Archive for the ‘fast fiction’ Category

During December, while Tuesday has remained the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’ve chosen to make them all ‘tales from the Christmas fast fiction vaults’.

For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge. Which they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two more, from 2015’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

Though he deals with irrational numbers, the very rational Matt Parker is that rare person: a mathematician who not only enjoys convincing others of the joy and fun inherent in mathematics… but actually succeeds in doing so. He’s a very funny, very smart man, who could justifiably claim that the lowest ring of hell is reserved for those who deliberately misuse charts.

It was particularly enjoyable to be able to write a story including numbers for Matt.

Pippa Evans is a very nice person who is astonishingly talented. I put it that way around because otherwise you’d be so overwhelmed with her talent that you’d never remember that she’s also a very, very lovely person. She’s funny, silly and incredibly hard working, and I like her a lot.

There are not many stories that, the moment I think of the hook, I laugh out loud. Pippa’s challenge gave me that delight.

Both received the same prompt as always:

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 these examples…


Title: When Nothing Adds Up
Word: moreover
Challenger: Matt Parker
Length: 200 words exactly

He stepped out of the vehicle, so very weary; he’d been thinking about his bed for the past hour, although in truth an hour meant little to him. He patted down his travelling companions, murmured a few words to his favourite, then left them to be taken away by assistants.

Assistants? When had he stopped calling them elves? he wondered, and shook his head, chuckling. It was not a pleasant sound; despite legends, Santa rarely laughed from pleasure.

The final task awaited him; one last job before blessed sleep. An elf waited by his desk, pouring over a list: billions of names, each accompanied by green ticks, some large, some almost microscopic. The elf, warily, pointed out the discrepancies to Santa: the total number of gifts did not equal that of the recipients. Moreover, he could not verify six of the names. Santa sighed, and reached into his coat.

He was the sixty-eighth elf to have disappeared without trace in the past four centuries. Others had been more stupid, or more clever.

Santa walked to his rooms and placed several large boxes by his bed; then he took the list and slowly, carefully, appended a tick to his name.

© Lee Barnett, 2015


Title: Brand New Dignity, Jane
Word: clasp
Challenger: Pippa Evans
Length: 200 words exactly

It had taken her weeks to find just the right berries, but with some help, she had gathered enough for her purpose. Crushed between two lumps of wood, then mixed with the remains of specific beetles, they would produce the exact shades of vermillion and cream necessary.

Staining the cloth had been easy; the obtaining of it had not, and she repressed a shudder at the nature of her sacrifice. But it had been necessary. She’d given up so much since she’d made her choice, long ago, but this… this she would not forsake. Similarly, making the leather belt had been simple, the buckle and clasp far harder to create.

Sewing the costume had been more pleasant than she’d anticipated, the act bringing back memories of her mother’s instructions, her smell, her smile.

She’d abandoned her first plan, knowing that the required explanations would be too tortuous and absurd; her replacement victim, however, trusted her completely.

It had been worth it though. The laughter from her child had made it worthwhile; giggles of delight at the sight of a chimpanzee standing to attention while dressed in full Father Christmas outfit. Her husband merely grunted, but then the apeman rarely spoke.

© Lee Barnett, 2015


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 very scarily and vert rapidly 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.

During December, while Tuesday has remained the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’ve chosen to make them all ‘tales from the Christmas fast fiction vaults’.

For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge. Which they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two more, from 2014’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

The first story was written for Nick Doody, one of my favourite writers and stand-up comedians. He’s also – no coincidence – one of the smartest comedians on the circuit.

His very intelligent, very funny material from a very funny, very intelligent comedian, makes you think long after you’ve left his shows, and he never plays to the lowest common denominator. Nick seems to suggest ‘you’re not as stupid as the politicians try to pretend, so let’s not pretend it either, eh?’.

So for Nick, a story about finding just the right Christmas present…

Mitch Benn is one of my closest friends, and is among those whose friendship I most truly value and am grateful for. He’s an incredibly talented comedian, comedy-songwriter and author. Moreover, he’s one of the smartest people I know, with a breadth and depth of interests that’s almost but not quite scary. He also happens to be a huge admirer of A Christmas Carol, his enjoyment of which may well have inspired the second tale below.

Both received the same prompt as always:

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 these examples…


Title: Weaving With Angels’ Hair
Word: frenulum
Challenger: Nick Doody
Length: 200 words exactly

Once, the sight of the three heavenly beings would have caused tears of joy. Were anyone human to see what was left of them, however, weeping of a different sort would commence from hearts broken in sorrow and condolence. The remains of the angels were not pretty to look at, their once proud wings shredded and torn away, heads that had once been covered in glister now ravaged and torn, with dried puddles of ichor in place of coruscation.

Lucifer looked upon the works of his lesser demons and winced; there was no care taken here, no professionalism, just savage butchery.

“Have you anything to say in your wretched defence?” he asked in a deceptively silken tone.

The demons shuffled upon immortal coils, and one held forth a soggy mess of what had once been golden locks, the hair now dull and lifeless. Its fellow incubi and succubi looked on as it presented Lucifer with what appeared to to be a woven basket of some sort, angel feathers protruding at obscene angles, and a dripping frenulum or six.

“Happy Christmas…?” it managed.

Lucifer sighed loudly and with great care; it was going to be a long holiday season this year…

© Lee Barnett, 2014


Title: Their Eyes All Aglow
Word: haven
Challenger: Mitch Benn
Length: 200 words exactly

The room was elegant, containing an eclectic mix of styles. Past arrived first, as was his preference. He sat in the smallest chair, one neat and manicured hand upon the table, one supporting his slender, pointed chin.

Present arrived next, looking older than his years, his responsibilities weighing heavily; he spoke briefly to Past, asking after his brothers and seemed vaguely content with the answer. Then Future walked into the room, and nodded slowly to his fellows, saying nothing, then sat with his head bowed.

The three of them waited, content with this haven from their duties until eventually What Might Have Been arrived, and once again made her annual pitch for inclusion.

Future looked at her, and from beneath his cowl, angry burning eyes condemned her audacity. Past was merely amused, as he had been so often before, his eyes shining with laughter, but his voice from long ago was deliberate, and low. Present’s siblings had always been contemptuous towards the proposal, and he followed the tradition, his eyes frozen azure.

The verdict delivered, What Might Have Been was no longer present. Then the clock struck twelve, then one, then two and the room was empty for another year.

© Lee Barnett, 2014


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

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

Housekeeping Note: I’ve been in a weird mood this week — possibly related to Yahrzeit for my brother, and a few other things that have left me feeling a bit… disconnected… in general — and today’s post was started four times, on four different subjects before I gave up on each.

So I’m doing an ‘in case of emergency, break glass’ post today. Apologies, but I didn’t want to put up a blank page.

There’ll hopefully be new content tomorrow.


So today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two, two of the first I wrote in the 150 day run from 2010.

The first story was one of those that provoked both a ‘your mind scares me at times’ comment and a ‘that’s… creepily fun’ observation. I leave it to you to judge which is more appropriate.

The second story? Well, it’s always fun writing in verse, but I rarely have as much fun as I did with this one.

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: Because I Said So
Word: effervescent
Challenger: [Livejournal: missymodee]
Length: 200 words exactly

The preparatory fast ended, he drank the traditional effervescent blue liquid, and then, dressed in the proper clothing, he proceeded along a metal corridor lit in noxious green.

He slowed as he approached the door. He recited the calming mantra, but it did no good; his heart was pounding, his palms sweaty. Swallowing twice, he wiped his hands against his trousers, unsurprised though dismayed at his reaction to this regular task.

He placed his right hand, no longer wet but still clammy, against the frosted glass and a door slid open, revealing a space far too small to be called a room. But it was functional and efficiently organised: one microphone and one chair.

The soft voice that invited him to sit was familiar, one he had heard all his life. It had shared his joys and his woes, and it was the only voice he needed to hear. It was The Machine.

He loved The Machine. The Machine told him to love The Machine.

And he obeyed The Machine. For The Machine told him to obey The Machine.

The Machine occasionally allowed him to believe that it was his choice to worship The Machine, however.

Even though it wasn’t.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Typing Too Fast
Word: slippery
Challenger: [challenger preferred to stay anonymous]
Length: 200 words exactly

The role of some who merely serve others
Is often mistaken, my sisters and brothers,
As something less special; unimportant, they’d say.
Until Her name is mentioned, and that dreadful day.

As the Official Typist, others were wary
Not to call her a mere secretary.
Did the king himself not oft praise her worth,
As more valuable than all treasures on Earth?

Until that day when the pressure did loom
And documents flew in and flew out of her room
As she typed first an order, and then a request
And then a submission, and all of the rest.

The mistake, when it happened, was very small, but
In context, however, the consequences not.
At the meeting they’d held, the twenty-third of his reign
The pen had run out and he’d signed once again.

She’d meant to type that the king had re-signed.
A missing hyphen, however, was not spotted in time.
As Official Typist, you see, her records were Law.
And the King was removed, protesting his fall.

And then civil war; barons fought for the crown
And monarchy started her slippery slope down.
And all because of a tiny mistake.
Made by one who merely serves and waits.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now rapidly 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.

For the remaining four weeks of this run, while Tuesday will remain the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’m making them ‘tales from the Christmas fast fiction vaults’.

I’m going to be putting up two each Tuesday from the Twelve Days of Fast Fiction runs I did: two each from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – the last year I did them.

For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge me.

Which they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two more, from 2013’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

The first story was written for Si Spurrier, a wonderfully clever writer of extraordinary talent with a viciously funny talent for plotting stories and then executing those plots. I use ‘executing’ advisedly, as his writing takes any sacred cows you have out back and uses a bolt gun on them. And he smiles while doing so. As a writer who prizes words, I suspect that Si would agree with Mark Twain’s observation that ‘for a writer, the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug’.

So for Si, a story about someone who just can’t find the right words, no matter how desperately he tries…

The second story was written for Sarah Pinborough, whose writing I take enormous pleasure in reading; glorious prose that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until you’ve found out… what happens next. Her stories stay with you long after you’ve finished reading, percolating in your mind until they pop up, delightfully unexpectedly. I like both Sarah and her writing a lot.

Sarah gave me a title that could only – in my mind, anyway – have been the first line of something in rhyme; I’m not sure what the subject of the story is, but I can picture it perfectly…

Both received the same prompt as always:

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 these examples…


Title: Every Word Is Wrong
Word: except
Challenger: Si Spurrier
Length: 200 words exactly

Once a year, Santa rises from a months’ long sleep, and walks to an desk that was ancient when he first commenced his duties. He sits at the desk, then dips a plain quill pen formed from the feather of a long extinct species of hen into a bottle of pure raven ink.

And then Santa writes a letter. And into that letter, the legendary jolly good-natured fellow pours out venom and bile, anger and bitterness, begging to be released from his responsibilities, analysing in forensic detail why he should not be obliged to continue his rounds across the planet known as Earth.

When he has finished, he places the letter face down and leaves the room, returning immediately. And always, always, there remains only a white card, upon which is the single word CONTINUE.

Santa Clause never swears. Never. Ever. Except when he reads the card.

Then Santa launches his sleigh over a world covered in white, a uniformity blanketing continents, what were once countries, and the blistered remains of cities.

Santa spends the day in his craft, his tears freezing against his thick beard, listening to the sound of radiation laden winds, desperate once again for sleep.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


Title: It Lived Under Monday
Word: butterfly
Challenger: Sarah Pinborough
Length: 200 words exactly

It lived under Monday, whatever It was;
It’d been there a very long time.
Eating away at the start of the week,
Dissolving the minutes with lime.

It arrived on Sunday, but quickly decided
The first day It didn’t like much,
And with butterfly whim, it fast looked around
For sustenance, comfort and such.

Saturday was not to Its taste,
Nor Friday; not at all to Its liking;
And Thursday was ‘manufactured’, It felt
Full of metal and plastic and piping.

It then spent a fortnight in Wednesday;
It thought that It might have found home.
But boredom with the middle day of the week
Occasioned It once more to roam.

Tuesday It liked, It actually liked.
It burrowed and set up Its den.
Then sighed at the inelegance of the name of the day
And eventually moved once again.

So It lived under Monday for many a year.
Millennia had gone past by now.
Since It created Its residence under the Day
And fed on each minute and hour.

There It stays all year, except for one day.
It journeys not far, never fear.
Just to whatever day Christmas is on.
Don’t you think it goes faster each year?

© Lee Barnett, 2013


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now less slowly 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.

For the remaining four weeks of this run, while Tuesday will remain the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’m making them ‘tales from the Christmas fiction vaults’.

I’m going to be putting up two each Tuesday from the Twelve Days of Fast Fiction runs I did: two each from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – the last year I did them. For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge me.

And they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two, from 2012’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

The first story was written for an old friend, the writer Neil Gaiman; a friend who’s provided a shoulder to lean on, a willing ear when I’ve wanted it, and several kicks up the arse when I’ve needed them. Neil’s story was the first Twelve Days story I wrote and like every one of these tales, the story answering his challenge was written very specifically for him.

Given the opportunity to write something that appealed to our shared love of myth, I’m not sure I could ever resist the temptation. To be fair, I never try that hard.

The second story was written for Jamie McKelvie, one of the best comics artists in the field. I’ve known Jamie so long that my son is now older than Jamie was when I met him. I’m sure there’s something illegal about that. I’ve no idea why or how the idea for this story came to me, but I’m very, very pleased it did. It remains one of my very favourite fast fictions.

The challengers received the same prompt as always:

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: Why Can’t Reindeer Fly?
Word: apothecary
Challenger: Neil Gaiman
Length: 200 words exactly

Elf-blood is purple, which often surprises those witnessing a battle for the first time. That it is pale, runny and rapidly absorbed by snow is less astonishing. Were the stains longer lasting, the white carpet around Santa’s workshop would instead be permanently amethyst.

The war had lasted too many centuries to count, only interrupted by the regularly scheduled twenty-four hour ceasefire, commencing at the close of 24th December. No-one could any longer recall how the war had commenced; some believed that an elf had grossly insulted a reindeer, some the reverse. Still others even blamed Santa himself, but only quietly, and among trusted company when they could be certain that none present would report the conversation.

However, all were agreed that any attempts at peace between elf and reindeer had been fiascos; the name of the last apothecary to try, sickened as he was by the cruelty and violence, had been struck from the guild’s records in shame.

Each side had their regrets. The elves were bitterly disappointed that the size differential between the foes favoured their enemies; and the reindeer, seeing the copious levels of excrement produced by their troops, looked to the skies and wished fervently for flight.

© Lee Barnett, 2012


Title: The Christmas That Wasn’t
Word: plinth
Challenger: Jamie McKelvie
Length: 200 words exactly

The walk to the front door seemed longer than usual. I stifled a yawn as I pulled out the keys, half blinded by bright August sunlight.

A weariness beyond anything I’d known had come over me, but I knew sleep wasn’t going to come easy. Not for me. Not for her, either. She was still in the car; we didn’t have anything to say to each other now – we’d exhausted all possible conversations over the past hour.

I glanced through the front room’s windows; it was all there. His toys, the letter from the hospital, a small statue of Peter Pan upon a plinth, and the Christmas decorations.

We’d known it was the only way he’d see another Christmas, so we’d planned a party for him. In August.

We’d never hold that party now.

We’d been honest from the start. For a lad not yet eight, he understood what cancer was, what it meant.

A sob caught in my throat as I turned the key. I had to pack it all away now.

A protesting yell from the car. I smiled.

He understood what cancer meant. I wasn’t sure about remission. Maybe I’d buy him a dictionary. In December.

© Lee Barnett, 2012


 

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.

Housekeeping Note: I woke up this morning in a filthy mood and with my foot hurting; the latter hasn’t got anything to do with the former, but it didn’t help.

And so I’m doing an ‘in case of emergency,m break glass’ post today. There’ll hopefully be new content tomorrow.


But today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two, two of the last I wrote in the 150 day run from 2010.

(I’ve decided that for the remaining four weeks’ Tuesdays, I’m giving to grab some from the Twelve Days Of Fast Fiction I used to do. I may do them again this year; I’m still pondering the idea.)

I like surprising people with the stories. the first story was one that surprised even me when I wrote it. I’ve written crueler characters before; I’m not sure I’ve written crueler characters with as good a reason to cruel.

The second story? Well at the time, the challenger surprised me. I knew Wil Wheaton via a mutual friend. He liked this story enough to write the foreword for the second published collection of fast fictions tales. I should probably start mentioning them occasionally; they’re still available.

The second tale is a warning; I’m not sure the first is.

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: “You’re Having My…”
Word: positive
Challenger: [Livejournal: AbbieSynth]
Length: 200 words exactly

The anger was expected, the harsh laughter was not.

I’d expected him to ask questions but instead there was an eruption of sheer fury. All attempts at civility, attempts I now knew had only ever been surface deep, had been abandoned and the astonishing level of his belief that he’d been betrayed flew at me.

I was absolutely positive that this was a genuine reaction but somehow there was an impression of studied response, as if he’d been expecting this and had rehearsed this previously.

“It’s my child you’ve stolen, you bastard,” my brother said with contempt. “That should be my child. She was my girlfriend.”

And now she was my wife.

He’d beaten her so badly the doctors had said she’d never be able to conceive. The long sentence surprised no-one.

I left the prison and walked slowly to the car where she waited. She never spoke his name and I had enough respect for her never to mention it.

It had been her idea, though. She knew it would hurt him more than any time spent in prison.

If only it had been true.

Later, that night, we cried… for the loss of something we’d never had.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: A Long Way Down
Word: exalted
Challenger: Wil Wheaton
Length: 200 words exactly

I beat my first woman to death at twenty-three. She was forty-two, full of hate and prejudice, but that wasn’t why I killed her.

My brother… now he thinks I kill for the money. That’s a contemptible view: I worked hard to learn how to kill and I feel exalted by my success.

The woman was my fourth killing. Since then, I’ve killed many more, learning efficiency and brutality go hand in hand.

My father… is ashamed of me. He discovered I kill people but curiosity gave way to disgust when I was honest and enthusiastic about it.

Sixty-eight people. You were wondering, I could tell.

They all deserved it, you understand. They deserved it by costing the state too much. They died because they were… inconvenient.

As I strap on thick leather gloves provided by the prisons department and hit the old man in front of me, I wonder what it was like, executing people back before the electricity ran out. When the next punch lands, I wonder when others ceased to be proud.

We stood on top of the world… then we fell. And as he dies, I know everyone else is still falling.

Everyone else, except me.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

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.

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.

I quite liked putting up two very early fast fiction challenges last week, 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.

The first was an idea which came to me while thinking about the future and how everything today was yesterday’s future.

The second is darker and one of the more twisted tales I wrote in the early days. I’m sure I wrote darker tales later, but this definitely set a tone to be matched by twisted stories to follow.

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: Nightfall in Skegness
Word: tourniquet
Challenger: [Livejournal: bog_boy]
Length: 200 words exactly

She tightened the tourniquet around my bicep, repairing the damage from the large wooden splinter that had shot out like a bullet and speared my arm as effectively as if a spear had been thrown.

I glared at the huge metal thing, its paint gleaming in the last of the sunshine of the day, a summer’s afternoon in 1875. The first passenger train the town had seen.

The incredible noise made by the machine had distracted me and I’d gotten too close to the railway lines, never-ending rails on huge wooden boards that could support the weight. It was from one of these that the splinter had originated. The experience hadn’t made me think more kindly about the railways.

I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Everything about the new form of transport seemed designed to lessen the enjoyment of the travelling experience. Not only the noise and the smell, nor that perfectly good fields were being bought up and then having tracks laid across them.

But the speed of these things! My Lord, some of them travelled at twenty miles per hour, surely destroying the pleasure of the passing scenery.

The sun set. We now belonged to the future.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands
Word: collectivism
Challenger: Dave Bushe
Length: 200 words exactly

I hear the sound of keys being inserted into the lock, the lock snapping open, the door swinging wide.

I’m taken from the cell towards the interrogation cell, I… no, wait: I’m not supposed to call it that any more. It’s an ‘education suite’. Much as the man who attached electrodes to my nether regions is no longer referred to as a torturer, but as an Outsourced Re-education Contractor.

I’m trained neither to speak of what I know, nor to forget it either. If I disclose my knowledge, then my current preparations would have failed. Yet, if ever I buried it so deep that I truly consciously forgot it, I’d be no use at all.

I’m pushed into a chair and my arms tied behind my back. All for the glory of the Motherland, who’d spit on collectivism and its purveyors if she knew how it and they had been perverted.

The man looks like he’s going to enjoy this.

Why not? I enjoyed it yesterday when it was my turn to torture him, to try to break him. He’s a friend, and as he bends forward, I know he understands my pain.

And that’s the scariest thing of all.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… genuinely, honest, something else. (At least, that’s the plan…)

 

 

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.

For no reason other than I remembered both of these stories this morning for labyrinthine but quite boring reasons, here are two of the very first fast fiction challenge stories I wrote in August 2005. I was still figuring out what I could do with the format, and well… the two tales below resulted.

The first involved something that long ago I learned – when writing radio sketches for BBC Radio 4’s Weekending – as a ‘pull back and reveal’ ending, where the final lines change what you realise you’ve been experiencing, where you realise that while you thought the sketch was about one thing… it was about something else the whole time. I adapted that and hopefully, the writing was ambitious enough – although you didn’t realise it at the time – to fool you as the reader. I got better at them as I mastered the form, but I still like this one a lot.

The second was probably the first time I constructed a backstory for the characters while I was writing it. And almost immediately realised that part of the fun for me could be, and indeed became, letting the reader create their own backstories, which were probably much nicer and more wholesome than the ones in my head.

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: Only In My Heart
Word: lascivious
Challenger: Mary Picken
Length: 200 words exactly

He opened the door and flushed in warm recognition at the man’s face.

He smiled at him, seeing the welcoming smile in return.

It was the same every time he saw the face of the man he loved.

“I love you,” he said. Three words, but oh so important, and they were utterly, unreservedly and completely true.

“I love you,” he said again. “You know that, don’t you?” He didn’t wait for an answer but, with a sudden and overwhelming urge of affection and adoration, he continued. “She thinks she matters, but compared to you, she’s nothing. Oh, I know, I’m not the only one who loves you, but there’s something so special about our love.”

He smiled again, and his eyes trekked downwards in a lascivious manner, running over the smart suit, the tie he’d bought a week earlier on that special trip. Down, over the slight paunch and then down, further, until he saw what he knew he’d see before he looked: a telltale bulge, showing his hunger and obsession for the man.

There was a knock at the bedroom door, and sighing, the Prime Minister closed the wardrobe door and returned the mirror to the darkness within.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Cold
Word: cold
Challenger: Del Des Anges
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.

Cold.

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

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… genuinely, honest, something else. (At least, that’s the plan…)

 

 

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

Housekeeping Note: foot


Today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from long ago stories of 2007.

Both have seen light, separately, on this blog before, but I came across both while preparing yesterday’s post and they’re both silly enough and just flat out weird enough that I think they should be paired here today. Tony Lee, in particular, always gave me challenges that tests me to create the absurdly weird.

And so it was here.

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: Paradise Lost – But Found
Word: succubus
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

He looked around the library and sighed, unconsciously wincing and irritated at himself as he registered the latter reaction.

The silence had long ceased to be oppressive, but it was far from pleasant. After sixteen years, though, the monk was almost used to it.

It would be a lie, though, to say that he didn’t notice it any more.

He noticed it.

Every day, he noticed it. Every time he was alone, he noticed it. Every time he was with someone else, he noticed it.

He noticed it.

And he disliked it intensely. There was little that he could do about it, however,

When he’d first entered the monastery, he had laboured under an illusion that he’d needed seclusion, privacy. And for the first eight, maybe nine, months, he’d taken to the lifestyle with pleasure. So much pleasure, indeed, that he had been disciplined by with extra duties.

The menial tasks, he could cope with. The scourging and blood-letting was tougher.

But he finally broke when he was exposed to the greatest punishment the Abbot could impose upon him.

And remaining silent during that experience? Now, that was tough…

He shuddered as he remembered being introduced to the monastery’s succubus.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: Single White Fee Male
Word: spices
Challenger: [Livejournal: perspexavenger]
Length: 200 words exactly

The papers and the weapon had been on the table for an hour when the two of them arrived, walking into the building through different doors, entering the sterile air-conditioned atmosphere, away from the sounds and scents of the street; spices and exhaust fumes left far behind.

Escorted by security people hired by their mutual employer, they walked to the room that had been set aside for their meeting, but even in that shared experience the differences between them were evident.

While the larger of the men walked in long strides, forcing his companions to a speedier pace than they preferred, the other took his time, almost dawdling, his casual tread belying the tension in his face.

Entering from opposite sides of the boardroom, the assistant commercial director and the financial controller met at the large oak table. Smiles full of faked sincerity and meaningless obsequiousness lasted for less than a second before they appended their signatures to the documents. They bowed deeply and then the man to the left of the table fell to his knees, while the other lifted the sword from the table.

And thus the junior corporate whore was promoted to Senior Courtesan to the Board.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


 

See you tomorrow, with… genuinely, honest, something else. (At least, that’s the plan…)

 

 

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

Housekeeping Note: I wrote yesterday

I’m genuinely sorry to have to do this only a few days after starting the 2022 run, but I woke up today with my foot on fire, something that happens every so often and, not unexpectedly, is happening a bit more often as I get that bit older.

I had a post semi-written for today; a few hundred words written with the rest bulletpointed. I’ll finish it tomorrow or it’ll be Wednesday’s post, I guess.

But I absolutely did not want to ‘skip’ a day, so I’m reverting to one of my ‘in case of emergency break glass’ posts.

OK? Good.

OK, so you’ve read that? Same applies today. Sorry but the foot’s still on fire…


Today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from long ago stories of 2009.

I like surprising people with the stories. Occaisonally, like the subject of the first story, I like to remember that a specific concept exists, no matter how distant it can seem.

The second story is one about obsession, and where it can lead one.

The second tale is a warning; I’m not sure the first is.

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: Frankenstein Can’t Die
Word: flocculent
Challenger: [Livejournal: secretia]
Length: 200 words exactly

The door slowly closed behind them, and the room seemed empty. I sat behind my desk, relieved, trying to stop shivering and not entirely managing.

It had been an unexpected inspection under the Maintenance of Order (Fiction) Act: the Fiction Police. They had another title, but the nomenclature fit.

Spot visits now. We’d been moving that way for a couple of decades, but even so… Twenty years of advancement towards the anodyne; one way of looking at it, not a view those who had just left my office would support. They’d prefer everyone regarded it as twenty years of retreat from anarchy and chaos.

I’m a good citizen; I won’t break the law. Bend it possibly, almost to breaking point… but never beyond that position.

I looked at my bookshelves. Yes, they were all there, the mandatory horror books, the psychological terrors. Anything to keep a population unsure and uneasy, to ensure the government was re-elected, and re-elected.

I opened a drawer and pulled out a book with a lurid cover. Within the sensation, though, was a romance novel, something entirely flocculent and trivial.

Mere possession was risking death.

But, just occasionally, I like to recall the concept of love.

© Lee Barnett, 2009


Title: Second To None
Word: requiem
Challenger: [Livejournal: absinthe_delacy]
Length: 200 words exactly

The music. Always the music.

