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In the absolute middle of everything, right as I was watching his breath catch against the backs of his teeth, I said, “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”

“Fuck,” he wheezed, already tipping over the edge. I liked that—to cut the tension, to know when to snip a moment like a taut thread. To be attentive and loving but use it primarily for the most god-awful gags.

“Goddamn you,” he elaborated, but he always was a gentleman, so he still rolled us both over, pressed me hard into the mattress the way I liked. I’d be sorry to see him gone, and the sex wasn’t even the number-one reason. Foremost I liked his laugh a hell of a lot: it was full-bodied, unguarded. He’d throw his head back and you could really just tell he’d never even once worried about someone cutting that gorgeous bright throat.

We spooned afterwards, a bit of philanthropy on my part. I’ll never understand the appeal of being caged in a foreign tangle of limbs, like a tree being choked out by an enterprising strangler fig. But he loved it—said it felt cozy, felt intimate in a way that didn’t hold any expectations. He was sweet like that. Anyway, I thought it was the least I could do.

He probably would’ve also enjoyed being the inner curve of the spoon, sheltered in the root ball of my arms, but I said no. I didn’t want to risk activating some hungering instinct before I was ready. Some steel-trap reflex in my jaw that might rear its head if I suddenly found him limp and trusting and tucked under my chin.

 


 

I met his sister the next morning for brunch. Well, I should say it like this: I met my best friend, whose brother I was sleeping with, the next morning for brunch. She wore a harried expression, mostly covered up by the delicate tiling of her expensive foundation. She was in the kind of relationship that turns you into an expert at building unbroken skin out of powder and cream.

“Uoi,” she complained, as I dropped into the seat opposite, out of breath and egregiously, characteristically late. (What? You try piloting two arms, as many legs, and the whole complicated mess of organs between.)

“Yeah, I know,” I said, “I look really good.”

She didn’t even crack a smile, which made me feel a lot worse than showing up late did. Frankly, what was the point of not using this mouth for devouring, if I couldn’t use it to coax a laugh out of her?

I looked for the rot-blue of a bruise somewhere on her cheek, under a brow, but couldn’t find anything. Maybe that boy of hers had come home too close to the brim to lay his fists about, and she’d just put him to bed. He was the one I really wanted to find myself curled up against, one of these days. I’d show him what a cornered girl could do then: worm-sleek, all jaw and radula. Unfortunately, he was, as the sacred edicts put it, faithful. It was probably calculated to a certain degree—maybe it helped him shore up some sick sense of righteousness while he was slapping my best friend, the sun of my heart, around like a rag doll.

She’d ordered coffee already, exactly the way I liked it: cappuccino, extra foam, enough cinnamon on top to choke a small horse. It was still hot, which meant she’d guessed exactly how late I’d be. I loved her so much that sometimes I thought it would hollow me out.

“How was your night,” she said, a little stiffly. Ha. She could probably tell I’d had a rolling good time.

Instead of answering—she didn’t know about me and the brother, and it would be inconvenient if she found out—I asked, “Would you still love me if I was a worm?”

“Yeah, obviously,” she said. “Did you look at the flower crown pictures I sent?”

I couldn’t tell a rose from a lily if you paid me for it. Not a drop of blood between them. Bit of a waste, but did the god ask me?

“They were nice,” I said, and sipped my cappuccino as I lifted my gaze skyward, like I was recalling real details instead of making a chess gambit. “I thought they were a little heavy, though. Too much embellishment.”

“Too much?”

“Yeah, feels like they’ll distract from the dress. And we spent so long picking the dress.”

“Even the eucalyptus one?” she said, skeptical.

“Oh, especially the eucalyptus.” I cursed the original inventor of the flower crown. Not that you’d catch me at the altar, but if you did I’d be wearing a tendon headdress, a tiara of sinew. Something to sink teeth into.

She picked at the corner of her napkin. “I just want to settle on something.”

“I know it feels like a lot,” I agreed. I had spent months throwing my every wit and weapon into dragging the process out as long as humanly—humans, that was the key here, they’re very susceptible to the window-dressing of a good ritual—possible. “But it’ll all be worth it when the two of you get that perfect day.”

“You didn’t even originally want there to be a wedding.”

“Right, fine, but I came around, didn’t I?” She and I had come as close as we ever did to fighting, the day she told me about the engagement. Lucky the fiancé had been out of town that weekend, or I might have done something really stupid. By the time he got back, I’d realized I was going to need a longer setup to outflank this whole cruel trap of a situation. That was about when I started sleeping with her brother.

“This isn’t even the important part, right?” she implored. “It’s not about the clothes and the flowers. It’s about us making our vows, committing to each other.”

“Are you kidding? How many times do you think you’re going to get married?”

She blinked. “What—”

“Three, tops.” It finally cracked a smile out of her. Like hammering a joint into marble, but it was there. As I said, I always liked that—cutting into the moment, the right moment. The give of it is like the pulse of a jugular when you take a tooth to it: a tautness, suddenly yielding. “So each wedding needs to be flawless.”

She threw up her hands. “Uoi. Okay, I’ll do some more flower crown research. Can we talk about something else?”

You brought it up, I could have said. But it would’ve creased a line between her brows; it would’ve twisted the tension higher, instead of snipping it, letting it burst like a yolk from the shell. So I picked up the menu instead.

She got the French toast: pillowy and soft, drowning in an annihilation of cream. I ordered steak tips, as rare as they would let me.

“You know,” I said, as we were splitting the check. “There’s nothing wrong with a long engagement, if you want to put it off for another year.”

She sighed. “I know you’re worried I’m rushing things. But can I tell you something?”

“Of course. You don’t have to ask.”

“I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” she said, like she was god on the fucking cross, beatific. I didn’t doubt her. She was like my mother, in that way: believing in a love that meant suffering. Believing the holiest, truest way to love someone was to die for them. She’d die for me in a second. Die for him by degrees, at his hand and word, across a lifetime, and was already midway through doing just that.

Me personally, I’d die for her too, if it came to that. But I’d kill for her first. I think that’s the truest way, the real underwriting of love. Not that the god asked me.

 


 

Here’s the thing, the crux I couldn’t forgive: her brother had been the one to introduce them. Him with his trusting bared throat and his enormous, naive eyes—of course he’d managed to be impressed by his coworker’s expensive watch and cool, entitled gaze. Of course he’d managed to miss the tension lines in the man’s jaw, the tautness of violence under Calvin Klein wool. Like hell was I going to let that slide, no matter the silver bells of his laugh.

I’d been hearing plenty of that laugh, these last six months or so. He’d nursed an interest in me for years, which had made it easier to move things along. Like a good human, he also nursed a lot of guilt for no reason, which had made it easier to keep things a secret.

There was a certain progression to these things, my mother had told me. I always took her advice with the proverbial salt, given that she’d let herself be devoured in spirit, push come to shove—but I never knew my grandmothers, so she was all I had of the ways, in the end. Long past, when we were more snake than warm, and we ate eggs for the tiny hot sun of the rich yolk, my people used to coil round the bird, first. Tuck our chins over its feathered shoulder, listen to the cantering song it pumped from trusting lungs. There’s a proper order. First you know them. Then you eat them.

Later on, the first of the priests said much the same, with their heavy tomes bound in warm-blood skin, the cold touch of their chrisms. You should know the god, before you eat him. Funny how their meals were liturgy and ours a sacrilege. My mother still has the tiny convent school scars on her hands, from the way she kept smudging the sacred names. She doesn’t mind those little pale lines, and neither do I. The scars on her heart are worse. First you learn to love the god, then you learn to destroy yourself. Me personally, I’d love the god better if he’d known how to set up a joke. Or maybe he had, and it was the men clamoring in his wake who couldn’t scrape together a sense of humor between them. All we have from those holy writs is tension, ratcheting tighter with every passing century. I’m not cutting into that—I work small.

 


 

I had a set on Friday, which went swimmingly. After it was over, I bounded off the stage, two at a time down the steps with the adrenaline still chewing at my limbs. My best friend, who was the best possible person in the world to show off to, threw her arms around me. She half shrieked her congratulations with a lot more excitement than the size of the crowd really warranted.

I hugged her back without any caution. My body didn’t recognize hers as prey. The last time I’d wanted to die—a long time ago, now—I’d called her from my kitchen floor, and she had let me throw my voice at her like I was a breaking wave of sorrow and she the basalt jag to receive it. How can you hunt what has heard you weep like that?

She cupped my face in her hands and rattled off praise like she hadn’t sat through every draft of the routine already. I glowed under it. I knew I was preening, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter if it was nose-to-nose like this, or across a crowded room like earlier—there wasn’t anything I’d ever found that made me feel so seen, as the way she looked at me. We used to be cold-blooded full-time, back when we lived in the rivers, and sometimes I think we each just changed our personal definition of the sun.

I was feeling good. I mean, really, really good. Prickling all over and kind of self-destructive and starving and exultant, like I could run for miles or eat a whole town or throw myself off the edge of a cliff just to discharge some of that electricity under the skin. It was always like that after a show, hard to come down from feeling like I was breathing through everyone’s lungs at once, all that energy eddying around the room and pouring into me every time I opened my mouth. I sometimes wondered if sex was just one of the ways, and maybe we could also change after, I don’t know, committing to a really good bit.

She had brought the fiancé, the two of them perched on stools at one of the little high tables near the back, and it was clear he was lapping her on drinks several times over.

“Not bad,” he said to me. He tended to get cooler and clearer as he drank, which was partly why he swam in the benefit of everyone’s doubt. Nobody believed him capable of senselessness, and once they presumed a reason to violence, it turned out they could overlook any amount of it.

At one point my mother had said to me—I remember this like it’s burned into the back of my skull, like it was whipped into my palm by a bloodied ruler—some men are overwhelmed by the emotion, when they love that much. I couldn’t tell who else she was remembering when her eyes went distant. I wondered if she had given them what they deserved, whoever they were. Or if she’d believed what they gave her was what she deserved—if the god had already sunk teeth into her by then. If she’d already traded in the old ways for a song and a prayer, literally.

I’ll pray for him, she had added, meaning the fiancé. I’d turned my face away.

“I keep telling her,” he was saying to me now, “she should get some pointers from you. She has a terrible sense of humor.”

“I’m not that bad,” she protested, with a lightness that didn’t reach her eyes.

“Oh, come on,” he said to my best friend, laughing without opening his jaw. “I know you’re not worried about being too dull for me, but she’s witty. Don’t you think you’re going to bore her eventually if you don’t try to keep up?”

I went worm-like for a minute, just inside—had to, to calm down. There was a roaring inside my skull. I wanted to bite something.

“And there it is,” he said indulgently. My best friend’s mouth had gone thin. Her hand was limp inside his hand, and I watched him press it a little more tightly, his index finger right over her pulse point. He held her like a constrictor snake would, those slight little increases in pressure, so that the prey doesn’t feel anything until it tries to inhale. He had everyone else fooled. Me though, I know hunting when I see it.

He looked at me, then. “She can’t take a joke, see?”

“Well, bad jokes can be harder to swallow,” I said, and pretended I had caught sight of another table waving me over. I needed an excuse to leave—I would change right there if I stayed. Give up limbs forever, for the chance to lunge for that malevolent throat.

 


 

I went straight to her brother’s apartment. He was already getting into bed—he had work early the next day. I didn’t care.

Afterwards he was insistently affectionate, stroking my hair and touching his lips to points on my body that I had never thought to consider destinations.

“I just want to sleep,” I muttered. A lie—I was a live wire, a river coiling at the edge of a drop. I could feel my real jaws bunching against the roof of my mouth. First you fuck them. Then you—

“In a minute,” he coaxed. He slid up the mattress, sinuous enough that I felt a bittersweet spike of fondness, imagining what we could be if he was something altogether different. His utterly human mouth found the hollow of my throat; he sighed against the line of my trembling mammal’s jaw.

I gave in to the hunger under my skin. I was only inhuman, after all, and he was so warm and so beautiful, and I hated him so for the part he had played in the dark circles under her eyes. For unknowingly feeding his own sister to a monster. It was going to serve my purposes—his bloodied body, I mean. But here’s the part I’ll cut from the set: maybe I would have done it anyway, because of my nature, because of who I was and what he had done and what I hungered for and how that electric ravening ran down my body.

 


 

At the hospital she all but ignored the fiancé, as I had known she would. I’d seen her at her father’s bedside, so many years ago—no, I didn’t do anything to him, don’t look at me like that. I love a good callback, but I wasn’t anywhere near old enough at that point. Besides, her father had been a good man, as much as men ever are. She had wept with single-minded grief that day, unheeding of who came and went around her, and clutched my hand so hard it made the bones grind together.

She did the same now, red-eyed and miserable above the comatose body that the surgeons had managed to cobble together into a semblance of repose. Her mother, who had already spoken with the doctors, whispered the diagnosis to me. It amounted to a coin toss. I had chewed through a lot of soft tissue; he’d lost a great deal of blood and would probably need at least one organ transplant. Maybe he would wake up, maybe he wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure yet which way I was hoping things would land.

