Fantasy Suspense Fiction

Pike stood at the edge of the sprawling valley, covered in an endless carpet of lush green grass that caressed his bare feet. Romping and prancing in the meadow was a technicolor herd of unicorns. They were prancing, flouncing, and romping together. Binoculars appeared in Pike's hand, and he looked through them to better admire the creatures. There were green, orange, yellow, purple, aqua, and less spectacular colors like gray, roan, white, and black, but their purity made them just as magnificent. A dark blue unicorn, the biggest in the field, bent to eat grass. Then he looked up through the binoculars into Pike's eyes. The magical equine looked at the herd, blowing glitter from its snout. They started cantering his way.

Pike dropped the binoculars. They vanished before touching the ground. The herd of a dozen unicorns surrounded him. This close sparkles like stars could be seen in the dark blue coat. A fire-red mare stood next to him. They all came in close to nuzzle Pike with noses softer than anything he could ever fathom. Their horns all hummed with a unique melody that came together into a perfect orchestra.

Finally, as the sun passed midday, the unicorns left for their next grazing land. Pike reveled in the relaxing thrum that they left behind them. After a beat, he decided to go to his own grazing land. He started up the rise behind him. A perfect breeze wound around and through his linen shirt and pants. His hair was dark and had a slight curl. It was starting to touch low on his ears. He needed a haircut. His head began to feel cooler, lighter. He no longer felt the tickle of strands on his ears or forehead.

At the top of the hill was an orchard full of lush, grand trees heavy with fruit. Apples hung alongside pears, peaches, oranges, avocados, cherries, and pomegranates. All of them were perfect and ripe. Pike looked and a particularly handsome apple tree. In the high branches glittered a perfect red apple. It shown in the light like a precious stone. Pike was looking for a low-hanging branch to grab with excitement and anticipation building in his chest. Then an apple, the apple, appeared in his hand. He looked at his hand, then up at where it had been, high above the ground. A sigh began to slip past his lips.

"How is your day?" A large, broad-chested man in a pressed suit asked as he walked by.

Pike gestured to the apple, "It's perfect as always."

Giant, white teeth showed in the man's mouth. "Fantastic!" He boomed and walked away.

Pike watched the man walk away and took a bite of the apple when he was out of sight. It was too tart and didn't have much juice. He took two more bites before tossing it away. The remains vanished before they could hit the ground.

Once again, Pike stood at the base of the apple tree, looking up at it. He shook his head slightly and sat against the trunk. He wondered what to do with his afternoon while taking in the beautiful weather and fruity scents. A sudoku puzzle book and pencil appeared in his hands. He started doing the puzzle and got halfway through when he got stuck. He glared at the stubbornly anonymous square preventing him from moving on. He tapped the pencil on his chin, then spun it. The pencil was absently traveling towards his mouth when the square filled on its own with a nine. Pike's eyebrows knitted. The pencil broke in a clenched fist.

"I like your haircut," It was a dreamy tinkling voice. The girl it came from wore a pastel pink sundress. Her hair matched it for now. The light pink made her green eye stand out despite their blank, unfocused gaze. "What are you up to?"

Pike's pencil had mended itself as he stood. "Hi, Marley. I was doing a sudoku puzzle."

"Those look hard," she said, grabbing a low-hanging pear."

"Not when they get done for you," Pike muttered. "What are you doing?"

She held up the pear. "Eating," she said deadpan.

"I see that," Pike waited for a punchline that never came. "What do you plan on doing? Ya know, after you eat?"

"Maybe play with the unicorns," her dreamy voice drifted through the branches.

"Yeah, that's always fun. They went to their second field last I saw them." Pike said, trying to hold up the crumbling conversation.

"OK," Marley started wandering toward the valley.

"See ya later," Pike called to her back. She was already gone.

Pike tossed the puzzle book to the ground and watched it vanish.

He walked through the orchard to the town of modest huts surrounding a square with a stage. People drifted aimlessly around the square, and through the huts, sedate docile expressions drooped on their faces. Around the square were stalls for merchants. There was no money, bartering, or trading. People set up things to give away here. Pike went to Bill's stand, where he had cold juice available.

"Hey, Pike," Bill was a short, stocky, lively man. He was quick with a smile and a laugh, and they tended to be contagious.

"Hey, Bill, you got any cherry left?" The cup was in his hand before the sentence finished. Pike's jaw began to clench.

"How is your day?" A different man, same build and same suit asked him.

Pike pulled air into his nose. Deep and slow. "Perfect, like always." the words were short and clipped. He barely kept his teeth from clenching.

"Fantastic!" echoed through the square with another rictus smile.

"Those guys are always so happy," Bill said. "It's creepy." He switched Pike's cup for one from his cart.

"Thank you," Pike saluted with the cup and pulled deeply, relishing the burn as that flowed down his throat and blossomed in his gut. Bill's was the only place to get this special juice. The stuff that appeared suddenly was just juice.

"You good?" Bill asked, looking around conspiratorily.

"Have you ever wanted a challenge?" Pike asked. "A chance to do something on your own?"

With mischief in his eyes, Bill nodded to the cup in Pike's hand, "What do you think?"

Pike took another sip. "Point taken. There's just no way to challenge myself. I even tried a puzzle and wasn't allowed to finish it."

"Maybe you need a hobby, or make something, or have a hobby of making something," Bill provided as he refilled Pike's cup.

"Yeah," Pike tipped his cup to the bootlegger. "That's a great idea."

"I have those occasionally," Bill said.

"I appreciate it, Bill," Pike left the stand. "Have a perfect day."

