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Allen's Sensory Overload Writing Challenge

Quick links on this page:

rules & how to submit - about the sensory challenge - read sensorially overloaded stories

Allen Ashley and Chris Fielden

Allen Ashley & Chris Fielden, imprisoned in some sort of twin-bodied Photoshop nightmare

This photo has not been altered in any way, especially by Chris, who isn't very good at using Photoshop

Welcome to Allen's Sensory Overload Challenge. Like Allen, it's simple (sorry, couldn't resist...). Like Chris, it's beautiful (and again...). Anyone can submit. All entries are published. Discover how delightful writing purple prose overloaded with sensory description can be.

Rules & How To Submit

The rules feel, look, smell, sound and taste simple:

  • 175 words max
  • please include a title for your story (not included in word count)
  • use as much sensory description as you can
  • entry is everyone's favourite price - FREE
  • anyone can submit
  • 1 entry per person
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges are shared with children
  • your sensorially saturated stories will be published on this page
  • every time we receive 100 stories, we'll publish all of them in a book
  • any money made through anthology sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when anthologies are published, you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story by filling in the comments form below
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Allen and Chris respectfully suggest: No more stories about eructation, breaking wind, being caught smoking or waking up in a coffin. These have now been adequately covered. Thanks.

So far, we've received 239 stories. We need 61 more to publish the anthology.

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About the Sensory Writing Challenge

We want stories of up to 175 words, packed full of sensory impressions and descriptions. Specifically: we want to drown in your senses. You may choose to overload on one branch of sensations, but ideally we would expect your flash fiction to include reference to all 5 of the commonly accepted senses:

Sight/Seeing, Sound/Hearing, Touch/Feeling, Smell and Taste.

Or at least have had a go! Assail us with your aromatic, smooth, salty, bell-ringing purple prose. You know you can and you know you want to.

Many 'How To' books will tell you to be precise and careful when using sensory words. We want you to be profuse and bountiful. The more the merrier. Chuck us into the setting and the situation. Overload us with sensory input and information. And tell a bit of a story as well. It's not too much to ask, is it?

Allen and I would like to thank everyone who submits their stories for their support – it's much appreciated :-)

During the course of running the sensory challenge, Allen and I got into a discussion with author Steven Hardy (author of story 051) regarding apostrophe placement in the word 'people's'. Due to our diligence, Steven very kindly made us a certificate for being top editors and word geeks:

Word Geek Certificate

Allen and Chris's Top Editor & Word Geek Award Certificate

We're sharing this here in the hope that it inspires more authors to award us with stuff. As yet, we've had no takers. This situation needs resolving, ASAP please.

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About the Charity the Sensory Writing Challenge Supports

Proceeds from sales of the sensory writing challenge anthologies will be donated to the National Literacy Trust.

National Literacy Trust

This charity is committed to helping raise literacy levels in the UK. The writing challenges run on this website do the same thing, in a roundabout kind of way, so this seemed like an appropriate charity for us to support.

How The Sensory Writing Challenge Came To Exist

Having seen the photo at the top of the page, this will be immensely hard to believe... Allen and I have not yet shared photographic space together. I know, I know... please try and contain your shock.

We did meet, at a Bristol Festival of Literature event last year, but I forgot to get photographic proof because we were too busy chatting about writing, comparing notes on running short story competitions (Allen judges the British Fantasy Society competition and I run To Hull & Back) and stuff like that. NOTE: we have now met many times, and run events together, but I've left this bit in as it makes a good story...

While we were chatting, we decided that running a writing challenge together seemed like a good idea.

Allen has been a great supporter of the writing challenges run on this site. Not only has he submitted his own stories, he's shared the challenges with the various writing groups he runs/belongs to and has generated lots of submissions from many authors. So, it's great to be able to work with him on this challenge.

Each time a story is received it'll be published below. Every time we receive 100 stories, they will be published as a collection. The books will be made available in print and Kindle eBook formats.

Proceeds from sales will go to the National Literacy Trust.

If we don't receive enough submissions for the next book, it's a bit of fun, you can read all the stories here on the site and you now know the National Literacy Trust exists and that they do fabulous work.

As with all the writing challenges on this site, it's impossible to lose. Everyone wins.

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Sensory Stories

Below are all the sensorially saturated stories that have been submitted to date, drenched in purple prose. See the words. Hear the joy. Taste the magic. Smell the stories. Touch your toes.

The stories are published in the order they were received.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 1

We received the 100th sensory story on 10th August 2017. The first 100 stories were removed from the website on 1st October 2017. Sensorially Challenged Volume 1 was released on 2nd December 2017.

You can learn how to buy the book and support charity here.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 1

The book contains flash fiction stories written by 100 authors.

Profits from sales will be donated to the National Literacy Trust. You can see how much money has been raised for charity by all the challenges run on this website on the main Writing Challenges page.

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Sensorially Challenged Volume 2

We received our 200th sensory story on 31st January 2019. Stories 101 to 200 were removed from the website on 26th February 2019. Sensorially Challenged Volume 2 is now in production and due for publication towards the end of June 2019.

We are currently accepting stories for Volume 3.

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Sensorially Challenged Volume 3

You can read the submissions received for Sensorially Challenged Volume 3 below.

Story 201

Tanked Up

by Allen Ashley

Martin likes being inside his tank of smart liquid; but I hate the confinement.

"What sort of life is this?" I moan. "I feel really out of touch."

"For the hundredth time, Simon, the whole point of sensory deprivation is to free the mind to think, to wander, to transcend."