Leaving a meal half-finished was as risky a thing as anything I’d ever done. I suppose I was banking on a loss of either memory or credibility, should he ever wake up. This isn’t the kind of story where I reveal that I felt, at the crucial moment, a weakness of the heart that stayed my teeth. Fondness doesn’t cut it. He wouldn’t have been the first man I liked and ate anyway. No: I left him breathing because his sister loved him.

I paid my respects beside the neatly tucked sheets, remembering with some regret the way his shoulders had bunched and rippled whenever he lifted me with one broad hand splayed against my back. However, despite of my aforementioned appreciation of callbacks, I’ve never been one for dwelling. Besides, I had more hunting yet to do. I watched the fiancé while the priest droned through a precautionary set of last rites (you should love the god before he lets you die, et cetera). Me watching him watch her, like we were a series of focusing lenses.

The longer she remained unaffected by his presence—by his hand on her wrist, his breath in her ear, his arm against her spine—the darker bloomed the thundercloud across his brow. That kind of man just wants some assurance that their power exists, in the barest kinetics possible: they want to see that it can affect something else. They want proof that they possess a gravity well, a weight on the world, exerted through fear or violence or any old Newtonian force. She sat unmoved, so titanic the fortress of her worry, and I saw the roil of his anger mount higher and higher. It would be bad for her, when that wave broke, when he next got her alone. Good thing she had me, because tonight I was going to cut that energy like fishing line, before it got anywhere near the shore of her sorrowing, breakable human body.

She refused to go home—she was planning on sitting vigil at her brother’s bedside. Her mother, too. They’d be praying the rosary till dawn, most likely, weeping into each other’s limbs. I had brought them a lot of pain, but it had to be done. Guilt was never a strong part of my nature. It was in there, alright, but it got seeded in later, as with my mother and her mothers before, all the way back to whoever of us first looked up and saw those men all in black, walking up with the god in their pages, with that deadly lure of brightness at their throats. Guilt was not part of the bedrock, is what I’m saying.

I was hunting, anyway; I was living close to the marrow, still full of the memory of being all teeth and a smoothly muscled body, not a crevice nor a foothold for the weaknesses of the human condition that my people learned later. And before you bring up love as a positive of the human condition—we had love, alright? It wasn’t invented by humans and it wasn’t invented by their doctrines. Before the churches sent skin books and limbed men, before my mother’s mothers’ mothers ever crawled out of the current just to get baptized right back into it, we had love as good as any god’s. Tell me why else I feel it in my throat when my mother plaits my hair against my skull until I’m sleek enough to swim upriver. Tell me why else I remember the shape of my best friend’s hand in mine, even on the nights when I don’t have any hands at all.

We had love, overflowing from our jaws like the river that made us, and then it got co-opted. You must know the god, to love—and then they ended it there, and we’d already let them in too close to avoid our own devouring. We let them turn love into a thing that consumes you. You must know this god, in order to love, they said, and it tore us apart daughter to daughter to daughter, that lack of a punchline.

 


 

I found her spare key under a ceramic octopus planter, the last remaining flash of color on a front porch that had seen a lot of destruction, courtesy of the fiancé’s various rampages.

He was in the living room, in the armchair, in the dark. I didn’t hit the light switch. The dark suited my eyes just fine.

“The fuck are you doing here?” he snarled. I could see a bottle dangling from his hands, but he must not have really gotten into it yet. He sounded sober, the whole hospital ordeal presumably having burned off whatever he’d imbibed during my set, and he sounded pissed about it, too.

I made my voice into something soft and cajoling. I’d tried the seductive angle the last couple times and he hadn’t responded well. I figured he was looking for someone he could bully. I could be that for at least a couple minutes.

“I was worried about you,” I said, silk-sleek, winding the moment like a thread in my hand. “I saw her ignoring you in the hospital. She’s ignoring me, too.”

I slipped from the foyer into the living room, gliding across the carpet. There was one night my best friend called me over and asked me to bring the hydrogen peroxide, and we scrubbed red out of that carpet until our hands ached. Afterwards I put four butterfly bandages on her cheek and made four packs of ramen; we ate it straight out of the pot, both of us crying, mascara clogging her eyelashes, fury clogging mine.

