Friday, November 20, 2015

The Reality of Fantasy (Short Story)

     I've realized lately that as a writer, I haven't written much in the way of anything creative.  In the past I used to fill journal after journal with short stories and even tried once to collect them and sell them to publishers.  That didn't happen.  I got discouraged and no one ever asked to read what I had to write.  Eventually I just sort of stopped writing all together.  That's not to say that the stories aren't in here somewhere, but they rarely make it to print.  Anyway, today's blog is actually a test of whether I could write a complete story and get it finished in a little over an hour.  I'll give Stephen King his due because after reading some of his newer short stories, I realized how much I just like writing short stories myself.  Here's an attempt at something new for my own sake.  If you like it, I'm glad.  If you don't, don't tell me, I don't want to know about it!  *smirk*  I just think that it's time I write something of my own once in awhile.

The Reality of Fantasy

     It hardly felt worth getting on the computer anymore.  She would sit down and scroll through the endless feed from her Facebook account, or occasionally Reddit, and eventually realized how much time she had wasted looking at all of the fake ads and the numerous silly photos of cats.  Not that she didn't like looking at cats, that wasn't the point, but the original reason she had started into computers all of those years ago was so that she could write.
     Writing had been an early love, since she started out learning cursive in third grade, but unfortunately for her, she realized just how much she copied her favorite books  No one had even suspected when she'd written a brilliant tale about some unicorns and dragons in third grade that it had been almost a direct ripoff of a book she'd read over and over from the school book fair.  Originally she had told lots of stories about unicorns and the such to the point Miss Williams even bought her a specially made book with unicorns on the cover since she figured that's what she'd be writing about.  But when the time came to fill the empty book with stories of these fantastic creatures, her mind drew a blank.  She couldn't write an original story, so she took a story she liked, changed it just a little bit, and passed it off as her own.  Miss Williams didn't even know the difference.
     And so it went from early on; she was always better at writing reports than writing original stories.  But eventually they came to her.  Eventually she could focus her attention on fantasy, and even though years later she would see resemblances to certain novels she no doubt read at the time, they were more or less her own.  But those feelings resided in her for years because the more she read others' work, the more she thought everything that she wrote was also a rip off of something else.
     It got really bad once she started writing fanfiction.  Because fanfiction was something that blatantly took someone's work and made it into your own.  Sure, it could be written very creatively, and she could put her own characters into the world and make it however she wanted.  But at the very base of it, she was taking someone else's work for her own and that discouraged her from writing.
     Once she refused to write fanfiction anymore, the writing stopped completely.  Well, she admitted to herself that as long as she wrote about her own life, in her journals and personal blogs, that possibly it was her.  She wasn't ripping anyone off because it was actually her own story.  And for a short time this made her happy with herself because she could feel free.  But the idea of imagination and the idea of creativity, it felt far away and sad now.  She would start to write something that had been inspired by someone else and she realized that this was just going the same way as how things had been before.  She wouldn't, no, couldn't allow herself to get this way again.

     It was a shame really, what happened next.  At least, that's what she felt when she opened her news feed one day and looked at the local television station's Facebook page.  Fantasy... it had to be an early April Fool's joke...right?  There it was, printed in full color, but the revelation that there really were fantasy creatures.  They'd discovered a unicorn in the ice in Greenland as one of the glaciers started melting.  Here was proof.  Sure, there were plenty of skeptics online and plenty more stupid people who thought it was absolute reality, but this wasn't one of those online ads.  At least it didn't seem to be one of those fake hoaxes because they had sent some of the top researchers out and started testing the DNA already.  Apparently it was an anicient breed they assumed had been the originating species of both horses and deer, even though they did admit this wasn't what scientists had thought originally.  More tests had to be run, but they were even thinking perhaps the DNA could be used to recreate the unicorn using horses to birth them.
     The news was so sensational for the next few weeks she really thought that it would turn out to be a hoax.  But eventually things wore down and as the years went on, they really did bring a unicorn back to life and eventually even started raising them and selling them.  The unicorns weren't magical, of course, but they grew horns just like in fairy tails, and they used them to break ice to get to water, fight for mates and gather food from trees.  After the winter months passed, however, they shed the horns and would regrow them again in time for winter.  The first few years theses horns were scarce and the Chinese tried to sell them as herbal remedies which made them even harder to come by.  Then some naturalists got hold of the unicorns and decided that they should put them in sanctuaries and raise them in wildlife preserves.  After that a unicorn horn could be found in just about every hunting shop alongside the antlers of various other animals.
     Sooner than not, people went on to the next awesome thing, the next gadget, and girls didn't dream about unicorns in the way they used to when she had been growing up.  The unicorns were just another animal.  Albeit now, instead of pony parties, there were unicorn parties.  The beasts were just about as fragile as a deer or small horse, but for the most part they could be tamed and it made for better entertainment than a clown for most girls during those years.