"But all it's doing is making me miss a whole gamut. The smell of Janine's perfume; the salty taste of crisp bacon; the uplifting strings of a Mozart symphony; the touch of silk or cashmere against—"

"Yeah, I know, pal. And watching the sunset. Give it a rest, right? They're all gone."

It's true. I don't have a mouth or ears anymore. All this talking is happening telepathically. I can't see Martin, either. But I know he's there: another bodiless brain preserved in a glass jar.

Occasionally, I reach out mentally to the other unlucky survivors. I'm losing my sense of time here. We're all lined up in Perspex rows in the dark. Missing the touch of skin, the taste of coffee…

Forever.

Story 202

Morning Tea

by Sarah Williams

Moving through the dawn-cold kitchen with half-sleep muscle memory, she found the tea caddy. The kettle was placed over the orange flame and the heating water began knocking against its metal sides.

Her hand dipped into the tin and her fingers found the papery cocoon of the tea bag. It felt warm, dry and almost like skin, encouraging her thumb to move back and forth across its surface.

Absentmindedly, she brushed it against her lower lip. She inhaled the smell of Christmas and Indian chai tea. First the warm smell cinnamon, then the sharp, antiseptic, nostril numbing clove.

The kitchen window sweated with steam. She watched the larger drops combining, producing little tear rivers running down the glass.

The kettle began to demand attention. She went to it before the whistle squealed its top note.

The hot water hit the teabag, which started to bleed sepia into the filling cup.

There was a pause, the chinkle, chickle of the spoon.

Then the first sip and sigh of the day.

Story 203

Caffeinated Cognition

by Shay Meinecke

Bass and treble buzz around me in a hipster cafe as I order a black, pungent filter coffee from a nose-pierced, tatted blonde, who looks more like a punk singer than an overworked barista.

I stand to the side of the sleek, wooden high-top bar and eavesdrop on a hushed conversation from two energetic girls sitting nearby.

One of them, toned with deep wrinkles and a pale face, chats with a heavier-set friend in a language I barely understand. "This and that," I presume she says, "with the guys and girls," she continues, "we went there and did that," she finishes. Her friend with rosy red cheeks and dark, bushy eyebrows laughs and snorts between lusty bites of a Danish apple pastry that makes me sort-of chuckle.

I receive the piping hot cardboard cup and find a seat by a frosted window in hopes of catching some warm sun before it sets behind the white winter mountains.

I sip the earthy, aromatic java as my bottom numbs and my heart races.

Story 204

Taste The Music

by Christopher Fielden

I'm sweating, captivated by the frenzy of a beat so powerful it sounds like a living, breathing monster. The rhythm section motor behind me, smoke clouds the air and the stage lights burn.

The atmosphere is vibrant, the crowd hungry. Ian Maiden's bass rumbles with wrath. Jack Sabbath unleashes a demonic riff. Beneath my feet, I feel the stage throb with the thrum of music. A mass of bodies bounce before me in unison.

Dwight Snake points back at me and shouts, "You wanna hear some guitar?"

The crowd roar.

"You asked for it, you metal maniacs. I give you, Dave,

"Against,

"The,

"Machiiiiiiine."

I face my wall of Marshalls and allow the hum of feedback to grow. The volume becomes painful before I turn to face the audience, unleashing a solo that feels as though it's oozing from my fingertips rather than me having to play it. As I hold the final note and push down hard on my Les Paul’s whammy bar, Dwight starts hollering lyrics.

The show begins.

Story 205

Goodbye Roger

by John Rivers

"Why would I agree to that?" The earlier argument with Roger shot round Laura's head, as she collected her rubbish bin from the street. The very idea of making someone 'disappear'. No trace. Cover my tracks. All for love and £250,000 insurance.

A blue sports car briskly parked. Nervously, Laura looked. It was Roger.

Stepping out he hissed, "Well?" in greeting. "Are you in? Be a decoy. Easy."

Clang. Laura dropped the dustbin. The plan was terrifying, yet thrilling. Roger was persuasive. She loved him. Her husband, Paul, was boring. A selfish, rich bully. He knew nothing of Laura's affair.

She was rough, pushing past Roger, to pick up the bin.

"OK," she muttered.

"Sweet," said Roger, striding to his car. "I knew you'd agree."

Paul appeared, walking on crutches from an unexplained mishap. Near the primroses at their gate, Laura took his arm, curiously saying, "I'll help you cross the road."

With Paul in view, Roger accelerated hard from his parking spot.

He didn’t see the truck pull out 'til too late.

Story 206

Eutopia

by Lesley Anne Truchet

The warmth caresses my nakedness, liquid heat seeps through my body, extending to every extremity. Relaxed, I stretch cat-like and sigh with pleasure. Seagulls caw in quadraphonic harmony and the shhhh, shhhh, shhhh of the lapping waves on the sea shore act like a lullaby. Is that the scent of rotting seaweed invading my nostrils? Maybe. My eyes are closed in bliss and I can almost taste the salt of the ocean. 

A hand creeps from my towel. I want to feel the sand oozing between my fingers. Eyes still shut, I touch – empty space? I'm thrown back into reality. Crawling out from under the sun bed, I look out at the pouring rain, turn off the ocean sounds mood music and prepare to leave for work.

Story 207

Taking A Part

by Michael Rumsey

Amanda, darling. Your email spread a warm joy upon seeing it – such a delight to hear from you.

Exciting news. I have a whiff of a new play in the West End. Auditions on the 16th. Yes I know, dear, me doing auditions when just a glance at my CV sends one into raptures, but it's the producer. Archie Armstrong no less. Yes, him of the flowery prose and nose.

