Thinking of entering the 100-word-story competition? Find inspiration from these tiny tales written exclusively for Reader's Digest. With new stories added weekly.

Ice-Cream Man by Emma Fraser

The ice-cream man pumps the pedals of his bicycle. His chest hurts and his legs ache. But he is 60—the same age as Mandela. At least he is free. Africa’s son grows old in prison.

The tinkle of his bell brings the white child outside. As always she is barefoot, her blond hair uncombed, her pale arms covered in bruises. He opens the box welded to the front of his bicycle and a steam of dry ice escapes. He holds out an ice lolly. It is all he can do for her. She takes it. Tastes it. And smiles.

 

Survival Instinct by Lucinda Riley

As the yellow rises, I fly down to find food for my children. Landing, I am assaulted by earth-shattering noises and bright, burning orange. A choking white fills me and I drop the worm I have just caught back into the brown. A human being falls next to me, calling for its mother. Red is pouring from its heart.

I search for the dark predator, but there are only other humans nearby. I wish to comfort, but I do not know how. 

I must do the only thing I can: I open my beak wide and sing him into the light.

 

Mary Berry by Michele Gorman

Buttercream runs in Sarah’s veins. She baked her own cakes at six. All thanks to Mum. She fantasizes about Mary Berry tasting her sponge. “Excellent,” Mary always says. “Can we be friends?” 

But this isn’t pretend. The Bake Off tent swelters as the cameras zoom in. Paul Hollywood calls her forward.

“Mum’s Morning Muffins,” she whispers. She wants to run away. It’s the most sick-feeling moment of her life. Since the funeral anyway.

“Perfect,” he finally says. “Your mum would have been proud.”

Sarah beams. Mum would be proud. That’s the real prize. Sometimes reality is even better than dreams.

 

The Wardrobe by Paul Finch

“Darren,” Sue whispered, “There’s someone in the wardrobe.”

“Go back to sleep,” he muttered. Her nervousness at night had always irritated him.

“No. We must check. That lunatic who escaped from the asylum…”

Grumpily, he climbed from the bed and fumbled his way across the darkened room. “For God’s sake, put the light on,” he said over his shoulder.

The bedside lamp came on as Darren yanked the wardrobe open—and choked in horror. Sue stood facing him, propped against the compartment’s wooden back, throat slit.

“Is it anyone we know, darling?” came a sing-song voice from the bed. 

 

The Hungry Mutt by Amanda Brooke

“He looks hungry, Mum.”

“Ignore him and keep walking,” Helen says, tugging her daughter’s hand.

The dog follows, overgrown claws scraping the pavement as it quickens its pace to keep up. A wet nose touches the back of Helen’s knee, then a head squeezes in the
gap between them. Brown, doleful eyes look up, pleading.

Stopping at the kerb, Helen keeps one eye on the bedraggled mutt. When she tries to move, it barks and quickly blocks her path. There’s a flash of crimson as a bus speeds past.

Helen gasps, then turns to her new friend. “Come on, boy.”

 

12 Months by Julian Barnes

In January they met.

By February he was beginning to doubt they were suited.

In March she became pregnant.

All April and May they discussed the matter.

In June she decided to have the baby.

In July he persuaded himself that he had always wanted a child.

Throughout August all was quiet.

In September he offered to give up his job as her career was more important to her than his was to him.

In October she accepted and he became a househusband.

By November she was beginning to doubt that they were suited.

In December the child was born.

 

The Speech by Cecelia Ahern

Adam was aware of how nervous he sounded, and of how his heart had lost its usual rhythm.

“Susan.” He swallowed. “I love you. I’ve loved you since the moment we met. I know you’re getting married in two hours and I know it’s bad timing.”

He smiled, sadly.

“Understatement of the year. But I just had to tell you—I love you so much, and I always will.”

His face was hopeful, sincere, showed love and heartbreak, all at the same time. Then he looked away from the mirror. One of these days he’d tell her.

Not today.

 

Heart Attack by Anthony Horowitz

Gary Blake had sold secondhand cars all his life, some of them nice little motors, others…well, that was the game, wasn’t it? And here he was, on his back in the operating theatre, in need of a heart transplant. Who’d have thought it? He would quit smoking. Drink less. Lay off the white powder. He promised himself.

The surgeon leaned over him. “Nice to see you again, Mr Blake.” When had they met before? “I’ve got a perfect heart for you. Only one owner. Ticking over nicely. A real bargain…”

Gary felt the touch of the scalpel and screamed.

 

Future Plans by Maeve Haran

He had planned his whole life on the back of an envelope. She didn’t possess a pen let alone a lifeplan. She was a free spirit. She went with the flow. Love picked him like a tornado and swept him in her wake.

After ten years she demanded a divorce. She needed certainty in her life, the security of knowing her future. He had learned to live from day to day. It irritated the hell out of her.

