This is an experiment in digital barding. There’s a tip jar below if you like the story. I had switched to a Patreon only model, but a friend pointed out that sometimes people just want a single story. Or a sample before they commit to supporting a project. Different audiences and all of that.
I was 5 the first time I saw a unicorn. It was in my grandmother’s yard and all of the adults told me it was a deer. An albino deer. I believed them. I was 5 and adults know best. Every time I saw one after that I wondered why albino deer only have one horn, but I can’t remember if I asked anyone about it. I just kept feeding them apples or carrots or whatever else I had in my lunch. They were friendly and soft, and to me they smelled faintly of wildflowers even in the winter.
For 8 years I believed that they were deer. At first I couldn’t figure out why they only came close when I was outside alone, but then it occurred to me I was quieter than my cousins. When they came to visit they wanted to play loud games of hide and seek or freeze tag. But most of the time I was at my grandmother’s alone. I went outside to read in the little playhouse my grandfather built, or to pick flowers or sit by the pond. It isn’t a working farm any more, but my grandmother rented out her land instead of selling it so I always had space to play. And the woods were just dense enough to be mysterious without being scary.
When I was 13 my school had a trip to visit Fermi labs. They have albino deer. Real albino deer. And suddenly I knew that what I had been seeing, what hung out on my grandmother’s land wasn’t deer. I knew better than to say anything though. Unicorns aren’t real. Well they are, but they aren’t supposed to be so..I kept my mouth shut.
Grandma and I talked about everything else, boys, school, girls, you name it. Keeping this one small secret wasn’t really a problem. She got sick when I was 16. Cancer, but she was tough and for a couple of years it looked like she would beat it. Two weeks after I graduated from high school she didn’t wake up one morning. I called an ambulance, but I already knew she was gone. After they had been and gone I went out and sat with the unicorns for a while. Just crying into their fur until all my tears were gone.
The funeral and the reading of her will were a whirlwind. She left the farm to me, just me, which didn’t make my aunt or my cousins happy.
“You should sell it. Use the money for college.”
“We all deserve a share.”
“Your mother up and left and she took you in, but that doesn’t mean you deserve the farm.”
They went on and on, and I…I just tuned them out. The land wasn’t going to be sold and I wasn’t going to college right away anyway. So I just waited them out, eventually the anger wore them down. Left them too upset to talk to me, and Mr. Copeland my grandmother’s lawyer was firm about the terms of her will. They all got money, but I got the land and no court would call that unfair.
I saw the unicorns more after that, they seemed to wait for me to come out and feed them every morning. My needs were simple, as long as I could pay the taxes and the utilities and feed myself money wasn’t a major concern. Not that first year anyway. I was in mourning and the unicorns let me cry to them or on them as I needed.
They don’t talk exactly, not the way you’d think. Not with their mouths, but you can hear their thoughts. And one day they all had the same thought. “Get up. Go back to your life.”
When a unicorn tells you to get your shit together? Do it. I enrolled in school, found a job in town and started talking to friends again. The only thing I didn’t do was date. Even in high school I wasn’t super interested in romance, and in college I felt too old for the people who were interested in me. No hot for teacher stories either. Somehow I just didn’t feel the need for well…anything.
I had my unicorns and the trees and when I wanted to talk to people I had friends and classes. Of course things couldn’t stay that peaceful. Not when developers started to eye the land around me. Suddenly there were all of these subdivisions and chain stores popping up. Tourists and their friends driving up and asking if I was the B & B they were looking for or if I sold fruit or apple butter or something. I put a gate across the driveway and a sign that said “Private Property”.
Problem solved right? Wrong. I started getting calls and letters from developers. Some of them would even park across the driveway and wait for me to leave so they could make their pitch. I said no quietly, then loudly and I said it often. I finally put a “Not For Sale” sign up too.
One day I went out to sit at the pond and there was a man there. I yelled at him, ran to get my shotgun and then I realized he was dead. Something had put a hole in his throat. I called the sheriff who searched my house and questioned me, but I genuinely didn’t know what happened to him. They took the body away and talked about strangers and trespassing and autopsies. I just waited for them to leave, and then went out to visit with the herd. One of the older ones had some brown stains on his horn and I helped him clean up. The cherries can stain anything.
Later they said it was some kind of spiral object driven with great force through the stranger’s neck. More force than I could possibly exert. It made the news, people looking for the wandering tramp with the weird knife. Everyone wanted me to get a dog, but I reminded them I had granny’s guns and promised to put up motion sensitive lights instead.
A few weeks later there was a body in the woods. Something had trampled him. Thoroughly. I didn’t call the sheriff. I just left him there. There are wolves in those woods and they took care of the remains. Better that than strangers tramping through and disturbing everything. Disturbing me.
There have been others since then, people who wanted what I have or wanted to hurt me. Maybe. I don’t ask and they don’t tell.
I still see the unicorns, still sit with them every day. I got tired of being alone, and then my cousin Grace showed up one day with her daughter. Left her there, and never came back. Ruby is sweet and warm and she sees the unicorns too. When the time comes I know she’ll take good care of them, just like they take care of us.
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