The Last Of Her Kind.

© 1996, Foxy.

    And if I go away
    What would still remain.. of me ?
    The ghost within your eyes
    The whisper in your sighs
    You see.. believe.. and I'm always there.

    "If I Go Away" (Savatage.)

"There's magic in them there woods ", my grandfather always used to tell me.
The woods spread far away for acres from the small wooden shack, where he, and now I, lived.
The year was 2140, and population growth has risen to new heights, making the sight of green land something of a rarity.
If I looked over the hill to the west I could see the sprawling mess of urban development.
The smog high above the city was for me, a constant reminder of how lucky I was not to be a part of that lifestyle.
I cast my mind back to the Earth Summit some twenty years ago. My grandfather had gone there and fought in person for his rights to keep this house, to stop developers moving in. So passionate had been his plea, that it had been ruled so long as someone remained living in and tending for the house, it would not be sold without their consent.
Before he died, he had said to me, "Girl, you take this house and carry on living here. Don't let anyone ever take it from you."

So here I was, twenty years on. I was in my late forties now, but I'd kept the house in almost exactly the same state as I'd remembered it to be in when I was a little girl, playing down by the stream.
"There's magic in them there woods." His voice came to me suddenly as I sat beside the gently running stream, listening to the soft murmuring of the water flowing past. It was a lazy summer afternoon, birds singing in the trees, bees droning past from flower to flower, and the sun shining down brightly upon us all. It was on days like this that you could just forget about worldly cares and just be content with life.
I was leaning back in a wicker chair, a carton of fruit juice beside me on the grass, and a floppy sunhat drawn over my eyes. I dabbed carefully at the half-finished painting beside me, carefully smudging the water-coloured trees, depicting the heat haze. Art was my main passion - an interest my grandfather had shared with me, and probably inspired in me. Away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, away from the noise and pollution, I was free to take any creative whim that came my way. It showed too; the walls of the house were all but covered in paintings. I'd sold a few too, only for small amounts of money, but it didn't seem right some how.. like somehow I was selling a part of myself in the bargain. Not many people wanted to see trees, lush green grass and a clear blue sky these days either, and those that did only had eyes for how many houses could be built there, or how nice another dull, imposing office block would look.
I smiled, reaching for the thin paintbrush tucked haphazardly behind my ear. Sometimes it seemed as though I'd forget how to speak out loud, all my thoughts and ponderings kept to myself and the nature that surrounded me.

I'd go into the city about once a month when I was short of food and supplies, although I grew my own fruit and vegetables. Most of my conversations ended up being to the rabbits who collected at dusk to enjoy the lush dew-filled grass, or to the fox who visited the house every night for scraps of food.
I wondered at times if the animals understood me. I used to think that perhaps they did, for we had a certain kinship here, all alone.
At that moment, a rustling in the bushes woke me from my thoughts. Suddenly, a voice echoed around my head. It was a soft, warm, feminine voice, almost melodic.
"Do not be afraid."
I shook my head for a moment, wondering if I'd been out in the sun for too long.
Just then though, an animal emerged from the edge of the woods. I let out a gasp, for standing before me was a most splendid creature!
I had never seen a wild horse in the woods before, and yet, here was one in my very own garden.
Pure white coat, sandy golden mane and tail, and yet, so much more than a horse was she, for atop her head, a golden, spiralling horn!
For the briefest of moments, there was absolute silence - even the birds seemed to hold their breath in anticipation.
After what seemed at eternity, I spoke, "Are you a.. a.."
The creature before me smiled and nodded, a soft whickering laugh coming from her.
"Your eyes do not deceive you my dear, " she said, "for I am indeed a unicorn."
Something compelled me to rise from my chair and walk over to her.
She smiled, tail lazily swishing behind her, ss if in approval.
"The blood of the old ones is strong in you, my girl", the voice echoed around me.
I hesitated, not understanding.
"The fey, the magic.. the belief."
I nodded, suddenly comprehending.
"It is so rare," she continued with a sigh, "to find one such as yourself. The old man.. he was the same."
"My grandfather ?" I asked.
She cocked her head on one side and laughed. "And the little girl who used to play here ?"
I smiled.
"You've grown since I last saw you." The unicorn smiled in return.
"Since you last.. ?"
"Oh, I saw you many times during the years. It made me very proud of your grandfather to see the way you were raised."
We spoke for what must have been hours, the sun setting as we conversed. It almost broke my heart to learn how she believed she was the last of her kind, how few people wanted to believe the fantasy anymore.
Out of curiosity, I asked her name, and at that moment, her ears pricked up and she went rigid.
"What's the matter ?" I asked, concerned.
"Someone is coming." She murmured, wheeled around and vanished into the woods.
I sighed and turned to face the two men walking up the gravel drive towards me.

The first man paused to catch his breath.
"Maybe you could consider living somewhere a little more accessible, Miss Cushing ?"
I glared at the suited man. "Maybe you could consider a fitness programme ? Or perhaps a diet ?"
Men in suits always made me suspicious. They usually wanted to sell you something, or make you an 'offer you can't refuse'. He'd caught me at a bad time too, scaring away the unicorn so abruptly.
To his credit, he took my sarcasm well, offering a feeble excuse for a smile.
"Perhaps, perhaps. Anyway, we aren't here to discuss my fitness. Indeed Sonia.. may I call you Sonia ?"
"No." I butted in. "Miss Cushing is fine."
The man sighed. "Can't we at least try to be a little civil about this ? We are here to make you on offer you can't refuse."
I rolled my eyes. "Well then. I suppose I should listen.."
The second man spoke up at this point, "We represent the Meadowview Housing Development Company."
"It's not for sale." I said firmly.
"Excuse me ?"
"The house. It's not for sale."
"We're prepared to offer you a substantial cash sum for this property" said the first man, approaching me.
I crossed my arms defiantly. "It. Isn't. For. Sale."
He coughed and handed me a piece of paper. "We are prepared to offer you two hundred thousand pounds for this property. Which I may add, is many more times it's true value. We'll come back tomorrow, to give you time to consider our offer."
I stood straight in front of him and calmly tore the paper in half. "Here's my consideration of your offer. Now leave me alone!"
I snarled the last few words, finally losing my temper.
He nodded, turning his back on me and confered with his compatriot for a moment.
"We will return tomorrow, Miss Cushing. Perhaps you will not be so distraught then."
As soon as they had rounded the corner and disappeared from view, I broke down and burst into tears.

Before bed I walked over to the edge of the trees, where I had met the unicorn.
"Is anyone there ?" I murmured into the night.
All that answered me was the soft whispering of the wind through the branches of the trees.
A soft lock of golden hair was snagged on a nearby branch, the only sign that the magical creature had ever been there. I carefully removed it from the branch and carried it inside the house, placing it on the table beside my bed, as I slept a fitful, dreamless sleep.

The following morning brought a sudden, unexpected downpour. I sat alone in the front room, resting my chin on my hands, watching the rain fall outside. The sky was almost black, puddles rapidly forming on the drive, the rain clattering against the roof.
I found my mind wandering back to the day before, and the unicorn. How I longed to see her again!
"Sonia ?"
I started, the voice echoing in my mind still unexpected.
A whickering laugh, and then, "You see, believe, and I'm always there."

With that, I saw the unicorn emerge from the trees. Forgetting the weather, I ran outside and flung my arms around her neck. She smiled, her wet fur clinging to me.
"They want you to sell the house, " she stated.
I nodded, pushing my soaking wet hair out of my face.
"I won't sell it."
She smiled again. "As I expected. For if this house were to go, so would this forest, the kinship you enjoy here.. and myself. With no-one to believe, I would vanish, and the unicorns would truly be a creature of myth."
I wiped a tear from my eye and hugged her tighter, as if to try and reassure her.
"It'll never happen. I promise."
"Awww.. how very touching." A snide voice said behind me, making us both jump.
I whirled around to face the two men from yesterday. They both wore long coats, and I could see the man who spoke carried a rifle, slung over one shoulder.
"I trust you have come to your senses now, Miss Cushing, and are prepared to sell ?"
"No!" I shouted, "and if you think to intimidate me..." I indicated the gun.
"Oh, not at all!" The other man said, walking towards me, "but you must appreciate our position. Besides, this wood is full of dangerous wild creatures." he glanced over at the unicorn, then signalled to his friend. "I don't know what this creature is, " he emphasised the word 'creature', "But kill it."
I blinked in disbelief, then screamed, "No!"
As the man raised the rifle, the unicorn turned and bolted into the woods, causing me to breath a sigh of relief.
The man swore under his breath, and stalked off into the forest, leaving the two of us facing each other in the falling rain.
The man reached into his coat pocket and drew out a pistol. "Now do you see our point of view ?"
I just stared at him for a second, then he spoke again.
"After all.. who would ever know if the crazy woman in the old house just vanished ? Besides, you seem to be doing your best to catch pneumonia out here."
before I could even reply, a single gunshot rang out from somewhere behind us.
He smiled an evil grin. "That'll be the end of your friend."
I sobbed, unable to believe the unicorn could be dead! I threw myself at the man, fists flailing, tears streaming down my wet face.
He sneered, and threw me backwards onto the slippery, muddy grass. "How very touching.. and futile!"
With that, he raised the pistol, aiming for my chest.
Suddenly, the unicorn burst out of the trees, eyes flashing with rage, a dull glow emanating from her horn. "I don't think so!"
The man glanced between me, and the unicorn, then raised his gun to her as she charged. "You may not want to watch this, " her voice echoed in my mind, tainted with a savage, wild fury.
I sat up calmly. "Oh I do, " I muttered under my breath, " I do."
In what seemed almost slow motion, she charged. There was a sickening tearing sound as she lowered her head, a spray of bright blood staining the ground as she impaled him, sending his limp body crashing to the floor, like a discarded doll.
I struggled to my feet, slipping on the grass and hugged her tightly against me.
When I looked around, the body had gone.
As if reading my mind, the unicorn smiled a sad smile. "They won't bother you again."

She was right. I was never bothered by the Meadowview Housing Development Company again, although I did at times wonder what had happened to the man who hunted her in the woods. To this day though, I haven't seen the unicorn again. Oh, I know she's out there, watching and listening. The day can't come soon enough when I see her again, though.
I finished the picture too. It hangs proudly beside my bed, so I can see it every night before I go to sleep. The unicorn stands in the foreground, and I can but hope I captured all of her majestic beauty I experienced in those few days last summer. She would approve. So would my grandfather were he still with me today.
I can still imagine his voice today, and I close my eyes and picture a scene;
I'm ten years old, sitting on the floor beside him, playing with a daisy chain. he's in his chair, painting.
he turns to me and smiles his kindly smile, then waves his hand before me, pointing at the trees.
And now I finally know what he means as he tells me,
"There's magic in them there woods."

    I am the way, I am the light
    I am the dark inside the night
    I hear your hopes, I feel your dreams
    And in the dark, I hear your screams

    Don't turn away, just take my hand
    And when you make your final stand
    I'll be right there, I'll never leave
    All I ask of you is believe.

    "Believe" (Savatage.)

The End.