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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
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
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