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

Saturday, May 22, 2004
Sanctum Sanctorum

Solitude is that rarest and most blessed of commodities. It is hard to escape the chill regard of the world, difficult to find a quiet, private place where the endless circulation of concern which surrounds us all does not flow. Inside each life we search for a sanctum sanctorum, a secret -- but not secretive -- place where we go to find our center, hold ourselves close, and discover what we were really meant to be.

God has the wild, cloud-wracked precincts of His heaven. Superman has his icy Fortess of Solitude. Even a cat has the peace of sun-drenched sleep. Go now, and found your own sanctum sanctorum, and slip into your dreams.

("Sanctum Sanctorum" courtesy of JamesP)

Friday, May 21, 2004

Consider the door. Two posts and a lintel, the oldest form of human construction, it echoes every cave mouth and shadowed forest path that has beckoned or sheltered since first we dropped out of the trees to stand in stunned surprise staring across the savannah. Our entire life is passages through doorways, from the first dark climb outward to the last silent sigh onward. Every moment is a threshold, every day an open door.

But some thresholds beckon with the gleam of hidden fire. Some thresholds repel with the whiff of fear. Some thresholds are dark with age, cracked with flame, pocked with the pits where diamonds once gleamed.

These doors too must be passed, these thresholds crossed, these lives opened before us day by day, step by step, distant echoes beckoning us ever onward.

("Threshold" courtesy of JannaS)

Thursday, May 20, 2004
Arc of Descent

When Satan's star fell from Heaven to impact in the icy lake below the gut of the world, what was His arc of descent? Did He blaze like a comet of omen, lighting the fear of hell in violet Neanderthal eyes? Did He fly across the skies of the world, Thunderbird to early man's soul-wonderment, leaving legends in His wake? Or did He settle like a fallen leaf, frosted edges lending lift and spin so that He spun through slow, quiet whirlwind of regrets and passion to come to rest into His frozen pediment?

Every life has an arc of descent. Some blessed few find their wings and soar above the shattered ice. Satan lost His bet with God. What is your wager?

("Arc of Descent" courtesy of JamesP)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Punctuated Equilibrium

A city in the desert. Towers of hammered brass, raised by djinns in chains of slavery for a thousand years. Diamond windows glittering the red sun of dawn. Lakes of sand like blood in the long valleys between the dunes. A child crying. A mother searching. A camel snorting its morning water from the ormulu fountain.

Then the punctuated equilibrium asserts itself, the mirage shimmers into rude huts by muddy water, and the real chooses what it shall be this new day.

There is always a choice.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The monster lies on the table, his stitches sewn by a trembling hand. His eyes are marbled visions of cataracts and a clouded hereafter. His ears droop, cartilage half-melted by grave-heat and the pursuant warmth of the lab. Cables string everywhere, leading from giant copper busbars to warm a Lensman's heart, to great accumulator banks that crackle with potential. There remains only the lightning to come, the self-actualization to awaken the monster to the fire, the landslide of awareness to sweep him to greatness or over the edge.

("Self-Actualization" courtesy of JannaS)

Monday, May 17, 2004

In the country of the consonants, the vowel is Queen. She rolls from place to place, open-lipped and wide-hipped, interposing herself between the rough and discordant consonants. They fight among themselves like idle longshoremen in her absence, but when their Queen approaches the rough countrymen drop into a pleasing alignment, their arrays neat and straight in her service. They achieve a sort of syzygy, courtesy of the Queen's bastard son Y, yeah so many pock-faced moons marching toward the word.

("Syzygy" courtesy of Tiger Lily)

Sunday, May 16, 2004
Tempus Fugit

Time heals all wounds, but it also stabs the deepest. Every breath grows cold in time, every child finds a grave in time. We scramble, we fight, we beg and plead, but time heeds no man and serves no woman. There is only life with love. Tempus fugit, but love is forever.

  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.