• Ian

100 word stories

Updated: 2 days ago

Writing a story with exactly 100 words in is a challenge that local radio station, Colne Radio (https://colneradio.com/) have set as part of one of their programmes - Bill's Big Bag of Onions. A challenge - because it must be exactly 100 words and writing any short story using a limited number of words is quite tricky - but great fun.

I've been lucky to have had quite a few of my stories read out on the programme. You can listen to these in my media section of the website or take your time and have a read of the full set below.

The ones near the bottom are by my mum, Gladys.


The boy watched the silhouette approach, growing in size and menace. Behind it, the evening sunlight skipped across the lake, tiny explosions of glitter. It was stunning; a stark contrast to the horror that was about to unfold.

The slaves had carried their masters' cargo for weeks, along animal tracks, across rivers, up steep mountains. But the food had run out and their captors were hungry. The silhouette would decide who would be their next meal.

They huddled together while the boy covered his face with his arm.

He heard sighs of relief all around him.

The silhouette had chosen.

Happy Valentine's Day, Mr President

‘Mr Guiliani, he’s on his phone again.’


‘Not tweeting. Wait...he’s accessing the nuclear launch codes!’

‘He’ll never get in.’

‘He might. They’re changed; he wanted easier to remember security questions.’

‘Who changed them?’

‘The defence secretary.’

‘Which one? Forget that – no time to go through them all. We must stop him! Hack into his phone.’

‘Too late, he’s started. Address... Oval Office... Favourite body part... hair... ‘

‘Lemmie see that! Memorable name... Stormy. Memorable phrase... Be My Valentine. All he has to do now is press the red button and...!’



‘Orange button.’

‘He changed that too? Unbelieva...’

A History Lesson

Colchester is full of history. There is a plaque in town of the ‘Crouched Friars’, so called because this religious sect adopted the ‘knees bent’ rather than the more painful ‘stooped’ position method when frying their food.

And did you know that history was discovered in the late 1990s by the first ever historian, Luke Bach-Woods? During an architectural dig under Colchester Castle, he discovered an ancient tomb full of history books with dates and events, neatly set out for children to learn, most of which are still forgotten today.

Fake history, of course, was around long before fake news.

Castles in the Air

It’s a little known fact that castles were often built far away. This was to make them look smaller than they actually were.

Attackers would approach the castle in question, confident its size was no threat. By the time they realised it was massive, it was too late and the castle guard would be upon them, shouting, ‘Fooled you!’

Colchester Castle is one of the few that were built close by. Historians claim this is either because the Normans believed its thick walls were impregnable or, more likely, that they wanted to be handy for the bus station and Keddies.

The High-life

‘Women are too good for you,’ your mother snarled.

Her nastiness tipped you over the edge, pushing you to tip her over the edge, twenty floors up.

Time to prove her wrong.

‘No strings attached,’ you tell your dates. But killing proves habitual. They perish, pushed from on high. No strings attached? They wish there had been.

You get cocky. The next that falls for you, will fall for you from the top of the Shard.

You meet... you are smitten.

Until she tips you over the edge.

Your mother was right: women are too good for you.

The Detective

A clatter of the letter box. A hurried, scribbled note:

life in danger churchyard dawn

It’s ten to midnight. Five hours till dawn. Time enough to solve this conundrum. I trawl the missing person’s sections of the press. Phone my contacts in NYPD. Run forensics over the note.

Nothing. Dammit!

30 minutes till dawn. Time to catch the killer before he strikes. I head for the churchyard.

But too late. NYPD on scene. A body. I reread my note: life in danger churchyard dawn

I check the doctor’s report.

Time of death: Midnight

Name: Dawn

Cause of death: Poor punctuation.

A Storm in a Teacup

13th century Saint, Tetley of Wivenhoe, charged fishermen for predicting storms using teacups and seagulls. If seagulls ignored the tea, it was safe for fishermen to go to sea. If seagulls added milk and two sugars to the tea, it meant a storm was brewing. Only after the last fishing boat in Essex sunk during a squall off Mersea, did fishermen realise it was a big con.

The saint said it was a huge fuss about nothing, but couldn’t think of a pithy phrase to express himself so was executed in 1247.

More tales on seabirds and gullibility next week.

The Awards Ceremony

An expectant buzz in the audience, anticipation is high.

Two strong contenders.

Two massive egos.

One coveted prize.

Glory for the winner.

Side by side they sit, thoughts bombard their brains:

‘I’ve got this.’

‘He has no chance.’

‘Her work is sloppy.’

‘He’s so lazy.’

‘She doesn’t deserve it.’

‘No talent at all.’

Sideway glances, false smiles. ‘I love your work,’ he says.

‘And I love yours,’ she replies.

‘You’re very kind.’

‘So are you.’

‘Good luck,’ they say together.

Finally... The noise dies down. Then, a hush.

The result is in...

‘And year 3’s Star of the Week is...’

The 100 word story challenge

Pressure’s on. One hundred words, not a single one more, not a single one less. How to tell a story in so few words – where to start, where to end? No room for a middle, surely?

My eyes flick to the word count. Forty-four already, excluding the title! Panic-stricken, I read back. Over halfway, the story not even started!

