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

Friday, August 20, 2004

"Damn you for a boggart!" shouted the old nun with the shaking hands. She had forgotten to take the surgical tubing off her left forearm, and her veins bulged, watershed map of the river of impending death.

Skee ran like his heels were melting, laughing fit to tear his diaphragm. He hadn't taken anything, nothing at all, just scared the antique god-botherer. People took themselves so seriously! He rounded a corner, caroming off an array of trashcans, and into the arms of a waiting priest-enforcer.

"Well, and it looks like we've got ourselves a chance for an exorcism," said the cop. His face was apple-red and sweating. The nun's howls and imprecations echoed from behind as Skee began to realize what might next be in store for him.

The cop laughed. "And here comes a sister now, with her silver needles." The it wasn't so funny any more, to be the boggart. Not so funny at all when the prayers got heavy and the darkness came.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Father Alfons held the sealed envelope in both hands, his eyes scanning the neat secretarial script for the fifth time. It was a message from the Vatican; the first he'd ever received in his long years as a priest in the Society of Jesus Crhist. Of course it had been written by the Pope's personal scribe, but it bore the signature and seal of the Holy Vicar of Christ on earth.

At length Alfons broke the seal and reverently unfolded the single piece of vellum inside. He scanned the words and his breath caught, then he scanned them again to be certain, feeling no less excitement and fear.

He rang the ornate bell on his desk and Brother Alexius appeared in his doorway.

"Yes, Father?" said the Japanese convert who spoke Portuguese better than any Japper Alfons had ever known. The young man looked expectant. Alfons knew he was too well disciplined to ask about the letter directly, but he dearly wanted to know its contents. The old priest decided not to torture him.

"I'm to be made Archbishop, Alexius," said Father Alfons, calling the young acolyte by his Christian name -- the name he had been given in Rome at his baptism. "And you, my son, are to finally be endowed. You'll be a priest in the Society of Jesus Christ; a knight in service of holy mother church. Are you happy?"

"So very happy, Father. I am not worthy of so great an honor. Please, may I go to my room for prayer, I must praise God for this blessing."

"Of course, my son. But please come back for the evening meal, I have much to discuss with you. These changes will have far-reaching effects in the Japans. Imagine, by 1700 we could have all the islands converted. No more foolish wars between daimyos. No more senseless killing."

"Yes, Father," said Alexius. He bowed his tonsured head and left the room discreetly.

Alexius knelt by his bed -- a hay-filled cot that was meager to fit his vow of poverty -- and removed the swords that were his right as a samurai; son of a daimyo. He unsheathed the smaller blade and placed it in a jug of water so that the ornate hilt remained extant. The longer sword he lay on the cot with a note for Father Alfons, explaining the reasons for his seppeku. Alexius might have taken the Christ as his master for the sake of Portuguese trade -- his father had ordered it, what choice did he have? -- but he would not be party to the barbarians' conquer of his homeland. The land of the gods was no place for a single deity, no matter how mighty. A samurai required more.

(Today's StoryWord and story both courtesy of guest author DavidJ)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Over time, her heart had undergone a sort of plastination, the blood replaced by something hard and impenetrable. When she realized that it wasn't doing her any good in its usual place, she removed it and set it on a shelf, where it now gathers dust and the occasional cobweb. The space it occupied in her chest is now a handy compartment for spare change and her extra set of car keys.

(StoryWord by guest author Tiger Lily)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Entelechy isn’t a state of being, it’s a state of mind. That’s the trouble. You can think your way in, but once you’re there, you’re not...if you understand me. You’re pure thought, which is disconcerting. Suddenly, there’s no body, just mind. It’s a tough thing to get used to, being incorporeal. You expect to be blown hither and yon like a feather, but because you’re intellect, you can control your own sense of place. That means you can be blown along on a breeze if you want to be…or not. You can settle on a fence and watch your mare play tag with her foal. You can dance on the tip of a tree-top leaf. You can just be, which isn’t easy when you’ve a body to mind. This way, you can keep the wind from taking you…or be taken by the wind.

It kind of blows your mind.

("Entelechy" Storyword by guest author JannaS)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Karst glitters. Karst rises. Karst breaches from the earth like a fossil whale, turning halfway to the sky to expose the darkness beneath, surprising worms in a moment of sunlit epiphany before moving on to cold, dry winds. Karst is a spelling challenge. Karst is a language fossil. Karst stands tall by the highway, misunderstood by all but geologists and linguaphiles.

  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.