As the final notes echoed through the church, there was an awed silence.

The music had more than done its duty, evoking memories and emotions of a life lived and as I sat there, I could feel the admiring glances of the rest of the congregation on my back.

I wiped my eyes, the moisture there arising from a mixture of emotions. I sat in the front row, of course, wearing black in commemoration of a friend I’d known since childhood, someone with whom I’d shared so much in life: the joys of victories won, the despair of life’s disappointments.

There was also the power of the music itself. More than a mere hymn of mourning, I felt his presence; several moments during the recital, I’d closed my eyes and half expected to hear his calm, steady voice.

Of course it wouldn’t be calm, nor steady. Well, I wouldn’t have expected it to have been. Not now.

I’d written the music before his death… and when I’d finished it, I knew it could only be performed as a requiem.

For him. After his death.

I regretted his death, of course.

But the music… the music…

© Lee Barnett, 2009


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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

Housekeeping Note: I’m genuinely sorry to have to do this only a few days after starting the 2022 run, but I woke up today with my foot on fire, something that happens every so often and, not unexpectedly, is happening a bit more often as I get that bit older.

I had a post semi-written for today; a few hundred words written with the rest bulletpointed. I’ll finish it tomorrow or it’ll be Wednesday’s post, I guess.

But I absolutely did not want to ‘skip’ a day, so I’m reverting to one of my ‘in case of emergency break glass’ posts.

OK? Good.


Today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from long ago stories of 2008.

I liked writing fast fictions about the, if you’ll forgive the word, ‘ineffable’. Not only because of the links to a story I huge enjoy, but because it feels a bit like sneaking a look behind the curtain. The first is one such tale.

The second story was one I was genuinely surprised to reread when I came across it recently. Not so much for the story itself but because, rarely, with a decade’s worth of life, experiences and writing, I wouldn’t change a word of it. Often, I’ll see old stories and think ‘oh, I should have used this word or that phrase’. This one? No, wouldn’t change a thing about 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: Murder In Heaven
Word: quantum
Challenger: Corey Klemow
Length: 200 words exactly

The area was empty. And then it was not.

A soft light seemed to suffuse the place before a large golden clock appeared. The clock chimed loudly, but the angel whose responsibility it was to respond was already there before the sound ended.

It summoned the guardian angel which looked almost amused as it realised that once again, it had to go through this. It stated its case as it had done so before and the angel heard the argument, and ruled against it. As it had done so before.

Cain had killed Abel. And the former’s guardian angel had killed the latter’s minutes before Cain had taken his action.

And He had deemed the same should apply – none should commit the slightest quantum of harm to the murderer but Him. And He had not yet decided the penalty. Almost a million years later (as Cain and Abel would have measured time) and He had not yet decided. But then He worked on different timescales, to be fair.

Both angels returned to their previous points of existence. And a moment later the area was empty.

And then it was not, as a soft light and a large golden clock appeared…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


Title: I Want To Believe
Word: demeanour
Challenger: Regie Rigby
Length: 200 words exactly

He sits there, waiting patiently, entirely relaxed, wholly at odds with his usual demeanour.

It had been the undercurrent of barely restrained activity that had first attracted me to him. And even last night, afterwards, while we had been talking in bed, his hands had been constantly moving, developing thoughts, attempting to show in physical movement what he was unable to express in speech.

The constant movement, the boundless energy, the thriving on change… never wanting to accept things as they are, but always seeing what could be… I can’t deal with it any more, and I told him so. This morning.

And now, six hours later, he sits there, pleasantly vacant, patiently waiting for my answer.

I know he says that he’s willing to change. For me.

I wish I could accept that his love supersedes all personal desires, that his yearning for me overwhelms his desire to be himself. And I ask myself: must he change who he is, or must I change who I am?

I love him. But for us to survive together, one must move forward, or backwards.

And then I answer, and I hate myself just that little bit more than I did previously…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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

It’s Tuesday, so as is usual on these countdown runs, you get a couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from fifteen years ago, 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 seems wildly appropriate today, mainly but not entirely due to the challenger, one Regie Rigby, an old friend I’ve not seen nor spoken to in ages, but who I’ll be seeing in a couple of weeks at Thought Bubble. I rarely write about music. I did for this one.

The second story was, I think, an attempt to write a Twilight Zone type story. I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, but I still like 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: Living “La Vida Loca”
Word: regret
Challenger: Regie Rigby
Length: 200 words exactly

I’d wondered into the club precisely because it was quiet: no music, and I wanted to think. An hour later, with a large scotch inside me, and another on the table, I sat. And thought lonely thoughts. Life could be pretty lousy at times. The secret, I guessed, was not to give a damn.

If only.

I drank down my drink in two swallows, signalling to the bar for another.

Nothing. I slowly got the message and walked carefully to the bar where I agreed with the man behind it that no, he wasn’t my bloody servant, and asked yeah, could I have another large scotch. Oh hell, make it two and have one yerself before I regret it.

The music started as I headed back to the table, and before I sat, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning, I was pulled away by them, pulled into the centre of the dance area.

I don’t dance. I mean it. I really don’t.

But I did.

The secret of life? Not to give a damn.

Life can be pretty lousy… but sometimes, just sometimes, that makes the climb back to living – rather than just existing – just so damned wonderful.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: Beauty Is Skin Deep
Word: evasive
Challenger: [Livejournal: lyndzzz]
Length: 200 words exactly

“Guilty!”

The voice of the judge rang in the courtroom and there was, as expected, utter silence for a long moment.

Standing, a member of the audience started to protest, but was immediately laser-stunned by one of the security guards. No further disturbance occurred.

The protest had obviously been premeditated, a martyr wanting to make his name. But after all, the verdict also been planned in advance, weeks before the case came to trial, despite the predicted evasive nature of the defence, not wanting to even admit there had been a crime.

The judge glanced at the defendant, who looked rather forlorn.

And ugly.

Perilously ugly. Hideously ugly, by modern standards: no remarkable features, no distinguishing marks. She looked, the judge winced, normal.

“Normal”… as if such a word meant anything in a culture where everyone had cybernetic inserts of one sort or another almost from birth.

As they had became common, so the laws of fashion and legislatures changed to make them mandatory. It was necessary now to look distinctive. And she didn’t, her looks were too… plain.

When the trial resumed, the judge would sentence her to the maximum penalty allowed: enforced uniqueness, to ensure she’d fit in.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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

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.)

It’s Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts. You’ve had enough from the 2010 run for a while, so let’s go back a few years earlier, to 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 of the two stories below started out as something very different. But it never quite ‘worked’ on the page. Then I remember suddenly imagining the scene, with an actual person waking… and the story almost wrote itself.

The second story was the truest example of a fast fiction I can recall with the possible exception of the 24 I wrote in 24 hours for Comic Relief. The challenger, an old friend, sent it in on behalf of his class; he was a teacher back then. I wrote the story and stuck it up within an hour of receiving the challenge.

I like these two tales. I hope you will.

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: Love Is Spatial
Word: fleeting
Challenger: Jill Allyn Stafford
Length: 200 words exactly

The hands of the clock ticked over to the pre-selected time and before the alarm had been ringing for a full second, her hand accurately stabbed out from beneath the blanket and hit the button.

In the silence, she stretched out, and as she began to awake, her hand reached across the bed and felt for him. A moment later, she registered the absence of his body, and almost as if she’d been knifed, a sharp pain hit her chest.

She rolled up in a ball, tight and hard, wishing the world away.

It was at times like this that she missed him most, missed the heat of his body, even missed the temporary absence, the knowledge that at the end of the day, he’d be back.

But no more – not since the train wreck that had took his life, and destroyed hers.

The tears came unbidden, as they had every night, and every morning, the past five weeks.

Eventually, she knew, that would stop: one night, she’d fall asleep just from tiredness, instead of weepy exhaustion; eventually she would wake with a smile, fleeting or otherwise, looking forward to the day.

One day she would laugh.

One day.

Maybe.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: Never Say Forever
Word: misanthropic
Challenger: Regie Rigby
Length: 200 words exactly

They were right after all; who’d have thought it?

All the doomsayers, all the small minded, ignorant, petty people who warned against bringing back extra-planetary specimens. They were right.

It didn’t take long. In less time than you would have believed possible, ninety-two per cent of us were dead. The rest of us ended up in the capital city; and they all died a few days ago. As far as I know, I’m the only one left alive.

We thought we would last as long as there were stars in the skies and rocks on the ground. Who’d have thought it?

But three days ago, the Strangers landed. Knowing what I do now, I loathe them with a misanthropic passion of hate. My people didn’t die from accident; they were murdered.

The Strangers are giants. Each of them thousands of times bigger than any of us, they destroyed the main city and its star shaped government buildings and long parallel travelways with a gargantuan spike that crushed it and them flat.

At the top of the spike I could even see the bastards’ pennant. Their audacity knows no bounds, appropriating our symbols to show conquest: stars, and long horizontal stripes.

© 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.)

It’s Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, another two from 2010 this week. I know I’ve done more than a few from the 2010 run, so this will be the last for a bit.

The 2010 run was the last time I did a lonnnnnng run of fast fiction tales; 150 written in 150 days. One story written every day, none in reserve; one posted every day, even if that meant writing one or two very late at night so I could just scrape in before midnight.

