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Laughing Blood

She was the cousin of the moon
that shone upon the cold
Northern lands, and when those
beings that lived in the sky
grew tired of her constant
jokes and mockeries --
smearing the floor of the lodge
with whale fat to make
the moon slip and fall,
shaping the soft snow into
an effigy of the moon's husband
so she might be deceived, and kiss
ice -- they banished her
to Earth.

She roamed, her name
forgotten, and tried to make
friends, but the humans
ran away and called her
terrible things: monster,
Disemboweller. In her
loneliness she crouched
outside their homes
and whispered ridiculous
things, her best jokes,
until the people within howled
with laughter; but the humor
of a creature born
in the sky, once a playmate
of the Northern Lights,
proved too much for
mortals, and their
laughter burst their stomachs,
spilled their guts, leaving
only steaming corpses,
smiling, behind.

She wept, and her eyes
were storms, and the humans
despised her even more.

The cool, distant moon
looked down upon her,
mirthless, and quite


Copyright © 2002 Tim Pratt

Reader Comments

Tim Pratt works as an editorial assistant at Locus magazine, and serves as editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. His poetry has appeared (or soon will) in Asimov's, Weird Tales, the Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and other nice places. Tim's previous publications in Strange Horizons can be found in our Archive. Visit his Web site for much more.

Author's note: I've always been fascinated by medieval bestiaries, with their oddly armored and over-horned rhinoceri, the straightforward inclusion of creatures like manticores and monkfish, and the descriptive passages that read more like poetry than biology. I decided to write my own bestiary, focusing on mythical creatures, preferably creatures of truly cosmic stature; and in each of these poems I hope to look at these beings from a new perspective. Last week I gave you Bahamut, the world-fish of early Islam, and this week, the Disemboweller, an odd and terrible figure from Inuit myth.

Tim Pratt won a Hugo Award for his short fiction (and lost a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award), and his stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy, and other nice places. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Heather Shaw and son River. For more information about him and his work, see his website. To contact him, send him email at
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