The Natural Selection

The middle-aged man was wearing a sandy-coloured shirt and a panama hat, but Caroline wasn’t really paying attention to his clothes. She was more concerned with the enormous white placard he was waving.

It read: “If you don’t teach your child to obey Jesus, the devil will teach them evolution, sexuality, psychology, witchcraft!”

He glared at her from the other side of the street, no doubt taking in her blue hair, visible tattoos and spiderweb-patterned facemask. He wasn’t wearing a mask. Big surprise. She turned and walked briskly in the other direction. Some fights just weren’t worth it.

At home she unloaded her groceries. Jennie, her fourteen-year-old daughter, sat at the kitchen table chewing a pencil.


“Yes, sweetie?” Caroline slotted a container of fresh sage into the refrigerator on top of a punnet of blueberries. She picked up a packet of mustard seeds.

“D’you know anything about inherited characteristics?”


Jennie gestured vaguely at one of the books spread out in front of her. “I have to write about inherited characteristics and how they change over time.”

Caroline shoved a tub of ice-cream into the freezer, judged the rest of the groceries could wait awhile, and pulled out a chair. “Um. Can I see the book?”

Fifteen minutes later, she had fallen into a hideous tangle of words and was, not for the first time, cursing the fact the schools were currently closed.

“Why don’t you go out to the backyard for a while?” she said. “It’s nice out. Maybe it’ll make more sense after a break.”

She watched as the door closed behind her daughter.

Caroline headed for the basement. It was a sparsely-furnished but clean and well-lit space. She started pulling supplies from a shelf near the dryer. Candles, chalk, spray bottles containing her own special mixtures, a well-thumbed book, salt.

She knelt down on the concrete floor and began to draw.

A little while later, she studied the sigil she’d created. Someone who’d watched too many bad movies might have been surprised. There wasn’t anything even slightly star-shaped, let alone a pentagram. This was all swirls and spirals that twisted and curled inward, forming an unbroken circle in their centre. The outer ring was, likewise, unbroken—and this she sprinkled liberally with salt. She placed candles at intervals around the edge and lit them, sprayed the air, and sat down on a small cushion.

Caroline picked up the book and began to chant.

Here, again, someone expecting mist, banging and general flickering would have been underwhelmed. A figure simply appeared in the central circle with a gentle pop. Slightly smaller than a man, bat-like wings folded neatly against his back, wearing spectacles.

“Ugh,” he said, peering down at the sigil. “Fine. Fine. You clearly know what you’re doing. Let’s forgo the nonsense. What do you want, witch?”

Caroline smiled.

“Well,” she said, “I really need someone to teach my daughter about evolution.”

Author’s notes
A little something I threw into a flash fic contest. It’s dating quickly, but then, I guess, that’s change for you…

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