At The Unicorn Factory (Bards and Sages, Issue #1)

Lily had a crush on Cody, but she was contractually obligated to remain a virgin due to her day job at the unicorn processing plant.

She didn’t want to lose her job, because she liked working outside; every morning, she took her morning paperwork down to the filigreed railroad tracks of the loading yard.  She never got tired of trying to follow the crazy paths the rails made as they looped up off the ground in snarls of silver, the parallel lines spiraling into improbable moebius loops and tesseracts before vanishing into other dimensions.

And then, at 10:00 a.m. every day on the dot, The Mythbuster catapulted into this reality.  It exploded onto the rails with the inverse-big-bang flash of photons collapsing, its long smokestack inlaid with opal to resemble a gigantic unicorn horn, towing titanium-clad boxcars behind it.  The air was filled with the hiss of steaming holy water and the tramping of whinnying unicorns.  The reinforced walls of the stock cars were studded with circular holes where angry horns had punched through the metal.

The unicorns were invariably exhausted after their long journey, the shock of becoming real just a little too much for them.  It was Lily’s job to calm them with a kiss on the snout, comb their manes, and lead them onto the conveyor belt.  One by one, she and her fellow unicorn-tamers – all gawky, middle-aged women in bleached-white lab coats that doubled as vestal virgin robes – walked into the cars and unlatched the gates.

She plucked the tranquilizer darts hanging from their flanks, amazed at the strength of the striated muscle that lay beneath their fine, egg-white hair.  They could have crushed her, but instead they rubbed their noses against her cheek, snuffling their lilac-scented breath in her face.  It moved her, how much these gentle engines of death trusted her.

Occasionally, one of them tried to mount her, but the guards were always quick with their tasers.

Cody worked by her side, checking the unicorns as they came in for bone spavin, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, and cthulhoid vermiform infestations.  Cody didn’t actually have a degree in medicine – he worked off a laminated checklist in a plastic binder they’d given him after a week’s training – but he referred to himself as “Doctor Cody, M.D.” whenever he could.

Lily liked Cody instantly, because despite the fact that he was his job to check the unicorns for ringed-horn secretions, he never ever told her he was feeling horny.

She was sure he had a crush on her, too; why else would he fight the leprechauns?  The little jerks piloted the Mythbuster – heck, they’d built the railroad – and they were always drunk on the hot amber of uisce beatha.  When they weren’t pinching Lily’s ass, they were pinching her purse.  But Cody challenged them to fight whenever they harassed Lily, giving her a merry wink through eyes made puffy from shillelagh bruises.

When he thought she wasn’t looking, he rubbed his cheeks against the unicorn horns to help reduce the swelling.  She found that adorable.

But Lily was shy, ashamed of her stench.  The smell of unicorns was a pungent blend of afterbirth and nectar, so sticky that it clung to her skin like a nasal napalm despite endless showers.  No matter what she slathered upon her skin she stank of sweet pony, and that embarrassed her.  (The only cure was, ironically, a lovely bath gel made from ground-up unicorn horns, but she couldn’t afford that on her salary.)

She was sure Cody would understand… But dating co-workers was forbidden.  Was it worth losing a job for a love affair?  She had no way of comparing her options.  All she knew was that at twenty-six, Lily already felt like a package that no one would ever open.

Ironically, it was the company’s new advertising campaign that changed her mind.  She was sitting in her one-bedroom apartment, eating a Swanson’s Hungry-Man meal of owlbear and processed potatoes, when her TV’s tinny speaker let loose with a flourish of trumpets.

“WHY WAIT?” it said.  “TASTE THE MAGIC.”

What the screen showed was a delectable unicorn patty on a steamed bun, its meat tender and vaginally pink.  But all Lily saw was Cody, and she knew the time was now.

Once the seal had been popped on her desire, it was everywhere, surging in her veins, and she cursed the fact that she’d missed her chance yesterday; she wanted Cody now, now, now.  She couldn’t sleep; the weight of years of loneliness was suffocating her, and there was only one way to remove it.

The moment Cody showed up, she kissed him.

“Take me now,” she whispered, pressing his hand against her breast.  Cody looked shocked, as though this was the sort of thing that only happened to people in movies.  But he nodded dumbly, the erection under his trousers stiffer than any unicorn horn.

She took him out to one of the stock cars, which though it had not been cleaned was surprisingly pleasant; unicorn fewmets looked like delicious chocolate pudding and smelled like Chanel.  And there, awkwardly and all too quickly, Cody ended Lily’s career as a professional virgin.

They emerged contentedly into the sunlight just as the 10:00 shipment arrived on the Mythbuster.  The train burst into existence with the familiar nickering of unicorns.

But this time was different.  The unicorns let loose piercing screeches – the sound of betrayal.  The leprechauns fled on wobbling, drunken legs as the sides of the cars exploded into shrapnel, hooves and horns smashing to send the stock cars topping off of the tracks.  A klaxon went off, bathing the docking bay in red light, as an electronic voice repeated “PROMISCUITY ALERT – PROMISCUITY ALERT – “

The unicorns, freed and furious, shook off the rubble of their former jail and wheeled around, the thunder of their hooves loud and terrible.  They whipped their heads back and forth, searching for the discrepancy, and in no time at all discovered Lily and Cody.

As the stampeding horde of mad unicorns bore down upon them, the deadly tips of a hundred glinting horns aimed straight at their heart, Lily and Cody turned to face each other.

“It was worth it,” she said, squeezing Cody’s hand.

“Totally,” Cody replied, smiling.

The herd smashed into them.  They regretted nothing.

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