Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

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.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, this week, a story about a man and a child and a meeting, sparked by the following image.


A meeting, at first

He was known to those who needed his services as The Investigator. And woe betide any who were foolish enough to refer to him as a detective; he scorned the very concept.

“Takin’ the easy way out,” his closest companion later recalled him contemptuously describing the occupation. “Pathetically looking for what has been left out almost in plain sight for plodders to find. The only skill such a person needs is persistence.”

And now the child had made the same error, asking him if he was a detective. “I do not detect,” he explained. “I investigate. I discover what others do not want me to find. I uncover what others would wish to remain hidden. I then think, and I then conclude, and I then reveal, to those more stupid than I…”

He paused, turning his face to the window, looking out of the headmaster’s study onto playing fields that he had once played on, and the child was foolish enough to complete the statement with what seemed to be the obvious words “…the truth?”

The tall man whirled at once, furious, though whether at the audacity of the child or the stupidity was impossible for the child to glean.

“The truth?” He almost laughed at the absurdity. But he restrained himself; he’d never been seen laughing, by anyone, and did not wish that to change. “The truth?” He asked more calmly. “There is no such thing. Truth is mutable, malleable and pliable. Facts are none of those. I reveal facts. Whether they are regarded as true depends on who is interpreting them.”

He got down on one knee. “Do you understand?” He asked, almost gently.

“I do, sir,” the child responded, pulling his school blazer around himself a little tighter.

“Good,” said the aquiline figure. “So you will please explain to me why you killed the English master. I know that you did in fact kill him; I’d like to understand why.”

The child started to speak, and then stopped as the tall, thin man, held up a single finger. “Before you reply,” the man said, not unkindly, “I wish you to consider the following: 1. I know without doubt, beyond peradventure, that you did indeed kill your English master. 2. I can prove that you did without any difficulty whatsoever. 3. I know why I would have killed him; indeed, why many would have sought his death, but I am curious, I confess, as to your specific motive. 4. I require nothing but the accurate recitation, without embellishment. And finally, 5. What you tell me, and what I tell the police inspector who will soon be arriving, may be two very different things indeed.”

The child looked up at the tall man and considered his answer carefully as required. He had trusted the taller man at once, and implicitly. He could not have said why at that moment, nor in the years and decades that followed, when he became in turn the Investigator’s most reliable companion. But trust him he did.

“I killed him because he had to die, sir. To protect the others, to protect the other children. And,” he paused, summoning some courage, “…and because no one else would do it.”

“Why do you aver that?” shot back the Investigator, his demand sharp and short.

“Because if anyone else would have eventually… someone else would already have done so.”

The Investigator started. The logic was flawed, the conclusion equally so, but the facts bore his explanation out.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“There are some children here that will not sleep soundly tonight nor tomorrow, becuase of the master’s existnce and actions, but they will soon, because he is no longer around to… to…” The child’s voice tailed off and the man saw the boy’s hands start to move, then cease.

The tall man stood then, bid the child to remain silent and paced around the room for seventeen minutes until there was a knock at the door.

“Come!” The man said and the door opened to allow Detective Chief Inspector Strange to enter.

“Ah, you’re here. Well?”

The tall thin man’s voice was certain and clear, betraying nothing but the conclusions of obviously serious and logical thought. “The English master was killed by a paid assassin, of Hungarian origin. He will already have left the county, and by the time you block the ports, he will have left the country itself. I will supply you his name within the week, and should he ever return, the evidence necessary to convict him.”

“Damnation,” said the policeman. “Damnation and…” he stopped as the other man indicated the child, and then apologised for his language, before raising an eyebrow, for he was not a stupid man, merely unimaginative.

“He… wished to meet me,” the Investigator said, with a stern, thoroughly convincing but disapproving look. The policman nodded in exasperation, then left, muttering something about ‘bloody kids. never understand them’ under his breath.

Many people, in the decades that ensued, asked the child who became a man how he met the man who became a legend. He would only ever reply with the words “at school”, and leave them to ponder the details.

But late at night, when he considered his own and his friend’s actions over the decades, he looked at others in their circle and wondered about them. Yes, he wondered, and hoped that none of them wondered about him quite as deeply, or for the same reasons.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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


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.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, this week, you get a story about some new tenants, sparked by the following image.


The tenants

He recognised them instantly, of course. They’d been kind enough to send photographs before the appointment, but the pictures had hardly been necessary. Everyone in his trade knew their names and likenesses.

The old man with the grey hair and the pink complexion smiled as he handed over the keys and hoped that it was convincing. Inside, he shivered slightly and stooped just a little bit more than necessary.

The woman took the keys, giggling nervously, and asked the question the old man had been expecting: whether the small house was haunted. The old man would have been mildly disappointed had one of the two not asked the question, since he might then have had to steer the direction of the conversation to prompt it.

There were traditions to uphold, after all.

But no, the woman had obliged on cue, just as the keys had passed from his hand to hers. Her hand was warm, and as pink as his. The woman’s companion smiled at her question, but the old man could see the curiosity in his eyes also. Even without foreknowledge, he supposed that in prior days, he would automatically have assumed he was her husband, but those days were long past, if they had ever truly existed.

The old man waited a moment before replying; he knew his trade well, and was equally certain that the pause was expected of him, as if he was carefully considering his response, bringing forth all his formidable powers of reasoning to produce a considered and reasonable answer.

Again, tradition.

“Well,” he said, commencing a small speech he had prepared dozens of times over the years, “there’s some who say it is, and some who say it ain’t.” He sighed, mostly for effect, but partly to catch his breath, for he was no longer young and the years had taken their toll.

“I’ve been the agent of this place for more years than I care to remember, and my family was before I came along” – that was true at least – “and I’ve heard all the stories: the tall tales about this house being built on an ancient graveyard,” [true], “those of the latest architect who redesigned it being insane”, [untrue – the old man remembered the fellow well; eccentric as were all professionals, but perfectly rational], “the multiple murders over a single three month period, a century back” [completely true, though the murderer, a neighbour, had been captured almost immediately], “and the ones about the unfaithful mistress bricked up behind the kitchen wall…” [He knew that tale to be false, as the kitchen had been entirely refurbished and rebuilt six years previously, and the only thing found behind the wall had been rotting insulation.]

He gave another sigh and finished up. “So I’ve no idea whether or not the house has ghosts…” he paused again and wondered whether to use the joke he’d been saving up, then went for it. “…but if there are spirits in there,” he tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially, “I think they come in bottles with screw tops and are best drunk out of decent glasses.”

He laughed loudly, alone, then bid his farewells. He waved at them and walked off to his car with an odd shuffle, as if one leg was slightly shorter than the other.

The old man usually had a theory about each set of tenants, and was content to allow each set of tenants to add to the data set and either confirm his conclusions or otherwise. His theory was this: that those gullible fools who believed the spiel were the people who ended up disappointed with their experience in the small house, while those who went into the house sceptical were most often the people who exited that same small house as true believers in the legends.

But he knew from the moment that he met them that his theory did not apply to this pair. He didn’t look back at the couple on the small porch of the small house. He no longer wanted to even think about them, though he knew he had no choice in the matter.

And when he returned to his office, he opened the safe, and pulled out the thick file that he’d inherited from his father, who’d inherited it from his own father. And so on and so on, back through the generations. The thick file, with the new tenants’ names on the cover, their names written in firm copperplate. And the date, similarly elegantly inscribed: 13th April 1734.

Every trade has its trad… no, now that he was back at the office, he could be less cowardly, more honest: every trade has its own superstitions. And when that couple want to rent somewhere to haunt and have their fun, you let them, unless you wished to be haunted to the grave yourself.

It wouldn’t take too long, he knew. The end of the week maybe, but definitely by the end of the month, and the small house would be empty. It was strange, he realised: he had liked them. And as that sank in, he similarly registered that only she had actually spoken; he had merely nodded, and smiled, and uttered the occasional ‘huh’ or ‘hmm’. He’d never heard that about them before; he wondered why.

Still, soon enough they’d be gone, and he’d have to redecorate – he groaned at the likely expense, and wondered with no small amount of dread how much blood there’d be.

