WHAT YOU RECEIVE
The woman in the mirror haunts me. She’s not my reflection, but an entity all unto herself. Something like me, but not quite me.
For two years I've lived with this madness.
Fearing for my life because I know what she wants, what it is she’s trying to do. When we’re in the company of others she pretends, hides her true self by seamlessly mimicking my expressions and gestures. But when it’s just the two of us, she refuses to play the part. Instead, her face contorts into something misshapen, mouth open in silent screams as she claws at the surface.
She’s trying to get out, trying to exchange places, trying to put me inside the mirror.
Her presence is a harrowing burden and yet there’s no avoiding her. She’s stalks me across every reflective surface, watching me with those rage filled brown eyes that are supposed to be my own. All I want is peace, but every puddle, window, and mirror is a constant reminder of her existence.
How long will this go on? Am I to live the rest of my life plagued by the woman on the other side?
The time has come to face her. Force her to accept her place behind the looking glass, and free myself from the incubus of her ubiety.
A full-length mirror stands in the hallway, framed in gold. There she is, staring back at me. Her cold gaze travels down my body, stopping at my budding abdomen. New life has been growing inside me now for weeks, but this is the first she’s seen of it.
As I place my hands protectively over my barely-there bump, she charges. Launching herself at the glass like a woman possessed. Her clenched fists pound against the barrier as she screams words I cannot hear.
When will she understand? There’s no getting out. No matter how hard she tries, or how much she torments me, it’s no use, for I’ll never go back.
This world is mine now.
They were beautiful creatures, the unicorns.
Ethereal and majestic, with a gentle temperament unlike anything else in our world. There were hundreds of them, thousands, roaming freely in our lands.
But that was a very long time ago.
My people were simple, we grew our food, tended to our livestock, and kept to ourselves. It was a happy life and we were content, or so we thought. Then late one evening, when the season was in transition from hot to cold a unicorn was found. Wounded and dying. Probably taken down by a manticore or some other hellish creature which passed through the enchanted forest.
We did our best, tended to its lesions, cleaned its lacerations, and when the sun rose, we mourned its passing.
This was a first for our village. Like us unicorns were mortal, and yet we’d never seen one die. Therefore, when time came to make a decision about the body, we hesitated. It seemed cruel to leave it to waste away and become food for the carrion-feeders. Cremation was an option, but that would leave us with ashes and what were we to do with those? Digging a grave was out of the question. After all, we didn’t even bury our own. So in the end, as a sign of respect, it was decided to honor it the manner most familiar to us.
Its coat was skinned and given to the seamstresses. Meat and muscle tissue to the culinary workers. Hooves went to the apothecaries and the horn to the cosmetologists. For weeks, we feasted on an array of dishes featuring its flesh. Dressed in clothing made from a mixture of its hide. Fashioned wind instruments from the bones. Created beauty products from the hooves and elixirs from its spiraling alicorn
Every last part of the unicorn we honored, and the effects were magical.
The garments we wore, infused with its hide, shimmered in the sun and glowed by the night of the moon. Eating the animal made us stronger than the giants and faster than the dire wolves. The creams developed from its cloven hooves transformed our gnarled appearances, making us beautiful - even more so than the seducing Succubus or avian Alkonost. Potions generated form the horn were universal antidotes, curing all ailments which plagued us.
It was nirvana.
In time however, our supply began to run low.
You have to understand, once we had felt the warmth of light, we could not return to the cold shadows. We were left with only once choice: to become hunters. The unicorns never fled or fought back, simply accepting their fate. Old and young we captured them, slaughtered them, consumed them.
Centuries passed and we flourished.
Years of ingesting the animals unlocked an intelligence within us. No longer shunned for our cannibalism we were now respected, sought after for our council. Princes came from all the kingdoms, begging us to slay dragons in their name. We were the ones who taught the sirens their songs, the sphinx their riddles, and the banshees their screams. It was through us Sagittarius became an archer and Medusa learned how best to use her gaze. We gave the pixies their dust, granting them the ability to fly. And it was with our careful instruction that the phoenix learned how to rise from its own ashes, and leprechauns discovered the path to a rainbow’s end.
All this, we did.
Soon, too soon, the unicorns began to dwindle in number and before we knew it only one remained. A single precious creature, the last of its kind. As we ran a blade across its neck, the animal cried.
With excitement we wondered what gifts this dazzling clear liquid would bestow upon us. They were collected, bottled, corked and labeled. Kept safe, until all the other parts of the animal had been utilized. Then the tears, best saved for last, were poured into the village well.
That night we drank, bathed, and prepared meals; all with water from the well.
But things did not go as we’d hoped.
The next day we awoke in agony. Screaming in anguish we scratched at ourselves, trying to relieve the searing pain. Our bodies had been converted into something repulsive, a mangled frame sheathed in cracked skin which oozed a decaying scented pus. Gone was our strength and our knowledge, in their place weakness and an understanding that this was our end.
We died that day.
Unlike our kind who have long been forgotten, the legend of unicorns remains. Across cultures and throughout history they are depicted in myths: herald for their beauty and grace.
But we are the only ones who will ever know how truly magical they were.