Story Words
Very short fiction, written on the fly, from words submitted by readers.
© 2002, 2003, 2004 Jay Lake

Saturday, August 02, 2003

What lies beneath your mattress? The sweaty dents of half a dozen lovers, the pitifully few men and women you have enjoyed sexual congress with in your life? Or perhaps the pale ghosts of the hundreds more you have dreamed about, their translucent lips parting in pleasured surprise to whisper your name as you sleep?

A mattress is a garden, the seeds planted in your sleep, the fruit borne in the recesses of your waking self. Watered by sweat, fed by body heat, everything sinks in there and is composted with dreams and deeds. Wake, rise from the crumbling soil of sleep, and find your way into the world. Never look back, because you'll always return face first.

Friday, August 01, 2003

These valleys in our land are the whorls on the thumb prints of God. If we climb Mount Potash, we can see the great dish of His touch. What lies beyond the rim is forbidden, dangerous, fatal. Even so, it calls.

We journey for seven days and a day, eating rabbits and fieldmice and sleeping in hastily-crafter wickerwork to hide from the Night Ghosts. We pretend to be unafraid, because that is what God expects from us, but we are who we are.

On the third-times-third day, we scale the rim. Mount Potash is a distant blue shadow, and the valleys of our home are a memory tenuous as smoke. Coming to the edge, we pause to savor our forbidden fear. Just above us is a crumbling rampart, tiny showers of dust falling away. It stinks here, of dirt and metal and rotten things. It is everything we expected from the rim. Our skin ripples, our eyes water with blood, the horripilation threatens to carry our hair right from our head.

Then we set the fear aside like a child's stick, vault upward to rim, and out of the ken of God.

("Horripilation" courtesy of RachelH)

Thursday, July 31, 2003

I was out planting shotgun shells in the back garden when this little guy with a ferret face and fur coat came humping over the half-rotted cedar fence. He glared at me, showing some sharp teeth, then pointed a flowerpot at me.

Holy smokies, I thought. That thing is loaded! It had a daffodil pointing out of it, with some wicked edges on the leaves. All I had were a dozen leftover shotgun shells and a .357 Magnum I'd planned to turn under the nickel-plated compost pile later. "Look, pal," I said in my best talking-to-mixed-nuts voice -- unsalted, of course -- "I don't got nothing you want."

"Youse don't know what I want," whined the flowerpotman. He slunk around the edge of the garden, past the tire rim swing toward my ornamental motor oil pond. "Youse got it all," he added, his voice seeping resentment.

Slowly I pushed the .357 out in front of me, then skidded it across my carefully manicured crabgrass. "Here, take this. It might get you something to eat."

He screeched with rage, hurled the flowerpot at me, and was out my side gate. I made a valiant effort to catch the flowerpot, but it shattered on the edge of pond, spraying dirt and daffodil everywhere.

Did it make sense? I wondered. No, but very little did these days.

With luck my little shells would grow into a crop of twelve-gauges that I could trade in downtown under the General Amnesty. Another couple of months worth of food. I gathered the daffodil fragments, wondering what to do with a broken life.

("Flowerpot" is for TimP and HeatherS and the Very Bad Day.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Disillusion is d'only won we have
Tho we labour hard four anoder
Disillusion keeps us going foreword
In deface of d'unknown udder
Disillusion makes us who we air
End keeps us ell together

(Today's Storyword is dedicated to MikeJ.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Of all the flowers gleaming eye-bright in the fields of the Lord, Parousia is the rarest. The lilies of the field dance in the wind, neither toiling nor spinning. Sharon's rose blooms in colors of the blood of children. Even apple blossoms can be found scattered among withered snakeskins. But search as you might, Parousia is so elusive you will only ever see it in the corner of your mind. Believe what you will, you shall never hold it in your hand.

Monday, July 28, 2003

She's a grand old flog
She's a high flying flog
And forever on our backs may she strike
Every back bleeds red
For the old cat-head
When we're all pierced by the shrike

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The art of big game hunting is nearly lost to us now, as most charismatic megafauna have come under various legal and environmental protections. However, in certain odd corners of the world, less well-known animals can be hunted with the appropriate permits, courage and field-grade armaments. For example, in Intestistan, the wild borborygmus can still be found grazing in the shallow waters around the riparine Isles of Langerhans. It can be recognized by its characteristic grumbling or rumbling noises, sometimes almost a gurgle, which can be heard from miles away. Be aware than when non-fatally wounded, the borborygmus will begin to emit great farting noises, then shower its attacker with faeces!

("Borborygmus" courtesy of JeremyW)

  I've been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer!
Award info | Me

Read the Hugo-nominated story for free at

Q: What is this?
A: A fiction experiment. Every day, people email me words. At some random point in the day, I pick a word, write a quick story about it on the spot, and post it unedited (except for a quick typo patrol).

Q: What did that word mean?
A: Look it up:

Q: Can I send you a word?
A: You bet. Include a definition if the word is deeply obscure -- or not, if you prefer. Send it to

Q: I've got something to say about this.
A: Click over to the Story Words discussion topic.

Q: Who else is silly enough to do this? I think it's kind of neat.
A: David Jones, for one. Surf over there and check him out. Drop him an encouraging word, too. He's a brave man.
A: Jeremy Tolbert, for another, with his Microscopica project. Likewise show him some love.
A: Jason Erik Lundberg with his Mythologism blog.

Q: You're even cooler than KITT the Knight Rider car. Do you have a mailing list to announce your latest hijinks?
A: Of course I do. What kind of self-promoting, narcissistic writer would I be otherwise? Email me. Occasional mailings regarding stories appearing in print and online, weird stuff in general, and appearances of the Greek Chorus.