For the first time in his long life, he was grateful he had no grandchildren living locally.

He leaned forward and pressed the intercom, summoning his son from the main office. It was time, long past time, to tell him the tale, as he had been told those many years ago in this same office.

He left the file open. The pictures would convey more than the words. Well, the replica daguerreotypes, anyway.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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


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 sketched 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.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

And I’m continuing to live up to the promise to my old friend, whose birthday it was this week.

So a story about birthdays, kind of, sparked by this picture.


Lost dates, lost people

Oh, it’s today. Again.

With a sinking feeling, I follow my practice of choice and open my calendar app on the phone and select the calendar I’ve marked as ‘Lost’. The names and dates appear instantly on the screen, and I pause for a moment, just a moment. I close my eyes. And I remember.

I miss paper diaries. I liked paper; I liked its invention. I mean, I wasn’t there for it, but every so often, I wonder what I’d have said to the person who invented it.

And I miss the personal nature of a paper diary; my diary was my diary. Sure, there were a few thousand out there that looked the same from the cover, but it was unlikely that anyone else would have a diary of the same dimensions, the same thickness, the same colour, the same typeface used for the year shown on the front.

I’d pick each one up a few days into December, and relish the ‘new paper’ smell as I cracked it open, enjoying the stiffness of the pages, the blank pages waiting for me to fill them.

I’d examine the opening pages, smile at the page waiting for me to complete my name, contact details, address, telephone number and email address in later years.

The pages showing ‘a list of major world events’ I’d skip at that point. But at some point, certainly before the start of the year, I’d read them carefully, for an hour or more, looking for anything that would surprise me. Oh, the events didn’t change, but sometimes my memory would fade and it would be enough to provide a corrective.

I’d skip to the back of small book, and the maps. Whatever else was in a diary, the maps always bemused me. I’d resist the temptation to correct the names to those I’d known in the past, and it saddened me that with every year that passed, with every new diary, the resistance was a little easier to summon.

And, then, I’d open this year’s diary, and next year’s, place them next to each other, turn the pages together, and start transferring the names and birthdays across onto the blank pages.

And with every date, there’d be names that this year, finally, I didn’t transfer.

That’s a problem with immortality, you know, that they never teach you. The major administration things, oh, you learn them fairly quickly. You learn to move on, to leave so much behind, to leave a life behind, when it becomes… necessary. No, that’s a lie. You may have learned to leave a life behind when it becomes necessary, but after a few hundred years, you start to leave it behind when it becomes convenient.

You learn how to manage finances and back accounts and investments and the best places to hide and to vanish and those in which you can thrive in almost anonymity.

But deciding when to stop mourning a loved one? That’s a tough one. To stop grieving? Oh, it would shock others how short a time; maybe four hundred years before your grieving process can usually be measured in days if not hours.

But the mourning process? When you stop remembering everything about them? When you stop smiling at the thought of their face, their eccentricities, their loveliness? When their absence ceases to be sad, and transforms into merely idle memory.

Paper diaries helped. I had a firm rule, developed when I was about 700. 700 and something, anyway. Fifty years after their death; that’s when I stopped transferring their birthdays and death days to the new diary. Wives, lovers, children. They all got fifty years. Apart from my parents. I don’t remember them any more; I don’t remember their having birthdays. But the dates got transferred anyway. My father would have been 2500 a couple of years ago. He didn’t make it to 40, not as the years are measured now, anyway.

I miss paper diaries. When that decision was made every year: this person’s details were transferred over, this person’s wasn’t. This person I’d remember at some point during the year when I saw their name, that person I wouldn’t remember unless something else happened to cause me to pull out an old diary for some reason.

I open my eyes and look at the screen again. They’re modern marvels, these mobile phones, astonishing. I never cease to be amazed at the wonder of technology. I don’t have to do anything; the names and dates and details and photographs of people transfer over to the new year by what the tiniest part of me – the part that thinks of the old days, and I mean The Very Old Days – still considers a form of magic.

The convenience is beyond previous imagination. As is the cost.

I sigh and start scrolling down the names attached to today’s date. So many. So, so many. Wives, lovers, colleagues. Children. Grandchildren. Great grandch… you get the idea.

I don’t know which is healthier. The paper diary with only 50 years’ of deaths, and maybe double that of memories. Or seeing hundreds of years’ worth of the names of people who I cared about, who I loved, and who loved me.

I don’t know which is healthier. Or better. Or stranger.

About half way down the very long list, I see the name I was expecting. Happy birthday, father. I wish I remembered more about you than the date.

I miss paper diaries.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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


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.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, I came across this picture by chance.

And here’s a story about unexpected pain and the pain being worth it.


Coming Home

I opened the door to the apartment with my key and cursed gently at the noise it made. They’d be in bed now. Only someone with a genuine reason to be up late would still be awake at half-two in the morning; she’d long ago got used to the hours I kept and the job I did. She’d be in bed. He, of course, would have been put to bed as the sky outside turned from overcast to night.

I took my shoes off in the dark; she hated me tracking mud through the place. I was dressed in civilian clothes, of course, rather than the costume, and I was bone tired. I’d had a long day and I don’t know how the other major leaguers managed it. I always smiled at my son’s comic books when he begged me to read them to him. What would it be like to be one of his fictional omniscient heroes, and not to need sleep but just to take it for relaxation?

I needed sleep. Both in the general and, especially tonight, in the specific. I was tired, weary, and I needed to go to sleep.

I put my foot down on the carpet gently. Not only because I had no wish to be stabbed by a toy my four year old son had left around, but because like any father I didn’t want to tell him that I’d broken what would, I was convinced, happen to be his favourite toy of the moment.

Yeah, sure I had an invulnerable force field like the newspapers report, but it comes both at a cost, and from my gauntlet. And I have to direct it. I could be, and had been, injured just as much by my feet being speared by a toy soldier as by an energy weapon taking me unawares in battle.

I stopped dead, suddenly struck by a memory. a couple of years back. We’d all just returned from Inner Earth, and were having a debriefing [ok, a bite to eat] back at The Clubhouse. Somehow we got talking, as sometimes happened, about injuries and wounds we’d suffered, and I’d a laser whip was nothing, nothing!, compared to stepping on a lego brick.

There’d been a moment of silence before the laughter came, then cries of ‘no, wait, what about when she twists your ear?’ And ‘oh deities above, when he head butted me in the groin…!’

And more laughter. I’m not sure that’s the exact moment when my colleagues became my friends, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I crept into his bedroom and grinned. Even before turning on the infra-red vision, I could see that he wasn’t there. The bedclothes were slung back and, switching on the vision, I tracked his footprints as they left his room and went into the main bedroom. I shook my head in wonder at the evidence that his feet could be warm enough to leave traces on the carpet.

They certainly didn’t feel that warm when he crawled into our bed at six in the morning and placed his ice-cold feet on my back to wake me up for breakfast.

I looked in on my wife and son. They were both sleeping and I left them there while I walked into the main room, seeing a small flashing light. I’d have hovered over but I promised her when we moved it: no obvious use of powers in the apartment unless lives were at stake.

The light on the answer phone was flashing. Not the normal everyday one, but the one that my son knew as “Daddy’s phone”. I mentally sent the signal to play the messages and heard a half dozen auto-messages from The Club, as well as a message asking me to renew my Readers’ Digest subscription. Wow, I thought, have you got the wrong number.

There was some unopened mail for me which puzzled me for a moment, since my wife usually opens our mail. Then I saw that it was fan mail and understood why it had been left unopened. She used to get a kick out of, but changed her mind on the subject a while back. Even though secretaries employed by The Club usually scanned the mail in advance, they’d once let a death threat slide through and she’s avoided looking at the fan mail ever since.

I put the kettle on and made a coffee while I read some of the fan mail. It was the usual: two requests for help, a half dozen requests for a fly by , a request or two from children asking me to beat up the local bully. More proof that childhood experiences stick with you. I still remembered the names and looks and preferred tortures of my own school bullies. I had, I’ll admit, been tempted more than once to follow up in person in the past, but I’d usually found that a quiet word in the childrens’ teachers’ ears did the trick.

