57 plus 42: chrysalis and precarious

Posted: 28 September 2021 in 57 plus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , ,

It’s Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts. Another two from fifteen years ago, this week, from the long ago stories of 2006.

The 2006 run was the second I did, and by now I was comfortable with the format, comfortable enough to experiment with the stories themselves. Some were very sweet, some very dark and a few very… odd.

The first is a dark little tale that I remember writing; I’ve no idea where the idea came from but if you told me it was after reading yet another daft company memo, I wouldn’t be surprised..

The second story, though? I have no memory of writing it at all. Definitely one of the much sillier stories in the run, its’ very, very very silly., I do hope you enjoy it.

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.

I hope you enjoy them…

Title: Official Workplace Sanctity
Word: chrysalis
Challenger: Jen Van Meter
Length: 200 words exactly

The firing squad was scheduled for seven in the morning, an hour after dawn.

The flood of legislation since the revolution was staggering: in its first hundred days, the government had rewritten thirty thousand pages of law, reversing eighty years of employee protection in three short months. And like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, the country was suddenly different from before. This butterfly had claws, however: it was now illegal, among other things, to take a holiday, to ask for a pay rise, to even work less than six days a week.

The new office procedures manual had only been in operation for eight months, but already thirteen staff had been sent to solitary confinement. This was only the fifth execution though. She glanced at the charges, projected on her wall: “Overt fraternisation.”

She’d smiled at her colleague. And that was all it had taken to be reported. And not much more to be convicted.

She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, tired beyond belief. She wondered how long it would be before they came for her. She hoped it wouldn’t be too long: it was illegal to cry for more than six minutes a day.

© Lee Barnett, 2006

Title: The Bulbous Ghost
Word: precarious
Challenger: [Livejournal: evilbilbo
Length: 200 words exactly

They tried to put it politely at first, but after every entreaty and plea was ignored, courtesy began to take its leave.

Begging requests that would otherwise have been pitiful merely, they said, went in one orifice and out the other.

But there was no question that something had to be done.

Frankly, he was embarrassing the other ghosts.

They glided through walls and slid under doors, their vaporous ectoplasm enabling feats of infiltration that the most recent spectre mastered in such a short time.

And there he was, lumbering away, his passing measured not by the hypersensitive equipment favoured by those humans who took an interest in the paranormal, but by counters that traditionally were used to measure movements of tectonic plates.

Eventually, the rest of them got together and called a council. None had been called in unliving memory, but the oldest of them still remembered The Law and it was he who chaired the meeting.

It was horribly understandable, but unfair, one side of the argument went, that his very nature meant that he placed all other ghosts in precarious jeopardy by his very existence.

Meanwhile, the ghost of the blue whale listened in silence and pondered…

© Lee Barnett, 2006


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

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