Award winners Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman’s THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY preview: “The Lion and the Unicorn” by A. C. Wise
In celebration for the release of THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY, from the World Fantasy Award-winning tandem Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman.
Lion and the Unicorn
moment they see the unicorn boy—the shine of his skin, the
pearlescent spiral of his horn, his silken hair pale as
moonlight—they want him. It’s no wonder he prefers virgins. Their
uncertainty makes their plucking hands almost gentle. Some of them
are even sweet. Afraid.
even in them, the wanting does not wait long. And there is only one
answer to the wanting. It is not that he gives, but they take.
Insistent hands leave bruises in their wake, dropped petals
scatterwhickering the snow of his flesh. Hard, needful fingers tangle
in his hair, pulling strands free in blind ardour. Fingers press
inside him, pushing, choking, wanting without end.
there is pleasure, but it is brief and accidental. The men and women
who come to his tapestried chamber, all woven with scenes of his
downfall, are not there for him. They come to sate themselves,
scarcely knowing they do. After, they wake, spent, dazed, wondering
at the lost time. They leave feeling full. Light settles like good
wine in their bellies, and they are happy for a time. Until the
wanting comes round again and they find themselves back at his door
with hunger in their eyes.
has always been the way, for as long as he can remember. For almost
as long as he can remember.
snatches of memory creep from the corners of his mind at odd times,
almost crueller than the hands and mouths that come for him at every
hour. A pool with sweet water. Fruit, cool and crisp on his tongue.
The soft whicker of his father’s breath. A song his mother sang to
him. Strong, calloused fingers on his brow, soothing fever as his
horn pushed through his skin and he wailed like a child teething, not
understanding the pain.
it was never spoken aloud, he knows his mother took his father
against his will—thus is it always with their kind—and that she
wept for it ever after. Overcome by wanting first, then grief
afterward, blinded by desire and need. But unlike any other, she
stayed, did her penance by remaining to guard his father from future
wanting hands, and by raising his child.
is no one to guard or protect him. Only a thin chain—fine as
sunlight—bound around his ankle and chafing his skin, running to a
ring of iron bolted to the floor. Sometimes, he thinks he hears
footsteps pause just outside his door. Hope and fear bloom in these
moments, but in the end, neither is fulfilled. The door does not
open, and he is left alone.
as it is, the chain binding him will not break for him. He has cut
his hands trying. So there is only this room, the silken hangings,
the soft pillows his face is pressed into to stifle tears and cries.
Beyond these tapestry-hung walls, he knows nothing of this place,
save there are other beasts here. He hears their cries sometimes—a
peacock’s mourn, the howl of a lonely wolf, something vast and dark
snuffling in sorrow through the halls.
least he cannot bear a child to the monsters who come for him with
ravenous hands. At least his mother had the foresight and courage to
smother his sister before she drew her first breath, in the instant
she followed him from the womb.
For more info about THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty
Design by Elizabeth Story