As always, they varied between the horrendously dark – what one friend described as the ‘your mind scares me at times’ stories, some very weird tales and some, rarely I’ll admit, nicer ones.

These are definitely two of the nicer stories. See, I told you I can write nicer tales.

But I like these two, a lot. I hope you will.

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: Train Of Desire
Word: despair
Challenger: [Livejournal: IckleBlackBird]
Length: 200 words exactly

As the announcement faded, I could sense mild discontent in the air. I knew how they felt.

The train was twenty minutes late, and not expected for another five. People were glancing at their timepieces, and I joined them, looking at the heavy watch she’d bought me. This was the first time I’d worn it and I wasn’t used to either the additional weight on my wrist or the analogue fascia.

I looked at it again, for the second time in as many minutes, not yet anxious but concerned nonetheless.

I looked to my side and confirmed I wasn’t the only one waiting for the train’s arrival, but the familiar company didn’t lessen the possibility of future despair.

I’d been late often enough in the recent past that for a brief moment, I wondered if the fates were playing games with me. He may not have played dice, according to Einstein, but sometimes I suspected He played with humanity’s sense of timekeeping just to amuse Himself.

Where the hell was the train?

And then I heard the organ start, and my heart filled with love as I saw the train and the dress and my beautiful bride who wore both.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Why I Chose Insanity
Word: mariachi
Challenger: [Livejournal: LiQweet]
Length: 200 words exactly

I was going to hurt her, I knew. She’d forgive me, but for a while, there would be no love in her eyes, merely anger and disappointment.

Moments earlier she had lifted her face and had smiled.

I knew she was thinking the same as me: that last night in Mexico City, the mariachi band, when we’d danced the night through. First time we’d actually enjoyed dancing together, when her natural self-consciousness and my clumsiness had both seemed to evaporate in the mood of the night.

We stared at each other for a long moment, then a car backfiring down the street broke the mood, and we smiled before she lowered her head again.

She lifted her hand to brush back a stray lock of hair, and tucked it behind her right ear, while her tongue was endearingly stuck in the corner of her mouth.

I wasn’t sure how quite to play it.

Nasty?

Or Saint?

I had no choice, not if I wanted to retain her respect.

I sighed, checked the board again, looked down at my tray, picked up my seven tiles and began to place the letters, and to claim my 132 points:

I, N, S, A…

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

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.)

It’s Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, another two from 2010 this week.

The 2010 run was the last time I did a lonnnnnng run of fast fiction tales; 150 written in 150 days. One story written every day, none in reserve; one posted every day, even if that meant writing one or two very late at night so I could just scrape in before midnight.

As always, they varied between the horrendously dark – what one friend described as the ‘your mind scares me at times’ stories, some very weird tales and some, rarely I’ll admit, nicer ones.

I’ve no idea now what triggered the first story. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed playing with words, and painting a picture by description. But even so, this one is a bit… odd.

The second tale below is about as ‘realistically dystopic’ as I ever wrote. Weird, but dark; some of my favourite of the 700 or so fast fictions challenges I answered fall into that category.

But I like these two. I hope you will.

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: Amazing Jack of Spades
Word: equivocate
Challenger: [Livejournal: hylandsdeath]
Length: 200 words exactly

The jacket was removed first, slowly but deliberately.

Next came the shirt, unbuttoned one fastening at a time, scarlet painted fingernails catching the eye as they moved down the garment. Expecting the shirt to follow the jacket onto the floor, they were surprised when she gently but expertly tossed it onto a nearby chair.

Her face was almost expressionless, slightly bored, and showing mild irritation. Either way, people weren’t overly studying her features.

Instead, every eye in the place was on her arms and legs… and torso. A tattoo was observed in silence, as was the long faint scar that could have been from an appendix removal. But still they watched intently.

She slid the short skirt down and stepped out of it, then with a sigh, took off the bra.

She pirouetted, then raised an eyebrow enquiringly at the man with the gun. Satisfied that she carried nothing hidden, he nodded and grunted what might have been an apology.

She quickly dressed and then they returned to the poker table where she’d just won the previous hand with a straight flush, jack high.

They didn’t equivocate about accusations of cheating in Deadwood, she realised as she started to deal.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Because I Said So
Word: effervescent
Challenger: [Livejournal: missymodee]
Length: 200 words exactly

The preparatory fast ended, he drank the traditional effervescent blue liquid, and then, dressed in the proper clothing, he proceeded along a metal corridor lit in noxious green.

He slowed as he approached the door. He recited the calming mantra, but it did no good; his heart was pounding, his palms sweaty. Swallowing twice, he wiped his hands against his trousers, unsurprised though dismayed at his reaction to this regular task.

He placed his right hand, no longer wet but still clammy, against the frosted glass and a door slid open, revealing a space far too small to be called a room. But it was functional and efficiently organised: one microphone and one chair.

The soft voice that invited him to sit was familiar, one he had heard all his life. It had shared his joys and his woes, and it was the only voice he needed to hear. It was The Machine.

He loved The Machine. The Machine told him to love The Machine.

And he obeyed The Machine. For The Machine told him to obey The Machine.

The Machine occasionally allowed him to believe that it was his choice to worship The Machine, however.

Even though it wasn’t.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

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.)

It’s Tuesday, so of course you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, two more from 2010 this time.

The 2010 run was the last time I did a lonnnnnng run of fast fiction tales; 150 written in 150 days. One story written every day, none in reserve, one posted every day, even if that meant writing one or two very late at night so I could just scrape in before midnight.

As always, they varied between the horrendously dark – what one friend described as the ‘your mind scares me at times’ stories, some very weird tales and some, rarely I’ll admit, nicer ones.

Here are two that definitely, I think, belong to the ‘weird’ category. The first a bit silly, with a fun final line, and a bit… odd. The second a tad more serious, but still definitely weird; two stories where I hope you don’t see the ending coming.

But I like these two. I hope you will.

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: Died Of Fright
Word: earlobe
Challenger: [Livejournal: LunaTinx]
Length: 200 words exactly

The earwig had obviously died in excruciating circumstances; the look of panic on its features gave testament to that.

I’d gotten the call via the grapevine; a stoolie heard the news, climbed the vines The Human put up years back, and found me by the rock I’d crawled to last night, sleeping off the stagnant water from the previous day.

And now we had a murder. OK, put like that, it’s damn stupid. There are millions of murders every day, but this one looked like to be other than from hunger. Besides, whoever killed the earwig was an ignorant speciest; they’d scrawled “earlobe nibbler” on a nearby leaf.

I got there as fast as I could; it only took me three and a half days. My partner was already there.

Every time I see him, I wince; Fifty times my size, the personality is enough to put most creatures off, but he holds a unique position in our society: hunted by the Humans and a hunter among ourselves.

There are eight hundred billion creatures in the naked gardens.

Somewhere in the grass, or the earth, or the farms, someone has a story.

My name’s Friday. I ride with a badger.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Just A Flesh Wound
Word: skillet
Challenger: Al Kennedy
Length: 200 words exactly

When he arrived home from work that evening to find them outside his place, waiting for him, he’d been so surprised, he’d almost cursed.

Almost.

But seventeen years: a third of his life, or nearly, anyway. It had taken them that long to track him down.

He’d had close calls before, of course; a skillet merchant had once recognised him, though he didn’t know how; he was clean-shaven and had darkened his hair.

He’d sworn the trader to secrecy, but, well, things happen. And it could have been anyone, via threat or alcohol, that had a loose tongue; he didn’t know, and didn’t care. However it had happened, it had happened.

As he approached his dwelling, any faint thought that the newcomers weren’t there for him vanished as he then spotted two other men obviously trying to be inconspicuous, so obviously failing miserably.

He resisted the temptation to look down at his hands, resisted the temptation to do a lot of things, but sighed, closed his eyes and concentrated on his decision; when he opened them, it was to see the guards calmly leaving.

He’d once been denied three times. After that, He’d learned how to do it convincingly Himself.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

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.)

It’s Tuesday, so of course you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, both from 2010 this time.

The 2010 run was the last time I did a lonnnnnng run of fast fiction tales; 150 written in 150 days. One story written every day, none in reserve, one posted every day, even if that meant writing one or two very late at night so I could just scrape in before midnight.

As always, they varied between the horrendously dark – what one friend described as the ‘your mind scares me at times’ stories, some very weird tales and some, rarely I’ll admit, nicer ones.

Here are two that definitely, I think, belong to the ‘weird’ category. A touch of darkness, but definitely weird; two stories where I hope you don’t see the ending coming.

But I like these two. I hope you will.

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: Raindrops on Leaves
Word: darkness
Challenger: [Livejournal: culf]
Length: 200 words exactly

The foyer of the holo-recreation area looks pretty swish. But then it would, wouldn’t it?

I wonder, as I’ve done before, what’s real, but I chicken out of touching anything to check. I’m pretty sure they rely on that: everyone being too self-conscious in front of the other patrons.

I turn around slowly, looking at the other customers. It has never actually occurred to me before, but how many of them are real? And how many of them are wondering the same thing about me?

I hear my name called and saunter over to the reception desk, sliding my hand over the reader, paying for my entrance.

There’s a brief hum.

I arrive in the darkness of a suburban garden; it’s raining, soft gentle rain.

