The silence broke with a soft whistle and the chiming of bells. The quiet inside the house had found permanency with her mother gone. Since her father only returned home to sleep, she’d grown accustomed to the constant loneliness.
So tonight, like every night when she heard the call, she scrambled out the window and landed, barefoot, in the dust. She raced through the field, heart bursting with excitement, as she scrambled over fences and waded through waist-high grass. Pausing at the edge of the forest, she gazed at what had summoned her.
The unicorn’s powerful body was the color of new snow, with a mane like spider web filaments of moonlight. Sporting a lion’s tail and a goat’s beard, his crystal hooves rang with every step. His crowning glory was a brilliant, spiraling horn of silver. The unicorn’s blue-tinted nostrils flared as she approached, and he lowered his head to nuzzle her hair as she clambered up the rock beside him, bounding onto his back with little effort. The move was instinctive after months of nightly rides.
“Where do we go tonight?” she whispered.
An image arose in her mind. Never words from her unicorn: only pictures. Sometimes she saw visions of hidden glens, or fields of night-blooming flowers, fragile petals opening to the kiss of the moonlight. Tonight, she peered down darkened woodland paths, broken by shafts of moonlight breaching the treetops. When they began to move, the unicorn’s gait was so smooth and sure that she needed no saddle to remain steady.
She laughed as the unicorn cantered through the forest, startling a hare from the undergrowth. They only stopped when they’d reached the deepest parts of the woods: places still untouched by man. As they rested a moment, she admired a deer drinking from a nearby stream. The doe’s tail twitched, head jerking up as it twisted and bolted away.
The unicorn’s cry was the only warning the girl had before a liquid beast of shadow broke away from the darkness beside them and lunged.
Continue reading: Part 2