31 Best and Most Famous Short Stories Of All Time
Not many things in life can beat the feeling of reading a great short story. Through short stories, we get a lot of the satisfaction of reading a great book without having to carve out time in our busy schedules. Short stories are great for that purpose and easy to fit in between homework assignments, work meetings, chores, or anything on your to-do list. Most of these stories are very short stories and can be finished within minutes.
Short stories tend to come with the typical elements of a great novel including great characters, beginnings, middles, and ends. Quality short stories tend to accomplish a lot and take readers on emotional roller coasters in the time it takes you to order a coffee. To get you to build trust in the character and take readers for an emotional spin in such a short time span is tough, and that’s what separates the best, high quality short stories from mediocre ones.
A well-written short story can really do wonders. Here, we’ve collected some of the best and most famous short stories that you need to read. Most of these you can read directly from your mobile phone. Many of these stories take you for an emotional ride.
This list of short stories will include both classic short stories and popular online stories. Here are snippets of each with links to read the entire story.
If you’re looking for more great short stories, you should also look at sites like Commaful, which are dedicated communities for students, writers, authors, and others to share short stories.
1. The Mountain
My mother said that out of all five of her children
I was the easiest baby
I think what she meant was that I hardly cried,
And was generally asleep
Which I guess was a good thing, for her
As the fourth of five she had a lot to deal with before she could get to me
So I made it easier for her
I kept doing it as I grew up
If one of my siblings dropped their ice cream,
I’d give them mine so they’d stop making a scene
When someone had to sit in a middle seat
You can bet that’s where my car seat would be strapped
In fifth grade, when Clara Gomez stole my cookie from my lunch box
I just shrugged, and ate my carrot sticks
My nickname was “montañita”, little mountain
Because I was never moved, never bothered, always calm
In seventh grade, I broke my leg
But I didn’t tell anyone for three days
I just gritted my teeth and hopped along
Until my father found me crying on the bathroom floor
He took me to the hospital, and bought me a cast we couldn’t afford
And when the kids at school called me a cripple
Well, you can guess what I did
In high school, my little sister Sofia was getting picked on by some boys
I pretended I didn’t see it happen
But that night, I switched out her too-small uniform skirt for mine
She stopped getting teased,
And I wore pants for the rest of the year
When my college Algebra professor lost my test and made me retake it, I just nodded and did it
When I got catcalled walking across campus,
I just looked down at the ground
The first day you came up to me and offered to buy me coffee
I was sure you were making fun of me too
So I stayed quiet
Eventually, you flashed me that blinding smile and told me, “Guess I’ll take that as a yes, then.”
I think I said about three words to you that first day
But I gave you my number
And answered when you called
2. “The Flints of Memory Lane” by Neil Gaiman
The entire Neil Gaiman collection of short stories is really well done. I can’t share the story here because it’s still copyrighted, so you’ll have to get the book to read it. This particular is my favorite of the collection.
The rain was falling heavily. It was like driving through a thick curtain of water. He eased off the accelerator a little. Had to be careful driving on wild nights like these.
The last thing you’d want is to have an accident or breakdown. You just want to be at home on these stormy nights. The thwack-thwack of the windscreen wipers was hypnotic.
He stared out into the glow of the headlights. The rain sounded like white noise interference as it battered the car. He was reminded of the opening scenes of a Hitchcock film.
Through the wash of the rain he spotted a figure at the side of the road. The person wore a green parka and had their thumb jerked out.
Why on earth would anyone be hitchhiking tonight? Surely you would just stay put until the morning. They must have been in a rush to get where they were going.
He signalled down and pulled over. The hitchhiker climbed in. He shut the door quickly, glad to be out of the rain. He pulled his hood back and sighed.
He was somewhere in his mid-twenties and had wild red hair and a thick beard.
‘Awful night, eh?’ said the driver.
The hitchhiker held his gaze for a long moment. Drops of rainwater trickled down his face.
‘Yes. Yes it is.’
The driver pulled out and continued through the storm. The hitcher glanced over his shoulder into the blackness behind them.
The hitcher simply nodded.
They drove on in silence for a short while. The BBC radio phone in blaring out from the car’s speakers filled in for conversation.
They listened to the radio and their own thoughts as they moved on.
‘Where are you headed?’ asked the driver.
‘North.’ The hitcher pointed.
‘Are you travelling to visit friends?’
The driver couldn’t tell if that was a yes or a no. He adjusted his tie nervously. The hitcher stared at him in his suit and tie.
The hitcher seemed scruffy in comparison in his parka and Pink Floyd t-shirt.
‘Do you work around here?’ asked the hitcher.
‘Yes.’ said the driver. ‘I was stuck late at the office. You know how it is.’
‘No. Not really.’
Again they drifted into silence.
The talk radio show carried on as they drove through the wind and rain. The hitcher shifted in his seat and stared out the windscreen.
‘No music?’ the hitcher asked.
‘Is there no music we could listen to?’
‘I like the talk radio shows. I’m not really a music fan.’
The hitcher’s eyes glazed over for a moment. Then he spoke.
‘I like listening to music. It calms me down.’
The driver said nothing.
Several miles later there was a news bulletin on the radio. The reporter tried to remain professional as she read the announcement.
‘We are getting reports that a patient has escaped from a Manchester psychiatric institution. The man is said to be psychopathic and is said to have a history of murder.’
The hitcher jabbed a finger on the button on the radio panel. Tinny pop music blurted out from the speakers. The driver stared at his passenger, his question unasked.
‘I hate the news.’ answered the hitcher. ‘It’s so depressing. It brings me down. There is never any good news, is there?’
The driver did not reply.
‘Don’t worry. I’m not the killer.’ said the hitcher, fidgeting with his coat.
‘No?’ said the driver. ‘I mean, no, of course you aren’t.’
Let me tell you the story of Lucy Spring. She used to love it here. It was so vibrant. So colorful. Things have changed. She left Mayview City two years ago, with no plans of ever returning. Death has a way of bringing people home.
She had hoped the familiar sidewalks would comfort her in a way the funeral visitors couldn’t. Instead, they made her uneasy. She has a long walk to her car, wit ha phone as dead as her little brother.
Why hadn’t she called Bekki? She would have liked to hear her voice. What Lucy is hearing now isn’t a voice. Lucy stops. The footsteps don’t.
Click here to see how this ends! (Note: this story is illustrated and published on the Spellbound app. Just look for this story on the app)
5. “The Pig” by Roald Dahl
In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn’t read,
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn’t puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found,
Till suddenly one wondrous night,
All in a flash, he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, “By gum, I’ve got the answer!”
“They want my bacon slice by slice
“To sell at a tremendous price!
“They want my tender juicy chops
“To put in all the butchers’ shops!
“They want my pork to make a roast
“And that’s the part’ll cost the most!
“They want my sausages in strings!
“They even want my chitterlings!
“The butcher’s shop! The carving knife!
“That is the reason for my life!”
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great peace of mind.
Paul stared at his wife across the table, noticing for the first time that her sweater was on inside out. Every morning he would lay out her clothes on the bed in a specific order, so she’d know which item to put on first. But it didn’t guarantee how Elaine would put on each piece. He’d have to pay more attention before they went out.
Their usual waitress, Sarah, appeared, holding a large tray with two sweet teas on it. “How y’all doin’ today?”
With Alzheimer’s disease, there were good days, and then there were challenging days. It was one of the latter. Elaine was preoccupied, scrubbing a stain on the wooden table with her finger, forgetting it was a permanent fixture of their booth. They’d been lunching at this diner once a week for years. That blemish had been there since day one.
“Today’s actually a very special day for us. It’s our fifty-seventh wedding anniversary.” His wife stopped fidgeting and looked up. “The day she took a chance on a broke, balding fellow by saying, ‘I do,’” he said with a wink in her direction.
“It is?” Elaine asked.
“Yep, sweetheart, it is.”
“Congratulations, you two! Ms. Sue fixed up some of her key lime pie today and I’ll make sure y’all have a slice on the house before you go. Stickin’ with the Cobb salad and tomato soup?”
“That’s it.” Paul replied.
She nodded and turned, then swung back around. “I just remembered. We ran out of tomato soup about an hour ago. Chicken noodle ok?”
Paul looked at his wife, now scrubbing away at the stain with a napkin.
“Hmmm,” she said, again focused on the table.
“They’re out of the tomato soup. Do you want chicken noodle? Or a sandwich instead?” She looked confused, so he pointed to the menu and showed her a few other items he thought she’d enjoy, but she was having a hard time picking something new.
Suddenly she began to cry. “I want to go home. Please can we go home?” she begged.
It was a glorious, colorful autumn.
We’d just left the coffee shop. When we walked by, she had giggled and pulled me inside, saying, “C’mon, let’s be basic white girls and get some pumpkin spice!”
I don’t like coffee. I never had. But when she handed me my cup and looked into my eyes while I tried it, it was the best thing I’d ever tasted.
My hand still tingled where she grabbed it.
As we walked through the park with our drinks, a light drizzle began to fall. She pulled out an umbrella from her bag, I pulled up my hood and hunched my shoulders.
“Don’t be silly,” she giggled, pulling me under the umbrella with her. I couldn’t help but laugh too, her laugh is infectious.
As the sun started to shine again, she pulled me down to sit on a bench. She beamed down at me, and I could only gaze back adoringly.
“So Ava…” She began. I knew this tone of voice, it’s dangerous.
“Who do you like?” She whispered, and I looked away. I wanted to say, ‘you, you, a thousand times you. You’re the only one I can ever think about. You’re gorgeous and sweet and funny and…’
Instead, I shrugged my shoulders and looked down at my cup.
She looked at me with a cautious smile. “If I tell you mine, will you tell me yours?”
“Okay.” I said.
“The person I like… …is you.”
I drop my drink.
I know you read the description.
And you expect for me to fall in love with you.
That, or you already read this story and you just want to see me suffer again.
It’s hard to see through the screen… I can’t tell one reader from another, boy or girl. Not that it would matter…
(Blushes deeply) Anyway, that’s not the point.
You should leave.
Why are you going to the next slide?
Stop doing that.
Are you always this stubborn?
I said st-
Don’t interrupt me.
I’m not sure why I’m writing this down on paper and not on my computer. I guess I’ve just noticed some odd things. It’s not that I don’t trust the computer… I just… need to organize my thoughts. I need to get down all the details somewhere objective, somewhere I know that what I write can’t be deleted or… changed… not that that’s happened. It’s just… everything blurs together here, and the fog of memory lends a strange cast to things…
I’m starting to feel cramped in this small apartment. Maybe that’s the problem. I just had to go and choose the cheapest apartment, the only one in the basement. The lack of windows down here makes day and night seem to slip by seamlessly. I haven’t been out in a few days because I’ve been working on this programming project so intensively. I suppose I just wanted to get it done. Hours of sitting and staring at a monitor can make anyone feel strange, I know, but I don’t think that’s it.
