Creative Copy Challenge #72

Today’s words come from Margaret. Excellent list, Ma.

BET YOU CAN’T do this writing prompt. Take the 10 random words below and, in the comments, crush writer’s block by creating a cohesive, creative short story tying all of them together! And remember: after (if) you finish, highlight your words and click the bold button to make them stand out and help you determine if you forgot any words. (If you’ve missed previous writing prompts, we BET YOU CAN’T do those, either.)

  1. Morose
  2. Rambunctious
  3. Unicorn
  4. Ethereal
  5. Ornate
  6. What the hell
  7. Androgynous
  8. Loophole
  9. Namby-pamby
  10. Wily

NOTE: Don’t copy and paste from MS Word. Use a program like notepad that removes formatting or just type in the comment field itself. Also, finish your submission, THEN bold the words. Thanks. (And don’t forget to tweet this and share it with your friends.)

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Resources you should check out:
Thesis: Best Damn Theme on the Web
Collective Ink Well: Personalize Your Thesis Theme
Third Tribe Marketing: Marketing done the right way
Story Structure Demystified: Best damn writing book out there

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129 Comments on “Creative Copy Challenge #72”

  1. Shane Arthur says:

    Her morose vanished with roses.
    Her rambunctious kids stopped only for lunches.
    Her pet unicorn loved beer and hated corn.
    Her ethereal worldview was celestial.
    Her ornate nature bothered her husband Nate.
    She wondered what the hell she did well?
    She was androgynous, thus double the lust.
    Finding life’s loopholes was her goal.
    She hated her namby-pamby sister Tammy.
    And was wily with another guy named Tommy.

  2. margaret says:

    The usually rambunctious unicorn was on this particular day feeling quite morose.
    He could not, for the life of him, figure out what the hell he was going to do to get out of his current situation.

    In less than 24 hours he was to be married to  the unicorn princess, Tori.  She was a nice enough filly, but rather androgynous in appearance with a horsey face and thick legs. This
    was an arranged marriage and he was feeling resentful that he would have to spend the rest of  his virile years as her namby pamby mate. He was a great horny creature and refused to be anyone’s “my little pony”.

    Great expense and care had gone into turning this normally ethereal woodland into an ornate stage for the festivities.  Confusion and guilt combined with indignation had set in.
    Like it or not, he was having a huge attack of cold hooves! He would have to rely on his innate intelligence, diplomacy and wily skills to find a loophole to get out of this one with as few casualties as possible. He did not want to start a war of the shires that might inadvertently trigger the extinction of the unicorn race.

  3. sefcug says:

    Once again the words took me to a fantasy world. Here is what I came up with, in no particular order, just the way the words worked out:


    The Dwarf, The Elf, And The Unicorn

     
    What the hell?”, exclaimed the morose female dwarf, as she gazed upon the androgynous unicorn. “I thought such a creature would have a really ornate horn.”
     
    The namby-pamby male elf explained, “That is the loophole for this creature. Most unicorn species do have very ornate horns, especially the males, but this ethereal creature is neither male nor female, so has evolved to take advantage of the doubling of available partners, by displaying neither of the gender traits.”
     
    Upon hearing both of the comments the unicorn became very rambunctious, and in a wily manner, transformed itself into an androgynous elf/dwarf form, and asked which one wanted a ride, or if they wanted would take care of both.
     
    Moral:
    Be careful with your assumptions.

  4. The dog’s name was Wily and that summer he died.

    It was the summer of ethereal visions and nameless, faceless, androgynous fears that crept over the town like a swarm of locusts.

    I was ten. The year of crossing-over, of becoming something more in the indefinable way of being one day a single number of years and the next having moved into the decades that define a man’s life.

    My sister built a memorial for him, an ornate construction of little girl treasures; broken beach shells, dried flowers, and beads. And we paid him tribute,the pure rites of children, over which I officiated, grave and morose and heavy with the responsibility of ten and the six year old’s tears. Hours later she played in the surf, rambunctious, carefree games. So unaware of the something that descended on us.

