A Softly Sinister Story

The Wretched Selwyns

A fantastical science fiction set in the Pacific Northwest

Somewhere in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, there is a place hidden from the rest of the world called Miłogost, a town of magick.

Dahlia Selwyn has been told all her life that magick is something beyond her reach, so when she realizes that she has the power—she decides to use it to change society forever.

1

Auditorium 4, Triglav. September 2006

“The Homo Sapiens are dying.”

The words sent ripples of unease throughout the auditorium, and Professor Augustus Rook allowed the silence to add weight to their meaning. He would have liked a better turnout however, he mused as his sharp eyes trailed over the sparse audience among stone pillars, impressive frescos, history and tradition embodied in architecture. Just like a half-empty church.

Perhaps he should have titled his lecture, “Where are we headed as a species?” rather than “The Evolution of Extinction.” Or perhaps he should have gone the way of click bait and plastered large panicked flyers about the end of times.

He cleared his throat.

“It would be negligent to ignore them any longer. In a world of plenty, people are strapped for cash and dying from predatory capitalist ventures. Long-term goals are a thing of the past—everyone is looking for the next big thing, never asking themselves the most important question: where is the road leading them? Instant gratification is the name of the game and we’re all going to die because of it.

“If you think I’m melodramatic, take a look at the consumption of resources. You don’t have to be an expert in economics to know that consumer culture is unsustainable. They have not learned yet to live within their bounds, to give more than they receive, and cultivate an environment that will support the human race until Sol swallows us in a blaze of fire. What a shame it would be for life to end with us.”

He continued in this way for the better part of an hour, watching eyes glaze and attention drift. Professor Rook wished he could leap down from his stage, seize them by the collar of their tailored shirts, and shake the sense into them.

If not us, then who?

He took no questions.

He sunk, defeated into his chair—a creaky old oaken thing he had given a new pillow cushion in navy blue. Around his desk, half a dozen angry voices ignited the air around him. Some thought he was off base. Others thought his desire for world sustainability a pipe dream. Most that he was just wrong. And from among the crowd, he saw something that distracted him entirely.

A child, standing on tiptoe, hands clasping the edge of the raised platform and gazing at him with wide eyes—almost black with hues of red wine as if her gaze had swallowed a black dahlia. She couldn’t have been older than five or six.

“Well, you’ve got one thing right, Professor Rook,” came a voice to his left and he turned to see a pale wizened woman, faded freckles splattered across her nose and silver-streaked auburn hair. “Sapiens are a menace and must be stopped.”

At this, there was a general murmur agreement from those still crowded around his desk, and Professor Rook sighed, scratching the peppery stubble on his chin.

“Then you misunderstand me entirely, Milady.”

The woman bristled at his reply. “It’s either us or them,” she snarled. “I’ve no interest in watching everything I’ve built fall to pieces because they can’t figure out how to share.”

Professor Rook regarded her for a long moment. “It seems like they’re not the only ones.”

A twinge of pink filled her cheeks and she busied herself with the hem of her coat—handmade wool, white fractal designs like pyramids over forest green. He watched her eyes fall on the little girl, and her jaw twitched. The little girl drew back—and he decided to be impulsive.

Ignoring the voices clamoring for his attention—what should we do about this nonsense? — he rose from his chair and walked over to the edge of the platform and, knees popping plumped himself on the floor. She looked up at him and then scrambled to climb the platform and sit down next to him, flushed with success, legs swinging off the edge.

She had a light umber complexion, dark freckles, and short curls of black hair.

“And what about you? What did you think of my presentation, little Miss?” asked Professor Rook.

He watched her screw up her eyes in thought for a few seconds and then she said in a shy, gentle tone, “I didn’t understand a lot of the words, but—” and she cast a nervous glance behind her to the older woman, still hovering behind them like a vulture, “but, I think everyone should get a chance to live.”

The corners of Professor Rook’s eyes crinkled. “I think so too.”

He heard a humph behind him, and the little girl began to fidget. She bit her lip and then, steeling herself leaned up to whisper something into his ear that made his blood run cold, “Don’t let them end it before I can fix it.”

He stared back into those eyes like a black dahlia, and the little girl smiled. “It was nice to meet you, Sir.” And then she was on her feet.

He turned to watch her take the wizened woman’s hand, saw the gruff way she ushered the child from the hall. But he caught those eyes peering back at him through the sea of faces, the soft promise of revenge on her lips and he thought…

Maybe she possessed the magick to make it happen.

 

Overview & Preview

Somewhere in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, there is a place hidden from the rest of the world called Miłogost, a town of magick.

Of the families that reside there, none fell into the public disgrace quite like the Wretched Selwyns. The Matron, Muireann Selwyn disowned her eldest daughter, Darcy, after she decided to leave magick behind and go live in the city. Ashamed, and lacking a proper heir, the Selwyns fell into disorganized chaos as the lesser branches fought to take power as Head.

 

Dahlia Selwyn was born on October 13, 2001. Her parents, Darcy Selwyn and Octavius Stiles were kind people, trying to figure out how to raise a family. They moved to Southern California when she was three, and six months before her fifth birthday her parents died in an LA highway accident with a drunk driver. As she’d been in the back in a car seat, she escaped with only superficial injuries.

Dahlia was sent to live with her maternal grandparents, the Selwyns. They held a beautiful yet solemn funeral and introduced her to the small town of Miłogost, hidden in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

She understood to some extent what had happened. She knew her parents were dead and knew she had to live here now. The Selwyns were nothing like her parents—distant cold people who kept watching her as if looking for something.  It didn’t take her long to realize that something was magick.

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