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I was the daughter of a mighty sovereign whose realm was as old and vast as the known world, and you were just an old slave, a leathery bag of bones pulling the stones for the temple that my father demanded to reach above the clouds. I saw your body under the sun: agile despite your age, whipped by the foremen among those of your kind. Even though I saw you once and never knew your name, the image of your body remained close to my heart on my deathbed.

You were a strapping young warrior, docile and unstoppable, whose life was trekking thick forests and snow-laden steppes with your horde. I was an old monk with aching legs, almost blind, dedicated to the mysteries of the Faith, to preserving His Light in this abominable world. From the distant north you came, tearing down the walls of the monastery where my sullen life had passed, as I hid in the scriptorium praying to not be found. As I tried to save an ancient tome, our eyes met while you opened my chest with a sturdy swing of your battle-axe.

We were two sailors in a fragile vessel crossing the ocean with gold and pearls and many goods, objects we only could dream to call ours one day. We were strong and fearless, men as only the sea can make. At night, I would sing dirty melodies that made you laugh like a barking dog, or you would tell the same old tales as we shared some rum. Neither of us minded our limited repertoire since we might be as well the only ones in the world. We died embracing each other, lost at sea, after the pirates had raided and burned the only place we could call ours.

I was an aristocratic diplomat, and you were an opera singer. I suspected you read my secret correspondence after our nights of passion, a small fee for having you in my arms; when I heard you died of pneumonia, I jumped from a bridge on the coldest night of winter. You were my native wet nurse, and I was the deaf-blind daughter of a colonial officer. When war came, they took us outside to shoot us. I was so happy to feel the sun and your hand as I departed.

I was the wife of a generalissimo, and you were my estranged son. I always took it personally that you didn’t like women, and didn’t shed a tear at your funeral. You were a racist old woman from Alberta whose grandchildren never called, and I was the Pakistani phone operator trying to find your lost package. Our conversation was the longest either of us had that week.

Last time we met was in a rehab center. I was a suicidal middle-aged businessman who got rich in 20 years and lost it all in 20 minutes, and you were a lesbian teenager living from the streets who was shaking back and forth on the bunk down the hall. Despite our hating each other almost instantly, you made me wonder what kind of parent I could have been.

Now that we go again to the world of the living, I hope that this time, no matter the age, no matter the race, no matter the body, I can love you, and you can love me back.



José González Vargas was born in Maracay, Venezuela and works as a freelance journalist in Spanish and English.  He currently runs interviews for Viceversa magazine.  In 2015, he was a runner-up in Solsticios, one of the first SF/F short story contests in Venezuela.
Current Issue
18 Jan 2021

Splinters, old and new. How else can the skin remember the tree? If it hurts, that is the point.
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Podcast read by: Courtney Floyd
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Courtney Floyd presents "Secrets of the Kath' by Fatima Taqvi. The full text of the story is available here.
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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.
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Issue 11 Jan 2021
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Issue 21 Dec 2020
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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
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Issue 1 Dec 2020
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