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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
20 Sep 2021

Jaysee reported to decontamination, wondering why there hadn’t been a revolt by the augmented long before.
By: Clara Ward
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
In this episode of the Strange Horizons fiction podcast, editor Kat Kourbeti presents Clara Ward's "Motivation Augmentation."
"When we die again, I want to come back as a little brown bat," / I tell the only other person alive.
Art by: Courtney Skaggs
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Courtney Skaggs' “The Little Death After the Apocalypse.”
Wednesday: Disease by Sarah Tolmie 
Friday: The Fall of Koli by M. R. Carey 
Issue 13 Sep 2021
By: Steve Castro
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 6 Sep 2021
By: Yuna Kang
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Yuna Kang
By: B. Pladek
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
Issue 30 Aug 2021
By: Ian Goh
By: Andy Winter
By: Yong-Yu Huang
By: Sunny Vuong
By: Natalie Wang
By: Mark Dimaisip
By: Yvanna Vien Tica
By: Jack Kin Lim
By: May Chong
By: P. H. Low
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Ian Goh
Podcast read by: Yong-Yu Huang
Podcast read by: Sunny Vuong
Podcast read by: Natalie Wang
Podcast read by: Mark Dimaisip
Podcast read by: Yvanna Vien Tica
Podcast read by: Jack Kin Lim
Podcast read by: May Chong
Podcast read by: P. H. Low
Issue 23 Aug 2021
By: Hannah V Warren
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 16 Aug 2021
By: Bryce A. Taylor
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Bryce A. Taylor
Issue 9 Aug 2021
By: P. H. Low
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
Issue 3 Aug 2021
By: H. Pueyo
Podcast read by: Courtney Floyd
By: M. Regan
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 26 Jul 2021
By: Mary Soon Lee
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Mary Soon Lee
Issue 19 Jul 2021
By: Ian Rosales Casocot
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Nora Claire Miller
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Nora Claire Miller
Issue 12 Jul 2021
By: Dante Novario
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Dante Novario
Podcast: Data Migration 
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