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81words - Stories Page 1

81words logo

An attempt to set a World Record for the most contributing authors published in an anthology

Full details about the 81 word writing challenge and the world record attempt can be found on the main 81words writing challenge page.

81 Word Stories – 1 to 100

The first 100 stories are published below in the order they were received.

Story 001

One Previous Owner

by Christopher Fielden

For sale. One dragon. Name: Fire Bringer. Temperament: challenging. Food: meat, vast quantities of, raw, alive, preferably screaming.

As name suggests, Fire Bringer does breathe fire. Said fire will melt anything, including High Tensile Steel and titanium.

Chain and collar included, although not effective (see notes regarding breath).

Likes long flights, smiting, riddles, treasure and things that twinkle.

Perfect pet for megalomaniac who wishes to take over the world. Large cave essential, best located remotely in extinct volcano.

Open to offers.

Story 002

Bruno

by Michael Rumsey

I do not like dogs, never have. Daniel should have consulted me before bringing that crazy stray home. One pet in the house is enough.

Typically, Bruno turned out to be loud, boisterous and charges around like the proverbial bull in a china shop. But he does have one redeeming attribute.

I take a nap every afternoon. Bruno ensures no other strays enter our garden allowing me to sit up in our apple tree and purr away to my heart's content.

Story 003

The Tragically Unforeseen Consequences of a Hopeful Request

by Jerry Wilson

Once upon a time there was a little doorknob. All day long, he sighed, "Oh, how I wish I were a mirror. Then people would look at me and smile."

The Good Doorknob Fairy had heard about enough. Grabbing her magic wand and her tiara, she flew on down.

"What, Dude?"

"Oh, Good Doorknob Fairy, please turn me into a mirror."

"No probs."

Poof. The little doorknob became a bright, shiny mirror.

And no one could get the damned door open.

Story 004

Remember Eighty-One?

by Allen Ashley

Yes, I remember eighty-one. A year of strife. The transport system in meltdown. Workers and management at loggerheads. Fears about automation in the workplace leading to further job losses. Poor air quality. Urban health scares. Governments considering land grabs and ready to send in an army at any provocation. The media finding convenient foreign scapegoats. Nobody seemed to be sticking up for the ordinary working man. Or woman. Why have I not mentioned Thatcher? I was talking about 2081. And 1881...

Story 005

The Night Sentry

by Sivan Pillai

"He is a notorious housebreaker and we were in search of him," the policeman said.

The man was lying unconscious under the coconut tree. There was a huge bump on his head and a coconut lay nearby.

Only last evening we had decided to cut the tree down and plant a new one in its place. It had grown far too old and bore very few nuts.

Perhaps this was its way of telling us that it could still be useful.

Story 006

Dullest I've Ever Seen

by Rene Astle

"Nobody could say that I'm dull."

"I'm not saying it to you."

"Then why can I hear you talking about how dull I become while wedging potatoes?"

"Because you always forget about peeling."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"I shouldn't believe you, that's for sure."

"Be quiet, you fool. You're only saying that because you couldn't tell the difference between success and failure."

"Good grief, do I have to go through it once in a while?"

"Not for a longer while, you coot."

Story 007

City Limits

by Christopher Searle

This city is full of lies, anxious cries, and bickering wives. Walking through the street, you cannot escape the sound, of cars that drive, cooking fries, and criminal lives. There comes a time where a person craves something more, so open that door, and stop being such a bore.

Get on a bus and head out, listening to the engine grumbling, people mumbling, and shopping tumbling. To escape the city is such a pity, hopefully somewhere new is not as gritty.

Story 008

Which One Is Earth?

by David Turton

Annie gazed at the dark sky and squeezed Penny's hand.

"Which one is Earth, Nana?"

Penny looked up, identifying a blue-ish speck in the blackness. She knelt and pointed, ensuring Annie's vision was aligned with her fingertip. 

Tears formed in the old woman's eyes.

"How long ago was it since everyone had to leave there, Nana?" Annie asked.

Wiping away her tears, Penny sighed.

"It's been thirty-three years now," she replied.

"Do you miss it?"

"Every day, darling." Her tears flowed.

Story 009

Just Good Friends

by John Notley

Calixste was a one-off who befriended me when I entered the Livingstone Bar, used by the expats in Cotonou. He spoke french and was known throughout the town as a wheeler-dealer, part souvenir seller, part realty agent.

He took me on the back of his motorbike to seedy bars in the heart of Cotonou where I felt perfectly safe in the company of this short, round faced African who looked like a younger Louis Armstrong.

Sadly, Calixste has gone.

Story 010

#MeToo

by Gillian Macleod

Footsteps cautiously pad across the tiled floor. Looking up, the police officer spots a slight, anxious figure.

White trainers. Blue jeans, ripped at the knees. Yellow T-shirt, embroidered bird logo. Butterfly tattoo. Nose, ear and eyebrow piercing. Cropped, dyed blond hair. Purple bruise on the right cheekbone and a swollen, bloodied lip, trembling.

Eggshell voice, "I've been assaulted."

A barely concealed sigh, shuffling to find a place in the police notebook.

"OK, lad, who got you?"

Eyes avert. Swallow. "My girlfriend."

Story 011

Pouring Petrol on Each Heartbeat

by Jamie Graham

The screeching brakes. Somehow still on the road at the foot of the hill, the petrol warning beep changed everything. She pulled in, got out and put the nozzle in the open back window, squeezing the trigger hard. His crumpled body, sprawled on the rear seats, hanging in there. Unaware.

She turned and disappeared, screaming into the wilderness at the back of the forecourt, the bottom of her skirt well alight. Running helplessly on her very last legs, eyes closed tight.

Story 012

Sticks and Stones

by Wayne Hewitt

"Dwarf planet, you loser."

Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra had circled Pluto, taunting the so-called ruler of the underworld and protector of the solar system for the past four point five billion years.

Pluto, no longer the ninth planet, wept uncontrollably, knowing what this meant.

From within the Kuiper Belt, Eris, goddess of strife and discord, smiled at her opportunity, ejecting a moon sized plasma ball burning at a billion degrees Fahrenheit directly towards Earth.

This time, words would hurt.

Story 013

Broken Promise

by John Holmes

He had promised her that he'd live until his 90th.

The doctor sighed, lowered his head and closed the front door behind him.

Slowly she climbed back upstairs and entered their bedroom of 70 years.

Her lips felt the cold of his forehead.

"You promised not to die. You promised."

Picking up the present from the bed, she could feel the warmth of her own tears.

One drop splashed onto the wrapping paper.

The receipt was still lying in her purse.

Story 014

King of the Forest

by Len Saculla

On a walking and back to nature holiday, I became lost and in need. Close to death, I was saved by a dryad. Yes, the patient fixates on the kindly medic but... I fell in love with her.

As soon as I could, I quit my job. I headed for the enchanted wood. We required the king's permission to marry.

Her green hands led me to a central clearing dominated by a giant oak tree.

I waited. The tree spoke.

Happy outcome.

Story 015

Guess Who

by Linda Taylor

"The Americans have known about them for some time," the two whispered, approaching the glowing craft.

"Yes, but not everyone wanted to believe it."

Three came out from the module, their quiffed orange blond hair flapping irritatingly in the Earth's unfamiliar wind, teeth flashing brilliant white, as they carefully climbed down from the craft.

"Come." Long, bony, grey fingers wrapped around their shoulders, steered them inside.

"You are so right, it is time we revisited that land and fetched him home."

Story 016

Battles That Don't Advance

by Sandra Orellana

"Say no to Racism," a young leader shouted to his town’s people.

He continued, “I will give peace. I will stop frustrations that start battles. I won't allow hostile and hasty judgments. I won't provoke attacks to other's that could start hate. I will focus on love so the evil can flee from our town.”

He finished and sat down beside a weary, battered woman… his wife.

And she looked at him and said, "I hope it is true, my love.”

Story 017

The Devil’s Tea

by Tanya Johnson

The devil's cup of tea always seemed to go cold, no matter how hot hell itself really was. He understood, of course, that this could be his own punishment, despite being one to punish others. A good hot cup of tea after a long day of torture was all he wanted.

Rising from his chair, he dialled a number on the handset. "God? Yeah, hey. How you doing?" He paused, rolling his eyes and sighing. "I'm ready to come back up."

Story 018

It's Coming

by Alexandra Klyueva

I was walking down the street when I heard the sound of a siren.

The last time it sounded was 30 years ago, when the whole city was underwater. On the first attempt, it consumed every part of the city.

And again, the familiar atmosphere.

And again, the familiar feeling of fear.

It became difficult to breathe.

I felt as if my body was filled with weight, and the sound of the siren continued to ring into my head.

It's coming.

Story 019

The 81st Floor

by Oliver Broxton

One.

Two.

Harold watched the lift numbers climb. Why was he being sent to the eighty-first floor?

Fifteen.

No one knew what was there, not even Claire.

Thirty.

Everything blurred. Harold realised that there were only eighty floors.

Sixty.

Where was he going? Time stopped. His clutched his briefcase.

Eighty-one.

Harold awoke amongst the clouds. He saw Claire and asked tentatively, "Is this Heaven?"

"No," she replied. "It's the roof," and pushed him off.

"That's what you get for stealing staplers."

Story 020

A Christmas Story

by A Williamson

It was snowing on Christmas eve. Old Mrs Stuart was decorating the last of the buns. A loud knock brought her to the door.

"Hark the herald angels sing..."

Mrs Stuart ran to get some buns for the small group, but on running back, they were gone.

The most beautiful singers ever heard, she thought.

Over the bridge, the village carolers stopped.

"What about old Mrs Stuart's house?"

"No point," said the tenor. "She is as deaf as a door post..."

Story 021

Dangerous Playtime

by Louise Burgess

"One, two, buckle my shoe."

Lilly happily sings as she smiles at her own reflection in the pen knife she has taken out his Survival bag. Then, in one swift movement, she uses it to slice off his little toe.

Paul's ear piercing screams echoed in the dimly lit basement.

"Please," he begs her, just before passing out from the pain.

"Three, four, knock on the door," Lilly sings again, searching in his bag for her next toy to play with.

Story 022

13th

by Robert Kombol

Upon each word you set your sight. Someone writes. To now you owe this moment, and pay you must.

Dark.

Someone is. Yet one is not.

Beneath your skin.

In six there is a six that's made of six.

A needle ties my finger with your eyes.

Someone has.

Someone will. Yet one will not.

In now you've placed your faith as if it were a friend,

So tell me, friend,

Of how our stories end,

When all ends with

Bilabial click

Story 023

Time For Trust

by Diane Harding

"It's time."

"Time for what?"

"Time to give you the message."

"What's the message?"

"It's about the lotto results."

"You mean I've won?"

"Yes, the billion dollars."

"Wow. I am lucky, aren't I?"

"You could be."

"What? Where is the ticket?"

"Here. You gave it to me to check out at the newsagent."

"Of course. Well, I can always trust you."

"Yes. I suppose."

"Am I right?"

"Yes. You are right."

"Good."

"So, it's time."

"Time for what now?"

"This."

BANG.

Story 024

Persistence

by Maddy Hamley

He lowered the book and sighed.

Still nothing.

Perhaps he should throw their wretched grimoire back through the portal, but that would give the creatures the wrong impression. He could not afford to scare them off.

Instead, he closed the tome reverentially, muttering thanks to the beings for their patience, and placed it on the shelf behind him.

He knew he had the right incantation. It was just a matter of persistence.

Maybe next time they would bring his daughter back.

Story 025

Happy Landings

by Alan Barker

"We are preparing to land. The exits are at the front and rear," indicated Max to his friends, Will and Jay. "Do not move until the doors are opened. Outside is a pleasant twenty degrees. On behalf of the captain and crew, we hope you'll fly with us again soon."

"Max, you are not on your air steward's course now," teased Will. "If you are going to perform like this every time we use the lift, we're using the escalators, mate."

Story 026

Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover

by Barry Smith

No matter what people look like, it’s amazing what they can do. I should know, because I have a physical disability. I might need a hand to do things, but my mind is all there.

I user a power chair when I’m out, but when l’m in the house, I move around on my bum. And I can be fast too.

When people don’t understand what I’m saying to them, I type it into my Lightwriter, which is a communication aide.

Story 027

Jacob's Last Breath

by James Sanders

The tux is loose around Jacob's waist. Abigail, glowing in white lace, waits for the recorded wedding march to end. The piano notes tremble, similar to his hands, similar to hers. She accepted the diamond three months ago, before everything changed.

Mum and Dad practice social distancing. Abi's dad steadies her; her mum couldn't make it.

Vows done, Abi sobs. The doctor says it's time: a younger patient needs the ventilator.

One last I love you. Jacob takes his last breath.

Story 028

Tycoon Tommy

by Lesley Truchet

I hate school.

SUMMER HOLIDAYS:

Week 1 to 3, I nicked goods from shops. 

Week 4, I sold the stuff on eBay.

Week 5, I was running to the post office with parcels. The money rolled in.

Next week, I’ll car boot the rest. Mum will think I’m clearing my room and she’ll help out with her car.

Last summer I made £750.00. This summer will be around £1,000. 

This time next year, I’m gonna be a millionaire.

I hate school.

Story 029

You Looking At Me?

by Barry Rhodes

Timothy sat in the cell.

Looking and smelling as if he had slept on the streets. Bulging eyes peered through greasy unruly hair.

His crime a disturbance in the local shopping mall. He had stopped at a shop window.

Seeing a strange reflection staring at him, he yelled abuse at it. When it would not retreat, he head butted it, again and again.

He was arrested by the police.  His protagonist could not be found.

He was sectioned for a month.

Story 030

Fever

by Brett Elliott-Palmer

Staying in is the new going out. I close the curtains and pour a glass of wine.

The kid in the apartment above me, bare feet on a hardwood floor. Dad yells.

"No ball games in the house. No ball games in the park."

After dark, I go for a walk. I take music, my heavy head and a yellow scarf.

Stalk past houses, the lights on, the chatter of occupants, shadows.

Home again.

A cough. I shudder. Wash my hands.

Story 031

Customer Returns

by Claire Temple

Wheelers in the village contains a forest of mannequins. What a thing to be afraid of at my age. But hip replacement or no, I must take back my granddaughter's faulty dress.

"Hello?"

Nothing.

As I pull back a dusty gold curtain I see my lifetime's recurring dream. Limbs. Lips. Broken.

I'm returned, exchanged and lost. My best dress snags. I shiver. I'm only four years old. If I wait like a still shop dummy, I'm sure I'll be found soon.

Story 032

My Nemesis

by Tracey Maitland

I hate you and love you simultaneously. I want you out of my life but can't see it through. You drag me down, make me ill, breathless and lethargic. You are no good for me, and yet I am drawn to you every time, you're always on my mind.

I watch you with repulsion and desire as you burn, emitting an aroma only an addict desires.  Smoke slowly rises and twists, a dancing serpent, mesmerising, robbing me of health and wealth.

Story 033

Conversations

by Crilly O'Neil

Put the paper down for heaven's sake. Get up and do something. Empty the dishwasher, fold the washing or, for a real change, make dinner for me.

The words stuck in her throat like cold porridge.

And this is what she said.

"I know you've had a hard day and you are tired. It's fine. You put your feet up, darling. I'll make the meal. Folding the washing can wait."

She kicked off her shoes, poured a wine and started again.

Story 034

Watching

by Daniel L. Link

Recognition makes my skin redden, my face sweat, like being hit with the steam from a boiling pot. I can't remember when last I saw her, but the years have wrought little change.

The train starts forward, and she stands on the platform watching after me. My rush to the back of the car is halted by a large man standing in the aisle. A look through the window shows her still there, and I watch until she’s out of sight.

Story 035

Merely A Grumble

by Michelle Konov

It is with neither a bang or a whimper that it ends, but with a grumble that sticks in her throat, ripping itself hoarsely out from between tight lips. He can see the moment her defenses go up and thinks, rather abjectly, that even beyond being over, perhaps it had never begun.

She turns with a startling huff and walks away, back ramrod straight, and he finds himself caught in a jumble of emotion.

So what if he was a stalker?

Story 036

Who's Blue?

by Silver Morris

I can see where you are. You’re the green dot on my monitor.

---

What do you mean, why green? I thought that was your favorite colour.

---

Well, if I changed it now, I’d just get confused. Where is my beloved Jessica? I’d wonder, forgetting that you were no longer green. Anyway, blue’s already taken.

---

Insane? This isn’t insane. How can I keep you safe without knowing where you are? You can see, right? I’m only doing this because I love you.

Story 037

The Winner

by Michael Mclaughlin

Jeff was there to win the flash short story contest. He had collected hundreds of rejections, but this time he would win.

Crissy had her back to the door, her face buried in the computer screen, small fingers rejecting the latest contestants with little taps on the keyboard.

Jeff fired and Crissy’s blood, bone and flesh spattered the computer screen. Calmly, Jeff scanned down the list between the bloody splatter on the screen and found his name. He typed, 'The winner.'