    Mr. Andrews came to us, the day father disappeared. He wandered about the chores father would have done, namby-pamby and listless and that made me more afraid than anything that had happened yet. Mr. Andrews, who slept little and worked always and who preached industry from the pulpit. He was wrong, as everything was wrong, more and more.

    What the hell?” he gasped and I dropped the spade in shock. Perhaps there was a loophole for preachers, that he could use such language, but I doubted it. I shivered but sidled up beside him to see.

    The hole he’d dug in our vegetable patch was shallow yet infinite, and within its liquid-solid depthless clarity floated images of magic and horror that stopped my breath. Gaping jaws of monsters I can’t describe even now. Gold unicorns and shriveled human heads, purple-black and pleading. Cackling leprechauns, and blood-red swords, and flames. They flowed and merged and broke apart and congealed into a viscous fluid, dark as death. We watched in horror as it seeped over our shoes and oozed up our legs with a dreadful slowness. I heard sounds from the direction of the town two miles away. Sounds I couldn’t identify and didn’t want to. I heard in my bones, the soundless cries of terror my throat was denied.

    The last thing I heard, before the world went away, was my sister’s screams.

  5. Sean Platt says:

    What the hell?” The unicorn wondered.
     
    The usually ornate forest clearing looked as though the wily dwarves had held another one of their ethereal orgies with the fairies and leprechauns running in a loop, holes filled with everyone drunk until dawn.
     
    The unicorn lowered his horn and sipped from the stream. Why did the forest folk feel the need to be so rambunctious? Sure, their behavior was better than the morose minataurs or the namby-pamby gnomes.
     
    The unicorn chose to ignore the androgynous trolls with their junk that looked as though it could be twigs and berries, bushes or both.
     
    Why couldn’t everyone be as perfect as him? The unicorn proudly lifted his head and galloped deep into the forest.
     

  6. Sarah Olson says:

    A unicorn is not some ethereal creature living in a verdant forest of beauty. It’s a foul, rambunctious gremlin intent on destroying your soul. A wily beast of fury.

    What the hell do you know about unicorns? Have you ever seen one? I’m not talking about the ridiculous illustrations you’ve seen on little girls books or those ornate tapestries depcting a beautiful white horse with a dainty ivory horn.

    Those creatures don’t exist. If you saw a unicorn in real life, well let’s just say you probably wouldn’t live to tell the tale.

    All you namby-pamby writers with your splendid little fairy tales weaving stories of these wondrous mythical beasts have to be told the truth, before it’s too late. These androgynous beasts, the real unicorns, are amongst us. They seek us out, the ones who write their stories. The ones that LIE about what they really are.

    Stop, you must stop writing your stories, before they find you. And they will, they always do.

    You may think me morose, moronic or insane, and after all these years, I probably am all three. But I’ve found a loophole, the only thing keeping those bastards from finding me.

    TEQUILA. Those evil fiends are allergic to it you know.

    “A margarita a day keeps the unicorns away.”

    Advice to live by.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Sarah: THAT WAS FANTASTIC! Welcome to the CCC. Oh, I like you indeed!
      I’ll add your name and url to the CCC community links page now. Everyone welcome Sarah to the unicorn-ass-kicking fun!

    • Roselee says:

      @sarah: Welcome Sarah! I am new also and enjoyed your submission.

    • sefcug says:

      @Sarah
      Welcome and well done.

      I had a bad experience with tequila, so scotch is now my preference to make things tolerable.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Sarah-Welcome to CCC!

      For just a while, CCC was morose that the whole world did not know about our great community. But, then along comes Sara and Roselee, earlier in the week, and our rambunctious bunch are kicking up our heels.

      Look what you did, Sarah with a unicorn that we all thought was an ethereal treat. You showed us the errors of our way. No ornate verse – just the bare truth – who knew?

      What the hell created this myth about the androgynous creature? Thank God, you set us straight, and showed us the loophole in the myth. No namby-pamby writers here (ahem-you better not read my version of the unicorn), just wily, educated writers.

      There is one thing we know for sure – we’re all over the solution – who’s got the tequila? A margarita toast of welcome, Sarah!

