Thursday, July 12, 2007


Four dark tales

I once entered a competition to come up with an original story that was exactly fifty words long, excluding the title*. Sadly, I did not get anywhere, but I reproduce four of my entries below. Try it yourself; it’s fun.

*I've just remembered these 50-word stories are called 'mini-sagas', and were invented by author Brian Aldiss, so credit where it's due.

The Wager

He woke, squinting into the morning sunlight slanting between the blinds, and laughed. A hundred quid was his. One night in this supposedly haunted house and he’d survived unscathed.

He strolled downstairs. As he passed the large mirror in the hall he glanced at his reflection, and began to scream.

Letting Go

Bert was trying to say something, and Enid, weeping silently, leant closer to listen. It sounded as if he were whispering I love you, but it was only the rasping of his tongue across his desiccated lips. No, not his tongue; an insect. She supposed she’d better bury him. Again.

William and the Mushroom

William scrambled down the slope. It was dusk, and normally Mother would be calling him in now for supper. He knelt by the tree and stared at the mushroom, a tiny copy of the enormous mushrooms that had appeared on the horizon last week before everything went ashy and quiet.

The Last Call

This was it, finally. The end. In a few minutes, blissful peace. Suicide: a noble act or the coward’s path? Whatever. It meant nothing to him now.

He lifted the handset and paused. Should he make the call? Yes, said his conscience.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking…’

Delightfully morbid. Me Likey.
Classic Foot Eater - fantastic!
Four delightful shots of podophagous wit, with pedivorous pith as the dominant note. I wouda given you that prize.

Eerily, after I read your four easy pieces, they tasted like Challinor for Blackberry. He's gonna hate me for that, perhaps. But I mean it as a compliment to both of you.

A minor, insolent suggestion: as not much vegetation is likely to grow in the wake of an atomic blast, perhaps the mushroom in the third story could be replaced with a fungiform excrescence on Willie's skin?
I might well hate you if I knew what it meant. I am not some sort of literary Ribena, sir. For one thing, Foot Eater is probably just about capable of buying Ribena, which is not the case with my work. For another, Ribena is flavoured with blackcurrants, not blackberries.
I have no particular desire to massage your ego, but I must say I enjoyed those.
Abominable Snowman

The snowman stood in the moonlit garden. In the house, his young creators dreamed of dragons and dwarfs.

The snowman looked down at his loathsome Hawaiian shirt and gold medallion. It was Abominable alright. His hand tightened around the barbeque fork, his eyes glittering as he glided towards the house.
I'll just fetch me cagoule, shall I. Let's not speak of this again.
Footsie, incredible and brilliant - I wish I had your twisted imagination! More, please.
Oh you're good. Perhaps too good, like Maroon. I'm keeping my eye on you.
I can't believe you didn't win for that last one.

You were robbed, robbed, I tell you!
Isn't anybody else even going to try? Come on, peoples! Am I going to be the only plonker who wasted my valuable/invaluable (whichever is the more valuable) time on this?? All alone in my shameful plonkerhood, I cringe. God, has nobody any pity? Who will stand up? Who will be counted?



Foots, this is your job, surely?
I'm going to try this.
Heh. If Fussfresser's storiettes are properly mini-sagas, then Philip's 50-word replies can only be called mini-polemics, I guess.
Thanks, everyone, and I'll overlook the few snide jibes. This time.

Sam, your mini-saga is excellent, and in the spirit that I took the contest. I reckon most of my stories passed muster except for the subject matter. I ordered the book which included all the shortlisted and winning entries, and realised that they really hadn't been looking for tales of suicide, haunting, nuclear war or exhumation. There were some brilliant entries, though, ranging from the hilarious to the unbelievably, unbearably sad. (If anyone is truly desperate to read this, please let me know and I'll send you my copy, on the understanding that you'll post it back to me within the next five years or so.)

Of the four entries I posted here, the first and third started out as longer short stories I'd started bashing away at; but when I learned of the competition, I realised they'd be more effective as very short pieces. The Wager in its original form followed the protagonist from the original bet, through numerous scary moments which turned out to be red herrings, up until the final, ambiguous revelation. William and the Mushroom started out as a pastiche of the Just William stories with an explicitly 1950s setting, gradually leading to the revelation that William's comforting woodland capers were taking place in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war. This is the only story I've abandoned while writing it because I found it too depressing.

As Sam rightly says, you should all be having a go at this Mini-Saga business. It's enormous fun, highly rewarding, and surprisingly easy once you've got a basic story idea.

How about this for an exercise. You come up with your own Mini-Saga, email it to me, and I'll put all the entries up in a post anonymously. Then people have to guess who wrote each one. Let me know if you think this is a worthwhile endeavour.
Oh, and Desargues: I can't tease you on your own site, since you haven't got one (have I remarked on that before?), but a word to the wise: a statement like they tasted like Challinor goes down (oo-er) rather differently among us savvy British bloggers than it probably does with you naive Yanks, including adopted Yanks. Just a thought.
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