I put down the mail and opened the freezer. I knew there was some ice cream there, and I had a sudden banana-split attack. I wasn’t sure to be aggrieved or proud to find the carton still there, but with a piece of frozen paper attached upon which was written in spidery childlike writing. “sorry. I was hungry.”

I turned out the light and went into the bathroom. I caught a look at myself in the mirror and looked at the small cut above my eye. Ouch… I remembered the energy rifle blast that caught me. I’d had the cut checked out back at The Clubhouse, but the docs couldn’t say whether it would scar or not.

So far I’d been lucky. No scars in visible places, although my back was a mess of scar tissue and the skin over my kneecaps never tanned. Not any more. Not after that time I was thrown out of that car on the freeway. An invulnerable shield three feet in diameter could only protect so much.

I rubbed my chin. I needed a shave but it was too late and I was too tired. When my powers first appeared, I’d tried to pretend I was Superman from my son’s comics… and shave by burning off the whiskers. Never again. No, really., never again. Not only did the bathroom stink from the stench of burning hair, but I had heat blisters all over my face. Took them three days to go down. Never again…

I stripped off and dropped my dirty washing in the basket. She had few rules, but that was one of them. I quickly washed and the cut bled a bit just as I dried it. I walked into the bedroom and, taking care not to wake the boy, sat on the edge of the bed. I kissed her head and she stirred.

“Umm,” she said, “what time did you get in?”

“About half an hour ago,” I whispered.

“Everything OK?” she asked sleepily.

“Yeah,” I replied, still whispering. “Dr Radium’s back in custody, the shuttle took off on time, and I even remembered to post your mother’s birthday card. Everything ok here?”

“The credit card statement arrived,” she said.

Oops.

“You never said you bought some new computer equipment.”

“Ah…”

She smiled, and my heart warmed. And I knew I’d gotten away with it. There have to be some advantages to being a costumed hero, after all. “Let me put him next door and then I’ll come to bed.”

I stood up and scooped our son into my arms.

I took him into his room and as I put him into his bed, he woke up a bit. “Daddy!” he sleepily cried. “You’re bleeding!” He was worried but calmed down quickly when I told him it was no worse than a shaving cut. He gave me a hug and then snuggled into his bed, his head firmly on the pillow, his favourite teddy bear by his side, held tightly.

I kissed his head and then went to leave. A quiet voice asked “Daddy? Are you a super-hero like Superman and Batman?”

I turned to him and spoke quietly. “No, son, I’m not like them. They’re real heroes. I’m just someone people call a super-hero.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Daddy, you’re my real hero.”

My eyes watered. I looked at this four year old with his own power: the power to make everything all right again, and my heart filled with love.

“Daddy?”

My reply of “Yes, son?” was filled with pride, with love, with…

“Daddy? Can I have a drink of water please?”

I trod on a damn Lego brick as I went to the kitchen. It was worth it. The work of a hero father is always worth it.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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


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.

Housekeeping note: The final piece of new fiction, and indeed the final post in this run that started in June with ’57 minus…’ and continued with ’57 plus…’

116 daily posts, after 18 months off. Hopefully, when I return for ‘2022 minus…’ on 1st November, you’ll still be here… but to help, there’ll likely be the occasional post before then, labelled ‘Interregnum’.

With this tale, there’ll have been sixteen pieces of new fiction. Sixteen pieces of fiction that didn’t exist before I put fingers to keyboard that day.

I’m rather pleased by that.

Ok, on with the final tale of this run.


Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

For this week’s tale, something unusual: a story provoked by one of my own photos. A shot I took some time ago but the rules still apply. I came across it again completely by chance.

This photo.

And here’s the story it provoked, about seeing you tomorrow.


See you tomorrow

Monday evening. The platform is the same as ever, a few people I recognise, some I don’t. Some new people, a very few absences. But none of them is the person I’m waiting to see. She isn’t here yet, though I know she’s on her way.

I glance up at the clock, on the platform, mentally chiding myself as I do so. It isn’t “a clock”. It hasn’t been a clock for years.

It’s a digital display. A display showing so much more information than merely the time, most of it accurate. The next four trains, where they currently are, how long they’re expected to be before arrival, the weather, the name of the station. And, of course, the time. relegated to the the bottom right hand corner, digits flickering and changing, second by second. The colour they use irritates me. I couldn’t say why but it does.

I miss the old clock, though. I do. It was a big white round thing with thick black numerals inches high, and a satisfying thunk as the big hand hit 17 minutes past the hour. Some of the other platform residents and I have wondered on occasion why they’d never fixed that before they’d replaced the whole thing; it would surely have been a simple repair. Or maybe it wouldn’t have been. I’m no engineer. Hell, I’m not really much of anything these days.

But why 17 minutes past the hour? Oh, the ludicrous and intricate reasons we’d conjured.

The tannoy blasts out… something; I have no idea what. Most of those on the platform stir and look at each other in bemused puzzlement. A few nod as if they’ve received a message they understood. I suppose it’s possible. Just about.

She’ll probably be singing in the car right now approaching that roundabout outside the station, listening to one of those poppy bubble gum songs she loves so much but which I can’t stand. I wince as I remember the arguments. She was so passionate, so argumentative. And of course so wrong.

Mozart. Or Brahms. Or Black Sabbath. Give me one of the classics any day of the week.

But no, she’ll be singing away to one of those silly songs, getting half the lyrics deliberately, and filthily, wrong. And maybe smiling at what I’d say if I was in the car with her.

But of course I’m not. I’m waiting on the platform for her. She won’t see me when she arrives; I’ll be behind her, though, watching her, enjoying how she looks, hoping to see a smile, or at least something.

I look up at the display again; if she follows her usual pattern, she’ll be parking about now. She’ll park, tap the glass of that slab of plastic and metal she calls a telephone, and with a few taps, pay for the week’s parking.

The train will be here in a few minutes. I wonder if I’ll get to see her for only seconds, or maybe minutes. Will she be here in time for me to enjoy looking at her, to enjoy just the look of her? I close my eyes for only a second, I swear, lost in the memory of her.

And then, with a swirl of reds and yellows, she’s there. Standing almost in front of me. I catch my breath, before realising and grinning almost apologetically at a youngster leaning against the wall, a few feet away, wearing braces and a flat cap; he smiles back in sympathy and understanding.

He gestures towards her. I mouth a single word. And there’s the briefest look of pain across his features before he points at a frumpy woman struggling with a heavy bag of shopping, and mouths silently at me “Mum.”

I nod my head in understanding and he goes back to watching her, while my attention turns back to my daughter. She’s 27 now, on the way to a night shift; she’s a nurse. I like it when she has night shifts. It means she takes the same train from the same platform that I once took. So I can see her.

I never expected that she’d become a nurse. But then she always did surprise me, even when I was alive.

I sometimes wonder how long it took before she could stand on the platform and not picture the crash, how long it took before she stopping thinking of it as The Place Her Father Died. I do hope it wasn’t too long. I step around her, enjoying her profile, her eyes, her face.

The train arrives, and her head turns, those flaming red locks catching the fading light.

She looks straight at me.

No, not at me. Past me, through me, towards the end of the platform, to the wall, at the plaque marking the accident.

“Hey dad,” she says softly, “love you.” Then she wipes her eye, steps through the open door, and is gone.

She’ll be back tomorrow though.

And I’ll be here, waiting to see her, again.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

Erm, I won’t see you tomorrow, with… something else. But I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Fifty-seven eight more days. Fifty-seven eight 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 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 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.)

57 plus 57: Back-ups

Posted: 13 October 2021 in 57 plus, fiction, writing
Tags: , ,

Housekeeping note 1: I went out last night, and I fully intended to use today to do a write up of the event. But it was too much… I mean, I loved the show – David Baddiel’s Trolls: Not The Dolls – and I’d recommend you go see it, but I was thinking about it all the way home, and I’ve been thinking some more about it today.

I’ll do a proper write up during the interregnum in a week or so. (The show’s running for a bit yet.)