The task just got harder.

Then, a gift! Hyphenated words count as one.

Dare I?

Go on. No one will notice.

I can’t!

So few words left.

No choice... hyphenate!


Cheat! No hyphens.

Only six words left.

Two now.

... None.

Gutter Pain

He leans out the window and watches water splurge over the side of the gutter, the house drowning in its own tears. Another blockage. More money down the drain. It’s too high for him to fix that one. In the garden, the shed is crying in sympathy. Still, a much more accessible gutter, a stepladder job well within his DIY capabilities. It’s forming quite the puddle, upset by neglect in recent times. 4 solid legs; 4 steps up, a failed adjustment; a wobble, a grab, 4 steps down... the hard way. Cut, battered and bruised – more tears.

That’s gutter hurt.

Story Inspiration

Story writing is tricky. I look for inspiration around me, like the photo I took of a swan staring at its reflection in the water. There’s a story, I thought.

I jotted down random questions to help build a plot.

Had it been told to get out of town recently?

What did it do all through the wintertime?

Was it ashamed to show its face in fear of what others might say?

What happened to the stubby brown feathers?

If you have a photo, maybe 3 bears eating porridge or a wolf blowing down houses, try my method. It works!

Sam Saves Christmas

Uncle Colin – boastful, brash, serial liar – was in full flow. ‘The day I saved Christmas’– a story of driving 10,000 miles around Europe delivering toys to the poor.

Lies! He couldn’t drive, hadn’t been further than Calais and always spent Christmas week in his local.

Sam had had enough. ‘£50 says you can’t eat a sprout.’

A gasp around the table – no one had ever eaten one of Aunty Pauline’s sprouts.

‘Fifty quid? Okay!’

They watched in silence. Sprout to mouth. Swallow... Pause... End of Uncle Colin.

‘Sorry, Aunty Pauline!’ Sam said solemnly.

‘That’s alright. Can I keep his fifty?’

Horsing around

‘Ian – no horsey jokes or else!’ read an email recently from someone trying to stirrup trouble. Some unstable correspondent, no doubt.

Furlong time now, I’ve wanted to prove the saddle folks - the neighsayers - that my knowledge of horsey-colt-ure is as good as anyone’s. In the mane, I’m never one to shire way from a challenge. But I’ll not trot out anything, de-canter load of tired horse jokes.

I’m no foal.

I’m filly committed to this... under starter’s orders...

Wait - just in! Another request-re-Ian... You’re such a nag!

You want me to stop? You sure?

Yes, Horseshoe do.

They Know Me There

‘They know me there,’ my Nan used to boast after every appointment or shop visit. Our responses? Bet they do! With flame-coloured hair, a physique and temperament built to withstand air raids, Ivy was unforgettable. She could laugh at herself though. Like the time she stopped at her dentists, hoping they could deal with a troublesome tooth. The man suggested a follow-up.

Grateful, she arrived a few days later to be told that it hadn’t been a dentist for over 6 years.

‘Wouldn’t mind,’ she recounted, ‘but the cheeky beggar I’d seen spent 5 minutes looking inside my bleedin’ mouth!’

The Wee Small Hours

For me, after midnight is called the ‘wee small hours’ for good reason. My bladder never sleeps, though other monsters awaken me too. The smoke alarm beeps – like its owner, in need of new batteries. Outside, the security light flashes while foxes frolic. The plumbing – trapped air in pipes – gurgles, splutters, whines. I should change my diet. A by-product of sleeping – snoring – rouses me. How ironic! How cruel. Doors bang as the bathroom entices others, and I’m up again... we cross... ships that piss in the night.

The good news? I’m well on my way to 10,000 steps before dawn.

Kids Today

“I want to use today’s lesson to recap on the grammar terms we’ve learnt so far. Let’s start with the basics: what’s a prepositional phrase?... No?... Okay, let’s break it down. What’s a preposition?... A phrase?... You can’t remember... Never mind. Let’s move on... Write a sentence with a main clause and a subordinate clause... Yes, of course there’s a difference... No, you can’t go to the toilet... Rewrite this sentence using the passive voice... yes... passive. Come on, we did this yesterday!

Right, that’s it! If this remote learning’s going to work, you need to learn this stuff... Dad.”

Billy's Roots

Poor Elsie couldn’t cope after her beloved died of pleurisy. A seamstress, she left for the States to work, leaving baby Billy in Cork with great Aunt Tess and Uncle Jack. For five years, childless, they worshiped Billy, loved and cherished him - hid him when Elsie returned to whisk him Stateside. Fought for him. Gave him up, devastated, when the courts decreed.

Elsie? Had her happiness... at last.

Tess and Jack? Had theirs... before it disappeared.

Billy? Seasickness for 5 days and a lifetime in the Land of Opportunity.

But he had his roots in the Emerald Isle... forever.

Story Inspiration

Story writing is tricky. I look for inspiration around me, like the photo I took of a swan staring at its reflection in the water. There’s a story, I thought.

I jotted down random questions to help build a plot.

Had it been told to get out of town recently?

What did it do all through the wintertime?

