(This story is posted as part of the ongoing introductory walkthrough to basic short story writing. It has no particularly outstanding merits except that it is 1) short, 2) easily amenable to analysis and 3) belongs to me so I don’t have to worry about copyright. Have fun, folks!)
It cost a good deal more than I wanted to pay, but once my kids heard there was a unicorn on the island, there was no alternative. Anyway, It was only money, right?
A unicorn didn’t seem very likely to me, but the setting was right. If one was to find a unicorn anywhere, surely it would be on the isle of Katakis, amidst the gardens of the long-ruined temple of Aphrodite which stood there in the days of Homer and Heracles. Now, of course, there was a tiny Greek Orthodox monastery built on the spot. It was supposed to be secluded for the spiritual purity of the monks — but for a fee, you could come and stay in the rough but comfortable war-time huts on the opposite end of the island.
And for a somewhat larger fee, if you knew who to ask, you could be admitted to the Garden of the Unicorn.
Despite the strict no-photography rule, Michael smuggled in his Secret Spy camera, ordered from a dodgy website somewhere in the back of the Internet. He was going to make a fortune, he assured me. Rupert Murdoch would buy his photos for a million dollars.
Sara brought only her sketchbook. I tagged along behind them, carrying nothing at all.
The creature came out of the sunset, through a gap in the crumbling stone wall, to drink from the ancient, sacred spring that rose among the olives and the laurels. It was white, yes, and it had a single horn in the middle of its forehead. It even had four hoofs — but there the resemblance ended.
“What a gyp,” said Michael, springing to his feet. “It’s a goat!”
I frowned. It did look a lot like a goat. Still, I said: “Goats horns grow from the sides of their heads, Michael.”
He rounded on me, a hip-handed pillar of teenage sarcasm. “Gee, Dad — don’t you know anything? They did this years ago! All they do is graft one of the horn buds to a new location and nip off the other one.” He glanced back at the creature in disgust. “This sucks. I’m going back to the camp. Have a nice time with the goat, you guys.”
“What about you, Sara?” I asked. A mere seven years of age, she was considerably less worldly than her brother, and I was concerned for her feelings. Unicorns are important to little girls.
“I think I’d like to stay, Dad,” she said quietly. Her sketchbook was open on her knee, but she was making no effort to draw.
I sat down beside her on the herb-scented sward, and slipped an arm around her shoulders. “Are you disappointed?” I asked.
The goat lifted its head and gazed about the garden.
“Oh look, Daddy,” said Sara in an ecstasy of delight. “He’s looking right at us! Isn’t he the prettiest thing? I think he’s the nicest unicorn I’ve ever, ever seen.”
The sun was vast and golden in the west, and the sky was shot with crimson. A thrush trilled from the olive trees. I smelled sweet clover and wild sage, heard the sound of sleepy bees humming in the bushes, felt a soft breeze on my cheek. My daughter leaned her small warmth against my side.
She was right. It was the nicest unicorn I had ever, ever seen.
(copyright Dirk Flinthart… as usual.)