Size / / /

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
forever."

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

Reader Comments


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 tim@tropismpress.com.
Current Issue
10 Aug 2020

Let me tell you how I first met Seax-of-Peony, Empress of the Known Moons.
By: Anya Johanna DeNiro
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Anya Johanna DeNiro's “A Voyage to Queensthroat.”
When your people came down from the stars / we put you in jails and cellars and basements
By: Laura Cranehill
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Laura Cranehill's “We Let You Live.”
Wednesday: The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North 
Issue 3 Aug 2020
By: Christine Lucas
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Christine Lucas
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Krishnakumar Sankaran
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Krishnakumar Sankaran
Issue 20 Jul 2020
By: Ranylt Richildis
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: JD Fox
By: JD Fox
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: JD Fox
17 Jul 2020
Strange Horizons is now accepting fiction submissions for our Mexico Special issue, which will be published at the end of November 2020!
17 Jul 2020
Strange Horizons lanza su convocatoria en busca textos narrativos para su Especial de México, que se publicará a finales de noviembre de 2020!
Issue 13 Jul 2020
By: Alex Jennings
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Kimberly Kaufman
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 6 Jul 2020
By: Stephen O'Donnell
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Thomas White
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 30 Jun 2020
By: Carlie St. George
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Janelle C. Shane
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 22 Jun 2020
By: Neha Maqsood
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Neha Maqsood
Issue 15 Jun 2020
By: Remy Reed Pincumbe
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Preston Grassmann
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 8 Jun 2020
By: Kathleen Jennings
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Keaton Bennett
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: