Posts Tagged ‘elephantwords’

Some more fiction for you… As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


The restraints were the first thing he noticed when consciousness returned; thick leather pressed into his forehead and he wondered whether it would leave a mark. The thought seemed puzzlingly amusing, but his body was lethargic and he couldn’t have laughed even had he wanted to.

A groan started somewhere deep in his chest but barely made it out of his throat as a long sigh as his eyelids flickered and his vision, blurry at first, focused upon the lilac glove in front of his face.

“I wouldn’t bother,” a strong confident voice said, not unkindly. “Really,” the voice continued, “you’ve got enough drugs in you to stop any strong attempt, and any weaker effort will just make it worse. Trust me, I know.” And that was when the view in front of him snapped into focus, and for the first time he was genuinely scared.

“Ah, you’re waking up properly,” the voice said, seemingly pleased. The man in the chair looked at the tattooist. He knew what was about to happen and he tried to make his limbs work, but they resisted every entreaty from his brain; the signals just wouldn’t get through. The tattooist moved his facial muscles and with sudden insight, the man realised the figure holding the tattoo needle was smiling; it was an odd smile, as if the person making it had once been told how to smile and was attempting to exactly follow the instructions.

There was no further noise for a moment, and then the needle buzzed twice. The tattooist looked away, and there was a sharp short nod of the head and an equally short sharp exhalation, as if confirmation had been sought and obtained. “Just a bit of business to get out of the way first,” the man with the needle said, then pressed a button and the needle buzzed again, louder now as it approached the restrained man.

“You have been found guilty of…” another look away, then back, “well, no need for the full list; suffice to say that you have been a naughty boy, haven’t you?” He didn’t wait for an answer; he knew none would be forthcoming. “And your sentence? Harsh, but that’s the law for you, I’m afraid,” he sighed, as if reluctant to continue.

There was a quick movement of the hand and the needle buzzed; the man felt the briefest pressure on his cheek and then the tattooist leaned back.

Was that it, the man in the chair wondered. Was that what all the fuss was about? His eyes widened and the tattooist laughed. “Oh, no…” he continued, “that was just me signing my work. Always nice to get it out of the way, at the start; it’s messier afterwards. The drugs you’ve been given will stop you protesting, but will, of course, intensify the pain. All part of the sentence, I’m afraid.”

The man tried to struggle, but his limbs remained as still as if he was consciously remaining as still as possible.

“Now, you’re to be tattooed inside your eyes and your mouth, your Adam’s apple and soles of your feet, as per your sentence. Solid areas of ink, as coarse as possible.”

There was a sharp exclamation as the tattooist put down the needle, and then shook his head. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said, “I always forget this part.” Then he lifted a bottle of single malt scotch and drank it down in nine large swallows. Then he placed the bottle down, lifted another full bottle, and the man saw the amber liquid swallowed. “I’m supposed to be dead drunk,” the tattooist said, then he burped twice, and shakily lifted the needle. “That’s better.” Another belch.

“Open wide,” he said. And smiled again.

And then lilac glove and needle both grew large in the restrained man’s vision as the tattooist leaned forward and commenced work, humming quietly to himself as he administered the latest sentence passed under The Restorative Justice Act 2037.

© Lee Barnett

See you tomorrow, with something else. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.


Posted: 3 September 2013 in elephantwords, fiction, writing
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Here’s another story I wrote for ElephantWords. Given my enjoyment of super-heroes, it’s perhaps surprising that I’ve rarely written short fiction about them. There have been some, of course, and they’ve been some of the well-received fast fictions. But this one? Well, this was a story I’d been waiting to tell for some time. I was very grateful for the opportunity when it came along.

Arguably, it’s not even about the character you’d expect it to be; I can think of at least four different costumed heroes about who the story could be. Pick your own favourite.


The hero was old before his time.

He did his job. He saved people. He accepted their thanks, but without the genuinely charming and gentle embarrassment that had accompanied him like a cloak in the early days.

He saved lives. It was that single thought that he clung to in times of despair, when cynicism threatened to shroud him.

