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The dragon orders an iced caramel mocha,
tapping her foot impatiently
while she waits in line.
After a too-long pause,
she gives a fake name to the gum-chewing barista—
true names are powerful,
and they'd just spell it wrong anyway—
and moves down the counter to pay.

It's hard to get wifi in the cave,
and she likes to keep up with the news,
with her friends,
with some of her enemies,
with the latest season of her favorite show.
But first she has to get out of this line.

This should not be so hard.

She wants to do all these things:
tip over the register and stuff tempting coins into her purse,
suffuse the cramped room with fire, filling it with heat and light,
stomp flat the man arguing about the price of his skinny grande latte
with the frustrated kid working for minimum wage,
roar,
and roar some more,
and stretch out of this thin skin
to show herself as she really is
scaly and intimidating and gloriously large.

Instead,
she practices her breathing,
maintains the social construct
(worn thin though it may be),
tips generously,
and finally
retreats to a seat in the corner
where she can see more without being seen.

There are too many would-be heroes,
too many knights errant eager to err against her.
She tells herself it isn't worth the trouble
for a double fistful of dirty coins,
a soot stain on her favorite purse of holding,
and the loss of the best free hotspot in town.

Still...she casts a dweomer,
just the tiniest of tiny spells
on the ungrateful jerk who left no gratuity
despite his free upgrade from the manager—
just a little something
so that later tonight
while the drink sloshes in his belly,
he'll dream of dragonfire
and know fear
even if he won't know why.

Satisfied, the dragon turns to her email,
frowning at forum notifications
and great deals on bulk-bought meat.
She is fiercely determined
to be at inbox zero
by closing time.



Cislyn Smith likes playing pretend, playing games, and playing with words. She calls Madison, Wisconsin home. She has been known to crochet tentacles, write stories and poems at odd hours, and gallivant.  Her work has appeared in Star*Line, Diabolical Plots, and Flash Fiction Online.

Current Issue
5 Apr 2021

They say we broke Nairobi; we whose tears do not burn; whose blood runs cold.
i think the princesses are sick of constellations by now
By: Caroline Dinh
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Caroline Dinh's “city girls.”
Issue 29 Mar 2021
By: Iman Alzaghari
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By: leena aboutaleb
By: Nada Almosa
By: Layla Azmi Goushey
By: Najah Hussein Musa
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Iman Alzaghari
Podcast read by: Fargo Tbakhi
Podcast read by: leena aboutaleb
Podcast read by: Nada Almosa
Podcast read by: Najah Hussein Musa
Podcast read by: Layla Azmi Goushey
Issue 22 Mar 2021
Issue 15 Mar 2021
By: Isana Skeete
Podcast read by: Isana Skeete
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
Issue 8 Mar 2021
By: Lorraine Wilson
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Gerri Leen
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 1 Mar 2021
By: Sasha LaPointe
Podcast read by: Sasha LaPointe
Issue 22 Feb 2021
By: Hal Y. Zhang
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 15 Feb 2021
By: Wen-yi Lee
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 8 Feb 2021
By: Varsha Dinesh
Podcast read by: Courtney Floyd
By: Sarah Kathryn Moore
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Sarah Kathryn Moore
Issue 1 Feb 2021
By: Tamara Jerée
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Betsy Aoki
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Paul Starr
Issue 25 Jan 2021
By: Beatriz F. Fernandez
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Beatriz F. Fernandez
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