When we realized that Dr. Hadarian’s new development allowed anyone to, for fairly cheap, convert lumps of organic material into animals of just about any shape, we were ecstatic. Of course, the first animal we made was a unicorn. The physical traits where just as we coded them to be, but the mental attributes manifested as a result of the physical ones, and we had no control over those.
We knew that everyone was going to want to see the unicorns, ride them, or even have one of their very own. Immediately we made plans to take Jane’s family ranch, which hadn’t been a real, working ranch for some years now, and start breeding and training unicorns. The three of us (Jane, Billy, and myself) moved out there and started our trial period with just the one unicorn. His name was Sparky, because of the way his hair glistened and sparkled in low light.
Things went well for the first few weeks, though I don’t think any of us realized how much waste an animal the size of Sparky created until we were trying to figure out what to do with huge piles of excrement that we were scooping out of his stall. Billy had the brilliant idea that we should keep it, because once we got a few more unicorns, we would be collecting enough to start selling it as fertilizer. “Who in their right mind,” he had asked, “wouldn’t want to use unicorn fertilizer?”
We all agreed, at the very least, that the opalescent quality of these particular road apples should make them a bit more valuable than the usual kind. So we kept them in a big pile behind the stable under a tarp.
My bedroom in the ranch house had a south-facing window. I had picked this room specifically because it had a nice view of the large hill out in the pasture. Unfortunately, that also put it on the same side of the house as the stable. Night after night Sparky would wake me up roughly an hour before midnight. He would kick and neigh, trying desperately to get out of his stall for the next hour and a half. If I pulled my aching body out of bed and let him out, he would run off, up to the top of the hill. At exactly midnight, he would rear up on his hind legs, point his horn directly at the sky and whinny. Some nights I didn’t get up, and he would quiet down by about half an hour after midnight, but on the nights that I did let him out, it was the same thing every time.
It just kind of made sense, though. Perhaps that’s why pictures of unicorns often had them in that pose on a backdrop of stars, it just seemed natural. As reasonable as it seemed, it was still annoying, after a long day of caring for the beast to have to get up and let him out at midnight for his ritual. So, after ensuring that the perimeter fence was secure, we decided to just leave the stable open and let him roam free at night.
I awoke a few nights to see him standing at the peak of that hill in all of his glory. It was actually kind of nice when I didn’t have to get out of bed.
The real problem started when the storms came. The night of the first lightning storm, I learned an interesting lesson. On their hind legs like that, at the highest point in the area, a unicorn makes a perfect lightning rod. Sparky, it seemed, had more instinct, than brains. He died in a magnificent display introducing irony into his name.
We have lost four unicorns that way now. We’ve given up on the idea of training unicorns, but we keep making them because the steaks are much more delicious than beef. The best part, though, is that they cook it themselves.
My friend Laura posted a story about unicorns on her blog yesterday, which encouraged me to retaliate with this one.
Hers is pretty great, you can find it here: