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

Saturday, June 05, 2004
High Orbit

Spaceship One's going up, to what they call "near space." Somebody's floating an airship to match. The X-Prize will be won this summer, guys. But some of us troopers already fly without a plane, when the wind is north by northwest and hawks and handsaws are raining from the summer sky. It's a weird life writers lead, on the edge of flame all the time, diving low and driving high, but there are days when I'm in high orbit and can see the Earth below me, clouded marble eye of Gaea staring right back, terminator-lidded and surrounded by a face of puckered stars. To hell with the X-Prize, my heart knows what it seeks.

Friday, June 04, 2004

No one told me about the way she could move. No one warned me that her footfalls, the muscles in her legs, the sway of her hips, could be so dangerous. No one ever showed me how a woman could dance through life, two steps ahead of whatever beat I can hear, her movement leading the world around her like the autumn winds lead the golden leaves to their mulchy rebirth. What do I know from movement? My joints are strung with bungees, my sense of rhythm is flatter than an Oklahoma flapjack. But when I see her move, the beat awakens within me.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

We fell from the trees a million years ago to walk with monkey-paranoia through the tall grass infested with lions and larger apes. Once we lived in caves, sleeping in great, hairy piles for comfort and warmth. Later we huddled behind stout walls while fire arrows traced arcs of death in the twilight sky and our children screamed. But now? Now we live clad in sheetrock riven with copper runes bearing 110 volts to our keyboards and coffee makers, stare out windows which would withstand no attack, and pass through doors made of old trees.

And we have never been alone.

Solitude: that greatest of human needs, that rarest of human achievements, that kindest of human blessings. A million years of company stands behind our shoulders, echoing in the music of our genes. Perhaps we have evolved to silence, and peace.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The very continents themselves relocate, moving inch by and inch and year by year until San Andreas or New Madrid loses a fight with some deeper impulse and all the vases topple, only to be reset once more by handsome, hairy apes. Birds move their nests, badgers tunnel their way to ever cleaner holes, the salmon follows the scent of his home water across a hemisphere of salt and iodine. So when you move, of course it is a chaotic, bruising event, full of truck and circumstance. Relocation is like boxing -- someone always gets hurt, someone has to tape up, but in the end, you win.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
In transit

Points on a curve, the trajectory between them in transit. I fly from here to there, heedless of the ache in my heels or the echo in my heart, trying to land in a place which moves faster than I do. The airline is of some assistance, the white clouds my kind-eyed counselors beneath the sun's blue-eyed gaze. The keyboard carries my thoughts further, in transits of their own on invisible lines of IP packets and quantized memes. Where will I land? When will I arrive? Ever? Never?

Only you know, and you keep your secrets close.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Inamorata infects us like dengue fever in the tropical night, until we crawl into love's foetid embrace and die a thousand deaths among emerald leaves hung with ruby insects fat with our own blood.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The lodestar pulls the steering of the ship, guiding her through hull-cracking ice and gyres large enough to swallow cities. The narwhals shy from the lodestar's light. The stormwrack cleaves to give passage. Without the lodestar there is cold death and frigid starvation. With the lodestar there is the hope of a distant port and the memory of a once-warm sun.

  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.