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The thin wind whistle of the shinkansen, screaming, roaring through the dark. You’re in it, you’re in it all: the rattle of the rails, the shuffling-muttering of hundreds of passengers nestled in the one long limb of you, the creamy, fatty ice cream cups served off the trolley that are as hard as ice. You’re not a vacillation or an oscillation but a simultaneous throe.

Hundreds of stories are playing themselves out within you. Gods. Individuals. Nuts, grommets, motor oil. The businessman-baby-pomeranian-mother-litigator-old-woman-gravel-stones-gum-stuck-under-your-seat-in-cabin-eight argues with the funeral-director-father-suitcase-makeup-artist-diaper-bag-ice-cream-travel-agent-secretary-trees sweeping by outside the window(s) (s) (s) (s) (s) (s).

You love the mountains. The mountains do not love you. You whistle through them with the tip of your blunt blue nose shearing joy. You feel their big old hearts pounding under your wheels. Some of your individuals sleep—some wake, then press their noses against your cool glass to inhale the mountain’s bodily dark. The buzz of the polite automated voice inside your speakers tastes like living.

Somewhere inside you there is a woman sobbing. In the small bathroom of cabin five she presses her hands to her own face, sucking in big heaps of your air. Her tears slip down your bathroom sink. Through the pipes you carry them along gently, until they join the rest of you. You filter them across your thin mesh tongues. They taste like sublimating sorrow. You hope she will take comfort in this dark interior.

Sara S. Messenger is an SFF writer and poet residing in Florida. When she’s not playing fetch with her cat, she reads poetry collections in the sun. Her short fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine and Diabolical Plots, and her poetry has been previously published in Strange Horizons. If you enjoyed this work, her full portfolio and other musings can be found online at
Current Issue
29 May 2023

We are touched and encouraged to see an overwhelming response from writers from the Sino diaspora as well as BIPOC creators in various parts of the world. And such diverse and daring takes of wuxia and xianxia, from contemporary to the far reaches of space!
By: L Chan
The air was redolent with machine oil; rich and unctuous, and synthesised alcohol, sharper than a knife on the tongue.
“Leaping Crane don’t want me to tell you this,” Poppy continued, “but I’m the most dangerous thing in the West. We’ll get you to your brother safe before you know it.”
Many eons ago, when the first dawn broke over the newborn mortal world, the children of the Heavenly Realm assembled at the Golden Sky Palace.
Winter storm: lightning flashes old ghosts on my blade.
transplanted from your temple and missing the persimmons in bloom
immigrant daughters dodge sharp barbs thrown in ambush 十面埋伏 from all directions
Many trans and marginalised people in our world can do the exact same things that everyone else has done to overcome challenges and find happiness, only for others to come in and do what they want as Ren Woxing did, and probably, when asked why, they would simply say Xiang Wentian: to ask the heavens. And perhaps we the readers, who are told this story from Linghu Chong’s point of view, should do more to question the actions of people before blindly following along to cause harm.
Before the Occupation, righteousness might have meant taking overt stands against the distant invaders of their ancestral homelands through donating money, labour, or expertise to Chinese wartime efforts. Yet during the Occupation, such behaviour would get one killed or suspected of treason; one might find it better to remain discreet and fade into the background, or leave for safer shores. Could one uphold justice and righteousness quietly, subtly, and effectively within such a world of harshness and deprivation?
Issue 22 May 2023
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Issue 27 Mar 2023
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