Monday, July 25, 2011
Flash Fiction With Unicorns
Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds is hosting a flash fiction challenge this week. The topic is ... unicorns. One thousand words. Sounded good to me. This is what I came up with:
At the end of the rainbow
Anybody who was anyone knew that the best place to buy pure-bred unicorns was Amber Rainbow Starwood Farms outside of Albany, New York.
Starwood had been in business for more than two decades and boasted breeding stock directly descended from Silverhorn Trefoil, the first silver unicorn ever bred in captivity.
Starwood unicorns were known for their pure bloodlines, their amazing variety of colors (hence “Rainbow”), and their longevity.
The average lifespan of a Starwood unicorn was 25 years; almost twice that of animals bred from other stables. The secret to the elongated lifespan was a germline mutation introduced to the breed via some phooka cells. Other breeders who tried to replicate their success with genetic engineering ended up with still-born foals and dwarf animals.
They kept trying, though.
Although Starwood’s main source of income were sales of “classic” unicorns, the breeder also offered the adorable “mini-unis” the size of a standard poodle, and “flunies” (flying unicorns) cross-bred with pegasii imported from Spain.
The flunies were beautiful creatures, but delicate. They often suffered from congenital defects in their joints and leg bones. Stress fractures in their wings were not uncommon and almost impossible to predict.
Watching a flying unicorn fall out of the sky was both heart-breaking and horrifying.
When the mated pair of flunies plunged to their deaths during the half-time show at the Super Bowl, their terrible fate was captured by hundreds of cell phone cameras and uploaded to YouTube within hours of the event.
The video that got the most play was posted by Uli Schlicting, a German tourist who’d won his tickets in a contest sponsored by Facebook.
Uli didn’t really like American football but his partner Erich was mad for it, and so the tickets had been a birthday present for him.
Uli had been filming the half-time show when the mare, a pink flunie named Rose Dawnrider, suddenly lurched to the side. Her right wing had collapsed like an inside out umbrella, throwing all her weight on her left wing, which sheared clean off under the strain.
The YouTube video was hideously clear. Uli followed the mare all the way down, the sensitive microphone built into his camera catching her screams.
He captured the impact as she hit the football field and exploded like a watermelon dropped from a high-rise.
Moments later, Uli had pointed his camera back into the sky as her mate, known as Impossible Blue for his rare pale blue coat, tucked his wings flat against his back and dove after her, hitting the ground so hard he left a crater.
Unicorns mate for life.
Cody Lomax must have watched the video a hundred times and every time he watched it, he got angrier.
A card-carrying member of PETA and the World Wildlife Federation, Cody had contributed to countless campaigns, signed petitions, written emails, tweeted entreaties, and generally made his voice known in the cause of animal rights.
After watching the video he knew he could not stand by and let unicorn exploitation continue. He knew he couldn’t salve his conscience by writing a check or volunteering to answer phones at a charity pledge-a-thon. He knew this time he was going to have to take direct action.
He opened a new twitter account @CAUGHT (Concerned About Unicorns Getting Horrible Treatment), and created the hashtag #fluniecrash and began “following” every animal rights organization and activist in the twitterverse. Within three hours he was up to 1245 followers himself.
Amber Rainbow Starwood Farms’ website was hit with a denial of service attack not long after that, a cyber shot-across-the-bow that Cody couldn’t claim credit for but admired.
The owners of Starwood counter-punched with a shrewd advertising campaign that was heavy on cuddly pictures of “cornies,” baby unicorns with blunted horns that would fall out when their spiraled adult horns grew in.
The message of these ads was “We at Starwood Farms care about our unicorns and are grieving over the loss of these beautiful animals.”
Cody didn’t believe it for a minute.
As long as they continued to breed unicorns, the potential for exploitation was there.
They would simply have to be stopped.
Cody considered killing the owners but realized there was a flaw in that plan. The owners had relatives and had surely made a will leaving the farm and the stock to someone. For all he knew, the new owners might be worse.
The only way to really shut the place down was to kill their stud, Midnight Moon.
A full brother to the legendary racing uni Moonmadness, sired by Moondancer, Midnight Moon was pure black with a pearl-white horn and shock-white mane and tail. He stood 17 hands high, which was big for a horse and gigantic for the smaller-boned unicorns.
He did a lot of research into the most painless and humane way to accomplish his task and finally decided shooting him would be the most efficient method. Problem was, the most direct path to the unicorn’s brain was underneath the horn.
Cody figured he would aim for the unicorn’s eyes.
It wasn’t a bad plan as plans go. And it might even have worked if Cody had been lucky. But despite his devotion to the rights of unicorns large and small, Cody had never actually owned one.
He therefore didn’t know what all uni owners learn the first day they bring one home—unicorns are the most territorial creatures on earth.
They really, really, really don’t like it when someone invades their space.
The touch of a unicorn horn can heal any wound on earth except for one made by its own horn.
Cody was gored to death within two minutes of entering Midnight Moon’s stall.
The security camera captured the whole thing.
The video went viral within a day of being uploaded to YouTube.
Unicorn image: Tokidoki