It was said that he once threw quips at his opponents like darts; in a never ending battle against mediocrity, he was special. And he was special, back then.

Others could remember when he smiled. It had been a smile that could light a room, and showed his enthusiasm for life, for people, for his chosen vocation.

He rarely smiled any more.

But he did his job.

He did it efficiently, but without the passion for truth and justice that it was rumoured had once fuelled his activities.

It would be easy to blame the occasional defeats, those times when he had been just a second too slow in getting there, a moment too long in deducing the villainous plan, an instant taken in contemplation when action was required.

After so many years, what did caring about the motivations of the hero matter?

After all, he did his job.

Day in, day out. Night in, night out, he did his job.

But somewhere, late at night, in the depths of the darkness in his soul, one wondered whether he even knew what the job was any more.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Here’s another tale I wrote for ElephantWords. I wrote it some years before a similiar-ish idea was alluded to in an episode of Sherlock. I’m rather pleased that it was a good enough idea for someone else to come up with and use so well.

I’m also pleased that this works on its own. And I think it does


He shut the file and lay back on the bed, stretching out his long legs.

Closing his eyes, he let his mind wander back through the photographs he’d seen, moving them around inside his head, enlarging, merging, overlaying.

This wasn’t unusual and witnesses to the process often thought that he was dozing. But outward appearances to the contrary, the most deductive mind in the building sifted evidence and sorted out the wheat of information from the chaff of data.

One by one the suspects were eliminated in his brain until there were only three… then two… and then, finally, just the one suspect, the only person who as well as the means, motive and opportunity, had the sheers balls to pull off the murder.

The eyes opened and betrayed both satisfaction and disappointment as he knew he could never, would never, reveal the murderer to the authorities. Never again.

His eyes glanced around the place in which he spent twenty-three hours a day; it was a small, small room, kept spotlessly clean, though good hygiene was difficult to achieve and maintain in such a place.

The arrest had been unexpected, the conviction a shock; and yet the police and prosecutors had been adamant: the only way he could have ‘solved’ so many murders with so many different suspects, would have been to frame the alleged perpetrators. Anyone good enough to solve thirty-seven ‘impossible crimes’ was also accomplished enough to have committed them, and then to ensure that someone else took the blame.

And so now, in his cell, he solved murders for his own satisfaction, getting information not from his police contacts (he still vividly recalled the look of resigned contempt on the face of his former friends in the department upon his arrest) but from newspapers and magazines.

He missed being allowed to smoke; hell, he missed a lot of things. But never the puzzles.

He glanced at the window. The message had been there since the day after he had been assigned the cell.

A simple message, written on glass. Four letters, one punctuation mark: HELP!

Written on the outside of a window on the eighth floor of the prison block.

He stared at it once again.

And closed his eyes.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Here’s another tale I wrote for ElephantWords.

For once, a rarity when it comes to my stories, I remember precisely where this story came from: once seeing a couple walk past me, hand in hand, the woman’s eyes constantly moving, his eyes fixed ahead.


The object they were walking towards proved an interesting backdrop to the monologue she was listening to, she concluded.

It occurred to her, studying the grey, craggy exterior of the mythical creature, that it seemed to parallel the sharp and edgy parts of their relationship; what used to be the exciting bits.

She tuned back into the sound that he’d been making for the past three minutes, idly wondering whether during that time he’d paused for breath. He used to surprise her. When did that stop?

She recognised the tone; he was only in mid-rant, and would continue in that vein for some minutes yet.

They approached the sculpture, and she gazed at it, enjoying the contrast of restrained movement. The Golem held the rock high, as if it was about to rid itself of an irritation in a fit of pique. She looked up at the Golem. It looked annoyed. Definitely annoyed. She felt the same.

She lifted her wrist and examined the face of the watch he’d bought her on the first anniversary of their meeting.

For a moment, she wondered what he’d say if she took it off and just left it. There, at the feet of the Golem. If she just left it there and continued walking, how long would it be before he realised? Would he ever realise? When did he stop noticing her? It hurt more than she wanted to admit.

She realised there was silence; oh, he must have finished. She focussed her eyes on him, wishing so desperately to see what she had seen in him that first night, when she’d been so important to him, his entire reason for staying at the club. She wished he’d pay that much attention to her now.

He paused for breath and then smiled.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll shut up now.”

She smiled gently… and then the smile slowly faded as he did the oddest thing.

He stopped walking, and she stopped next to him.

“You do know I love you?” he asked. “You know that you matter more to me than anyone else on this whole fucking planet?”

“Yes, of course I do,” she said, failing to bring heartfelt sincerity into the words, but in truth not trying that hard anyway.

“Oh, ok,” he said. “Only I just asked you to marry me.”

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Here’s another story I wrote for ElephantWords. I’m not going to put all of the stories up, but there’ll be a decent selection going up over the next couple of weeks, I think.

Not quite sure where this tale came from, but I’m pleased I wrote it.


The last whole picture I have of her is in my hands; it’s the one I took that summer’s afternoon. We’d parked near the river and walked. Just walked, a time when the days and our lives were both long.

She’s standing to the side of the cinema, bending slightly and then looking up at the camera.

My god, she was lovely.

I pick up the photograph lovingly, staring at the face that peers at me through the veil of time. There’s a slightly faded area at the top, near the right corner where the sun has caught the frame, slicing over the years through the thin glass.

Her eyes were so bright back then, but in the present, as I stare at the photograph, they too have faded, along with our youth and eagerness for the future.

The collage lies to my side, along with cuttings – so many cuttings, parts of photographs in which she appeared, once part of a whole, now lying curling and destroyed on the floor; the important parts saved and ready to be pressed under a pane of clear, new glass.

The scissors are next to me while I hold this final picture, the last one I have of her when we were still courting, before we made a life together.

I sigh, reluctant to damage the photograph, but then lift the scissors, and cut her from the paper, discarding her eyes, her face and her body to the floor with the rest of the detritus, precisely removing her from the happy memory, as she equally neatly excised me from her life almost twenty years ago.

I place the remainder with deliberation, then press it under glass and examine the result: the years with her… without her.

So much has faded, me included.

And as I stare at it, I fade a little more.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

That Morning

Posted: 28 August 2013 in elephantwords, fiction, writing
Tags: ,

The premise of ElephantWords is simple:

Every Sunday, one writer posts a picture, and for the next six days, one writer a day posts a story based upon that picture. Then the next writer posts a new pic, and the cycle continues.

The stories, well at least the ones I wrote, were very short, but as with recent tales posted here, somewhat longer than the 200 words of a fast fiction.

I wrote some stories in 2008, and again in 2012. The stories, while on the Elephantwords site, have never been posted to this blog. I figured that was an omission I could rectify now.

Here’s the first… enjoy.


The fat old man sat at the table, idly watching the patrons of the small coffee shop as they entered, ordered, consumed their fare, and exited.

He was a regular patron, always arriving around ten in the morning; always staying about ninety minutes. The waitresses – for it was a coffee shop that held to the old traditions, despite only having been in business for twenty years – liked the old man. He tipped well, for one thing. And given their location, and the type of clientele that frequented that area of the city, he was polite. Never obsequious nor affected; merely… polite.

He washed as well.

This set him apart from many of the other customers, some of whom seemed to view personal hygiene as an optional extra during this portion of their lives. Not the old man, though. Every morning, he’d… arrive. None of the waitresses, had they thought about it, ever remembered him walking into the coffee shop. Nor, had they been asked, and correctly recalled, had any of them seen him leave. Oh, they could remember him pushing his chair back, recall him patting his right trouser pocket and the brief smile every day as he discovered enough change to pay for the toasted rye bread and the cups of tea he’d ordered and duly consumed. They would enjoy the moment as he found he had just enough change to leave a generous, though not overgenerous, gratuity. He always had just enough change. And as they moved towards the counter to pick up one of the pink and grey towels to clean the table, they would ask themselves why every customer wasn’t like the fat old man.