I’m not sure when I first started to feel like something was odd. I can’t even define what it is. Maybe I just haven’t talked to anyone in awhile. That’s the first thing that crept up on me. Everyone I normally talk to online while I program has been idle, or they’ve simply not logged on at all. My instant messages go unanswered. The last e-mail I got from anybody was a friend saying he’d talk to me when he got back from the store, and that was yesterday. I’d call with my cell phone, but reception’s terrible down here. Yeah, that’s it. I just need to call someone. I’m going to go outside.
Well, that didn’t work so well. As the tingle of fear fades, I’m feeling a little ridiculous for being scared at all. I looked in the mirror before I went out, but I didn’t shave the two-day stubble I’ve grown. I figured I was just going out for a quick cell phone call. I did change my shirt, though, because it was lunchtime, and I guessed that I’d run into at least one person I knew. That didn’t end up happening. I wish it did.
When I went out, I opened the door to my small apartment slowly. A small feeling of apprehension had somehow already lodged itself in me, for some indefinable reason. I chalked it up to having not spoken to anyone but myself for a day or two. I peered down the dingy grey hallway, made dingier by the fact that it was a basement hallway. On one end, a large metal door led to the building’s furnace room. It was locked, of course. Two dreary soda machines stood by it; I bought a soda from one the first day I moved in, but it had a two year old expiration date. I’m fairly sure nobody knows those machines are even down here, or my cheap landlady just doesn’t care to get them restocked.
I closed my door softly, and walked the other direction, taking care not to make a sound. I have no idea why I chose to do that, but it was fun giving in to the strange impulse not to break the droning hum of the soda machines, at least for the moment. I got to the stairwell, and took the stairs up to the building’s front door. I looked through the heavy door’s small square window, and received quite the shock: it was definitely not lunchtime. City-gloom hung over the dark street outside, and the traffic lights at the intersection in the distance blinked yellow. Dim clouds, purple and black from the glow of the city, hung overhead. Nothing moved, save the few sidewalk trees that shifted in the wind. I remember shivering, though I wasn’t cold. Maybe it was the wind outside. I could vaguely hear it through the heavy metal door, and I knew it was that unique kind of late-night wind, the kind that was constant, cold, and quiet, save for the rhythmic music it made as it passed through countless unseen tree leaves.
I decided not to go outside.
10. “For Esme — With Love and Squalor” by JD Salinger
A classic that was originally published in the New Yorker and took off when it was published in 1950. You can find a somewhat hard to read original version of the New Yorker on the New Yorker website, but the book is a lot easier to read and includes great stories.
11. Cold Connection
The impact was jarring. Unexpected. Painful.
Not at all how it is in the movies. Nor the books. It was gross. Gritty. Raw.
His messenger bag had checked her hard in the stomach, no doubt several bruises itching to arise.
Her hot beverage stained his cream colored sweater, no doubt scalding on his bare hands.
Both umbrellas had been knocked into the dirty puddles, the sheets of rain unforgiving.
Despite the bone-chilling weather, ruined clothing, and bodily injuries, they couldn’t escape the buzzing intensity of a connection.
Her gaze was locked on the damping hair, wondering if the hue of blond was real. His gaze was pinned to her widening eyes, curious as to how many tints of blue he could identify.
12. My first love
This is a story about the first year of my relationship with the girl I love.
I suppose it starts back in July 2017. She was dating my best friend at the time, they were in a relationship for a few weeks and it ended on bad terms. While they were dating I had only seen her one time, I didn’t really say much to her as I am a very shy and socially awkward person. I think I managed to get a few hellos out but nothing more than that.
The next time I met her was on the 31st of October. To be honest I don’t really remember that night much since I was black out drunk for the majority of it. By that time things seemed to be ok between her and my friend and that’s how I started talking to her more.
In late November we were all talking in group chats, online I am a lot less awkward and am able to talk to other people, so this was a great way for me to start talking to her.
As I started to become more friendly with her I started to realise that she’s not how my best friend made her out to be at all.
We started to hang out more, and the more time I spent with her the closer I felt to her. There are quite a few people in our friends group, I couldn’t quite explain why. But I felt like I had some sort of bond with her, like I could connect with her in a way that I couldn’t with the other people. Usually I hate it when people hug me, but when she did it always felt warm and comforting.
Where our relationship progressed was on new years eve, I had one of my depressive episodes and ended up leaving all of the group chats I was in. At the time I just felt really lonely, as if I’m destined to never be happy.
She ended up private messaging me, asking what was wrong and why I was feeling like that. There’s only a few people that know how much of a shit show my childhood was, I felt comfortable with talking about it with her. And she seemed to have the perfect response to everything. After a while I felt a little better about myself and I will never forget some of the things that she said to me that night.
“Now remember, I don’t want you talking to him unless I’m around, you hear?”
“I’m serious. Now tuck in your shirt — he’s here.”
The front door swung open and there stood Uncle Tommy, drenched in sweat from a day’s work in the summer heat.
“It’s a scorcher out there, ain’t it?” he said, putting his bag on the floor and untying his boots. “I appreciate you letting me crash for the night.”
“Just so long as you’re gone in the morning,” my dad replied coldly.
“Now,” Uncle Tommy said, turning to me and lowering himself to a knee. “Where’s my hug at? Been a while since I seen you last.”
I took a couple steps toward him and leaned in for a hug. His tight embrace made me uncomfortable, and I let out a light whimper.
“Don’t you know it’s a hundred degrees out there?” he asked, tugging at my long sleeves.
“I haven’t been outside today,” I recited to him.
“Don’t you have some chores to finish up?” Dad interjected.
I knew that was my cue to leave, so I shuffled off to my room.
