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


Saturday, September 06, 2003
Orogenic

The orogenous zones are where Ge is most ticklish. Her little crinkles stiffen and rise in response to gravity's gentle stroking, the lilt of plate tectonics, and the swirling heat deep in her heart. To be orogenic is to give life, climate bands rising through pocket ecosystems like marks on a graduated cylinder full of happy bacteria and their four legged descendants.


Friday, September 05, 2003
Apse

Philip walked the middle of the street, not because he was a brazen man, for in truth he was quite timid of spirit and character, but to avoid the stagnant pools of human waste, household garbage, and now again the body of a tramp gone stiff after days of lifeless slumber in the gutters. He skirted around passing wagons, dropping his eyes whenever a driver assailed him with a string of curses. Otherwise, no one noticed Philip. This was, after all, Kyrzaltes, capital city of the most powerful empire on Lyra.

Important men from the councils of law, religion, and commerce lived in this city alongside unimportant men from the councils of ale, theft, and murder. No one had time for a tanner. No one, but the bishop of Utterglauce.

Philip entered the temple of Utterglauce and took a seat on a cushioned bench at the back of a long, high-roofed room, braced with towering stained glass windows. The clergy, seated about their bishop on a raised dais in the extreme apse of the temple, outnumbered their parishioners three to one. The presiding priest concluded a canonical mass in Tracen, the old language, after which the devout stood and offered the expected sign of the cruciform. Then, seeming as much a ceremony of the service as the mass, they filed out of the temple in twos and threes. Most were very old women with a smattering of doddering men.

Once they were gone, the bishop stood from his honored throne.

"You are Philip Iceus, the tanner of Liddlebury?"

"I am, your worship."

"Come forward so the bishop may look upon you," said one of the priests.

Philip strode forward, feeling weighed down under the gaze of these holy men. He stopped in the lee of a short, white wall separating the pews from the clergy's dais.

"We are told, Philip Iceus, that you allege the Lord has cast an affliction upon you," said a particularly tall, slim priest. His robe of pure black was silk like the rest, but had two thin red lines embroidered over his heart.

"In the first month of spring, I was in the forests near my home, skinning a stag I had taken with my bow. A fox appeared from the brush as I was bent to my task and spoke to me in the voice of a man saying, 'Take up the heart of this stag and deliver it to the bishop of Utterglauce.'

"At first I was very frightened and could not move, but as time passed, I convinced myself the fox had not spoken; surely it was a trick of the wind or mind. I finished my work, and at the last of it, cut out the stag's heart, saving it for my own table to sweep away all fear and doubt in my
mind."


"Utterglauce has appeared as a fox in the past, Philip Iceus," said the bishop. "So it is written in the holy tome of scripture."

"Yes, your worship. But the Lord had only ever revealed himself to his staunch disciples. Not to low-born tanners such as I."

"Did you eat the heart, Philip Iceus?" asked the bishop.

Philip cast his eyes down to the rushes lining the separation wall. "I ate it, your grace."

"And what has befallen you since that day?"

Philip dropped his hat to the stone floor and unfastened the first four toggles on his jerkin. The tanner's chest was covered in thick brown fur so dense
not one bit of skin could be seen. In the center of that mat was a patch of purest white fur, shaped vaguely like a diamond.

A mummer buzzed among the lesser clergy, but immediately ceased when the bishop raised his hand for silence.

"What is the meaning of this, Philip Iceus?"

Philip closed his shirt and refastened the toggles.

"It means, father, that I have brought you the heart as I was commanded. Do with it what you will."

("Apse" and today's StoryWord courtesy of DavidJ)


Thursday, September 04, 2003
Shogun

To obey is divine, to command is hell. The service of the lord is all that defines a man. A lordless man is no man, except that one man who is lord of himself.

Or at least it makes good propaganda...


Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Orthogonal

Our empire is strong. We rule over distant lands of furtive, dark men who fight with stone-tipped spears. We harvest the golden wheat and wheaten gold from the rich valleys of our neighbors near and far. And we rule all from the Orthogon, our dread seat of power atop Mount Ortho. When we speak from the Orthogon, our voice echoes across mountain peaks like the thunder that even lightning fears. The ocean itself cowers. When we fall silent, everything is at an angle of repose.

We are mighty.

("Orthogonal" suggested by Q)


Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Dutch Guilder

"Ernie"

Ernie Himmelbie held the rank of “Chief Negotiator/Contract Finalizations”, for the Murphreesboro, Tennessee, Masonic Pulpit Bearers Guild. The MPBG, or “the Guilders,” as they were commonly known, performed a serious and vital function within the state of Tennessee. Guilders, Ernie included, owned the responsibility of providing spur of the moment pulpits from which any crazed, drunken, offacious, or otherwise generally ignorant political American could abuse his First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech.

