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The fiction of S. M. Wheeler
Re: prompts (Reply)
2013-07-19 09:57 pm (UTC)
I awaken on a beach with a unicorn watching over me. The sun is direct above us so that our shadows sit beneath us, the sand beneath me is damp and cool from the tide recently receding, and I am quite put out.
My immediate alarm is tempered by the vindication of long-held paranoias, superstitions, and wistful beliefs regarding the existence of such beings as this, but the steel of calm is weak compared to three feet of horn as rough as any antelope’s keratin. I shriek; I scramble; I wonder if a unicorn avoids salt-water, and if it matters when there’s enough seaweed on this beach for me to tangle and drown even if I stay near to shore. The waves would deal me the same hand, further out. Questions, as I leave heel and finger divots in the grey sand, are numerous. Should I speak, should I hold still, should I be more careful where I put my hands?
Yes, to the last. My palm comes down on the sack of a seaweed’s float. It squeaks away, I come down hard on my shoulder with all the grace of a snail, the unicorn puts down a hoof—cloven, by god, and thus not equine—perilously close to my hip. With the coaxing tone granted upset children and animals that outweigh me, I tell it, “Hello, pretty—” It is not pretty; I can see snot in its nares, its beard is ratty and yellowed, and its coat
be white—its skin is pink—but there’s too much sand ground into it to tell. “—how violent are we?”
The bastard nipped my ear hard enough to draw blood and then thumps my shoulder with its nose.
—and that better be my internal narrator offering its interpretation of the gesture’s meaning, because hell if I’m going on an adventure with a telepathic companion animal. I’m too old for it. I have too much
The unicorn flicks its tufted tail and prances back like a prize dressage horse, tossing its narrow head. The sun catches and fires in its eyes, its mane that comes to its fetlocks despite its tangles flicks in the breeze, and I feel my heart squeeze with a little kid’s delight in something they don’t know isn’t mature enough for them yet. Blood is dripping hot down my neck from the bite in my ear, but I don’t heed it as I shove myself to my feet. It’s pointless to brush the sand off—it’s that special, grainy kind that adheres better than any glue—and I make the attempt in any case.
“Adventures?” I ask it, hopeful and dreadful.
It reached out and licked the bite with a tongue as rough and rasping as a cat’s.
“Creepy,” I tell it, and push its face away. “Fine. Lead the way.”
, says my internal narrator,
Am here to watch over you. That is all.
“You’re not my guide, you mean? How inconvenient. Though at least you’re not my psychopomp. —You could at least give me a vague hint that won’t make sense ’til we get where we’re going. That would be a nice comfort even if it’s useless.” I look at it, spread my hands. “C’mon, there’s a dark lord to kill, pretty clothes to collect, a weapon with a name—isn’t there?”
The voice in my mind is very deliberate.
There is me.
“Aw, shit,” I say after a moment of thought. “Fine. Be ominous. At least I’ve got my agency. We’re getting off this beach. —Don’t you
lick me again.” Again, I push away its face and begin to slog over the saltgrass-thick hummocks hemming the sand. Next step: figure out how I managed to make myself a stereotype and woke up in the open with a mythical creature ‘watching over’ me.
Wait, no: first, a shower. Then mysteries. Behind me, the unicorn makes no sound but the huff of its breath and the occasional swat of its tail against its flank.
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