Later that night I lay in bed, tossing and turning, unable to be comfortable, when I heard the thud of footsteps in the hallway outside my bedroom. After several long seconds of silence, the door opened quietly, the dark silhouette of a man entered the room, and the door closed again. For several more seconds there was nothing but unrelenting silence. I might have thought I had dreamt it all if it weren’t for the sound of a hushed breath being carefully released.
I could feel him getting nearer. The warmth of another person in the room was unfamiliar at this hour. I was not prepared for this; I prayed he would go away, to even come back in the morning if he must.
He reached down and touched me. He rolled me onto my stomach and lifted up my shirt. From the corner of my eye I could see two things: the faint beam of a pocket flashlight, and Uncle Tommy’s eyes studying my bare skin. His rough fingers ran up and down my back. Suddenly, he got up and walked to the bedroom door and left. I tried again to fall asleep, eventually succeeding.
He was gone by the time I awoke.
Around noon the phone rang while my father was out.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Yeah. Your dad around?”
“No sir. Went to the store.”
“Good,” he said, sounding a bit nervous. He paused for a moment. “I’m calling about last night. I don’t know if you were awake or not — ”
14. “The Dead” by James Joyce
LILY, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet. Hardly had she brought one gentleman into the little pantry behind the office on the ground floor and helped him off with his overcoat than the wheezy hall-door bell clanged again and she had to scamper along the bare hallway to let in another guest. It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also. But Miss Kate and Miss Julia had thought of that and had converted the bathroom upstairs into a ladies’ dressing-room. Miss Kate and Miss Julia were there, gossiping and laughing and fussing, walking after each other to the head of the stairs, peering down over the banisters and calling down to Lily to ask her who had come.
It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan’s annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia’s choir, any of Kate’s pupils that were grown up enough, and even some of Mary Jane’s pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat. For years and years it had gone off in splendid style, as long as anyone could remember; ever since Kate and Julia, after the death of their brother Pat, had left the house in Stoney Batter and taken Mary Jane, their only niece, to live with them in the dark, gaunt house on Usher’s Island, the upper part of which they had rented from Mr. Fulham, the corn-factor on the ground floor. That was a good thirty years ago if it was a day. Mary Jane, who was then a little girl in short clothes, was now the main prop of the household, for she had the organ in Haddington Road. She had been through the Academy and gave a pupils’ concert every year in the upper room of the Antient Concert Rooms. Many of her pupils belonged to the better-class families on the Kingstown and Dalkey line. Old as they were, her aunts also did their share. Julia, though she was quite grey, was still the leading soprano in Adam and Eve’s, and Kate, being too feeble to go about much, gave music lessons to beginners on the old square piano in the back room. Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, did housemaid’s work for them. Though their life was modest, they believed in eating well; the best of everything: diamond-bone sirloins, three-shilling tea and the best bottled stout. But Lily seldom made a mistake in the orders, so that she got on well with her three mistresses. They were fussy, that was all. But the only thing they would not stand was back answers.
Sometimes, otherworldly beings find interesting ways to try and contact you. They might use a Ouija Board, or maybe come to you in a dream, or sometimes they speak through another person. They each have their own style and preference that’s particular to them. The one who contacted Jack spoke to him through his computer, or, I guess you could say the communication was through onscreen text. The first time it happened, Jack had been sitting at his computer playing Solitaire. A blinking red light from the router indicated that his internet connection was down again. This was at least a weekly occurrence, and Jack was getting used to this spotty internet service. As he moved his cards, the game faded into a solid black screen and the red text appeared.
“Hi Jack, I need a favor from you. You’re a very special person and I know you’ll help me. I can’t ask this of just anyone. I really need your help.”
Jack paused for a second. The router light was still blinking red. “Is this some sort of joke?” He couldn’t help but wondering.
Several moments later the message continued, “Yes Jack, I know this is weird for you. But I don’t want you to worry. This is just a small, easy favor I need. I’ll make sure you’re rewarded.”
Now nearly in a panic, Jack reached around and pulled the internet cable completely from the wall.
“Still here, Jack. I don’t want to waste any more of your time so I’ll get right to what I need. Tomorrow when you go to work I need you to move the large potted plant that’s next to the elevator on the ground floor. All you have to do is pull it out three inches from the wall. If you do it at 8:17am nobody else will be in the area.”
Jack sat there, refusing to respond, still trying to figure out what was happening.
The writing continued, “Look Jack, I’m asking you because I KNOW you’ll do it. You won’t let me down. You’re special. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Jack pulled the power cord from the wall and the computer went blank. “Did that really just happen?” he thought.
Still shaking from the experience, he took a warm shower and got ready for bed, convincing himself that he’d either had some crazy dream or that is was just some elaborate joke. But who would play that kind of joke on him? He didn’t really have friends, or enemies.
He woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. Work would start at 8:30am, and Jack was never late. He pulled into the parking lot at 8:10am. Normally he’d just go right in, but the message had told him to move the plant at 8:17am. Was he really going to do it? Overnight, Jack’s fear had turned into curiosity. Let’s say he moved the plant, he wouldn’t be doing anything wrong or illegal, right? In Jack’s mind, the most reasonable course of action was to move the plant. He’d do it, nothing would happen, and he’d be able to put this whole crazy matter behind him. One minute before 8:17 Jack left his car and walked towards the building. He entered the foyer at the exact time he was supposed to. The message was right, nobody else was around.
“Odd,” Jack thought. The building was normally busy this time of morning, but this temporary lull had been accurately predicted.
“Fine! Let’s see what happens,” Jack muttered to himself.
