Petrichor #atozchallenge

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Petrichor; the pleasant smell of the earth after rain. 

Everything smells better after it’s rained. There’s a cleanness in air which my ma said was God washing and cleansing everyone. I use to believe that without a doubt. Now though, I’m not sure. There’s so much I believed in as a child which has faded now I’m adult.

It’s strange how different things are after the rain. You notice the pools and reflections of things more. The sounds of splashing wheels and feet. The dripping of drops off things. I randomly remember a boy once telling me that the rain was actually a leak from Heaven’s showers.

I wondered for ages how that was possible and pictured angels having showers all together. Or God having a bath and all the water overflowing. Maybe that was the real reason behind a flood?

When you’re a child it’s easier to believe in these things. As an adult you are more logic and less imaginative. You know how rain is made and why it falls. The novelty of it has worn off too, like snow. I use to love snow! Now, it’s just a pain.

Even though, I know the truth behind things now, it doesn’t take the pleasure away from them. During the rainfall and afterwards, I open my window to let all the smells and sounds in. I sit on the ledge and take deep breaths till I feel calmer. I try to think of nothing at all, but sometimes like today, my mind wonders.

I look up at the sky, where the dark clouds roam and a few rain drops still linger. Are God and the angels up there right now having a bath and cleansing the poor below?

Beach

sea, landscape, beach

The beach was the only place she felt free. Sitting on the warm sand, the surf just touching her feet, she could imagine she was anywhere and anyone.

Strawberries

Strawberries, Fruit, Red, Sweet, Fruits, Market

Nothing said summer like a bowl full of strawberries and cream. The same way nothing said autumn like pumpkin pie. Genie sighed at that thought and began thinking about a world that was trapped in just one season. What would she choose?

Zoo

Polar Bear, Zoo, Wildlife, Nature, Animal, Fur

There was just something so attractive about the zoo. The animals with all their bright colors and chattering noises, getting so close to them and actually touching others. The delighted oohing and awing of children filling the air as well as their cries. The smell of warm food and sugary treats. You could also picture yourself in a topical jungle, the heart of Africa or the middle of the ocean.

Being Followed (Part 2)

Ghost, Gespenstig, Shadow, Silhouettes, Mystical

 

Briony snapped her mouth shut, biting her tongue and cheek at the same time. She threw her book at the shadow figure looming over her and scrambled off the bed. Her foot tangled in the blanket and she tumbled. Landing sprawled across the floor, pain shot in her chest, arms and stomach. Struggling upwards, she crawled passed her bed then got up.

Not looking back, she rushed to the door, flung it open and raced into the bathroom. Ramming home the bolt lock, she turned on the light and climbed into the still damp bath tub. Her breathing heaved loudly in her ears and she pressed her hands over them. Curling up, she rocked back and forth like an upset child.

Wetness soaked into her pyjamas bottoms and Briony began to feel uncomfortable. She raised her head off her knees and listened. She couldn’t hear anything other than the normal house sounds. The fridge was humming, the pipes gurgling and outside a car was going by. She leant over the edge and looked at the door. Stiffly, she got up and out of the tub. Curling her damp feet on the mat, she reached for a towel.

A soft tapping froze her hands.

Briony’s eyes shot to the door. The handle was slowly moving downwards.

A scream fired in her throat, but she quickly grabbed the towel and stuffed it into her mouth. Peering over, she saw the handle stop then flick back up. The noise vibrated and she felt it through the floor. Swallowing, she tasted rough cloth in her mouth.

Was that a footstep?

She listened harder, but couldn’t hear anything else. Then the handle began rattling. Briony screamed and dived back into the tub as someone tried violently to open the door. Throwing the towel over her head, she curled up and tried to quieten her sobbing.

The handled stopped and what sounded like shuffling moved down the hallway. Wiping her face with a shaking hand, Briony looked up. The bathroom light glared down at her and the ceiling was pooled with light. Sitting up, she fisted the towel then carefully climbed out of the tub.

She stood for a few moments watching the door handle, before she reached out to touch it. The metal was icy cold. She unlocked and opened the door, taking a deep breath and expecting the worse. There was nothing in the hallway. Looking both ways, she quickly ran back into her bedroom and hit the main light.

Closing the door and leaning against it, she looked around and saw everything looked normal. Going to the bedside table, she snatched up her mobile and rung the police.

‘What’s you emergency?’ an eager female voice asked.

‘I think there’s someone in my house,’ Briony breathed into the phone.

‘A burglary? What’s your address, please?’

‘I don’t know…I’m not even sure it’s…’

‘Your address?’

Briony’s eyes flickered to the bedroom door as she give her addressed and listen to the woman’s instructions. The soft sounds of fingers tapping on plastic trickled through the house.

‘I’m going to try and get out,’ Briony hissed into the phone, cutting across the woman’s words.

‘Do you think you can?’ the calming voice replied back.

‘Maybe. I think it’s, he, is in the attic.’

‘Is there a neighbour you can go too?’

‘Probably,’ Briony answered, putting on a dressing grown and slippers.

‘Can you stay on the phone?’

‘I’ll try.’

Shuffling to the door, Briony opened it and looked out. Slipping through the gap, she walked downstairs and to the front door. She took the spare key from its hiding place behind a small picture and went to unlock the door.

Wood creaking sounded loudly in her ears.

Briony’s breath caught and though she tried desperately not to look, her eyes glanced over her shoulder.

At the top of the stairs a large black figure was standing watching her.

She could make out the outline of the legs, body, arms and head, but no further details. The figure seemed to be made up of shadows which swirled around. Sluggishly, the figure lifted  a foot and placed it down the first step.

‘The police are coming!’ Briony screamed.

She scrambled to fit the key in the lock and turn it. She yanked open the door, darted out and slammed it closed again. Locking the door, she saw through the fuzzy glass the shadow man stepping down the last step. Not waiting to see if it tried to get out, Briony jogged down the path and out on to the street.

A drizzle of rain brushed her face and she moved her hair back. Hugging herself, she wondered who’s door to knock on then remember her mobile in her pocket. Digging it out, she saw the call had been disconnected. Her finger hooved over the redial button, but then she heard sirens in the distance.

Letting out a big sigh, she tried to tuck herself into the hedge so she was half hidden. The streetlight next to her glowed down, effecting her sight as she tried to look back at the house. Upstairs, in bedroom she thought the curtain moved slightly. She pressed her lips together, but didn’t see anything else.

A police car swerved up and parked half on the curb. The siren was cut, but the flashing lights were left on. Doors hurriedly open, a man and a woman officers got out. They looked like twins in their crisp blue uniforms, complete with hats and short dark hair cuts. They quickly moved towards the gate as one.

Briony stepped from the hedge, ‘I got out and locked him inside. He came at me, but I’m okay,’ she gushed. ‘He can’t get out. Here’s the key,’

The police woman grabbed her as she stumbled. Briony wrapped her hands around the officer’s thin arms and thought she’d never be able to let go.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll get him,’ the policeman said, taking the key and heading towards the house.

Briony watched him go, the streetlight illumining the fear in her eyes.

‘Everything’s going to be all right now.’

She turned to the soothing voice of the female officer and took in the hard thin looking face.

‘I’m not sure what’s be going on, but all day I’ve been followed. I kept seeing things and I thought I was going crazy, but I think I was being stalked,’ Briony explained.

‘Do you have any idea who it could be?’

‘No,’ she said with a shake of her head.

‘An ex? A friend you had a falling out with? An admirer? Someone you meet online?’ The policewoman questioned.

Briony pulled a face, ‘no. There’s no one.’

They both turned at the sound of the door knocker banging slightly. The male officer was back and alone. He came over and they both looked puzzled at him.

‘There doesn’t seem to be anyone inside,’ he stated.

‘No! There was someone! A man, a black man!’ Briony shouted.

She tore away from the police and darted inside. She ran through all the rooms and the back garden, but even after turning on all the lights and looking in all the hiding spots possible, Briony found no one.

Returning to her front door, breathless and shaking, she leant against the frame and watched the two officers studying her.

‘Did you check the attic?’ she sniffed, ‘I thought I heard him going in there before whilst I was hiding in the bathtub.’

‘No, I didn’t, where is it?’ the policeman asked.

Briony turned and led him to the attic’s trap door.

‘You open the door and the ladder comes down. You can pull it up once you’re in there too,’ she explained.

Stepping back, she watched the officer open the door, climb the ladder and go in with his torch. She heard him calling out then moving around and shifted a few things. The beam of his light swept the attic portal. He called out again before reappearing, ‘there’s no one here.’