Was it ashamed to show its face in fear of what others might say?

What happened to the stubby brown feathers?

If you have a photo, maybe 3 bears eating porridge or a wolf blowing down houses, try my method. It works!

The Horse that doesn’t Rock

In my attic, tucked away under a dusty cloth, is my old rocking horse. Brought into this world by a Victorian, she’s a long way past her best. Her dazzling trappings are fading away, the once flowing white mane is straggly and grey, her markings haggard and worn. Abandoned and lacking sunlight, she’s no longer saddled with great expectations – the Miss Havisham of the equestrian world. Yet there’s hope, for she shares my dark attic with others, discarded and unloved – my collection of 70s LPs. And just like Showwaddywaddy and Elvis, the horse that doesn’t rock, might well rock again.

The New Norma

When it’s over, Norma says we shall wear pyjama bottoms outside. Toilet paper will replace Bitcoin. We shall spontaneously jump sideways into the road. The letter ‘R’ will be a letter again and not a number.

‘Hello’ will be replaced by ‘you’re-on-mute’. When we meet in person, we shall lean forward, peer quizzically, smile broadly and wave enthusiastically in each other’s faces. Amazon parcels will again be left in bins or behind gates. We won’t sing happy birthday without washing our hands. We shall no longer bake, garden or exercise.

This is Norma. She is new and we will follow.

Dark Shoal

When I close my eyes, I see coloured dots. They stream in from the left or right, flowing across my private world, like a shoal of fish. Tiny individual specks of life, swooping and sweeping as one. Sometimes they change direction mid-flow, but they always find a way out, up or down. I used to wonder where they went to. Now I don’t.

Phosphenes, the scientists call them– electrical charges. You get them when you sneeze or stand up too quickly.

Except mine aren’t phosphenes. Mine are the stars. I’ve seen the future and there’s bad news they’re all leaving...

The Lockdown, the Walks, and the Wardrobe

Every morning during lockdown, my 80-year-old mum walked, wearing outfits from her imaginary wardrobe. Friends, family awaited the emails. What would she pick that day? Who would she be? Winston, Batman, Cleopatra? Flatfooted, moustached cane twirling; puffing a huge cigar with fingers in a V? Her curtains a dress now, alive with the sound of music; number six on her back, the world cup aloft perhaps? Parrot squawking on her shoulder, small steps round the house, giant leaps for womankind.

Crowned, booted, bejewelled – a Dalek in a wig? A masked crusader – a superhero in lockdown... with underpants over her tights.

Saturday Morning Pictures by Gladys Hornett

The highlight of the week was Saturday morning pictures. No TV. back then. Cinema was jam-packed with children. Only adults were the grumpy manager and long suffering usherettes. Noise from the audience was louder than the films! Shouts, whistles, groans if the hero showed sentiment. Films were Cowboys and Indians, a couple of cartoons and, of course, the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin. Sweets were on rationing so no food or drink. This was our entertainment. We were always amazed to emerge and find it light outside. And then we played Cowboys and Indians all the way home.

The Message By Gladys Hornett

At last! The message I’d been waiting for.

Just a time and place... but I knew it was from THEM.

I contacted the rest of the group - no one had heard. I was the first!

Only 3 days - excited, fearful, but I knew it was right.

So many questions: Exact location? Who was in charge? How would they recognise me?

The big day. Bang on time, I arrived. The masked man directed me to the back of the building. More people in masks, eyes visible, tense, muffled voices.

More waiting.

Until finally...

A jab!

My vaccine for covid19!

Waiting by Gladys Hornett

I knew I could do it! The weeks of waiting, wondering, would I fail at the last minute? Now all the formalities have been done and I’m through. There’s no turning back now. I have to sit and wait, watching the clock, surrounded by a milling crowd of unknown faces, trying to calm myself until I am called. Hands clenched tight, sweating, and, at last, I make my way to the queue and then on up the stairs to my seat. I did it! I’m on the plane... but you are not there to soothe me and hold my hand.

Daddy Claus by Gladys Hornett

“Miss... Andrew said there’s no Father Christmas,” said Daniel.

My class of 6 year olds suddenly went quiet.

”Who told you that?” called Michelle.

“My mum,” replied Andrew. 30 pairs of eyes gazed up at me.

My dilemma? Andrews parents always believed in telling him the truth - how could I disagree with them? But, conversely, how could I face the disappointment of 29 children ... and their parents?

Then Daniel said, “Who brings us our presents then?”

“It’s your dad,” replied Andrew.

“Don’t be daft, Andrew. How could my dad get all round the world in just one night?”

Hugs by Gladys Hornett

At 7.45pm, the bell would ring. I’d leave my wife to line up outside the nursery window, with other new fathers, waiting to see our new born children. “Name?” A tiny bundle, face scarcely visible – presented at the window. That was it for ten days our wives were in hospital after giving birth. No holding, cuddling, cooing. That came later. As that baby grew from a child to a woman, there were tears, laughter... but always hugs.

Covid, and now I am on the other side of the window. Wheeled – presented – to my grown-up baby. Full circle to no hugs.

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© 2019 by Ian Hornett

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