He walked up to the large potted plant placed firmly between the two elevators in the lobby of the ten story building. The plant looked like it was fake, a decoration people passed every day without really noticing. It was heavier than Jack realized. He put some might into his effort and pulled the plant out three inches to his best estimate. He stood back and looked at the plant, then looked around the lobby. People were coming in behind him now and the lobby was starting to fill up again. Nobody seemed to notice the plant was in a slightly different location, nothing seemed different at all. Jack skipped the next elevator and waited, waited for…something. But nothing happened. Finally Jack entered the elevator and made it to his 7th floor cubicle, on time like always.
If you ever asked Jack’s coworkers to describe him, you’d hear words like polite, quiet, respectful, and competent. And while those words were all accurate, they gave little indication of the truth, the truth that Jack really didn’t like most people. That’s not to say he disliked them, just that he had very little interest in getting to know them or being their friend, save for one. Allie, the girl who sat two cubicles down from him, was the only person he wanted to know more about. With her big smile, blonde hair, and beautiful figure, Jack was very interested in learning all about her. Despite his lack of success with women in the past, he was actually doing a fair job getting to know her. Every morning as he passed her cubicle, he’d stop for a chat. The chats were one minute at first, then two minutes, then several minutes. Jack was surprised that she actually seemed to like him.
On this particular morning, their daily conversation lasted only a couple of minutes. As they exchanged their morning greetings and talked about Allie’s wild night out, the elevator doors opened up behind them. Out hobbled James Bentley, the boss of both Jack and Allie.
James’ loud complaining could be heard throughout the office, “My damn foot!”
“What happened, James?” came the mumbled queries.
“It’s that damn plant they have in the lobby. I ran right into it and twisted my ankle.”
“James, you can barely walk. You need to go to the hospital,” came Allie’s concerned reply.
“Can’t do it now. I have meetings all day. Too important to cancel. I’ll just have to tough it out.”
Jack, feeling stunned, left Allie’s cubicle mid conversation and sunk down into his chair. It was his fault, he was sure of it. How could he have been so stupid and careless? Still, no use in worrying about it now. A twisted ankle would heal, everything would be alright.
Upon his return home, Jack went immediately to his computer and turned it on. As soon as the computer booted up, the screen went black and a new message popped up.
“How was your day, Jack?”
They perfected a chip, that when implanted in your brain, would allow you to read the thoughts of others. At first, everyone was excited, and they all clamoured eagerly to get the first few. As soon as they were proven reliable, anyone who could afford it bought one. At first, it seemed perfect. Murderers and criminals were caught easily, and you could judge how a relationship could go on the first date. But we’re all human, we think things we don’t mean during arguments and fights, and so the chip began to cause strains and rifts between family and friends. There was a petition to get the chips removed, which was successful.
Unfortunately, their brains had been altered by the chip. They couldn’t stop hearing people’s thoughts. Online support groups popped up and scientists everywhere began researching ways to reverse the effect. It turned out that some random on reddit had the answer. Circular reasoning maybe, but his solution worked. If you think about what is doing your thinking, you stop hearing other people’s thoughts.
I used to live in a small building downtown. One of the reasons I moved out was the bad neighborhood, including this guy in the apartment right over mine
It was a weird looking fella who mostly kept to himself. Around midnight though, there was frequently a strange noise that got on my nerves.
It wasn’t loud, to be fair, but I have really light sleep so it was hard to get my eyes shut with those little bumping sounds going on and on
After a few days, i realized the pattern was always the same, like a recording played over and over with random intervals in between
And that went on for the best part of an year, always the same sequence of bumps, slowly tattooed into my mind, sometimes for hours straight during the night.
t was only several years later, helping my daughter with her homework, that I learned a little bit of morse code.
18. “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
The hills across the valley of the Ebro’ were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid.
“What should we drink?” the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.
“It’s pretty hot,” the man said.
“Let’s drink beer.”
“Dos cervezas,” the man said into the curtain.
“Big ones?” a woman asked from the doorway.
“Yes. Two big ones.”
The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the felt pads and the beer glasses on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.
“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
“I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have
doesn’t prove anything.”
The girl looked at the bead curtain. “They’ve painted something on it,” she said. “What does it say?”
“Anis del Toro. It’s a drink.”
“Could we try it?”
The man called “Listen” through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar.
Bedtime is supposed to be a happy event for a tired child; for me it was terrifying. While some children might complain about being put to bed before they have finished watching a film or playing their favourite video game, when I was a child, night time was something to truly fear. Somewhere in the back of my mind it still is.
As someone who is trained in the sciences, I cannot prove that what happened to me was objectively real, but I can swear that what I experienced was genuine horror. A fear which in my life, I’m glad to say, has never been equalled. I will relate it to you all now as best I can, make of it what you will, but I’ll be glad to just get it off of my chest.
I can’t remember exactly when it started, but my apprehension towards falling asleep seemed to correspond with my being moved into a room of my own. I was 8 years old at the time and until then I had shared a room, quite happily, with my older brother. As is perfectly understandable for a boy 5 years my senior, my brother eventually wished for a room of his own and as a result, I was given the room at the back of the house.
It was a small, narrow, yet oddly elongated room, large enough for a bed and a couple of chest of drawers, but not much else. I couldn’t really complain because, even at that age, I understood that we did not have a large house and I had no real cause to be disappointed, as my family was both loving and caring. It was a happy childhood, during the day.
A solitary window looked out onto our back garden, nothing out of the ordinary, but even during the day the light which crept into that room seemed almost hesitant.
As my brother was given a new bed, I was given the bunk beds which we used to share. While I was upset about sleeping on my own, I was excited at the thought of being able to sleep in the top bunk, which seemed far more adventurous to me.
