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


Saturday, January 31, 2004
Recondite

ON YOUR FEET, LITTLE MAN.

Somehow the great being of light was his brother. Dexter's teeth ground. He'd lost Mariak and put his own life in peril for the sake of that bastard Sinister, and now here his twin was on this ghost ship, apparently with an Anakim at beck and call.

"You shit!" Dexter bellowed. "I hope the Ice King chews your brilliant flaming ass for breakfast."

You might elect a more recondite approach, the Anakim said in Dexter's head. Dexter could hear the smirk.

I AM SO MUCH MORE THAN YOUR LITTLE LEFT-BOY.

Left-boy? Dexter rubbed the left side of his body. The scars from the surgery which had separated he and Sinister in early childhood were suddenly throbbing.

BRING ME THE DWARF.

"Hell, no!

The light which blazed then, flickering bright anger, drove Dexter to his knees.


Friday, January 30, 2004
Dicta

And so the miracle came. Light flooded the deck, burning Dexter's eyes, piercing his heart. The same cold which had permeated the long, bloody night seemed now the honest warmth of the earth compared to this divine effulgence. Someone, something stood in the doorway -- God, Satan, his late father, Dexter couldn't tell.

He fell to his knees in soul-wrenching pain. "I come not to pray for myself, but for my beloved friend."

RISE

Heed these dicta. The Anakim sounded amused. In that moment, Dexter hated it irrevocably.

"Please."

The brightness laughed, and Dexter knew the voice.


Thursday, January 29, 2004
Peltast

The War Monotreme hove too alongside the glowing quadrireme under the watchful eye of the Anakin. Dexter climbed down the boarding chain to find a reasonable footing among a frieze of Neptune frolicking among the maidens of the Exuin Sea and tied off a line. He then scrambled to the deck, using the protruding oars as hand- and fold-holds.

There was no light, no noise, no nothing from the rowing benches. From what he could see in the inner shadows, the oars were shipped and chained into place.

When Dexter reached the deck, it was just as deserted. Frost rimed the lines and coated the deck with patterns like enormous snowflakes. He was perhaps forty feet foreward of the Anakim. The two of them were alone.

"This is it?" Dexter asked. "No Ice King, no sinister, no necromancer to raise my friend."

Would you a thousand peltasts with seal-hide shields?

"I would be home in my chambers enjoying a game of Parcheesi with my late friend the dwarf. But instead I'm here. Where's your damned miracle?"

The hatch to the rear castle began to creak open. Light spilled out like water from a dam, brilliant as the sun overwhelming the dancing St. Elmo's fire like starlight winking out with the dawn. It was color whiter than white, some unimaginable soul-searing fire that caught Dexter's gaze as surely as fishhooks in his irises would have.

It comes now, your miracle, said the Anakim.


Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Quadrireme

The glow soon resolved to a fire. A cold fire, that did not consume what it enveloped. "By St. Elmo and the glue sniffers," said Dexter, "the north is a strange place."

What rode low in the water before him, growing clearer as the War Monotreme labored through the icy sea, was a massive ship with four banks of oars. It was longer than the tower of Castle Dioscuro would have been laid on its side. Great masts soared into the Arctic night bereft of sails but crackling with the blue-orange light. The side of the ship was chased with ornamentation, great friezes that slowly resolved into scenes of bearded gods chasing maidens through foaming waves.

Armor, Dexter thought. It's armor done in brass and copper and made this way as...what? A devotion?

The same blue-orange light crackled along the baroquely ornamented hull of the quadrireme, sparkling from the banks of oars currently at rest, lending an eerie life to the copper gods and their brass maidens.

As best Dexter could tell, the ship was deserted. But the Anakim pulled ahead of his with powerful beats of its wings before swooping to perch on the apparently abandoned rail. The cold flames swept the creature into their grasp but it seemed to pay them no mind.

"There had best be life for you on yon ship, Mariak," Dexter said.

His friend made no reply save a gentle dripping of slushy blood.

("Quadrireme" courtesy of SarahB)


Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Petard

The Dioscuran War Monotreme cut through the black Arctic waters as efficiently as an surface raider might. Dexter would have feared a dive, save for the floats and hooks built into the howdah which had long since trained that tendency out of the fearsome beast. Mariak stood propped in the aft section of the howdah, frozen blood crusted on his diamondlike face.