     Was it ten years, or twenty?  She couldn't remember now, but she hadn't written a unicorn story since that time, nor had she picked up her writing tablet for anything.  She went to work at her retail job, she loathed the coming of the holiday season again, and she didn't try to write something creative.  Her husband tried to encourage her from time to time in attempts to help get her writing, but because he didn't spend any time asking to read her old stories, or even attempt to read her journals which she left lying around the house, she didn't feel any real need to write.  Fantasy for her had become reality.  It was depressing.  Although, when they added a unicorn run near the bison park ten miles away from her, some days she would go out and take pictures of them.  But the stories and fantasy of these magical creatures never once came back to her during this time.  It was as if something inside of her had gone away.
      So, it was a complete surprise the morning she got up early one November morning and the sun was still dark, and there in the backyard was a large, white shadow.  At first she thought it was the reflection of herself in the patio glass in the dark she saw, but then she turned out the light and went over to the window.
     Standing in her backyard, helping itself to seed from her bird feeder was a unicorn.  It looked young, a small horn was peaking out of its head, so it was definitely not a deer.  Perhaps one of the young from the pen at the park got out?  Or perhaps someone having a unicorn party didn't get it locked up again?  She wasn't sure, but when it noticed her looking at it from the patio, it turned and walked up toward the porch.
     "Tame then," she murmured to herself as she bent to retrieve the wood bar from the patio door so she could open it.  The unicorn stood, harmless and quiet on the back patio stones and waited as she opened the screen door.  "What are you doing out here?  I'm sure you aren't wild... someone looking for you?"  She slipped on her Crocs and slid out onto the porch.  It was briskly cold that morning and she could see her breath as she closed the patio door behind her.
     The unicorn came up slowly, timidly, snuffling for food, an apple or something.  She couldn't remember what unicorns ate, but probably all of the same foods as horses or deer.  Turning, she looked over at the fence gate and found it open.  "Didn't think you could jump as high as a deer," she murmured, realizing she must have left it open the other day when she was doing yard work to finish up things for the winter.  The unicorn snuffled up closer to her and she held out an empty, flat hand.  It lipped her fingers, searching for food and then snorted and backed away, realizing it wasn't getting a treat.
     "Hold tight, I have apples inside," she said finally, and backed away, hoping not to spook the animal.  Perhaps if she kept it in one place for long enough the owners would drive by looking for it and maybe she could find out the story of why this unicorn had wandered into her backyard.
     Getting inside without spooking the animal, she went into the fridge and pulled out an apple. Thought twice, grabbed a knife and sliced it in four, and then also took her coat off the hook and pulled it on.  With the apple in hand again, she returned outside and the unicorn looked at her expectantly.  "Here you go, sweety, I hope you eat these."  She put a slice of apple in her opened hand and the unicorn huffed it once and the slurped it down with teeth and tongue.
     "Oh good," she said under her breath, "Guess you were hungry, want another?"  The unicorn came over and knelt down before her at that moment.  Her heart started to pound at that moment, because all of those stories from her childhood came rushing back to her.  Were some of those unicorn stories true?  Were they all just made up from real stories in the far distant past and just handed down until all of the unicorns were extinct?  She could feel her heart pounded out of her chest and she hurried to sit down on the porch step to give the creature another apple slice.
     No one had mentioned this in the articles about unicorns on the web.  They were pretty much just like any other wild animal who gets tamed for humans.  They were a bit more like deer than horses, but overall they didn't do anything out of the ordinary.  Except for this one.  Maybe it was trainable.  It was young, after all, the horn was quiet short, she noticed, as it ate down the third slice of apple and licked its lips.  She supposed perhaps they could be trained, but maybe like a cat, they did what they wanted when they wanted and perhaps this was just an effect of giving it an apple slice.
     "Here's the last piece," she said as she mulled this over and the unicorn huffed in the cold air and crunched down the last of the red delicious.  "I wish I knew where you came from though, it would make for an interesting story online.  Might even go viral if I were to video tape you."  She shook her head at that and lifted her hand toward the unicorn.  "Can I pet you at least?"
     The unicorn, at this move of her hand, lowered its head into her lap.  She gasped slightly, and then stroked the forelocks and mused at the small spiral of horn on its head.  It was like all of her childhood dreams come true.  All of those stories and all of those moments where this, this, was what she wanted to have happen when she was young, when she was just a virgin, when nothing else really mattered.  But unicorns weren't real.  These weren't just beasts you could rent for the day... at least, not then.  But now.  Now they were real and here was one with its head in her lap and almost purring as she petted its mane and ran her fingertips over its soft furry ears.
     How could she not write about this moment?  This was it... she was so much older now, in her forties, but this was the moment she had waited for since she was a little girl.  She wanted to share this lovely moment with everyone.  It was a shame her camera wasn't on her.  She wasn't like her husband, carrying around his smart device with him everywhere he went.  That watch of his probably could have taken the photo at a quality almost as good as her five year old smart phone.  She sighed, oh well, this memory was better than any photo, even if no one believed her.  She smiled and stroked that soft mane and realized that it wouldn't be much longer and she really did need to be getting going to work or she'd be late to open the store.
     The twitch of her leg at this thought brought the unicorn's head up.  It stood abruptly and she held out her hand as if to say, don't go, but she couldn't get the words out.  Or maybe she did, she couldn't hear them at any rate because at that moment a shot rang out.  She saw a small red circle form on the unicorn's chest, the blood filled the white chest moments later and the animal dropped to the stone patio.  It twitched, legs convulsing as the hot red blood spilled onto the ground.
     Staring in disbelief, her mouth hanging open, it felt like an eternity, watching this beautiful creature die in front of her.  She couldn't move, couldn't breathe, her hand still stretched out in front of her.
     "Oh hey, thanks for that.  I've been chasing him down for over a mile now."  The voice came from the fence line over her shoulder and the guy in the dark camouflage walked down the fence and into the backyard.  He'd been sitting on the opposing neighbor's porch moments before the shot and had waited for the unicorn to get away from her.  "Rabies, you know...  Can't be too careful around these things, they catch it like wildfire."  He slung the hunting rifle over his shoulder and proceeded to grab the unicorn by it's back legs.
     "Sorry about the blood, didn't mean to scare you, you okay, lady?"  He started to pull it toward the fence.  "My buddies are bringing the truck around, they'll help you clean up the blood.  Thankfully the fresh stuff washes off patios like this in no time."
     "Oh...okay..."  The words came out of her mouth with a whisper and she finally lowered her hand and realized just how cold it was.  The light was getting brighter, the sun was starting to come up.  The unicorn's blood steamed in the cold air off the patio stones.  "You were tracking it down for rabies?"
     The hunter lifted his head from his task and then looked over his shoulder.  Two guys in a big-wheeled truck of some sort pulled up alongside the curb.  One of them waved to him and rolled down the window, "Oh you got him!  Terrific!"  They came out of the car and helped carry the unicorn and lift it into the back of the truck.  The one driving came over to the back fence at the word of the first hunter and excused himself, said he was going to borrow the faucet on the back of the porch to clean up.
     "Sure... there's a bucket..." She sniffled, her nose was running from the cold.  Not quite believing what she had seen, the hunter proceeded to dump buckets of water across the patio until she couldn't see any trace of what had happened.
     "Sorry about all of this, miss.  Hope it didn't hurt you... nasty buggers these.  They get real fiesty during mating season.  Thankfully this one was young so no worries.  We were worried he might have rabies though.  Someone reported him a few miles away busting through a house.  Thank goodness he stumbled into your yard though, they're awfully fond of the ladies."  He waved at her and closed the gate behind him, hopping into the truck his buddies said something about getting a reward and they drove off into the morning sunlight.
     Numb in both mind and body, she walked back into the house.  Her husband was coming down the stairs, rubbing his eyes, holding his robe around him.  "Did you hear that bang a bit ago?  What was that?"
     She shook her head, rubbing her cold, probably red nose.  "Nothing...  Nothing at all."

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