That morning, the fat old man had been sat at his table (he always thought of it as his table) for a little over an hour, enjoying the flow of people. Business had been slow in the coffee shop, but in the primary reason for his being there, the red painted wooden fronted store with the garish yellow sign across the road, trade was brisk. And with every purchase made, the old man shuddered almost invisibly. As every patron entered, he smiled. As every customer left, he smiled. Not quite as widely. But he smiled nonetheless.

The door to the coffee shop opened and a shadow fell over the old man and his table. He knew who had entered without looking up. And he frowned. No one could have detected the frown, but then he had perfected the art of invisible expression when he had been young, when none of those present (apart from the newcomer) had known him. And even had they known him, it was unlikely that they would have recognised him in the dowdy suit that had seen better days, and the faded brown overcoat.

Then the shadows moved, and the newcomer followed them. A large man, in that way that mountains have of being large, walked to the old man’s table and without waiting to be asked, sat.

They smiled, genuinely pleased to see each other again, though equally concerned at what point the other might lift a weapon or in some other way indicate unhappiness.

It could be argued that gods rarely spend time in coffee shops; it is an argument one would lose. And whether that is because of the nature of gods or the nature of coffee shops is a hypothesis best not considered.

But as the patrons filed in and out of both the coffee shop and the sex shop, the Greek god of pleasure and the Roman god of war discussed demarcation.

© Lee Barnett, 2008

Have been neglecting this blog for about a month or so – had a few things to sort out, and some writing projects I was trying to get my head around.

But that was then, and this is now…

But before I return to full time blogging, some catchings-up for you all.

So, what have I been up to?

Well, leaving aside the rewrite of the novel I wrote, You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, working on a second novel – provisionally entitled The Price of History, continuing with one graphic novel and researching another, writing a short screenplay, and a longer screenplay, and continuing to plug both volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, there’s…

The Art of Fast Fiction
A few months back, Si Spurrier and I had a chat about the Whitechapel message board, and specifically about getting me involved in it. One after another of potential ideas was thrown up in the air, looked at from various angles, and then allowed to fall to the ground, smashed into a lot of very small, quite unpleasantly smelling pieces. And then we came up with the concept of getting some of the very talented artists who frequent Whitechapel to draw some of the fast fiction stories I’d written. That seemed a good idea, but it didn’t seem fair that the artists would be the only people challenged. So although the first story was a reprint of a story from the fast fiction challenge, we’d choose one of the people who submitted an art piece in one round of the art challenge… to challenge me with a title and word for the next challenge.

And so it’s worked.

First challenge – Dancing To Silence

Second challenge – The Indecisive Backpacker

Current challenge – Our Lady of Artillery This challenge is still open – closes 18th February.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve returned for a weekly stint on elephantwords.

So far, I’ve written four stories, and you can click on the titles below each pic to see the story.

Empty chairs at empty tables

The appointment

Arrival and departure

Murder, they said

Paragraph Planet
Oh, yes, and I wrote a very, very short something for these folks…

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.

And I’ve agreed to write a short love story for Tiny Little Love Stories.

So… what have you been up to?

(Back tomorrow… with something.)

In 2008, I took part in a writing project entitled, and during a three month stint wrote thirteen short stories, one a week, based upon a image (changed weekly) submitted by one of the contributors.

It was an interesting exercise, with the stories being a tad longer than the fast fictions, but still definitely short stories

The organiser and I have, on occasion, discussed me putting in another stint, and I figured that now’s as good a time as any…

So, as from next week, I’ve signed up for another stint; again, three months to start with, and we’ll see how I feel after that.

But for your amusement, and interest, since I suspect that many if not most of the people reading this will never have read the stories, here’s a handy list of the stories I did last time around, together with small versions of the images upon which inspirations for the stories were drawn. They’re presented in order of most recent (i.e. the final one comes first.) Click on either the pictures or the title to be taken to the story…

And have no fear, I’ll let you know when the new stories go up…


Paying Attention

The Decision

Thinking Allowed

Underneath The Leaves

The More Things Change

The Changes in Her

The Visit

Empty Tracks

The Ultimate Picture

True Steps On A False Floor

Her Shadow

That Morning