‘Could he have got out any other way?’ the policewoman asked.

‘No. Everything was locked,’ Briony pointed out.

‘Very true. All right, lets double check then take a look outside,’ the male officer suggested as he came out of the attic.

Briony trailed the police around her house, helping them to look everywhere a person could fit themselves. They asked her questions, but she couldn’t give them enough details. Finally, they left to do a search outside and recommend she find somewhere else to stay for the night.

Closing the door behind them, Briony went upstairs, fighting down the urge to get her mental health checked out.

She closed the door to her bedroom and began sorting herself. Repeating to that she wasn’t insane, she changed and packed an overnight bag. Leaving a few lights on, she left and got into her car. Slotting the keys in, she looked up and saw the police car at the end of the street.

Deciding to drive to her parents’ Briony started the engine. Her eyes flicked to living room window as she pulled off.

There was a tall black figure standing in front of the closed curtains, hands pressed to the glass, watching her with glowing red eyes.

 

To Be Continued…

Being Followed

Ghost, Gespenstig, Shadow, Silhouettes, Mystical

Something had been following Briony all day. It was there when she woke up in the morning, clinging to the bed post and staring down at her. Getting up, had caused the thing to move away and she had tried to put it out of her mind. Claiming it was the lingering effects of a bad dream, she got in the shower and ready for the day.

It left the house with her.

Briony closed the door and walked down the path, juggling her car keys, coffee, handbag and large folder. Something brushed past her at the gate. Stopping, she looked down at her ankles where she had felt movement. There was nothing but the edge of her pants against her high heels. Glancing around, there didn’t seem to be any sign of an animal or even a gust of wind.

Puzzled, she got into her car and locked the doors. Setting off, Briony shook her head and blamed it on the dream. What had that been about anyway? She couldn’t remember the shower had washed it away. Glancing in the rear view mirror she saw a flash of black. Actually turning around, she looked at the back seats and out of the back window. The strange black dot was nowhere to be seen.

Telling herself, she wasn’t going insane, she drove to work.

Even there it seemed to have followed her. Out of the corner of her eyes, she kept catching black dots, shadows and shapes which on closer inspection weren’t there. The feeling of being watched grew and distracted her. Briony couldn’t help shake the feeling of eyes on the back of her head. She stayed in during lunchtime and let her work consume her in the afternoon.

At home time, she lurked as long as she could, but then had to leave as the building was locked up. Sitting in her car, she didn’t feel safe. Something was in the back seat, watching and breathing into her hair. Starting the car, Briony blasted the radio and drove home on the edge of having a panic attack.

Parking up, she got out and inside her house quickly, hoping to catch the thing out and trap it either in the car or outside the house. Dumping her stuff, she hurried to the bathroom and locked the door. Trying to control her heavy ragged breathing, she listened. Was that a creak on the stairs? A tap on the glass? A rattle of the letter box?

Sighing, she ran a bath. Pouring in lots of relaxing bubbles, she undressed and stepped gingerly in. The hot water licked against her skin and ignoring the heat, Briony fully got in. Letting out a deep moan, she settled back. Water sloshed and dripped in the background, calming her further. Letting everything go in the tub, she tried to laugh off the experience. She was just having one of those days, that was all and there was nothing, nothing following her.

An hour later and after sorting herself out, Briony went downstairs to fix something to eat. Turning the TV on, she let the noise fill the house as she cooked. She ate in front of the news channel, but hardly took any of it in. From somewhere behind her, came a mix of tapings, scratchings and breaths.

‘Whatever, you are, please go away,’ Briony whispered.

She put her things down and slowly turned around. The shadows crossing the wall seemed to be looking back at her. She looked harder, trying to pick anything solid out. There only seemed to be a mass of darkness.

‘Go away, she muttered, ‘quit following me.’

Glad, there’d been no response, she got up and went back into the kitchen. Tidying up, she went to bed, hoping she was going to feel safer. Getting warm under duvet and blankets, she pulled a book into her lap and began reading.

Her bedroom door creaked open.

Briony’s eyes shot up. The breath caught in her throat and she waited.

Nothing emerged and the door didn’t open anymore.

‘Leave me alone!’ she shouted.