    • Sarah Olson says:

      Thanks everyone. That was a lot of fun!

  7. Ethan Black sat on the street corner, a perfect picture of morose poverty. He wore an androgynous mixture of clothing – a gaudy patterned shirt ornate with contrast, ill-fitting generic khakis and a tattered trench to top it all off.
     
    Sometimes he pretended to doze between crowds of passersby, letting the sounds of the busy city frolic through his mind like the cantering of a unicorn through a mythical field of daisies. His ears captured it all. The staccato footsteps of businessmen in their high dollar suits and shoes. Yelps and cries ricocheting off nearby buildings, the audible evidence of rambunctious children – and dogs. The uneven sounds of thudding boots and dragging fabric, belonging to namby-pamby wanna-be emo teens and tweens who had no idea yet who they were.
     
    Years ago he might have wondered what the hell they were all thinking, but over time he’d learned to just go with the flow. Accept the loophole life had given him to glean what he wanted, without asking questions. What he wanted was the same as always. And what he needed was cash to make it happen.
     
    So Ethan held out his tin cup and shook it pathetically, taking it all in stride. Playing the part of a weakling was an easy way to get what he needed – in more ways than one. And not a single one of his tender-hearted donors suspected the truth. Their simple minds would never fathom the wily intellect and hidden power that lay beneath his pitiful façade.
     
    And that was the beauty of it. In an almost ethereal way, he was all-powerful. Like a god.

  8. Roselee says:

    They led him into the courtroom wearing the traditional androgynous jumpsuit and cheap plastic sandals given to inmates.
    He was big in stature with wheat colored hair not washed in days.

    His ankles were heavily ornate with shackles and they made clanging sounds as he shuffled forward.

    He stood in front of the judge with shoulders slumped as if a great weight pressed them down.

    His head was bowed and his eyes downcast as if all dignity had been lost.
    Occassionally he would look up with a stubbled face, morose and pleading.

    Next to him stood his attorney, a rather short man, but with a reputation for being wily.
    Known for a temper that resulted in shouts of “what the hell!” at the prosecution.
    One who always seemed to find the loopholes, even in the best of cases.

    “Your Honor, my client is being charged with murder even though there is no evidence linking him to this crime.”

    “Yes, It’s true that he did know the victim, but so did many other young men on campus.”
    “According to those who knew her, because of her ethereal beauty though she was rambunctious, she had many admirers.”

    “The prosecution is suggesting that the motive is one of vengeance.”

    “On more than one occasion the victim humiliated my client in public, making a mockery of his advances.”
    ” Indeed, she referred to him as being namby-pamby along with many other verbal insults, and seemed to take great pride in crushing his self esteem.”
    ” Regardless, I assure you that this man standing before you is incapable of murder, and would never under any circumstance, hurt another living soul.”
    “Your honor, my client is innocent, and I plan to enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf in light of new evidence that was overlooked by the prosecution.”

    “Evidence that will help set my client free and that I am requesting to be admissable in court.”

    Delicately, the defense attorney held up a plastic bag, and inside was a large figurine of a unicorn.

  9. A. Hamilton says:

    The costume party was just days away and Pat hadn’t come up with an excuse or loophole to get out of going. His hesitance was due to his morose, namby-pamby existence which festered teasing of being androgynous  and the need for a training bra.

    Just one day before the party, while shopping at his favorite adult porn shop, Pat spotted an item that sparked a rambunctious feeling within, a feeling he had never experienced before. There, in a locked glass case, was a large, silicone rubber, true to like, but somewhat translucent, penis with a Velcro strap attached to it. 

    He smiled at the thought  of strapping the dildo to the top of his head, standing straight up with the Velcro strap under his chin. He’d be self denigrating and tell the cool guys that he came as a Dickhead, or that he was a construction worker wearing a hard-on hat.  This would be a chance to be wily and show the cool guys that he could be one of them. This would be daring. This would be funny. So he did it.

    However, the night of the party, the first cool guy he bumped into remarked, “So that’s why you have your head up your ass all the time,” Next, a  clueless, ethereal blond dressed as Mary with a lamb that followed her everywhere she went, said, “How cute, are you a unicorn?”

