Five entries from the imagined bestiary 50 Beasts to Break Your Heart by GennaRose Nethercott

Art by James Scales / @jameswadescales

The Olnis carries its liver in an embroidered handbag. An evolutionary marvel, this allows the Olnis to process toxins externally, pre-filtering its food outside the body before consumption. It can chew the pulp from nightshade stalks and gulp barrels of bourbon without swooning. Hemlock is a favorite aperitif. When the liver grows too sick, an Olnis will simply snatch a healthy one from another of its kind as a replacement. Olni are constantly sneaking up on each other, snatching handbags, and running off. 

The Olnis is an acute judge of character. When taking on a new mate, the Olnis will dip its sweetheart in the handbag. If the sweetheart blisters, the Olnis will promptly dispose of this mate and seek out another. If the potential mate dips clean and quiet into the handbag, like a candlewick into a jar of wax, then the Olnis will embroider a portrait of the sweetheart onto the handbag. Some Olni have dozens of portraits embroidered onto their handbags and some have none.  

Moory Root 

Moory Roots embed themselves in vegetable patches and wait to be dug up with the harvest. Knobby with rouged joints, one can easily be mistaken for a turnip or rutabaga. When chopped up for stew, the Moory Root does not die. On the contrary, each individual fragment grows into a new, fully formed Moory Root. Those new Moory Roots will take up blades and begin to dice each other, and the process of multiple fission reproduction continues. Soon, the kitchen overflows with Moory Roots. Moory Roots spill out open windows and fill cabinets. They roll into every bedroom of the house until they reach the ceiling and start popping one by one from the chimney. Once the owners of the house have fled, the Moory Roots will host a big family party. Guests will run around lopping bits off each other, and new guests will pop up from the fallen pieces. Moory clans throw the best parties in town. 

Blue-Bellied Ib 

Ever since Ibs figured out how to use the phone, it’s been prank calls day and night. They’re terrible jokesters, because Blue-Bellied Ibs cannot lie. Instead, they’ll ring you to tell it to you straight. They’re purebred soothsayers. It’s okay to hate that. It’s okay to shoot the messenger. Rotisserie Ib is a good, filling meal, and if you eat it, you won’t have to listen to the truth anymore, ever again. Easy. 


Born in amethyst caves, Lilymutts spend the first six months of life chiseling armor from stone. Then they press the druzies to their flesh until the amethyst becomes a sort of exoskeleton. Only then do Lilymutts emerge into day. Sun rings off crystal. It is a violent shine, so riotous that a glance will render a viewer immobile for two to three minutes. Lilymutts know better than to look at one of their own kind. However, mistakes can happen. If two Lilymutts gaze at each other, the glare ricochets back and forth indefinitely, imprisoning them both in permanent paralysis; two violet statues shackled with light. 


Newborn Slivoring babies, tiny as pinto beans, crawl down the throats of empty beer bottles. Within the glass, the Slivorings will grow just large enough that they cannot slip back out. The bottles protect them from the elements and meddling hands—though on too hot a day Slivorings will grow agitated and begin to hum in harmony. After the thermostat hits 85 degrees, bar dumpsters across town sound like someone tried to recycle a barbershop quartet. In the summer of ‘98, Slivorings sang for a record-breaking sixty-two days without rest. The noise was so obtrusive that the city was evacuated. When a group of unknowing travelers passed through, they found a ghost town swollen with mysterious music that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere, all at once. 

GennaRose Nethercott is the author of The Lumberjack’s Dove (Ecco/HarperCollins), selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series, and Lianna Fled the Cranberry Bog: A Story in Cootie Catchers (Ninepin Press). A born Vermonter, she tours nationally and internationally performing from her works and composing poems-to-order on a manual typewriter with her team, The Traveling Poetry Emporium. Her first novel and short story collection are forthcoming from Knopf Vintage.