Monday, November 24, 2014
They are playing some game of their own invention, but the rules of the game make no sense to me. (Perhaps there are no rules.) They scamper and clop heavily up and down the stairs, their horseshoes sending up sparks where they contact the flagstone. Even from the kitchen, I can hear their braying and reedy laughter.
They are young, my unicorns. They are so young that they have not fully grown into their hooves, or the heavy architecture of their knees. Their backs sway when they trot. Their hips are heavy and unbalancing, and when I let them in the house they will invariably knock something delicate from the top of a table.
I must punish them when they are not careful around my glassware, but it is with love that I do so. My unicorns know this, and that is why they always come back to me. They crowd around the food trough when I fill it. And when the bread scraps are gone, they nuzzle my hands and beg for more, with gentle bleats. I stroke their long faces and comb their downy-hair. I hold bring them blankets at night, when they have nightmares. (And they have so many, poor things.) They love me, my unicorns.
And in the mornings, I rub ointment into their pink skin, and massage the cartilage of their joints. Every day, I practice my profession by smoothing out their scars. I mend the red-white seams of their body, where the flesh is still puckered and angry. I am so good at this that by the time they are adolescents, they barely have any scars at all.
Perhaps there are others who know more about healing than I do, but if so, I have never met them. I look at their pristine bodies and I am proud.
In some places, their bodies have begun to revert, or to reject the grafts. The skin peels back from hooves, or some stubborn ligament begins to slough off the bone. Or else the mule's teeth (that I so lovingly collected) will begin loosen in their sockets. Oh, how I hate waking up to find bloody teeth in my unicorn's bedding!
I don't mind repairing them. It is my craft, after all. It just gets so tiresome after a while. Scalpel and saw, needle and thread. The flesh is stubborn, but I am more stubborn still.
When my herd is in good health and I am not too busy with my other projects, I will send my helpers out for more supplies. They'll bring me back a baby and a foal. Always the healthiest and brightest. Nothing but the best will do for my unicorns! They are all brought down in to my workshop, where we throw a party. Carrots for the foal, milk for the newborn, and cider for my helpers. As for myself, I might drink a small glass of rosewater or two.
The operation takes almost three days. It is exhausting and makes my arthritic hands ache terribly, but it is worth it, I think. Afterwards, what is left of the foal is buried in the garden, behind the tomatoes and near the creek, along with the superfluous parts of the infant's skeleton: hands, feet, forearms, and the frontal sections of the skull.
In the old days (the good old days, do they still say that?) I was able to buy a real unicorn's horn for my children. But now all that I can manage is narwhal or elephant, which is nice enough, but lacks the nacreous luster of a real unicorn's horn in the sunlight.
The implantation of the horn is the final step. The drilling and hammering actually function together as a partial lobotomy. Take away the pain. Take away the language and loneliness. Smooth away the ego like the rough scar that it is. What is left is a creature of grace. You have only to look in their eyes to see innocence there--true innocence. In this cruel world, it is a commodity more precious than gold or alicorn. And then the skull is sealed up with gold. The skin is sewn up, like a purse with all the world's wealth inside it.
And then I lead my new unicorn outside, into the sunlight. The first few steps are always the hardest, and the hip sockets might not have sealed completely after the resectioning, but the new unicorn is always welcomed to the herd. They cavort in the meadows, my clumsy unicorns. And when they tire, they will come back into the house and lay their heads in my lap. I will stroke their hair and tell them that they are beautiful, because they are beautiful.
They will be coming back soon. I will go heat up some milk.
-From the journal of Allechris of Marchane, who some call the Mad Vivisector