Flash Fiction: He Asked For A Unicorn

Drawing by Emily Tupper, Age 8

Flash Fiction

A challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com

A unicorn walked into the bar. All eyes followed him as he sidled up to the bar, which is to say the bartender and I stared.

It was a little early for a stranger to show up, it being two o’clock on a scorching afternoon in the desert, miles from civilization, on a road to nowhere. And yet a unicorn walked into the bar.

He sat down on a barstool. As he turned his head toward the bartender, his horn dragged across a stray light dangling on a bare cord. There was a faint clinking sound. The thing bowed its head to the bartender as if in shame but Larry didn’t care much. His place was older than time and these things happened. It’d been pulled down a few years ago when some monkey decided to hang from the ceiling and Larry never got around to fixing it. That’s how things were around here. A sliding life of decline.

“Three glasses of cold beer, please.” Its voice was surprising. Much higher and squeakier than you’d expect, like some kind of overgrown chipmunk. I suppose it had as much choice in the pitch of its voice as it did in choosing the golden horn upon its head. At least, I assume it was golden. Hard to tell with the layers of dirt and grime. The horse part didn’t look much better. Its leather jacket did nothing to hide the fresh bruises on once-white legs. It looked like it’d been rode hard and put up wet.

I feigned disinterest when a lady warthog joined him. I say “lady” as she wore a pink satin ribbon in her hair. The ribbon was clean unlike the crusty goggles around her neck. These critters must be traveling together.

Larry slid the glasses down to the unicorn who set one in front of the lady and took the other two for itself. They had themselves a drink and a little conversation. Larry kept busy wiping dust off the glasses while staying within earshot. You could tell how good something was by watching how close Larry stood to the strangers. He kept finding excuses to move closer.

The unicorn and the warthog did a good job of keeping their business to themselves up until they left. It was then that they argued as the unicorn licked the spilled beer from its beard. The unicorn himself said something that sounded an awfully lot like “but he asked for a unicorn,” except who in his right mind would ask for a unicorn? I suppose the answer was a terrible one. Even in a spot this remote, we’d heard the verdict. Unicorns could no longer be captured by Virgins. If a unicorn healed someone, it was from their own free will. Penalty of death was no joke in the desert, which made me stop for a moment, thinking. Alas, the only healing I received came from the bottom of an empty glass.

The lady must have said something the unicorn didn’t like because the unicorn got up so fast, it knocked its bar stool over. Then it ran out of the bar. The warthog threw a couple of wadded up bills on the bar and followed out the door yelling, “This would be the last one! One last score, baby!”

In unison, Larry and I moved to the window. The story wasn’t done yet.

The unicorn climbed onto its hog, a big black motorcycle that had also seen better days. The warthog flipped its goggles up and got on too. With a roar, the beasts rode into the distance, headed West.

Larry and I made eye contact, his eyes bulging out from dark green amphibious skin. He gave a short croak and hopped back behind the bar to wait. There was no telling who would walk into the bar next.

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