Remember when we did the open air theatre summer season with him? A breath of fresh air, we thought. Huh, how very un-refreshing his pipe smoke turned out. And then that rumour about him touching up young Margie...

But needs must, sweetie, and how marvellous it is to be at the Argon Theatre. I faint every time I see it, with its delicious aroma and divine acoustics. In my heart, I know I shall take a part.

Do come to opening night. I long to set eyes on you again and drown once more in your dulcet tones. 

Love, kisses and caresses. Randy.

Story 208

Waiting

by Robert Pembroke

He looks up when the tangy aroma of vinegar reaches his nostrils, making his mouth water, and he can almost taste those fried potatoes. People mill around in front of him, but he picks out the person with the bag of chips and stares longingly.

A group of school children come down the stairs, their blue and red uniforms looking bright in the late afternoon sunlight. There is the chatter of people standing around him. While some talk into mobile phones, overhead there are train announcements being made. This  hustle and bustle doesn't bother him, because he does this journey nearly every day. Then he hears it. The train approaches, its steel wheels screeching noisily as it pulls into the platform.

Just then, he feels the harness handle being lifted from his back and the hand ruffles his fur as   once more he is standing ready to guide his master onto the train, the train which will take them home where a well-earned dinner awaits.

Story 209

In The Soup

by David McTigue

Ben couldn't believe his eyes. 'Bacon Causes Cancer' screamed the headline on his laptop. He laughed and turned to the pan of lamb broth on the hob.

"More salt," he decided, taking a slurp. "Ow, that's hot."

Ben loved cooking, particularly when alone, listening to classical music. It would finish before Shirley got home. Not a fan of Beethoven, our Shirl. She'd come in, a wall of sound, complaining about her supervisor, Megs, or Dregs, as Ben called her.

The doorbell shrilled.

Damn. Sheila. His mother-in-law.

He let her in. Sheila breezed through.

"Mmm, something smells nice and sounds awful," she chimed, instinctively picking up a spoon.

"No," Ben admonished. "Too many cooks and all that. Bacon sandwich, Sheila?"

She shook her head. "Where's Shirley?"

Almost on cue Shirley walked in. "Hello, love," she said, "Oh, hi Mum, I've had a brilliant day. Meg's off."

The rest of the conversation melded into the backround as Ben tested the broth. Off? Not off at all. Megs Lamb was still very fresh.

Story 210

Pub At Seven

by Sean Bain

"And a bottle of coke with a straw and some salt and vinegar crisps."

Yes, music to my ears, but the pong of beer and fags attacks my nose. So I'm off, like Batman to the Batslide. I gawp mesmerised by its shiny, silvery... slideyness?

Clamber those splintery steps, reach the two metre peak and touch the sun.

I hear the fizz from the bottle whilst my mouth chases the straw. Sluuurrrpp. More energy required. Crisps. Oh my god, they're like radioactive bits of crunch. My eyes water and my cheeks collapse. Now it's time to WHEEEEE. Again and again. I am a giggle machine.

I shimmy down once more, ignoring the hot summer heat, metal burning my legs. My plimsolls squeak on metal.

Racing around the grass with that 'just cut' aroma.

Squelch. So soft.

"Eurghhh." That's not grass. I clasp my nose, staring at the black and brown foot.

"Don't you dare," Dad scolds

The slide whispers, "One more go."

Decisions, decisions.

Story 211

Level Crossing

by Sue Partridge

The train suddenly lurched and, with a screech, came to a halt. June wiped her hand along the cold window, making a small spy hole through which she caught sight of a blue van rolling over and over in the adjacent field.

Alarms on the train started to ring and, with a loud clang, the driver's door flew open. The uniformed man leapt out of his cab into the rough grass and raced towards the van. As he approached, a figure crawled out of the wrecked vehicle and slowly got to his feet.

"Are you OK?" shouted the train driver.

"Yes, I'm fine," came an unsteady reply, "but my van isn't."

A faint, sweet aroma wafted in the air as the dishevelled man rubbed his head and looked down at the tangled heap of metal that was his van.

"And I think that's the end of Primrose Pies too."

Story 212

Meet The Parents

by Paul Mastaglio

Sam turned to Jackie exclaiming, "Don't look at me like that. Not with those blue eyes. P-please."

"Why, they're the only ones I've got," she laughed.

"I'm done for then. I can't say no."

Jackie grinned. "Off to meet Mum and Dad we go then."

Ten minutes later and Jackie rapped on the door knocker, making a large clang.

"Mum."

"Come in, my dears, come in."

Wiping their feet on the rough mat, in they went. Soon they were in the living room and being introduced to Jackie's dad, Tom Burns.

"Would you like some of my sweets?" he enthused. "Absolutely delicious. Try some."

"Hmmmm," they chorused.

Jackie's mum, Heather, followed them in. "Cup of tea, anyone?"

"No thanks, Mum. Mum, Dad. Please sit down. We've got something important to tell you."

It was suddenly very hot in the room. Jackie opened a window, ushering in cool, fresh air with a scent of primrose from the garden.

"We're engaged," she blurted out. "This is my fiance, Samantha Daniels."

You could hear a pin drop.

Story 213

My Resignation Letter

by K. J. Watson

Dear Mr Hardiman,

Today, I began my calls to the homes on your list.

I made only one visit and should probably have left when I reached the front garden. A mess of split bin bags and indecent-looking ooze belaboured my eyes. A second later, an odour from what I imagine might come from a pit of plague victims assaulted my nose. Acidic bile rose in my throat and coursed across my tongue like demonic mouthwash.

