Award winners Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman’s THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY preview: “The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory” by Carlos Hernandez
In celebration for the release of THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY, from the World Fantasy Award-winning tandem Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman.
Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory
don’t grant vacations. I’m supposedly on holiday in London when I
get an offer no reporter could refuse: to see a unicorn in the wild.
with my friend Samantha, hanging out at her dad’s pub after a long
night’s clubbing, still wearing our dance-rumpled party dresses,
dying to get out of our heels. Sam’s father, Will, is tending bar
tonight, so it’s the perfect spot for late-night chips and
hair-of-the-dog nightcaps. Plus, most of the clientele is over 50. We
wouldn’t have to spend all evening judo-throwing chirpsers. (And
yes, this Latina’s been in London a full eight days and has decided
to adopt every bloody Britishism she hears. Deal.)
so we thought. Sam flicks her head toward a guy sitting alone,
staring at us over his drink. He could be my dad, if my dad had
forgotten to bring a condom to his junior prom. Short, stout, but
really fit; looks like a cooper built his torso. The man’s never
heard of moisturizer. He’s wearing a black pinstripe shirt with a
skinny leather tie, black pleated pants and black ankle-boots. I am
sure some cute sales girl had dressed him—because nobody who cared
about him would’ve let him leave the house looking like dog’s
now—shit—I scrutinized him too long. He comes over, beer in hand.
not hookers,” says Sam. “I know these dresses might give a
gentleman the wrong impression.”
to disappoint,” I add, big smile.
he says, and turns on his heel.
on, Gavin,” says Will, who’s just pulled up with my Moscow Mule.
“Don’t let these two termagants scare you off. Make a little room
for Gavin, Sam, will you?”
considers us a moment, then pulls up the stool next to Samantha and
offers his hand. “Gavin Howard.”
says Sam. She’s suddenly unironically warm—a rare demeanor for
her. “You’re the forest ranger. Dad’s told me about you. I’m
put out my hand. “And I’m Gabi Reál.”
pleasure,” he says, then proceeds to purée my knucklebones—one
of those insecure guys who has to try to destroy the other person’s
man’s a national hero,” Will says to me. “He’s keeping our
is interesting. Back in the States, we’ve heard reports of unicorns
appearing in forests throughout Great Britain. But in this age of
photo manipulation it’s hard to get anyone to believe anything
say as much: “Plenty of Americans don’t think unicorns are real,
they’re real, Ms. Reál,” says Gavin, pleased with his wit. As if
I hadn’t heard that one 20 billion times.
says Samantha. “You never think anything interesting could possibly
be happening anywhere else in the world, do you?”
Brits share a chuckle. I don’t join in.
shouldn’t insult our visitor,” says Will. “I mean, if she were
to tell us snaggletoothed pookahs started appearing in California, I
suppose I’d want better proof than a picture.” He leans to Gavin
and adds, “Gabi’s a reporter for the
San Francisco Squint. Her column’s called ‘Let’s
Get Reál.’ Two million read it every week, don’t you know.”
sizes me up like a squinting jeweler. “I’m all for reality. I
have no patience for falsehood. I wish more people would ‘get
reál.’” His voice gets weirdly sincere.
lean toward him and say, “Me too. My column’s subtitle is ‘Truth
or Death.’” I smile and sip my Mule.
not the first time I’ve chirpsed to land an interview. Gavin drinks
the rest of his beer but never takes his eyes off me. Neither do Will
or the slightly-disgusted Sam, who sees exactly what’s happening.
screw her; a story’s a story. Gavin sets down his glass and says
the words I am longing to hear: “You know, I’m working the New
Forest this weekend. If you’d like, it would be my pleasure to take
you with me. You might just see a unicorn for yourself.”
For more info about THE UNICORN ANTHOLOGY, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty
Design by Elizabeth Story