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

Saturday, October 25, 2003

I didst zyxt between the sticks something that madest me say "icks." When I didst pick this stick zyxt, I didst find it to be flecked with ticks. The ticks amongst the stick zyxt didst make me ditch it. Thus I whiled mineself along my merry way, prolix and well-fixed with stick zyxt ticks.

("Zyxt" courtesy of SarahB and AnnaH)

Friday, October 24, 2003

"Holy Schist, Batman! Osama's gone into a rock!"

"Never fear, Robin. The batdrill will soon screw him to a wall."


("Schist" courtesy of SarahB)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The watchmaker coughed as he worked at his bench. The muscle spasms caused him to spill the escapement on which he was working. His hands crabbed at the bench top, but the tendons had shrunk so with age, and now fever, that the fingers were no more use than little wooden pins might have been.

Wiping bloody spume on the shoulder of his smock, the watchmaker stumbled into the back of the shop -- his kitchen, his bed, his little chest with two extra shirts and the clipped hair of his late wife. He sat heavily on the bed, watching the dull glow of the fire. The boy had banked it before running home for the night. With his hands they way they were, the watchmaker saw no point in trying to stir the flames into being once more. He would just set fire to the shop.

This time when he coughed, a long, pale mass slid out of his mouth, quick and slick as any grippe. It left a foul taste, something between rotted fruit and rusted metal, that had him gagging on top of the cough. After some time struggling for breath, the watchmaker wiped his eyes with the back of his wrist, then stared at what he had wrought.

It was her.

His wife.

Returned to him, by the zymotic road.

His glance strayed to the stew pot he'd never been able to use again, still crusted with some of what had once been her. She'd died of the White Cough, just as he was now, but he'd believed the whispered stories, the midnight rumors -- if not believed them, at least placed a sort of trial faith in them. He'd had the strength of hands then, to separate the long bones and fillet the stringy--

No more, the watchmaker told himself. Groaning, he shuffled to the other side of his little room, took down his one steel knife, and returned to the struggling bundle that sought to hatch his wife. Gently he slit open the coccoon. She was tiny but full formed, shaking off the white threads that bound her to the case. He gently took her to his chest, a clasp that nearly engulfed her tiny body.

Who would eat him? Who would bring him back along the zymotic road?

A sharp pain in his arm answered that question. The watchmaker smiled through the fear as his wife burrowed into his own flesh. He tried not to wonder how small he would be, reborn from her tiny mouth.

("Zymotic" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The brass rim of Heaven's Bell crested the horizon. It cast a shadow that ran for a thousand miles, blocking sun and moon and stars with equal indifference. The hour rung, the time is come, home we go beneath the blank regard of God.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

During the Second Salad War, the dread Carrot Battalion occupied the front slope of the Ranch Range. The mighty orange titans were dug in deep, and nothing the Radish Rangers could do would dig them out. Long range bombardment by Garlic Kamikazes succeeded mostly in disrupting friendly lines as the prevailing winds simply brought the gassy resultants back down the mountains.

Finally a junior leftenant approached the commanding onion.

"Sir, I've got a team of volunteers that's ready to go in."

The onion stared his leafy subordinate down. "Son, you're a stringy, low-calorie son of a bitch that's only worthwhile when covered with Cheeze-Whiz. Why should I believe you're gonna succeed where my best commandoes have failed?"

"Celerity, sir," the junior leftenant barked. "It's the watchword of my people."

"Go then. But I ain't pinning no medals on the mulch of your corpse."

The junior leftenant and his Celery Brigade boarded a salad shooter for a high lob into the country of the carrots. The battle there was fierce, a pivotal point in the history of the Salad Wars, but suffice to say the junior leftenant did win the Purple Beet, albeit posthumously.

They later made the well-plowed fields of the battleground a National Garden.

Monday, October 20, 2003

What jingoists do to pleasure themselves in the privacy of their flag-lined bunkers after cleaning their gun collections and rolling a few fag-loving liberals.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The revival of cavalry on 23rd century Mars was perhaps the most unpredictable event of modern military history. While the term had long survived the passing of horses from the battlefield, when Diktatore Wilfred brought his Arabian stable to Tharsopolis, the word "cavalry" was reapplied with a deep and abiding sarcasm to his efforts.

Until the first cyborged horses rode out across the red sands in pursuit of the Potato Rebels. The Crabbet Troop, as they were known, quickly became the terror of the Red Planet. Operating independently, capable of moving over a thousand kilometers in one Martian day, with an astonishing array of weaponry, the horse struck fear in the hearts even of their allies.

Luckily they could not breed of themselves, so Wilfred kept a thin but essential line of control to his terrible horses. Public sentiment against the Crabbet Troop grew so strong that Wilfred was eventually forced from office and the Troop's stables-cum-armory burned in a riot. Even now, travellers on the Martian surface are advised to keep an ear out for hoofbeats, for the Troop has never been confirmed as disbanded.

("Crabbet" courtesy of AnnaH)

  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.