I persevered, though. A shiny door knocker lay ahead. I grasped the knocker and, too late, realised that it was thick with metal polish. Stinging gobbets of the stuff clung to my fingers.

I was trying to clean my fingers on the roughcast wall of the house when the door opened. A smiling, elderly lady greeted me. For a moment, her presence calmed my distraught senses. Then, behind her, an enormous dog barked thunderously, ripping the fabric of my eardrums. I hastily retreated.

I must therefore tender my resignation. I believe that I'm too sensitive to be a bailiff.

Story 214

Winner

by Mike Scott Thomson

On this blizzard-white sheet of paper are six stupefying squiggles in ebony ink. (Confusion kicks of coal, compounded with cantaloupe; frustration festers like fresh fertiliser.)

The index finger of my left hand traces the outline of the first hieroglyph: an impassable mountain between two fathomless valleys.

The next, a blazing black sun hovering serenely over a lamppost.

(Was that an 'i'? For 'ischaemic'? An unwelcome addition to my lexicon. All others took their leave to the thunderclap of tarmac, the tang of red-hot chilli sirens, the lavender fragrance of flashing lights... memories, the twinkling of piccolo and a booming of bass... the written word, alphabet soup. The night my senses scrambled.)

I rustle the paper. (A chirp of cicadas.)

One. Mountain. Two. Lamppost.

The third and fourth symbols are identical: twin hillocks in an autumn meadow.

The fifth, a slippery, squashed spiral.

But with the sixth, I turn a corner.

I trace them again. The contours click-clack into familiar form.

I understand.

I smile.

There was only ever going to be one.

Story 215

Join The Army: Jobs For Drivers Always Available

by James Louis Peel

Bright blue-eyed Corporal Laika braced herself too late. The jolt of the fiery blast ripped hard through the personnel carrier, sending so much twisted pain into her guts that she decided it best to drop out of this overly glorious line of soldierly work.

Her sixth sense and training kicked in, comforting her so at least she would not taste the bile and choking fear. She tumbled freely around in the salty stench of fresh guts and hot metal. Her mind recoiled and her ears rung.

"To hell with them – drive on," Sargent screamed.

Events played out in grimy, bright detail. And yes, there was nothing she could do. The government-issued green band of her watch snapped, spinning like a touching ballerina through space. Watching it felt like five godless eternities.

A bright idea flashed: Jump from the APC.

Too late.

She never felt the second impact.

Corporal Laika’s blue eyes were sightlessly open as the busted engine began to hiss.

Story 216

Remembering Is The Key

by Maggie Elliott

Perched on a stool, amid garden tools and cultivating seeds, I realise ventilated footwear wasn't a shrewd move.

Boulder-like raindrops pummelled my hair, now hanging limp.

Magazines and lottery tickets merge in my shopper, producing a kaleidoscope of colours.

Glancing towards home, felines watch me watching them and I detect smugness.

I alleviate boredom by calling my son but don't reveal my predicament. Goodbye reminds me little time has elapsed.

The stool shakes as my body objects to saturated clothing adhered to it. Tissues disintegrated, I consider using my sleeve to wipe my nose but realise the futility and resist.

Battering rain intensifies my feeling of misery until I remember my phone is brimming with soothing music.

Later, my partner slid the greenhouse door open and asked, "What're you doing in here?" My scornful look elicited a response of, "Forget your keys?"

The absurdity forced me to ignore him and squelch my way indoors.

My body tingled as the warmth enveloped me and I chastised myself for being absentminded again.

Story 217

Safe

by Huguette Van Akkeren

The pungent, briny aroma assaulted her with each short, sharp breath. Fear pulsated through her small body, propelling her into the fetid, tropical swamp. The tepid afternoon breeze barely cooled her sweating arms, as disturbed mosquitos swarmed their first prey.

Staggering barefoot through the scorching soft sand toward the dilapidated waterfront fishing hut was torture. Sand-flies crawled unabated on exposed sections of leg. Perspiration slid down her back causing the dirty cotton shirt to stick uncomfortably. Terror fuelled body odour added to the malodorous aroma permeating the raised winding pathway.

Slitherings and slidings, rustlings, creaks and croaks, the ominous sounds sharpening her awareness that things she would prefer not to encounter resided less than a meter away in the dense scrub. Her parched mouth and dry cracked lips begged for water, but still she ran.

The flashing red and blue lights blinded her as she burst into the small clearing, straight into the arms of the surprised yellow-clad volunteer.

"You're safe now."

Relief flooded his senses as he lifted the exhausted child into the ambulance.

Story 218

Walking The Dog

by Scott Parent

It's still dark and only 33 degrees outside. Large slushy rain drops darken the street lights. They beat hard on the windows, each ending with a slushy splat. 

I harness the dog and go out into the cold winter morning. An icy wind stings my face. After a couple moments I can barely move the muscles of my mouth and nose which is dripping onto my upper lip. It tastes of cold and salt.

The rain finds its way onto the back of my neck. Wet gloves steal the feeling from my fingers and replace it with a cold, stinging sensation. My shoes and socks are getting wet and cold from stepping in puddles of slush.  I can't feel my toes.

Still we trudge on, hunched forward against the wind.

Story 219

Sliding Doors

by Josh Granville

I took my glasses off in calculation, before tucking them into the inside lining of my blazer, the newspaper exiting at force before my feet bounced off the surface of the platform in acceleration.

It was all or nothing now. Bashing against businessmen's briefcases, I dodged past the customers at the Greggs kiosk in a timely, cautious manoeuvre, the burning of sausage rolls wafting through the station.

