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

Saturday, December 27, 2003
Wide Receiver

Very big radios were in fashion during President Geraldo's three terms, but the Grundig-FisherPrice Wide Receiver trumped them all. It nearly filled a double-wide, and was used primarily to listen to football broadcasts and the National Shakespeare Repertory. The brightly-colored dials were a great aid to navigation in the dark, while the vast speakers had the potential to deafen thousands.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Life here on the Second Band is good. We can venture to the rounded edge and look out upon all the kingdoms of the world. We can retire to the shadowed folds of hair and find safety and company. It is rare that disaster comes upon us.

Downbraid, things are different. The hair swings when our world walks. Their homes are thrown into disarray. People are tumbled about like lice in a cup. This is why "downbraid" is a curse on the Second Band.

Upbraid, they are snooty, self-satisfied, convinced that their life is best. This is why "upbraid" is a different kind of curse on the Second Band.

Our life is best, neither upbraid nor downbraid, but centered where all life should be found.

("Upbraid" courtesy of SarahB)

Thursday, December 25, 2003

The gold was those little chocolate coins covered in foil. The other two gifts were franks-and-beans and a tape of the The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. It was the thought that counted. The baby didn't care. He just stared at the ceiling of the manager's office and bubbled. Bob Shepard and his two brothers sat on the desk over in the corner, singing Christmas carols, while I made an ass of myself.

All in all, a good Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

"The Eye!" she screamed. "Not the Eye!"

"Yess..." The villian's voice slithered like one of his guard-cobras. "The Eye. You desserve no lesss."

"No! No more!"

"You will do it?"

"Anything," she sobbed. "Anything but the Eye of Argon."

"Very well." The villain pulled another book off the shelf hanging high on the wall of his playroom. "You will read me some nice Bulwer-Lytton instead."

That was when she broke down and cried.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

He crabbed along the beach like the old man he would someday become. The lanthorn banged against his thigh, where there was a perpetual bruise constantly on the verge of a callus. There were things on the beach at night, glittering and gold sometimes, deadly at others.

To combat this unnatural dualism, the lanthorn had two lenses. One gleamed in well-ground glass, tinted a deep red. He saw this light with his left eye. To a distant observer, it might have seemed that Mars had risen unusually low. The other lens, on the reverse side of the lanthorn, was crafted from a fracture sapphire of enormous size, dipped in the blood of ravens, and baked over a bone fire for an entire lunar cycle. Its light he saw with his right, in the brittle rays of memory. Everything remembered what it once was, and some things remember what they would be. Thus he avoided the deadly traps that lurked on his beach.

Until the night something washed up so invisible and pure that neither light of the lanthorn would shine upon it, though it had diamond teeth the size of knives.


He sailed the Anhydrous Sea in his dust-runner. Though water was notably absent in any sufficiency, there was a surplus of wind by way of compensation. It was not a life for an ordinary man. By luck, or perhaps not, he was no ordinary man. He could live for days on the three drops of juice wrung from a poison cactus. He could hunt the very shadows that stalked long of an evening on the salt pans of the Sea. This was his home. In the rare decades where rain came, he hid in a limerock cave and laughed at the gods.

Monday, December 22, 2003

We tunneled aboard the good worm Peristalsis for a year and a day, searching for the Diktat's hidden treasure. She was a narrow worm, but long, and we slept end-to-end in slight bunks that swung with the movement of her annulae. We had to stay away from her head, where the power plant was, especially when cutting through solid bedrock -- the heat rise would have stunned a demon. In the end, of course, we found nothing but dark earth and our own souls, but what is the true point of any voyage?

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Every American worth his curing salt lives on the highway. Damn it, that's why they have sixteen lanes in each direction! Wheels rumbling over the lines in the pavement are the lullabies of all our future leaders while they swing in their back seat cradles.

I know there's some of you freaks out there who still crave -- what? Lawn jockeys? The right to sweep leaves in the fall? Roofs to fix when they leak? But look, it's simply unpatriotic not to live in your car. Detroit needs you. Hell, Yokohama needs you. If you don't live in your car, you're objectively pro-terrorist. You probably support gun control, too. I'll be you even use birth control, you lousy sidewalk Commies.

So what I'm telling you is: get some wheels. Note a freaking bicycle, and motorcycles are for weirdos and cops. I mean four rubber feet rolling firmly on the pavement, with piss bottles for those long stretches where they closed the rest stops to control the homos, and a water tank in the trunk with a little hose snaking through the back seat armrest. It's the American way, folks, and you don't want to be a bad American, do you?

Do you?

The Homeland is depending on you.

(This one's for Tim and Heather)

  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.