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

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Dexter found himself surrounded by frosty hoplites amid shattered walls of ice. There was no glowing quadrireme, no gallery of slaves-spectators chained to their seats.

No Sinister.

No Mariak.

He was thoroughly deruncinated.

The Ice King began to laugh. The sound echoed in Dexter's head. The Anakim?

"The Dioscuri have always been a hot spring in my side," rumbled the Ice King.

You are not lost.

Friday, February 06, 2004

There was a flurry of bright and bloody confusion. The bright demon that might have been Sinister blinded Dexter with a gleaming fist of light. The froze corpse that had once been Mariak froze his chest with a crunching head butt. Dexter swung to with his belaying pin, bellowing incoherently for his lost friends and family.

After hanging back a few moments, the Anakim swarmed into the fight. It laid to with wings like feather knives and blows of silent thunder. Dexter felt the dark angel's blows in pursuit of his cause as if they had been aimed at him.

Worlds and otherwise spun through his head. Dexter's imagination splintered on a thousand voyages. Words, images, context without meaning, meaning without context. "Spandex," shouted an angry woman. A summons? he wondered, before being swept into an awesome cloud of mushrooming fire. Crowds of people in curious felt hats swept by him, then a woolly mammoth trumpeted close by to the scent of rotting roses.

You fight too hard, observed the Anakim with its curious detached humor.

"I fight for them!" shrieked Dexter as a blow loosened his teeth.

Open up your arms.

Mariak bit him on the wrist. Dexter cracked his friend upside the head with the belaying pin. The dwarf's skull shattered like a goblet dropped from a high, cold tower would.


("Spandex" no thanks to AnnaH, whose sense of the inappropriate seems to have triumphed... ;-)

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The ship was definitely more and less. Dexter ran toward the sounds of fighting along an endless narrow alley between the rowing benches. The benches grew larger as he sprinted, or perhaps he grew smaller. The fight echoed from ahead, the tints and hues of the bright demon's effulgence flaring, presumably following its fortunes in the fight.

"Brother," Dexter breathed as he pounded along. "Friend." Step. "Sinister." Step. "Mariak."

Fools, one and all.

Then he was in an open sandy pit where the figures struggled. Rising tiers of seats surrounded their battle, occupied by a thousand slaves of every hue and size of human being. The spectators were linked in coffles by silver chains that flashed in the bright demon's light. This close to the battle, there was no sound at all save the slow breathing of the slaves -- every lung seeming to work in unison so that it was as if the world itself breathed -- and the fast breathing of the combatants.

Dexter cocked his belaying pin and charged into the fray.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The companionways and catwalks of the quadrireme seemed endless. The glow of battle could be seen, and the timbers shivered with the blows of the titanic struggle. But clearly this glowing mystery ship was much larger within than without.

The oar benches were empty and silent. Manacles dangled from each great wooden shaft. They smelled of vinegar and lye, as if fresh scrubbed of the blood and sweat of a thousand angry slaves. Dexter stalked among them with the belaying pin in his hand, wishing for his radium rifle, or his sabre, or just a decent smoke grenade.

Howling echoed from somewhere ahead. He did not recognize the voice.

They bite like dogs.

"Shut up, coward."

I? The Anakim seemed offended. A coward?

"Heaven's voyeur, that's what you are." Dexter kicked a bench as he passed. Even that light blow caused the ship to echo.

Was it both more and less than it seemed?

("Vinegar" courtesy of SusanL)

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Dexter marched up to the Anakim. "Mighty convenient, you being an agent of Heaven and all. Lording it over us." He poked at its dark chest, which was like poking a mineshaft. "You're a fraud, you feathered son of a bitch. You're just here to torment me. If you serve good, or God, you'll help me now."


"Or what?"

There's always an 'or' with you demanding little apes.

"Either I'm one of God's creatures, in which case I am no ape, or I am my own man, in which case I am no ape." Dexter cocked his fist back and slugged the Anakim. He felt his knuckles break as blood flooded down his hand. "Would an ape strike an angel?"

The Anakim stared him down. This close its eyes were as much mine pits as the cold depth of its skin had bin. The ship shook to the titanic rage of the battle below decks.

Very well. Let us launch this anabasis of yours, little man.

Dexter grabbed a belaying pin from the rail near the Anakim and stalked toward the light guttering from the shattered hatch leading into the rearcastle.

("Anabasis" courtesy of AnnaH)

Monday, February 02, 2004

Mariak's frozen corpse, animated by God only knew what forces, stumped past Dexter where he sprawled on the deck and sprinted into the glow. The glittering, demonic presence in the forecastle shrieked with a remarkable ordinary fear and retreated. It slammed the door as it went. This did not stop the dwarfsicle.

Dexter stared at the cloud of splinters and rubbed his chin. "What in the hells was that?"

A little bit of divine legerdemain, said the Anakim. God rarely leaves His fingerprints on the world.

"My brother...Mariak..."

Possession is the whole of the law.

Dexter stood, shook out his aching muscles. "No. Loyalty is. My brother's a bastard, but he's my bastard. Mariak's my friend. I'm going in there. I'm going to stand whatever those are down and get my people out."

Commendable idiocy.

"Don't laugh, feather-head. You're going in there with me."

Oh, really?


The entire quadrireme shook to the rhythm of a sudden exchange of blows somewhere deep below deck.

("Legerdemain" courtesy of JamesP)

Sunday, February 01, 2004

"I've had it with you mysterious shit heads!" Dexter shouted. He shielded his eyes from the light with his right forearm and got to his feet again. "Either you help Mariak or you get out of my way. I've got my own problems."

Not so smart, the Anakim said.


"You are not the Ice King." Dexter pushed toward the brilliant figure. The light pressed back at him as surely as the hand of God. "You are not my brother. You are some jumped-up demon or angel with delusions of grandeur and a hell of a light source."


Ancient words came to Dexter. "I call upon the forces of winter, ice, snow, cold and darkness. I call upon the Ice King to come and meet this foe in pursuit of his vengeance."

Behind him the War Monotreme burbled its distress. Something thumped on the deck. Dexter ignored the noise, pushing toward his tormentor. The thumping increased.

It was heavy.

It was close.

As he was shoved forward to fall and strike his chin upon the deck, Dexter realized it was Mariak.

("Winter" courtesy of SusanL)

  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?
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.