Breathing heavily, the announcer's whiffy breath exhaled onto the whistle, bubble-gum popping against the loud speaker in a piercing yet tense intrusion, his lips lingering as he looked towards the last carriage. Then he blew. That was it, no more time. The doors started moving; five high-pitched beeps screeched in quick succession as they attempted to re-unite. Heads shifted towards me as I leaped over the yellow line. Reaching out promisingly, my fingers attempted to wedge in-between the ever-narrowing gap. Then the noise stopped. A spilt second. I pushed with all my weight.

Relief. I was on.

Story 220

The Hunter

by Aleksandra Petrovic

I stepped in anxiously and the wet earth seeped in between my toes like a birthday cake in a greedy child's hands. The scent of mud rose through the air, cut through by a refreshing smell of cold water.

"Just a little more," shouted my aunt above the noise of the stream. "Over here are plenty of them."

A shudder zipped up my spine as my feet reached the rushing waters, the swept-up mud tickling away at my soles.

"Now," she called.

I hurled the line and observed it fall into a sparkling patch of water, narrowly avoiding a small nearby whirlpool, which they would avoid.

Soon enough, I felt a tug, and I pulled on my trembling fishing rod. A shot of silver streamed through the air like a comet in reverse, and it fell on the grassy banks. I hurriedly waded to the shore, where my prey gave itself away by flipping on the green. The fish twitched in my hand as I removed the hook.

Salty fried minnows for dinner. Delicious.

Story 221

Revelation

by T. J. Hobbs

"Why did I agree to that?" Pete whines like a child.

I look at him as it hits me like a sledge hammer. I no longer love him. Immediately, I feel a huge weight has lifted from my heart at this revelation. My body shudders as the tension I've been holding on to for so long is released.

I take a deep breath of tangy sea air and lick the salt off my lips, feeling the Earth's energy surging up through me like it had once before. I look out into the azure sky, over the white waves crashing onto the silver beach and know there's a huge smile on my face.

I turn to him and say, "I really don't care what you do any more, Pete. I'm leaving."

His mouth drops open in surprise as I normally give in to him, but not any more. I walk past him towards my primrose yellow car, to the freedom I have given up for far too long.

Story 222

Taste, The Evilest Of Senses

by Victoria Mason

My mouth opens and fills with saliva as my sunken eyes scan the shiny laminate menu that is fastened to crumbling plasterboard behind Nora, the proprietor.

"There are other customers besides you, Bill," she spits, her green eyes looking me up and down suspiciously. "Didn't think you were the sporty type," she adds smugly.

*

My enormous frame moves around, like a half-deflated beach ball, within the white plastic chair. I pick at a bit of dried tomato sauce that is attached to the table and breathe in deeply. I smell the bacon and imagine chewing the caramelised fat. Golden butter sparkles in the fluorescent lighting, sinking further into white sliced bread. Two identical sausages glisten and glide effortlessly as I push them away with my fork.

My bouncing belly longs for the food, growling like a child, telling me it doesn't like quinoa.

I draw a stick man in the condensation of the dripping window. While lifting myself up, I groan, thinking of the treadmill, and plod out the door.

Story 223

Showdown

by J. S. Wellian

Long awaited scrumptious revenge is approaching. Soft, sweet Arnold against spoilt-rotten James.

The bell rings. Thud. Arnold gets up. Splat. Arnold's head spins and eyes blacken. The buzzing crowd shouts the countdown. This fight is not going to plan.

Arnold has been practicing boxing ever since he found out about his bully's hobby, refusing to let this acidic slime win. James gets up once more, despite the burning pain he must be feeling. Crack.

Arnold blurts out tasteless slang, followed by silent tears. Excruciating, tearing pain. Vile, chilling memories reappear. This was a terrible idea.

Arnold peers into the eyes of his overconfident, twisted rival. Boiling rage engulfs his mind. Arnold releases numbing blows to James's face. James stumbles. Bam. James drops hard.

Arnold continues. The crowd hisses. He's going too far. James crawls into a ball, pleading. Bittersweet sensations overshadow the moment. Arnold stops. The crowd is in disgust. Arnold glances at the sticky blood on his hands.

This was not how he had imagined it. Bitter, ugly, regretful revenge.

Story 224

One At A Time

by Ally Apodochi

They noticed that his hair had changed. Last they saw it was a warm brown, sun-bleached from dark to chocolate. Now it was mint green, possibly faded from a blue dye. It made them look softer in the golden-yellow sunlight peering over their neighbour's fence, threatening to disappear and take away this new pastel version of him.

As they sat on the stoop, they realised he was waiting for a response. They blinked.

"Did you ask me something?"

He sighed. "I asked if you wanted to grab dinner."

They would have scoffed if the sound of his voice didn't lance its way through their heart. It had been a while since they heard the soft musical lilt, and they were almost ready to admit they had missed him. It used to be their most favourite sound in the world.

Used to.

Still, they knew they hadn't eaten all day. On one hand, they'd cave and admit to their feelings. On the other, they'd get to eat. What's there left to lose?

"OK."

Story 225

After The Rain

by Hajra Saeed

There had been a heavy downpour all morning. By the afternoon, the clouds were gradually dispersing; even the sun had come out. I inhaled the sweet fragrance of the grass, accentuated by the rain.

I took off my shoes and stepped onto the emerald carpet. A tingling feeling shot through me as my feet touched the icy, yet velvety, softness. Closing my eyes, I walked to the end of the garden.