Housekeeping note 2: This is the final ’57 plus…’ post. Or at least it was intended to be. 57 posts for ’57 minus…’ and 57 posts for ’57 plus…’. Except I like writing the new fiction on a Thursday so you’re getting one more post tomorrow.


So, something else today. Another tale from the very, very long ago fiction vaults.

I wrote the following story for an anthology that never actually saw the light of day. I can’t remember exactly why not; something to do with rights or the cost of printing. Anyway, it didn’t happen.

I wrote this in 2003. It seems more than a little prescient today.
 
 

BACK-UPS

They have a revolving door.

I hate them just for that. Just for the symbolism. In. Out. And it’s done.

The woman at the desk doesn’t even look up as I approach the reception desk.

“Seventy-third floor,” she says. A ‘path, I realise.

“Yes,” she says in a bored tone. She still hasn’t looked up at me. “I’m a telepath, which means I know what you’re thinking even though you haven’t thought it yet.”

Now she looks up at me. She smiles, but I know it’s a smile she’s practiced in front of the mirror. “And what you really want to do with me is still illegal in fourteen states.”

I believe her. Even though all I’d thought about was what she looked like. Not bad, I think. Not bad at all.

“Fuck you,” she says, that smile unchanged. “I’m a lot better than ‘not bad’.”

Now it’s me that smiles at her, as I head for the elevator.

There are two others already there, both of them carrying MemScan brochures. The man’s flipping through a book while the woman has her eyes half-closed and is mouthing something in what looks like fright. They both look at me, and then return to their own practices. Curious, I think obscene thoughts. Neither of them even blink and it takes me a moment to realise that the woman is genuinely scared.

To make conversation, and to try to reassure her, I tell her, “Nothing to worry about, really.”

“How the hell would you know?” comes the response from the man. “Done it before, have you?”

If it’s a challenge, it’s a bloody stupid one. “Yes,” I say, “three times actually.”

That gets their attention. This thing costs. A lot.

“You’ve been backed up three times?” There’s something approaching awe in the woman’s voice now. She’s not bad looking either, not now, not with the look of fright replaced with a mixture of curiosity and admiration.

The elevator arrives and we get on. He looks at the panel of buttons and I lean forward to hit the buttons for the seventy-third floor. MEMORY SCANS INC, RECORDING AND RESTORATIONS.

I lean back against the wall as the elevator starts up. I wonder what the two of them would think if they knew that right now, as we’re moving upwards through the vast building, we’re being scanned by about thirty telepaths. Each of them scanning for one thing, and one thing only.

They’re still looking at me, the woman bashfully so, the man less so. The curiosity is palpable, almost oppressive in the enclosed area. I learned long ago the easiest way to deflect it is to manufacture some of my own. “So,” I point to the brochures, “why MemScan?”

When they come, the reasons are the usual. I mean, give MemScan credit. Their advertising boys have come up with about seven different angles, all of them playing on the gloriously perfect discovery that humans are inherently neurotic.

They’re paranoid about telepaths stealing their memories, for a start. Funny how MemScan conveniently forget to mention that there’s never been a single case recorded of a telepath erasing a memory they’ve read. That’s why the woman is here, to back up her memories, so if anyone steals them, she can restore them later.

The man’s excuse for being there is slightly more understandable. Slightly. His father has Alzheimer’s and is slowly losing his memories, one by one. But the old man’s 122. What the hell did he expect? How old are you, I ask the man.

42.

42 and he’s getting a MemScan in case he gets Alzheimer’s. I want to hit him.

But then, is my justification any better? In a world of telepaths, how the hell do you protect a copyright? Posting something to yourself in a sealed envelope is no protection, not when on the way to the mailbox, someone in the street can scan your brain, see what it is in the envelope and file a precept before you’ve returned home.

So, for the past three months, I’ve had my mind scanned. Not just the memories, not just the cheap option, but the full whack. The whole thing. Memories, stray thoughts, sexual fantasies, and story ideas. Everything.

Because I’m a writer. Yeah, a writer. Remember them?

Remember what it was like to have an original idea?

Before you had the option of going to MemScan Rental and hiring someone else’s thoughts for a day. Or, if you’ve really got the money, a whole week?

Of course the real trick is to make sure that when you have a back up made, you’re thinking of something really horrific. Then, if anyone’s daft enough to download you, the first image they get is of, say, The President screwing a goat. Or a razor blade cutting open an eyeball. Or, if you’re really cruel and heartless, your last divorce. Pretty soon the word goes around; leave this brain alone.

The elevator arrives and the three of us step out.

The armed guard at the side of the door isn’t needed, of course. If any of us had been part of the Abolitionist Movement, we’d never had made it out of the elevator. They’d have flooded it with nerve gas and killed everyone in the enclosed space? Don’t believe me? Tch – you don’t read the small print in the brochure then.

The receptionist upstairs confirms my identity with a retinal scan and a tongue print. There’s not been a system yet that’s beaten both of them at the same time. And then I’m in the small room as they place the helmet on me.

And the last thought I have as they lower it onto me is the same one I had last time and the time before that.

I know it’s perfectly safe. I know that the stories of brains being sucked up and leaving the person a mindless husk are urban myths.

I also know that this machine was built by the company that tendered the lowest bid.

There – that should give the next downloader a few nightmares.

© Lee Barnett, 2003 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

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


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.)

As I promised last week, something different then and this week. Oh yes, it’s still Tuesday, and you’re still getting a ‘tale from the fiction vaults’.

But not fast fiction challenges; something else entirely.

I stumbled across the stories for last week and today while searching for something else. I reread the stories and enjoyed the utter silliness of this week’s; an odd tale, but an enjoyable one, I think. (I am, I’ll admit, amused at the reference to wearing a mask, but hey, this was 2013, ok?)

So, anyway, this story was entered for an online thing. It didn’t make the cut, but I still like it.

I hope you do…


 

Myth-appropriation

 
 
The call from the job agency was at ten o’clock in the morning, and the interview at four in the afternoon. By five, I was employed on a trial basis, and by the end of the month, I was full time, and permanent. Well, as permanent as this job ever gets.

At first I thought they must have been desperate, but no, the skills I’d picked up in several concurrent careers as – in no particular order – a con man, a writer and a comedian were just what they were looking for. Put simply, they were after a pathological liar.

And in the nine weeks since the interview, I’ve manufactured seventeen watertight explanations for the police, written twelve newspaper features under various pseudonyms and reassured six sets of parents that their missing teenagers were in fact being employed by MI5 on matters essential to national security.

Now, the one thing you have to remember at this point is that urban legends are just that, legends. Myths. No basis in fact. None of them. You’ll remember that, yes? I mean, I’ll check later, obviously.

Yeah, it took some time to get used to the routines here. No water bottles allowed (cancer prevention); no letting the winged spiders out for a flap (we never did find that one that escaped); and no taunting the traumatised hamster by calling him ‘Richard’. That’s a definite no-no.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wear those damn cycle masks whenever I left the building (to protect against chemtrail poisoning) unlike the poor slobs in the next office; they’re the conspiracy theory builders and they sometimes get a little too involved in their work. Not giving any secrets away but if they ask you to smell something, don’t… Ever.

That’s not to say I’ve got any less tough a job; it’s not easy being a reality enforcer: dealing with the detritus of the supernatural and the just plain insane criminal, ensuring the teeming masses of humanity still believe that urban myths are just legends and shared legends are just stories to scare children with.

My predecessor? Yeah, she’s recently been promoted. She’s currently somewhere in middle America, intercepting cars before they pick up the next hitch-hiker, the one who’ll vanish from the car. You know the story. Well, of course you do.

The training? Well, usually it’s ok. One bloke though, he’s on rotation back to head office after a screw up in New York. Nothing big, at least I don’t think so, but no-one’s letting slip any details; I heard it was something to do with taking bribes and letting someone take both kidneys, or skimping on the ice. Or somesuch.

So, we’ve covered salary, holidays and perks. You interested in the job? No? Ah well, just finish your coffee, and I’ll see you out. Read the newspaper while you wait. I’ve got a piece on page 7.

Urban legends, you see. They don’t exist. They never did.

