Are you a literature addict looking for that sweet hit of literary ecstasy that comes from reading well-told stories? Are you also – like so many of us slaving away with ever-increasing work demands – short on time? Fortunately, we have just the thing for you that can satiate your craving for well-told, expertly-crafted fiction; bringing you tightly controlled beginnings, middles and endings in the time it takes to eat your lunch or smoke a cigarette (there’s a reason flash fiction used to be called smoke-long stories, after all).
We’re talking, of course, of some of the finest short stories that you can read for free thanks to the wonders of the interwebs. There are untold thousands – probably millions (if not billions) of these pieces floating around in the digital ether, but to get you started we’ve compiled 15 of our favourites, mixing together writing from new and aspiring artists with established literary titans.
And if you need even more literary satisfaction; we’re pretty sure you’ll find it thanks to some of these fantastic places you can read tens of thousands of literary texts completely legally and completely for free.
Back to the matter at hand: check out these brilliantly crafted short tales from magazines around the world below.
‘Black Moons’ by Robert Wyatt Dunn
“There were some things you could only do in New York.”
‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’ by George Saunders
“Work, work, work. Stupid work. Am so tired of work.”
Read the story in The New Yorker.
‘Bullet in the Brain’ by Tobias Wolff
“The bullet is already in the brain; it won’t be outrun forever, or charmed to a halt. In the end it will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet’s tail of memory and hope and talent and love into the marble hall of commerce. That can’t be helped.”
Read for free online.
‘Broads’ by Roxane Gay
“Jimmy Nolan has a thing for broads—loud, brassy women who sit with their legs open and drink beer straight from the bottle—women who always say exactly what they’re thinking and for better or worse, mean what they say.”
Read it via Guernica.
‘Ganymede’ by Chelsea Harris
“Tonight I am Venus. We’re sitting on top of the kitchen counters. Daddy hasn’t been back in days but I’m not worried.”
Read it via Okay Donkey.
‘Tell-tale heart’ by Edgar Allen Poe
“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night.”
Read it courtesy of Project Gutenberg.
‘That was back before, of course’ by Samuel Dodson
“She never knew what Maxine wanted. But it started the moment Mark Dean emerged from all the rust. Then it ended with a knife and the sound of something scraping against metal, some sound almost like an animal.”
‘Goose’ by Chelsea Grasso
“It’s okay, my goose. She will come back.”
‘Girls at play’ by Celeste Ng
“This is how we play the game: pink means kissing; red means tongue. Green means up your shirt; blue means down his pants. Purple means in your mouth. Black means all the way.”
‘Anatomy of a burning thing’ by Monica Robinson
“He was falling in on himself.”
‘Hills like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway
“I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?’”
‘Fitting’ by Molly McConnell
“I left a relationship because it was too tight. But once I was out, I wanted back in.”
‘The lady with the dog’ by Anton Chekhov
“It was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog.”
‘Five baked beans’ by Katy Thornton
“I had started wearing earrings again, after the break-up. Not that I hadn’t worn earrings because of him – I’m sure we never had a conversation about it. I guess at some point I’d grown out of wearing my green-skin inducing costume jewellery and decided only to wear jewellery with sentimental value.”
‘The Veldt’ by Ray Bradbury
“‘Nothing’s too good for our children,’ George had said.”