From the very first night I remember a strange feeling of unease creeping slowly from the back of my mind. I lay on the top bunk, staring down at my action figures and cars strewn across the green-blue carpet. As imaginary battles and adventures took place between the toys on the floor, I couldn’t help but feel that my eyes were being slowly drawn towards the bottom bunk, as if something was moving in the corner of my eye. Something which did not wish to be seen.
The bunk was empty, impeccably made with a dark blue blanket tucked in neatly, partially covering two rather bland white pillows. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I was a child, and the noise slipping under my door from my parent’s television, bathed me in a warm sense of safety and well-being.
I fell asleep.
When you awaken from a deep sleep to something moving, or stirring, it can take a few moments for you to truly understand what is happening. The fog of sleep hangs over your eyes and ears even when lucid.
Something was moving, there was no doubt about that.
At first I wasn’t sure what it was. Everything was dark, almost pitch black, but there was enough light creeping in from outside to outline that narrowly suffocating room. Two thoughts appeared in my mind almost simultaneously. The first was that my parents were in bed because the rest of the house lay both in darkness, and silence. The second thought turned to the noise. A noise which had obviously woken me.
As the last cob webs of sleep withered from my mind, the noise took on a more familiar form. Sometimes the simplest of sounds can be the most unnerving, a cold wind whistling through a tree outside, a neighbour’s footsteps uncomfortably close, or, in this case, the simple sound of bed sheets rustling in the dark.
That was it; bed sheets rustling in the dark as if some disturbed sleeper was attempting to get all too comfortable in the bottom bunk. I lay there in disbelief thinking that the noise was either my imagination, or perhaps just my pet cat finding somewhere comfortable to spend the night. It was then that I noticed my door, shut as it had been as I’d fallen asleep.
Perhaps my mum had checked in on me and the cat had sneaked in to my room then.
Yes, that must have been it. I turned to face the wall, closing my eyes in the vain hope that I could fall back to sleep. As I moved, the rustling noise from underneath me ceased. I thought that I must have disturbed my cat, but quickly I realised that the visitor in the bottom bunk was much less mundane than my pet trying to sleep, and much more sinister.
As if alerted to, and disgruntled by, my presence, the disturbed sleeper began to toss and turn violently, like a child having a tantrum in their bed. I could hear the sheets twist and turn with increasing ferocity. Fear then gripped me, not like the subtle sense of unease I had experienced earlier, but now potent and terrifying. My heart raced as my eyes panicked, scanning the almost impenetrable darkness.
I let out a cry.
Hi, is this Karen Maitland?
Hey I’m really sorry for calling so late. It’s just um… I know your daughter?
Is Anna OK?
Oh um… no I uh, your other… I go to community college with Sarah?
Oh… Ok wow. Where abouts are you?
Hah from your reaction I’m guessing Sarah’s always been a bit of a lone wolf character.
Hah uh yes you could say that… But I mean it’s great to hear she has friends over there. Can I ask what this is about?
Well, I’m actually calling to ask if you’ve been in touch with Sarah recently.
Um no… no, not really. She sort of… broke off contact a while ago. I’ve always told her if she wanted to… I haven’t changed my phone number just in case but I uh… I think she’s… probably changed hers by now.
I’m sorry. That uh… that does sound like her. Well um, listen I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but, Sarah’s been reported missing.
What? What do you… missing? For how long?
Uh, almost three days.
I got married when i was 20 to a man that by all accounts wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good for me. Long story short, I was married to a loser. He didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, he just didn’t do anything at all. Now, I am not a “typical woman” if there even is such a thing. I love myself. Sure, there are things I want to improve, but I don’t have a problem with my age, or intelligence, or what my body looks like, or my personality- those things that seem to stereotypically plague women just don’t bother me for whatever reason. I have a career where I make more than enough money on my own to live comfortably. I know how to use power tools, fix my own car, and google the shit out of anything else that needs to be done. I say what I mean, and expect others to do the same, none of this passive-aggressive nonsense. But I’m stubborn as a mule, and marriages are supposed to last, so even though I was the primary breadwinner, and did most of the things around the house, and raised my kids mostly on my own, I still spent 13 years in that worthless marriage. At the end of the day, my husband felt like I didn’t need him, because I am very capable. But he was wrong. I needed support. I needed a partner, a friend. Even someone who would see how hard I was working to just keep my head above water. I couldn’t manage EVERYTHING on my own; and I still can’t.
For some perspective at how emotionally isolated I was, I struggled with infertility for three years; I had to take tons of medications & shots that made me sick, tired, have hot flashes, body aches, and migraines for those years; not to mention the emotional drain of every month without fail seeing a single pink line on that damn stick. The emotion of going through a bulk pack of pregnancy tests, or taking photos of your cousin’s child’s first birthday (for the child they conceived after you started trying), is just… a lot to bear; I was very open with my struggles, because i think it helped other people too. Somehow, my husband wasn’t even aware this was a thing that i was needing support in. he had no idea. and it’s not because i didn’t tell him or directly ask him. he just was that thick and lost. he was a five year old trapped as an adult- lacking the ability to give support in that way.
And once I had kids, he was actually more of a burden than a help. I spent most of my time walking on eggshells, trying to balance being exhausted from a high-demand job, making dinner, and praying the kids (who are all-around good kids) didn’t do anything to “poke the bear” while my husband played games on his phone and mostly ignored them. I spent more time trying to keep them from upsetting him than anything else.
When i finally asked him to please leave, everything improved immediately. I could breathe again. I was free of so much dead weight. I was so, so happy to just not-have-him around. It was so much better, I never looked back, and I was ok on my own. Sure, I crawled in to bed every night, feeling ready to collapse at the end of the day. Kids are demanding, after all. But I was free. And I was happy.
But it wears on you.
