Size / / /

This thin layer

This film, oily and black

Flecked with mica

Locked in the ground

An estimated 6.2 million years

(+/- 1.7)

Their world-spanning culture

(We find the layer in 7 of 10 planetary domains)


Reading molecules

Plucked from nacreous spheres

We can build Them

In body and spirit

If not in memory

Our biochemical keys fit fossil locks

These ancient masters

Or maybe one of their pets

we will know when we give it

A Turing test

If it passes

We will really have something!

Oh yes,

A true alien intelligence

Rescued from the late Miocene

And educated

With all the care we can muster.

David Kopaska-Merkel describes rocks for the State of Alabama. He lives with artists and numerous chitin-clad hangers-on in an urban farmhouse with a yellow "tin" roof. He was born in Virginia, but has lived in the home of the crookneck as long as anywhere. David's poetry collections include The Egg Show, Separate Destinations, and underfoot. Flash fiction can be found at; find more of David here and here. He may also be reached by email at

David C. Kopaska-Merkel has 1200+ published poems, short stories, etc. (since 1972). He won the Rhysling Award for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. His latest book is The Ambassador Takes One For The Team, a collection of speculative poetry. Blog at @DavidKM on Twitter.
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20 Mar 2023

Strange Horizons will be open to fiction submissions on April 26th, 2023, at 9 a.m. UTC! To keep our response times manageable and submission windows more frequent, there will be a 1,000-story cap on submissions.
It started with a bit of music, something no one else was even listening to.
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Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
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