The Truth About Unicorns

Inspiration: Facebook comment threads (especially in writers’ groups) can easily get pretty far out of hand… In this one, we started discussing reactions to our fathers potentially being involved in exorcism, and one guy said he’d react the same way as if his mom decided to go unicorn hunting.

I couldn’t resist…

Oh but unicorn hunting IS real, didn’t you know? It’s just that it’s so difficult that even when someone succeeds, they never make it back alive. If your mom were really dead set on it, she’d have to go to this one island located about 70°W 25°N, right in the middle of what’s commonly known as the Bermuda Triangle. That’s the only place they still exist. After millions of years of fighting horses in Eurasia and losing miserably, they fled to ever smaller areas, until they ended up limited to just that one island. Some of the last unicorns present in Eurasia include the pair that declined to board Noah’s Ark (they didn’t want to mess with the horses on board), and the ones that adopted a seagoing lifestyle and eventually interbred with one species of whales, creating the narwhals. Narwhals, incidentally, have picked up the paranoid tendencies of unicorns and as a result are just as elusive.

On that island (known as Insula Cornunica), they have developed their own habits and traditions, including riderless jousting, postless ring toss and the most intense and extreme balancing circus acts you’ve never heard of: one unicorn balancing by the tip of its horn on the tip of another unicorn’s horn. They’ve developed a social structure similar to that of wolves: several herds, each with an alpha unicorn, a few betas, the females and the foals.

And they don’t mess around with defense: first off, their narwhal cousins patrol the nearby waters to handle any incoming ships. They used to just ram the ships with their horns and sink them, but now with steel and titanium hulls it’s harder. So they’ve evolved their horns into antennae, capable of broadcasting radio and radar jamming signals that will throw off any navigation equipment and disrupt other electronic devices.

Then comes the unicorn graveyard: as part of the defenses, for centuries unicorns have buried their dead under the sea, near the shore, in such a way that the horns stick out toward any incoming ships and are ready to impale them. And finally, if anyone makes it to shore, elite unicorn guards stand ready to swarm out, stampede, crush and impale them.

It took a lot of effort and delicate negotiation to be allowed onto that island and gather this information. I had to hire a team of dolphins to bring me there and talk my way past the narwhals, establishing my bona fides at least a dozen times. Then I had to stand in the shallow water for hours, naked and unarmed, with my hands out in front of me before the guards accepted that I was indeed not there to harm them. And it took weeks for them to accept me as a friend, months before I was allowed to enter their community and witness all of this. When I decided to return, I was allowed to do so in exchange for swearing to ensure their safety (the coordinates given above are fake, BTW), and their chieftain even gave me a ride back to the dolphins. I’ll definitely go back again some day…

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