I have proof.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


 

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.)

Housekeeping note: This will be the penultimate piece of new fiction before I take a few weeks’ break until November, and that’s only if I decide to a run until teh new year.

I’ll wrote one more tale, next week, which will technically extend ’57 plus…’ to ’57 plus 58’… merely because I want to continue to honour the promise I made to an old friend to write one piece of new short fiction every week during these runs.

So, by next week, there’ll have been sixteen pieces of new fiction. Sixteen pieces of fiction that didn’t exist before I put fingers to keyboard. I’m rather pleased by that.


Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

I came across this picture by chance.

And here’s a story about overhearing a conversation you weren’t meant to hear…. or were you?


The Conversation

The door was open. That’s the only reason I heard them.

Bitter words, angry words, flying between the two of them, a man and a woman.

I’d been walking along an unfamiliar high street, taking my bearings, while I killed a couple of hours before heading home. A business meeting behind me and nothing awaiting me until I got the train back, I indulged a preference for wandering in the cool early evening air. I’d turned off the main road upon smelling chocolate from a side street packed with small shops, and was walking towards it when I heard the raised voices. I’d glanced towards the open shop door out of no greater than mild surprise, as the tone seemed out of place coming from an antiques shop.

“You’ve never loved him, not like I do!” the woman said, and before I could even form a thought as to what the man could reply, he responded with a “you say that, but he prefers me in bed!”

I struggled to hide a laugh, and somehow smothered it, but allowed myself a smile as I left them to it and continued on my way, passing windows with tasteful presentations of old jewellery and older books, against black velvet curtains. Across the road was an old-fashioned toy shop, wooden toys in the window, and next to it, a tea house that looked like it hadn’t changed in decades. Tea. That sounded good.

And that’s when she said my name.

I slowed, my left foot slowly making its way to the ground. I don’t have a common name, that’s true, but neither is it uncommon enough as to be wholly rare. It was just curiosity that made me loiter just a moment longer, I swear. I merely wanted to know more about this poor soul who shared parents equally stupid.

“Prefers you in the sack? As if!’ the woman shot back at the man, and proceeded to list in detail what she and my namesake had gotten up to the previous night. I was torn between pushing the door shut to save them embarrassment and further listening; my more prurient nature won out. There was darkness inside the door, but streams of light from behind another heavy black curtain. I wondered how the sound had made it out, but no more than idly

There was silence after she’d finished her recitation and then a short sound, part laugher, part derision. “Is that all?” the man asked. I had to give him credit; her descriptions had been both explicit and impressive. My namesake obviously had more imagination than me for a start, as well as greater stamina, even allowing for a tad of exaggeration. But apparently, according to the man’s reply, no exaggeration was necessary; he appeared to accept her word as gospel, and responded with a description of his last encounter with whoever shared my name as evocative as her own, describing a sexual position that raised both my respect for his suppleness and agility and concern about his long term health.

My namesake apparently had looked after himself better than I; that was apparent from the descriptions of his strength and the awe with which the two of them spoke of his body. I envied him; I’d always been a weedy child, and my hopes that puberty would fix that deficiency had sadly gone unanswered. Oh, my height had increased from childhood, but never to the ever-hoped for six feet; I was always just a little shorter than my peers, and a little weaker; hair a little thinner, and a bit paler, a little less noticeable in a crowd. I’d gotten used to it over the years, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

There’d been a pause in the conversation and I wondered whether to walk into the shop; I was now curious about the couple, what they looked like. Did my namesake at least have good taste? I wasn’t that shallow as to pretend to know their true personalities from overhearing an argument. Well, perhaps not shallow enough.

Then the man said, almost thoughtfully, “What do you think is his sexiest body part?”

And the woman replied, “Oh, that mole. On his right cheek.”

And I touched the mole. On my right cheek.

The man disagreed and said, “I like his nose. The way it never quite mended after he broke it.”

And I touched my nose, the kink in the surface that never quite mended properly after the car accident.

The temperature in the street hadn’t dropped, but I shivered, suddenly cold and wanting to be anywhere other than listening to these two people argue. It was a coincidence, no more than than that, like hearing your name across a crowded room and seeing someone else answer the cry. Or a taxi turning up after a night out and two people standing upon hearing the driver call their name. Nothing more than that.

OK, it was more than that. But not much more. Coincidence. All right , coincidence upon coincidence.

I wanted to leave, but wanted to stay.

A vibration in my pocket startled me, and automatically, my hand slipped into my pocket and flipped the mobile phone reminder off. I’d set it when I left the meeting but couldn’t quite remember why; I still had loads of time before the train and my curiosity, anxiety and, yes, my nosiness, obliged me to stay. It would be a good tale to tell the office when I got back.’ You think you know coincidence? Hah, you don’t know anything. Wait until I tell you what happened to me…’

The sort of gentle mocking office oneupmanship without which civil war within an office would take two or three days longer to erupt.

There was movement inside the shop and one of the curtains in the window twitched, before a vertical slit opened and a small cat came into view. A hand swiftly followed, retrieving the cat and I scratched the back of my hand, then my neck, an instinctive repulsion to the beasts.

No, that was it. Enough. I lifted my wrist to check the time and then I heard, a hesitant voice, the woman’s, “Do you think he loves you more than me?”

There wasn’t even a moment’s silence before almost apologetically, the man’s voice said, “yes, but you love him more than I do. Isn’t that enough?”

“No,” she said. “No it isn’t.” A long sigh. “But it will have to be. At least I get to cuddle him afterwards. He said he never cuddles you.”

“No,” the man agreed. “At least you get that. He doesn’t like cuddles with me afterwards. He saves that… for you.” And there was just a trace of bitterness in his tone.

“I think it’s his hair. I love burying myself in it,” she said.

“Well, we both like…”

“No, not that hair,” she said with laugher, “higher!” And then they laughed together. And I felt queasy, awkward.

Again, I was overwhelmed with curiosity, about him, about them.

I reached down towards the door knob, catching a look at my reflection in the tinted window. My hair looked fuller in the reflection. Darker colour I could understand, but thicker as well.

Before I could reach it, the door swung open, and they were there, waiting for me, welcoming me inside.

“Where have you been?” Joanna asked, but then she always worries about something or other..

“We were worried,” said Peter, embarrassed at the admission. It’s sweet how they both worry.

I love them so much. I have, ever since I met them.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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 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 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.)

Something different this week and next. Oh, it’s still Tuesday, and you’re still getting a ‘tale from the fiction vaults’.

But not fast fiction challenges, this week nor next; something else entirely.

I stumbled across the stories for today and next Tuesday while searching for something else, and I reread the stories and enjoyed how I played with the reader’s expectations for today’s.

An odd tale, but an enjoyable one I think.

So, this story was entered for an online thing. It didn’t make the cut, but I still like it.

I hope you do…


 

Time for a murder

 
 
1920

The decadent music was louder than I’d like, and the girl was quieter. She died easily enough, though, and I was pleased that everything had gone to plan. Almost everything, I hear a small voice in the back of my head, almost everything. I wish I could sleep though. I’m very tired. Killing people is exhausting. Who knew?

1921

I can still hear the man breathing his last. It haunts me and taunts me whenever I stop thinking of anything else. I shake my head, trying to clear it of the noise and the static. Everything snaps into focus for a moment and then… that damn breathing, like it’s inside my brain.

1922

The older woman died almost instantly. Almost. There was hardly any blood though. I’d learned more by then. I never even thought of her again, almost forgot how it felt to kill her so smoothly.

If only the man’s laboured breathing wasn’t drowning my soul. In and out. Fainter but still there. In and out.

1923

I think about how I planned the murders; seems so very long ago now. I knew each of their routines, how they all led their boring, silly lives. No more.

SHUT UP!

1924

Why won’t he shut up? It’s like he’s right next to me, sitting on the chair. I killed him on the floor. He should still be there. But that bloody, liquid breathing. The same day and it’s all I can hear right now. Dammit, shut up.

I concentrate on the the satanic symbols I painted on the wall in their own blood, the wealth of evidence I planted so that locals will be blamed for the murders. And for a moment, the noise goes away. Then it returns.