"From jeweler to jewel," said Dexter. "My friend, you should have stayed with lapidary. Or at least taken up some hobby less dangerous than saving the world from my brother. Cretan bull dancing perhaps."

Mariak had no response, of course.

The Anakim flew parallel to the Monotreme's advance, nearly skimming the water. It seemed as nigh invulnerable to the cold as to everything else. Dexter sent some hate toward it, but the semidivine paid that no more mind than it had paid anything else he thought to tell it.

Must revive Mariak, Dexter thought, then break free of whatever curse the Anakim would extract for that, then undo the damage his brother had done, then rescue Sinister from wherever he'd gotten off to now. "I will hoist that twin by his petard until it snaps and breaks," Dexter growled though no one was there to hear him.

Dead ahead he saw a glow rising on the horizon. Some work of the Ice King's? Or the Anakim's doing? It was of no matter, he had only this course to follow.


Monday, January 26, 2004
Quire

Ceramic-coated thorium slugs hammered out of the steam-powered autocannon like so many tiny fists of God, if God had hundreds of tiny fists. The recoil nearly drove Dexter from the weapon's narrow saddle but he kept his grip and track across the burgeoning horde of frosty hoplites. He spared the Anakim, walking the stream of heavy fire over the sweep of its dark wings. The War Monotreme trumpeted its battle cry as it took a near-sexual pleasure from the heavy vibrations atop its spine.

Within moments the battlefield was a scene of ghostly silence. The dreaded frosty hoplites had been reduced to steaming crumbles of stained snow. The Anakim seemed content to shed blood from its feathers and clean its greatsword, so Dexter directed the War Monotreme through the hot slush toward Mariak's body. He could only hope Mariak was duplicitously feigning death. Even so, Dexter could not banish the thought that the dwarf's body had been heavy with both rigor and mortis.

"I care not if he has a quire of death certificates," he shouted to the uncaring stars. "I will raise that man back to his station."

The War Monotreme grumbled to a halt before the dwarf, whose body was the only spoil of battle edible to the great quasimammal. Dexter slid down the boarding chain and rushed to his friend's side.

Mariak had transformed to ice. Though he was still encased in his leathers and armor, the dwarf's flesh was crystalline. Dexter took out the Hyperpyron and laid it upon his friend's chilly brow. "I swear by this coin and by my honor I will avenge you, friend."

There is a way to bring him back, said the Anakim inside Dexter's mind.

"No."

As you wish.

"You lie!" Dexter leapt up screaming to reach for his radium rifle, but the weapon had been lost in the heat of battle. He rushed the Anakim with his sabre. "You lie! You lie! All of Heaven's messengers lie!"

The blade of his weapon slipped off the Anakim's dark skin as a butter knife would slip off granite.

Lay his body in your Monotreme's howdah and I will show you the way.

"At what price?" Dexter asked. There was always a price.

Does it matter?

Dexter did not answer, but turned instead to take up his friend.

("Quire" courtesy of AnnaH)


Sunday, January 25, 2004
Concentrical

Much has been written on the horrors of war. But the glories are all the greater for that horror. Battle is the ultimate proving ground for a certain sort of man. Your scholar, your musician, your consummate lover...they find their apotheosis elsewhere, and are the weaker for it. The ultimate concentrical environment for a true, blooded man with strength in his arms and fire in his belly is amid the fray. The wailing music of bullets and snowballs are as a wedding march to him. The blows and bruises of melee are as a gentle kiss to him. Every moment of his life is dedicated to that worship of Mars acted out on the world's stage with weapon in hand and murder in eye.

Unfortunately Dexter was not one of those men.

Instead he raced gibbering through the surge of frosty hoplites. He fired his radium rifle with reckless abandon. Reckful abandon as well. When his glowing bullets were finally spent, Dexter threw down his firearm and waded on with his sabre.

The War Monotreme finally sensed his approach -- the great animals were gene-locked to the Dioscuran pheromones. It trumpeted a welcome. Battered nearly senseless by the barrage of snowballs and ice missiles, Dexter reached for a brass boarding chain. The freezing metal tore skin from his hand as he climbed. A last few persistent frost hoplited tried to follow him up but Dexter made short work of the with his sabre.

The view from the howdah was not encouraging. Dexter powered up the autocannon and prepared to dispense hot, high-velocity death from the safety and comfort of the weapon's teakwood saddle.

"For Mariak!" he cried, thumbing the triggers.

("Concentrical" courtesy of AnnaH and SarahB)


  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.