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

Saturday, April 24, 2004
Tiger Lily

She's dark and dangerous, long and lean, pushing through the swamps like a knife through soft skin. When she hunts she rarely kills. When she kills she rarely eats. She is the tiger lily, a flash of orange surprise in the viridian gloom, that leaves your breath caught in your throat, your hand open and empty.

Friday, April 23, 2004

When I disassembled the heart, I found a lot of pieces I hadn't expected. There were long, pale tubes of sharp regret, and soft, rounded nuggets of affection. History wrapped everything like a fishing net around a sea turtle. Some muscles were iron-bodied, others were as flabbed as any marketing director. There was nothing for it but to put the pieces back together -- like one of those three-dimensional puzzles the tattooed young men knife each other over down at the mercado transcendentale.

And so the disarray is restored in a new configuration. This here, that there, this other set aside a while. Will it work? I don't know. Will it matter? I don't know. Blood yet flows a while, though the heart will remain in that disarray no matter how hard I try.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The wallydraigle was a plucky little sprite, full of spirit belied by his weak chest and pale, runny eyes. "I shall seek my fortune in the world," he told his mother. "I have dreamed of riches beyond measure and a sweetness in my life."

Mother, who had a brood of thousands and little time for the detritus of the miracle of natural selection, simply smiled and wafted a spray of pheremones toward him.

The wallydraigle took this gift with gratitude and began the long, slow wiggle through the enfolding soil to the sunlight above. Away from the familiar, toward the strange. Away from what he knew. He thought himself ready for the challenge.

When he broke the surface, every blade of grass was a punishing shade of green. Father Sun burned a hole in the sky, angry torch setting fire to the world. The very birds thundered their aggression from the treetops, and a hungry cat pounced upon the emergent sprite.

This is the moral of the wallydraigle: Follow your dreams at your own risk.

("Wallydraigle" courtesy of JedH)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

One stands in abeyance, a lonely country of the soul. Roads beckon, roads lead away, some paved with brilliant gold, others weedy with rust and old bricks. Abeyance is a strange place for one to stand, the antechamber of choice. But choice is a stranger place. Choice is hard. Choice is cold. Choice brings consequence. In the country of abeyance, there is potential without penalty. One wonders.

One will always wonder.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The flowers of the grow in eternal springtime. The evanescent light of his gaze, raised always to the soul within, is sufficient to light the gardens where he even now sits in contemplation of the beginning of all things. There is an ombudswoman there, called by his meditation, succoured by his peace, bound by the colors of his floral love, who opens each bloom one by one with long iron fingernails rusted with salt tears.

("Ombudswoman" courtesy of AnnaH)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Letters from the heart are perilous affairs. Mail delivery is uncertain with the circulatory system, and the messages often go arhythmically astray. Even when they reach their intended recipients, these cardiograms are just as often mistaken for eructations or worse. So beware the heart and its uncertain proclamations.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

My fettle is a fine one. It has chome-steel armatures, dual-voltage wiring, three separate vacuum ports and a dandy power takeoff for when I need to run the hay baler or a quantum dynamo. The legs are an especially fine example of Japanese noh architecture, resulting in this quarter-ton fettle essentially floating in the air. I recommend them to everyone.

("Fettle" 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!
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.