22. “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov
A favorite amongt a collection of famous Russion stories. Many of the stories are romance driven and this story in particular features a love relationship between a Russian Banker and a young lady. This is a dramatic classic that is a fantastic read.
23. This Girl
I thought I’d had crushes before
There was Carson, who smiled at me in bio
There was Avery, with the beautiful eyes
But this girl
God, it’s like it’s not even the same emotion
I really thought I liked the others, I did
I’d blush when they were nearby,
Sit up straighter,
Toss my hair,
But this girl takes butterflies to a whole new level
24. The Right Moment
Her eyes, oh her eyes. They got me every time.
They could never be classified as one color. They rebelled, taking on a different hue everyday. Every hour. Every moment. But they always sparkled with this emotion I could never place.
His smile, oh his smile. It zapped my heart every time.
His smile was something never to be taken for granted. He rarely showed it around people, but when he did, oh it was magic. The slight dimple in his cheek revealed his boyish nature.
But they always drifted from one another.
The timing never right. One was in a relationship. The other fresh out of one. Both single, but not ready to mingle. Or they would mingle, but with the wrong people. It was like this for years.
It was snowing.
Her car was covered in the hardening white powder. She stared, hopeless. How could she get to work in this condition? A light flurry of snow falls from the sky, wetting her hood.
She sighs, holding a hand out.
A snowflake lands on her hand, almost immediately melting against her warm palm. A smile tilts her lips, her tardiness to the office momentarily taking a back seat.
He watches her, his unprotected hair catching snowflakes.
He had come here to break up with his girlfriend, who’s name he’d already forgotten. He didn’t know she had lived so close to her. Annalise. The one woman he could never have.
At her surprised appearance, he’d dropped his keys.
With his gaze still on her, he crouched down, fumbling in the cold snow for his car keys. But after stubbing his finger, he risks a glance down, swiping them up.
After waking up with a jolt, the girl laid in bed a few seconds longer. Reaching over to switch on her bedside lamp, she tried to remember exactly what had stolen her sweet slumber away. When she couldn’t, the brunette swung her legs over the side of the bed and heaved herself up. Checking the time on her phone, she snorted when she saw it was midnight- the witching hour. Knowing that sleep would only evade her, she left her bedroom for the kitchen, a good cup of coffee on her mind.
As she passed by her front door, a chill spread like liquid fire down her spine. It’s only winter, she told herself, focusing again on the coffee plan. Measuring out scoops, water, and preparing her cup kept her occupied, but as the dark liquid boiled, she had nothing left to keep her mind from wandering off. The chill returned and she couldn’t help but glance behind her to the front door. It stood there innocently enough, just like always. The dead bolt was still in place and she could see nothing amiss with it. Turning back to her coffee, she did her best to forget about the feeling.
With her cup in hand, she started back towards her bedroom. As she walked by the front door, she decided that a quick glance out of the peep hole would help calm her restless mind. The chill worsened with each step she took towards the door and further away from the safety and warmth of her blankets. She pressed her empty hand against the cold, metal door and took a deep breath before leading her eye to the peep hole.
At first, she could only see an inky blackness and somehow seemed to swirl in itself. When she blinked in surprise, the void melted away. She wished it hadn’t. In it’s place, there stood what she could only guess was once a man. The limbs were long and inhumanly awkward, with bulky joints branching off into several arms, not unlike the branches of a tree. The creature was drapped in a black suit, somehow manking the thing more nightmarish to her. The icing on the proverbial cake, however, was what passed as the hellish thing’s face. It was as though her mind blurred the ghastly visage to spare itself further shock and horror.
She shoved herself away from the door with the hand still pressed against it. The scalding mug of coffee fell, the liquid burning her bare legs as she fell backwards and tried to crawl away from the door. She knew, somehow, that her mind hadn’t been playing tricks on her. As she crab walked away from the door, she watched as tendrels as black as the void she first saw snake around through the cracks. The girl was trapped between the instinct to flee and the gut feeling to not turn her back on the door. When the door jolted, the urge to flee overcame her and she slipped in the burning liquid as she tried to make it back to her room.
She knew deep down that she was trapping herself in a corner, but she had to get away from the door. The girl was halfway down the hallway when she heard the previously locked door creak open. She screamed and slipped into a wall, cracking her chin on it and stunning her.
After that, there was only blackness.
26. “I’d Love You to Want Me” by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Because this is a copyrighted book, I can’t share the story here, but what I can say is that this story about immigration, love, identity, family, and more is super impactful and tugs at the heart strings. Highly recommend the book. This story is part of the “The Refugees” collection of short stories.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
I hesitated on the phone, all of a sudden a little shy. I had never called 911 before, and talking to new people always makes me antsy. I wished Tom were there… but, of course, that’s why I was calling. I took a deep breath, cleared my throat, and answered.
“Hi, um… my name is Terry Millerson and I’d like to report a missing person. Tom Smith.”
“And how long has… I’m sorry, what was that name?”
“No, no — I mean, what did you say your name was?”
I sighed impatiently. “My name is Terry Millerson. Look, Tom hasn’t been home for over twelve hours. That may not seem like a lot, but that’s a very long time for him. He never goes away that long without telling me when he’ll be back. So can you just…”
“Ms. Millerson, can you tell us your address?”
I paused, uncertainty creeping in. “Why do you want to know my address?”
“Ms. Millerson, do you know where you are?”
I covered up my embarrassment with a bit of bluster. “At home, obviously.”
“And what address is that?”
I lost my patience. “I don’t know, okay?! What does it matter? Look, just find Tom so I know he’s going to be okay, you got that?”
