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

Thursday, August 14, 2003
Editorial Note

I'll be away tonight through Sunday at a writing workshop on the Oregon coast. Story Word updates may be irregular or nonexistent until next Monday. Y'all be good while I'm gone.


I'd just managed to rid myself of the last bitter trappings of my ex -- launching her overgrown ficus from hell off the front stoop and into the Dumpster in the connecting alley -- when I found the green residue on my hands.

Monique had a temper. Boy, do I remember that -- the thrown pots, my pair of reading glasses ground under her booted heel, the day she nearly launched my cat Fluffy into orbit -- but I'd never expected such a dastardly deed from her so long after her departure.

The ficus I'd thrown away this morning had been booby-trapped.

I knew that Monique had been dabbling in the dark arts off and on during our tumultuous two-year relationship, though I never realized she'd gotten into the fine art of aggressive ethnobotany. Now, the sun was starting to set on the day after she'd left me -- I'd spent most of the day sunning myself on the roof of the apartment we'd once shared, drinking gallons of water and napping in my melancholic solitude. I missed those switch kicks to the head and the sharp verbal pokes that only Monique could provide.

When I woke from my nap, I was covered in the stuff. Weeds in my elbows, vines on my shoulders, and fern fronds in my hair. A ficus branch curled itself down my buttcrack. I cursed Monique and her plant magic as I stumbled inside, sliding on my grassy ass down the steps, and found the big container of Round-Up she'd never let me use on the weeds in the sidewalk.

I drew a bath, dumped in the Round-Up, and gazed into the steaming mixture, itching like crazy and thinking of how badly I missed Monique's arms around me. Finally, I stepped into the bath, ready to exfoliate.

("Exfoliate" Story Word by MikeJ)

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Finding your way to the heart of the jewel, you stop to admire the planes of stress induced by the jeweler's hammer. Light from outside, high above, shifts lazy and slow around you, fractured into a rainbow of a million shades of red. Further down, where the crystal structures have been more compressed, you find the intrinsic beauty of the thing -- a single perfect rosette, the goal of your descent into minerality. Finding it, you touch it. Touching it, you feel it. Feeling it, you become it. The flaw at the heart of beauty humanizes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Baby Back Ribs

When Adam delved and Eve spanned, God did work with what was to hand. Eve He made from Adam's rib, but to the Nephilim He did give the ribs from the back of Eve's first child who in Eden was running wild. Lilith was Eve's first lover, though when God came calling she went to cover. This first child whose back was stripped was Eve and Lilith's little trip. Now she wanders, empty and thin, cursing God and the Nephilim. If you see her on the road, take care for the peril of your soul.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Carotene is present in a number of leafy and root vegetables, and is known to be good for the vision. Much less well known is anticarotene, a rarer nutrient found mostly in the diets of cave-dwelling organisms and the terminally myopic. The most common source of anticarotene is the colobomata, usually in the "common" or "least" variant. Colobomata grow on colob trees, forming as small tubes or tumors, before being harvested by obdurate swains bearing long copper knives who hope in turn to impress their small-eyed beauties. Ingestion is highly contraindicated. The only known offset is massive consumption of carrots and/or an eye transplant.

("Colobomata" courtesy of sevans)

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The Great Sea rages beyond the edge of the world, its horizon creeping up into the sky until the ragged edges of watery death loom high over all our heads. To sail this elastomere requires nerves of oak and a hull of steel, for the feathered anemones of the Outer Shoals will strip the copper and wood from a vessel's keel in hours. When one finally labors up the heights and looks back on the bowl that is the world, one sees only more ocean raging on forever. We are all island-bound, sailing our private elastomeres in search of friendly ports. That the ocean is mystery or terror is the decision of every soul.

  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.