I sweep the net off the table and stuff it into my forest green satchel. My fists grip the wand in my sweaty palms and give it a squeeze. I am going unicorn hunting.
We need the horns, and the hairs. The blood of the unicorn will fetch thousands of Galleons at the market. I am getting paid for it, though. For each unicorn my team catches, we get ten galleons each. There is memorabilia of my adventures in the living room, mounted on the wall. The horns have dulled in colour. They used to be a bright, sparkling silver, full of mystery… now, they are nothing but useless junk that died alongside their previous owner.
The expedition is today. The cupboard’s supplies are plummeting dangerously low. I cannot have little Angelica starving to death. The sweet sound of her bubbling laugh and the glow of her sapphire eyes will never die, not while I am around. The soft curls that frame her face and the way her tiny legs blur when she totters around the cottage are the very reason I live. I do not have another choice but to do what I do, every day. I am a unicorn slayer. I am a dad, desperate to provide the life I never got to enjoy.
Jasmine would be horrified to see what I have become. She loved animals, beasts and creatures of all kinds. I have never felt the ‘spark’ she used to describe whenever she was around them. How I long to.
My water bottle is half full. I take my wand and fill it up, watching the way the water trickles into the bottle. Just like the blood of a unicorn trickles down its body, taking life away with every drop. I am ready. Angelica is with her grandmother. They both do not know what it is I do. How Angelica would howl. She does not realise that the ornaments on the wall are constant reminders of the killings I commit.
I open the wooden door and breathe in and out slowly, savouring my last moments before I commit more cold blooded murder. The trees sway slightly in the light breeze, the heartfelt song of the birds is carried by the wind to a different place. Rose petals detach from their bush, and I watch them fall. The petals are soft and velvety to my shaking touch.
I check my bronze watch. I need to meet my team in the field in ten minutes time. They relish bloodshed. Cruel laughs escape their mouths every time the thud of a unicorn falling to the ground echoes through the shadowy forests. I loathe them with all of my tainted soul. I close my eyes and imagine a field, a field of long green grass and wide open space. With a crack, I am gone.
My team is standing in a cluster, cackling over a crude joke. I trudge over to them slowly and carefully. I am the runt of the pack. I am smaller, weaker and not of much worth. It may be any day now that I am dejected from my job, left to free fall in a spiral of horror.
One of them is reaching for me now. His fingers grasp my shoulder, and his long, sharp nails pierce the skin. He pulls me forward and roughly shoves me, much to the amusement of the five or so others.
Together, we find our way into the forest, a thick growth of greenery and nature. To know I will kill an innocent habitant of this forest makes my legs weak and my stomach churn.
I begin to sweat, the salty beads dripping over my face and onto the undergrowth below. I have been crossing my fingers that there will not be a single sighting. We have been searching for hours now, but to no avail. I pray that my luck will continue.
With a grunt, the large, repulsive leader of my team suggests we split up. The others murmur their dissent, but I want to scream out my complete disgust. My nervousness gets the better of me and my numb legs take me further into the forest, further into the unknown. The temperature drops, and I shiver, wishing I had brought at least my threadbare jacket to give me warmth. Warmth is foreign to me. There is one blanket at home, and this I give to dear Angelica. I would give my all to her.
Darkness reigns strong, and I wonder why unicorns live this deep into the forest. They are creatures of light, and all that is good. Why must they hide in the cloak of blackness? The crack of a twig underfoot makes my senses go wild. I take another deep breath and take another ginger step forward. Forward is the way to go.
My heart stills. There is a flash of white up ahead. My training kicks into gear and I give chase. I can hear the click of hooves through the trees, and the soft light of the unicorn. I throw a spell through the trees, letting the last rays of sunlight shining through the canopies guide my eye. The spell whistles as it soars and fizzles out. I throw another to bring the beautiful creature down.
I hear a crash and the crunch of dried leaves, and I know that I have struck the creature. The guilt is like lead in my boots, every step I take becomes harder and heavier. I feel such sorrow when I see the unicorn sprawled on the ground. It still has such serenity, even down there. It is alive though. Its coat is sleek and of the purest white. Its mane is smooth and its horn differs so much from the horns at home.
I sink to the ground and kneel by the unicorn. I cannot kill it. I could take its horn and present it to the others. They have said come back with a horn or do not come back at all, but I could never live with myself if I did so.
I let my eyes find the pools of deepest brown. They tell a story of their own. My hands take its face and it gives a soft snort, its warm breath thawing my frozen fingers. It thaws my frozen heart. My wand trails over its wounds that are leaking the precious blood.
The wounds seal and fix themselves, and the unicorn gazes intently at me.
Its shaking legs find their way up, the hooves find ground and it stands.
A tear escapes my eye. I am throwing away my life. Little Angelica will go hungry once more, but I will not let this creature perish. I give the unicorn one last stroke.
It nuzzles my outstretched palm, radiating such peace and beauty that my tears fall thickly. It turns, and gallops away with nothing but a slight limp.
I find my way back to where the team is waiting for me. Their sleeves are drenched in silver blood, and there are glass jars by their feet full of the liquid. They are holding horns that glint and sparkle that will soon be drained of the beauty they once had. The looks the members of my team give me do not scald me like they usually would. I already know that I will be without money, and without food.
It does not worry me.
I have set a unicorn free.
This is a one-shot I wrote in around half an hour for Event Three of the 2014 House Cup.
I’d love it if you could drop me a review to tell me what you think!