All of a sudden, a magpie started singing. It was delicately perched on one of the branches of the lemon tree. This was laden with perfectly rounded, bright-yellow fruits and each leaf was studded with translucent pearls. I plucked one and a shower of raindrops fell, unleashing a citrus scent that I could almost taste.

Then, as my gaze shifted upwards, it became momentarily transfixed. For the sun rays were filtering through one of the clouds in such a manner that it literally seemed as if it was an iceberg. A crystallized piece of fluff glittering in the sky...

Story 226

That's My Day Spoilt

by Eileen Baldwin

The train suddenly shrieked to a halt. There was a loud screaming. It was me. I'd been violently thrown forward. My glasses flew off. I felt the roughness of the dirty floor. Then I saw a pair of soft leather shoes. The owner was a young man in a blue suit.

"Are you OK?" He looked worried.

"Yes, thank you," I stammered and blushed.

By now, I was in my seat. My legs were scratched and purple, my face a deep crimson. I'd been on my way to an interview for a job as a model. Well, that wasn't on the cards anymore.

I wondered if my bright red lipstick was smeared all over my face. I dug my long painted nails into my palms, to stop me laughing hysterically. I looked out of the window and saw primroses.

"Would this make you better?"

I looked up and smelt the flower that my stranger in blue held out to me. The first of many, I hoped.

Story 227

Determined To Pass

by Khamis Kabeu

Riziki Bidii snapped to attention and listened. "What's that?" she mumbled. A gun shot, she thought. For a moment she sat befuddled, trembling with fear.

Just then, a second and third gunshot rented the air. Transfixed, she turned uneasily in her seat, shivering as her stomach spasmed with dread at the roar of gunfire.

Shortly thereafter, more gunshots followed, their rumbling growing closer and closer. She was terror stricken. With the pitch-dark night threateningly still, she felt personally besieged as the combatants continued to advance towards the beleaguered school. Repeatedly, she cocked her head, swivelling it in the direction the sound had come from.

Then, the gunshots stopped and an eerie silence settled over the school and its neighbourhood. And as the silence progressed, it became more and more frightening. She stood up, then sat down, over and over again, the awesome silence conjuring up fearful images of monsters entering the class and tearing her to pieces.

With time, she gathered courage and resumed her studies.

Story 228

Scents And No Sensibility

by Gail Everett

Coty's L'Aimant was my mother's favourite perfume when she was a beauty consultant in a London department store. Being a smoker, she travelled to the West End on the uncomfortable and smelly upper deck of the number 11 bus and worked for Beryl, a buyer who was a loud, bossy and conceited woman whose strident voice carried across the entire length of the perfumery.

Whenever I met my mother after work, we ate in Benny's, the nearby wine bar, which offered delicious food, especially their Paddy's Pizza. Doreen, my mother's colleague, would often accompany us, along with the appalling Beryl, and usually got plastered on the house red.

Following one of our outings, Doreen arrived at work the next morning looking like a recently-exhumed corpse, unable to remember the evening in any detail. She touched my mother on the shoulder, and asked if the buyer had noticed she was drunk. Mother then had to tell the unfortunate Doreen that everything had been fine, right up to the point when she'd thrown up over Beryl's shoes.

Story 229

In The Spring, A Young Man's Fancy...

by John Notley

I fell in love with her when, as a 16 year old, I was on a school trip to Paris one spring. We had all been told about her by our young art mistress who was quite a picture herself. I wished that I was alone in the Louvre with her, undisturbed by the chattering and mutterings of those behind me.

I was captivated by the light pallor of her skin, the hands crossed demurely on her lap and the pale throat unadorned with jewellery. If only we could be together, alone. To hold her hands, to touch her breasts, to taste her lips and hear her as she whispered words of love in my ear.

The bell rang indicating closing time and I deliberately remained as the others left, my pubescent eyes gazing into hers which exuded a sensuality I had never known. An attendant took me by the arm and led me to the exit, still entranced by her beauty.

Art classes were never the same again.

Story 230

The Man In Black

by Kevin J. McLain

The train suddenly lurched forward and Brian was thrown from his seat. He couldn't understand why. The train wasn't going very fast.

As he landed on his knees, he looked around and noticed that there was a man moving very slowly up the aisle towards him. The man was dressed in a black trench coat and a strange blue light was emanating from his body, swirling around him like a slow-moving tornado.

There was a clanging sound – metal food trays bounced against the windows and seats of the cabin as he walked by. Brian got to his feet by pulling himself up, using the rough leather of the seat in front of him.

The man in black held out his hand and blue light shot out in Brian's direction. As it touched him, Brian was lifted off his feet and slammed hard onto the floor of the aisle. There was a bitter-sweet taste of iron in his mouth as he coughed up primrose-coloured blood.

Story 231

Monday Morning Blues

by Christine Law

Thinking of Monday morning makes me feel tired. Street light shines through the curtains while the cat purrs. I'm feeling blue, looking at the dark shape of the church. Giving a sigh, I feel like a clown wondering what will make me smile.

Monday, the start of the working week, travelling on the train with the smell of body odour and cigarettes. Occasionally you get the sweet smell of perfume. I try to think pleasant thoughts – primroses, poppies and green fields.

Story 232

Blood Pressure

by David Silver

He felt a tingling sensation in his wrists. Death was approaching.

Peter admittedly suffered from hypochondria. Actually, he preferred to call it by its longer name, hypochondriasis, because it sounded more serious. But he knew that behind his condition lay an undeniable multitude of fatal illnesses.

By the time he arrived for his begged-for emergency slot at the medical centre, Peter was aware that the bitter taste of anxiety within his clenched jaws meant he was, once again, on borrowed time.

