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Content warning:

this world is not kind to anybody

least of all witchgirls

mouths like hard candy spitting

the split-tongued language of beasts

hair in elfknots, a scrawl of hands weaving

witchtricks, leaving sigils in lipstick on

the bathroom mirrors.

do you want to hear a story?

once upon a time there was a girl

named for a flower the color of halloween

if she kissed you and her tongue touched yours

you’d speak only truths for six hours afterwards

as the words left your lips they would turn into diamonds

or toads, depending on your nature. well

you can imagine how that went down

they ran her out of town, hunted her with

baying brindled hounds, spotlights, a cast net blessed

by saint benedict.

she ran away into the forest

climbed a tree and stayed until she

was hard white bones shot with pitchblende

jangling windblown and noctilucent

and owls made nests in her hair; their eggs

hatched out little plastic animals, golden snakes,

tarot cards, doll parts, sick mixtapes,

a swarm of honeybees that all had her face

plush bodies humming sister midnight

as they picked apart the shells.

the bees built a home in her ribcage

strung their frosted hex-cells starwise

from scapulae to sternum

a droning droneless tessellation

of parthenogenetic worker-queens

tripping ultraviolet sugarhighs

and when they gathered pollen

they carried it in tiny girl fists

back to her dripping hiveheart, that

waxwork thumping bass beats

sweeter than a gingerbread house.


do you want to know a secret?

if you stand under that tree with

your mouth open and catch a drop

of honey on your tongue, that night

you will dream your true love’s face.

the room will smell like cigarettes

and pine needles when you wake

and when you lick your lips, they will

taste like cherry candy. just remember:

you can only ever do this thing once—

that's how it works—just one time

and never again



if you taste that honey twice

it will kill you.



Amanda married Science for the money but maintains a passionate affair with the Arts. She lives in rural Appalachia with a thousand cats and the devastating consequences of her actions.
Current Issue
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.
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Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
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