Story 038

All Achievements Are Relative

by Liam Lawer

Victory. After all this time. Holding tightly as he lifted it higher, he gazed at the cup in wonder. Disbelief and euphoria overcame him in equal measure. He had done it. He had finally won.

Sweat formed on his brow and tears filled his eyes. His family celebrated around him, filled with pride. In their private shame, they had doubted this moment would ever transpire.

He looked at his new arm as the cup reached his dry, trembling lips.

"Perfect cuppa."

Story 039

Eulogy

by Norm Veasman

"He was an uninspired man, indulgent to his base instincts, lacking the values his Creator would cherish. His death was mundane and unnecessary, leaving behind not a grieving family, but a disillusioned widow and children who never knew anything save his façade. We mourn today a life, not a life well lived..."

The Pastor stopped there, balled up the words, and tossed them into the fireplace. As flames destroyed the truth, he began to write the lies the mourners would hear.

Story 040

Abstractions

by J.S Taols

My dad poked his head inside my room. "What a mess," he grumbled.

"What one man considers mess, others may see as art," I protested.

"And what exactly do you call this particular work of art?" he asked, waving his hand across the room.

"I call it teenage angst. What do you think?"

"Oh yeah, you're a regular Picasso."

"Why thank you. What period would you say?"

"Blue," he replied. "Definitely blue, because you're grounded."

"And all the world's a critic."

Story 041

John Delaney

by S. W. Hardy

Some people want to be remembered. Others do not. John Delaney belonged in the second category.

He grew up, consuming food, then expelling what he didn’t need.

He worked a job, spending money, then discarding what he didn’t need.

He possessed no friends, nor an interest in his family or their affairs, although he took pride in his marvellously kept bedspread.

One day, in the early hours of an undisclosed morning at an undetermined time, John Delaney died – a contented man.

Story 042

Waters And Stones – Mothers And Daughters

by Özge Göztürk

"I'm getting the stars if you want me to buy the book."

"I said, if you want the book you can, I'm not insisting on it. But definitely no toys today."

"These are stars, not toys."

"You bought similar ones before, they didn't even glow in the dark properly."

"No. I'm not reading the book if I'm not getting a toy."

"You're not getting a toy to read a book. Leave it."

"I'm not going to read anything anymore."

"Oh dear…"

Story 043

Toby

by Paul Shaw

Toby was honey-coloured and quite as sweet. He lived with Suzy in her room. Toby had been with her family a long time and was very old. Suzy was only four. He was her best friend and even sat with her as she ate.

Toby never ate when Suzy did. He was a toy bear and didn’t eat fish fingers or other food that humans like. He ate only when Suzy was fast asleep. Then, every night, he ate Suzy’s dreams.

Story 044

The Fall

by Abhi Shan

I remembered falling. Scared, heart pounding and eyes bulging with the adrenaline rush. When I came to halt, I was unhurt. Surprised, lost and confused, I looked around but it was dark. No glimmer of light or hope. I lurched around in all directions at once to find the exit. I stumbled and fell again, but this time it was short and painful. I opened my eyes and touched my bloody nose. A faint light reminded me of what just happened... nightmares.

Story 045

The Blind Date

by Christine O'Donnell

If he's more than ten minutes late I'm gone. Would it look too obvious if I check my watch again? OK, grabbing my bag and– Is that him? Please say that isn't him...

Of course, this would be how your date went, sitting across from Foghorn voice, watching spinach get increasingly meshed within his giant gnashers.

Oh fabulous, another story about his ex.

Nod and smile, it won't be long until you're back home.

Whatever you do, never again blind date.

Story 046

Evicted

by Caroline Wright

They say I have to leave.

Notice has arrived that I am to be compulsorily evicted. Overcrowding. That's the official term they are using. It is a small place but it is adequate for my needs. I have everything I want here. It's comfortable. I have ventilation and washing facilities.

The powers that be say I will be going to a nice place. 

I don't care. I like it here.

I am being pushed out.

I don't want to be born.

Story 047

Furborg's Caution

by Ian Tucker

As a kitten, Furborg caught flu and almost died.

Accidentally drinking floor cleaner claimed another life shortly afterwards.

When young he'd underestimated the strength of a fox.

And he once fell three storeys from a roof.

The vase that toppled onto him wasn't his fault.

And every cat has one bad experience with curiosity.

One time, he ate the wrong sort of grass.

Recently, there was the incident with the yellow lorry.

Adding these up, Furborg is now much more cautious.

Story 048

Tom The Bus Stop Cat

by Femi S. Craigwell

Tom was a black and white cat, a clever cat in fact. He loved to spend his days relaxing at the bus stop, sunbathing on hot summer days. He especially enjoyed the free hugs and tasty treats, from kind strangers.

And if they didn't spoil him with lots of attention, he would make sure to purr loudly, whilst brushing across their leg. Until finally they would give in and say, "Hello, Tom, the bus stop cat," and stroke his fluffy head.

Story 049

The Morning Rush

by Nick Fairclough

His son was mucking about.

Bag wasn't packed... Teeth weren't brushed... Shoes weren't on... How many times can one ask?

The father was becoming increasingly frustrated. His forehead resembled a deformed mountain range, the wrinkles caving in, collapsing like a landslide.

"Look at the time," the father shouted as he pointed to the clock hanging on the wall. "It's twenty past eight."

His son looked up to where his father had pointed, and yelled back, "Twenty isn't even on a clock."

Story 050

Remember When...

by Ali Bounds

"Mama, today we learned about the virus."

That one word set off a flashback of memories.

"What happened?"

Mama sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Well, people got really sick. Lots of people died."

Her daughter gasped.

"My mama kept me inside. She wouldn’t let me leave until it was over. We watched the news, watched how many people got sick. There was lots of fighting."

"I'm really glad you're OK."

I sighed.

"Me too."

"Goodnight mama."

"Goodnight sweetheart."

