|The Transformation Story Archive
See the Unicorn
SEE THE UNICORN! AMAZING! SPECTACULAR!
Matthew frowned. You hardly ever saw animal freak shows these days, especially with all the laws and regulations against cruelty. If the shabby signs and patched tents were any indication, the so-called unicorn was probably some tired old horse with a plastic horn glued to its forehead.
So why was he here? Certainly not idle curiosity. It had taken two hours of juggling train connections to reach this remote town, and another twenty minutes to walk from the station. All because of a buried, two-line newspaper ad that mentioned the word unicorn. Matthew was absolutely bonkers over unicorns.
His interest obviously wasn't shared. Judging from the sparse crowd, barely a dozen people had even bothered to walk from town. A family passed him on the way out, parents grumbling about the terrible fraud. Most people would have turned around then, but Matthew also saw the two small children trailing behind, eyes bright with wonder.
The ticket taker was a thin, older man with pinched features and a bored expression. He gave Matthew a quick once-over and pasted on a smile. "That'll be five."
Matthew stared, dumbfounded. "Five? That's ridiculous!"
"I agree." The man shrugged. "The only real unicorn in captivity, maybe in the world. I should charge fifty, but then nobody would come at all."
Was he serious? Matthew blinked, and then pulled out the required bill. It disappeared, and he was handed a red paper ticket. The man pointed towards the main tent, a sad-looking canvas enclosure that looked more like a giant-sized patchwork quilt. Feeling very foolish, he stepped through the tattered flap.
It was dark inside. He blinked as his eyes adjusted The air was heavy with the thick odor of a poorly maintained stable, not completely unpleasant for someone who loved equines. Still, it didn't seem appropriate. The main attraction was hidden by partitions of frayed canvas, requiring patrons to move to the end of the tent.
Two teenagers came out from the viewing area, an angry girl with black lipstick and close- cropped dark hair dragging a confused-looking young man by the arm. He was staring back at the still-hidden animal. "That can't be a horse! Look at it!"
"Oh, you are such a twit!" Seeing Matthew standing behind them, she rolled her eyes. "Don't waste your time, Mister. It's a joke. Like, totally lame."
Looking back over his shoulder, the boy sagged visibly. "For minute there, I thought..."
"What? You thought you saw a magic horsie? Pu-leeeze!" She stormed out, with the boy stammering denial as he stumbled after her.
Matthew hesitated before moving to the end, bracing himself for the inevitable disappointment. What would it be this time? Then he turned and looked. His chest tightened, and breath caught in his throat. Eyes burned and watered, but he was afraid to blink in fear that the image in front of them would vanish.
The stall held an exquisite life-sized statue cast in satin-white glass, lit internally by a soft glow. Its eyes were startling blue, nostrils the faintest shade of pink, and the delicately spiraled horn was made of fine crystal impregnated with flecks of gold. Real hair, too fine to be horsehair, had been carefully attached to form a flowing silver-white mane. Even its cloven hooves were perfectly formed, sharing the pink shade of the muzzle. The beauty was almost unbearable and his heart ached just looking at it. Then his heart nearly stopped as the statue moved to focus a sapphire eye on him.
He had to grab the rope barrier for support, knees failing and head swimming. It was everything he had ever imagined a unicorn to be, yet the true recognition came from within. As impossible as it seemed, this supposedly mythical creature was real. He held out a trembling hand. Equine ears pricked forward, and warm, soft nostrils brushed his palm.
The horn was mesmerizing. What he'd thought at first to be gold flecks were tiny suns, flashes of energy whirling in a crystal cosmos. Yet he found himself drawn to the impossibly deep, brilliant pools of its eyes. He felt naked in their gaze - more than naked. His very soul was stripped bare in those blue orbs. At the same time, he realized that the unicorn's soul had opened to him.
He shivered. The impressions were almost overpowering, beautiful, and impossibly sad. Loneliness and despair were somehow balanced by the faintest trace of hope. Yet behind those feelings lay unimaginable power. This was no captive animal. A casual thought from this creature could level mountains. No mere construct of rope and canvas could possibly hold it. Why was it here?
For him. Matthew knew the answer as if it had been his own thought. Joy flickered, only to be crushed by shame and despair of his own. He swallowed, throat so tight that it was hard to force words out. "I'm not.. not a virgin."
Amusement. The unicorn's eyes sparkled. Although he was still confused, Matthew realized that there was no way to lie or hide anything at this level. Every flaw, every dark secret and hidden desire was exposed. It had known and accepted everything about him the moment they connected.
The tent swirled suddenly into mist that dissipated into the clear, cool air of a lush valley. His clothing vanished with everything else. Matthew's blood pounded in his ears as the unicorn stepped closer. Its horn flared hot and bright, golden fire inches from his face.
A sweet scent filled the air, rich and warm. He drank it in, nostrils flaring wider as they reached outward. The tip of the unicorn's horn pricked his forehead and then fused with the bone underneath. Locked in place, Matthew gasped as a pulse of energy throbbed in his skull and flowed down and out to fill the rest of his skeleton. Bone remolded itself like clay, shifting under muscle and skin. He could feel himself gaining mass, his center of gravity shifting higher. As his body stretched out the rigid connection between their heads forced him forward and down. His hands touched the ground, fingers already fused and hardening.
There was no fear until he felt the throbbing in his mind. The crystal umbilical reached deep into his brain, purging human memory to make room for the unicorn being born. It was a price he'd been aware of, and one he willingly paid. Matthew gave a last thought to friends and loved ones, hoping that they might one day see the unicorns of their dreams. Then the single horn split into two. Two unicorns whickered in joy and ran off across the valley.
See the Unicorn copyright 2000 by Bob Stein.
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