In the early days, in it’s infancy, MPBG membership numbered only three or four hundred nationwide; a slight spattering of covens when compared to today’s representation. However, those early Guilders shone brightly in the public consciousness. Primarily responsible for providing adequate spur of the moment public speaking platforms, the visionary leaders focused on Rapid Pulpit Build and Deployment (RPBD) techniques to ensure inebriated, uninhibited diatribation from all facets of society.

The result of the Guilds’ spurious pulpit provisional movement ensured that a steady stream of unintelligible gibberish continued to issue from the Southern US, as it has done for decades. Without the focal pulpit, such speeches as Hugbert’s “My Baby’s Won the Kentucky Roller Derby” and the famous Bo Fulton’s “My Butt’s More Pimply than a Bus Full of Teenagers” would never have received their appropriate due.

It must be stated here that if not for the tactics developed in those days by pizza delivery drivers, the Guild’s methods of Global Positioning, Population Outburst Prediction, and “Cop Radar Busting Gamma Ray” (CORBUGGR), would never have made it into the mainstream.

In March of ’05, then Guild Actuary, First Class Himmelbie hit the big time with the prediction and resulting pulpal set-up at a shot gun wedding between a father and two of his own daughters in suburban Memphis. The groom, half blind from moonshine and growing more solubrious by the minute, insisted that the “dual daughter weddin’ ‘s jus’ sav’n us’n’all a heap’n big load Gen’l Jacksons so’s who’s a gonna step me?” which of course was, in the best sense of the words, uninterrupted gibberish and perfectly made for presentation by pulpit.

The fact that General “Stonewall” Jackson is not on any accepted US currency proved the deciding point in GAFC Himmelbie’s seat of the pants decision to design and construct a special pulpit for the occasion, thereafter known as the ”Stonewall Pulpit,” which to this day remains a national Guild best seller

International clamor for Guild footage, and ultimately original Guild pulpit designs, reached Beatlic proportions first in Amsterdam, and then in Berlin, Paris, Munich, London, and Coleraine.

Invited on an international “Guilders for the Generation of Great Brewers and Grocers,” or the famous 3GBG Guilder speaking tour of ’06, Ernie spent ample time in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe to acquire a distaste for the Southern US.

Upon arriving back in the States, Ernie, now a full fledged Contract Negotiator, immediately filed for a Contract Finalizations position in Ecuador. It was in Ecuador that Ernie met, drank with, got drunk with, fell down and ultimately over, a young Peruvian girl named Ynchuvinia, an Incish word meaning, in a literal translation from the phoenetic Incish, “Piss Arrow.”

Piss Arrow, a full blooded descendant of Incas conquered hundreds of years ago by the Spaniard Pizzaro, was the eldest and only daughter of a local exotic Inca dancer (the father) and a local exotic Inca historian, Elboa Corset (you may have read one of Corset’s famous works, ‘the Europeanism of the Inca’s Incish,” which, as should be pointed out, holds many untruths, incorrect colloquialisms, and out and out lies regarding everything from Inca history and language to your humble narrator).

One of the central themes of Corset’s work involved the insertion of European proper names into Incish, and then attempts at direct phoenetic re-translation of those names back into English. Hence, Piss Arrow derives from the famous, though evil, European explorer of the early 16th century, and Elboa Corset from the famous mass murderer of Aztecs and a second European discoveror of already inhabited environs.

While working day and night to finalize the legitimization, printing, and sale of up to 1,000 Guilder licenses in Ecuador, Ernie fell hopelessly in love with Piss Arrow. Piss Arrow, young, whimsical, and quite frequently drunk or nearly blind on IPA (she commonly confused isopropyl alcohol with India Pale Ale), and in the spirit of youth, skewered her nose with a crocheting hook and fastened a loose Dutch coin onto her upper lip, with a previously unknown Incan superglue, as a show of total admiration and devotion for Ernie.

Realizing that a life among hooch crazed Incas living in stone shelters in the cold Andes at 18,000 feet was no place for the nose-skewered, coin operated, alcoholic, teenaged, love-vending machine that he called Piss Arrow, he smuggled her while both were drunk on IPA (he on Pale Ale) over the nearest range, and down the slopes of Mount Hedonwull, a peak most notable for it’s unrecorded history.

It was here, on the Western slope of Hedonwull, that Sir E. B. J. the Honorable “Moe” Heegan, later himself discovered by local aboriginal austrolopithecines closely resembling “Lucy” of Mary Leakey fame, discovered that currently accepted anthropological thought was completely erroneous, and made note of such, just prior to his decapitation and consumption at the hands of said austrolopithecines, who hung his head mounted on a wall in a local, secluded ski chalet, where they serve a wonderful concoction of Llama milk and fermented snow.

Alas, unknown to the aboriginees, Hedonwull became the final resting place of the last of the Moe Heegans.

Ernie and Piss Arrow continued down the slope of Hedonwull, Ernie relying on Piss Arrow, herself a ski buff, for direction. Finally, at the point of exhaustion, they reached the port of Lima. Piss Arrow dropped Ernie onto the nearest wharf, where he suddenly found himself, much to the entertainment of passersby.

Piss Arrow, her nose skewered and her upper lip dangling a strange Dutch coin, stared at the local starers who stared back without remorse, gazing directly at Ernie, who looked much different than the typical Ecuadorian, as he had absolutely no strange knitting implements protruding from any part of his body to speak of.

In Lima, Ernie paid for a one-way fair through the Panama canal and to the port of Freeport, which is now, of course, one of the most expensive points of debarkation in the Western Hemisphere. While in Freeport, on the Dutch ship “Freemason’s Playmate” at a local Guilder’s dinner to which Ernie had been invited in celebration of his successful efforts furthering the explosive growth of Guildhood in South America, the strange Dutch coin detached itself from Piss Arrow’s upper lip and clanged resonately on the molybdenum table.

It seems that the fabulous Inca superglue, developed by world reknowned Inca scientists over 1,000 years ago for use constructing strange glue bound contraptions at altitude, lost it’s adhering properties at Sea level, and more significantly, when at sea. It is now routinely believed to be a direct function of the salt level.

Writers hint: the aforementioned ship wasn’t really named “Freemason’s Playmate,” but Ernie can neither read nor speak a word of Dutch, so there it is. In any event, the removal of the coin (due to the failing of the adhesive) from Piss Arrow's lip considerably enlivens Ernie’s after hours activities involving his own Piss Arrow.

More important and generally relevant to all audiences, Piss Arrow herself now finds the singing of thousands of Incish folk-rock songs (the genre now entitled “pun rock”) she has written while blacked out on IPA (the three carbon variety) in the past few days much simpler without gagging on the ornament.

Following their departure from Freeport, Ernie and Piss sailed to Port Charlotte, Florida, where they rented a car and drove north to Sheboygan, Michigan. Ernie, now lean, tanned, successful and married to one of the world’s best known and richest pun rockers, decided to open and recruit for a local Masonic Pulpit Bearers Guild center (the “Pulpit Bearing Men of Sheboygan, Michigan,” as in the popular song by the same name).

That endeavour, of course, and the autobiographical account of his earlier exploits and the anti-paralleling of the Sheboygan Guild with the historical Beatles Apple Corps. futility (the successful trademarking of the English and Incish languages are prime examples of that anti-parallelism), have made Ernie a multi-trillionaire, with worth growing at an estimated 0.15 US GDP per week at the writing of this article.

Still, true to their respective roots, Ernie and Piss Arrow remained down to earth and utterly genteel. Piss struggled with proper English until the end. It is now a generally accepted anecdotal truth that, upon Ernie’s successful application into medical school in ’12, that Piss would commonly comment to her visitors, “That Ernie. Him’l be a doctor.”

("Dutch Guilder" and storyword by BradC)


Monday, September 01, 2003
Prognathous

They jawed for hours, Ogham the Cro-magnon and Lightbelly the Neanderthal. Words passed, soft and harsh, riding the biting wind of ice-age France. Some insults were forgiven, some compliments were taken as unforgiveable. Eventually the hairy man and bald ape came to an accord. There could be only one. Leading with his chin, Lightbelly exited stage left, slain by the jawbone of an ass.

("Prognathous" courtesy of RichardB)


Sunday, August 31, 2003
Grass Jelly

When alpha grass mates, in a hormonal excess it sometimes excretes grass jelly. This rare, greenish vital fluid is harvested by the Ram Women of the Lower Follardian Mountains, who hoard it in clay jars the height of a tall man's shoulder. There the grass jelly ferments and congeals until it becomes a satyrific of astonishing proportions, whereupon they feed it to unwary male travelers as an accompaniment to roast lamb or kid. Many children are born to the Ram Women as a result thereof.

("Grass Jelly" courtesy of FrankW)


  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 Fictionwise.com

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 jlake@jlake.com

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.