Story 051

If the Truth be Known

by David Silver

For too many years, I have put up with an acquaintance who claims that he dated Madonna frequently, drank regularly with Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris and was begged constantly to sign professionally for Manchester United.

But by this afternoon, I'd had enough of his fibs and confronted him. The bloke burst into tears and admitted he was a habitual liar.

My problem now is that I still don't believe him. So maybe his stories are true after all.

Story 052

A Second Chance

by Jaine E. Irish

"Is that Jane?"

"Yes."

"Your husband has collapsed."

"Is he dead?"

"The Paramedics are working on him now."

"Is he breathing?"

"I have to go. Someone will call you later."

"Please, where are you ?"

"King's Cross Station. I pressed redial."

In the palm of her trembling hand, the small, pink mobile lay silent, like a fragile heart waiting to beat again – like his heart, stopped, stuck in his chest somewhere on the floor at King's Cross Station, where she wasn't.

Story 053

Questions Only Someone Else Can Answer

by Prisha Gupta

Stop asking me how the world turns. Don't ask if it spins like a spool of thread, with God pulling it on a string. I don't know.

How am I supposed to know if it's the sun's job to paint the sky as it moves from one edge of the canvas to the other? I don't know how the world works. I can't tell you. It's not my job to say.

Child, I can only tell you why we keep going.

Story 054

Strewn In The Breeze

by Ros Byrne

Eighty-one. So few words. Enough for a perfect boy meets, loses, finds girl, happy ever after?  But the words should be beautiful, not this mundane.  How to include the assorted glories of shenanigans, glittering, indigo, squelch, chartreuse, tagliatelle... these last not even English ones? Accepted borrowing or serious faux pas? Malpaso in Spanish, perhaps? Clint Eastwood thus named his film company when warned it was a bad step. My turn now to stumble, strewing my precious eighty-one in the breeze.

Story 055

Ten

by David Rhymes

One. Make sure you telephone somebody warning them that is going to happen. Two. Run a warm bath and add lavender salts. Three. Brush your hair one hundred times exactly as your mother taught you to. Four. Take care with your makeup. Five. Roll back the sheets and slip inside, naked, clean and fresh. Six. Place the note beside the bed under the scented candle. Seven. Light the scented candle. Eight. Lie back. Nine. Arrange your hair attractively across the pillow.

Story 056

Gone But Not Forgotten

by Julia O'Dowd

"So, what did you think?"

"It was OK."

"He was good."

"Didn't like his character; too self-centred."

"She was excellent."

"A bit over the top I thought."

"Terrific production though."

"The stage was a bit bare."

"It's for dramatic effect."

"Just one thing puzzled me."

"What's that?"

"Those two guys who were sent away."

"Which two?"

"The ones that don't come back. Forgot their names."

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern."

"Where'd they go?"

"They're dead."

"They're dead?"

"Yes, but that's another play entirely."

Story 057

A Single Red Rose

by Jessica Joy

The pile of empty shells under the tree, glinted in the sunlight.

"The pearls have all gone."

"Yes. They take the gifts we leave for them."

"Not these shells. The oysters. There’s none left."

"But if there's no gift, they'll help themselves."

"We must find them another gift."

"They'll want something beautiful."

"What is more beautiful than a single, red rose?"

She plucked one from her basket.

"What if they don't like it?"

"Then we'll need to hide our babies again."

Story 058

Twig Dinosaur

by Fay Franklin

I built a twig dinosaur when I was a kid, bigger than I was by far. It was a thing of glory and fear.

One day my older brother set it alight. I tried to put it out for a while – those are the marks you can still see on my hands… and then I let it go. Oh, how it flew, a pterodactyl suddenly alive. It was years and years before it returned to settle the score with him.

Story 059

Stalker

by Irving Benjamin

"Stalking? Is that what you said?"

"Yes. I'm sure he was." The old lady grasped the young constable's arm firmly, looking from side to side with wild eyes, breathing heavily.

The policeman gently prised her fingers from his sleeve.

"Where was this, love? Was he, like, threatening you?"

"No, officer, just chasing me. I hid there." As she pointed, a young man emerged from the park entrance.

"OK, Mum, it's all right now. Time to take you back to the home."

Story 060

Us

by Emma Stammeyer

"Dearly beloved..."

"You know, I don't know how you still put up with me, man."

"I know why, darling. It's because I love you. I figured the whole wedding thing would convince you, but I guess not. Maybe I'll just have to go marry someone else who gets it."

"No, no, no. Wait, don't, please."

"I'm only joking, darling. You're the only one I'd ever dream of putting a ring on."

"Really?"

"Of course."

"...I now pronounce you, husband and wife."

Story 061

The Ghost Writer

by Valerie Griffin

Anna has an uncanny knowledge of the afterlife and is star pupil in her Spectrology class. Two days before the exams, the scratching sound wakes her from a rather pleasant dream.

She rubs her eyes and sits up, reaching for the bedside light switch and her notebook. Once again, the writing is on the wall. Sentence after sentence scrawling at an angle across the textured wallpaper. She writes down the answers quickly, before they fade.

"Thanks, Uncle Henry," she whispers, smiling.

Story 062

Doomed

by Everest Pen

Nobody tells me anything, not even when the world is ending. I glance out the window and set my coffee down on the kitchen counter. Large storm clouds cover the skies above, which isn’t unusual this time of year, but these are different.

Finally, my older sister races from upstairs and takes the remote that is sitting beside me. I suck in a deep breath as the news anchor says, "The Yellowstone Caldera has just erupted. Police say not many survived."

Story 063

The To-Do List

by Tess M Shepherd

Whilst Sue enjoyed a spa weekend away, Ben studied his to-do list. Ah, yes. Garden makeover. That should kill two birds with one stone. A quick visit to the old witch (Sue's mum), before buying the decking and plants.

