How a Unicorn Lives

Submitted into Contest #211 in response to: Begin your story with a librarian searching for something.... view prompt


Fiction Funny

Dana pushed her cart of books along the empty aisles of the children’s section. With all its brightly colored cushions and pretty teddy bears, the space felt wasted when it was deserted like this. Dana tucked a book into its proper place on the shelf, where it would likely remain for eons to come. It would probably still be there when Dana lay stiff in a coffin, at peace from a world where children no longer did the things that she once liked to do. 

Then Dana lifted another book from the cart. It was a muted yet inviting shade of blue, complete with lettering so natural that it looked as if the words were dropped and fell into their intended positions. The letters themselves said little to Dana, but the strange color and style of the book transported her to a moment that had been previously lost to memory

She was small, maybe 7 or 8 years old. She was at this very library, left on her own to roam the children’s literature. As she went through the aisles, placing her tiny fingers against the wooden shelves, she found a book that was a peculiar shade of blue. She reached for it, pulling it down from its hiding place and holding it before her with arms outstretched. The title had something to do with love or life. Curious, she flipped open the pages to discover a world unlike any she’d known or would know. It was fantasy, or maybe even science fiction, with elements of humor undertaken from a humanist lens. Furthermore, the main character was a unicorn that delivered witty quips at the perfect moments, saying every line a reader would want to. Dana read it all in one sitting and subsequently felt that she would never be the same little Dana again.

Now, big Dana flipped through this other blue book in her hands. This was not the same book at all. There was no magic or any clever unicorns. It was a basic book for learning the alphabet– the ones that have a word and a picture on each page. Dana could not understand the significance of teaching children about apples, bats, and cubicles when there was a whole world of real human emotion to wonder about. Determined, she left the cart where it stood and took off to the break room.

Inside, she found her coworker, Peter, eating a ham sandwich in silence. The only sounds in the room were his chewing and the low hum of the air conditioning unit.

“Hey Pete!” Dana began, eager and maybe a little too friendly. They usually never spoke, and Peter was now staring at Dana with a cocked eyebrow. Nevertheless, Dana held up the book for Peter to see. “Do you remember a children’s book that looks like this book? But it’s not this book.”

Peter sighed. “Dana, I’m on break. And no one calls me Pete. No one has ever–”

“No. I’m not asking for you to do work. I’m genuinely curious here,” she explained. “Like, I really feel this itch in my brain about this book, the real book, but I don’t remember what it was called or even what it looked like. And I feel like it made a big impact on me.”

She held out the alphabet book again, desperate for Peter to have the same reaction that she had. He glanced for a moment, uninterested, before his eyes lit up with familiarity. Then he sat back in his seat, his pointer finger to his chin, contemplating.

“Yeah,” he finally muttered. “I remember that book.”

Dana, with bated breath, asked, “What do you remember about it?”

Peter responded, “It was a book full of mystery, or maybe even horror, with elements of whimsy all wrapped up by this bitingly feminist undertone.” He paused. “And there was a talking unicorn.”

Dana squealed. “Yes! That’s the one!” Shaking her head in disbelief, she asked, “Do you remember what it was called?”

“No.” Peter took a bite from his sandwich, shrugging.

“Okay, that’s disappointing,” Dana admitted. “But I think I’m going to find it.”

This statement felt right to her. It settled beneath her skin and into her bones and felt like it was a part of her now. She would read that book again.

Peter laughed. “Sure,” he said, sarcastic. “You’re going to find a book that neither of us has seen in about two decades. A children’s book that is probably missing because children are so dumb and selfish. If that book isn’t on those shelves out there, it’s probably at the bottom of a pile of forgotten things in some rando’s childhood bedroom, lost to memory.”

