On Friday I saw a unicorn in the shopping mall, its mane flickering beneath the florescent lights. The unicorn was drinking from the wishing fountain. Gold coins glittered on the bottom like teeth. I flung in a fifty-cent piece and then the unicorn appeared, lapping the water with its pale tongue. The mall wasn’t busy. Only a few babies gurgled in their buggies as frazzled mothers pushed them towards the warm stench of McDonalds. No one else noticed the unicorn, as though the sight of its horn was quite normal.
The unicorn finished, shook its head, stamped its hooves and headed off in the direction of the hairdressers. I decided to follow. I didn’t have much to do that day. In fact, I didn’t know why I had come to the mall at all. I had been off university sick for a week, but when I went to the doctor that morning he hadn’t been able to find anything wrong with me. “Maybe you’re depressed?” he said. “Maybe I am.” The doctor wrote out a prescription. “Try and take up a sport, make some new friends, get more exercise.” So I went to the chemist, picked up the pills and ended up sucked into the sliding doors of the mall. I’d been wandering around for half an hour drinking a can of syrupy coke when I made my wish.
I trailed behind the unicorn, pacing my steps in time with the clip-clop of its hooves. Whenever the unicorn turned around I stopped and pretended to stare at the gaunt plastic models posing in shop windows.
Eventually, he said, “Are you following me?” His voice a deep rich baritone, like Barry White.
But he didn’t open his mouth to speak; he just placed the words in my mind. It must be a skill of unicorns being able to do that.
“Those pills won’t do you any good.” The unicorn nodded at the paper bag with my prescription inside.
“The doctor thinks I’m depressed.”
“You’re lonely,” the unicorn replied. “That’s not the same thing.”
“Can you read my mind?”
“Of course,” he slashed his tail, flicking a fly off his back.
‘What am I thinking right now?’
“I’m not a circus act.”
I blushed. ‘Sorry.’
“Can I touch your back?”
The unicorn gazed intently at me with his grey-blue eyes. “You may.”
He stood very still. I combed my fingers through his hair then I ran my hands over the toned muscles of his back. His fur felt like suede, decadent and silky to touch and it smelt so fresh – the incredible tang of gardens and starlight and dusk.
“I’ve never touched a unicorn before,” I said.
“How do you think I feel? I don’t usually let humans touch my back. The back is the most sacred part of the unicorn.”
“What about your horn?” I said.
“Apart from that.”
Purple light poured out of his back into my hand. It was cold and I shivered. “You won’t leave me here will you?”
“I must.” The unicorn glanced at the escalator flowing silently up to the top floor. His voice slipped away from me, becoming softer and softer till his mane began to blur at the edges.
“I am your unicorn,” he said.
Before he disappeared completely leaving his horn on the floor of the shopping mall. I picked it up and discovered it was soft and chewy like marshmallow. I ate it and I felt much better after that.