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You Don’t Belong Where You Don’t Belong


You Don’t Belong Where You Don’t Belong

Home / You Don’t Belong Where You Don’t Belong
Original Fiction Science Fiction

You Don’t Belong Where You Don’t Belong

With her friends vanishing and her home planet of Ayeshij crushed under the weight of occupation, gemologist-turned-con artist Mitayre’s planning a very special retirement--the kind with telepathic birds, sharp teeth,…

Illustrated by Juan Bernabeu

Edited by


Published on February 28, 2024

A figure with brown skin, wearing robes and a loose scarf emerges from an outcrop of green rocks into a desert, while a massive bird takes flight above the rocks.

What is a god?

I’ll tell you: anyone with the power of life and death. When the star-travelers arrived on our world, they called themselves divine. And for a time, we tolerated them—their too-grand stories and their so-called aid. Their very presence. Now we know better.

I know better.

Zaena Derech won’t meet my eyes. His gaze is trained on the planet below. Our planet, blossom-pink and bruise-purple and ours. We know it as Ayeshij, which means world. The star-travelers call it Epimetheus. A figure from their own mythology; a man from a story we will never know.

“After this, we’re done?” Zaena grits out.

I turn to face him. It doesn’t matter that he still won’t look at me. He’s already given me everything I need. “We’re done,” I agree.

I lift a hand, and, after a moment of hesitation, I let it fall on the slope of his shoulder. He flinches a bit at my touch, the synthetic fiber of his security uniform shifting beneath my fingertips.

“Whatever you’re going to do . . .” His throat bobs as he swallows hard. “The risks you’ve taken. The risks you’ve demanded I take. If they find out, they’ll take Ko. They won’t just kill her, if they do. You know that, right?”

“I know.”

“I know you miss her, but Shenian—”
“Don’t.” My teeth sink into the side of my cheek. “Just . . . don’t. Not today.”

He sighs. “Whatever you’re going to do, I hope it’s worth it.”

“So do I,” I say with a little smile. “Goodbye forever, then.”

He finally comes around, giving me one last, long look-over. He grins, our home still reflected in his dark eyes. “Good riddance, Mitayre.”

He clasps my arm, his hand encircling my elbow. We’re even. A Favor for a Favor, a crime for a crime. The Tradethread between us dissolved at long last. A little chime echoes in my auditory implant; the program that monitors the debts and repayments of my personal Favorweb—that records every Tradethread linking me to everyone else—logs the severing of Zaena’s obligation to me.

As I ready myself for my early retirement, I run into both of them from time to time. Although there’s nothing left for me to do in this world but enjoy the mostly ill-gotten fruits of my labor, my life is far from over.

Though she does an excellent job of pretending I no longer exist, I often catch a glimpse of Nelak Ko on the way to my annual physicals. The biomedical engineering sector where she works is near the medical center, both of which are closely monitored by our self-appointed rulers. And despite the finality of our farewell, I still see Zaena at the temple on worship days. It’s impossible for our paths not to cross. Compared to other systems, there were never very many of us. There are twenty orbitals swinging around Ayeshij, yes, but each station is small, home to no more than five thousand people each. And the star-travelers who shipped us to these pathetic metal shells restrict travel between them.

I feel eyes on me as I make my way through the evening market, exchanging Favors and unspooling new Tradethreads as I work to acquire a handwoven scarf and two dark jugs of sweet rum. A holobanner hangs over the square, displaying the rotating busts of the local Collective representatives, along with the phrase here for good! in cheerful blue. Oh, yes. Our otherworldly visitors are here to stay. They call themselves many things these days: the Collective, the Aggregate, the Endless Many. It does not matter.

I want them gone. I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

I try to ignore the presence trailing me, a hand rubbing nervously at my aching ribs. No point in acknowledging my little shadow right away; I already know who it is. Yarren. A star-traveler. One of the Collective. A huntsman. But he won’t come for me until I’m alone.

I don’t have to haggle for long; the weaver wants a carved chair from the famed artisan Iarasi, and I am owed not one, but two, of her rare Favors. In some other systems, I’d be called rich. My Favorweb is woven thick with Tradethreads, and a single piece from Iarasi would be worth thousands of the credits I’ve heard they use elsewhere. But I need a scarf, not a seat, so I’m happy to hand the Favor over. The alcohol I get for free. A gift from my favorite brewer, who very much enjoyed the shows I recommended to him last month. Yarren is still tailing me by the time I leave the market.

He approaches me, finally, in a dark street lit only by stars. One side of the passage is nothing but reinforced glass, a vast window looking out at a long velvet stretch of diamond-sewn space. He looks as he always does, thin as a blade’s edge, with dark shadows beneath his eyes. He wears the aigrette all Collective members in this system do, a spray of iridescent feathers pinned beneath a glistening ruby cabochon. Just the sight of it fills me with rage.

He ripped those plumes out of a Thambem, the closest thing we have to true gods. They do not mete out death, but they do bestow life. When we were still permitted to live on our own world, my people bonded our minds to the creatures. We gave them shelter and sustenance, and they gave us connection. Communion. The star-travelers don’t understand, and they never will. I haven’t seen a Thambem with my own eyes in a decade. And here is a stranger, an intruder wearing the feathers of our sister-people. The Thambema are closer to us than the Collective will ever be, regardless of our ancient shared ancestry.

“I hear you’re retiring,” Yarren drawls, leaning against the transparent eggshell of the window. The stars paint him in silver.

I tug the strap of my satchel higher up my shoulder. “You’ve heard correctly.”

“So you won’t be graciously accepting the precious family heirlooms of your fellow citizens, polishing them up and picking out the gems? You won’t be fabricating jewels and pawning off the real ones anymore? Just the straight and narrow, then?”

I ignore him and continue on my way.

Some things about humanity never change, no matter how our bodies adapt and our minds evolve. No matter how distant our worlds, how different our cultures. We like shiny things. So yes. Instead of scraping by with a threadbare Favorweb for the rest of my life, instead of remaining nothing more than a gemologist-for-hire and mediocre lapidary, I found another, better, finer path. I refused to live upon the fragile mercy of Collective’s so-called kindness for long. I don’t care what everyone—and perhaps common sense—says. My life has never been a safe one, nor an easy one, but I want for nothing.

Almost nothing.

“So the game’s over, then?” With a huff, Yarren shoves off the window and follows. “But we were having such fun.”

He’s been hounding me for five years now, ever since one of his audits took note of my just-too-good-to-be-true success. It’s not unusual for someone to possess a Favorweb far denser than it should be, given their profession and their skill at it—there’s a reason universities and museums don’t want me, and why I’m not feigning humility when I call myself a middling jeweler. But sitting on a veritable hoard of Favors when you’re one step away from unemployment is not exactly common. Yarren’s been able to take down a handful of my former clients for other unsavory business. (Criminals tend to be multitalented, after all.)

Unfortunately for the Collective, the worldsnet is both private and secure, with individual accounts being impervious to the greatest star-traveler hackers. Yarren can only follow the Tradethreads for so long before getting hopelessly lost, and even the formidable computational tools at his disposal get tangled up quickly. Our ancestors built the worldsnet as they did for a reason. Each member is no more and no less than anyone else in-system, and that includes the outsiders who cajoled their way in. But even if the worldsnet’s foundation could be altered in such a way, demanding special privileges would tarnish the image of humble benevolence the Collective has spent so much time and effort cultivating.

Point is, Yarren’s wasted half his career trying to catch me. I’ll admit that he came close a couple times, but now that I’m out of the game, as he said, he’s lost me forever. Besides my cons, I’m a perfectly law-abiding citizen. I let his mockery flow over me like a shallow stream. He can’t touch me. Not until he has solid proof. It’s the only reason I’m still breathing, the only reason he hasn’t dragged me wherever he’s taken the others—


The name is a knife, shoved between my ribs. I falter, barely managing to catch myself before I stumble.

I can feel his smile, small and slanted and cruel. “She says she misses you,” he says. “But we’ll give her back soon, I promise. She’s taken so well to the rehabilitation treatments. Much more so than the others.”

I stand still, just paces away from Yarren. I could stop this now. I could stop him, permanently. But no. Not yet.


My plans begin with Yarren, not end. I smother my fury—for now. I force myself to continue forward, my clenched hands shaking in my sleeves.

Eventually, he peels off. At the end of the day he still has a job to do, just like the rest of the Collective, and it isn’t badgering me. The star-travelers have taken it upon themselves not only to reign over us but also to serve us; along with the forty-nine others on this station, Yarren’s duties range from managing a fleet of asteroid-mining bots to overseeing the nutrient recycling plants. In this age, our whole lives orbit around the Collective, much like the stations around our old home. Remove them and we would be unmoored, untethered. Everything is a calculated move with them. But an enemy makes for the keenest teacher, and I’ve taken a number of measured steps of my own.

I’ve never been able to afford a trip down. Until now.

A ten-hour permit to visit my own homeworld cost me half of my Favorweb, and the skiff I’m renting meant giving up another Favor from Iarasi. But it’s worth it. It has to be. Everything has led to this moment.

Hills of sand stretch out in all directions, blending into the horizon as I guide the skiff through the desert. The dunes are just as gorgeous as I remembered; an ocean of violet and lavender, their peaks crested with white-hot silica instead of foam. I’ve heard tell of golden deserts on other worlds. But on Ayeshij, the sands are rich with almandine-pyrope garnet, or rose quartz, or spessartine. In some sacred places, a combination of all three.

Triangular inselbergs rise from the purple waves in a colossal semicircle, all of them bent at impossible angles. The odd arrangement gives the oblique white outcroppings the appearance of serrated teeth. I goad the skiff between two jagged incisors and drive farther into the rocky maw. In the far distance, pale minarets rise from the desert, carved from select outcrops. Their bone-white tips scrape against the blushing sky.

The seconds melt into minutes into hours. The feeling of the wind flying across my face and combing through my hair is delicious. So is the dry, mineral-tinged scent of the desert, and the unbearable heat of the sun. The world melts into a warm blur as I accelerate. Lethargy creeps over my skin, compounded by the gentle rumble of the engine beneath my feet. I lean more of my weight against the dashboard, my eyes drooping and my grip growing slack over the classic Earth-style driving wheel. The hot breeze wraps around me like a blanket. I’m on the edge of slumber when the skiff suddenly crests a particularly tall dune and swings violently over the peak, nearly sending me flying up over the small deck. Adrenaline floods my veins and I jerk fully awake, gripping the wheel. The bow sinks into another dune, and the skiff grinds to a trembling halt. I try to force the vehicle back, but there’s nothing for it, and the engine lets me know as much with a pathetic whine. I’m stuck fast between two hills of sand.

A thorough search of the skiff fails to produce the shovel I’d need to free myself. Short of spooning myself out with my bare hands, there’s nothing I can do. I jab the emergency assistance button, and I wait.

I’m three bites into my lunch when a gentle twittering fills my ears. I turn, already smiling. Since the relocation, I’ve heard that sweet song only in recordings and in my dreams.

A Thambem sits perched on the edge of my skiff. It’s big, far larger than I remembered them being, with a wingspan twice the length of my arms. Its neck pouch sags low, rich black with patches of ghostly white. Only the central body and wings are adorned in silver feathers; the rest is covered in smooth skin differing from my own only in color. The round head tapers into a needlelike point, and the gaping beak glints with minuscule, razor-sharp false teeth. The creature’s beadlike eyes are set deep within shadowed depressions in the skull, gold ringed with white and black and red.


I reach a hand out toward it. The magnificent creature lifts its head, regarding me coolly. Its beak touches the tip of my forefinger, and a shock goes through me, pure and bright. I freeze, enraptured as the memories of my people flood over my soul. It’s been too long.

Beautiful, the Thambem echoes. Beautiful teeth. And then, Beware. The beast you’ve summoned draws near, and he is exactly what you think.

I draw in a deep, grateful breath. And you must be what he believes.

What are you asking of me, child?

Prove them right. Give the outsider a reason to fear you, and I’ll take care of the rest.

It understands. Of course it understands.

The Thambem rears back and strikes. The beak goes through my palm. I fling myself back with a strangled hiss. A cloud ripples over the sky, a thin gray hand sliding past the sun. No—not a cloud. I freeze. As I clutch my bleeding hand to my chest, gaping at the Thambem, the sound of flapping wings fills the air like a thunderstorm. A silver-feathered flock streams directly toward me.

“Here! Get inside!”

I whip around. There’s Yarren, reaching out through the cracked-open door of a sleek, roofed Collective skiff. The approaching Thambema must have masked the sound of his arrival. I leap from my skiff as the Thambem that skewered my hand pounces. The outsider grabs my wrist and tugs me in. Thambema scramble to follow, but Yarren slams the control panel and the door slides fast behind me. Talons scratch at the skiff’s roof and windows in a rage.

It’s only when the skiff jerks forward, speeding through the brilliant landscape, that I notice a thin white cuff is secured around my wrist. A stun-tracker. Even if we weren’t being chased by a flock of ravenous flying reptiles, I couldn’t run from Yarren. I’d be drooling on the floor two seconds after trying.

“You can’t be serious!”

I catch his smirk from where he stands at the controls, a particularly fancy holographic display. “Disturbing wildlife is a major offense, Mitayre,” he says. “Don’t you know?”

“What are you doing here?” I snarl.

“Ah, progress.”


“I think this is the most you’ve ever spoken to me,” he replies. “And I’m here on vacation, if you must know.”

“And how’s that going for you so far?”

“Just swell, actually, thank you for asking. Certainly better than your trip.” Then he sighs. “You’re bleeding all over my skiff. There’s a first-aid kit on the shelf over there—”

“I found it.” I stumble over and flick open the scarlet case, riffling through the contents until I find a bandage. “I assume you’ve called for pickup?”

“No, actually, I want to be devoured alive,” he quips. “Really, what possessed you to touch that creature? Don’t tell me you were trying to bond with it.” I say nothing, and he laughs. “Rejected you, didn’t it?”

I grit my teeth together. “As is its right.”

“And I suppose the whole flock has the right to tear you to pieces, too?”

“If that is what Ayeshij wills. Nothing great comes without risk.”

“You’re so right.” His eyes flick to the deep gouges in the windows’ reinforced glass. “They’re not far behind, and we can’t stay in the skiff when they do catch up.”

“There must be somewhere we can hide.”

After a moment, he nods. “There’s a spot close by.”

Close is right. A few minutes later a massive cluster of columnar cacti comes into view, the green-gold columns arranged in a huge ring. Their winding arms tangle about five meters above the ground, forming an uneven roof.

Yarren turns off the skiff. “We’ll be safe here. Relatively.”

I arch a brow. The structure is quite literally bristling with spines. Each waxy yellow blade is as long as my arm and nearly as thick. Nothing will be able to reach us without risking being skewered. We’ll need to take care ourselves. It’s getting dark, and it’d be all too easy to lose my footing.

We clamber out of the skiff and a burst of hot air hits me. I breathe it all in: sand and salt and something a little sour under it all. We must be near the coast. Even if the breeze didn’t betray our location, the sand here shades toward pink, purple grains giving way to minuscule fragments of shattered coral and shells. We navigate inside. I have no way of knowing if the spines are poisonous, and so I avoid using them as handholds. The sour smell rapidly grows thicker, turning putrid. It brings to mind rotting flesh and nectar, but I see no hint of a source as I creep farther in behind the outsider. I yank my scarf over my nose.

“Great Ayeshij,” I choke out, “what is that?”

“It’s just the cactus,” Yarren replies, crisp and condescending. “The effluvia attracts pollinating scavengers to its flowers.”

“The blossoms must grow very far up the trunks,” I mutter. I didn’t see any as we approached.

Yarren doesn’t hear me. Or he pretends not to. The stench swells, but by the time we reach the center of the cluster, I’ve grown used to it. The outsider stretches and leans back against a waxy column.

“The transport should reach us in two and a half hours,” he says, eyes drifting shut as if for a nap.

“That long?”

An eye cracks open. “Make yourself comfortable.”

I glare at him.

“I don’t understand,” he says, returning my scowl now. “We’ve given you everything. Homes, food and water. We let you keep your worldsnet, retain your incomprehensible economics so you could obtain whatever we did not provide. We let you continue worshipping a dusty chunk of rock as you please. Why defy common law? Why resist us?”

My mouth falls open. “You took our home.”

“It’s not your home.” Yarren’s eyes narrow further. “It’s just the planet you happened to be born on.” He snorts derisively. “The Founders seeded this world with you people, just like they seeded Earth with us. Nothing is ours but the ancient homeworld, and that was lost long ago.”

“Thank you for the history lesson,” I snap. “But my people have lived on Ayeshij for two hundred thousand of your Earth years, nearly as long as the Thambema, who call us Sister. It’s our home and you took it. You should never have come.”

“If we took it,” says Yarren, his lips curling into a sneer, “then it’s not yours anymore, is it?”

“You—” I cut myself off, crushing the sentence between my teeth.

“I what?” Yarren demands, but I don’t answer.

A tense, angry silence settles between us. It is not a long one. A lilting tune cuts through the air, and my blood runs cold. The sound is unmistakable. A Thambem. My head jerks upward as I scan the living green roof above. There, tucked away in four tightly packed rings of clawed-out burrows, sits a flock of silver reptiles.

I stumble away, breath catching in my throat. My back hits something soft as I scramble away, and I spin around. It’s the fresh corpse of a kolchen, its vulpine body impaled on a spine. Blood drips from its pale brown fur onto the dirt below. Beside it are countless other animals, everything from arrow-eared yetyos to a slender-legged eriqiu. All are similarly skewered.

Something glints in the darkness. I twist to get a better look. A pair of shining boots, dangling at eye level. I clamp a hand over my mouth, trapping a scream. My gaze climbs up the unmoving body, my heart thudding against my rib cage. The flesh above the woman’s navel is unfurled like a flower. A single golden egg sits nestled within.

Horror grips me in its icy claws, paralyzing, crushing.

Around the woman’s neck is a double-looped string of freshwater pearls. All real, all plucked from fine pieces entrusted to my care and expertise. And that’s how I know it’s her, even before I see her bloated, bruised face. That’s how I know it’s Shenian.

My first patron. Shenian, who told me the truth about the star-travelers, the distant cousins who sought to take our almost-gods for themselves. Shenian, who set this awful task upon my shoulders when she vanished. She lets out a tiny whimper. Somehow, she’s impossibly, horribly alive.

It is sacrilege.

Stomach acid, sour and salty and sweet, bubbles into my mouth. I force it down, trying and failing to get my breathing under control. Shenian’s bloodshot eyes meet mine.

“What is this place?” I force out, as if the answer matters. As if I don’t already know.

“The larder,” says Yarren.

I can’t tear my eyes away from the body, from the egg nestled inside. Like an inclusion, my fear-numb mind supplies. But in his mind—in the Collective’s minds—the Thambema are the centerpieces. The flesh is no more than mounting.

“What—what have you done?” I gasp. I don’t have to fake the terror in my voice. Only the ignorance.

I’m so close.

“Come now,” purrs Yarren. “It’s not so different from what your own people do.”

“How dare you,” I force out, whirling around. “This is a corruption—” The sentence dries up in my throat, choking me.

Yarren’s chest is ripped open at the seams, revealing a smooth cavity packed with glittering, glistening golden eggs. He is predator and parasite and prey.

I let out a strangled cry. “You’re not human, and you’re not Thambem. You’re just monsters.”

“You fear this only because you don’t understand it.”

“I don’t need to understand it.”

Yarren ignores that. “Why do you think my people coddle yours? Why do you think we came here in the first place? Why do you think we stayed?” He stalks closer. “To become something new. When the eggs hatch, we see what the flock sees. We feel what it feels. I am connected to those beasts in ways you could never imagine. Not without my assistance. This is nothing more than a… direct bond.” He clicks his tongue. “You ought to be grateful.”

“You can’t do this,” I whisper.

Can’t?” he echoes. “No. I can do whatever I want. I can take whatever I want.”

“Just kill me.”

“And waste a body?” Yarren laughs. “No. Mercy has its uses. I’ve figured out how to make the bond permanent, but it’s not quite complete. We need your aid now; we need your natural, unrefined link to these beasts. So I’m offering you another path, with us. Just like your friend here.”

“I don’t want it. Whatever you are—I don’t want it.”

“But it’s only fair.” Yarren’s low voice is almost a whine. “You take everything we have to offer, and we take your criminals. Your unwanted. A transaction like any other, and I’ve been longing for this one. I knew you’d go wrong from the moment I set eyes upon you. Join us.”


“Oh, my darling, darling Mitayre,” he coos. “It wasn’t a question.”

He moves impossibly fast. His glinting nails are in the very middle of my chest, tearing me apart at the seams. I stumble backward, arms wheeling uselessly in the air. I land hard on a large rock, splayed out like some taxidermized creature. My teeth sink into my tongue. The coppery tang of blood replaces the sting of stomach acid.

Yarren kneels beside me, his eyes narrowed into pleased crescents. Smiling, he sticks a stray feather into the side of my head, digging the blade-sharp edge under and out of my skin. He presses his thumb at the end, stamping a flat round cabochon at my temple. A bloody aigrette to match his own. He leans back to appreciate his handiwork. And to pull an egg from his open chest. He holds the jewel-bright orb up to a splinter of gold-gray light. He gazes upon it for a moment, transfixed.

My eyes roll up into my head then, my world going dark just before he presses the egg into my flesh. But I still feel those sharp nails scraping against the meat of my organs. The egg settles right between the complementary curves of my liver and stomach.