    With this, Pat turned and walked out of the party muttering, “What the hell, next time I’ll come as an ornate whore wearing a training bra.

  10. sefcug says:

    @A. Hamilton
    Nice twisting of the words to a different topic than fantasy.

  11. R. B. Wood says:

    “Shhhhhhh!” hissed Cali.  My big sister was always hushing me.  I stomped my feet in defiance.
    What the hell?” she spat.  “I told you to hush!”
    “Didn’t,” I muttered in a morose monotone.  “You just shhh’d me.”
    “Yeah?”
    “There’s a difference,” I sniffed.  Big sisters suck.
    Namby-pamby-jack-wagon,” she muttered. “You’re lucky I needed your help setting stuff up.  Otherwise I would have left you back in your bed sucking your thumb.”
    I turned beet-red and balled my fists, ready to hit her when she grabbed my cloak.
    “Look, Tim!”
    I was shocked.  The stories…they were true.
    Through the clearing, an ethereal scene unfolded.  Forty naked people, wearing only ornate jeweled headbands, made their way into the moonlit clearing.  But…
    “I’m confused,” I whispered.  “Are they girls?”
    “No.  Hush,” said Cali.
    “But none of them have a willy!” I exclaimed wily.
    “Shut. Up.” My sister said through gritted teeth.  “They’re androgynous.”
    “Ando-gin-what?”
    “No girl or boy parts.  Now shut up I’m trying to listen.”
    The group formed a circle and began to chant.  I was excited and nervous at the same time.  I felt like I had to pee.
    The Andro-gin people were using words I’d never heard before.  It went on for, like, forever.  Then one, the leader I guess, spoke.
    “Bring forth the sacrifice!”
    Two more of the strange naked people appear from the other side of the woods.  A magnificent silver-white horse followed behind.
    Ok…it really wasn’t following them.  It was being dragged by ropes tied around its neck.
    Out of its forehead, grew a magnificent white horn.
    Unicorn!” I said.  I couldn’t help myself.  I peed a little.  What?  I’m only six!
    Cali slapped a hand over my mouth.  One of the naked weirdoes looked over his (her?) shoulder.
    After a moment, the naked…person…turned back toward the unicorn.
    Rambunctious little brat.  Shut up or I swear I’ll pound you,” whispered Cali.
    Big sisters suck.
    The unicorn was coaxed to the center of the circle and the leader produced a knife.  I had no idea where he’d hid it.
    “On this, the seventh full moon of the seventh month, I make this sacrifice…”
    *THAWANG!*
    I looked a Cali in shock.  She was holding her bow and the string still quivered from the arrow she’d let fly.
    That’s why she brought me.  I’d made her a makeshift loophole and didn’t realize it.
    “What did you do?!” I shouted at her.  She just smiled and pointed.
    I looked back at the circle of the ando-gins.  In the middle of their circle, the unicorn was dead.  An arrow had gone through its heart.
    Cali stood and marched toward the dead unicorn.  I followed her, yanking on her cloak.
    “Cali!  What are you doing!  We have to RUN!”
    “Druids of the Wood,” she yelled. “I’ve made your sacrifice for you.  I am now your new Queen!  And to show you how generous I am as your new Monarch, I brought you a sacrifice!”
    She turned and looked at me.  And smiled.
    Oh shit.
    Big sisters suck.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @RB: That was outstanding sir! Damn, I nearly peed too. Welcome to the CCC. The gang is going to love you.

      “But none of them have a willy!” I exclaimed wily. was the killer line for me. Well done. I’ll add your name and url to the CCC Community page now.

    • Roselee says:

      @RB- Terrific imagination! hahaha- Big sisters suck.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @ R.B. Welcome to CCC- Well done-I think my brothers think the same about me. 🙂 Now, on to the official welcome==

      There is no morose feeling to CCC, unless it is in the land of fantasy where a rambunctious unicorn is captured in ethereal prose.

      We welcome all in ornate fashion and look forward to your spin on each challenge. We are an open bunch – professional writers and not, moms and dads, and, what the hell, an androgynous few that write murder and mayhem.

      There is no loophole to our acceptance, we simply love it all. You’ll never receive a namby-pamby response here. There’s too much passion in this wily CCC community.

      Welcome to the madness!

  12. R. B. Wood says:

    Ah!  The beautiful, talented and occasionally OCD Leah Petersen sent me your way. 🙂

  13. margaret says:

    Welcome to the CCC, RB…..Wow, didn’t realize I was opening a whole pandora’s box of weird fantasy when I made my word list!  Great job!

  14. ThoreyO says:

    Her morose mood was not a good match with a room full of rambunctious children.  Her head should be bursting with ideas of kittens and unicorns, but instead she
    wanted to vanish into the ethereal delights of the storage room. Her fingers played idly with an ornate paperweight, a silly thing to have in a children’s classroom, but it was a globe and the kids liked it.
    A loud noise interrupted her sulking and she dropped the globe to the table, adding significantly to the racket.  “What the hell…”
    She strode to the door and yanked it open. An androgynous looking person was lying on the floor in a pile of paper and books. She, he… The person, was scrambling to get up and failing miserably. She wondered if the person had found a loophole in the principal’s strict attire regulations, because the outfit was… Well, it didn’t help in figuring out the gender.
    She brushed down her own fitted west and made a namby-pamby attempt to be polite, wishing she was more wily.  She said, in an effort to get the person away, “Can I help you? Who are you?”

  15. ThoreyO says:

    haha I totally mixed two email addresses together!

  16. Cathy Miller says:

    This is a morose little tale about a rambunctious unicorn. It doesn’t start out gloomy, unless you’re the earl. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

    Once upon a time in an ethereal land known as Noctovia, there was a castle of ornate beauty. In that castle lived a beautiful princess named Sunniva. The Noctovians loved the princess and thought the castle was the perfect setting for one so beautiful – all except one Noctovian.

    The Earl of Noctovia envied the princess and her castle. What the hell was one so young doing with such incredible wealth – all due to an accident of birth. The earl seethed at the injustice. He had fought in wars to free Noctovia from the evil grasp of King Jafar. He had earned the right to claim the castle and all its riches.

    Princess Sunniva sat on the hilly meadow, laughing at the antics of the androgynous unicorn. The unicorn was a beautiful creature, full of life and mischief, which Sunniva believed made the unicorn male – like a teasing older brother. Sunniva named the unicorn Lyse, which means bright.

    Lyse was a special unicorn that could talk, but only to Sunniva.

    “Look at me, Sunniva, I’m jousting with air,” Lyse shouted while lowering his horn through the loophole of a ruined castle.

    Sunniva laughed and shouted back, “Watch that you do not get stuck for all eternity, Lyse.”

    “Silly girl,” Lyse responded, “Namby-Pamby, pilly-piss, Rhimy-pim’d on Missy Miss.”

    “Oh, Lyse, you amuse me so.”

    Suddenly, dark clouds choked the blue sky and an electrifying bolt of lightning struck close to where Sunniva sat. Sunniva jumped back in fear and her heart raced as she watched a dark figure charging toward her on a mighty steed.

    “Run, Sunniva, run” Lyse shouted.

    Stumbling on the suddenly wet meadow, Sunniva screamed as the earl reached down from his steed and snatched Sunniva in a deadly grasp. Although she struggled with all her might, Sunniva could not escape from his hold.

    “Do not try to resist, Princess, your fate is sealed,” the earl growled with a wily sneer.

    A huge gust of wind rose as Sunniva heard a mighty blast of trumpets. Looking up, Sunniva saw Lyse charging with all his strength, running straight at the earl.

    “Lyse, no,” the princess screamed, but it was too late. With a final burst, Lyse leaped through the air, impaling the earl on the unicorn’s horn. The two fell in a crumbled heap.

    The unicorn had broken his horn. Sunniva wept as she knew that meant certain death.

    “Oh, Lyse, my friend, do not leave me.”

    The unicorn opened his eyes one last time.

    “I will never leave you, my princess. Open your heart and I will be there.”

    And with that, Lyse died, and all the kingdom of Noctovia mourned the loss, but none more than Princess Sunniva.

    But, do not be sad, for this is our tale, and it goes as we would write. One year after that fateful day, Sunniva met a handsome prince. She opened her heart and asked him his name.

    “They call me Lyse.”

  17. P_S says:

    The autopsy was not going well. The ancient ornate knife was waiting expectantly in his hand. The student worriedly looked at his inattentive supervisor before looking back at the body. The unicorn. What the hell had happened? How could this have gone so badly? It wasn’t his fault the unicorn was androgynous! He heard the rambunctious cries of the newly initiated as they celebrated their success. He pictured the ethereal beauties waiting upon them in the salon upstairs. He felt morose. He felt the sting of failure. He would be condemned as a namby-pamby weakling who did not pass muster. He would never acquire the presitigious title to which he aspired. He would never.. but wait.. what if he’d found a loophole? The noble knife gently called him to action. He glanced once more over his shoulder at his stolid supervisor and with one wily slice of the knife solved his problem.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @P_S: Welcome to the CCC. That was quite an ending to your 1st submission. Well done. Hope you stick around for more, too. Everyone welcome P_S to the addiction.
      I’ll add your name to the CCC Community Links page now.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @P_S-welcome to CCC!

        Here at CCC you find the moronic and morose, the silly and sad, the funny and fine. Our rambunctious community has it all – from the beautiful or evil unicorn (depending on your point of view) to a whole slew of imaginary and very real characters.

        Our CCC is an ethereal place, full of wonder that has you coming back for more. It’s a sweet addiction. The premise is basic and not too ornate. We believe there is a writer in each and every one of us and we can’t wait to read all the submissions.

        What the hell, you know you’ll return. If you can get past an androgynous unicorn, nothing will hold you back. Leap through the creative loophole lurking in all of us and come back to the challenging 10. No namby-pamby excuses of work – join us and our wily cast of characters.

        Welcome to CCC!

        • A. Hamilton says:

          P_S Welcome to CCC. Great start with a suprise ending. Liked it.

          • P_S says:

            Thanks everyone! I love the idea of CCC and am excited to get back into writing. Its been a long time for me. The first challenge was superfun.. I can see how it becomes an addiction!
            Thanks for the welcome story, Cathy!

    • Roselee says:

      @P_S: Welcome! Loved the read, can’t wait to see more !

  18. […] this week, for the second time, I participated in Shane Arthur’s (@shanearthur) Creative Copy Challenge. Each week he posts a list of ten words for any willing writer to craft into a story. This […]

  19. Sheri Olson says:

    The first bedroom had an ethereal quality about it.  Wispy, gauzy curtains fluttered in the summer breeze and everywhere you looked you saw a unicorn.  On coffee mugs, as stuffed animals, appliquéd on the bedspread and on the headboard which teetered between grotesque and ornate.

    “Let me show you the rest of the house,” Sam the androgynous real estate agent said. Was Sam a first name or short for Samantha? Who could tell? He/she had a morose quality about him/her that gave me the willies.

    Wily, my rambunctious Chihuahua, must have had the same unsettling instinct. He suddenly leapt out of my arms and ran to the front door. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I called after him as I followed him into the foyer.

    He barked twice at me.  “Are you sure?” I asked him.

    “Woof.”

    “I’m sorry Sam, the one loophole I failed to mention is that if Wily doesn’t like it, it’s a deal breaker.”

    “What a namby-pamby excuse,” he/she said.  Get out.”

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Sheri: Welcome to the CCC. That was super funny. Great first submission. I hope you stick around and do more, too. Everyone welcome Sheri to the best pit stop on the net. I’ll add your name to the CCC Community page now.

      • Sheri Olson says:

        Thanks!  After one submission I’m totally addicted.

        • Shane Arthur says:

          @Sheri: I’ve done 73 of these things in a row, and the addiction only grows. I’m so glad you’re here to share in it.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Sheri-Welcome to CCC!

        I am a bit morose that I am unable to come to CCC during the week. That darn work ethic. But, I saw Shane’s shout-out to welcome Sheri. So, feeling a bit rambunctious after the holiday weekend, I am breaking my pattern and visiting during the week.

        You see the thing is at CCC, we love new visitors. We are the unicorn of ethereal prose – a bit mystic and fanciful, but a blissful ride, just the same. No ornate message here-just welcome.

        What the hell, the truth is we simply love to share our community with our androgynous and very real characters and their stories. All are welcome to add to our treasure chest of creativity. There is no contract, no loophole in our acceptance, and certainly no namby-pamby set of rules and regulations.

        We are a wily bunch and know just how to grab you, so let the addiction begin. Welcome!

  20. Kelly says:

    TO REACH THE CLEARING

    “Almost there,” cried the morose unicorn at dawn. He’d been travelling for days through the jungle, past disinterested centaurs, satyrs who were as usual, drinking heavily, and androgynous cherubs—his cherished friends, all—and at last he could see a break in the trees where the field he was seeking surely must be. The pain in his hooves was excruciating. He longed for the wings of his friend Pegasus to help him to reach the clearing faster, and without all these aches, but instead he’d been given this ornate, and useless, horn atop his noble head. Today, he had no time to dwell on it.

    He stopped to take a drink from the swollen river he’d been following north through the jungle. A taste of its clear waters would give him the jolt he needed to keep going. What the hell? While he tipped down toward the water’s edge a rhinoceros charged him from nowhere, and nearly knocked him down without a word of apology.

    He steadied himself again to attempt that invigorating drink, and a second rhino raced past with equal lack of manners. This wasn’t how folks behaved in his neck of the woods, but he had to remember he wasn’t in his neck of the woods anymore. And these were extraordinary times, after all.

    When a rambunctious pair of monkeys used his back to play leap-frog in their own hurried travels, he took it a bit more in stride. His thirst quenched, it was time to head off again, this time at a gallop. Something was in the wind, now.

    The river widened out a bit as he ran on, and the path became easier, as well. The jungle fell back from him. Fresh-cut stumps of trees were now his companions, and he realized with fallen heart that it was the ethereal light from this long strip of cleared riverside he’d seen from a distance, not the field he was sure he was nearing. He could do nothing but gallop faster… and stop more often to quench his thirst.

    By nightfall he was reduced to a walk again. A wily parrot perched on his back for hours, telling him there was no reason for all this hurry-scurry; he’d almost given in to his words and decided to sleep when the brilliant bird screeched, “But! No need to stop either,” and the unicorn realized he’d been enjoying a free ride and trying to figure out how to slow his taxi down so he wouldn’t be jostled off!

    No matter the hour, no matter the ache, he shook violently to remove the freeloader and then was off… only at canter… again. It was the best he could muster.

    When the darkness had stretched on for several hours, the unicorn could drive himself no more. He crumpled by the riverbed, a mass of salty sweat and shaking muscles, and allowed himself to sleep. Fitful dreams of namby-pamby, leapfrogging monkeys and giant, rainbow-colored birds haunted him, until at first light he was glad to take one more sip from the river and be off again, under a light mist that kept him cool as he pushed his endurance to the limit. He welcomed the rain as the clearing next to the river grew and its gentle drops massaged his tortured body, so far from home and friends who didn’t listen to his warnings; so close to the next stage of his already-mythic life.

    And then the cleared path gave way.

    Before him was not the great field he’d been told to look for, where he would make one last heroic race, but a lake like nothing he’d ever seen in his tangled jungle home.

    A body of water to cleanse the salt from his encrusted flanks. A body of water to buoy him and buffet him. A body of water to test him one more time.

    Now—its timbers bathed in pure light, in spite of the rain—he spied his destination, and he knew that he would have to prove worthy of this crusade. With rain and lightning crashing down and the pleas of every jungle creature rising around him, with the end of his journey less than a half a mile off, there’d be no loopholes in this test.

    Heart pounding, lungs burning, mind bright, the unicorn dove in and kept the little, wavering ark in his sights, struggling mightily against the limits of his mortal body, until his cousins the mermaids cradled him in their arms and took him home to their father to rest.


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