He'd never dug so much in his life. The special fertiliser needed digging in deep. But all that sweat was worth the effort.

After a hard day's work, he leaned on his trusty spade, admiring the transformation.

"That's the mother-in-law sorted, anyway."

Story 064

Mum's Mystery Tours

by Mike Blakemore

Jess always tried to guess where we were going and bring something appropriate. Once, she kept poking the rest of us with a fishing net, all the way to Stonehenge.

Dad always stayed behind to work, ruffling our hair as we climbed into the car.

The last time, Mum didn't stop. We grew tired of asking where we were going and eventually she grew tired of driving.

She ignored her phone and switched it off when we checked into the hotel.

Story 065

Marriage Tree

by Ryu Ando

"The tree we got from city hall didn't last the summer," Makiko said.

All these years, Toru thought, and she still gets it wrong. It sat on their veranda for at least six months before it shrivelled up in the cold.

"It was your job to water it, anyway," he said.

But she shook her head and whisked the finely-ground matcha until it foamed up like a green pond, ready to spill over. She handed him his tea. It was bitter.

Story 066

All Better

by Maxx Dominic

The doctor entered the hospital room. Sick patients lined the walls. The nurse had her boxes, and he made sure to apply lip balm.

The first patient was a man with a broken arm. Obviously, an adhesive bandage was needed. The nurse held out her boxes, and the patient picked a sturdy navy bandage. She applied it gingerly and sent him home.

The woman with a cold was given a kiss on the nose, "All better," and sent home as well.

Story 067

I Donut See What The Problem Is, Officer

by Devon Goodchild

He patted the last shovelful of dirt over the fresh grave. No one would know what he'd done.

Shaking, he drove off. No one would know. He bought a donut as a pick-me-up with his wife’s credit card. No one would know.

His phone vibrated, a text from his wife. He looked, still driving.

I know what you did.

Distracted, horrified, he crashed, his car folding into a donut around a tree.

His phone vibrated again.

Buy me a donut too.

Story 068

The Invisible Owner

by Edwin Stern

A gentleman admired the old cottage's flower bed.

"Something interesting?" a young woman asked.

"Lived in the village 80 years. No one knows who owns this, yet it's kept in magnificent condition."

"Do you believe in ghosts?"

"No."

"Pity. Owner was  murdered by her lover 200 years ago. Her body never found; he wasn't caught."

"How—"

"Do I know?"

He turned but the woman had vanished.

The cottage door creaked open.

"Please, come in and I'll tell you," she called.

Story 069

Let Me Tell You A Story

by Jack Dudley

Let me tell you a story.

I want to take you someplace strange, somewhere far from home but closer than you realise. I want to introduce you to people you may have met before, in a time you can barely remember. Their world is strange; their customs are alien, and yet whether they're human or not, they struggle just the same as us.

I want to tell you a story about the adversities of life, and the strife of surpassing them.

Story 070

La Cucaracha

by Rui Soares

"No mobile phone here please," said the man.

"Huh. Where can I put it then?"

His left eyebrow arched. Got a box on the desk.

"Here."

As I entered with Louise and passed by him, we could hear him mumble, "The world is doomed. It's supposed to be romantic."

We sat and asked for the menu. A tall woman told us, "We do not have a menu. Customer eats what momma cooks. We do have a drink list."

Went for  margaritas.

Story 071

Don't Believe Me

by Angelique Dusengimana

"Give me my money."

"Alice, what money?"

"Joseph, stop kidding. Give me my money back. Honestly, I don't know what you are talking about, Joseph, you are such careless person. Maybe I am."

"Don't you remember me giving you money last night?"

"Of course I don't remember. You just want me to give you more money."

"Alice, don't you know that Joseph was drunk, he is always like that."

"Tony, are you saying that even the job promised was a lie?"

Story 072

Aisle 81 in 2029

by Patrick Antonio

Coach Joe's 2029 high school wrestling ceremony is tonight. With 12 trophies to go, his 3D printer runs out of plastic.

Now at Metamart's computer section, he learns they're out of plastic, which is all his printer can handle.

Frowning, "How much for ones that print metal? Do any print cheaper material? What's your lowest cost printing stuff?" Coach asks.

"Have you tried our trophy aisle? We engrave," the Metamart rep suggests.

Coach smiles. "Pre-printed trophies? Really? So retro. Awesome. Where?"

Story 073

Missy's Gift

by Maria DePaul

Missy, a two-year-old black tabby cat, strolled down a lane at twilight. She came upon a vole's nest. Crouching, she waited until the voles began to forage. She pounced on a slow one for a quick snack. Then, she took another home as a gift for her household.

Surprised, but not shocked, the lady of the house praised Missy's hunting skills the following morning. Then, she discreetly disposed of the gift before her children came downstairs, preventing future nightmares.

Story 074

The Man

by Gemma Martiskainen

There was a man on the sidewalk. He was there even when it rained sideways or when the wind blew enough to take your hat. Sometimes he had a sign. Sometimes not.

I avoided his gaze, unsettled. Could I fall his way too, by misfortune or misdeed? Maybe it wasn't his fault. One does not control the future like a car. Sometimes it takes the steering wheel, and chooses its own road. This I knew.

So I bought him a burger.

Story 075

Longing

by Katy Clayton

I have never desired a person more than Diana.

Her hair flowed down her back like a waterfall. She had deep brown eyes and a smile that stopped my heart every time I saw her. Her laughter brought me hope on my darkest days.

She was my brother's girlfriend.

I will never forget the party where she stumbled upon me, crying in the darkness of my bedroom.

She lifted my chin.  Her lips gently brushed mine.

And then she was gone.

Story 076

Pay Day

by Douglas J. Shearer

Beyond the rustling banyan tree leaves, I hear a horse and squeaky wheeled buggy pass. That would be the Jones family off to church – an hour there, an hour for the preacher, and an hour back.