He lurched to his feet. “Yeah, well, she’s not engaged to marry you.”

“But we’re both angry, aren’t we? The difference is, I’m not going to hit her when she gets home.”

During the following beat of silence, I sidled closer, almost toe to toe with him. I had to tilt my chin up to look him in the eye.

He took a step forward and backed me against the mantelpiece. I watched the pulse tick sluggishly in his neck.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and I could feel the tautness of it, coiling under my palms, ready to snap.

“You want to hurt her.” I leaned in close enough to smell him—the sweat, the cruelty, the salt-rot of it like the crust of brine at the sea’s edge. “I want her to survive. I’m willing to compromise. Don’t you think jealousy would hurt her more than a black eye?”

His hand went around my upper arm, bruisingly tight. Was this how she always felt, when he was holding her? That unending pressure, no release in sight?

I waited for the heat of his mouth on mine, for the tension that I would make into his undoing. But all he did was lean close, his pupils dilated.

“Do you think I don’t love her?” he breathed. “Do you think I don’t do everything for her?”

What a piece of shit. I wished I’d killed him sooner. I wished I’d eaten him to the bone before he ever laid eyes on her.

“I think you want her to be sorry,” I said, still hunting for that very specific facet of shittiness that would get my teeth around his jugular. “This is a way you can make her sorry, and you don’t have to lay a finger on her.”

He looked at me with a kind of cold disdain as his mouth morphed into a smug, self-righteous line, and I saw that I had failed. I pressed up against the pinioning strength of his grip, on the off chance of changing that thin sneer into some sort of warm-bloodedness, a lustful heat, something I could use, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Without sex—without the snapping of that energy, the wave of it breaking over me, charging me like metal in a storm—I could only change the once. There’d be no regrowing limbs at the end of it. I’d be the old shape forever.

“I’ll do whatever I fucking like to her,” he said, and I decided I didn’t care all that much about forever.

“Her best friend going behind her back,” he added, upper lip curling. “You’re a fucking snake.”

“Uoi, honey,” I said. Might as well make the last words count. “You have no idea.”

Under the steel grip of his arms, I became suddenly pliant. As I changed my limbs melted away like snow: no wrists to pin, no legs to reach between. He lost his hold, and I lunged up to fasten against his throat the whole circular gnashing jaw of me—my teeth a gyre of knives, my tongue a forked lightning stroke tasting the salt rush of his blood, finally.

Eve would’ve probably said the same thing about the apple if anyone had bothered asking her, but listen. There is nothing, nothing, goddamn nothing like the first bite.

I’ll give him this much: he put up a good fight. For a few seconds it was just the crash of our two bodies against the wall, across the floor: warm and cold, limbed and limbless, respectively. I got a coil over his ribcage finally, under his arms, and next my teeth in his side. It ended pretty quickly after that.

Even after I detached, I could still taste bile—his, obviously—and the stinking tang of fear. I’d torn through a lot of viscera, digging up into the thoracic cavity to get at his heart. It still twitched with some weak, electromagnetic remnant of rhythm as I pulled it free of its bone cage. I worked my jaw—the pharyngeal one, way back, that last toothed ring of muscle—tight around it. Dragged it all the way down.

There was blood everywhere. Too much blood, really. I rolled off him and discovered why when most of the bottle came along with me.

Shit, I said. Not out loud. I was wearing the old mouth, after all. The one for making meals, not quips. But I thought it, and a few other curses besides.

This was why we generally did this after fucking—not just so we could turn back, but also in case of minor hiccups such as being stabbed. Unfortunately, I was on my own, in the metaphysical sense. No release of tension, of living energy given freely, bursting loose, to wind shut that jagged wound in my stomach, just like there was nothing to give me limbs and a warm-blooded face again.

I’d made my peace with being stuck in the old shape forever—well, I should say, I’d thought fuck it and not dwelled on the point. Bleeding out on my best friend’s living room floor, though, was unexpected. It hurt like—well.

I writhed around a bit, but I didn’t have a body designed for these kinds of problems, not at the moment. No human palms to lay on that wound, to slow the bleeding. No mouth to call for help, no shape anyone would’ve considered helping.

I ended up lying next to his corpse, too tired to move much at all, and above me the ceiling blurred and swam like I was going back into that warm silty river from which all things come. Another thing that surprised me, almost as much as the jags of glass now squelching just south of some organ or another: what bothered me most wasn’t even the dying part. What bothered me most was that I was going to die like this, true-faced to the end, in all my supple serpentine glory, and she was going to come home in the morning and find me like this.

