Short Stories With Twists: Unexpected Endings That Might Surprise You

These short stories all have a twist or surprise ending. Sometimes the reveal is sudden; other times it’s more gradual.

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“The Good Food” by Michael Ezell

Jensen’s ship touches down on a jungle world, a planet that was terraformed two hundred years prior. It’s been decades since anyone visited. He’s accompanied by Roy, a dog that’s been enhanced to allow some communication. He’s also assisted by his ship’s AI system, Moira. Jensen’s been sent to collect some samples due to an anomaly that was detected. Some of the planet’s growth has been cleared, although there are no life-forms other than insects.

This story can be read in the preview of Beyond the Stars: At Galaxy’s Edge(28% into preview)

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

A man is on a bridge in Alabama, his hands bound and a rope around his neck. He’s a civilian, a confederate sympathizer, and is being held by Federal soldiers. He’s been sentenced to hang from Owl Creek Bridge during the American Civil War.

This story can be read in the preview of The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs. (12% into preview)

“A Horseman in the Sky” by Ambrose Bierce

During the American Civil War, Carter Druse, fighting for the North, falls asleep at his sentry post. We learn how he joined the Union forces.

This story can be read in the preview of The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs. (5% into preview)

“The Last Leaf” by O. Henry

A few tenants in an apartment building are painters/artists. One of the tenants gets pneumonia, and she can see a vine from her deathbed window. She says she’s going to die when the vine loses its last leaf.

This story can be read in the preview of 50 Greatest Short Stories(46% into preview)

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

A poor, married couple try to figure out how to get each other a nice Christmas present.

This story can be read in the preview of The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories(37% into preview)

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

A Southern spinster, Emily Grierson, has died. She had been a recluse, so the townspeople are curious about her and her house. The narrator recounts episodes from her life.

This story can be read in the preview of A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. (18% into preview)

“To Serve Man” by Damon Knight

Earth is visited by the Kanamit, a half pig and half human alien race. They bring gifts—ways of increasing food production, power generation, and other helpful things. Some people question their altruism, so the Kanamit are subjected to a lie-detector.

This story can be read in the preview of The Best of Damon Knight(35% into preview)

“Button, Button” by Richard Matheson 

A hand addressed package is left at the door of Arthur and Norma Lewis. Inside is a contraption with a button on it, and a note saying that Mr. Steward will call on them at 8 PM. He arrives at the appointed time and makes them a startling proposition.

This is the first story in the preview of The Box: Uncanny Stories(31% into preview)

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

On a summer morning, citizens of a small village are anticipating the annual “lottery”, a local tradition that is believed to bring a good harvest. The children gather first, making their usual preparations. The women and men arrive and make sure their whole family is present. Mr. Summers arrives with the black wooden box.

This story can be read in the preview of Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories(10% in)

“Twin Study” by Stacey Richter

A woman, along with her twin sister, is part of a study of twins. It’s been four years since the last meeting when she saw her sister. She compares herself to her sister.

The beginning of this story can be read in the preview of Twin Study: Stories.

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

A woman receives the news that her husband has been killed in a train accident. She processes the news over the next hour, experiencing a range of emotions.

“The Story of an Hour”

“Clean Sweep Ignatius” by Jeffrey Archer 

The new Nigerian Financial Minister, Ignatius, sets his sights on eliminating all corruption. He does so well that the President gives him the special task of uncovering all Nigerians who are keeping their bribe money in Swiss accounts.

Read “Clean Sweep Ignatius” (Page 9)

“The Landlady” by Roald Dahl

Billy Weaver, a young, inexperienced salesman arrives in Bath. He starts the next morning. In the meantime, he needs a place for the night. While looking for a hotel, he comes across a private Bed and Breakfast. After some vacillation, he knocks on the door. A very nice lady invites him in.

“The Landlady”

“Wish You Were Here” by Frank Jones

A woman buys an unusual garden gnome, but it disappears soon after. She starts getting postcards that are signed from the gnome.

Read “Wish You Were Here”

“The Necklace” by Guy De Maupassant

Mathilde is married to a minor government official. They’re of modest means, but Mathilde has expensive tastes. When they get invited to a party, she borrows a necklace from a rich friend.

Read “The Necklace”

“Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” by O. Henry

An older, upper-class man has a tradition of treating a local destitute man to a hearty Thanksgiving meal. One year, the poor man arrives at their meeting place in a state that puts their tradition in jeopardy.

Read here

“The Reticence of Lady Anne” by Saki

Egbert enters his drawing-room with some uncertainty. He tries to smooth things over with his wife. They had argued, so he tries to get her talking again, but she’s uncooperative.

Read here

“The Open Window” by Saki

A man is visiting the country for some relaxation. While waiting to be introduced to all the members of the household, a young girl tells him the story of their tragic family history.

Read here

“The Interlopers” by Saki

Ulrich is out patrolling his forest with a rifle. He’s not hunting the usual game; he wants to catch his neighbor, Georg, poaching on his land. Their families have a long standing feud over the territory, going back to their grandfathers. They hate each other intensely. Ulrich leaves his men on a hill and walks deeper into the growth.

Read “The Interlopers”

“The Chef” by Andy Weir

Doris wakes up in a hospital. Her doctor tries to find out what she can remember. She knows there was an explosion, and that she had been visiting her father, but is hazy on the other details. She can remember that she’s a professional chef, and she tells the doctor about her work.

Read “The Chef”