1925

I can’t think of anything else now. If I close my eyes, I hear the rasping breaths; if I open them I see the blood. So much blood.

I need help. I know that now.

1926

Of course, that was a fanciful thought; no-one can help me. I’d have to tell the truth, explain everything. They’d never understand, never appreciate why I killed them. They’d be jealous, anyway. I have to take care of this myself no matter how long it takes.

1927

Finally, the breathing stops. Finally, I hear nothing. I close my eyes. Christ, I’m tired. Then I open them. Silence. At long last. Silence.

I glance at my watch.

Eight minutes. Twenty-eight minutes past seven in the evening.

It took him almost eight minutes to die.

I giggle softly to myself and then leave.

Happy new minute, everyone. Happy new minute.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


 

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.)

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

I came across this photo by chance.

And here’s a story you’ve not read before… perhaps.


Just one more.

Seventeen trips.

That was all you got. Seventeen solo journeys.

Every child learned the rules at school, along with their advanced physics lessons, the obligatory navigation tutorials, and the necessary implantations of antibiotics and anti-virals and the rest.

Three guided timeslips, then seventeen on your own. Twenty in total. No more. Never another. Not unless you wanted to end your days a gibbering wreck in one of the asylums spread throughout history specifically for that purpose, many of them in less enlightened times.

The first trip was always back along your own time line, back to a sad day when you were young, to convince your earlier self that time travel was indeed possible. A short journey, no more than five subjective minutes. Just enough to tell yourself two additional things: that you were alive a few years down the line, and that your parents had your favourite snack waiting for you downstairs, so you could stop being sad now.

A second trip, with your entire entire class, usually to somewhere entirely anodyne; five years into the past, to watch yourselves taking a set of year-end examinations was the journey currently favoured by eduational authorities.

The final guided trip was you, your best friend and a teacher, further back, somewhere less boring; 21st July 1969 was the most requested date, but some always wanted to see the aftermath of a war, or even the start of one.

And then, subject to you passing your exams, your own belt, your own kit, and your own neuroses which usually started after the sixth trip… when you realised that each of your trips thus far had created its own timeline, that you could never get back to the original, and that you had memories from half-a dozen conflicting timelines simultaneously bouncing around inside your head.

Most people quit after a dozen trips. They all probably should have quit one journey earlier, but for many the temptation still outweighed the physical and emotional side-effects.

Few people can cope with more than a dozen timelines.

Those that can are hired by the same authorities who regulate time travel.

Every senior member of those authorities has traveled at least fifteen times. Most of them are insane but very good at hiding it.

And then there’s me.

Seventeen solo trips when the call came. Seventeen solo trips and they want to remove my belt and my badge and my gun.

They’ll be here in a few minutes; they’re on their way.

But I don’t want to give this up. I know I can still do more. But what they say makes sense. They don’t want to risk my health. They don’t want me to risk my health.

Or so they say. I wish I knew if they were telling the truth. I just need a little more time to decide what to do. I make a decision, the same decision my peripheral vision is telling me I’ve made nineteen times before.

I step forward, turning my body, and trigger the belt, jumping back in time. Not long; just ten minutes. Just ten minutes more to think about it, as the world dissolves around me.

The world comes back into focus, and I face myself. The gun shoots once and he’s dead before he hits the ground. I push him to one side and think some more.

They’ll be here in a few minutes; they’re on their way.

But I don’t want to give this up. I know I can still do more. But what they say makes sense. They don’t want to risk my health. They don’t want me to risk my health.

Or so they say. I wish I knew if they were telling the truth. I just need a little more time to decide what to do. I make a decision, the same decision my peripheral vision is telling me I’ve made twenty times before.

I step forward, turning my body, and trigger the belt, jumping back in time. Not long; just ten minutes. Just ten minutes more to think about it, as the world dissolves around me.

The world comes back into focus, and I face myself. The gun shoots once and he’s dead before he hits the ground. I push him to one side and think some more.

They’ll be here in a few minutes; they’re on their way.

But I don’t want to give this up. I know I can still do more. But what they say makes sense. They don’t want to risk my health. They don’t want me to risk my health.

Or so they say. I wish I knew if they were telling the truth. I just need a little more time to decide what to do. I make a decision, the same decision my peripheral vision is telling me I’ve made twenty-one times before.

I step forward, turning my body, and trigger the belt, jumping back in time. Not long; just ten minutes. Just ten minutes more to think about it, as the world dissolves around me.

The world comes back into focus, and I face myself. The gun shoots once and he’s dead before he hits the ground. I push him to one side and think some more…

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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 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 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 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.)

This one surprised me.

Genuinely.

Because I’m used to – for these posts at least – the stories that result, while short, being at least longer than the fast fictions.

But, as a friend once advised, a story should be as long as it needs to be. Not one word shorter, but not one word longer either.

And so it proved to be with this one. Entirely to, as I say, my surprise.

OK, the usual preface: Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

I came across this photo by chance;

And this is the… story that it provoked. Exactly as long as I wanted it to be, as long as it needed to be. And not one syllable longer.


Not quite touching

I wanted to reach over, to hold her hand. But I didn’t.

I wanted to take her in my arms and kiss her. But I didn’t.

Instead we uttered trivialities, both of us avoiding what we wanted to say. We spoke… carefully; memories and hopes underscoring every word. The bell rang; we exchanged a long look. Then she left the room, and I went back to my prison cell, both of us heading for home.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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 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 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.)

For various reasons, nothing new from me today; partly because I’ve been snowed under with other stuff, partly because I’m really not in the mood today, and partly because the low level headache I had throughout yeserday hasn’t completely gone, while my fucked-up-foot is still a bit ouch-y.

But since my friend Tony Lee is on my mind a bit — we met up for a delightful drink and catchup recently, for the first time in years — and he strongly suggested a potential new writing project for me, you can blame him for everything that follows.

Because Tony gave me what is possibly the hardest and trickiest and perhaps sneakiest fast fiction challenge I ever faced.

Harder even than when someone challenged me to use the top ten ‘words of the year’ in a single fast fiction story.

Because, in November 2005, I was due to answer the 100th fast fiction challenge that had been issued. The 100th story I was writing in this entirely daft, short lived (I thought!) project.

And Tony wanted to a) be the challenger for that story, and b) make it something… special, since it was, y’know, the 100th.

So he duly came up with somegthing… special.

Tony Lee, friend, writer, fella who knows how what I laughingly call my ‘mind’ works… knew how to make me stretch for the bloody thing, how to make me write a story that deserved being the one hundreth.

So the challenge: not only to use the word “sonnet” in the fast fiction, but also to write it in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet

Now, to be fair, there’s no way 200 words in a single 14 line sonnet is gonna happen. But 28 lines, split into two lots of 14 lines, in full iambic pentameter, with the proper rhyming format? That should be doable.

It took me a couple of hours to write and my brain was melting by the end of it, but here’s what resulted:
 
 
Title: Shakespeare On Summer’s Morn
Word: sonnet
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

They came to town that early August morn,
Ten strolling players come to ply their trade.
To Stratford Common, set up on the lawn,
But only once of course they’d all been paid.
So Master Oliphant, he thus arrived.
Pomposity itself, prepared to speak.
The critics hated him but he’d survived,
(He was perforce the local Shakespeare geek.)
The worst of actors any could recall,
He planned to show them all that very day
Bringing the Bard again to one and all
A playwright born so many years away.
And Oliphant took to the stage once more
As he declaimed “So shaken as we are…”

The opening to Henry Fourth Part One
Commencing with those very words that way.
Through his performance Oliphant did stun
Much nicer than the truth: he stank that day.
But nonetheless, there was no doubt at all
The audience, they left the Common fast.
Such an abysmal, laughable portray’l
Unanimous verdict: “Please be the last!”
So Oliphant slunk off to sulk alone
Performances of others carried on
Without poor Oliphant, they did atone
And slowly did the audience return.
Soon someone told Oli where he’d gone wrong:
“Stick to a bloody sonnet from now on!”

