asking herself where she kept her key until her ship finally ended till she reminded her self where she put the key she caked everywhere her pocket, where she sat down until she saw on the safe door.

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