Welcome to 81words

How short is a story?

The challenge is to write a complete story in exactly 81 words.
You can see how other people have done and rank their stories. Can you do better?

Why 81? It’s just long enough to allow for a story to develop but short enough to mean every single word needs thoughtful weighing. Mostly though it’s just a nice number, ask a mathematician.

Scroll down to read stories, or register / log in to vote and submit your own stories.


“Come on, Max,” Jesse said. “Don’t be a pussy.”

He stood feet from the train, his hair whirling as the wind whipped through it.

“You see?” he yelled over the thunder of the steel giant. “There’s nothing to it.”

There was nothing worse than being called a pussy by your best friend. Getting run over by a train might be, technically, but at least death would be proof of bravery and lessen the sting of any rebuke.

So I got closer.

Last words

The doctor said the infection would overcome her, but I am not sure I believed it. He said not to tell her.

A week later I sat quietly in a room that smelled too clean, while my friend was told “tomorrow we remove the oxygen, before then we will administer Valium and morphine to relax you, I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.”

My friend replied “I fought so hard, I really did.” – That was when I broke inside.


The air is frozen lace on my skin, delicate and cold, like winter waves on sallow sand. The sky is washed with grey, watery light illuminating thin patches to brilliance. In some moments I am watching my boots over the frozen sidewalk, perfect concrete slabs, flat and square, and in others transfixed to the interplay of cloud and sun above. My mind was intrigued by the glistening snow that drizzled down my dark hair and i knew winter was finally here.

First Snow

Midwinter. Forest. The beaten path to the heart of nowhere. And, most important, never. Nevertheless. She bathed in the frozen lake under the light of a thousand stars. She swam quietly. There was a delicate sense of immortality floating on the silent mirror of the dark and complacent water. Her pale bluish skin didn’t seem out of place anymore; it was part of the aloof season of frost and red berries. Her heart belonged wherever this wintertide would come to rest.

An Innocent Man

At 15:28pm on Thursday 17th July, Dr. Henry Muller remembered too late. ‘I’ve left the Thompson records on your desk Henry, if you want to take one last look before tomorrow. You may want to double-check the dates again. I’ll meet you in the lobby at 8.00am. Don’t be late.’ Muller felt irritated. He was tired. ‘I’ve read every darn page of those records until my eyes burned holes in the paper. The dates are correct Simon. Scott’s an innocent man.’

Who is There

I felt uneasy, jumpy even. I couldn’t explain it. I walked this road every day, always alone, why was I suddenly afraid? Inside the safety of my home I turned the key locking the door, my heart beating as if I had been chased. A breeze blew in the hallway, entering the room I found the window ajar, I closed it and walked back to the kitchen. I heard the key being taken from the front door lock. I lived alone.

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