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.

“Mom?”

“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?”

“What?”

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…


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com
If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2021

Instructions for the procurement of emotional supply from the sorcerer Ronald Vito’s personal notes, as uncovered by Ms Viola Arviragus, journalist

1) Choose your source. Intelligence is desirable—the larger the mind, the more to manipulate, and the better the supply. Resilience and a strong imagination are essential. Articulacy and a sharp sense of humour are good markers, and readily identified without the need to listen overmuch.

2) Collect five two-ounce candles, a shot glass of water, about three tablespoons of cornflour, two glass marbles, and a large piece of square paper.

3) Offer your source something. It need not necessarily be money or goods—indeed, this may be too obvious and arouse suspicion. Consider information—everyone wants to know something. Ideally, acquire several titbits that she has no way to access. It is easiest if it happens to be something involving your daily work—that way, you won’t have to spend valuable time reading or listening.

4) Fold the paper into five-pointed star. Instructions can be found on the attached page.

5) Offer your source the information. She may be initially cautious, but you must feign patience. When she inevitably bites, drip-feed. Something small each day for a week, perhaps.

6) Place one candle at each point of the paper star. You should allow them to burn for thirty minutes each day until they are used up. This will take approximately a month. You must pay close attention to your source during this time.

7) Converse often and be sure to mirror her words. If she says she likes something, claim to like it, too. Childhood memories are powerful—if she recounts a formative experience from her youth, you must immediately reply, “oh, me too!” Seem vulnerable. Imply that her thoughts are infinitely interesting, her ideas nothing less than genius.

8) Continue to light your candles each day. Observe as the flame gradually consumes the wax.

9) Talk to your source about the future. Simple, but definite, statements such as, “when I show you,” or “when we meet [important person to whom you have access],” or simply, but powerfully, “when I see you.” This will encourage her to imagine a future that includes you.

10) When the candles are almost exhausted, mix the cornflour and water to make a thick slurry. Place the marbles on the surface of the mixture. Watch as they sink, gradually lost from view.

11) Sprinkle plenty of obvious, but inconsequential, lies into your conversation amongst clear truths. For example, jokingly insist you know something you clearly do not. Claim to be travelling when you could not possibly be. Imply your prize stallion was custom-bred for you at great expense, rather than, for example, admitting that you traded in your chestnut mare to buy it second-hand from a questionable dealer. The puzzle of why you’re lying about trivialities will keep her awake at night, and anything that keeps you in her thoughts serves your purpose.

12) Tell her you love her. Mixed with your other lies, this will cause both delight and confusion. Dispose of the cornflour and water, and burn the paper star. You can introduce a sexual component at this point if your preferences lie in that direction.

13) By now, if you have played your part with flair, she will be hooked. If you have other sources lined up, by all means withdraw. In fact, regular, mysterious disappearances, so long as they are terminated with warm and affectionate greetings, will only serve to strengthen the bond.

Your source will now be providing a regular flow of energy and will require little maintenance. Make contact every few days or so, but do not overdose. Naturally, you do not care about her mental well-being, but if you completely drain her she may respond by cutting off contact, which is contrary to your needs.

ADDENDA

  • It is most important that sources of supply remain unaware of this method, as prior knowledge will significantly reduce effectiveness. You must, of course, never mention sources to each other. Keep notes. If they know of each other’s existence, they may start talking.
  • Even-numbered steps are largely optional. If one finds oneself lacking in resources they may be omitted with only a small reduction in effectiveness.
  • It is to be noted that whilst intelligence is important, one must strive to avoid attempting these techniques on a witch, since they have a habit of seeing what isn’t shown and hearing what isn’t said. You must endeavour to listen, as this is the only way to identify warning signs such as a refusal to be interrupted, disregard for your brilliance, and querying your impeccable logic. Be aware that some witches engage in alternative occupations, for example, as journalists. Apply caution.

Author’s notes
This is speculative fiction. Unless it isn’t.
Eventually, they will start talking.


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com
If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2021

The Magician’s Christmas Tree

The distant sound of carol singers caused the magician to look up from the silver bauble he was holding. Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

He smiled. He liked that one.

The old man huffed on the sphere and rubbed in on his robe, then held it close to his face. The curved surface distorted his reflection, making his hands seem huge and his head tiny. Something inside the ball made a sound like a fox in the night.

