Saturday, August 4, 2012


By request - the text of my audio story published by the Dunesteef audio fiction magazine.

Something was wrong, but you couldn't quite figure out what it was.  You were hiking through the Black Forest, following those leads.  The girl who reported the sighting may not have remained a virgin, but that didn't mean that her story was false.  It just meant that the experience would never happen to her again.

You were still pure, however, and your hope and faith made you a beacon to draw them, if they were there.  If they wanted you.  But something was wrong.

Her description was flawless; everyone gets the pure white coat, the flowing mane, and that damned horn.  But she knew the details.  She heard them speaking their names.  Names you recognized.  Names you first heard when you were a young girl, and you wandered away from your family's campsite on that trip to the Black Forest.

And she saw the tattoos and the scars.

Which brought you back out there with your gear and your plans.  This time, you were determined to get the proof that you needed.  It had gone beyond an obsession, long before your job was lost and your reputation was gone.  Certainly, you wanted to put a stop to the snickers and the pity.  But this desire was older than that; it was much more than that.  You had given up on that dream of proving yourself to doubters early on, and you learned to pay lip service to their disbelief, so they would believe you had recovered your senses. 

The doubters couldn't help you get what you wanted, anyway.

It was that desire to see Them again; to touch them; to ride one of them again.  That desire kept you alone - and intact - throughout your adult life.  It kept you aloof and distant, focused on your career.  Your success as an interrogator was attributed to that detached focus.  But in hindsight, your whole life was a balancing act between lies that hid your obsession and the truth that smoldered beneath, like embers hidden by wet leaves.  No one could lie to you.  You could smell the feeble smoke of their falsehoods, and fan the truth into flame.

On the interview tape, you were different, though.  The girl's story was feeble; it was plain they had stolen that car and headed for seclusion.  You were your usual, competent self, cold and taking notes, waiting for the holes in the tale that would inevitably show themselves.  She veered from the unlikely into the fantastic, telling you of the sound of hoofbeats, and the flash of silver through the trees.

You froze at that.  Your detachment melted away.  You ought to have torn her lies apart right there; exposed her fraud and closed the case.  And yet you listened, and instead of cutting apart the lies with logic, you asked for more.

Where did you go? What did you see?  How many were there?  Can you describe the marks...

You wrote down everything, squeezing her for details until the chief came and ended the interview.  They took the girl away, and you screamed at them to stop; you needed to know more.  The tape captured your frenzy, and words that you were shouting.  Words that couldn't be heard on replay, because no two listeners heard the same sounds.

They detained you, and made you wait for the chief's decision.  You simply stared intently, stroking a lock of your silver hair, which had fallen out of your normally severe bun as you clutched your notes and eyed the maps on the walls of the station.

They took away your badge and your car; they revoked your investigator's license.  After the magistrate reviewed your case, they were going to offer you a small pension, and a quiet, part time desk job at some village in the southern part of the country. 

It was strange that you had become so intent; that you lost your control.  If you had stayed calm, you could have interviewed the girl again later; you could have taken your notes, and pretended not to believe her.  You could have held on to the dignity and respect of your peers.  Would that have made a difference?

You went alone, with the illegal gun you had found during a drug raid, and a pack full of modern camping gear; microfibre bedroll, piezoelectric generator, and basic protein sequencer.  You went with no radio, no GPS, and no phone, but you took a long, thin silver chain and wore it coiled off your belt.  You wore the night vision goggles, but didn't really believe those would help you.

It was your blood they would smell, and they would find you.  Or they wouldn't.

You wandered, uncertain for the first time in your life.  Something was wrong, but you couldn't figure it out.  You could only roam through the woods, clutching your hopes as they wilted into doubts.

And then, as you approached a stream, they surprised you.  They appeared out of nowhere, surrounding you, and pinning you where you stood on the road; a ring of tall white equines with their long, thin horns forming spokes that seemed to emerge from your body and radiate out to their foreheads instead of the other way round.

You knew that a distant part of you felt fear.  The old, weary part of you felt that, but it was far away, and it was sinking beneath the waves of joy that were radiating from the young, innocent virgin still within your heart.  The joy of a faith long held, and now rewarded; the joy of anticipation fulfilled on a wedding night, after a protracted engagement; this was what you felt, even before they spoke to you.

But they did speak to you, and if you had swooned when they did - swooned as you had all those years ago when they came upon you, lost and afraid - they would have escaped you again.  This time, though, you were ready with your silver lasso, and you revealed to them your secret.  You reminded them why, for so many centuries, they had avoided wise, older women who wander through the forest in favor of those innocent, young virgins.

As quickly as they had appeared, they were gone... scattered like brilliant aspen leaves, first shimmering silver, and then flipping into the dark green that dominates the trees of the forest, giving it its name.  All but one, which strained at the end of your chain, trying to flee.  You leapt upon his back, chain coiled around your fists; fingers balled into his mane.

He was not the same one you rode in your youth.  That time, you had found yourself astride a young stallion with a pattern of swirls that wove around his middle in the shape of a saddle.  This time, you were riding their king.  No swirls on this back; no hint of domestication.  This skin was covered with the story of their kind.  Tales of their migrations across time; their conflicts with other creatures; the Flood that ended their rule.  Scars told of the battles that followed, the encroachment of humankind.  And one symbol, on his shoulder, where the pommel would be... this you recognized as the seat of their power.

You caressed it with a finger, risking your grip to ride one-handed.  This tattoo, on the back of their king, was the key to their continued existence; this symbol was the Meme - the Idea which kept them alive in the hearts of the world.  It kept them anchored, despite their secrecy.

You should have let it go, then.  You would have been filled with their magic, returned to your golden youth.  Nothing could have harmed you until you let it, and no one would have doubted you with the knowledge that you held.

Instead, you wanted too much.  You wanted to be seen, in the city, riding triumphantly upon the King of the Unicorn.

You believed that nothing could harm you, though you ought to have realized the danger.  The Meme that had revealed itself to you should have filled you with their caution.  But hubris is not a trait of the Unicorn; it belongs to us.  And to you.

And so you rode him to the city, where you were able to charge to the center square; a highway, choked with fools and machines.  And when you stopped, you dismounted, holding onto his chain, expecting all eyes to be on you, and on him.  You honestly believed that the world would stop and take notice.  Most did, but certainly not all.

The humble car should not be enough to kill the King of the Unicorn, but he is a creature of magic, and it is a creation of iron.  It was simply unfortunate that the car struck him from behind, and that you were in front of him, arms upraised and shouting for attention.  When the horn pierced you, it lifted you off the ground, and the weight of the beast carried you both over a wrought iron fence (yet more iron), and into a fountain.  The horn snapped off at the very base when it struck the stone, leaving it in your body.  The Unicorn fell away, and a mighty flash of silent, heatless light blasted from his forehead.

By the time the authorities arrived, the water of the fountain was a dark red.  The blood and moss had obscured whatever strands of white were left in his coat, which had mostly turned a dingy grey.  The horn had remained, but as a charred and blackened stick.  And the proof you wanted so badly was reduced to this sooty shaft through your torso, a dead horse in a fountain, and the uncertain memories of witnesses who had barely noticed the event.

They took your statement, for whatever it is worth, capturing your last breaths on tape.  Legally, it will be inadmissible.  The pain and trauma would have robbed your credibility even if they hadn't given you the pain killers.  But it has been transcribed, and notarized, for the public record.  Reading it, one could assume only that you had broken from the strain of police work.  No one would believe the tale you told in this age of miracles and wonders.

Not that anyone ever will read it.  Such a humiliating incident is certain to be buried as deeply as possible.  As will you, and the King of the Unicorn.

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