Clutching the book to her chest, her eyes scanned the room. She heard nothing further or saw anything move. Shakely, she opened the book and began reading again, but she couldn’t concentrate. What was that flicking out of the corner of her eye? She looked up and saw a shadow detach itself from the wall. It floated over to the bed and wrapped itself around the bed post.

Briony swallowed and watched it. She bit her lip, fighting down words that burned her throat. Her eyes flicked back to the book and the lines blurred together. Then in the darkness she heard a scream.

Locked

Door, Knob, Vintage, Antique, House

Shutting the door she had created in her mind, Amber told herself she’d never go back again. She imaged letting go of the brass doorknob and slotting the golden skeleton key quickly inside. Pressing a hand to what she thought of as cold wood, she sighed deeply. For a few seconds, she pictured the memories cluttering the dreamed up room. Removing her hand, she told herself it was the right thing to do. Amber locked the door and slipped the key out. She glanced at the other doors that lined this part of her mind then she walked away. The grief and heartache locked safely away forever.

Imagination

In his head, Phil could be anyone or anything. Bouncing on his bed, he dreamed he was a pilot in a fighter plane. The enemy was all around him and it was his job to take them down. Firing off the guns, he made a dive and swung about. He was an Ace pilot, the king of the sky in his bright red plane and nothing could stop him.

Tumbling off his bed, he swopped about the toy plane in his hand. Rushing by the slightly open window, a slice of red caught his attention. He stopped and went back. He lifted the net curtain with a grumpy hand and looked outside. He saw the pastel blue sky streaked with plane jet streams.

Frowning, he opened the window fully and looked further out. In the distance he could hear the sound of pounding engines. Biting his lip, he tried to not think any more about being a pilot and his red plane. However, it was too late and before his eyes a small collection of World War Two German Messerschmitts had appeared.

Phil watched them grow as the panic filled him. The Messerschmitts become completely solid, their engines droning loudly in the sky. They formed an arrow formation and aimed towards him. Phil clutched the window sill and quickly imagined the king of the sky back again. He couldn’t think of anything else to do. He thought hard and desperately muttered under his breath as he brought his imagination into reality.

The sound of rat-at-tat gun fire caused his eyes to snap open. Before him a bright red plane was darting around the brown Messerschmitts and it was raining bullets. Phil almost squealed in delight, but managed to keep his excitement in. A Messerschmitt exploded and a ball of fire lit up the sky like a smaller second sun.

Phil ducked down, but he held onto the window sill still and peered over the top of it. He watched plane parts tumble from the sky and heard distant voices shouting. The dog fight was heating up above him and eagerly, he watched things play out. The king should have easily been over powered by the mass of Messerschmitts, but somehow he was able to dodge their bullets and take them all down.

Jumping up, Phil watched the last two planes fall from the sky in smoke and flames. The bright red plane did a loop-de-loop and vanished into a cloud bank. Phil leaned out of the window and looked across the flat countryside that lazily stretched before him. Passed the pale brown fence of his garden, he could see the burning body of a plane. Further on and the scarred ground was scattered with twisted metal, crushed wings and components.

A screaming voice, sent goosebumps along his arms and Phil scrambled under his bed. He heard running footsteps on the stairs then his bedroom door was flying open and the footsteps came into his room.

‘Phil? Where are you? Did you do that outside?’ his mum’s angry voice called.

He stayed still, holding his breath and keeping his head as empty as possible.

‘Phil? Come out here now,’ him mum continued.

He heard her open the toy chest and the wardrobe.

‘I mean it! You’re in big trouble, mister!’

The footsteps came closer, he heard his bed being searched then his mum getting down on the floor. He opened his eyes to meet her’s and shrink back as he saw the fury in them and on her face.

‘How many times do we have to tell you?’ his mum snapped.

She put her hand under the bed and dragged him out. Phil didn’t protested, he knew it was far too late to even try. His mum pulled him up and they sat on his bed together. Phil could smell fire and oil drifting in from his bedroom window. He tried to steal a glanced outside, but the window was too far away.

‘You have to control it,’ mum sighed.

Unexpectedly, she hugged him and Phil snuggled into her. He could smell damp earth, summer flowers and sweat. He listened to her heart beating and her steadying breathing. In the background came the sound of sirens, voices and burning.

‘I didn’t mean to,’ Phil mumbled into her chest, ‘I really tried. Honest.…’

‘Hush. It’s okay,’ mum smooth as she pulled back and held his face in her hands, ‘you’re very special and you have an amazing gift. But you can’t just go willing fighter planes into life. That’s not right.’

Phil looked down and began to concentrate on the blue flower pattern of her dress.

A car horn beeped outside and Phil could hear muffled voices talking. His mum got up and went over. She fixed the net curtain and closed the window.

‘That’s Dr. Mandle. I better go. Stay here and wait for me to call you down. Okay?’

Phil nodded and watched her leave. She shut the door and he gave her a few moments to go downstairs. Then he went to the window and looked out. Four men were standing in the back garden. One was his father, the other was Dr Mumps- Phil’s doctor- and the other two he had been told were Dr. Mandle and his assistant, Mr Baxter. They were looking and discussing the destroyed planes, which were now surrounded by fire trucks, police and ambulances.

Phil came away from the window and after a few moments of looking around his room, decided to read a book. He selected one from his bookcase and sat on the bed. He knew as long as he didn’t think in too much detail, the world of the book would stay inside in the pages.

It seemed like too shorter time had passed when he heard his mum’s voice calling him downstairs. He went into the kitchen, taking his time to get there and slumped down at the table. Mum was preparing a pot of tea and some snacks. The backdoor was open and he could hear human voices mingling with animals calling to each other.

A young giraffe, slipped it’s head through the open kitchen window and starred at them. Phil smiled and watched the giraffe sniffing around the potted flowers and sink.

‘Get out of here, Jessie!’ mum snapped and tipped the giraffe’s nose.

Jessie withdrew and swung her head about as she walked away. The rest of her body passed the window and despite himself, Phil hurried to door. The giraffe stopped and bend down to his open hand. Phil rubbed her face then she was off again back to the other four giraffes. From the doorway, Phil could see a handful of buildings and fenced enclosures. A collection of animals, more commonly found in a zoo were gathered around.

‘Sit down, Phil. I don’t want you to go wondering off like last time,’ mum called.

Phil took his chair again and watched her set the table for afternoon tea, ‘that wasn’t my fault,’ he stated, ‘Aunty shouldn’t have brought me those books for Christmas. I didn’t know that walking through my wardrobe could make that happen.’

‘I don’t want hear it, okay? They’re coming, so just behave.’

Phil nodded.

The four men had seen outside before came and sat around the table. Mum began serving them tea, coffee and cakes. Phil got a glass of milk and a chocolate brownie. Whilst the adults talked, Phil studied Dr. Mandle and Mr Baxter. They didn’t look like doctors or rare animal specialists, they reminded Phil of polite gentleman.

Soon enough, they turned to him and encouraged, in the way that all adults do, for him to join in their conversations. Dr. Mandle started with, ‘What wonderful animals you have. Did you really bring them all into being?’

Phil nodded his head.

‘Of course, we had to get rid of the lions and tigers,’ his mum butted in, ‘we could hardly keep then around could we?’ she half-laughed as if it was a joke.

‘But the zoo wouldn’t take the other exotics?’ Dr. Mandle asked.

‘They took a few as did some other places, but when he was younger he really couldn’t help it, and we and they become quite over run,’ she explained.

‘And what happened this morning? Before we arrived?’ Mandle pressed.

‘Oh. He was playing with some planes and got carried away.’

‘It was very realistic,’ his dad cut in, ‘he even created German pilots!’

Phil bit his lip and stayed quiet.

Dr. Mandle turned to him with a soft smile, ‘you still like making animals though don’t you, Phil?’

‘I guess,’ he mumbled into his milk.

‘Well, we’ve got something very special for you to try and do for us…’

Placing down his glass, Phil watched Mr. Baxter take out a large photograph and hand it to Mandle. Who then showed the photo to him, it was of a small white fluffy lemur with a black face and hands. Phil looked at it and decided it was cute.

‘This is a Silky Sifaka. It’s one of the rarest animals on the planet and we’d like your help to bring them back,’ Mandle explained.

‘How?’ Phil asked.

‘By using that amazing imagination of yours.’

‘But, I’m not allowed too,’ Phil pointed out.

‘But this time it’s okay. It’s for a good reason. A true purpose,’ Mandle rushed out, ‘you could help save this cute animal. You wouldn’t like it if it was gone forever would you?’

‘Mr Mandle!’ Phil’s mum cut in.

