Mike, a white and brown unicorn, whose horn hadn’t come in yet, arrived at the farm in the most embarrassing way he could imagine: in a horse trailer. With horses.
One reddish horse said, “I hope it’s a farm.”
“What else would it be?” Mike asked.
“Good point!” said the horse, then shouted to the others, “It’s a farm!”
“Yay!” the horses cried.
Mike didn’t cry “Yay!”
“Aren’t you excited?” a grey horse asked.
“Once I’m out of this stupid trailer, I will be.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Do you though?”
“Good point!” said the horse.
Mike the unicorn snorted, closed his eyes, and got back to his life’s work, which was trying with all his might to stimulate horn-growth in his forehead. It was a pronounced forehead, beautifully wide and tall, and handsomely curved, a forehead molded by God for the growth of something great, a twisting spire of bone stuffed full of magic that Mike would use to travel all over the world at any speed he liked, and never again in the trailer-tight company of morons, magic he would use to locate other mythical creatures like himself, and help them find their magic.
Mike was right: it was a farm.
The horses galloped around. They whinnied and tossed their hair and kicked. They whispered to each other about the farmer (nicknamed MAN by the horses) and his family (nicknamed OTHER MANS), how small and strange they looked, and how much better they would look if they just used their front legs for walking once in a while. Though, for all the horses’ big talk and mockery, they were all so proud to have saddles strapped to their backs and bit-metal crammed in their mouths.
Even Mike was made to schlep MAN around. And every time MAN bumped his heels into Mike’s sides, Mike developed a migraine. But he liked the migraine. It was the horn, he thought. It would sprout soon and he, because he thought unicorns could fly, would fly to the height of the highest clouds, then turn upside down and let MAN fall.
Mike would follow this fall of MAN all the way to the ground, racing after him, and right at the last moment, when MAN knew for a fact that no one was going to save him, Mike would stop midair and enjoy MAN’s breathtakingly brutal impact against the ground.
Day after day and night after night, Mike focused on his forehead. Once, when rubbing his forehead against a fence, he thought he felt a bump of bone beneath the fur. He rubbed his head raw, trying to help the bone break free. But it wasn’t bone. It was a knot in the wood. He cursed the knot, then cursed himself for his delayed development, and he cursed a jerk palomino horse named Palomino who pranced around with a weed stuck to his forehead and sang, “Look at me. Look at me. I am a unicorn. Guess what my name is?”
“Your name is Mike!” shouted the other horses, then laughed themselves silly.
Palomino did this act 500 times and the horses never tired of it.
Then one day, a new horse trailer arrived on the farm. All the horses but Mike were excited. They were eager to meet their new best friends.
Mike stood alone at the far end of the field, watching what looked to him like the past. “That’s me,” he thought, when he saw a tan horse march out of the trailer and separate herself immediately from the herd.
He laughed a little. “Think you’re special, don’t you,” he murmured. “Just wait. This place’ll take it out of you.”
Since Mike kept himself away from the others, and the tan horse did too, it wasn’t long before they found themselves standing nearby one another in the same far corner of the field.
Mike turned away from the tan horse and continued his horn-meditation. He expected to hear her laughter. He almost hoped for it. “Go ahead and laugh,” he thought. “Bond with the others over the freak. That’s fine. Nothing I’m not used to.”
But the tan horse did not laugh. And when Mike sneakily opened one eye and glanced over, he saw that her eyes were closed, and she seemed lost in mighty concentration. Nothing moved. She looked like a horse made of stone.
Mike wondered if his own meditation had ever looked this good.
Maybe once upon a time. And maybe he’d stopped truly meditating long ago, and was simply standing there with his eyes closed, shutting out the world that had promised him so much, but had given him little in the end.
A thought occurred to Mike: maybe the tan horse was his way to leave this lonely corner of the field. He could casually wander his way down to the others and say, “Look at that,” and nod her way, and maybe, for the first time in his life, he would get to laugh with the others instead of being laughed at.
But he immediately cast this thought aside. Never. He’d rather die than betray himself in this way.
He glared at the tan horse. “You think you know meditation?” he muttered. “Watch.”
Then Mike descended into the deepest meditative state he’d ever achieved. He couldn’t feel the press of the field beneath his hooves. He could no longer feel the gentle breezes from the woods, soft winds perfumed by the trees and shade. Soon, the farm was gone. Then the world.
Mike the unicorn had set himself adrift in the universe.
Then something happened. The gentlest of happenings, light as a flower petal landing on his forehead.
Mike hurriedly climbed up and out of his meditation, back to the world, the farm, and the field drifted up under his hooves and once more pressed gently against them.
He opened his eyes, expecting to see a glorious horn fully grown from his forehead and pointing to the sky, giving credit to the one who had finally delivered his dream.
Mike was wrong: there was no horn.
The only thing to see was the tan horse who was standing directly in front of him.
“Teach me,” she said.
Mike scowled at her. “Teach you what?”
“To concentrate like you just did. I’ve never seen someone so still.”
“What do you need to concentrate for?” Mike asked.
The tan horse looked suddenly embarrassed, as if she’d expected him to know and was shocked that he didn’t.
Mike recognized the lonely look. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “You’re not the first.”
“I’m serious,” he said. “What are you concentrating for?”
Then it struck Mike like lighting: wait, could it be? Was it possible that she too was a…
The tan horse looked embarrassed still, hanging her head and pretending to hunt for good grass.
Mike spoke softly: “You wouldn’t be trying to…grow something, would you?”
She looked up at him suddenly. “So you do know!”
“You’re a unicorn,” Mike whispered, “aren’t you.”
She gasped. “Is that what you are?”
“Yes,” he said, “but what about you? Are you a unicorn too?”
The tan horse swung her head back and forth. “No,” she said.
“Oh.” Mike felt suddenly ridiculous. Now would come the laughter. Now she would trot away to join the others, to say, “Guess what?”
“What?” they would say.
“He just told me he’s a unicorn!” and then the laughter, which had died down lately, but now it would return and last another long stretch of years and years and years.
“What’s wrong?” the tan horse asked.
She wasn’t laughing, and Mike was so surprised, he felt he could tell the truth: “I’m alone,” he said. “I’m the only unicorn I’ve ever met.”
“You’re not alone,” the tan horse said.
“Yes I am. How am I not alone?”
“Well,” she said, “I’m the only Pegasus I’ve ever met. See? We’re the same.”
“Yes. I’m just waiting for my wings.”
Again, it occurred to Mike that he could go to the others and laugh, but he hated himself for this little idea.
“Nice to meet you, Pegasus,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, Unicorn,” she said.
“You can call me Mike, if you want.”
And from that day forward, Mike and Pegasus spent all their time together, galloping and laughing and finding the good grass and enjoying breezes from the woods, but mostly they passed the time at the far end of the field, standing side by side with their eyes closed, standing so still that the other horses began to wonder if they could stand as still, and sometimes, when no one was looking, they tried.
The horses closed their eyes and stood very still, descending into themselves to see if there was a chance that maybe, just maybe, they too were magic.
MAN leaned against the fence and watched his horses who were standing as still as carvings, and it made him still, made him briefly wonder if maybe, just maybe, there was still magic in the world.