“We always kill the thing we love,” she told him blithely as he got out the kitchen knife.

She hadn’t meant herself.

 

Murder Mystery by Jonathan Coe

Some detectives charge a fixed fee. Findlay Onyx charged by the hour.

Arriving at Dunstable Towers, he found that Lord Dunstable had been stabbed in the library. Lady Dunstable had been shot through the heart on the croquet lawn. Agnes, the maid, was poisoned in the parlour. Gardener Stubbs had been bludgeoned in the hollyhocks with a blunt instrument.

Meanwhile Hamilton, the butler, was sitting in the kitchen, smoking a reflective cheroot, his clothes bloodsoaked and a dagger, revolver, half empty arsenic bottle and garden rake laid on the table before him.

“Now let’s not jump to conclusions,” said Findlay, warily.

 

The Missing Limb by Josephine Cox

Soon after his father’s untimely death, Alfie was badly injured in a car crash. When doctors amputated his right leg, Alfie lost the will to live.

His mother pleaded, “Through all his trials, your dad never gave up. Fight on, Alfie.”

Using the artificial leg proved difficult. Alfie believed his life was over. “What woman would want me now?”

Through the window, the warm breeze touched his face. “You can do it,” his father whispered. “You’ll be fine, my son.”

With Nurse Mary’s dedication, Alfie struggled on. Later, standing at the altar with Mary, he whispered,

“Thanks, Dad. Love you.”

 

Jack Frost by Daisy Meadows

The snow was falling on Christmas Eve. In Fairyland, the Rainbow Magic fairies were enjoying a ball. But someone was missing—Jack Frost. Even though he could be mean, the kind fairies knew that Christmas was a time for friendship and forgiveness. Holly the Christmas Fairy waved her wand and whispered,

“Merry Christmas one and all, Jack Frost you will come to the ball!” The Ice Lord appeared with his goblin gang. The naughty creatures were so pleased to be away from their lonely castle that they behaved almost perfectly, and Jack Frost wished everyone a very merry, frosty Christmas!

 

Nothing to Lose by Tania Carver

He stood over the bodies. Knife in hand. He’d done it. Killed his hateful neighbours after years of harassment and abuse. He felt wonderful. He had nothing to live for. Nothing to lose.

The tests had come back positive. Cancer. Inoperable. Terminal.

“Time to get your house in order,” the doctor had said.

He had. His phone rang. He answered. His wife.

“Darling,” she said, “Wonderful news. There’s been a mix-up. You got the wrong results. Irritable bowel syndrome. Isn’t that fantastic?”

He dropped the knife. Sank to the floor. Ready to face the worst sentence of all. Life.

 

Unique by Jeffrey Archer

Paris, March 14, 1921. The collector relit his cigar, picked up the magnifying glass, and studied the triangular 1874 Cape of Good Hope.

“I did warn you there were two,” said the dealer, “so yours is not unique.”

“How much?”

“Ten thousand francs.”

The collector wrote out a cheque, before taking a puff on his cigar, but it was no longer alight. He picked up a match, struck it, and set light to the stamp. The dealer stared in disbelief as the stamp went up in smoke. The collector smiled.

“You were wrong, my friend,” he said, “mine is unique.”

 

Charlie Higson

Bored of doing evil, the devil went on holiday. Sitting on the beach he noticed God on the towel next to him, slapping on sun cream.

“Are you on holiday, too?” God asked. “Brilliant, isn’t it?”

That night they got drunk together and found they had a lot in common.

After two weeks they went home, but the devil discovered he’d been locked out of hell.

He texted God who told him he’d found a note from mankind pinned to the pearly gates.

“They reckon they can get along perfectly well without us,” he said. “So I’ll see you back on the beach.”

 

Fiona Gibson

Our twin daughters are leaving home. “You’ll be devastated,” my friend Sarah remarks. “To go from the four of you to just to you two…”

“I know,” I reply, glancing at my husband Jim. 

“It’ll be horribly quiet,” she adds. “You’ll wonder what to do with yourselves…”

She’s right, of course: for 19 years our lives have revolved around our girls. The final week passes, music blaring from their bedrooms, spilt breakfast cereal left in their wake. They leave, and I open the fridge to discover chilled champagne. We find each other again, happily and gratefully, after all these years.

 

Stuart Evers

Henry Stimson is thinking of his honeymoon. The low-lying sun over the Kamo River; pale stucco pagodas, their interiors cool and silent; cyclists, shaded by parasols, weaving alongside an electric railway. He and Mabel ate the finest meal of their lives there, just after watching a baseball game. It was, he thinks, the most perfect time of his life. 

“We’re going to need a decision, Mr War Secretary,” the General says.

Stimson thinks of his wife under mosquito nets, her face so close to his.

“Not Kyoto,” he says. “Somewhere else.”

“Nagasaki?” the General says.

“Yes,” Stimson says. “Yes. Nagasaki.”

 

 

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