Pike left the group of huts and went into a copse of trees that afforded some privacy. He looked around and then thought about what to do next. A breath of wind caressed his face. He looked up to see a small shed, like the one he imagined as a workshop. Pike entered the shed to find it stocked with tools to work wood and stone, spin wool, and even a forge.

Pike wasted no time sitting at the workbench and grabbing one of the pencils provided to begin sketching plans for his first project. Before his pencil touched the paper, the toy car that had been a ghost of an idea appeared on the table next to him.

Pike rolled the car, watching it tip over the edge of the table. There was no sound of impact or shattering parts. He tried again. This time he just put the pencil on the paper and let it direct itself. A vague outline of a bird was forming. A toy plane filled in the outline as soon as the lines connected.

Pike turned from the paper and the new toy. He grabbed a wrench, some nuts and bolts, and a few steel bars. He laid the materials on the floor and turned to grab a file when a gentle, metallic ring filled the space. Pike turned around to see that the frame for the table he was going to assemble was already together.

"Ragh," Pike threw the wrench toward the wall. Upon leaving his hand, it appeared neatly on the nearby counter.

Pike was startled from his frustration by pounding on the shed door.

Pike opened the door to the two tallest, broadest suits he'd ever seen.

"Hello?" He greeted the enormous visitors.

The two men in suits were identical, and they simultaneously bared their teeth in menacing smiles. "We're here to take you to a fantastic day," the one on the right said.

"But my days are always perfect," Pike said, taking a half step back.

The one on the left stared at the discarded wrench and reached out with an open hand to shovel Pike out of the shed. "We're here to take you to a fantastic day," he repeated.

Pike couldn't resist the humungous hand. He resigned himself to go with them.

The suits took Pike farther into the trees that led to a proper forest. Each of the giant men flanked Pike, ensuring he couldn't break in any direction without getting snatched in their meaty grasps. The woods gave way to a clearing surrounded by the herd of technicolor unicorns. All of them had their heads drooped low, too low. Their horns were digging into the ground. A still was in the center of the clearing, surrounded by smaller men in suits.

The still sat on a burner. The steam coming from it changed colors, shifting through the entire rainbow. The drops coming out at the end changed colors as well. The steam and drops were the only things moving in the clearing. Everything else was stone still.

"All you had to do was play along," a rough voice filled the space. "Take the easy life and be happy like everyone else."

Bill shouldered his way past the oddly postured unicorns. "I even gave you extra juice." He had to look up at Pike, but it was clear who was in charge. "I give you everything here," Bill gestured around them. "I ask for nothing in return. Did you know that's how things normally work? When people give you things, they expect things in return. Of course, you do. You weren't wiped totally blank." Bill paced away, inspecting the still. "I make a frickin' utopia where no one has to want anything. Hell, I even put unicorns in it!" He kicked the navy blue unicorn in the side of its bowed head.

Pike winced at the violence. But the unicorn didn't react. None of them did.

"Do you know how hard those were to make?" Bill asked, voice cracking. "How much power they need?"

Pike thought about answering and opened his mouth.

"And that isn't even bringing up the mind reading to know what everyone wants and needs or the intuitive teleportation or materializing that needs to happen with that information." Bill snatched the collection bucket from the still, some of the liquid sloshed out. Where the drops hit the ground, new flowers sprouted immediately. Bill drank deeply from the bucket, then offered it to Pike.

Pike nervously took the offered vessel. There was no sweet juice in this. It was all burn. Pike spluttered into the bucket and pulled out to cough.

Bill laughed. "Yeah, that's the real stuff, no mixing yet. I should have warned you." He took another pull himself. "So now that you want things, I have to figure out what to do with you. What do you think I should do with you?"

Pike was surprised by the question. "What do you usually do when this happens?"

"It's happened a total of twenty times." Bill waved around.

Twelve unicorns ringed the clearing. Eight suits encircled the still.

"Oh," Pike said.

"But, like I said, The unicorns are taxing. And these guys," Bill slapped one of the motionless suits. "If I lose a resident, I don't really need another guard. That would be a ridiculous ratio."

"So, what's the third option?" Pike regretted asking as soon as the words left his mouth.

Bill stared at the still. He watched as the steam rose into the sky and the vibrant colors dissipated. "You said you wanted to be challenged, right?"

"That's right, everything is just given to us, and we never get a chance to do anything on our own," Pike said sincerely.

"OK, Then you can go somewhere that will challenge you," Bill walked away from Pike, snapping his fingers.

"Hey, buddy," Pike was lying on a cold metal bench, staring into a severe face with a blue hat on top. "You gotta get outta here." The man in blue said. "Ordinance says you can't sleep in the park overnight."

Pike shook his head, trying to catch his bearings. Long, stringy hair spilled from a hood. Scruff on his face and neck was itchy and rough. The rest of him was clad in multiple sweatshirts, and he had holes in the knees of threadbare jeans. His feet weren't bare, but his shoes had holes big enough to see the holes in his socks.

Pike felt a grumble in his belly. He held out his hand, ready for an apple. Nothing came to him.

"I'm not giving you cash or anything else, guy. Move it." The man shooed him away.

Pike looked around himself as he walked. Trees rose around him, but they were anemic and bare. Brown, brittle Grass flanked the path he was on. Greasy clouds clogged the air around him. Cars filled with people belched out the acrid fumes as they moved inches at a time.

Pike left the area where brown grass flanked the path. Now, only hard grays and blacks were everywhere. Someone bumped into him hard enough to knock him into some trash bins. They just kept going.

"This will be your challenge," Bill's voice hissed from nowhere. "Survive."

July 27, 2023 03:34

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.