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The Doolittle Machine, sadly, made very little
difference to pet owners. We found out that
dogs liked food and walks, and cats sneered
at our pathetic need for feline love.
But then some genius realised the potential
of the machine for the eradication of those
animals, not cute and cuddly, but creepy crawly.
The Negotiators whispered into the miniscule
minds of the tiny pests, a poke here,
a prod there, a suggestion that eternal rest
would be best for all involved. The slugs
were easy to convince, depressingly so.
Nobody would forget the hideous aftermath,
the days of the sickening silver slick that
stretched out to the sea, where the sad
little creatures committed their soft bodies to the salt.
Gardeners rejoiced in perfect cabbages.
The honeybees were safe and smug,
the slaters all curled up and died, and
then we turned our attention skyward
and slowly the mosquitoes succumbed,
eeking out their last moments at high frequency
before their last kamikaze flight into the
hypnotic blue lights of the bug zappers
we had provided for the purpose of ending
their tiny lives with a click and a crackle.
Then we tried the cockroaches. And to
our dismay, no approach seemed to work.
The Negotiators pleaded in the face of
improbable but boundless positivity.
Come on ‘roaches, how can you be
so happy, you with your bellies to the floor,
your scuttling life in darkness?
Their reply came whispered,
a night wind through dry grass.
We've heard you talking all these years
as you take out your irrational fears
on our children, our families. We
forgive you. For you say, over and
over, that we can't be gotten rid of—
we're as good as immortal, and when you
finally go and rip your own cities apart
with the energy seething at the heart
of an atom, we will still be here!
You told us it was so.
And some Negotiators tore their headsets
off and wept, but others sat heads bowed,
listening to the curious beauty of the sound
of a million voices raised in chirping chorus:

We survive! We survive! We survive!



Sarah Shirley is a doctor working in Hamilton, New Zealand. She lives with her husband, their two young children, and a large brown dog. Her poems have been published in Star*Line, Abyss and Apex, Pedestal, Landfall, Poetry New Zealand, Takahe, Atlas, and elsewhere.
Current Issue
24 Feb 2020

tight braids coiled into isles and continents against our scalps
By: Mayra Paris
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Mayra Paris's “New York, 2009.”
This Mind and Body Cyborg as a queer figure raises its head in Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s 2019 epistolary novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, as two Cyborg bodies shed their previous subjectivities in order to find a queer understanding of one another.
Carl just said ‘if the skull wants to break out, it will have to come to me for the key’, which makes me think that Carl doesn’t really understand how breaking out of a place works.
Wednesday: The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman, translated by Daniela Zamir 
Friday: Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren 
Issue 17 Feb 2020
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Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
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Issue 10 Feb 2020
By: Shannon Sanders
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 3 Feb 2020
By: Ada Hoffmann
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By: S.R. Tombran
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Issue 27 Jan 2020
By: Weston Richey
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Issue 20 Jan 2020
By: Justin C. Key
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessica P. Wick
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Issue 13 Jan 2020
By: Julianna Baggott
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Terese Mason Pierre
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Podcast read by: Terese Mason Pierre
Issue 6 Jan 2020
By: Mitchell Shanklin
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
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Podcast read by: Nikoline Kaiser
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Issue 23 Dec 2019
By: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Maya Chhabra
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Issue 16 Dec 2019
By: Osahon Ize-Iyamu
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
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Issue 9 Dec 2019
By: SL Harris
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessy Randall
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