“The Design”…a Story of Beautiful Horror by China Miéville

(Photos: Scrimshaw on a human skull, Tibet.)

I don’t know how else to say this. But stop what you’re doing and read this story. I’m flabbergasted at the skill and beauty here. This should be in everyone’s Best of…

I’ve not read anything of Miéville’s except some of Perdido Street Station. I’m going to spend a lot more time with him now.



“There is a fact familiar to anyone who has worked with the dead. Do anything to a cadaver, it will do something back to you…

He wiped away tissue, felt his fingers slide on the ulna’s sausage skin-thin casing.

On the off-white of the bone were scratches. For a moment William thought they must be the results of injury. But they were not random. No chance mishap could have caused what he saw.

The markings were a design. They were pictures.

Through a tear in the periosteum, the bone’s fibrous fascia, William saw curlicues. Carved filigrees entwined the shafts of ulna and radius like the borders of an illuminated manuscript.

William looked up at the age-stained walls, John and Harpreet at their own cadavers, back down at last at the bone he touched. It remained impossibly carved. He could make out rust-red lines as if through gauze.

With hands that had begun to tremble, he peeled back muscle and meat, brought more bone into the light. He traced intricate illustration. Near the wrist he uncovered images of plants, between the leaves of which, rendered in even finer lines, was the tiny figure of a man.”9781101884782-1

– China Miéville, “The Design”

(Collected in Three Moments of an Explosion)


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