Then my eyes snap down. Two rows of teeth punch through the ragged, weeping edges of my chest. Yarren’s eyes go wide. He wrenches back his arm—

But not fast enough to avoid my fangs. I clamp them shut around his wrist, biting down like the spikes of a double-spring steel trap. For that is what I have turned myself into.

Yarren’s mouth flings open. The sound that escapes him is a punched-out laugh, a strangled scream. I remade myself for this. Oh, there are better weapons than a chest full of teeth. But I wanted my victory to consume his. I wanted to cut him down at the peak of his triumph over me, to turn that pinnacle into a precipice.

Yarren’s jaw snaps closed, and when it unhinges again, it is to release one word. “How?”

I don’t give him an answer. He doesn’t deserve one. The only people who know—who will ever know—are Nelak, who filled me with teeth, and Zaena, who wiped every record of my appointment with her. Everyone else is dead or worse than dead; he’s just confirmed that for me. But they’ll have the revenge we sacrificed everything for. I release his arm only to bite down again, yanking him closer.

One by one, the Thembema spread their wings and fly from the cactus. It’s as if they know what’s to come.

“A neat trick,” he grits out, “but there are easier ways to hurt my kind.”

“Oh, Yarren. I know.” I smile. I cup his smooth cheek in one hand, a caress. “This was just for you.”

It is ludicrous.

But so is filling oneself with the stolen eggs of our sacred sister-species, and thinking that a better foundation for the bond than one born of free will. So is believing that we see any of our people as disposable, unwanted, and then treating them as such. So is thinking that my people would never fight back.

Yarren’s smile tightens like a noose. A single tear trails down his cheek. “You can’t kill all of us yourself.”

“No. Just some.

“Petty revenge? Is that what this is?” A whimper of pain punctuates each word. “The others will come for you, and you have no one.”


“Do you think I planned this all on my lonesome?” I coo. “That I uncovered your secrets myself? That I turned myself into a weapon with no help at all? That I cannot find others willing to take back what’s ours?” It’s my turn to laugh. Behind him, Shenian’s eyes drift closed, fat tears dripping down her face as her mouth curves into a weak smile. “No. Your people are more alone here than I will ever be. The end of your rule begins now.”

My reinforced fingers wrap around Yarren’s throat. I squeeze and squeeze and squeeze, until my hands touch and the world is crimson. I shove him back, spitting out his severed hand. It lands wetly on the ground, fingers curled like petals toward the flat pistil of his palm. A boot jammed twice into his chest solves the problem of the eggs within him; dealing with the rest is a simple matter of my fists, time, and years of suppurating fury. Shenian weeps from up above, hanging in the darkness. A guardian angel from a star-traveler myth. We both know it’s too late for her. We both know there’s only one thing I can do to end this.

I reach into my satchel. One jug of alcohol and a tossed lighter after I clamber out take care of all that’s left—and anything I might have missed. I sit perched on a crooked rock to watch the flames take over, a cigarette dangling between my fingers and my lungs filling with smoke and the smell of burning fat. I can’t stop smiling—or crying. I’ve only just begun.

A trio of Thambema circles high above, a cawing triptych of talon and feather. They sing me half to sleep. Perhaps they’re grateful. Perhaps it’s something else. Either way, they don’t descend to peck out my eyes, and I’m grateful for it.

I take a swig of rum from my remaining bottle and cough.

Great Ayeshij, it’s strong stuff. I swap booze for water, but the burn doesn’t fade. I cough again. And again. At first I think it’s just the smoke; I’m only human, after all. But then I feel something sharp and slick being pushed up my throat. I bring my hands to my mouth, choking on whatever’s in my trachea. With a sick retch, it finally comes up, plopping wetly into my clawed fingers.

A single feather, small and silver, and smeared with blood.

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You Don't Belong Where You Don't Belong
You Don't Belong Where You Don't Belong

You Don’t Belong Where You Don’t Belong

Kemi Ashing-Giwa

About the Author

Kemi Ashing-Giwa


Kemi Ashing-Giwa enjoys learning about the real universe as much as she likes making ones up. She studied organismic & evolutionary biology and astrophysics at Harvard, and is now pursuing a PhD in the Earth & Planetary Sciences department at Stanford. She is a USA Today bestselling author, and has published several short stories with, Anathema, The Sunday Morning Transport, Clarkesworld Magazine, and others. Her debut novella, This World Is Not Yours, comes out from Tor Nightfire in 2024.
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