Issue #51

Summer 2014

The Decay of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

by Thomas Strømsholt

My love, turned into a magpie of the European variety, perched on the capital of a tilted Ionic column. These things happen from time to time. The slender column was detached, supporting nothing but my plumaged love. Creepers crept and coiled up around the eroded grooves of the column, its base, stylobate and krepis covered by a luxuriant growth of plants and flowers.

Suddenly my love alighted from the chipped scroll capital and flew past me very slowly. Evidently, she was signalling for me to follow. One knows such things, it is a basic instinct or a kind of telepathy of the flesh. I followed her without hesitation. With her glossy green-violet-black breast, her pure white belly and long black tail shot with iridescent colours, she was the Ava Gardner of avian creatures, demimonde of the air, hot sex on purple glossed black wings. And she was my bird.

Difficulties arose. Great blocks of ancient stone and marble hid in a tall thick tangle of devil's grass, creeping charlies, milk thistle, St John's wort, green spurge and the obese feeder roots of old trees, all of which made it hard for me to keep pace with my feathered love. At times the human condition is a great burden. And then a leopard emerged from the wilderness of flora and ruins. It was a young leopard, barely larger than a pet cat. "Few animals in the wild are interested in humans," I told myself. "Still, it's advisable to keep one's distance, as a sign of respect ..." The spotted beast kept its distance too, trailing me with lithe, playful movements.

I ignored the panthera and looked around for my darling metamorphosed into avian beauty. In doing so I did not mind my step and fell to the tangled ground. It seemed I had tripped over a giant white feather. While I was wondering what sort of bird this feather could possibly belong to, and simultaneously despairing at having lost sight of my magpie, my love, the leopard snuck up on me and sank its teeth into my right ankle. I am sure that it was just playing, but it hurt nonetheless. And this sharp-toothed mammal would not let go. Worse still, the more I struggled, the more my limbs got entangled in the sumptous mesh of plants and flowers and the stingy tentacles of trees. Now that the dream had shifted to become an allegory of life, it was not funny anymore, not even remotely.

Author Bio


Thomas Strømsholt is a Danish author of short stories. His first collection of short stories in English, O Altitudo, was published by Ex Occidente Press last year. Some of his other short fiction has appeared in Bête Noire Magazine, Sacrum Regnum and Supernatural Tales (forthcoming). For more information, please see: