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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
18 Jan 2021

Soft Shoulder speaking softly / quick-stop-tongued lanky cur dog / lisping languid in jeans
By: Zach Ozma
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Zach Ozma
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Zach Ozma's “Soft Shoulder (Excerpt)” with a reading by the poet.
Splinters, old and new. How else can the skin remember the tree? If it hurts, that is the point.
The way I see it, this story is full of symbolic touchstones, visual elements with layers of meaning that are not always obvious, or even accessible, to the reader.
Wednesday: Bulbbul 
Friday: The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson 
Issue 11 Jan 2021
By: Ryu Ando
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Nikki Caffier Smith
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 4 Jan 2021
By: Maya Beck
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Stephanie Burt
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Stephanie Burt
Issue 21 Dec 2020
By: Octavia Cade
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Meep Matsushima
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Meep Matsushima
Issue 14 Dec 2020
By: ML Kejera
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Brigid Nemeton
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Brigid Nemeton
7 Dec 2020
Strange Horizons is now accepting fiction submissions for the Palestinian Special issue! The issue, edited by Rasha Abdulhadi and Basma Ghalayini will be published at the end of March 2021. We are open for submissions from now until January 31, 2021. Don't wait till the end to send your work!
7 Dec 2020
تقديم الطلبات مفتوح من الان و حتى تاريخ 31 يناير 2021. قدم/ قدمي عملك عاجلا و ليس آجلا!
Issue 7 Dec 2020
By: Toby MacNutt
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Anna Cates
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 1 Dec 2020
By: Ateri Miyawatl
Translated by: Ateri Miyawatl
By: Ateri Miyawatl
Translated by: Adam Coon
By: Vraiux Dorós
Translated by: Toshiya Kamei
By: Luz Rosales
Translated by: Andrea Chapela
By: Libia Brenda
Translated by: Allana C. Noyes
By: Ateri Miyawatl
Podcast read by: Ateri Miyawatl
Podcast: Bromelia (English) 
Podcast: Bromelia (Español) 
Issue 23 Nov 2020
By: Michael Bazzett
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Michael Bazzett
Issue 16 Nov 2020
By: Cat Aquino
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Michael Chang
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
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