And there’s a tree.

At least they all think it’s a tree – it’s apparently the best the technicians could design, based upon old images from lots of family videos archaeologists had recovered.

Brown wood with a green covering, now soaking wet from the rain. Can you imagine what this must have been like back in the day?

A representation of real wood: never fails to impress me.

Apparently, it’s from the type called gardinus shed.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Without A Heart
Word: perfection
Challenger: [Livejournal: bertobi]
Length: 200 words exactly

I wish I could cry. It would show that I genuinely regret the events that occurred so many years ago.

However, I don’t cry. I tell people I’m sorry, but I don’t think they believe me.

She was popular, incredibly so among the peoples of our land. She may have been precocious, she was certainly disrespectful of authority. But, as she would undoubtedly have argued, when the authority doesn’t deserve respect, why offer it?

It took me years to discover that lesson, and to actually care about others; Well, I say years; that’s not true. It took me moments, after years of not caring. Not apathy exactly; that implies a disinterest. In my case, it had never occurred to me to care.

My actions had consequences, and in all those years, that had never bothered me.

Until she came along.

Well, she and our companions. When she suggested I needed a heart, I considered her suggestion, found it elegant in its perfection, and obtained one: hers.

It seemed logical at the time.

With his new brain, the taller of our companions spun her sudden disappearance by saying she’d gone home.

I’m so sorry, Dorothy… I hope you’d believe that.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

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.)

It’s my fifty-seventh birthday today. Which, if it comes as news to you, means you really haven’t been paying much attention at all.

As on previous birthdays, I’ve absolutely no intention of blogging about anything serious, nor about anything on subjects profound.

I’ll merely commend to you the worls of astronaut and Senator John Glenn:

“For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.” ‪

But since I don’t want to leave you with that alone, and as it is Tuesday, here are a couple of the creepier fast fictions I’ve written, both dealing with birthdays… of one sort or another.

Enjoy.


Title: A Birthday Treat
Word: hazel
Challenger: [Livejournal: mrs_karen_bear]
Length: 200 words exactly

On the eve of her second ninetieth birthday, she realised once again that she found old age a great comfort; it allowed her to express herself so bluntly without others criticising that she often wondered at the correlation between age and misanthropy.

The Procedure.

It was always capitalised in her mind, much as her first boyfriend was forever The Boyfriend. The Procedure would return her body to the condition it was when she’d been 29, the deep lines on her face gone, and the vision from her once soft hazel eyes restored. She blinked, twice, and then swallowed.

When she’d had The Procedure the first time, six decades previously, she hadn’t understood everything, but she’d been so hungry to live, so consumed with the urge not to die, that she’d agreed within minutes of it being offered.

Over sixty years of extra life, sixty years of thinking, sixty years of watching the world change. They couldn’t promise any additional changes, of course.

She leaned forward in the chair and sipped the liquid slowly, wondering about another sixty years in the chair she’d been confined to since a teenager.

Quadriplegia. Another sixty birthdays of people waiting on her.

She couldn’t wait.

© Lee Barnett, 2009


Title: Birthday Promises
Word: western
Challenger: [Livejournal: rachieb1807]
Length: 200 words exactly

He shouldn’t have had the file; police records shouldn’t be removed, but he wasn’t the only retired detective to take home copies of unsolved cases, to look at in the empty days after leaving a lifetime’s work.

He opened the file and read her name, studied the picture, noted the date of birth, and did a quick mental calculation.

You’d have been 32 today, hunny.

The press had called him The Birthday Killer, because the girl had been killed on her twenty-first birthday. Well, it was assumed she’d been killed – they’d never found most of her body. Small parts of her body, yes, but not the torso, nor the head, nor all of her limbs.

Just like the others. Three hundred and sixty-six in all over a seventeen year period.

He’d sworn when he’d retired never to forget them. His squad’s biggest failure.

He returned the file to the cabinet, putting it in its correct place, among the almost four hundred similar files.

They’d never found her body. He knew that because he’d visited her grave in the western pasture that afternoon.

Tomorrow it would be another grave and another file.

He’d sworn when he’d retired never to forget them.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something new.

 
 

 
Not really part of the series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday today, but if you want to read the series, you can see the posts in the run by clicking here.

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

I appreciate the forbearance shown yesterday. You get another couple of tales today, ‘nicer’ than yesterday’s I promise, then hopefully back to something approaching normality for the final week of the run.


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

Looking back at the 2005 run, there were some dark tales, some odd tales (some of them very odd indeed) and some, occasionally, nice ones.

Here are two of the last category. Two nice tales I look back at and wonder how I could have written them; I’m not sure I could now.

But I like them a lot.

The first tale shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows my love of ‘what if…?‘ stories. Hard to do one in 200 words, but I like how this one goes.

The second? Ah well, I don’t think the second one below is the first story I wrote in verse, but it’s one where I think I got it ‘right’; telling a story in verse… with a beginning, a middle and an end. In 200 words. And Ireally liked the rhyming cadence I used in this tale.

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: Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda
Word: oddity
Challenger: [Livejournal: malkavs_child]
Length: 200 words exactly

I could have, you know. On another day, maybe even I would have.

Maybe.

Three years later, and I can’t get him out of my head.

From that first day in the student refectory, queuing up with people I barely knew, soaking in the sounds.

And there he was. Sitting alone, reading a novel; a shocking neon yellow cover with crimson lettering, an oddity among the conservatively coloured and labelled text books others had.

I’d noticed the book before I had looked at the person holding it. I saw eyes narrowed in concentration, the face betraying someone on the edge of adulthood; features still acknowledging their heredity.

He shut the novel and stretched his long arms out, yawning. Then he stood, placed the book in his bag, and aimed himself at the exit.

As he passed, he gave a cursory look in my direction and continued past.

He stopped at the door, then turned and gave me a dazzling smile…

“I could have, you know. Maybe even I would have… Maybe.”

“What’s that, babe?” he asks sleepily, stirring next to me in bed. I stare at him for a long moment, thinking that I could have ignored him that day…

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: And For A Sequel
Word: ranunculus
Challenger: [Livejournal: elfie_elfie]
Length: 200 words exactly

And once again, the stranger came;
He came most ev’ry year.
To make a sound, and look around
But mostly to drink beer.

     He’d sully forth, first East then North
     And end up in our place.
     He’d get right drunk, with beer he’d sunk
     Through the hole at the end of his face.

But as he fell, he’d curse and yell,
For times of long ago.
And with each glass, (he’d swear, his last)
My, how the tales did flow.

     He’d tell of things, forgotten things
     Of centuries gone by.
     And challenge those, with woeful prose,
     Who’d call each one a lie.

To folk in town, he was a clown
And no more need be said.
They’d heard before, these tales of yore
And to their homes they sped.

     Then came that day, the first of May
     When spring was in the air.
     The stranger’s heart, it gave a start
     And muscles deep did tear.

He hit the ground, without a sound
The stranger bit the dust.
The doc was called, the body hauled
With very little fuss.

     Permission granted, the man they planted.
     The priest said “dust to dust”.
     Upon his grave, the priest did lay
     Some sweet ranunculus.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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.

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.

Cold.

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.

It’s Tuesday, so a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts, one from 2007, the other from 2008.

Two stories, as different as can be, though I supose both could be said to deal with the concept of consequences. For once, I remember what provoked each of the story ideas, but for once I’ll keep them secret, as the memories aren’t exntirely pain free.

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: Single White Fee Male
Word: spices
Challenger: [Livejournal: perspexavenger]
Length: 200 words exactly

The papers and the weapon had been on the table for an hour when the two of them arrived, walking into the building through different doors, entering the sterile air-conditioned atmosphere, away from the sounds and scents of the street; spices and exhaust fumes left far behind.

Escorted by security people hired by their mutual employer, they walked to the room that had been set aside for their meeting, but even in that shared experience the differences between them were evident.

While the larger of the men walked in long strides, forcing his companions to a speedier pace than they preferred, the other took his time, almost dawdling, his casual tread belying the tension in his face.

Entering from opposite sides of the boardroom, the assistant commercial director and the financial controller met at the large oak table. Smiles full of faked sincerity and meaningless obsequiousness lasted for less than a second before they appended their signatures to the documents. They bowed deeply and then the man to the left of the table fell to his knees, while the other lifted the sword from the table.

And thus the junior corporate whore was promoted to Senior Courtesan to the Board.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: For No Money
Word: mellifluous
Challenger: [Livejournal: glowering]
Length: 200 words exactly

The woman was ill: the cancer had done terrible things to her face and body. She could have been any age between thirty and sixty; she was in fact thirty-two.

The young man in obvious pain limped forward to the foot of the bed, then began to sing. Clear, pure notes rang out into the room, and the older man watched as his daughter reacted to the mellifluous sound.

Soon enough, the sound faded. It had happened too often for him to be surprised at its effect any longer, but the woman’s father had tears in his eyes as he looked at her pinkish skin and gentle smile. It wouldn’t last long; no more than a week or so, but she’d be in less pain during that time.

As always, the young man refused any fee, simply saying that he’d be back.

Where he’d come from, no one knew. Where he went after each appointment was an equal mystery, though often discussed.

However, as he left each patient, he was limping just a little bit more noticeably, and leaving in just a little bit more obvious pain.