Dear God, I've got to thank you for Sundays. What other day of the week can a man walk into an empty house and take whatever he wants? You may have rested on the seventh day, but it's time for me to get to work.

Story 077

Homecoming

by Kathleen Keenan

Fallen blossoms from get-well bouquets paint russet shadows on the doilies.

"Good night," you bid her gently. Close the windows, check the latches, last chore before sleep.

Your mother's frame huddles beneath the down comforter. She stumbles over syllables, appeals to you with her eyes.

All that remains is to hug her close.

Leave the door ajar, remain alert. A call for help, a want of company. For you never know when she'll need you, and must be prepared to answer.

Story 078

Shogi

by Jack Hanlon

This is a General's charge. Positioned alongside a central King. A gambled risk for who strikes first. Tension tumbles downwards, the landing crash signifies commencement.

Dragons guiding flying chariots hurtle towards collision. Foot soldiers reach for gold.

The King is cautious, gradual in step. Political, religious and military figures clamber to protect. Adversaries maneuver, trying to snatch the throne, an attempt at complete takeover.

Captors brainwashed into opposing forgotten allies. One side increases until resistance is worthless, failures trapped in deceit.

Story 079

Faces

by Vichar Lochan (age 13)

I've heard that your brain can't create faces by itself. So all your dreams are of faces that you vaguely remember, faces you've seen before, in the crowd, on the subway, in a restaurant – the most mundane, the most normal of faces.

But then there are the monsters, the stuff of your nightmares – tentacled, slimy sea-serpents, giant, curiously deformed, eerily human-like figures, the hulking mass that somehow terrifies you more than anything else.

Where have you seen those faces, I wonder?

Story 080

Payback

by James Hornby

The Father of Thousands has reduced my world to rubble. I’m not talking the house where I grew up here, I’m talking the whole planet.

Things have gotten serious now. Before today, I never had a problem with an entity from the previous universe wanting to destroy all life. I’m just not that kind of guy.

So I’ve joined up with the Space Corps. These guys seem to know how to get things done.

This space slug is after some payback.

Story 081

Cavity

by Paul Phillips

Sid had heard the stories. Some of the old boys might even have seen it, when the old houses were converted first time round; priests in priest holes, or someone's sworn enemy, bricked up alive. It was the fingernails you remembered, the claw marks.

In this plasterboard age, still they'd joke about finding someone's wife. The Polish lads spun tales of hidden dungeons.

Sid squinted at the mildewed tool belt, met the mildewed gawp.

"What's so funny?" he asked his predecessor.

Story 082

Fickle Love

by Wendy Christopher

I'm back, beguiling you again with my liquid brown eyes. You never could resist them.

You hold your breath, afraid I might turn tail and leave too soon, but I wait. Will you indulge me? You edge closer, your plump, pink fingers held gently towards me. My mouth opens and I stretch forward, my lips closing around the nut to steal it from your open palm.

You smile as I escape with my prize, waving you a flash of fluffy tail.

Story 083

9 x 9

by Dez T.

Every summer I'd go and visit my grandparents. I could easily spend the whole six weeks there.

Grandad was my favourite, but I loved Gran too. Helping them in the garden made me feel alive. Then , I’d cycle to the chippy to fetch lunch.

"Your Gran will have fish," he'd say. "No vinegar."

One winter it happened. Suddenly my summers had ended. No tears, no sadness. I owed him that much. Everything has roots. Nine times nine. A perfect square.

Story 084

Turn On The Lights Before You Go

by Lewis Ayers

"77, Goa. 78, Madagascar. 79, Cairo. 80, Cape Verde."

That was it then, only one site left. There'd been opponents to this plan, naturally, but in the end consensus was reached. They'd evacuated all that would leave. Humanity raced on to new pastures, they were the final guard.

"Sir. All detonations successful." The technician looked to her expectantly.

"Humanity thanks us all. Do it."

"Site 81, Nordic command. Initiating detonation."

We'd scorch our blue pearl before giving it up to them.

Story 085

Matthew

by Tanya Butler

"Matthew, can you say Daddy?"

Matthew stares blankly.

"Matthew, can you say Mummy?"

Matthew looks to Mummy and babbles, "Mum, Mum."

"Matthew, say Daddy."

Matthew smiles. 

"Matthew, DAD-DY."

Matthew's attention has gone, he moves onto all fours and crawls away.

Daddy has now given up. He heads down the stairs.

Mummy picks up her child. "Matthew, say Daddy."

Matthew looks to the stairs. "Da-da."

Mummy runs down the stairs with him. "Say it again."

Matthew pauses and then babbles, "Mum, Mum."

Story 086

Cold As Ice

by Claire Gagnon

I press my hands deep into the sand. It bubbles with a liquefying heat. Steam erupts from the ocean where the molten blob meets the cool water.

"Look what I made, Kyle."

"Get that mess outta my face," he replies with a wave, preoccupied. But I insist, until he snatches it from my hands.

I protest in horror as cracks form beneath his chilling fingers. The oceanic glass shatters in a sharp, crystalline rain. My brother turns back to his phone.

Story 087

Retribution

by John Alty

I'd only gone in to buy a loaf. Arthur served me. New girl was cutting the strings on the packs of newspapers and stacking them. I'd asked her if she was OK, friendly like, and she'd plunged scissors into my groin.

Later, in hospital, the police told me she'd said I'd assaulted her. I said that was daft, ask Arthur. Not in't shop, they said, last night in't car park of the Red Bull.

I thought I'd seen her somewhere before.

Story 088

The Fisherman

by John Robertson

Every Saturday during the season, Ben would leave his busy world behind and head to the local reservoir. During the 10 minute drive, he moved swiftly from crazy to calm.