‘Doctor, please,’ he countered back.

‘Doctor. We agreed we wouldn’t force, Phil, into it remember? It’s up to him.’

‘Of course, of course. I’m sorry.’

‘Phil, now,’ mum said as she came to stand behind him. She pressed a hand to his shoulder and they looked at the photograph of the Silky Sifaka together.

‘You don’t have to do this,’ she said with a hint of a threat in her tone, ‘it’s up to you. But your father and I would rather…you didn’t.’

‘It’s just a monkey, mum,’ Phil pointed out.

‘It’s a lemur,’ Mandle corrected.

‘That…doesn’t matter,’ mum chimed back in, ‘but I don’t want you to have to spend the rest of your life…dealing with people and their wants, okay?’

Phil pulled a slight face and thought back over the other things he had brought to life with his imagination. He’d never been asked to create something for someone else before. He wasn’t even sure he could do it. He looked down at the photo again and the cute black face staring up at him.

‘I could try,’ he whispered, ‘I don’t know what’ll happened though.’

‘Good. Good,’ Mandle cried with a clap of his hands, ‘then we must get you over to the wildlife park right away. We’ve built a home for the lemurs already.’

Phil felt his mum’s hand pressing deeper into his shoulder and her nails catching his skin. He wiggled out from under her and followed the men outside. Leaving her in the kitchen to tidied up, dad drove everyone to the park in the Land Rover. Phil looked at the photo for most of the way, thinking about how he was going to make that image real.

It was almost evening when they got to the park. Mandle led them over to the enclosure that had been made for the lemurs and they went inside.

Phil held the photo up and thought hard about the Silky Sifaka. The photograph give him all the description he needed, just like the photos of the giraffes, zebras and lions he had seen and thus made real when was younger. For a good few minutes, he thought deeply about the Sifaka under the watchful eyes of the adults.

He was on the point of giving up, when a tree branch close by started to shake. Phil opened his eyes and they all watched a Silky Sifaka appear in front of them. Phil heard Mandle saying ‘yes, yes,’ under his breath. The lemur became solid and after a few moments of watching them, moved off higher into the tree.

Phil thought about another one, imagining all the trees having a Sifaka on them. He shut his eyes and opened them seconds later to see that it had become real. The lemurs began calling to each other and playing together.

‘More, more,’ Mandle hissed.

Phil imaged more and soon enough the trees around them were shaking with white fluffy forms. He heard Mandle laughing and saw him spinning around under the trees. Phil began to feel dizzy and slipped backwards. His dad caught him and he fell into a deep slept. He dreamed he was in the forest surrounded by Silky Sifakas thanking him. When he woke up, Phil found himself in his own bed and it was the middle of the night.

He rolled over and turned on the desk lamp next to his bed. The light hurt his eyes and it took a few moments for him to blink sleep away. Sitting up, he looked around his room and wasn’t surprised to see the twitching tail of a Silky Sifaka on top of his wardrobe.

About Unicorns

For this story to work you have to believe in magic. And also unicorns. Not just the white and golden horned ones, but every colour of unicorn. Once the world was a dark place, I don’t mean dinosaurs and cavemen times, but more sort of medieval times or maybe in the gap before that. Anyway, magic existed more in this time than at any other because people could see and perform it for real. Thus, meant that such creatures we believe today to be myths and legends did walk the land.

Don’t get me started on what happened to the magic or the mythological creatures connect with it. This story isn’t about that. This story is about you believing that there was once such a time in which magic and unicorns lived. Now, most histories say that unicorns love female virgins because they are pure of heart like the unicorns themselves. So, unicorns would come to them and share their magic.

Unicorn magic is powerful, no one really knows how powerful, but it is written that to drink the blood of a unicorn would give you all of their power. However, by killing something so pure you damn yourself. Don’t worry; this isn’t that kind of story. In fact, I’m not sure this is even going to develop into a story. It’s just that I wanted to talk to someone about unicorns and you seemed so interested to hear me out.

I’ve never seen one, only their likeness in old crumbling books and paintings. They do look like horses, but bigger and more powerful. Imagine a shire horse as that’s the closest we have to the figure of a unicorn now. Yes, the horn. The horn sits between the ears, a top of the forehead and the base just covered with mane. Do you know what happens if you cut off the horn of a unicorn? All the magic returns to the land and the horn is useless. No, I don’t know why they have horns, that’s not my area. No, I only know about their nature and their magic.

Perhaps, I should place all this in a story, you’d understand it better and this wouldn’t turn out to be a boring history lesson. Of course, this whole thing is only going to work if you help me. Now, I need a good portion of your imagination, a bit of your ‘suspended disbelieve,’ some of your knowledge of the medieval period and a dash of creativity.

Now, imagine you are a princess or a prince if you want, though princesses do work better for this. I don’t know why girls fit this role so well, but they just do. If that doesn’t work for you, imagine yourself as a knight. Now that part is always male, but I don’t mind it’s up to you. So, here you are then as a princes/s or a knight living in a land which is on the edge of the medieval period. You were born and raised in a large castle, you have never known hungry or real fear. The time you live in as at peace and everyone is happy. Often you go outside the castle walls into the growing town and country fields. You love riding horses and attending parties. In fact, ever since your sixteen birthday you have become very fond of balls. You like studying the people around you.

Now, one hot summer’s evening you are very restless. Everyone else is preparing to try and sleep, but you just can’t settle. You decided to go for a walk around the castle’s gardens. There are water features and lots of brightly coloured flowers to be seen. There are also tall trees and singing birds. The air is hot and sticky, you wonder how anyone else can get to sleep. You ended up walking further through the gardens then you imagined. You come to a high mossy wall, which you know to mark the boundary of the castle.

On the other side is a forest. It has had many names before you were born and it’ll have many others after you are gone. At your moment, the forest is called The Bow Forest. You have walked through its edge a few times, but have never wondered any further. Your nanny filled you with scary tales about the forest. Just as good nannies should do.

However, tonight, you find a large hole in the wall. The stones have tumbled away and left an archway for you to step through. You know, you shouldn’t do really, but for some unknown reason, you step into the forest. It is dark and you have no light, save that coming from the castle’s many windows. Slowly, you pick your way into the forest. Telling yourself that you won’t go very far, but somehow you do just that. You find yourself in a clearing and sit down for a moment. It is still dark, but now the full moon lights your way. As you try to figure out the way back, you hear something moving the trees close by.

It’s a large animal, not trying to hide itself and you believe that it doesn’t know you are even here. You think about hiding, but before you can move, the most wonderful creature you have ever seen in your life steps into the clearing.

Can you see the unicorns now?

Phobia

Toby told himself not to be afraid. What is fear, but a cycle? If he broke the circle everything would be fine. He took a deep breath and tried to escape the growing anxiety. He told himself that this situation was easier to handle then it seemed. He just had to chip away at the problem and break it down like a stick of candy rock.

He felt the heavy chain of phobia wrapping around him. He selected one of the links and tried to separate the small metal rings. He believed if he could do this then he would be free. The rings were too strong, just like their neighbours on either side. He shook the links and felt panic rising in his stomach as the chain tightened.

Toby tried to think of happier times, calm places, or a funny joke. Anything that would take his mind off and away he tried to call towards him. Running from the fear didn’t help through. Everything became stronger, more intense. He saw colours swimming before him, the wind rushing in his ears. He felt as if he was on the highest mountain of the world looking down into a tie-dye coloured sea.

He thought about that scene from The Christmas Carol movie, where the ghost comes to visit and he was covered in chains. Toby felt like that. The chains were restraining him, locking him into the fear. He thought about an evil hand wrapping around his chest whilst mad laughter echoed in his ears. He tried to stop such thoughts, strongly aware that they would only get worse.

He breathed, shut his eyes and willed himself away for a moment, just so that he could have some space. Toby’s felt like his head had become as crowd as a circus tent on opening night. Escaping that, give him some time to re-collect himself. He relaxed as much as his rigid body would allow and thought of himself sailing away in a boat.

Oddly, the image began to work. He dreamed up the small white topped waves and the waving breeze. Alongside came, the pale blue sea stretching forever and himself at the front of the wooden boat looking ahead. He could hear the water lapping around him and smell the salty air. He breathed deeply, filling himself up with the ocean.

As he slowly opened his eyes, the image faded and felt the fear ebbing. The chain that had been holding him was at his ankles. He easily stepped over the loose links and walked away. The phobia can be controlled, he thought with the ghost of a grin on his lips, and all moments pass.