© Lee Barnett, 2005
 
 

Note to all: Tony Lee is a so and so.
 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

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


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.)

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

I came across this photo while reading up on Ellis Island. The story it provoked has nothing to do with Ellis Island.

And this is the story that it provoked.


One murder, right on schedule

It took a full five minutes before the assistant district attorney, anxiously exchanging glances with his counterpart several feet away, rose to his feet and coughed, rather loudly.

The judge was unmoved.

Indeed, the judge didn’t move at all, which was the cause of the concern at the tables behind which sat the lawyers and the young client.

Until a few minutes’ earlier, the trial had been proceeding as both the prosecution and the defence had anticipated. Short opening statements had been made, both lawyers very aware that this particular judge had a reputation for impatience with circumlocution and waffle. Both had, at various times in the past, suffered the withering gaze of the judge, and also observations from the bench that were no less scornful and derisive.

After the opening statements, the prosecution had called its first witness, the medical examiner. An hour of questioning had ensued, about three-quarters of it from the prosecution, the rest – even the prosecution would later admit – made up of skilful questions from the defence, attempting, with some limited success, to damage the witness’s credibility.

A second prosecution witness, the first police officer on the scene, had followed the same pattern, while the third was such a success that the prosecutor’s assistant had even vaguely wondered whether they even needed two of the later planned witnesses. Her quickly scribbled note, however, had been greeted with a sharp shake of the head from her boss.

The fourth witness was where the problems had commenced. A fairly standard opening had been followed by a commonplace question to which the defence had objected. The assistant district attorney had been surprised by the intervention, surprised and concerned enough to mentally run through the remaining evidence to be offered. He quickly, and correctly, concluded that the defence was objecting for show, solely to damage the flow of question, answer, question, answer, and thereby to unsettle the witness.

It was an old defence trick, but one he was surprised the defence had used at that point rather than later in the trial. He’d expected the judge to overrule the objection immediately when the judge had held up a single finger for silence.

The judge had lowered his hand, asked both legal teams for a moment to consider the objection, and had fallen silent.

A moment passed, which stretched into a minute, and then two, and then five.

A dread thought idly flitted across the ADA’s mind, and he somehow resisted the temptation to look first at his opponent – especially when he heard a muttered ‘please, no…’ from him – then at the jury, sat quietly in the box.

“Your honour…?” He asked, to which there was no reply. He repeated the entreaty.

Slowly now, glancing around, hearing loud murmurs behind him from the public area, he fixed his eyes on the defence counsel, and they slowly nodded, then walked forward the short distance towards the judge.

A quick examination confirmed his fears; there was no choice now. He beckoned towards a clerk and the security guard. He turned towards the public gallery, searching for the medical examiner but she’d left after her evidence. He raised his voice, “Is there a doctor here?” He asked, noting the defence lawyer turning pale, partly from fear, partly from anger.

He also heard gasps from the jury box, and sliding his eyes over towards them, they found one woman, sitting at the front, her eyes fixed intensely on the judge.

Why my case? He asked himself. And he knew the defence counsel was asking the exact same question.

I mean it wasn’t as if they hadn’t tried to exclude her. But she’d been at the end of the jury pool, and they’d both used their preemptories much earlier. And the judge wouldn’t let them exclude her for cause.

So the mystery writer turned amateur (for which read ‘constantly interfering and getting in the way’) detective had made it onto the jury.

After that, the district attorney supposed, a murder in the courtroom was only a matter of time.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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.)

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across entirely by chance.

I came across the following image this afternoon, and it sparked an idea.

And this is what it provoked.


Words

The air was thick with fury, the pair of them letting the angry words settle in the space between them.

He stood, one hand in his pockets, every so often jangling keys and coins. He knew it annoyed her but he’d swear he didn’t do it solely to irritate her. Not solely, anyway. His other hand stroked his bare face; he’d shaved the beard off a decade ago but sometimes when upset he still missed it.

His eyes protruded, slightly, as they tended to when he was angry. And both of them knew it was not a pleasant look. It didn’t help that green eyes under eyebrows of salt and pepper were striking. On anyone else’s face, she knew they would clash, but on his, no.

He took a deep breath, as if to add to the upset, to restate what he’d just said, then he paused, and sighed, shallowly and slowly.

He looked at her, seated and surprisingly small in the fabric covered armchair. Her face was like stone. Unlike her husband, on whose face you could read a book of his emotions, hers was blank, wholly and completely. The best poker players in the world, if sat across from her, he had once said, would see nothing she didn’t want them to. She had thought it a compliment. Maybe it once had been. No longer, though. Now it was merely a fact.

“I…” she started, then fell silent again, judging her words.

When they had first met, decades ago, she had been all whirlwind and energy and extroversion; she’d seen no purpose in hiding what she thought, from anyone. She’d learned in the decades since that, sometimes, discretion was better, was easier.

He, though, had been reserved, insular, quiet. That had changed as her love for him had led him to blossom, to gain confidence in his own love for her, and the public showing of it.

She taught him to express himself. She taught him to free his feelings. She taught him to love. He taught her to appreciate it.

In those days, they could both remember with ease had they ever wished to, the world could go hang; they had each other and nothing else was important. They could recall that effortlessly, had they wished to. In truth, it rarely occurred to either to do so.

She took a breath. Then another, a loud one.

“Anything… else?” She asked, her voice flat.

He took one hand out of the pocket, as he walked over to her. “Just one thing… actually, two.”

Her eyebrow raised, archly.

He knelt in front of her. “You do know I love you, right?”

She tilted her head towards him. “You know that nothing matters to me, without you, right?” he continued. “That you’re the stars and the light and every blade of grass to me. That you’re… what makes life worth it.”

She smiled, gently but knowingly. “I know.”

“That you’re everything to me. The air I breathe, the food I eat, the world.” He stopped, suddenly.

“The food you drink?” Her smile grew wider, and reached her eyes.

“Yeah.”

“How am I supposed to top that?” She asked, the skin around her eyes wrinkling with light humour.

“You’re not,” he said, and she knew he meant it.

“You’re an idiot,” she said, and he knew she didn’t.

“I know.”

She reached to him, her pal against his face. “You said two things?”

He stood, bent over, kissed her cheek, the argument relegated to the places such things go between people who’ve loved each other with all their hearts for four decades and more.

“Yeah. Do you want a biscuit with your cuppa?”

As he left for the kitchen, she look at him with unadulterated love and admiration. He always apologised. Always. Or she did. She stretched out, wondering how many times it was now that she’d walked out on him without getting out of the chair.

Without surprise, she felt a brief chill on damp cheeks, and knew without looking that he was wiping his own.

The food he eats? She shook her head, bemused with love, and looked forward to the hot beverage, and the evening with him, and the rest of their lives. Together.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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.)

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across entirely by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

I came across the following image this morning (I was looking for images of scientific instruments), and it sparked an idea.

And this is what it sparked tonight. A very short tale, but… well, yes.


The Message

My friends. My many, many friends.

Many, many millenia ago, as the butterflies measure time, so very long before the third great age of insects on the planet, there was a human of what was then referred to as ‘science’.

His description and even his very name has long been lost to the annals of history, but the sacred scrolls of the insects say that was he who first managed true communication with the other primates littering the planet.

Centuries later, it was an ape named – according to legend – Caesar, who discovered a feasible and reproducible method of interaction with dogs, although anecdotes and tales from that age are full of references to something named “walkies”. And something else, the cruelty of which is hard to believe, but it was called “The Operation”.

Yet more time, so much time, passed before a canine named Rover had the first true conversation with a cat, but it was only a relatively short time – as both counted it, anyway – before this same cat named Tiddles initiated the first debate with a ladybird.

It took so very, very long for the ladybird’s civilisation to create a means of discussion with bacteria, but at long last, my fellow baccilli, the true rulers of the planet are revealed and ready to take their place, acknowledged by all and…

What’s that? There’s a message coming through?

From where?

And what does it say?

OK, what the hell is “a virus”?

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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.)

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across entirely by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

I came across the following image the other day, and this sparked the merest gem of an idea, about enjoying a sunset alone, because there’s no one else to enjoy it with.

