2020 minus 36: relativistic and idiosyncratic

Posted: 26 November 2019 in 2020 minus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

Two stories written for friends, today, in 2009.

Both tales took some crafting, because with each, the story I had planned resisted where I wanted to them them. And so, obviously, I stopped writing the stories I’d intended to write, and wrote the stories that wanted to be told.

I thought ‘well, they must know their story better than I do.’ And, reading them again, I still do.


Title: Buggered By The Moonlight
Word: relativistic
Challenger: Dan Curtis Johnson
Length: 200 words exactly

Now he could hear things, although he knew that was impossible.

Voices. His mother telling him telling him how proud the old man was of him. Then his father, explaining in graphic detail how disappointed he was in his son.

And below that, the soft hiss of his oxygen running out.

He’d switched off the alarms some time ago, both audible and visual notifications, so he no longer knew precisely how much air he had left to breathe, but he’d decided he didn’t want to know.

He idly wondered how the news media was describing his situation. “Floating in the stars” or “drifting in space”, probably. If he had the strength, he’d laugh. You didn’t float, nor drift – you continued in whatever direction you’d been propelled, subject to the same forces that drove planets through their orbits. He was just going faster, much faster, the force of the exploding experimental drive pushing him close to the speed of light.

He wasn’t aware of any relativistic effects, but then he wouldn’t be, he thought.

The fastest man in the universe, he mused, never once realising that he’d ceased to be human several thousand years ago.

Dying was beyond him now. Forever.

© Lee Barnett, 2009



Title: Fast Road To Nowhere
Word: idiosyncratic
Challenger: Alan Porter
Length: 200 words exactly

The police and criminalists had come for him once; they’d even arrested him, walking him out from his office through the trading floor, his arms behind him, the black and silver of the handcuffs visible to his staff. But the next morning, he was back in his office, released without charge, his face challenging those who’d dare to express astonishment at his presence.

And still there was no sign of his wife. Hadn’t been for months, since she’d apparently just not returned from a shopping trip to an all night market, a trip taken at two in the morning, despite never having done so previously.

His staff never said good morning or good night to him now. They just arrived and they left, wondering when the police would return. They knew he’d work until ten, then hit the running machine in the company gym, in the basement, his only company security guards who tolerated his idiosyncratic choice of time to exercise, night after night.

And then one morning, he didn’t show up. No call, no email. He’d just not turned up.

And everyone knew that he’d confirmed his guilt.

Everyone except the security guards, who’d eaten well that week.

© Lee Barnett, 2009

Something else, tomorrow…

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