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

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Dragons did not shit where they ate, but that was only by virtue of their length. Gorge, servant to her majesty the red dragon Stynaserian during the eighth decade of her life, discovered early in his career that dragons ate much and shit man-sized mounds.

In fact, it seemed to Gorge, after only three weeks service to his smoldering queen, that his job of chamberlain entailed little more than removing waste from the rear of her cave and delivering food to the front. He spent half of every day just mucking feces, only to spend the second half hunting the great devil's dinner. And he had only taken the job because he thought all dragon's kept treasure and he might steal a bit over time. Only too late did he discover that such tales were wild. What use had dragons for gold or diamonds? Such things were the paltry inventions of man and carried no more worth to a dragon than the mounds at the back of Stynaserian's cave.

This unbearable and altogether unhealthy situation continued for some weeks before the man confronted his dragon master early on the summer solstice when he knew he might catch her drowsy.

"My queen, what boon have I earned for the services I've provided you these long weeks?" he asked, trying to make his voice boom, though the cave and Styn's own sonorous breathing seemed to swallow up most of his bluster.

The dragon, her red scales glistening in a slant of sultry sunlight falling through the cave mouth, opened her huge eyes and puffed a gout of flame at the floor. Her head -- it was the size of a small fishing vessel -- rose from the ground and she regarded her servant.

"Boon? What boon would you have, little insect? Have I not suffered to smell your man blood day and night without eating you? Is that not boon enough?"

Gorge steeled himself against the fear that now turned his knees to pudding and his bowels to cream.

"No, my queen. It is not enough. I have served well and hard these last days and for nothing save some small scraps of charred meat -- your half-chewed leftovers. A man needs wages in this world, even if a dragon does not. I have shoveled your shit and now I would have payment."

"You smell of shit," said the dragon. But was there a hint of amusement in her voice? Had he gotten through? Engaged her respect for him if only a bit?

Gorge thought so.

"I smell as I do, because I serve you, my queen. Your cave is clean as a rain-soaked leaf."

Styn was quiet a moment, then she said, "Go to the river and return when you are clean. Then I shall give you your boon."

Gorge washed in the cold mountain water until every bit of filth had been cleaned away. And when he returned to his mistress he stood before her nude to show that every part of him was washed white.

Stynaserian, the great red dragon of the north, gobbled Gorge down in one swift flick of her neck and snap of her jaws. She did not even bother to chew.

In his first week of serving the dragon queen, Stynaserian, Elbert learned that dragons ate much and shit man-sized mounds.

(Today's word and story both by guest author David Jones.)

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bruno the Insensate woke to darkness. But then, he always woke to darkness. Assuming he was awake. That was often arguable, even within the dusty halls of his own consciousness. After a while, he slept again. Or perhaps he did not.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Constable Plod stumbled through the burned-out city. His nightstick was as heavy as his dreams. The sky had been nothing but red for days, and the most recent rain of stones had bruised his shoulders and dented his helmet. Plod he was and plod he did, for nothing can stay the policeman from his appointed rounds. Or was that the mailman? Constable Plod wasn't sure anymore, though he wore a blue uniform and carried a stick, he might have been a dairyman. Or possibly a fireman. Which would make sense, plodding onward through the memory of flames.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

We scarpered away the hull, fearing for the rays of the black-light sun. Little Jo swung out in her glass boots and her iron helmet to make fast the ghost-sails, while the ropewolves climbed to their tasks in the vasty darkness between the holds. I myself had control of the Great Scarper, that holy tool which both heals and kills, much like a scalpel in the hands of a drooling fool. I stood firm, performed my task, slaughtered only a few, before the Captain proclaimed us underway and the shadowlight began to flood our brightest spaces and we tumbled into uneasy dream.

Monday, February 21, 2005
Fiduciary Duty

Fiduciary duty underlies much of what any fiducer does when she is not polishing her pennons or sharpening her shako. She is expected to stand, march and present arms with aplomb and vigor, and never fail to fiduce at will. Duty is a glorious thing when one is a fiducer.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

I always wanted to be a stoat. Living in a narrow hole, with 500-channel satellite cable, titanium teeth sprouting in my head (how do they floss?), and a brain the size of a peanut. Imagine the deep thoughts stoats think while carrying out the will of the Secret Masters. Consider their relationship with weasels. Plus they taste good with ketchup.

  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.