But no one ever turned his treatment down. Ever.

That was his curse.

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday but I’ve had a lonnng afternoon, my foot is hurting and I’ve a headache.

So, although it’s Wednesday, another couple of stories today.

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

Erm.

Two more fast fictions, both from 2010 this week.

The first was, as I did occasionally, written in verse. I liked doing something different every so often, and writing in rhyming verse was always fun, especially when I couldn’t get the story to work in prose, as with this one.

The reaction to the second tale surprised me at the time. I thought it was fun and clever. I never thought of it as ‘hot’, but who am I to argue with those who told me they found it so.

I hope you enjoy both,

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: Typing Too Fast
Word: equivocate
Challenger: [Anonymous]
Length: 200 words exactly

The role of some who merely serve others
Is often mistaken, my sisters and brothers,
As something less special; unimportant, they’d say.
Until Her name is mentioned, and that dreadful day.

As the Official Typist, others were wary
Not to call her a mere secretary.
Did the king himself not oft praise her worth,
As more valuable than all treasures on Earth?

Until that day when the pressure did loom
And documents flew in and flew out of her room
As she typed first an order, and then a request
And then a submission, and all of the rest.

The mistake, when it happened, was very small, but
In context, however, the consequences not.
At the meeting they’d held, the twenty-third of his reign
The pen had run out and he’d signed once again.

She’d meant to type that the king had re-signed.
A missing hyphen, however, was not spotted in time.
As Official Typist, you see, her records were Law.
And the King was removed, protesting his fall.

And then civil war; barons fought for the crown
And monarchy started her slippery slope down.
And all because of a tiny mistake.
Made by one who merely serves and waits.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Amazing Jack of Spades
Word: equivocate
Challenger: [Livejournal: hylandsdeath]
Length: 200 words exactly

The jacket was removed first, slowly but deliberately.

Next came the shirt, unbuttoned one fastening at a time, scarlet painted fingernails catching the eye as they moved down the garment. Expecting the shirt to follow the jacket onto the floor, they were surprised when she gently but expertly tossed it onto a nearby chair.

Her face was almost expressionless, slightly bored, and showing mild irritation. Either way, people weren’t overly studying her features.

Instead, every eye in the place was on her arms and legs… and torso. A tattoo was observed in silence, as was the long faint scar that could have been from an appendix removal. But still they watched intently.

She slid the short skirt down and stepped out of it, then with a sigh, took off the bra.

She pirouetted, then raised an eyebrow enquiringly at the man with the gun. Satisfied that she carried nothing hidden, he nodded and grunted what might have been an apology.

She quickly dressed and then they returned to the poker table where she’d just won the previous hand with a straight flush, jack high.

They didn’t equivocate about accusations of cheating in Deadwood, she realised as she started to deal.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

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

A couple of fast fictions, both from 2010 this week.

Two stories, as different as can be, though both with an undercurrent of ‘regret’, one expressed rather more healthily than the other, maybe? I leave you to decide. And no, that’s not a mistake in the title; Jess chose (as one other person did in the history of the fast fiction challenge) not to give me a word to use in the tale, merely a title.

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: I Always Hated You
Word: [none offered]
Challenger: Jess Nevins
Length: 200 words exactly

I never liked the way you were always at home in any social setting: how you’d walk into a room where there were thirty different people, none of whom knew each other, and half an hour later, there’d be six or seven different conversations going on, with you drifting from one to another as if you’d known them all your life. All the time, that smug half-smile on your face that others found endearing and that you swore was merely relief at getting through it.

I loathed the way you pretended not to know how attractive the other sex found you; you couldn’t not have known, not with the way you responded to every person who wanted your ear, acting brash with one, bashful with another, flirtatious with a third… and each of them convinced they knew the real you.

I found it contemptible how effortlessly you found it, settling down with me – how could you have genuinely been happy settling for a wife and children when you so obviously enjoyed the spontaneity that familial obligations denied you?

And then you died, you bastard, before I could tell you again that I loved you.

And I hate you for that.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: The Hour Before Dawn
Word: candour
Challenger: [Livejournal: Avril_Says]
Length: 200 words exactly

I dreamed a city once.

Minutes before I fully awoke, my mind full of possibilities, I dreamed a city. Broad walkways, tall spires, millions of people.

And then I witnessed decay and destruction; high buildings tumbling, crushing those beneath; roads collapsing where once lovers had walked; I knew that negligence and disregard were to blame.

I dreamed a lover once.

Golden hair, wide eyes of deepest midnight blue, flowing chiffon almost disguising her femininity, features that left me dumb in awe.

And then I saw her grow old, and her beauty fade, and her charm evaporate, and I was wholly aware that apathy and neglect were entirely at fault.

I dreamed a life once.

Liked by friends, loved by family, respected in my chosen profession. A deeply caring, productive life.

And then, with the passage of time, it became ordinary; friends found other amusements; family became a chore for all involved; my career was merely prostituting meagre talent. And selfishness was the default first option instead of a reviled last resort.

And then I cried in candour at the realisation that the last was neither a dream nor a nightmare, although I wished beyond hope that it had been either.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

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

A couple of fast fictions, one from 2005, one from 2009.

Two very different stories, although one could, I suppose. arguably be the sequel to the other. I’d never claim that it is, of course. And I hadn’t even considered it until I saw one after the other. But yes, if it pleases you to think of them as such, feel free to do so.

The 2005 story surprised a few people when I wrote it, since by then they were used to me taking the darker path when offered a title that gave me that opportunity. I took as much pleasure in that as in the story itself.

The 2009 tale, on the other hand garnered the comment ‘Aha, there you are. I knew that more recent charming tale was a blip.‘ I enjoyed that as well.

Something that cheered me as well: despite my joining the platform Racket, I’ve not done anything with it yet. That this tale has the word in the title is a nice bit of synchronicity.

 

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: Dizzy With Wonder
Word: lenient
Challenger: Anja Pirat
Length: 200 words exactly

I’m not sure when the exact moment occurred.

But at one point or another, general chatting had turned to mild flirting, and by the time I realised it had happened, we were already sending messages to each other with our eyes.

We were both attending the same conference, she as a speaker, me as a delegate, and when I’d disproved during the Q&A the old line about there being no such thing as a stupid question, she’d been lenient with me, answering the question in a way that didn’t make me feel a complete idiot.

A partial idiot, for sure, but even that was better than I deserved.

To make amends, I’d invited her for dinner, fully expecting to be turned down. Attending numerous conferences over the years had led me to a convenient pattern: dinner alone, meeting up with others for drinks, and then crawling off to bed, alone, in the smaller hours of the morning.

However, she’d accepted and somewhere between being handed the menus at the start of the dinner, and sitting on the sofas ordering brandies a few hours later… magic had taken place.

I was in love, and I never knew when it happened.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: The Racket They Made
Word: forlorn
Challenger: Ade Brown
Length: 200 words exactly

The sky was incredibly blue. He’d never really noticed it before, but it really was as blue as in the storybooks he remembered reading as a child.

A wisp of whiteness drifted past in what seemed a forlorn attempt to remind him that clouds existed, then the sky was revealed again and he smiled at it.

A lazy smile, not unattractive under normal circumstances. He’d see her soon, and then they could spend some time together.

Laying on the ground, staring straight up at the blue, blue sky, he could hear noise of some sort, but he was entirely apathetic to the sound, concentrating on the now uniform blue that seemed so close. Uniform, but changing nonetheless. It was getting darker, but he didn’t mind, he could see deep into the colour. And he smiled.

He closed his eyes, then opened them again, suddenly remembering the flowers.

He remembered now: he was taking them to her.

And then he remembered crossing the road to the cemetery. And the car. And then flying…?

The sirens were quite loud now, he realised.

But it didn’t matter, for the sky was really, really blue.

And then he closed his eyes again. And smiled.

© Lee Barnett, 2009


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

And so we’re back to the regular ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts on Tuesdays for the rest of the run.

A couple of fast fictions, one each from the 2007 and 2008 fast fiction runs; two tales with very different stories behind them, these two.

The first was one of those where I’d had the final lines rattling around in the back of my head for a while, and I’d been waiting for the right story in which to use them. Even though this challenge gave me the opportunity, I hesitated at first. Then the rest of the tale hit me almost fully formed and well, you have Worst Date Ever below.

The second one, though? Well, Dan challenged me and also added an additional requirement: less than 100% but more that 50%, of the story had to be in dialogue. (I never objected to additioanl challenges; made me work harder as a writer, and the story always benefited.)

So here’s the tale that resulted: The Sound Of Silence. Thing is, the first story I wrote with that title was a good story but it failed on the dialogue requirement. So I wrote an entirely different second story, with a different premise. And it was better, because of course it was better.
 

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: Worst Date Ever
Word: underpants
Challenger: [Livejournal: mathemavixen]
Length: 200 words exactly

He knew that they were somewhere in the bedroom and he racked his brains while he could hear the running water from the bathroom.

He crouched, looking under the bed, searching for his underwear, while she had her shower.

He’d not expected the night to end the way it had, not at all. Arriving at the restaurant late hadn’t impressed her, nor had his involuntary exclamation of “Holy Hell!” at the prices printed on the menu.

He smiled as he saw one sock, drooping over the edge of the chair.

So, starting out bad, it had rapidly proceeded to get worse as the date had progressed; it hadn’t taken too long at all to reach that stage where the two participants are surreptitiously looking at their watches, wondering at what point it ceases to be embarrassing to call a halt to the proceedings.

The door opened and she came in, still wrapping the towel around her.

His smile faded as he saw through the open door a chart, numbered from one to ten, and his underpants stapled to the wall… next to the number 5. What hurt more were the dozens of others, most of them higher up the chart…

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: Confusion: The Sound of Silence
Word: shout
Challenger: Dan Curtis Johnson
Length: 200 words exactly

“I’m genuinely sorry,” the fat balding man said, with well practiced but fake sincerity. “However, with the lack of collateral you can offer, the financial credit audit committee simply won’t allow me to extend you any…”

He got no further before the younger man stood up. “You don’t understand!” he started, wondering how he could rectify this. “We’re not just talking about a radio station but a community. You’ve seen our audience numbers! This isn’t my job – it’s my life!” His voice rose to a shout and he cut himself short, breathing hard.

The banker opened his mouth, but the customer continued, quieter. “Yes, I know our advertising revenues could be better, but at least they’re not dropping. Please – I just need another six months.” He saw the look of obvious incredulity and quickly amended his words. “Three months. Three months; that’s all we’re asking. Look, we’re surely not the only people who are having a rough time right now.”

“No, you’re not,” the banker said quietly, “that’s why I have to protect the bank,” and leaned over the detailed paperwork, writing.

The sound of silence? The softness of a pen scrawling the word DENIED on a loan extension application…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

And so we’re back to the regular ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts on Tuesdays for the rest of the run.

Today you get a couple of fast fictions from the long ago, from the very long ago again this week; one each from the 2007 and 2008 fast fiction funs. Two very different stories, as always. One of them was written for my then 11 year old lad, and for his wonder and laughter and imagination. The otehr was written shortly after I’d been researching something that had puzzled me for years.

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: The Unusual Place
Word: chair
Challenger: Phil Barnett
Length: 200 words exactly

A marked drop of temperature accompanied him as he moved inside the cave, away from where his family were picnicking in the crisp air of the Norwegian countryside.

He’d noticed the place for the first time the previous evening, walking back with his parents and sister from dinner, a patch of blackness on the side of the hills, darker even than the dusk shadowed surroundings.

He gasped as he saw the object, a simple cane, lying on the floor. Nearby, he could see a sharp edged silhouette that resolved itself as he moved, light sliding past him to illuminate the chair.

Of course! he thought, Odin’s chair, and Thor’s cane!

With a rush, he grabbed for the stick, and slammed it to the ground.

The shock of power knocked him back into the chair and instantly he was aware of everything!

He was All-Powerful – how could he not have known his true identity previously?

He was… hearing his mother calling for him. And suddenly Asgard, home of the gods, was just a cave again. And Thor’s hammer was just a gnarled stick.

He left the cave and went out to join the mortals.

But he took the stick with him.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: Confusion: That Night, 12/6/1986
Word: tablespoon
Challenger: [Livejournal: spangle_kitten]
Length: 200 words exactly

Two hours.

Sat at the table for two hours, shaking silently for the past ten minutes, playing with the tablespoon, holding back tears, staring at the empty chair.

Three years.

Three years ago next Monday when they first met. Waiting by the side of the road for the mechanic. Her third cigarette butt had just hit the ground when instead of the orange and white truck, his electric blue Toyota had pulled up; just a passer-by, concerned about her.

Four weeks.

Thirty days later, she’d moved in to his apartment, enthralled by his loveliness, in love with everything about him. They shared stories about their lives before they met: he revelling in her tales of growing up in Kent, she drowning in his reminiscences of Texan sunsets.

Five minutes.

All it took for their dream to end. The letter informing him that his father was dying. He left, she stayed; contact too painful. The potential meeting, planned for months later to see if love lasted: 12/6/1986.

Six months.

She thought June; he thought December. Of course they did.

A movement caught her eye as he returned to the table and she wiped her eye at what they could have lost…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

And so we’re back to the regular ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts on Tuesdays for the rest of the run.

I signed up with Racket in May, and, unless I grow up and stop being childishly excited about the idea, you could well get audio readings of the fiction appended to the tales themselves.

Today you get a couple of fast fictions from the long ago, from the very long ago again this week; one each from the 2005 and 2006 fast fiction funs. Two very different stories, one very silly, one very sad. And both I remember writing with great enjoyment. I hope you enjoy reading them as much.

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: Coked To The Gills
Word: armour
Challenger: [Livejournal: elfie_elfie]
Length: 200 words exactly

I can’t remember what inspired me to realise that the fish were really goths, but once the idea set in, the rest was automatic.

The gentle gurgling of the water was simply too peaceful and had to be replaced, so I hooked up a waterproofed speaker and started piping music into the aquarium. Alphabetically, of course.

I started off with All About Eve, and moved on to Bauhaus. By the time I reached Joy Division, I was convinced that the looks on their little faces bore the required level of angst.

I replaced the pirate ship with a dark grey submarine and the golden castle was replaced, once I’d painted it black. It seemed appropriate to have a guard, so I bought a six inch suit of armour and coloured it black with oil paint, so it would last.

I put in lower lights and started adulterating the feed with uppers, downers, anything I could think of. No dope, for obvious reasons.

Finally, the coal went in. Lumps of the black stuff.

Of course the fish were suicidal! They were goths!

I don’t understand why others have problems with that.

And that, my Lord, is the case for the defence…

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Thursday Morning Coffee
Word: beans
Challenger: [Livejournal: abbie]
Length: 200 words exactly

He stood outside, enjoying the morning breeze. He lifted the large mug to his mouth, sipping the hot black coffee, tasting the slight bitterness. He remembered how she’d loved to make him coffee from Columbian beans. Not this morning though; this was instant – too much to do.

As the sun rose above the horizon, the sky slowly brightened; she’d always loved this shade of colour, and he’d grown in time to similarly take pleasure in it. Ten years to turn him from a ‘city lad’ into someone who took genuine pleasure from the country and now, thirty years of life away from the city.

The job, the excitement, the office politics; all of it seemed so far in the past, before the delight of her.

He drained the cup and walked back inside, remembering the joy of the past three decades with her. He rinsed the cup, knowing she’d have been angry with it left unwashed.

She’d died peacefully, as peacefully as she’d lived her life. Two hours, and it already seemed so long ago.

He felt his stomach cramp, the first sign.

Then he lay on the bed next to his wife, and waited for the poison to work.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.

As I said the other day, I’ll be returning to the ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts on a Tuesday for the rest of the run, with, as currently planned out, Thursday reserved for new fiction.

Yes, you’re getting new fiction.

And you’re also, after this week, going to maybe getting something a little extra with each story.

I signed up with Racket in May, and, unless I grow up and stop being childishly excited about the idea, you could well get audio readings of the fiction appended to the tales themselves.

As I say, this is early days but I want to at least try and give you something new. We’ll see.

But yes, archive fiction today, since I wanted to get a couple of new entries out of the way first. Today you get a couple of fast fictions from the long ago, from the very long ago this week; one each from the 2005 and 2006 fast fiction funs. Two very different stories, both of which tell you more about the human condition that at first might be apparent.

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.

Enjoy them…


Title: A Reason For Living
Word: askance
Challenger: Sarah Houlton
Length: 200 words exactly

The hero sat on the rooftop and wept.

His associates stayed clear of him, and spent their evening making sure he wasn’t disturbed.

He was, for example, entirely unaware of the bank robbery that was taking place only two blocks away, equally unaware of the semi-spherical construct formed to hide the sound of the criminals’ capture.

Those of a more urban bent kept the streets safe that night. They’d all been told to do so, but had not been told why. They’d looked askance at the appeal, and had then realised it had not been a request.

The hero considered his long years on the planet. And wept.

He thought of his adopted parents, now long dead. They’d taught him so much, made him effectively human, though he knew he’d never truly be one of them.

He thought of his first wife, buried centuries ago. And the others, so many of them.

He thought of them all. And wept.

He thought of those who wished him harm, and of what he’d done merely to survive, let alone prosper.

And then he heard again the cry of his child. His first child, born less than an hour ago.

And he wept.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: World Warp III
Word: waqf
Challenger: Bob Ingersoll
Length: 200 words exactly

The news media were waiting when the alien exited the waqf in the late twilight.

As it had when it had left in turn the Vatican, a synagogue and the cathedral, the only public comments it would make in its strangely accented voice were “very interesting” and “My people are always interested in others’ beliefs”.

A bright glow surrounded it and with a bow, and a sudden heat from the exothermic reaction of the alien’s teleportation device, it left.

Four hundred miles straight up, the alien materialised and gave a creditable impersonation of a sigh, a habit it had picked up while surveying the planet. It set the star drive and, deliberately apathetic of the effect of the gravity warping effects of the drive on the system, it left the system with speed, uncaring of the splintering of moons in its wake.

Passing over the sensor plate, it gestured and the chair rose slowly from the floor. Sinking into it, the alien made its report to its employers, full of regret: the inhabitants of the planet were wilful, spiteful and could not be left unsupervised. The employer’s children, the alien reported, would have to look elsewhere for pets this year.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.