This story came from Sarah Barcello’s prompt on Facebook. The prompt was ‘Unicorns’.
Norman was fed up with his life. It wasn’t the right life for a unicorn after all. He trudged home from work, his fat belly hanging so low that it almost dragged across the floor whilst his lank and greasy tail flapped between his thighs. His chubby little legs thundered and clumped rather than trotted spritely as a unicorn’s should, and a cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth, the ash leaving a trail as he walked. He was going to drown his sorrows in beer when he got home, and he was looking forward to it – at least as much as a depressed, middle-aged unicorn can look forward to anything.
“I’m home mum,” he called as he walked through the door to their small but well-kept home.
“Oh Norman!” she cried with a smile. She was always pleased to see him. She’s the only one, he thought morosely. “You’re just in time, dinner is almost ready. Why don’t you help your dad set the table?”
“No thanks mum. I’m not hungry. I just wanna go to my room.” He pulled a six-pack of beer from the fridge. Norman’s mum was crest-fallen, even though they played this same ritual every night. Norman subsisted on beer, junk food, and the odd ‘funny fag’. He rarely ate dinner with his parents; he found it too depressing. What sort of unicorn still lives with his mother at 36 anyway?
“But Norman, you’ve got to eat my love. And we never get to see you anymore. Your father and I are worried about you.”
“Don’t worry about me mum, I’m fine,” he called over his shoulder as he trudged up the stairs, his fat haunches dragging along the walls of the narrow stairwell.
He had to push against his bedroom door with some force to get in as his way was blocked by discarded sweet wrappers and empty cans (his mother rarely cleaned his room, this being the only part of the house that wasn’t well-kept). He sighed as he looked up at the walls, plastered with posters of beautiful unicorns with colourful tails, healthy manes, and sleek bodies. They were magical. On good days, Norman used the posters as inspiration to become a better unicorn – the unicorn that he should be, the unicorn that he knows, deep down, that he is destined to be. On bad days though, Norman looks at the posters as a form of self-torture.
You’ll never be that, he says to himself. You’re too fat and old and grey. It’s true, Norman was distinctly grey instead of the bright white of true unicorns. You should be out saving the world, granting magical wishes to children next to lakes, farting rainbows, singing songs. You should be called Sugarpie Twinklebee, not Norman Bloody Nobody! He berated himself often as he took the last swigs of his can and threw the empty one onto the ever-growing pile. All he wanted, all his life, was to be magical to somebody – to anybody.
Norman thought of going to work the next day and a tear formed in the corners of his eyes. He hated his job even more than the rest of his life. After many years of being unemployed (and after much nagging from his father), Norman had finally got a job at the town fair. As a ring toss. The children would come every day and throw rings at his horn, trying to win cuddly toy versions of the unicorn Norman so desperately wanted to be. They would laugh at him and giggle as rings smacked his head and bounced away. Their parents would get angry if Norman didn’t give them the cuddly toy anyway.
He cried, as he did most nights, but this night it was different. As his tears dried up and his cheeks had the crusty, tight feeling that comes from sobbing relentlessly, something changed. Something was different this time. He suddenly felt the urge to flee from this world and become the unicorn he was so desperate to be – the unicorn he knew he could be! His spirit lifted, this was his moment. He was going to pack his bags and run away. He was going to find a child by a lake and perform a miracle and nobody (not his parents nor his miserable boss nor the nasty people at the fair) could stop him. He was Sugarpie Twinklebee, he just had to prove it.
He threw a few things into a bag and trotted down the stairs with delight (well, he trotted in his head. In reality, he clambered down the stair with a clump and a thump). He was going to share his revelation with his parents!
He burst into the dining room with an energy that Norman hadn’t felt in a long time. His parents were mid-bite but stopped and gaped at Norman’s surprise entrance. A bit of potato fell from his father’s mouth as he forgot to shut it in his astonishment.
“I’ve had enough of this life!” Norman declared with passion. “I am Sugarpie Twinklebee, and I am running away to find my true self!”
“Um.” His father replied. “Son…”
“Don’t try to stop me dad. I’m fed up of this life. I know I can be a better unicorn, I just know it. I’m going to be like the magical unicorns of old. I’m going to be on a poster in some sad sap’s bedroom one day!”
“Oh Norman,” his mother cried, sadness seeping from her eyes. “You can’t.”
“You’ve always tried to stop me! Well no more. I won’t let you hold me back this time!”
“No, Norman, that’s not it.” His father gulped, a look of fear etched across his brow. He shared a look with his wife. “I think it’s time we told you the truth.”
“The truth?” It was Norman’s turn to look fearful as he dropped his bag and lowered himself into a seat slowly.
“The thing is,” his mother began. “Well. You’ve always so fervently believed that you could be this wonderful, magical unicorn and we didn’t want to crush your dreams but in reality, you’re not a wonderful, magical unicorn and you never will be. In fact, you’re not a unicorn at all. You’re a rhinoceros.”