2022 minus 32: enigmatic and… enigmatic

Posted: 30 November 2021 in 2022 minus, fast fiction, fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve quite liked putting up two very early fast fiction challenges the past two weeks, two stories written while I was still figuring out what I could do with the format.

So here are another two, from early in the first set of challenges, in 2005.

You’ll notice that they have the same title and the same word.

For this was a title, a challenge, which I answered twice; I wrote two entirely different stories.

I started writing fast fiction challenges when my wife and I had recently separated, as a precursor to divorce, and wanted something to occupy my mind and to recharge the writing muscles.

But the first story I wrote answering this challenge was, I realised after I completed it, a tale that many, too many, people would assume was taken from real life. It wasn’t, but… y’know. It’s probably one of the more brutal of the earlier stories but it really wasn’t from real life. Honest.

But as I say, y’know…

So I composed another short fiction and published that one. That’s the second tale below.

When I did the collection, though, enough time had passed that I included the first story I’d originally written, because I still liked it. And I still do.

(I find it more amusing than I probably should that the story title includes the word “twice”. Also that the challenge came from one of my close friends.)

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: She Killed Me Twice
Word: enigmatic
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

The first time she killed me, it was with cruelty.

The cold blooded severing of our lives, as she announced she was moving out. She looked around our apartment, summing up six years of togetherness with an apathetic gesture signifying that it had no meaning to her. The look of contempt in her eyes was chilling, made worse because of the utter yet enigmatic lack of expression on the rest of her features.

She took out her keys and one by one, removed any of them that had the slightest link to us. The sound they made as each one hit the table will remain with me for life.

One final look around the place, her eyes sweeping the room and passing over me as if I was of no greater import than a television or a curiously designed lamp.

And then she was gone, leaving me with the detritus of a life, wondering how to recover, how to go on.

Then the telephone calls started, so concerned about how I would ‘survive’, the patronising tone rubbing salt into the still open wounds of my heart.

The second time she killed me was with kindness.

Cruelty was easier to bear.

© Lee Barnett, 2005

Title: She Killed Me Twice
Word: enigmatic
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

She was so excited when the box arrived that it was as if she was a child again, rather than a grown woman.

“It is, it is!” I heard her shriek at the front door, from where I sat, in the living room.

She brought the box in through the hall way and placed it in front of me with pride, the usual expression on her face, a conflation of enigmatic shyness and utter pleasure. Ever since she had opened the first one five years ago and had cut into the complimentary copies, she was wary about opening it herself.

Since then, prudence and superstition (and writers tend to be more superstitious than the average person) had mandated that I open up the parcel for her. I did so, removed the top edition and retreated to the couch to read while she examined the rest of the copies of her latest whodunit novel.

I didn’t do too badly this time around, I decided three hours later; looking at the victims, their names, foibles and eccentricities, I’d only been put to death twice. That was the lowest since the second book. I must have been on her good side that month.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.

I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid 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 the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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