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

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Sphagnum is best served warm, over a bed of ramps with mustard. In certain countries it is considered an aphrodisiac, in others a poison. Avoid eating it salted or with sea cucumber, and always keep a silver spoon close to hand. Remember that even demons dine on something, so if the sphagnum screams, simply close your eyes, pray and chew.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The anterior lights were most lucid upon our deruncination. We followed their gloat until we fondled a new hope, our feature clear in the immanent aspect of whom we hated to begin.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Pellucid. Veiled. Lambent. Light flows in a thousand channels, a million colors, across a billion eyes, a wall of brilliance built angstrom by angstrom, wavicle by wavicle, until it becomes the soft miracle which tickles our souls and feeds our fancies every day of our lives.

("Lambent" courtesy of LadyHawk Girasole)

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

To hell with four letter words, or the seven words you can't say on television. The true fear words in our language are medical: miscarriage, stroke, Alzheimer's, biopsy. Damn, fuck, hell -- at worst they offend or annoy. Stroke wounds for life. Biopsy kills. These words awaken you at night, whispering themselves in your ear like a self-possessed demon on the rampage, so that you stare at the ceiling while your heart slows to cold crawl and your skin feels like frozen leather.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A mahogany stair rises from the mansion's foyer to the gallery above. The wood shines, polished by two centuries of white hands leading, black hands serving -- memories now, two generations later.

Mirabel looks up at the balustrade from the foyer below. A shaft of moonlight, sected by palm frond shadows, slides down from a high arched window. A slim silver shimmer dances in the dark like the reflection of light in water.

One ripple branches from the torso, lays a willowy tentacle on the banister. The shimmer drifts toward the landing. Mirabel takes the stairs step by step, stomach tight, breath shallow in old-house dust. Fifty years gone, Great Grandmama Adina walks here still.

Mirabel reaches the landing, the shimmer, with its broad, strong cheekbones and large doe eyes. White headwrap. So close and cold Mirabel's breath clouds on the air.

"Grandmama," she says, "why walk here when Jesus waits in heaven?"

The shimmer rushes through her. Mirabel smells vanilla bean, sees riots of orchids in a garden lush with fern and palm trees. Hears a baby's gurgle, a man calling "Adina!" Feels love and fear and the dizzy rush of the fall head first over the balustrade to the floor below. An infant's hand on her cheek. One baby left behind.

"Twenty grandchildren," Mirabel says to the darkness. "From one baby. You don't have to watch no more."

A breath, a sigh, a rush of wind. Adina is gone; Adina lives in Mirabel.

(Today's StoryWord courtesy of guest author JannaS)

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Great White Hunter steps from his Landrover. The scoped Mannlicher rifle hangs heavy in his hand, but he ignores the weight as if it were no more than a lit cigarette. Kilimanjaro looms in the distance, its glaciers angular clouds high in the eternal African summer sky. There is a killer here, somewhere in these long grasses, preying on askaris and farmers and even British. His is a safari of one.

When he moves through the brush, he is the brush. His grace and silence give lie to his overfed European bulk, the many-pocketed clothing at which his driver snickers, the leopardskin hat band. He dresses like a man who has read too much Hemingway, but he moves like a man who has dodged bullets.

There are odors on the veldt. Lion sign, the vaguely horsey reek of rhino scat, small things flowering in secret crevices between the occasional tumbled rocks. The Great White Hunter walks on, stalking not by scent, nor by track nor even sight. Rather, he follows the rifle. He is the trajectory of death.

There is an end to this story -- the kick of the rifle, the flat, hard noise of the bullet, the killer's dying screech in a spray of bright orange blood. But is it not better to imagine the hunt going on forever, Hemingway's ghost stalking through the brush, the bright-eyed killer still on the loose, a world of potentiality sliding into the inevitable of death without ever crossing the line.

The safari goes on forever under the brassy sun, a perfect moment in the balance.

("Safari" courtesy of TL)

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The peridot gleams inside the giant's eye. Sapphire tears slip down his cheeks. Rubies encrust his lips, precious scabs. His hair is a mass of silver filaments. His every breath is a precious fog, his every heartbeat an echoing recount of the world's treasures. He stands tall, a gleaming monument to the vanity of men.

  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.