“Ms. Millerson, please tell us where you are, your parents are very worried, we are coming to find you-”
At that moment, Tom walked in. I breathed a sigh of relief and hung up the phone just as he spied me.
His face went red, but I didn’t mind.
“What the fuck are you doing? How did you get up here?”
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
There was clearly nothing left to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the look-out for the mendicancy squad.
In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”
The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, the letters of “Dillingham” looked blurred, as though they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.
Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. To-morrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling — something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim.
There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 Bat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.
Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its colour within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.
The other day, I was talking to an online friend of mine over Skype.
She said “Some weird things have been happening to me lately.”
I replied with a quick “sure tell me.”
“I never really believed in this whole ghost or paranormal things up until now so I’m a bit nervous and I think I might just be over reacting
but the doctors haven’t found anything psychologically wrong with me. So if you’re just gonna think I’m crazy then tell me now cuz I’ll just leave.”
I could tell from her reluctance that this must have been really freaking her out. I assured her.
“Ok. here it goes then.” She said and then typed up her story.
“It began a few weeks ago after I read some ridiculous chain letter that I didn’t forward.
I didn’t think anything of it because, like I said, I didn’t believe in that stuff and the chain letter was something about creatures wearing human skin that blend in with humans I don’t know,
I don’t really think it’s related but it started after I deleted it.
“It first started at the market. While i was in line, I noticed that the bagger was staring at me.
He was smiling a bit too uncomfortably at me.
Like, he wasn’t using his muscles to smile, it was more like some one took two fingers to his cheeks and pulled upwards to draw the corner of his lips into a smile??
I know I know that sounds way stupid, doesn’t it?”
“Anyways, I smiled politely at him and took my groceries from the end of the belt when he finished bagging them.I freed up a hand and I thanked him for his service. And that’s when it happened.
His lips moved and he said in a deep voice “You’re welcome, miss.”
I stood there in complete shock for a moment. I figured I must have been exhausted because there’s no way that just happened.“
“The next day, I was walking down the street. The air was chill and cold, and I was enjoying all the smells and sensations of the upcoming fall.
That’s when it happened again. I saw a woman staring at me. She didn’t take her eyes off me. She had that same eerie smile. It was uncomfortable.
As she got closer to me, she parted her lips and spoke to me:
“Nice weather today, isn’t it miss?”
And then nodded and kept walking.
I stopped in my tracks once more. It was dizzying because of its impossibility.
Several other people spoke to me since then.
It was always innocuous things like “Need any help today, ma’am?”
or “You’re looking lovely today”, nothing vicious, the strangers were all very friendly albeit all with that same creepy grin,
but the mere fact it was HAPPENING was terrifying and yet also strangely hope bringing? Does that sound right?
I don’t know, but soon, everywhere I went, I would hear voices of certain people I was near, exchanging pleasantries with me.
I even told my doctor this and he assured me that no, it isn’t possible that this could happen. And yet I know it is. It IS happening to me!“
Frankly, I was confused as shit.
30. A Dark Brown Dog
A Child was standing on a street-corner. He leaned with one shoulder against a high board-fence and swayed the other to and fro, the while kicking carelessly at the gravel.
Sunshine beat upon the cobbles, and a lazy summer wind raised yellow dust which trailed in clouds down the avenue. Clattering trucks moved with indistinctness through it. The child stood dreamily gazing.
After a time, a little dark-brown dog came trotting with an intent air down the sidewalk. A short rope was dragging from his neck. Occasionally he trod upon the end of it and stumbled.
He stopped opposite the child, and the two regarded each other. The dog hesitated for a moment, but presently he made some little advances with his tail. The child put out his hand and called him. In an apologetic manner the dog came close, and the two had an interchange of friendly pattings and waggles. The dog became more enthusiastic with each moment of the interview, until with his gleeful caperings he threatened to overturn the child. Whereupon the child lifted his hand and struck the dog a blow upon the head.
This thing seemed to overpower and astonish the little dark-brown dog, and wounded him to the heart. He sank down in despair at the child’s feet. When the blow was repeated, together with an admonition in childish sentences, he turned over upon his back, and held his paws in a peculiar manner. At the same time with his ears and his eyes he offered a small prayer to the child.
Presently he struggled to his feet and started after the child.
He looked so comical on his back, and holding his paws peculiarly, that the child was greatly amused and gave him little taps repeatedly, to keep him so. But the little dark-brown dog took this chastisement in the most serious way, and no doubt considered that he had committed some grave crime, for he wriggled contritely and showed his repentance in every way that was in his power. He pleaded with the child and petitioned him, and offered more prayers.
At last the child grew weary of this amusement and turned toward home. The dog was praying at the time. He lay on his back and turned his eyes upon the retreating form.
Presently he struggled to his feet and started after the child. The latter wandered in a perfunctory way toward his home, stopping at times to investigate various matters. During one of these pauses he discovered the little dark-brown dog who was following him with the air of a footpad.
The child beat his pursuer with a small stick he had found. The dog lay down and prayed until the child had finished, and resumed his journey. Then he scrambled erect and took up the pursuit again.
31. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe
THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; — I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.
It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.
I said to him — “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”
“How?” said he. “Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”
“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”
“I have my doubts.”
“And I must satisfy them.”
“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me — “
“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”
“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.
“Come, let us go.”
“To your vaults.”
“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchresi — “
“I have no engagement; — come.”
Congratulations you’ve made it to the end! If you read all of these stories, you will have a strong grasp of various short story styles from famous stories to horror to romance to classics and more. Hope you enjoyed! If you found this useful, please make sure to share with friends so they can discover the magic of short stories as well! For more, be sure to check out Commaful and American Literature.