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Here we have a specimen of our native king cobra—
Ophiophagus hannah
See how its hood spreads like the crests of black hills?
See how it coils, tight as stone, into a shimmering mountain?
Our Hannah likes the earth—
bathes like a queen in the soil, churning out valleys
in her sleep. See how her body carves out
rivers in the ground, slick and winding?

Make way, folks, we know it’s exciting,
let’s all be considerate. Don’t want to crowd the tiger now.
King of beasts, you know—! At least in this part of the world.
You wouldn’t think it, but look at how its stripes
make it melt away between the trees,
as though the forest itself sprouts from its spine.
Look how its eyes gleam like coalesced fireflies,
lighting paths through the trees.
This here, folks, is the jungle god.

Now I’m going to ask you all to step back—
behind the yellow line, now, please.
Don’t be afraid if you swelter—the sunbird has that effect.
Not your regular bird, you know.
Head of a heron, tail of a peacock, legs of a crane,
wings of an eagle, and do put on those complimentary sunglasses,
that is a star she’s got in her beak. Bright enough
to create the day, the natives used to say! Real fiery attraction,
this one! Get it? Fiery?

This last creature is something that may frighten you—nay,
even haunt you. Just wait; watch the rolling tides,
look closely at the white crests. For any of them may just be—
there he is! King of the seas, king of the storms—
the dragon, ladies and gentlemen! Look how his silver tongue
is bright as lightning, and his beard like the ocean froth.
Look how the undulations of his body whip the ocean
into motion, and how his scales are black as the deepest trenches—

Ah, the little one’s crying now. Don’t be afraid, boy,
the soft toys are fifty percent off! This way, this way,
just wait till you see the petting zoo.

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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