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

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Mariak stepped out the darkness, glowing blue. His skin was the lambent shade of a polar ice cap seen from below on the endless summer day of the Arctic north. His eyes glinted like diamond shards. Even his teeth seemed crystal rather than pearlescent.

"Truth," whispered Dexter. "The truth is you were dead."

"You never believed that."

"No." Dexter felt ashamed. "But who are you now?"

You know, said the Anakim somewhere deep inside his head.

"You know," said Mariak.

"I know," said Dexter in his brother's voice.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Faith, thought Dexter. Faith, faith, faith.

Each syllable was a footfall on dark gravel. Each breath was a pause to test the next inches of ground. Ahead, the dimness brightened to a glow, something like the golden glow of the quadrireme that had led to him to this sorry pass.

Faith, faith, faith.

He could no longer tell the difference between the echoing disdain of the Anakim and his own inner voice.

Something blocked the light. Dexter stopped.

"Maybe," a voice said. Half-familiar. Half-known.

He was fairly certain it wasn't his own. "Maybe what?" Dexter asked.

"Maybe the truth will come to you now."

Familiar. Known. That voice was a doppelganger in the darkness.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Some time later -- minutes, hours, days -- Dexter became aware of a rock beneath his ribs, shoved sharp like a quoin beneath a gun carriage. He wasn't sure, but he thought he had been sleeping. He stood. His balance was none too great but somehow Dexter felt better. Sleeping or no, his soul seemed to have been, if not refreshed, at least tempered from its grief.

"I shall have to find a way out of here," he announced.

There was no answer, though he was half expecting one.

Dexter shoved one foot forward along the gravel ridge of the Moraine of Doom. Then the other. In a careful shuffle he walked from darkness to indistinguishable darkness.

After a time he thought he could see light ahead.

("Quoin" courtesy of AnnaH)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

"Maybe..." said the voice in the dark.

Dexter jumped up and promptly tripped over the sloughing gravel at his feet. "Mariak! It's you!" He stumbled around with arms extended, reaching for his friend.


There was no answer. Dexter's heart began to cavil. He sank down and clutched his knees.



Faith. Hah.

The darkness became his prison, his wounds salted by his tears.

("Cavil" courtesy of AnnaH by way of SarahB)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

And so Dexter found himself cast into the Moraine of Doom. Frosty hoplites in their dozens grasped him from where he lay prostrate and passed him through wind and snow and ice before throwing him down into a darkness reeking of effluent and suffering. He fell a while, buffeted by icy winds and distant echoes, before coming to rest on a sharp-peaked gravel bank.

"Lost," Dexter whispered.

"Is that you?" someone asked.

Someone familiar.


Monday, February 09, 2004

Faith, thought Dexter. I need to have faith in myself.

"At last I can make an end to you." The Ice King's voice continued to crash like glaciers on the ocean.

"Why?" Dexter asked.

"You bedevil us all!"

"Sinister, perhaps. I mostly read books." Dexter kept his head down and his words calm. "But our opposition defines you. Your power is mighty because your struggles are great."

Good, said the Anakim in Dexter's head.

Shut up, he thought.

"I am great because I am," rumbled the Ice King.

"And you are greater for having to rise above us."

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Dexter propped himself up on his elbows. How had he become prone? His hand was still curled around the belaying pin, was an icicle, and it was melting.

He dropped the cold dagger. "Where's Mariak? And Sinister?"

"Just where you'll be very soon." The Ice King's voice was like the calving of a glacier -- a long, low grind that stung Dexter's bones.

Dexter wondered where the Anakim was, and whether that creature was ally or foe. He summoned his courage, and his sense. "What will it take to make an end to this all?"

"Oh, the end has already been made by your brother." Another bone grinding chuckle. "Now we are focusing on consequences."

"What consequences? Besides some infection of madness, I mean."

"It is the Moraine of Doom for you!" The Ice King's laughter melted into a flood of noise as the frosty hoplites closed in on Dexter and began to pummel him with their crunching fists.

Faith. You are not lost.

  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.