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

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Flout goes the fly with the fleeing flag, flout goes the guy with the greening rag, flout goes the spy with the seeming stag, flout goes the sky with the falling--


Friday, October 31, 2003
Capitoline Hill

Here on Capitoline Hill the buildings are notional, giant wireframes that suggest neoclassical bulk. This is to facilitate transparency in government, so that congressional flacks and conscientious bureaucrats alike are subject to the scrutiny of every passing drunk, pigeon or tourist from Japan. We in Amerigo love nothing more than to have our government's reputation for clarity and unflinching honesty even in the face of failure to be upheld by our architecture.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Prong were a tribe of Low Germanic barbarians primarily known for sacking Antwerp and for inventing the fork. In the case of Antwerp, they'd meant to head for Constantinople, but their shaman's vision quest to see his dream-animal, a reticulated stoat, went horribly wrong. They wound up settling down and becoming proto-Belgians, with all the pathos and horror that implies, and damaging spoons constantly with their efforts to carve potatoes and roast beef. Hence the fork, which we refer to as multi-pronged in honor of them.

See also "Tine".

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Morlock shuffled down the path that ran from his house to the sea. Ninety seven steps. Four landings. Thirty two yards of level walking. The variable slopes of the dunes. Past the wreck of the Ariadne, shedding mass with every storm until it becomes the ghost of a corpse of a ship someday.

The Morlock was at the sea. The great, pallid crabs lazed in the surf. Their eyestalks swiveled toward him as if the entire population shared one tiny, half-paranoid brain. He smiled a secret smile and stared into the setting sun. It was red as fresh-cut skin, perhaps two days from clearing the western horizon.

Then, the lengthy night. The lights of his house would glow like the few remaining stars, warning and benediction both to travellers. Tonight, sometime in the days of darkness, Elohim would came as they always did. Wingéd travellers with bright swords, he despised them one and all. Fate permitting, he would once again trap a small or weak one.

They cooked well, and their magic was powerful.

Morlock tossed a large, burnt feather into the sea and began the walk home, numbering each step as if it were a child.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Boustrophedon is one of my favorite words. Consider the euphonious
eht ,ygolomyte lufroloc eht enigamI  .selballys ehcuol sti fo dnuos
image of an ox plowing back and forth across a field literally
reehs eht ni lever ,yllaniF  .drow eht fo semehprom eht ni deddebme
uselessness, unless of course you are a scholar of ancient, hand-
.xo eht wollof ot si drow siht fo nossel ehT ?modsiw keeS  .stxet devrac
At least you will harvest good fertilizer, and give your nose a workout.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Eschaton is mighty. Eschaton is tall. Eschaton has rivets blessed by saints. Eschaton has a fiery nuclear heart that beats in time to the endless humming poetry of the cesium atom. Eschaton has wings fit to cast shadows across parsecs. Eschaton has a sword forged from the hearts of cold iron stars. Eschaton is coming to an end. Your end. The end.

Eschaton is mighty, God's greatest angel.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

  1. When you get to Heaven, be prepared to give your full name and date of birth.

  2. A good driving record always helps. Speeding tickets indicate a certain moral flexibility that will count against you.

  3. How is your impulse control, anyway?

  4. Have you ever stolen a candy bar from a convenience store?

  5. Remember to always wear clean underwear. Whatever you have on when you die is what you have on for eternity. Consider that when you're scoping out that burnt orange leisure suit at Goodwill next week.

  6. St. Peter's grumpy but firm.

  7. Heaven has thermodynamic adjustment problems due to the influx of souls.

  8. They have installed a heat pump to Hell. The Trane man comes by twice a week and makes adjustments. He has an All-Access badge for Heaven. You do not.

  9. Your soul will become part of the adiabat.

  10. This will all be on the test.

("Adiabat" courtesy of Sarahb)

  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.