The Man In The Hat- Quick Online Reads

Over at Fiction Writers Group, we run a weekly flash fiction contest based on a random photo prompt elected for that week. The maximum word count is 300 words. I thought this exercise would be a nice addition to my blog, and a great challenge for you guys to play along with too. Please do get involved, and tag me in your entries so I get a notification when your piece is posted. I can’t wait to read them!

The following entry is my attempt at this prompt. I think for the 300 word count, I bit off a little more than I could chew. It’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, but in much longer form. A short story, novella, perhaps even a novel. Either way, it’s what the prompt evoked, and we’ve gotta play the cards we’re dealt, right? I’ll leave it with this. I tried my best to squeeze a story that is bursting out of me, in a few short words, and I enjoyed it! I hope you do too.


Danny sat frozen to his seat, arm rests creaking beneath the strength of his grip, as the other passengers screamed and braced and grabbed on to whatever they could. The lightning struck either side of the plane, destroying each jet in unnatural unison. They hurtled toward the ground at unthinkable speed, near-vertical in their decent. Those unlucky enough to be out of their seats had been launched to the back of the plane, lying mangled and bleeding, dead on impact.

Danny didn’t move. He forced his eyes closed, tried to stay calm, coaching himself as he raced toward death. It’s over, there’s nothing I can do about it. No use panicking now, it’s done. Accept it. It won’t hurt. He shouted these words in his mind like a mantra, desperately trying to ignore the eery face of the man in 3A. The man in the hat. The man who’s seat was now empty, not a trace of him left. Newspaper gone, food cleared, tray folded up, as if he were never there. That face was burned into Danny’s mind. The face that right before the strikes looked directly at him—into him—and winked.

Was it just his mind that whispered the words in that moment? Something to do with the panic, that caused him to think in some twisted, ethereal voice?

‘Myself, sacrificed to myself.’

He heard it again as the plane impacted the ground, saw that face once more, and then, nothing.

Danny awoke sweating and nauseous. He pushed himself up onto all fours, revealing scattered pieces of burning metal and plane parts as far as he could see. Body parts and blood and bone littered across the earth. He stood, dumbfounded. Inspected himself.

Not a scratch.

Myself, sacrificed to myself.


Bonus points to whoever figures out who the man in the hat is, and what it all means! What do you think? Let me know in the comments

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About Gary Holdaway

A multi genre author of short stories and novels, writing a curious mix of quick online reads and lifestyle posts.

7 Responses

  1. […] Coming in at under 300 words for a weekly writing group contest, The Man In The Hat was a short exploration of a character I’d held in my mind for a long time. Two characters, actually. The mood of the piece is enigmatic, and it really doesn’t give much away. While the situation isn’t one I saw for a longer novel, I enjoyed setting these two characters free just for a few hundred words. If you’d like to go check that out, it’ll take less than a couple minutes and you can have a go at figuring out who the man in the hat is. Hopefully it wets your appetite for one of my near-future works! You can find it here: The Man In The Hat. […]

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