Typically, the doctor didn't seem worried. After conducting a (too cursory) examination, he suggested a blood test at the hospital.

Peter sat bolt upright on the slow-moving bus, seeing the flashing lights and hearing the screaming sirens of the emergency ambulance he should have been in.

Stifling a shriek of panic as he saw he was 23rd in the queue inside the hospital's blood room, Peter plucked nervously at his wrists and realised he had removed the elastic bands he always wore as a reminder to take his morning vitamin pills.

Story 233

Late Again

by Betty Hattersley

It was all go as usual this morning, rushing about, desperately trying to get to work on time. We had an important meeting planned first thing, so it was essential for me to show good grooming and efficiency, as well as good time keeping. Doing my hair and makeup was time consuming, but I didn't want to turn up at the office appearing as if I really had just crawled out of bed.

A strong black coffee would be my breakfast ritual once again this morning. I'd probably grab a sandwich for lunch.  But even before leaving my gorgeous apartment, I was already dreaming about returning home this evening to recline on my brand new, soft, leather couch, wrapped in my luscious, soft dressing gown in front of the television, enjoying a well earned gin and tonic.

Story 234

The Train Wreck

by Timothy Newnes

The train suddenly nudged from its railway tracks without losing momentum. The engine slowly twisted through 90 degrees, dragging each carriage until all the rolling stock slid sideways. Windows shattered, rough gravel below pulverising and finally ripping through toughened glass, entering the carriages like bullets. The sky was azure blue, a beautiful day. Strange it would be so tragic.

Inside, living and dead bounced off walls, floor and ceiling, gravity drawing them forward to the concertina crush caused by massive deceleration. An alarm, constantly deafening, clanged but was heard by fewer people as each second passed. Breathing, never mind hearing, stopped, brain cells expired. Chairs became missiles, ripping from their bolts, slamming into people obstructing their path.

The detestable man sat on his fold-away chair, spectating from an elevated vantage point beside the railway line culvert. He drank hot, sweet tea, marvelling at his abhorrent creation and that it cost a single dynamite stick. Hundreds would die, or at least he hoped. He paused from appreciating the scene to breathe in summer's primrose fragrance, smiling.

Story 235

The Broken Down Train

by Kenneth Muir

The train suddenly stopped. It was a big surprise to all on board because this was not the end of the journey, or stopping place along the way.

The man sitting next to me was blue in the face with anxiety as he was scheduled to attend an important meeting that morning: time was of the essence.

Suddenly there was a noise, a clang, coming from the undercarriage of the train. I imagined it had to do with the moving part of the brakes.

After a while, I felt the sudden jerk forward, which was rough to say the least.

I thought about that morning when my mother gave me my breakfast as usual. I enjoyed the sweet milky coffee only she could make.

As I sat on the stationery train, gazing through the window, I rekindled my spirit by watching the primrose plants at the side of the railway tracks. I thought how happy they looked, not having to worry about a broken down train.

Story 236

Caressing by the Fire

by Claire Apps

Danny smoothly caressed my silky coat, as it hung over my shapely body. Showing my appreciation, I mewed in time with his strokes. The cool wintery weather made itself known as an icy blast hit the windows and rattled the cottage's old oak beams. We were unconcerned about the outside. The log fire blazed away, the heat poured around us.

Just the two of us, lying on the comfy wool rug, gazing into each other's eyes. His were glittering with the sparks of the fire reflecting back, making a surreal moment, like looking into an unearthly being's soul. It startled me. The hair bristling up at the back of neck, I checked his eyes again. Green eyes – normal, half opened, looking at me. His hand paused, sensing a hesitancy in me. By looking alone, he queried what was wrong. Stretching my long nails outwards, I felt his arm, asking for him to continue the caressing I so longed for.

"You spoil that dog, Danny. Where can I sit to be by the fire?" asked Jane.

Story 237

Exit Strategy

by Tony Lawrence

The train suddenly appeared half a mile down the track as I wiped the sweat from my eyes, my heart thumping and reverberating upwards inside my skull. This was my only chance of escaping the blue and red flashing lights of the cop cars all around town, their heavily-armed occupants intent on my capture.

I heard the bell clang as the train slowed across the viaduct and the freight cars bumped and jostled each other in response. My shaking hands clutched the rough canvas bag containing the stolen cash and I breathed deeply to steady myself. My mouth was parched, the sweet minty taste of gum long gone.

I'd hidden at the meadow's edge, the smell of wild primroses recalling my childhood games on the farm. Now, I crouched in readiness. Let the engine go past, count 10 cars, run alongside, grab the steel ladder and pull myself aboard. Easy in the movies, but I'm carrying 200,000 dollars and still wearing my pencil skirt and high heels. "Time to go," I said.

Story 238

The Unexpected

by Aashana Daru

My heart is aching. The smell of gunpowder in the air is overpowering, I can almost taste it. The rustling of the leaves surrounding me is more deafening than the bullets piercing the air. I turn my head and see Jack sink like a heap of bones – bullet to the chest. My eyes fill up and I have to choke back a cough, or puke, I'm not sure which.

Amidst the pain and suffering, the sunlight falls softly on the forest floor, illuminating the spatters of blood and fallen bodies. And then, suddenly, all gunfire ceases. No leaf rustles. And then I hear it: the typical whir of an airline engine.

I steel myself, a tear trickling down my grimy cheek. My heartbeat echoes in my ears as I hold my breath, waiting for the bomb to drop, almost expecting the blast. I mutter a prayer as I hear the chamber latch open, the missile dropping, but suddenly...

"Sweetheart, dinner's ready."

