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

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The soulcatcher runs through the Northwest woods like the hot wind before the fire. She caresses the glaciers louche upon their stony mountains, lavishes sweet kisses upon the running waters, sends her arms out to the mothering sea. I am caught in her net, lifted toward a searing fire, tumbling through the sky with flowers in my eyes and silence in my ears.

Friday, May 07, 2004

The introit folds within itself, like a match-burned pill bug. The notes slide downward to the scales only dragons and rocks can hear. The choir folds its music inside manskin binders, congratulates itself on another bright day in hell, then all leave the stage. Only the ghost of the music remains behind, echoing from absent ear to absent ear, until the silence settles like a waiting beast.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Innocence can never be captured, only released. Never be gained, only lost. Never be hoarded, only shared. It is a spice on the wind, blowing warm to sting the eyes to tears. It is water in the forest, running cool to ease the thirsty soul. Like a woman's shadow, innocence flees the light of a man's regard. Innocence.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I don't know you, but Tiger Lily told me your daughter died yesterday. Young, promising, beautiful in that way that every child is, and more. She was your child.

I'll never know. I don't you, I didn't know her. I know there's empty days and cold earth ahead, and some flowers that will quickly fade and help not at all. I know there's the kind wishes of strangers and the love of close friends, and they will help not all either. I know there's a desert country of your heart that has opened and will never, ever close as long as you draw breath.

If I were there, I'd bring useless flowers. I'd throw a handful of dirt in the grave. I'd leave again, and you'd never know I'd been there. You'll remember little of it, except the shining coffin and the useless words and the music which you will hate for the rest of your life the way you'll hate the special green of that cemetery grass.

But funerals are for the living as well as the dead. Any good-bye is better than no good-bye, though no good-bye is ever better than life. The love of every parent rides with you now. Maybe someday a small flower will bloom in the new desert of your heart, and when the petals open in the morning dew you'll see her face framed in color and scent and know some peace again.

Only you knew your child well enough to remember her as she deserves.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Catenary Arch

Your essence transcribes a catenary arch across my soul, a reaching high into the gold-glowing sky like a thread to bind the earth to heaven. Angels might slide across that line, pin-dancing like so many broken urban brothers. The birds might rest there, save that the razor sharp edge of my feelings would slice their feet so that their blood fell like red rain. There is a binding in process, unasked for, unlooked for, unlong for, but that catenary arch stretches higher with each passage of the sun.

Monday, May 03, 2004

The muse Erato stood by the holy fire, flames reflected in her orange hair. In her one hand she held a stick, which was a snake, then a stick again. In her other hand she held the copper chain which snaked through miles and years to the shackles of my heart.

Me, I lay on a distant beach and counted stars like angels in the mist and wondered for whom the sea was crying.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Distant palaces with cool marble halls bedizened with ormulu and brass glory. Oceans topped with lacy foam roaring lullabies to the uneasy night. Sun below the horizon reflecting off clouds in the bloody sky. Man on beach, smelling salt and iodine, listening to the tides of his heart. Woman in front of flowers, smelling vase water and old perfume, reading cards in the dark.


("Bedizen" thanks to Tiger Lily)

  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.