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

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The R4B cruised northward by night. Mariak steered by the cold, hard stars, as he was unwilling to risk active sensors that the Ice King's telemetry might pick up.

"Who knew you had a talent for astronomy?" Dexter said, lounging in the co-pilot's seat with a glass of Shiraz.

"Night is his time," Mariak muttered. "The stars are his lamps."

"And you tell me I'm supposed to approach the Ice King and apologize. After we shot down his big fat zeppelin?"

"He doesn't know it was us."

Something large and dark blocked the stars to the west, crossing Dexter's field of view. "I don't know about that," he said. "Maybe we should head down to earth."

Outside a heart-chilling cry echoed in the depths of the night.

"Astronomy my ass," Dexter whispered.

("Astronomy" courtesy of BridgetC)

Friday, January 16, 2004

Dexter clung to the lower main strut of the R4B's gondola. Over his shoulder the Ice King's massive sky battle wagon maintained its distance, still glittering like a hooker's eyes. His own little zeppelin had taken two more hits. Mariak had finally identified them as giant snowballs.

Now Dexter had a pint and a half of warm yellow fluid in a flask at his belt. He unscrewed the warhead from one of the Congreves on its mount -- a deeply stressful task. "Two, four, six, eight," Dexter muttered, "Everybody rationcinate." The nosecone came off with a metallic crunch. He almost lost it to the clouded depths that opened below him. "Three, five, seven, nine...let's all pretend to be Saturnine."

With exquisite care, Dexter removed the shaped charge that was the primary high explosive warhead. The glob of claylike stuff tumbled into the sky. He stuffed a little zip lock bag in its place within the loose nosecone, then poured out the contents of his flask.

A giant snowball whooshed by, barely missing him.

"I got you, you bastard," Dexter snarled through clenched teeth. He reset the nosecone, then began the clamber back up to the maintenance hatch. Below him the Congreve turret whined as Mariak cycled through the controls. "Let 'er rip!" Dexter shouted through the open hatch at the dwarf. They only had one shot.

The turret roared, exhaust setting fire to Dexter's pants. He scrambled up on to the hatch coaming, beating at the flames even as distant crunching noise echoed through the cloud.

The R4B sailed into sunlight, pursued by a glittering bank of rapidly-catalyzing ice-seven already flaking away from its airship shape. Frosty hoplites jumped away from their stricken airship, giving Dexter their fat middle fingers as they sought to become cryometeors that might survive their fall.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

"Light water. Big ideas." Mariak yanked at the control yoke. "Better think fast, bright boy."

Dexter stared at the looming airship. The Congreves had had little effect on its massive yet ultralight ice armor. But the missiles were loaded with a high explosive warhead designed for use against conventionally-skinned zeppelins. Light water was an unusual substance, to say the least. It catalyzed into ice-seven in the presence of certain chemicals.

One of which was concentrated urea.

He ran to the galley, grabbed an aluminum coffee pot, and ran back to the nose. "Here," Dexter said, shoving the coffee pot at Mariak. "Pee in this. And keep flying like hell."

The dwarf's face bloomed florid with his temper. "Have you gone off your--" Then he stopped and began to chuckle.

Laughing, Dexter ran back to the galley and began gulping down every liquid he could find. He was going to write his name in the Ice King's snow, by the gods.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Emerging from the shrouded mists was the largest airship Dexter had ever seen. Its prow glittered as if encased in diamond armor. Even with the cloud it glowed as if possessed of an inner light. The envelope was faceted, with sharp antiboarding spikes erupting from each meeting point of the angled plates.

It was a crystalline airship. An iceberg of the skies. An atmospheric behemoth.

"The Frost King's on us already," Dexter said. He dropped his hands from the Congreve's launching grips. What was the point?

Mariak goosed the the R4B's engines to the red line and beyond. "They build up those things up in Svalbard. Freeze 'em one plate at a time out of light water."

"Light water?"

"The opposite of heavy water."

Despite the dwarf's cursing and pounding at the controls, the vast iceship kept an easy pace with their valiant little R4B.

"Light water, huh." Dexter frowned at the glowing apparation which pursued them. "That gives me an idea."

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

As the R4B slid deeper into the cover of the cloud, Dexter powered up the targeting spotlights on the Congreve Mark VI. He didn't like where Mariak was taking them -- not because he didn't trust the dwarf, but because he didn't trust the situation. "What are you hiding from?"

"Ice balls."

It just got better and better. "Ice King's got launchers now?"

"Krupps-Sukhoi Steam Catapults. Surface-to-orbit capability."

"Nice." Dexter tracked the Congreve's spots back and forth across the grayish mass outside the windows. "So where do I fit in?"

"We're going to get to the Ice King, you're going to grovel in humble apology as if you were Sinister, pay back h--"

The zeppelin rocked with the impact of a solid hit. Dexter spun the Congreve again, searching through the cloud for whatever had attacked them. The view was nothing but shadows on shadows. Ahead of him in the pilot's couch Mariak was cursing, a low stream of gutturals that meant nothing to Dexter except panic.

There! There it was! Ahead of him the cloudscape was tumescing, bulging into a giant shadow with more coherence, and menace. Dexter released a brace of the Congreves. The rockets burned with an orange-red glare as they vanished toward the growing mass. Orange flashes betrayed their impact, but there were no satisfying secondary explosions.

Then the oncoming threat tore free of the veiling cloud.

"Oh Lord God in Yonkers," said Dexter as his guts turned to water.

("Tumescence" courtesy of JeremyT)

Monday, January 12, 2004

Dexter didn't like the sound of Mariak's news. "How pissed is the Ice King?"

The dwarf guided their zeppelin toward a looming cloud, smacking his lips. Clearly he was framing an answer.

"Say it, Mariak. Or I'm going home and to hell with Sinister and his problems."

"Ice King's going to melt the world cap and flood us all. He's already lit the stonefires on his island, and has sent out wizards with frosty hoplites to circle the pole."

Frost hoplites. The very thought brought a chill to Dexter's fingers. The great snowmen with their tricircular bodies and coal-black eyes were doughty warriors who felt no pain and gave no quarter. "What the hell was Sinister thinking?"

"They'd served him warm beer."

"Oh. I guess that explains everything."

Mariak glanced back at Dexter as they passed into the gray gloom of the cloud. "She is beautiful."

"Aren't we all," said Dexter, staring at his vague reflection in the cockpit windows.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Mariak and Dexter made sky in Sinister's old R4B Zeppelin. It lacked the gatling turrets and other amenities of his twin's latest sky rod, but the R4B had an armored envelope and a trusty Congreve Mark VI rocket launcher which would serve if push came to explode.

The clouds around Castle Dioscuri were puffy to the point of adipose, with the cottage cheese texture of an old barmaid's thighs. Dexter watched the pallid sky above the clouds, searching for whatever danger it was that had alarmed Mariak into action.

"He made merry with the Ice King's daughter," said Mariak suddenly.

"That would be the girl, I guess." Dexter could imagine a blue-eyed Nordic maiden with legs all the way up to her ass and blonde hair that met coming the other way.

"Uh." The dwarf set the R4B on a northerly course. "Then your brother made merry with the Ice King's liquid assets."

"Sinister's not a thief," Dexter pointed out. He could resent his brother for a lot of things, maybe even hate Sinister, but sheer larceny had never been among his twin's flaws.

"No, you don't understand."

"Do I ever?"

"He melted the damned palace."

"Oh." Dexter considered that. "Ice King's pissed, huh?"

"That brings us to the life-as-we-know-it business."

  I've been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and for the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award for Best New Writer!
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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?
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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.