Friday, May 18, 2012
The Missing Unicorn
The phrase “The Missing Unicorn” came into my head one night and I immediately wrote it down. The next morning I read the words and started thinking about a story that would go with them. I also thought, having mercilessly cut unicorns from my version of “The Brave Little Tailor,” that it would be nice to write a story about them. What started out as a simple children’s story turned into an educational experience for me as I learned a lot more about this majestic beast than I ever expected to.
For those interested in such things, when I sat down to write this story, I opened a blank Word file and, without even thinking, typed the sentence “Luke loved animals.” I don’t know why the name Luke occurred to me, but I’m just glad it did.
Luke loved animals. His favorite lessons in school were always about animals. He loved them all from aardvarks to zebras and everything in between. He loved big, scary dinosaurs and cute little bunnies. He loved lions and tigers, deer and antelope, foxes and hounds, snakes and spiders and…well, he liked all the animals, let’s just leave it at that.
But one day, Luke noticed something that got him sort of worried. Whenever he looked through his books of animals or went to the zoo or learned about animals in school, there was one kind of animal no one ever mentioned. One animal that he’d never seen so much as a photograph of: A unicorn!
Luke was worried. Why wasn’t the unicorn in any of these books? Why did his teacher never mention unicorns? Why, when he asked the zookeeper which way to the unicorns, did she just look at him all mean and walk away, muttering under her breath about “smart aleck kids?”
When he asked his dad about it, his dad said that it was because there weren’t any unicorns. That they were just made up. But that didn’t make any sense to Luke. With all the amazing animals in the world, why would someone make one up? It just seemed silly. Besides, if you were gonna make up an animal, why make up something as simple as “a horse with a horn?” Nope. It didn’t add up.
Now, in Luke’s whole, entire life (and that’s a whole six years) he had never asked his dad a question he couldn’t answer, because Luke had one of those smart-type dads. So if his dad didn’t know, he reasoned that probably nobody knew about unicorns. So, he decided it was up to him to solve this mystery.
Luke’s Grammy and Pop-Pop lived on a farm and Luke would visit them sometimes. He was particularly looking forward to it this time, because he had some investigating to do. As soon as he arrived, he began interrogating all the animals to find out what they knew about unicorns. None of them told him anything, which didn’t really surprise Luke, since they were animals. It was about this point that he began to feel he hadn’t throught this plan through very well.
“Why were you talking to those pigs earlier?” asked Luke’s Pop-Pop that evening.
“I wanted to find out if they knew anything about unicorns.”
“Unicorns, eh?” Luke told Pop-Pop all about his investigation. Pop-Pop was one of those neat old people who likes to play games and go on adventures, so he said, “I’ve got an idea how we can bust this case wide open!” So he took Luke into his home office and they went onto the internet and searched for “unicorn.”
According to the information Pop-Pop found on the web, unicorns were first written about in Greece before being mentioned throughout Europe and Asia. They appear in Arthurian legend and the Bible. Though the creature changes in appearance depending on the culture, his basic shape is always the same: A horse, or horse-like beast with at least one long, pointy horn on his forehead. Even the British Royal Family uses a unicorn on its family crest. But, fascinating though all this was, it didn’t tell Luke why he couldn’t find any unicorns!
By bedtime, Luke had learned a lot about the mythology of unicorns, but nothing to help him find a real one. He was very dissapointed as Grammy tucked him in. He was beginning to think unicorns really were made up as he closed his eyes and fell asleep…
“Luke? Oh Luke? Are you awake?”
Luke opened his eyes and there, standing next to his bed, was a unicorn! With fur so white it seemed to glow and a long, shiny tail, and eyes that sparkled and a golden horn in the center of his forehead.
“I hear you’ve been looking for me,” said the unicorn.
“I thought you were pretend!” said Luke in an awestruck whisper.
“Oh, no, not at all. The truth, Luke, is that we unicorns prefer to be left alone. So when the Ancient Greeks discovered us and started telling the world about us, we tried to leave and find another secret place to live. But everywhere we went, people had heard of unicorns and were hunting us. We ran through Europe, India, China, all across the world just trying to find someplace where we could be by ourselves.”
“But why do you want to be alone?”
“It’s just our way, Luke. Everyone is different and likes different things. Some animals, like humans, like to mix with lots of different animals. Some, like we unicorns, prefer a quiet, peaceful life of solitary reflection among our own people. Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Anyway, after all these centuries, we finally found a place where we can live safely and peacefully, without being disturbed by humans or an other animal.”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you. It’s been a secret all these years, and I can’t tell anyone for fear of it getting out.” Luke begged and pleaded with the unicorn to tell and even made the biggest promise in the world, saying he’d never tell anyone, man, woman, child or animal ever as long as he lived. “Very well, then,” said the unicorn and he leaned in and whispered into Luke’s ear.
“Ohhh!” said Luke. Now it all made sense to him.
“But you must never try to find us, Luke. You must respect our wishes and leave us alone. You promise?”
“Cross my heart. Thank you for coming to see me, Mr. Unicorn. I feel better now that I know you guys are okay.”
“Thank you, Luke. For caring so much about us. Now you had better get back to sleep, and I had better get home. Good night, my friend.” And Luke closed his eyes and fell back to sleep.
Luke kept his promise, and never mentioned unicorns again as long as he lived. And even though he now knew exactly where to find them, he never tried to go there and see for himself. He was the only human being in a hundred years to see a real-live unicorn, and that was enough for him. And even when he grew to be very, very old, he remembered his promise to the unicorns. Which is why they are safe to this day in their secret hiding place in—ah! Sorry. No telling!