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


Saturday, January 24, 2004
Riposte

The Dioscurian War Monotreme lumbered up the beach. Spliced jellyfish dna lent an eldritch green glow to its ocean-matted fur. Its great flat tail dragged behind, already twitching in anticipation of combat. The enormous poison spurs on its rear legs glistened in their readiness. The brass-and-teakwood howdah atop the animal's shoulders bobbed, the steam-powered autocannon bobbing uselessly on its pintle mount.

"Damn," said Dexter. "That thing's unmanned."

Then the War Monotreme was in the fight with a vengance, laying into Anakim and frosty hoplite alike. The massive tail swept the Ice King's troops to flurries. Even the mighty Anakim was reduced to dodging the spurs. Snow missiles shattered uselessly against the War Monotreme's great furry sides. The Anakim screamed again, but that had no apparent effect. Every attack by the forces arrayed against earned a vicious riposte from the War Monotreme.

"Mariak," Dexter whispered to his friend, who had grown cold to match his unaccountable weight. "I'm going to try to take control of that beast. I'll be back to carry you to safety."

He kissed the dwarf's bloody brow, then with radium rifle blazing charged into the fray.

("Riposte" courtesy of AnnaH)


Friday, January 23, 2004
Monotremes

All hell was breaking loose around Dexter. Admittedly a frozen hell, peopled by frosty hoplites, a wrecked zeppelin and one very angry Anakim. Mariak remained obstinately unconscious in his arms. And weirdly heavy to boot.

Dexter refused to consider his friend dead.

"Fine," he told the dwarf. "You won't move, I'll do my fighting from here. You want me to get out of here alive, you'd better find some feet."

Dexter shouldered his radium rifle and began blasting into the frosty hoplites with a lusty will borne of the intense frustration of the past twelve hours or so. Each bullet flew with a yellow-green glow like a tracer. The massive warrior snowmen exploded with surprised shrieks as they were hit. Despite his fire, the Ice King's shock troops continued to mob the Anakim.

"The enemy of my enemy," Dexter whispered, but then he realized he could probably apply the argument in either direction.

There was a rumbling noise on the beach. It was accompanied by a great sloshing. With a groan, Dexter glanced toward the star-lit ocean.

For once in this horrid day, it was good news. One of the Dioscurian War Monotremes emerged from the dark waters, slush and foam slucing from its massive harnesses. The giant animals had been a project of Dexter and Sinister's grandfather. The old man was long gone to dust, and the food bills for the massive things were outrageous, but he'd never been so happy to see one in his life.

"Over here!" Dexter shouted. He waved his radium rifle. This earned him a barrage of high velocity snowballs from the frosty hoplites, but seemed to have no effect on the War Monotreme.

("Monotremes" courtesy of Q)


Thursday, January 22, 2004
Subrogate

Dagger shards of splintered ice slashed into Dexter's skin. Ignoring the Anakim and the frosty hoplites alike, he sprinted toward where he thought Mariak to be. The Ice King's troops roared their challenges in front of him, around him, behind him, only to be met by another ear-rending scream from Anakim that literally drove Dexter to his knees.

I shall subrogate you to my purposes, the Anakim's voice echoed in his head even as the scream wailed on.

But then the frosty hoplites began to pelt their tormentor with snowballs scooped from their own rounded guts. Dexter took advantage of the confusion to locate the wounded dwarf. Mariak's grin was red-toothed. "Glad you could make it, boy."

"Get up, come on!"

"Can't." The dwarf huffed. "I'm done, boy." He extended a clenched fist. "Here's the Hyperpyron. Get you to the Ice King while that angel is...is..."

"He's not an angel, he's an Anakim," Dexter said. "Now quit screwing around and come on."

Mariak's eyes were hazed with pain and his breath was bubbling bloody on his lips. He had no more words for Dexter.

"Come on," Dexter said. He tried to lift his friend, but the dwarf seemed made of iron. "Damn, damn, damn..."


Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Pistil

The Anakim reached out one hand and caught the stream of bullets from Mariak's machine pistol while the other hand snagged the leaping dwarf and swung him once, twice, three times overhead before sending him flying into the darkness. Dexter winced to hear a trailing shriek cut short by a thump. Then the Anakin closed its fist on the machine pistol, making the metal shriek until it dropped a hot, glowing lump onto the beach.

I am not your enemy.

"I...I...know that," said Dexter, who knew no such thing.

