57 minus 08: zeitgeist and cold

Posted: 9 August 2021 in 57 minus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Yes, I know it’s Monday, but… well, I started to write a post about how ‘time’ has changed for me during the pandemic, the third in a series (previous ones on medical stuff and travel) and then a few hundred words though it prefaced it with…

A bit shorter one today, as my foot started twingeing as I got into the flow and, in about ten minutes, went from ‘ouch, this is a bit painful’ to ‘oh gods, I need the painkillers, where are my painkillers, I’m sure I have painkillers in my bag…’

…before it started hurting a lot more. A lot more.

So, yeah, you get another couple of old stories today.

Sorry, You’ll probably get two more tomorrow as well. And, hopefully back to normal on Wednesday.

It’s Tuesday Monday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, both from 2005.

I was still figuring out the format at this stage, and – looking at these two -I was feeling my way towards writing darker stories, much darker. These are probably two of the ‘much darker’ of the earlier tales. They fit my current mood.

Both could be expanded, I suppose, but I’m genuinely wary about doing so.

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.

For once, I won’t say ‘enjoy them’, but merely, ‘I hope you don’t have nightmares afterwards…’

Title: My Only Tendency
Word: zeitgeist
Challenger: Dave Bush
Length: 200 words exactly

I have a quirk. An eccentricity, an idiosyncrasy.

A quirk.

Sure it’s strange, but who’s to say that my habits are any less peculiar than your own?

Oh, you’re going to say that, are you?

Well… to be fair, you’re probably right.

After all, how many other people do you know who collect zeitgeist writers?

I don’t mean writings about the era in which the writer lived: the summing up of a culture, together with its mores and social, political or even occasional legal forays into self-absorption. Neither do I refer to the writings of someone who is generally regarded as the spirit of the age.

No, I mean that I collect the writers themselves. I kidnap them. I stick a needle in their arms and their marvellously clever brain shuts down long enough for me to ‘help’ them into the van.

It’s not been easy, but the cellar at the back of the house has borne witness to many of them over the years.

Every one of them looked upon as the spirit of their generation. And every last one of them writing as their final words their name, scratched on a concrete wall, with their broken… bloody… fingernails.

© Lee Barnett, 2005

Title: Cold
Word: cold
Challenger: Derek [@apiphile]
Length: 200 words exactly

I’d been searching for her for three years when the telephone call came.

The ringing interrupted my shower and I turned the water off, grabbing for a towel as I stumbled through the room, drying myself as I went towards the telephone. My hand stabbed out and I pulled the receiver to my ear.

“Charlie?” came a voice I knew so well, moments before I could greet the caller.

“It’s me,” she said, unnecessarily. As if I could forget the gentleness of her dulcet tones. The voice continued, “I’m safe.”

Three years of not knowing, three years of wondering. Three years of hunger for her.

“I… I…” I stumbled over the words in surprise. All my plans, all my carefully worked out speeches. Gone, like they’d never existed, never been planned through the empty nights.

“Don’t try to find me,” she said. “I’m safe… at last. Safe from you.”

“Lisa, don’t go!” I cried, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again.”

“Once was enough,” she said, sadness suffusing her words.

The phone went dead. It was cold in my hands.


Like a children’s game of hide and seek, I felt further away from her than ever.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


See you tomorrow, with… something else, more of the same, probably.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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