Twenty more excursions into darkness.
There are vampires and mysterious alien invaders. There are mobsters and shut-ins. There are those struggling to come to terms with loss, those nearing the end of their lives, those eager to make their mark on the world. There are conflicting realities and future nightmares. There are bitter lies and painful truths.
Some escape the darkness, others are consumed by it.
Millenary 5, the final (for now) collection of my 1000-word short stories, is now available for free download (click here). And if you want more short stories, the previous four volumes are also still available (and, yes, they’re free too)—click here for more information.
I started this series of short stories way back in 2016, and I’ve finally reached number 100.
This story has been bubbling away for some time. It started, like many stories, from an image that popped into my head—a man covered into tattoos, each one related to an important part of his life. I wasn’t sure what to do with this image, played about with it for a while, and over the last month it became more coherent.
As the 100th story, this is a suitable point to draw a line under this 1000-word story project, and this story feels like a good one to close on.
See what you think. You can read Canvas here. And don’t forget the other 99 stories (click here for the complete list).
One of the first short stories I wrote for this website, way back in 2016, was called A Lesson In Death. That story told of a child witnessing an assassination, not realising the danger to himself as he started asking questions.
I always wondered how this incident impacted on that child as he grew up, and wanted to write a follow-up story. Finally (as we approach a hundred of these stories) I’ve got round to it.
And here it is—after A Lesson In Death we have A Lesson In Life. It also features the main character from The Job, the first story I published on this site.
You can read A Lesson In Life here.
Back when I was teaching, I’d always look for some purpose behind the work, something that would make the learning relevant to the students. Sometimes the only thing I could come up with was that this was part of the syllabus.
But even that was relevant—no matter how wonderful our jobs, no matter how ideal out home lives, there will always be things we need to do that we’re not enthused about. Sometimes, we have to do things simply because they need to be done.
And that’s where this story comes from.
It’s called Always A Reason, and you can read it here.
Writing is a constant learning process.
I recently took part in J Thorn’s Supercharge Your Scene 5-day challenge. Along with the instruction from J, this challenge involved writing a scene (or short story). He presented us with a number of prompts and suggested we pick one in a genre we don’t normally write or read (because stepping outside comfort zones is a great way to learn).
The one that drew my attention was the Western prompt, and the end result is The Hangman. I’m not sure how well it ‘works’ (according to J’s teaching), with much of the ‘action’ left to the imagination, but overall I’m pleased with it. For something that could have become very dark, I think there’s a lot of hope in this story.
You can read The Hangman here.
And, in case you’re interested, this is the prompt, which I used word for word as the opening to the story:
The hangman took down the body from the gallows. It was the third execution Sheriff Sands had ordered this week—three more than all of last year.
This story was another one that started life as an exercise in free-writing (writing whatever came to mind, with no plan). For ages, I wasn’t sure where it was going, and it was only when I returned to it recently that I added the last few lines, then the first few—and the story made some kind of sense.
At least, I think it does.
Decide for yourself. Bugs is free to read here.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Just add a comment after the story.
There’s a classic study from 1972 where children were presented with a small marshmallow. They were offered a choice— eat it straight away or hold off for a short time. If they waited they were rewarded with a large marshmallow. Further studies seemed to indicate that those children who were better able to wait would later perform better in SATS tests, and would ultimately be more ‘successful’ in life.
But it’s not only children who struggle with delayed gratification. Too often, we all want something good straight away, grabbing what we can in the moment. Sometimes it’s hard to take that step back and view each situation subjectively.
This idea rears its head in my latest short story, Payment. It’s also influenced by the Raymond Chandler books I’ve been reading recently (partly as research for a new project I’m working on, and partly because I enjoy his writing).
You can read Payment here. As always, I’d love to hear what you think of it.
Another free story for you. The idea for this one, The Long Way Round, came to me while ironing (strange, the places the mind wanders when plodding along). It’s not as dark as my usual stories, so if you’re looking for a lighter read, this could be just what you’re looking for.
You can read The Long Way Round here. And as a reminder, I have four collections of short stories in ebook form, for those who prefer to read on an e-reader. Click here for links to these books.
Since the start of this year, I’ve been listening to the fiction short-story podcast The Other Stories. The team behind it (Hawk & Cleaver) describe the stories as ‘A modern take on The Twilight Zone, Tales From The Crypt, or The Outer Limits. Sci-Fi, Horror, Thriller, WTF stories’, which is what I aim for with quite a few of my stories.
Their stories are arranged in short seasons, each with a separate theme, and I’ve considered submitting stories a few times. But with everything else I’m working on, I haven’t completed one in time.
I have the start of a few stories, though, and I’ve gone back to one of these, based on the theme of ‘trophy hunters’. That story might have missed the podcast deadline, but you can read the finished Trophy Hunters here.
And if listening to a new creepy short story each week appeals, check out The Other Stories.
I don’t want to say much about this story. It’s obviously influenced by things that are happening in the world at the moment (although the idea came to me while watching Opeth’s Universal Truth video), and it’s more of a viginette than a short story.
You can read In The Dark here.