The book falls out of my hands.

Story 239

Unreal Disbelief

by Alice Hale

You feel sad.

The tears burn your eyes, pricking their corners like tiny knives or barbed wire.

A hazy mist covers your vision. All that is left is colour, there are no more clear shapes.

The scents of salty tears and dark chocolate dance through the air in a waltz of grief. You can still taste the remnants of the delicacy on your tongue. Not unlike your current mental state, it is bitter.

The background noise continues.

When you finally awaken from your daze, the screen is black.

It's over.

You can't believe they killed your favourite character.

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Glynis D
It's my first writing experience on here. I'm completely green about how to do it on a computer, as I usually write by hand. How do I do it as I would live to have ago at this? Thanks.

Chris Fielden
Hi Glynis.  Just type your story into the comments box, like you did your comment :-)

Glynis D
OK, will do. Many thanks.

Ann E
Sounds like fun! One of my writing student just sent me this link. I'll see if I can get them to enter. I'll give it a go too.

Chris Fielden
Fabulous, thanks Ann :-)

Alan B
Hello Chris. Good to see the beginning of another fine challenge. Might have an idea of my own soon.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks Alan. There's a bit of a queue with challenges now (around 12 months) but I'm always open to ideas :-)

Sivan P
Congratulations for introducing the Sensory Writing Challenge. Enjoyed all the interesting stories published so far.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Sivan :-)

Margaret E
Good morning, Chris. It was good to read about your musical success in the USA.

I'm really enjoying reading the other entries up to date. It's wonderful to have an opportunity for deep purple prose.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Margaret - and thanks for submitting :-)

Jerry W
Extremely happy for the well-deserved growth and popularity of your website. Rock on. It matters. Wilson.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jerry :-) Fielden.

Michael R
I put my finger on it and suggest this is not a challenge to be sniffed at. I spotted it on your site before I heard about it. It is very much to my and. it seems, many others sensitive taste.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Michael - a comment that's a sensory story all of its own... :-)

Namita M
Hi Allen and Christopher. Thank you very much  for allowing me to send my writing to this project. It's not only a great opportunity to publish my story, it's a great inspiration and fulfilling to work for the charity.

I hope this enthusiasm will be continued and the people in need will benefit from this project.

With my best wishes and many thanks again. Namita.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for your kind works, Namita.

It’s a pleasure to publish your stories and support some amazing charities.

Thank you for taking part in the challenges - it's very much appreciated :-)

Sandy P
Hi Allen and Christopher. Love the challenges. It does inspire a lot of writers to, 'have a go'. Me for one.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks Sandy. We'll look forward to reading your submission :-)

Elizabeth M
Hope I've managed to submit properly.

This is a great site. Thank you for running it.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Elizabeth :-)

You have indeed - thanks for submitting, your story has now been published above.

Carolyn C
Grace Howard and Charley Swire are already wonderful writers.

Sheila R
Chris, this was so much fun! Your contests and challenges are the best and I look forward to receiving all your emails and newsletters. To Hull And Back is my absolute favorite and I can't wait to see your finalists.  Don't ever stop!

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Sheila!

You'll be pleased to hear that stopping is not in my nature :-)

Jasmine S
Hi There, for challenge entries, do we have to use our full proper name, or can we use our penname? My penname still uses names on my birth certificate, just not my full name.

Thanks, Jaz

Chris Fielden
Hi Jaz. Using a penname is fine. I'll look forward to receiving your story :-)

Jennifer C
I love this idea. In my life overseas I have had many sensory challenges which I can write about. Nairobi was the first in the first challenge - might do a second one, or there's Mauritius in the 1960's followed by Zambia, followed by Hong Kong in the 80's - now, there's a place! Using only 175 words is a challenge in itself!

I must collect my thoughts, make a decision, and WRITE!

Many false starts to come, but such fun to do. Thank you for this opportunity.

Chris Fielden
Well, it sounds like you have a lot of experience to draw on, Jennifer. We'll look forward to receiving your story :-)

Jay B
A story for your sensorially royal collection. May it help raise more funds for the National Literary Trust.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Jay :-)

John R
Hi Chris, thank you so much for including my story – it has given me quite a boost of confidence, as I had no idea whether it was worth including!

Thank you.

Chris Fielden
No problem at all, John, thank you for submitting.

It’s great to hear your feedback. One of the reasons the challenges exist are to boost confidence so writers feel inspired to go on and do better things. Great to hear it’s working!

David M
Hi Chris, I really enjoy these challenges, they're good exercises in editing your own material without (hopefully) losing the pace of the story. My last story's first draft contained 220 words and the second 190 before I hit target. Ah, brevity. I must convert the wife.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, David - really glad to hear that. And thanks for sharing your editing process. I find flash useful for the same reasons as you, and apply the same techniques to my longer works now. If I write a short story of 4,000 words, I often find I can cut out 500 of them and tell the same story at a better pace.

Good luck with your wife conversion. I hope you have a suit of armour handy for when you broach the subject :-)

Eileen B
Thank you, Chris. 2 days ago I would never have thought l could try. But after your free course, I plucked up the courage. A big thank you. You ask for approval to print it - a big yes please.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Eileen :-)

David M
I read all of Volume 2 in one sitting, and have just put a glowing review on Amazon. Special mention to Mike Evis for 'That Perfect Day', I think it's jaw droppingly good. What an ending!    Well done everyone.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much, Dave :-)

Alice H
I only found out about this site a while ago and I've already submitted 4 stories! It's free and the money goes to charity, I'm so glad this exists :)

Chris Fielden
Thank you, Alice :-)