She was going to look at my scarlet spirals of teeth—my face was mostly teeth, actually, you had to really squint to find the eyes—and react, some way or another, and I would never know how. I would never know what she thought, looking down at the worm or wyrm or worth of me. Would she have loved the truth of me? Common sense said she’d vomit at the sight of me, even if it wasn’t paired with the disemboweled remains of the man she’d been set to marry. But she had said, when I asked: obviously. That was all I’d ever have to go on, at least for the next five minutes or so while I bled out on a carpet that had already seen enough scrubbing to last a lifetime.

Faith, though—faith in her, the sun of her, the basalt stone of her, the embracing heart of her, suggested: first you are known by the god, then you are loved by her. Me personally, I’ve never been much for faith, but maybe the stories about people finding it on their deathbeds aren’t so far-fetched. I looked up through the blurring dark and marveled at faith, bursting upon me at the last possible second, streaming like a flood through my sinking, bleeding body. Cutting the tension, one last time. It was as good a way as any to snip a string and plummet into the abyss.

 


 

I woke up in a hospital bed, which supported my earlier consideration about how maybe it was just humanity with the stick up its own ass, and meanwhile that sweet-eyed kid out in the desert always had a sense of humor after all.

The first thing I saw was my best friend, slumped against the bed’s well-starched corner with her head pillowed in her arms. The second thing I saw was another pair of arms, with a lot of plastic frippery attached—my arms, the ones I wasn’t supposed to be wearing right now. Maybe I was a bit more human than I’d thought. Now there was a mixed bag.

Some asshole had stuck a very unpleasant tube up my nose, but I managed to wheeze out her name.

She yelped and bolted upright in her chair, dropping a pocket rosary—the little hand-knotted one I’d watch her pay thirty dollars for at an art market three years ago—onto the crisp sheets. Great, she’d been praying. Some current candidate for sainthood was going to get the credit for my miraculous recovery. “You’re awake.”

“My contract says no comas,” I croaked.

She looked as though she might like to slap me. “I thought you were going to die.”

“Me too,” I said, which was true.

“What happened? I found you laying there, and there was—there was so much blood. And he was—and you were bleeding—” She couldn’t even finish the sentence. Her eyes were red-rimmed. “I had to hold the bottle in place until the EMTs got there.”

“Badass.”

Will you be serious? There was a fight, wasn’t there? Did he—did he try to hurt you?”

“Yeah,” I lied, immediately and with enthusiasm. Actually, it wasn’t even a lie, depending on how broad a definition you had of hurt, or even of you. What did she think it’d been doing to me, all that time I spent watching her get folded up like a scrap of sanctified flesh for the reliquary? Every sweltering summer day that I had to watch her fiddle with scarves and sleeves and shawls like I didn’t know what was under all the bright cloths of the altar, like there hadn’t been nights that I begged her on my knees to leave him?

“But what happened?” she repeated. “You had the—the glass in you, but he was torn apart. Something killed him.”

I could tell her some kind of lie and hope that her brother never woke up to warn her any wiser. Or I could tell her the truth and get what I’d realized I wanted, flat on my sinuous back in the darkness of her home. To watch her face as she realized what I was, and in the split second before she connected it to the sibling unconscious in a room down the hall and things probably went to shit permanently, I’d know what she thought of me. Maybe the sunburst of faith that returned me to warm-blooded in her living room could carry me through one more miracle, come what may in every moment after. Maybe the truest form of love is just the truth.

So, I reached for my most potent weapon. Not the jaw of a hundred encircling teeth, not the steel-spring muscle of my people, the river made flesh and dwelt within us. No, I looked her in the eye and went with my tried-and-true, my crowd-beloved, the gambit I knew best: the callback.

“Would you still love me,” I said, all four-and-sometimes-zero limbs of me, “if I was a worm?”


Editor: Aigner Loren Wilson

First Reader: Aigner Loren Wilson

Copy Editors: Copy Editing Department

Accessibility: Accessibility Editors



Natasha King is a Vietnamese American writer and nature enthusiast. Her work has appeared in ClarkesworldOkay DonkeyBest of the Net, and elsewhere. In her spare time, she enjoys thinking about the ocean. She can be found on Twitter as @pelagic_natasha.
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