And here’s what the idea became.


A Watercolour Sunset

To my certain knowledge, I am the last intelligent being left on the planet. And I will be gone. Soon, maybe.

Once, long ago, when the skies were blue, and the oceans still free from poisons, there had been billions of humans, trillions of animals, and many many more smaller creatures. There had even been viruses once.

But no longer. Only I and maybe the bacteria remain.

I have lived long enough to know that my home will never again support sentient life as I know it. And, after I have gone, whatever evolves here in the next few billion years will be unrecognisable to those who once thrived upon this once blue, now dark ochre, planet.

They left, you see. So very long ago, they left in their ships and their craft and their matter transporters and the like. Only I remain. PZ, the last of them called me. Pat Zero before that. And originally, Patient Zero. I had another name once. I must have had, surely? I came across a word written on a sign in a language I no longer recognise. The letters were unfamiliar to me, now, after so long. I think one was called an E, another a T. And a third was a strange symbol, round with a small tail attached.

Maybe one of them was in the name my parents called me. Parents. Such an odd concept to me now. I had parents, didn’t I? I must have had. I no longer remember them. Or anyone else; they’re just a blur, like the sunset. Colours smeared into each other.

The Disease, it was called. Just that. No fancy names, no popular designation, no code. Just ‘The Disease’. There wasn’t time to name it, you see. Half of humanity, more than half the animal life on the planet, dead within weeks. Governments fell, societies decayed. And eventually, they left. They all left. So very long ago that I can now no longer remember quite when. Or precisely how. But I remember why. I always remember why.

And, when they’d gone, I remained. And still I remain, both here and alive.

Whatever it was that transformed me into the carrier of the most deadly influenza in recorded history also made me essentially immortal. I haven’t aged in several centuries. That much I know from the diaries I kept before I gave up on them decades ago. Or maybe centuries. Or maybe millenia. Or maybe months. I’m not sure, you see. It’s been a very long time.

I actually tried speaking a little while ago. After some abortive and very painful attempts I stopped. Whether my body was too unused to it, or I’d forgotten how, I don’t know. Or at least I think I don’t know. Memories become vague and ephemeral after so long, you see. Oh, and I tried writing proper words yesterday. Or the day before. Or several weeks ago. I know it was when I saw a glorious sunset, just like the one tonight. Maybe it was earlier tonight I tried writing. It might have been tonight.

It’s such a beautiful sunset. Maybe my last. But then I thought that yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before…

I am ready for death. I’ve been ready for death since they left.

Sometimes, just before I sleep, I wonder whether they did leave. Whether the vague and faint images of their departure, like watercolours caught in a rain shower, are my imagination instead of memory. That’s when I cry, grateful that no one can see me. And then I cry more, because there’s no one left to see me. At least I think I cry. I hope I do.

No. They must have gone, and the skeletons I see everywhere, on land, in the ocean, are just those they left behind. Surely humanity survives, out there, somewhere.

One day, I’ll travel again. I’ll visit new places, and see yet more skeletons, ages old. And I’ll look up into a different sky. And hope that someone, anyone, is looking back.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

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.)

When I kicked off ’57 minus’, nine weeks ago… wait, nine weeks ago? I mean, I would ask the hell it was nine weeks ago, but I long ago got used to my son replying ‘that’s how the calendar works, dad‘, which also reminds how much an error it was that they banned us sticking children up chimneys.

Anyways, as I was saying… when I kicked off ’57 minus’ nine weeks ago, I wrote in the introductory piece:

Finally in this list of stuff you didn’t need to know about me: there are things I genuinely regret not doing. Rarely, however, are they The Big Things that people are supposed to regret: lost loves, lost opportunities in life, that one person you passed in the street, never spoke to, but have thought about every day for years…

I wish I’d learned to use a slide rule; somehow never got around to it. I wish I’d paid attention during history classes at school, but then I’d have missed the joy in later life of discovering how much fun history can be. I wish I’d never had to study geogarphy at any point in my schooling; I consider it time entirely wasted. Not once in my adult life have I been asked what an isthmus is. I have a mouth organ, purchased by friends of mine after I said I’d like to learn to play it. I never have learned to play it, and I really should do something about that.

And while there has been movement in relation to something above – more about that at the end of this post – I thought I’d develop the sentiment a bit today.

Because while they are very definitely not The Big Things (jobs, loves, places), they are genuine things I regret while not regretting them enough to have done anything about it before now.

So, four things that I semi-seriously regret not learning, skills I’m only semi-trivially sorry I never too up the opportunity to gain. And that’s the important bit, to me: I had the opportunity. I was offered the chance to learn all of the things below, and I declined them, for one reason or another.

OK, yes, I’ll acknowledge that there’s a case to be made that the same reason exists for all of the refusals: hashtag I Is A Idiot. I don’t altogether agree with that position, but I’d struggle to come up with a decent argument against it.

Oh, by the at, a friend, on hearing about the items you’re about to read, identified a common theme. I think she was kidding, but I’m not entirely sure: she suggested that there’s a definite ‘sliding things two dimensionally’ commonality.

Judge for yourselves.

Slide Rule
First one’s easy, since it’s explicitly mentioned above. My late brother used a slide rule. I’m not entirely sure why he used a slide rule, nor what he used it for, since pocket calculators were around (just) when he left school in 1978 and went to Sixth Form. It may be that he’d been shown how to use one and… just liked using it. But I clearly remember his slide rule, can picture him using it, and at some point he asked his younger brother by five years or so – me – if he’d like to learn how to use it.

And I said no.

And I honestly, and genuinely, regret saying no. Not because I’d now know how to use a slide rule… well, not only that. But because, as longer term readers know, my brother died twenty-three years ago, in 1998. And, I’ll not lie, it would be kind of nice to have yet another good memory of yet another skill he taught me, to go along with ‘how to drink scotch’, ‘how to drive’, and how to play backgammon.

Learning how to use a slide rule is something I may do something about at some point, as I honestly would like to know how to use one. But if I do, the skill will always come along with the knowledge that I could have had the skill a quarter century ago, and have the memory of Michael teaching me to go along with it.

Shorthand
A skill that would definitely have been useful, both at university and in my professional accountancy studies, not to mention the number of board meetings I attended as an accountant, and the meetings where shorthand would have been invaluable.

And I had the opportunity to learn it when I was 18, just before I went to university. My aunt was a secretary and knew Pitman shorthand. She claimed – and I certainly had no reason to disbelieve her – that she was very good at it, being able to take dictation at normal speaking speed, and offered some months before I went to Manchester Polytechnic to teach me the basics of shorthand, so that my lecture notes would be more accurate and so I’d be less likely to miss out important stuff than if I transcribed my hastily written usual scrawl.

And I said no.

Unlike with the slide rule, I remember why I said no. It was the last summer before I went to uni, and I had a girlfriend, kind of. But I certainly had friends that I wanted to spend as much time as possible with before we all went out separate ways, to universities all over the country.

Remember that this was before the advent of social media, before everyone had mobile phones and when staying in touch meant mostly letters with the occasional very expensive telephone call from the halls of residence call box.

So I said no.

And this is one I genuinely regret but that there’s absolutely no point at all in learning now. Which of course doesn’t mean that I won’t think about doing something about it soon.

Abacus
Another one where there are plenty of iPhone which I could stuck on my phone and learn to use on there. But that’s not the same, is it? I quite fancy buying an abacus and learning to use it.

I really do. But I almost certain won’t. Again, I was offered the chance to learn how to use one quite some time ago, by a friend who used it to do quick maths calculations.

And I said no.

She said it was incredibly easy to learn but maybe that’s why I never bothered,.. I don’t know. That’s hardly the excuse I can use for either of the preceding items, now, is it?

OK, and now I type the words on the screen, I actually do want to learn how to use an abacus.

OK, this one shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The mouth organ, or harmonica
Oh dear, I’ve actually run out of time today.

There will be sometghing about the mouth organ coming up very soon, I promise.

The word ‘decade’ and the name ‘Mark Watson’ are relevant here, and will be more relevant in a future post.

Meanwhile… see you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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


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.)