He would sit on the bank, rod in hand, for five wonderfully peaceful hours, before returning home, always empty handed. It was several years before his wife finally asked why he never caught anything. Ben smiled but didn't tell her that the secret to his success was not using any bait.

Story 089

Warmth

by Smritirekha Talukdar

She felt his warmth as he wrapped his arms around her.

He whispered to her, "You're my everything and I need you forever."

She snuggled in closer and assured him she felt the same.

Rain poured outside, thunder cracked.

They immersed into one another.

She woke up the next morning.

Unable to find him near her, she took steps towards the kitchen and saw him making breakfast.

A smile curved on her lips as she walked towards him.

She kissed him.

Story 090

That Cat

by J. L. Harland

There were three of us in the marriage, me, John and the cat. If there had been a dog, things would have turned out very differently. The cat was a brute, an evil monster and I hated it. So did John – only trouble was, it had belonged to his mother.

When she died we were left with a dilemma. Ma said it brought her luck – well, you know what she was like. Superstitious rot.

Then the cat vanished – in mysterious circumstances.

Story 091

After Twilight

by Jonathan Martindale

You there, by the bar. Insignificant mortal. I caught you staring. Interested? We are RESCUE, the Rally Excoriating the Sexualisation of Certain Undead Entities: vampires who demand to be recognised as the hideous, decaying, horrifying predators of humanity that we are, not the glittering, good-looking, smooth-talking objects of teenage fantasies your popular media stereotypes us as. You want in? Excellent. A round is called for, I say. The drinks are from (I mean, ahem, on) you. Go on, neck it, lads.

Story 092

L'Ennui de Vie

by Tarquin Calver

I go a bit funny when bored. I steam my hands, swear at the wall with snails in my mouth, ring 999 and simply moan. I run a marathon through the night then punch my biceps and quadriceps, fart loudly in a librarian's face and order four annual holidays to Tunisia under the name Skywalker. After this I engineer a moment where I'm less bored and gradually get my tip-top condition back. Then the cycle restarts and no-one is safe again.

Story 093

Auntie Virus

by Alan D. Przybylski

"Here, love, a nice hot cuppa. Now just rest. Fancy being out and about at your age, what with this virus around. My poor boy's laid low with it too." Tears threatening to roll free, swiftly wiped.

"Never you mind, all will be well," the crone's lips crackled. She gulped down the tea and left with surprising vigour for someone who, 10 minutes ago, looked near death's door.

Yells of joy, thundering footsteps on the landing.

"I'm hungry, mum."

She smiled.

Story 094

Just Try It

by Sheila Rosart

In my dreams, it was still smooth and sensuous, unadorned, proud; an invitation arching seductively and weakening my knees.

"I asked you not to."

"Just give it a chance."

"I cannot."

"You're making too much of this.

"I'm afraid it's over, my love."

"Surely we can get past this?"

"I don't see how."

"One kiss goodbye, then?"

"Just one."

"Perhaps I was hasty."

"Really?"

"Try it again."

"Well?"

"I thought I would hate it."

"And now?"

"I do like your moustache."

Story 095

Only Criticise When Perfect

by Jon Drake

He left his phone behind again. Immature chump. The arrogance of youth means many sarcastic remarks about my age and ignorance and yet no awareness or possessiveness over his technological umbilical cord - his window on the world of everything and on daily dating.

I have a son knowledgeably arrogant by internet information only.

I march smugly to the Post Office to return the antisocial communicator. I text him to say it is on the way.

Oh dear… a mature chump.

Story 096

Lorelia Lonely

by Adam Wright-Johnson

Lonely.

It was a big new house and her mommy ignored her.

She had no daddy.

She explored and explored, and in a room she found a body.

The body of a man.

She sat him against the wall. He was smelly but he was company.

He oozed but he never replied. He never laughed.

Sometimes she thought he nodded but he didn't.

He sat silently.

Listening.

She hugged him.

It was the closest she had ever been to someone.

Lovely.

Story 097

Love Torque

by Adam Rubinstein

"You got Sharon a birthday present?" Trev sipped his pint.

"Half inch Torque wrench set," said Terry. "Money's tight."

"I think you're missing a trick there mate. You never did understand how women tick."

"You think?"

"They're different from us. They want to feel like they're really loved, special like."

"I see what you mean." Terry sighed.

"It'll be worth it mate."

"OK," Terry decided, "I'll go for the three quarter inch set."

"Man, you are going to get so laid."

Story 098

Catharsis

by Helen Combe

Today I shall do good deeds and bask in a warm wave of catharsis. I shall drive generously. I shall let this car pull out. Bother, the car in front has let him out. I shall allow this pedestrian to cross. Darn, the car in front stopped for her.

The car in front is turning right. I pull up alongside and wind my window down.

"You swine," I yell and then drive quickly away, basking in the warm wave of catharsis.

Story 099

I'm Rooting For The Ghost

by Frank Hubeny

After Michael saw the ghost he understood. What he understood he would not say. True knowledge should not be made so literal that any monkey could understand it.

Anne sympathized with him but she thought his deranged prefrontal whatchamacallit generated the ghost. Otherwise why was he locked up with her?

Michael told her she could escape with him through the skylight of the cell. Anne said she would consider it. That was the only reason Michael told the ghost to wait.

Story 100

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

by Matilda Pinto

What did I just see?

A tail, clambering inward, into the left bellbottom.

He's dead meat.

Act now.

But how? I'm no Houdini.

You have got to try. Well?

I try calling out.

"Look here. Yes, you, with the blue bells. Stand where and as you are. Raise your left leg up, up and up, and with a savage wiggle, stomp down. Ready, steady and... go.”

There, in a freefall, is a green chameleon, blushing red and sprinting for his life.

End Of Page Note

I hope you enjoyed the first 100 stories. You can find links to hundreds more on the main 81 word writing challenge page.

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