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Having been driven out of
the tobacco business by lawsuits,
having grown weary of protestors
pelting his Bentley with
unfiltered cigarettes, having lost
his political connections
when candidates refused
his nicotine-backed contributions,

and having discovered a thumb-
sized tumor in his left lung,

J.R. had no choice but to embrace
the dark arts.

He made his temple in Cancer
Alley, that Southern corridor
of chemical sludge and abnormal
growths, and gathered great heaps
of fraying asbestos insulation,
barrels of gasoline additives,
rare isotopes housed in translucent
green jewelry boxes, and built
a bonfire of cigarettes, cigars,
and pipe tobacco. He made
the correct obeisances,
pledged the requisite devotions,

and the new loa rose, born
of J.R.'s weariness and fury,
a thing of smoking arms
and ember eyes, a thing
with a black and green mottled
heart. It hung in the air
before him, sweating drops
of liquid plutonium, exhaling
puffs of asbestos dust,
and said "Your wish?"

J.R. said "To live

The creature, in the way
of its essential kind, smiled
and made it so.

J.R. is still conscious, though
his body travels, growing now
in a brain, then ransacking
a stomach, later sliding
like slow poison in the marrow
of bones; he is something
that cannot die, a thing
of incessant growth, a tumor
with a mind, a gleeful, patient death
that will not die.


Copyright © 2002 Tim Pratt

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Tim Pratt lives and writes in the East Bay in California. He's an assistant editor at Locus magazine, and edits Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Look for more of his poems upcoming in Asimov's, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and other nice places. For more about Tim, visit his website.

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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