Of course, Dana searched the shelves and found nothing. Now, she meandered through the contemporary fiction, dropping off books boasting covers with tasteful, minimalist design and monochromatic color schemes. This one here was about family trauma. This other one, an exploration of the pitfalls of a struggling creative who dabbled in being a hopeless romantic, was a book Dana had read and found quite cathartic. However, Dana could not shake her yearning for whimsy. Specifically, Dana ached to experience innocence in the form of an enlightening story, one told by a unicorn unafraid to say the things she’d forgotten she was thinking. 

She paused while considering another book. This one had a title that was a pun that came across more melancholy than funny. How interesting. Dana reached into her pocket and produced her cell phone.

“What to type? What to type?” she asked herself, staring at a blank search bar. Before a real thought crossed her mind, her fingers began to move across the screen. Her phone now read, ‘blue children’s book with a talking unicorn.’ Scroll, scroll, scroll. There were so many pedestrian books– books with a happy unicorn or a unicorn going on a cookie-cutter magical journey. These books lacked nuance and were not the one. 

Then she saw it. That shade of blue could never shine true on a grid of pixels, but the way the letters laid across the cover was unmistakable. It reminded her of someone relaxing, soaking in the sun. And they spelled out something so familiar and yet so profound to Dana in that moment. How a Unicorn Lives. And there was that unicorn, smiling in a way that traveled up to its knowing, human-like eyes. Dana giggled then immediately covered her mouth, remembering where and who she was. 

Dana found Peter at the front desk, staring at nothing. No one else was there. 

“Look what I found.” Dana shoved her phone in his face. “It’s on the Internet.”

Peter stared at the screen. Dana could swear she saw the faintest glimmer in his eyes, but his face revealed nothing. 

“Cool,” he offered.

“And it’s the strangest thing,” Dana went on. “There are copies of it going for a thousand bucks! Can you believe that? It’s like this rare cult classic that a bunch of people love. It’s unreal.”

Peter did a low whistle. “Too bad we don’t have one laying around, huh? I’d sell it in a heartbeat.”

Dana shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose. But isn’t it awesome to feel, I don’t know, validated in loving this obscure piece of media that all these other people love? I mean, listen to this.” Dana scrolled to the comments on a listing for the book. “‘Read this as a kid, and I can say with certainty there is no other joy in life like it. I am 81 years old.’ Or this one. ‘This story changed my life. It is somehow challenging while still remaining comforting enough to read time and time again. And that unicorn–’”

“Dana,” Peter interrupted.

Dana stopped reading and stared into her coworker’s tired, unwavering eyes. “What?” she asked.

“You know you’re back at square one, right? You can’t afford a thousand-dollar book.” He laughed. “You’re never going to read it again.”

“Yeah, I know.” Dana laughed even though she didn’t want to. “Yeah. I literally can’t afford that. That’s so funny.” She laughed again.

Peter gave a sympathetic smile.

Dana wandered from the front desk, staring at the walls of shelves and the shelves of books, and instead of feeling wonder, she felt the overwhelming need to place books back on shelves. This was not how a unicorn should live. 

August 17, 2023 20:56

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10:09 Aug 21, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy! Lovely first tale! :) I used to love roaming the ailses in my local library as a kid. And there was abook I had as a kid that I absolutely loved and for the life of me I can't remember what it was called or anything. Just that it was about some teddy bear type characters building a ship to go sailing on and one of them got his trouser leg stuck on the flagpole. lol.


Angel Thompson
18:30 Aug 23, 2023

Thank you for reading! That book sounds weirdly familiar...but I guess I don't remember either.


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J. D. Lair
20:52 Aug 19, 2023

I wonder what nuggets of wisdom reside with that whimsical unicorn? Welcome to Reedsy Angel. :)


Angel Thompson
18:04 Aug 20, 2023

Thank you! I'm so excited to join the community!


J. D. Lair
19:40 Aug 20, 2023

You’ll be glad you came! :)


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Lee Mesford
21:41 Aug 23, 2023

Yeah. A thousand bucks? Wow, such a great way to build into the euphoria.


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Lee Mesford
21:39 Aug 23, 2023

Aww, sad and happy. Wait, is she a real unicorn?


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