Balances have been disturbed.

Dexter's balance certainly was. He was relieved to hear distant groaning. "It has been my brother's doing."

Dioscuri, said the Anakim in Dexter's head. He could hear the contempt even in the voiceless whisper.

"What, please, is an Anakim?"

We are pistils in the flower that is the world.

Pistils were flower penises, basically, as far as Dexter knew. He almost giggled with the horribly irrelvant question of whether that made the Anakim a dickhead. "What do flowers care about balance?"

All things must grow. Even apes.

Then the frosty hoplites finally began to rain down like God's own snowball fight.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Anakim

They stood on the beach together awaiting whatever fate the Ice King had decreed for them. Dexter wasn't sure if he was glad the zeppelin had not caught fire -- a little heat and light would have helped his morale immensely. Their screeching assailant still circled above.

"Wait for it," Mariak cautioned with one hand on the barrel of Dexter's radium rifle. "We may not get a second shot."

Dexter shifted his weight, trying to keep the soles of his feet from freezing. The screaming had stopped, to be replaced by great, slow wingbeats. Beside him the slide of Mariak's machine pistol clicked as the dwarf meticulously checked his weapon. Dexter kept expecting frosty hoplites to fall out of the sky onto their heads.

Then the thing was down on the pebbled beach next to them in a rush of hot wind that seemed to be borne from another time. Dexter swung his radium rifle to bear then stopped himself from pulling the trigger.

It was huge, ten feet tall at least, with great black wings that gleamed silver in the starlight. Its eyes glowed silver as well. It had arms larger than pythons folded across a chest that would have done credit to a draft horse.

But it was still an angel.

No, rumbled a voice in Dexter's head. Not one of them. Anakim.

Mariak screeched a war cry of his own and launched himself at the Anakim even as Dexter drew breath to treat with the invader.


Monday, January 19, 2004
Castaway

Mariak fought the R4B's engines as they drifted ever lower into the Arctic night. The little zeppelin shuddered and bucked.

"Did we take a hit?" Dexter asked.

"No." The dwarf sounded bitter, angry.

"What, then?"

"It's that thing out there. It's forcing us down somehow. I fear a sonic weapon."

Dexter reflected that a missile full of piss wasn't going to do much about whatever was still out screaming in the night. "Are we making a water landing?"

"I hope not."

He nervously fingered the controls of the Congreve turret, even though the missiles were all but spent. A single pair remained, but there was nothing to shoot at.

The crash came, as those things do, with an appalling suddenness. The cabin made a horrible crunching noise, then everything that was not tied down began to fly like dice in a cup.

"Sweet cracker sandwich!" Dexter cursed.

There was a sort of retching sound from the gas bag above as the emergency relief valves engaged, then they were settled. "Out," Mariak said. "In case of a fuel rupture!"

They bailed out onto the cold pebbles of a frozen beach. Behind them the R4B glimmered with the spark of some eldritch fire. Above them the dark presence circled lower. Outside the gondola of the zeppelin its scream was so piercing that Dexter felt his ears fill with blood even as he had his hands clapped over them.

"Castaway," Mariak observed.

Dexter drew his sabre and his radium pistol and stared upward. "Castaway and in deep trouble," he agreed.



Sunday, January 18, 2004
Hyperpyron

The R4B spiralled downward. Far below the open ocean gleamed in the starlight, a rippled reflection of night's hard skies. The little zeppelin was still hunted by something that occluded the heavens from time to time, but it showed no running lights and never came close enough to be identified.

"I've brought something from your brother's treasury," said Mariak. "To start the process of making amends to the Ice King."

"Amends?" Dexter couldn't decide whether to laugh or shriek.
"We're practically at war with him, personally, and you're talking amends."

"He thinks we're Sinister."

Dexter couldn't quite work out Mariak's logic, but he nodded. He wasn't willing to argue right now. He was too scared for it. "So what did you snatch?"

Mariak grinned. "The Hyperpyron."

"Oh." The Hyperpyron was the master die for the gold Platon, the perfect form of a coin. Sinister had won it playing three-card Monte with the Pope two years earlier, wagering title to the island of Hispaniola against the coin. "That might be worth something."

"If we can get there."

The shuddering cry echoed again across night's depths. They both stared out the windows, try to see if any of the glimmering stars were moving toward them. The sea below remained cold and unforgiving.

("Hyperpyron" 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!
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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.