SHORTLIST PART 2: Your 99-word stories featured!

Last month in our weekly newsletter, we asked our readers to write us a story of no more than 99 words (not including optional title). Each story had to begin with the words “It hadn’t always been blue” and contain three other words: “clock”, “crisp” and “cuff”. Beyond this brief, it was up to the imagination and skill of the writer.

From the hundreds of stories we received, we’ve been featuring just some of the ones that caught our eye. Last week was part 1, and please enjoy comparing the stories from this week’s collection – presented in no particular order and naturally subjective (as all creative things are).

Anne Tavares:
It hadn't always been blue. The planet I surveyed had once been as dead as old Earth's moon, the sky space-black. The terraforming meant we could have a new life on a new Earth. The space suit was a precaution – unnecessary. I removed my helmet to breathe the crisp clean air, undid the cuff of my space glove so I could touch the soil of this new world with my bare fingers. I felt a tremor of excitement. The first colonist to stand on New Earth, a woman. I checked the atomic clock, noted the time for posterity.


Ian David Robertson:
It hadn't always been blue; the original Tardis was gloss scarlet with ‘Royal Mail' written across its doors. The true, original ‘Doctor' was played by a Shakespearean dandy with a crisp accent and an annoying, off-the-cuff manner that prompted him to stray from the script and rant vehemently, as many of the Bards cutting insults he could remember.

The project was subsequently abandoned before production. The time travelling, intergalactic Postman never even got a chance to clock-on and deliver his first letter to some unsuspecting and highly surprised historical figure.

Episode one would have been, ‘Noah's First Water Bill.'


Abbey H.:
The Old Sky

It hadn't always been blue. After the wars, when the doomsday clock ticked down to midnight, the sky was black and impenetrable. In the months following, even in their orange visibility crafts, losing visual meant being lost forever in that dark, silent curtain.

Now it had cleared to a watery blue, and most of what was left was airborne. It clung to their collars and the cuff of their crisp uniforms, making them look like cartoon jailbirds.

“Ash from Site 7,” said Officer Wilkes.

Officer Jones noted it on her clipboard. Privately, she thought, We made it angry.


Pat Treleaven:
A Breakfast to Die For

It hadn't always been blueberries and organic yoghurt.

It used to be bacon fried to a succulent crisp, with scrambled or fried eggs on lightly toasted white bread with lashings of butter. Maybe some extra toast with a spread of strawberry jam or sun kissed honey. A breakfast you could set your clock by. Yum!

As the heart specialist removed the blood pressure cuff I saw the glint in her eye. I knew it would be the heart attack/cholesterol/obesity talk. I was right. So it's been goodbye fried and fatty- hello organic and healthy. Sigh.


Marcia Tomaras:
It hadn’t always been blue and dark, my world. It had been bright, joyful and colourful. Him and I and our love.

Then it shattered. Shards of glass stabbed and spiked viciously. A million pieces of darkness.

The interminable beeping of life support seeped horrifically at our future.

The clock relentlessly crisp and efficient through solitary nights.

Then –
a flicker of movement on the cuff of my sleeve. Eyelashes blinking and a blue gaze crashing into mine. Recognition.

A slight smile curving a corner of his mouth. The tube irrelevant.

Darkness shifted, and fractured into brilliant joy.


Paul Buckley:
Colourful Language

It hadn't always been blue. When the dinner party began, the air in the room all coloured with clean, crisp laughter and witty repartee, but as the clock ticked onwards and the wine flowed freely then an off the cuff comment changed everything. The language now colouring the room to a dark shade of blue. Moments earlier these friends shared laughter while sitting side-by-side now standing nose-to-nose each trading insults and virtual blows. Tomorrow painted in hangover grey texts, tweets and posts will be exchanged to rebuild the friendship, well at least until the next soiree.


Alison Glynn-Baker:
It hadn't always been blue, this bruise. Last week it was a red welt. He knocked her to the ground in the market square, at the foot of the clock tower. You my girl (grinding her face with his boot into a damp cobble). I cuff ya when I like.

A quiet policeman found her. He snapped a crisp handkerchief from his coat pocket and pressed it to her cheekbone. Then made notes in a tatty grey pad.

It stung then. But disappearing stitches have given way to a gradual change of colour. Tomorrow, light yellow. Like a dawn.


Karen Martin:
It hadn't always been blue, this sense of humour of hers. We children, of course, loved our new version Granny and relished in each new story she told. Mother did not. In fairness to Mother though, she had just found Grandmother's new handbag stuffed into the oven and burnt to a crisp.

Picking at my cuff trying to stifle my laughter, I caught a glimpse of Granny, grab her little clock and hurl it through the air. As I ducked to dodge the potential blow I thought to myself, it's true… time does fly when you are having fun.


Amanda Bower:
It hadn't always been blue. The new owners had obviously painted the house in an attempt to disguise it. Perhaps they had also renovated the inside, intent on purging the painful history that dwelled within. He sat in the car; watching, remembering. He pulled at his cuff awkwardly, nervous about his wife's response to the story he'd just told. She glanced at the clock and wondered how soon was appropriate to ask if they could leave. And as the sun set and the air became crisp with autumn coolness, he wondered if their future would survive his past.


Tamsin Stanford:
It hadn't always been blue. It started like any other part of her body: pale pink, gently freckled with fine hairs.

Her first mistake had been glancing at the clock as he walked through the door. Keeping tabs, was she? Who the HELL did she think she was?

The second had been letting her eyes wander to the pink smudge on his crisp, white collar.

Five days on she was still reeling from the stinging cuff against her head, her shoulders.

Hot tears fell as she gently rubbed the flesh where blue was morphing into purples and yellows.


Baśka Bartsch:
A Pair of Blue Eyes

It hadn't always been blue, but as she reflected in that pair of blue eyes, the clock began its final revolution. A cuff brought her back into reality.

The eyes' owner asked in crisp tones, “Yes or no?” Its eyes changed, amber now, the predator emerging.

She viewed others marching forwards; if its eyes had stayed an innocent blue, she would have marched too.

“No.” The illusion of choice disappeared as she was bundled away. Transmutation into artificial intelligence, or, what? Would she remember her humanity? She made a promise to herself; she would die fighting to keep it.


Michelle Lauder:
It hadn't always been blue, Grandma's hair. Before the clock ticked through so many days, she was proud of her thick, dark brown hair worn in a long, sturdy braid. Grandma showed me a photo of herself as a young woman, smiling, slim and standing tall, in a crisp dress, with a pretty gold bracelet against her tanned skin. She looked so different from the woman sitting before me in her ageing floral armchair, although her eyes still sparkled and as she held up the photo, the cuff of her blouse slid back, revealing the same gold bracelet.

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