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

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Reverese peristalsis is a wonderful thing, a miracle of nature, unless and until it happens to you.

Friday, November 26, 2004

They move in a teeming, Dinseyfied mass toward some lost land off the Norwegian coast. Well, not really, that was Red Scare era propaganda, disguised as children's programming. Trick photography. Miscasting of the life cycle of the little rodents. Scandinavian prairie dogs with a migration complex. Still they move through our consciousness, a metaphor, like penguins leaping from the ice, for the inevitable yet stupid.

But not everything is inevitable, or stupid. Some things are difficult. Some things feel like a lemming-run toward a none-too-distant sea, making us ready to wrap ourselves in the tide's chill embrace. And some things in life, running toward Sister Ocean or not, are an opportunity to stretch leathery wings and take gem-bright flight in the glittering dawn air, high above all the suffering lemmings.

(Storyword "Lemmings" suggested by RuthN)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Sometimes even to love beyond measure is not enough. Sometimes nothing is enough. Then, all you have left, is too little, too late, for whatever project your soul has dreamt of in the watches of the night. Only memory remains, and the presumption that something once great could have been, lost now like fog on a summer morning, slipping wisps through fingertips until only salt tracks and sore eyes remain, and a splintered heart pounding in a wooden chest. Then you cry, "enough", but it is far too late.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The abnegation of the heart is a terrible sentence for a court to deliver. Bailiffs with rusty knives and soiled opera gloves are required by law and the virtue of custom to perform the operation once justice has been pronounced. There is a special table, an old bed, really, with a big sea of blankets, upon which the convicted is laid and restrained. Music is played -- Indigo Girls or 3 Doors Down are traditional -- and the witnesses shuffle and moan as the dull blades flash red and black in the uncertain, flickering light. Should the convicted weep or cry out, the abnegation is prolonged, until the music runs out and only the dripping rhythm of his fleeing heartsblood remains, a metronome counting out the hours of his life and the death of hope.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My prothonotary even now records my acts, ghosting me through the short halls and cluttered rooms of the basement which is my life. He knows my loves and my private desperations. He reads my manuscripts and laughs sometimes at my big plans. He slips John Mayer on the CD player and rattles the beer bottles in the fridge to remind me of the hard things in my life. He keeps me as honest as I know how to be, my prothonotary, making notes of what unfolds so that I might someday tell the full tale of my joy and sorrow, my sorrow and my joy.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Who would want to be a muse, especially the muse of tragedy, Melpomene? Probably not even Melpomene herself, who reportedly was quite excellent with the lyre. But was she remembered as a songstress? No, all she got was the role of inspiration, grand passion or no grand passion.

I'll sing the songs myself, thank you.

(Story for "Melpomene" courtesy of guest author RuthN)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The impossible takes longer, but nothing takes forever. Save the heat death of the universe, or the slow blink of God's eye which is the measure of all of us. You and I might live a thousand thousand years and still not fit all of our lives into that span. And still, nothing is impossible.

  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.