Size / / /

1.
The monster has no heart.

Mary has two.
There is the one she keeps in her bureau 
wrapped up in silk and parchment,
burnt about the edges and stinking of salt.
 
It is the heart of the man who was her lover
 
and it is less damaged than the heart inside her chest.
That is a mangled and un-pretty thing,
but she takes it out of her chest
sits it beside the other:
 
two hearts on a writing desk.
The vibrations send the papers flying.
 
The hearts are both shrivelled and blackening but hers
is about to bite and his just slumps there,
as though all its work was done in drowning.
There is no question which is the stronger.
 
Mary takes her own strong heart and puts it back
into the cavity behind her ribs.
The monster has to be loved, and with that leaking scrap
sitting in a silver box inside the monster’s chest
she will be able to love it.
 
(If she gave it her own heart it would rip her to pieces.)
 
(If she took his heart for her own,
grief would catch at her like undertow,
yank her down into deep water.)

2.
The monster has no foresight.
 
Mary doesn’t have much either
but the monster is one of her creations
and she would like to do better for it than herself.
 
She smashes a glass and collects the fragments,
picks shards out of her palms
until they’re wet with blood and then she shapes the little pieces,
paints them with red and silver on one side only
and she has her mirrors.
 
These she pastes to the monster’s fingers for nails
so that it can see its face
(when it has a face)
in everything as it creates.
But the monster is a baby still and sucks its fists
buries its thumbs in the blank crevasse of mouth
and all the nails come off.
 
Mary breaks more glasses, paints more mirrors
and this time before she pastes them
she doesn’t round off the edges.
 
When the monster sucks its thumbs its blood runs black as engine oil.
It learns not to suck anymore.
 
Mary’s face is reflected ten times, and harshly. 
 
3.
The monster has no history.
 
Mary papers the inside of its skull with dreams of her mother,
with vindications of a life that she herself cut short.
She impregnates it with rights
and the monster comes to believe that it has them.
 
"Of course you do," says Mary 
but when it comes time to take the monster out
(to display it)
she pretends it has been made by somebody else,
lets it stumble about blindly
searching for the mother that abandoned it
until everyone has gone home and she is left with
the reminders of her imperfections.
 
"You are just a copy," she says, mocking.
"Poor copy."

4.
The monster has no will.
 
Mary fills it with mice.
She can hear the squeaks
and the monster vibrates with their movement,
with the scampering under skin and the appearance of vitality.
 
The little bodies run through hollow bones
and get lost there.
 
They die one by one.
Nothing Mary does can keep them alive.
 
(The monster scratches at itself with mirrored fingers
until it finds mouse tails and pulls the bodies free,
buries them quietly in unmarked graves.)
 
5.
The monster has no children.
 
Mary has had four children, and her life ends with theirs.
She takes pieces of them
(locks of hair and teeth and little balls)
sews them up nicely and makes the monster watch
as she scrapes away its genitals,
leaves it smooth and mute below the waist
 
because if there are no grandchildren for her
there will be none for it either.
 
She gouges out its abdomen
and leaves the little sewed sack there,
packs it in with clay and surrounds it with batteries
so that the whole will light up with interference
and with absence.
 
6.
The monster has no face.
 
It is bald as eggs.
When Mary sings to it there is no ripple of response
and no expression in it.
 
The face she would like best for it
has been eaten off by fishes and burnt in iron.
She could recreate it, she thinks, in parts
but she has already used those parts,
and for others.
 
She did not think ahead, and all her mirrors are broken. 
 
Mary writes a face upon the monster instead,
substitutes words for flesh.
She puts Arctic in the eye-sockets
and Alps along the cheekbones.
She writes Geneva on its forehead,
and the lips are made from electricity and the death of young women.
 
The pressure of the quill leaves scars
that ink and imagination will not cover up,
and when the monster opens cold white eyes
to see the poor reflection of its face
it finds little comfort there.
 
The comfort is in Mary’s face:
the face of vanished bloodlines
and children who murder their mothers at birth.
 
These are things that will be familiar, thinks the monster.
In its chest, the little salt heart remembers
what it was like to love.
 
(The monster sees Mary’s face, and covets.)
 
7.
The monster takes Mary’s face and wears it.
 
The monster takes Mary’s womb and bears it.
 
The monster takes Mary’s will and buries it.
 
The monster takes Mary’s past and carries it.
 
The monster takes Mary’s future and meets it.
 
The monster takes Mary’s heart and eats it.
Welcome home, heart, it says.
You should not have locked yourself so far away.
 
When it goes out into the world, no one can tell the difference.




Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer. She's sold close to 50 short stories to various markets, and several novellas, two poetry collections, an essay collection and a climate fiction novel are also available. She attended Clarion West 2016, and is the Massey University writer-in-residence for 2020.
Current Issue
18 Jan 2021

Splinters, old and new. How else can the skin remember the tree? If it hurts, that is the point.
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.
Soft Shoulder (Excerpt) 
Soft Shoulder speaking softly / quick-stop-tongued lanky cur dog / lisping languid in jeans
Artist Interview: Juliana Pinho's Making-Of 
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.
Monday: Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell 
Friday: 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
Load More
%d bloggers like this: