We all thought the first one was a joke, a grim amalgamation cooked up in the workshop of some demented veterinarian.
White, milky white, TOO white. Pristine. Untouched. Never had this beast strode through mud or brushed against twisted brambles.
An albino, we thought, with a slight modification. Atop its head, an ivory spire... adorned with spiraling gooves and a tip as sharp as a sewing needle.
Photos everywhere. Photos in the tabloids - "UNICORN LIVES!" Photos in the newspapers - "UNICORN HOAX?" Photos on the internet - "I CAN HAZ EXISTENSE???"
Nobody could get close to the thing. Not close enough for a proper inspection, anyway. It seemed too proud to associate with us. All it would do is trot around the state park, eating berries and kicking up its hooves to work out wild bursts of primal energy.
It never shat. Never pissed. It would just eat and frolic and snort searing, vanilla-scented breath at anyone who came near.
Some idiot tried to ride it. He brought a saddle, dressed up like a cowboy all in white. Fringes, rhinestones, pearl-handled silver revolvers holstered on his belt.
"UNI-CARL THE MYTH-BUSTER" the tabloids called him. He gave an interview before attempting the ridiculous act. Said he'd come from Texas just to "break the filly".
Filly. People called it female, but nobody could find any sign of genitalia. It was like the thing was born without anything back there but a silky, snow-white tail.
Anyway, Uni-Carl must've known a lot about horses, because he managed to get as close as the thing's haunches. He tossed on the saddle... a beautiful but well-worn saddle encrusted with gem stones and emblazoned with the golden image of his home state. As soon as that saddle hit the beast, it bucked and raged.
The police, who had come strictly for crowd control, couldn't get in to pull Carl's body out from under the thing. Again and again the hooves rained down upon him.
We could hear his cries, choked out by blood. Pleading shrieks for help. Then it was just gurgling. Then nothing.
For the longest time as he lay silent under those falling hooves, he still twisted and turned and tried to find a way out of there. He had no face to speak of. His skull was open and his chest was all but caved in, but still he scrambled and clawed the ground in search of some path to safety.
The police shot at the thing, but it didn't react to anything but the noise of their pistols. It would cock its head and shoot a look toward the authorities with every gunshot, but the bullets might as well have been mosquitos against its perfect, shimmering coat.
When the thing... the Unicorn... finally lost interest in the motionless corpse beneath it, the cops moved in and dragged the body off. Uni-Carl, the blood red cowboy... no face, not much of a head, red fringe, red chaps, red belt with red pistols. A red cowboy hat, as flat and crumpled as his torso, left behind in the red grass.
It spent about an hour with the hat in its teeth, flopping it this way and that as it bobbed its head and clip-clopped in a circle.
Nobody was allowed in the park after that.
It was a logical move to close the place... but days later didn't matter.
Up and down the streets, two, four, eight Unicorns roaming free and trotting wherever their whimsy took them. Into shops where they'd kick and demolish anything breakable... into supermarkets where they'd eat their fill of produce and leave not a single heap of shit...
Five got into a warehouse and, when all was said and done, they killed twenty men.
Big, burly men with access to all manner of dangerous industrial tools... stomped and kicked to death. Some on the floor, some stuck against walls, adhered to the spot by a gruesome spatter of blood and organs. Like flies struck with a swatter.
There were more of them. More and more with each passing day.
They'd line the streets, fill buildings, break down doors and leap through windows with not a shard of glass stuck in their mane.
At one point, a particularly proud Unicorn pranced down Mitchell Street with a naked toddler skewered on its head. It wore the dead child like some fine accessory. With raised snouts, then bowed heads, all the others whinnied and snorted their approval as it passed.
I don't know where they came from, much less WHY they came here. I figure maybe someone, somewhere, wished them into existence. Some child with a vivid imagination... complete innocence... manifested them into being.
It's all I can think of. If these things can't die, if they can eat without leaving droppings and they can shrug off bullets... then they MUST be magic.
If magic is real, then who says they weren't wished here?
We've evacuated seven cities, now. We just keep moving west, warning everyone of what's to come and, after the laughing has long since stopped, we get pushed west again.
More Unicorns. More, and more, and more... forever?
No, perhaps not forever. The other day I saw one of them while I was making a food run. I didn't notice it at first, and for a while I thought maybe we'd finally escaped them. Another man... bedraggled and dirty like me... wild-eyed and tight-lipped like me... he fought me for a case of Coca-Cola and won.
As he backed away, switchblade in hand, soft drink under arm, we both heard the death knell. The high-pitched doom cry of the impossible horse.
Neither of us could see it.
Then we looked up. Within seconds, a white blur trounced the other man. He screamed a lot like I imagined I would in a similar situation. Then he stopped as it collapsed his ribs, mashed his face in, bucked and snorted and threw its head back triumphantly.
Neither of us had seen it. Then we looked up.