Still smiling happily, the magician hung the bauble carefully on a branch.

A log hissed and popped in the grate. He paused in his tree decorating to stir the liquid in the cast-iron pot hanging over the fire. The smell of oranges, cinnamon and peppery spices filled the room. He sniffed appreciatively and added a generous measure of clear liquid from a glass bottle.

Returning to the tree he examined the lights which he’d wound around the branches. One sputtered and he flicked it impatiently with a fingernail. It squeaked faintly, then returned to producing its greenish light.

Humming fa-la-la-la-la he rummaged in the dusty wooden crate on the rug next to the tree. Over several branches he hooked curved, white objects which might have resembled candy-canes, although they lacked the traditional red stripes.

He let out a happy exclamation when he discovered the string of pearlescent, squarish objects with curiously sharp edges. These he draped all around, so that they shimmered in the firelight.

Then came a series of miniature figures. Reindeer with branching antlers twisted on their strings and butted at pine needles. The magician wagged a finger at them.

A selection of elves with curling shoes hung rather brokenly. At these, he sighed and shook his head sadly.

Another figure drawn from the box was an ugly thing; two pointed horns had been stuck to its forehead and it was dressed in dark, coarsely-woven clothing. It had baleful, light-brown, almost amber, eyes and carried a switch of wicked-looking branches. It hissed as the magician gently stroked it. He stared at it for a moment, looked back at the crate and then, cocking his head to one side, placed it towards the back of the tree.

Last was the figure of a man, dressed in red and white and carrying a lumpy, hessian sack. This one made a soft sound that was almost a groan. The magician gazed at it as if it were a much-loved grandchild, and then hung it carefully on a branch at the very front.

He took a few steps back and examined his work. The figures swung gently on their strings and the lights twinkled most prettily. Faint groans and hisses filled the tree like the wind winding its fingers through a forest. It was, he decided, almost perfect.

Almost.

He reached into the box and drew out a silver star. He turned it over in his hand, frowning. What were stars, after all? Huge balls of flaming gas, seen from such a distance they were nothing more than dots. He would, he mused, much rather have a fairy on the pinnacle of his tree. He glanced at the string of squarish objects he had draped through the branches.

Yes, a fairy with pretty golden hair and glittering wings. That would be so much more in keeping with the true origins of the mid-winter festival.

The magician cocked his head. The singers had started up again, and they were louder. Very loud, in fact. Almost as if they were just outside his door.

They fell silent and their song was replaced by knocking.

Fa-la-la-la, hummed the magician.

He opened the door. Three women stood there, cheeks flushed from the cold. The middle one pushed a lock of blonde hair away from her eyes as they all burst into song.

The magician listened, a beatific smile on his face.

He clapped his hands as they finished. ‘Oh, that was wonderful. Wonderful! Why don’t you come in for a moment? I’ve got some mulled wine warming in the other room.’

They smiled at the kindly old man with the eyes that spoke of warmth and safety, and thought how bitterly cold it was. The carol singers agreed that, yes, it would be lovely to come inside. Just for a moment.

The magician ladled the dark, cinnamon scented liquid from the pot over the fire into cups and passed it to the singers as they admired his beautiful tree.

Yes, he thought, as they sipped. A fairy with beautiful golden hair. Perhaps she would even sing.

And he could always find room for more elves.


Author’s notes
COVID-19 has probably put an end to door-to-door carol singers this year, but just in case, beware kindly old men with strangely active Christmas ornaments… 😉


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com
If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2020

Contemplations of the Human Mind by Sophist Drazav of Lithios Prime

They saw crimson blurring into yellow shifting into green into cyan into violet and they imagined. In one story it’s a bridge, a link to a galaxy no more than sparkling dust in their night sky. In another, there’s a green-clad creature, guarding gold, stirring mischief with wishes.

Their later stories used other words. Human creativity pushed so far it became truth. Meteorological phenomenon. Optical illusion. Refraction, reflection, dispersion. These have their own solid, ringing beauty. Imagination blurred into reality shifted into science into physics into mathematics.

The minds of humans hold all these truths, and that

Is truly wondrous.


Author’s notes
A drabble in honour of my birthday, and also, I learned today, 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston’s birthday! ☺


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com
If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2020