No Such Thing as Unicorns
No Such Thing as Unicorns
“The unicorn exists in two worlds. The real world of man with its equine body and sheer, muscular physicality and, obviously, its horn there,” Professor Atwood pointed at the overhead display for emphasis. “And in the world of myth—“, I raised my hand. “Or to amend that statement before our esteemed, Dr. Jackson here corrects me; the unicorn occupies a place in the consciousness of man. Some say it represents an allegorical reference to Christ and his relationship with the Virgin Mary and others say it is purely a pagan creature subsumed by the Church for propaganda purposes, much as it took over various rituals and made them its own.”
Sister Margaret rose from her seat and began to leave. “Please wait,” said Professor Atwood. “We’re all scientists here, Sister Margaret and, granted, I’m stepping a little bit into your sacred territory, but you are very much needed for purposes of our discussion.”
She resumed her seat, the vexed expression on her face, a mystical aura all its own. I slid away from her a bit, and my metal chair made a rather loud creaking noise which seemed to resonate across the hall. All eyes turned towards me. I was on the stage seated to the right of Atwood’s currently empty chair and Sister Margaret to my left. I had been invited to this demonstration and Atwood wanted to make certain I had a spot to ensure he wasn’t up to any trickery. Where Sister Atwood was a pious believer, a faith-based scientist who believed in a grand design, I was more from the Missouri school of physics, and proudly bore the moniker most recently bandied about by Stephen Hawking and his ilk of Critical Realist. In simpler terms, you’d have to show me.
“Can we get on with things, Atwood?” I prompted. I had a plane to catch in about two hours to head to Adelaide of which he was well aware.
“Yes, Jackson, by all means. I often forget you’re one to skip the meat and potatoes and get on to the dessert, so you can complain about everything while it’s still fresh in your mind.”
Several assistants come from backstage, moved the podium to one side, brought out a lead-lined case, roughly the dimensions of a small aquarium, and set up a card table one might see in a magic show. I checked my watch impatiently, awaiting him to pull a rabbit out of his non-existent hat. Atwood tended a bit more towards “the tell, don’t show” camp so, despite myself, he reeled me in and I found myself leaning forward in my chair in anticipation. What was he up to?
Atwood took the case handily and set it down gingerly on the table which creaked a bit under the weight. Either he was stronger than he looked or the table was far flimsier than I expected. “Now as you all know, I am a strong proponent of M Theory, the unified theory which explains everything and part of that is there are infinite dimensionalities and possibilities. If you want to know more, than pick up my latest book, “The Dream Sequence”. It’s available both in print and digitally. I’ve fulfilled my contractual obligations to my publisher, who so kindly has financed this display, and now we can get on to the dessert, eh, Jackson?”
Atwood pressed a button on the side of the case and the metal slid away. It seemed to vanish actually. I had no idea how that happened, but what was more intriguing was the miniature, horned horse within—no bigger than a hand spawn—calmly chewing on a neat bed of grass. “I present to you, Daffodil. I don’t know if that’s her name, but it’s what I call her. And we’re viewing her courtesy of the QFD (Quantum Field Device), I’ve been working on these past twenty years.”
The crowd was silent. Sister Margaret began fingering her rosary and I sputtered, trying to get my mind to process it all. “Th-that’s amazing.”
“Not at all, dear boy. I assure you, the device itself is incidental. The creature is central to our discussion here.”
“The horned horse?” I asked.
“Now, is that really a horned horse? C’mon. You know what Daffodil should be called. Don’t you?”
I sighed. I checked my watch. I had, maybe, fifteen minutes to spare, before I needed to leave for the airport. Perhaps I could cancel my flight. This was too amazing. “Fine, Atwood, you win. It’s a unicorn. Daffodil is a unicorn. Now can we talk about the QFD? It’s fantastic. It’s—“
A snap broke me from my reverie. I was back in Atwood’s office, staring at his fish tank. He sat behind his desk with his feet up on a side table. Angel fish glared at me menacingly through the glass.
“Now, Jackson. You can at least consider the possibility that unicorns were originally no more than a devious creation of an errant hypnotist?”
I lowered my head. I was Arthur Jackson, book critic. Atwood was an award winning author of dark fantasy and, apparently, knew a few tricks of his own. He asked for this meeting because I had lambasted his latest book revolving, oddly enough, around a hypnotist who conjured up a unicorn in the imagination of his audience, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, except with a horn. That was actually in my review. I was quite proud of that line when I wrote it. The book was called No Such Thing as Unicorns.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Atwood. I’ll issue a retraction immediately.” I didn’t feel too well. I rose, mumbled a good-bye, and left.
Professor Atwood went over to the tank. The spry unicorn came over to the glass and tapped it angrily with its horn. “The world’s not ready, Daffodil. As long as there are Jacksons in it, we’ll have to keep all the research under wraps a bit longer. It’s a pity.”