Size / / /

Content warning:


the researcher

a dead specimen floats in its jar, eyes squeezed shut like a new puppy.
black stitching lattices the bloated belly: repairs made for display.
formaldehyde skin wrinkled and waterlogged, pale and puckered
around a lumpen mass in the center of its forehead,
a boil of sclera and fused bone, staring without a cornea.

holoprosencephaly — cyclopia.

wiki link — another photo,
another pale body, legs fused together, fine dead veins like seams of silver.
sirenomelia.
another, features compounded and limbs unfinished, little face broken open like a star.
roberts syndrome.

write flashcards, review, pass exams.
drop the whole fluttering mess of them into the trash.


the artist

sketching from life is the georgian fashion,
but in this case, quite impossible.
bits of rubber between pinched fingertips,
smudging graphite across the parchment,
grey and blurred and only appropriate —
no definition in the outline of a monster,
certainly not one so old as that.

a copy of a copy of a copy, centuries gone, etched and engraved,
described and wondered at, details settling even if the shape doesn’t.
unnatural wings downy with cornsilk hair,
a single clawed foot,
the breasts of a woman and an eye embedded above the knee,
lidless,
rolling, and
awful.


the physician

strange things slither out on the pus of war,
signs and wonders, grotesques and miseries, as foreign boots in the thousands
trample the hills of the papal states to mud.

warnings come with them, one in particular: a misfortune as long as two men’s hands
laid end to end, twitching on the birthing bed.
intriguing as a specimen,
(god’s judgement notwithstanding).
word of its arrival reaches the seat of saint peter
far too late.

in forty-four days, the french smash
the italian army at ravenna,
a bloody lance of heaven’s displeasure.


the midwife

when the creature is pulled from between its dying mothers legs,
when the midwife snatches her hands away with a gasp, and it falls to the ground
with a wet, ugly thud,
it screams.
only once, a thin and shocked little sound, the milky, unfocused eyes
as wide as her own.

a sorry message on the sawdust floor,
wood shavings clumping to birth-slick skin,
not worth the baptism.


the child

cattle investigate the whimpering bundle at first,
before blood smears their muzzles,
and its scent drives them off, tails switching,
huddled for warmth.

the frost comes for what they leave behind: its blind gaze inured to the twilight,
wings swaddled uncomfortably to its delicate spine —
just tender flaps of flesh now, with no one there to decide,
twelve fingers stretching for the winter sky.



Emily Smith is a speculative fiction writer and a New Yorker by way of the Southwestern deserts. She writes about apocalypses both dreamed and realized, lost cities, and creatures that live beyond the edges of the world. Find her on Twitter as @memilies.
Current Issue
27 Jun 2022

A crack in my leg opened my world, shattered it like thunder announces the arrival of lightning
it's only natural that // If I'm going, I want to be gone with you.
Kalpavigyan, or Bengali SFF: An Interview with Dip Ghosh 
[In this interview, Strange Horizons co-ordinating editor Gautam Bhatia speaks to Dip Ghosh, the editor of Kalpabiswa, the first online magazine of Bengali SFF. This interview was conducted through a collaborative Google Document, in June 2022.] Gautam Bhatia: Hi Dip, and thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview with Strange Horizons. I want to start by asking you something basic: the name of the Bengali SF magazine you edit is Kalpabiswa. Bengali SF itself is known as kalpavigyan. Can you take us through the etymology of these terms, and how we should understand them in translation?  Dip Ghosh:
There are plenty of reasons to love epistolary storytelling. Personally, I love the way various epistolary formats can shape a story in interesting and innovative ways, and I also love how the choice of format can hone the voice of a story.
Friday: How to Get to Apocalypse and Other Disasters by Erica L. Satifka 
Issue 20 Jun 2022
Issue 13 Jun 2022
Issue 9 Jun 2022
Drowning in This Sunken City 
Thursday: Everything Everywhere All At Once 
,
Issue 6 Jun 2022
Podcast: 6 June Poetry 
Issue 30 May 2022
Issue 23 May 2022
Issue 16 May 2022
Issue 9 May 2022
Podcast: 9 May Poetry 
Issue 2 May 2022
By: Eric Wang
By: Sara S. Messenger
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Sara S. Messenger
Issue 18 Apr 2022
By: Blaize Kelly Strothers
By: Ken Haponek
Podcast read by: Blaize Kelly Strothers
Podcast read by: Ken Haponek
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: