Home Xanadu
Now I will believe that there are Unicorns
by Michael Bard
Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
 

Xanadu!

Unlike most, I wasn't here for the costumes, I was here to sneak in and maybe buy a little art. Yes, that kind of art. The kind that I hid and looked at with a flashlight under my covers, even though I lived alone and was well of age. The one magical escape I had from my life of low paid mundane drudgery.

It just didn't feel right looking at them on a desk in the sunlight--

In years before the convention had been more oriented towards art, and I'd never felt out of place just going as myself, but this year was different. Some rich guy had decided to turn it into a costume extravaganza. And so, unlike years previous, I did feel out of place. The odd man out. Even here, as I seemed to be everywhere else.

And given why I was secretly here, I just felt worse.

At first I didn't know what to do, but then I ran into my savior. It seemed that I wasn't the only one feeling odd and noticeable. A number of enterprising individuals had capitalized on that by selling small and cheap ears and noses that people could wear and join the fun. Or not feel so out of place.

The variety wasn't great, but it was good enough that I could choose.

Something grabbed my attention.

There, hanging by itself, was a small tiara with a little yellow plush horn at the front, and two white ears at the sides. A little touch of unicorn for the deprived. A dream.

Here I was, secretly preparing to buy the lower end of the furry porn art industry, still a male virgin, my only satisfaction being under the covers in the darkness with the pictures before me, and there was the costume of the symbol of purity and virginity. A symbol of the magic I'd lost so long ago. How could I resist? So, ignoring the odd look the dealer gave me when I bought a little girl's bit of fancy, I paid my $10 and put it on. I felt a little silly, but I also felt a little safer, and a little more camouflaged with the pack. Off to the art room!

The room was smaller than it had been in years past, squeezed into one of the lesser chambers to make room for the costumes. But the variety, as always, was bewildering. And at the entrance--

At the entrance was this wondrous image of a unicorn, pure, sweet, innocent, standing beneath a last twisted tree, surrounded by an endless field of burned stumps and tracks of machinery. She was facing off a monstrous steaming engine of destruction, massive riveted plates of ebony iron on a body covered in scratches and dings, and bits of leaf and dirt, treads heavy with mud and ground plant life, thick black smoke thumping out of its battered smokestack.

A damning statement if I'd ever seen one.

I stopped, and looked at it, feeling with a bit of embarrassment the cheap little tiara. On my head a child's toy, a child's dream, a child's magic; before me a very adult imagery of the way the world was going. There was no perversion in the costume I'd picked, no dreams of being a girl, just memories--

Closing my eyes, I dreamed of my youth, of my innocence lost, of when I'd believed in magic. When I was young, and foolish, and naive, and the world was a place of wonder and light. Not the bitter loneliness it had turned into.

My eyes still shut, a tear speckling in them at all I'd lost, the dream changed. I saw myself as that unicorn, standing there on four hooves, staring out at the world of technology and classification, defiant, doomed. A last guardian of purity and nature and magic before the rapacity of humankind. Trying to save the world, trying to save the magic, as the humans turned it all to the dust and rationality of science.

And my mind blurred--


Elsewhere, the rich guy who'd changed the focus of the convention, felt an ancient pent-up magic pour through him and explode out upon the convention. Instantly everyone changed, becoming what their costume had only let them pretend to be. Some were completely lost in their roles--


--I was standing there, small, innocent. All around me the stench of man, of disease, of will forced upon the natural way.

I blinked, raised my long glimmering horn, looking around at the artwork, at the people who were just starting to panic. Looking around at the stained wood and poured concrete and formed plastic--

It hurt, oh it hurt! The smoke, the pollution, the foulness of metal and iron. The ghosts of dead trees in the wall screamed at me, cursing me for failing. Stone wailed at memories of being crushed and reformed, hating me that I still stood, having failed in my task.

How could anything like this happen?! Where were my fellow sisters, my brothers?!

An anthropomorphic rabbit just stared at me.

I shuddered, feeling the cold iron, the radiation, the unfiltered sun, the chemicals, the toxins, all pouring upon me.

Screaming, I leapt forward, my silver hooves leaving the floor and my horn shining with a pure light that fought a doomed fight against the weight of industrialization looming everywhere. I pierced the veils of reality and leapt away, fleeing the weight of change--

--and bounded back into existence standing at the edge of a river in a stone valley surrounded by trees.

But even here my kind had failed!

I shuddered, hearing the wails of trees young and stunted, missing the dimly remembered wisdom of their elders, chopped down before nature could take them to nurture their children. Looking down at my image wavering in the waters of the river, I heard but a single fish sobbing at the foul stench of the water it gulped, at the water grumbling about how it had been moved and shoved off its rightful path. A thin sheen of chemical glistened on the surface, so fine that only the magic of my horn illuminated it so that it glistened in a foul rainbow of horror and waste.

It was odd, horrifying and beautiful. I looked at my reflection in the glistening, almost magical chemical glow. My pure white hide, my dainty ivory hooves, my tangled long mane, my thin horn that almost touched the surface of the water as I looked, my fine deer-like face. And it all glistened and glowed in the oily sheen.

How could something so beautiful, be so wrong! But it was! It burned me. Standing there was like leaning into a vast gale with all my strength.

The poor waters, the stream, the fish--

Where had it all gone wrong?!

I reared up, neighing in horror and anger. Dimly I could hear the growl of machines, the roar of far too many people.

Leaping up, I shoved my glistening horn through reality, piercing the veil and leaping into nothingness--

--and bounded back into existence in a lonely field glittering with drops of dawn dew. All around echoed the sounds of birds just awakening, chirping their glory at the new day.

But even here I could sense the loss, the pain of things killed. Iron and glowing nuclear decay along the surface. Tiny cells that worked by chance, not by design as they slowly forgot what they had to do.

Where had it all gone wrong?!

I leapt again into nothingness--

--and onto the sands of the ocean. The salt was strong in my nostrils, the call of birds in the distance, the shush of waves on the shore. And all around me people, thousands and thousands of humans. One, a small girl, looked at me, pointed, smiled. I could see the magic in her, the dreams--

The dreams that were dying in the banality all around. All around, the sea of humanity, lying in the sand, walking, talking, tossing their crushed tree and mutated oil waste on the dirty grains. I could sense the water crying at the stains and toxins that oozed through it.

And one small spot of magic, of dream, slowly being crushed underhoof.

No! No!

I bounded again and pierced the veil, horn glowing--

--and landed with a clatter of hooves in a valley of shattered stone. All around me the rock cried and sobbed, ripped and torn apart, its hidden gems yanked out and the rock that had caressed and held them tossed and abandoned on the side. Weeds grew because nothing else could in the cracks left in the rock. All around there were bits of rusting metal from mechanical treads, carbon soot from mechanisms of technology, and chemical waste from explosives that had first shattered the rock asunder.

Was there nothing left?!

I leapt again--

--and landed in a field of shaped stone glistening with crystal squares. All around me things whirred and clicked and grinded and roared. Monoxides spewed into the air, oils dripped on the tarred crushed rock. Spirits sobbed and cried, all alone without those they'd spent eternities with. And everywhere humans. Thousands and thousands and millions of humans, all turning to stare. A camera flashed, its harsh light searing my flesh.

I leapt--

--and landed in a snow swept wasteland, my hooves sinking deep into billows of soft snow as the clean wind howled and swept around me, whipping my mane back and forth. I took a step and listened, and I could hear the ground groan and weep as the black liquids were pumped out and taken far, far away to be changed and torn apart.

Humans were everywhere!

I leapt--

--to a carpet of crushed stone where thousands of steel coffins roared by.

And I leapt--

--to a forest of thin tiny trees all neatly arranged for harvest in a month, to decorate a living room or a hallway as they died.

I leapt again and again, from one place to another. It was all different, changed, warped. The natural order ripped away. The magic gone. Gone!

Panic swept through me and I leapt further and further, staying a shorter and shorter time. The world was fading, the magic a distant shadow of what it had been.

And of my kind, nothing. Nothing!

Everywhere signs of our failure. Proof that the humans had warped and changed the world we were supposed to protect.

Vast deserts of sand where there had once been trees.

Seas of dying dirt with waves of monoculture wheats. Winds blew away grains of soil to be lost in the waters. The naked, lifeless rock beneath coming closer and closer to the surface as the rich loam flew over the oceans and sank to choke the life there.

How had it gone so wrong?!

Finally I stopped, high on a mountain overlooking jungle drowned rivers beneath a mist of rain and cloud. And even there, in the distance, hints of smoke and the nearly inaudible whine of combustion powered saws wafted hundreds of miles across the shrinking wilderness, mocking my failure. My complete failure.

I staggered forward, crystal tears dripping from my eyes.

I was too late. Too small, too alone. The world was doomed, left in the hands of the naive who destroyed instead of built.

I sobbed, standing there, watching, hearing the world cry its pain.

Before me there was a small pool. Quiet, serene.

A last bit of innocence that remained in a world of horror and hopelessness.

I took a step forward, letting the still ice water, pure, cold, caress my fore hooves.

And yet, even here, I could feel specks of isotopes, shards of processed metal, of mercury, all gathered from the atmosphere.

Leaning forward I bowed, the weight of the world on my shoulders too heavy to bear, and let my long spiral horn pierce the water.

It was all in the hands of one naive species who didn't know what they were doing, and who had not the will to stop it. Glistening tears dripped down my muzzle and plinked into the water, sending shimmering light through the depths.

I stopped and turned my head and looked out, out across the jungle.

There was hope. They had the power; if only they had the will. They had the innocence, the magic, before it was buried under technology and science.

If only--

Flicking my long thin tail in sorrow, and in hope, a dream filled me. A possibility.

If they had the will--

I stood straighter, prouder, the last of my kind. Then I leaned down, pierced the waters with my long ivory horn and pushed the magic up and into it. It grew and flowed, pouring out of me like rain into parched ground. I focused it, gave it will, power, near sentience. More and more of myself I poured into it, poured into the waters swirling in that pool. I felt my soul flicker, weaken, and the magic weakened for a moment as my will panicked at the thought of the end of my immortality, but I closed my eyes and shoved it out of me.

Shoved it into the water.

A spring burst into existence in the depths. Water, pure, innocent, clean, untainted, gurgled up, brought here by my magic.

But it wasn't enough!

All my magic, it would take all of it! I shoved the dreams and memories of the cost, of what could be, of what WOULD be, unless things changed.

A warning, a dream, a power to want, to NEED to change.

The magic poured out of me, glowing a brilliant green-white that glistened off the water and shone over the valley and towards the sea.

It was a great magic, a powerful magic, a last magic. A dream that would give life and hope and skill and need to some of those who would drink the water. Maybe. Possibly.

A gift of dreams of what the world was, and what the world could be again. A gift of magic.

My light faded, my skin turned drab and gray as I felt death seeping in to me, harvesting my life.

The last little bits of magic glimmered out and I fell, watching the dream flow and mingle in the water.

Distantly I could hear the souls of my kind calling me away. Calling me to rest as I'd done what I could.

The water overflowed the basin and began to tumble down the mountain, rich with purity and magic and dreams and warnings. Rich with hope.

My body collapsed, melting into dust that settled and twirled in the water. My soul left the husk to join my fellows.

Hoping and praying that the dream I'd created would save the world. Hoping that one day humanity would believe that once there were unicorns--

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Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard.  Please send any comments or questions to him at mwbard@transform.com