What they did was seek out the very last unicorn on Earth and slaughter it. They paraded its head throughout town on a pike, because this takes place in a land where they still use pikes for things. Unicorns, of course, have brown blood like caramel. The blood of this one in particular dripped all over the main drag of the town as its head bobbed up and down the street. Children danced in its wake, laughing, lapping up the sticky, sweet liquid. The whole thing was horrifying and delicious.
They broadcast all of this on live TV, so you could watch it unfold in real time from the comfort of your own home. Which a lot of people did. Including Ted, who lived with his parents in a cabin just outside of town. Ted was fifteen, which is an awkward and uncertain age. An age when you already know the deal about things like the Easter bunny but not anything about being an adult yet.
The deal with the Easter bunny, of course, is that he’s real. They hunted him down in a cave in Bangladesh. He had been stealing chickens from local farms and devouring them whole. Now, you can visit him at the San Diego Zoo. He really does shit out eggs. And if you cut him, he bleeds strawberry jam.
Ted was seven and slightly befuddled when his mother had told him this. All he could think to say was, “So…he’s real?”
“Of course, honey,” she reassured him. “And every so often, they bleed him. You can buy a pint of it for eighty dollars. It’s delicious. And somebody’s birthday is coming up…”
“Great,” he said. He backed away slowly.
Ted was lounging on the couch in his living room when they showed the head of the very last unicorn bleeding its way through his town. He watched the children leaping and giggling. The townsfolk cheering. In the land where this takes place, this kind of thing wasn’t unusual to see on the evening news. Not at all. In fact, it made Ted remember his tenth birthday, when his father had taken him to a similar parade. When he, too, had giggled and skipped along through the trail of caramel blood. Lingering slightly, though, behind the others.
Suddenly, remembering that, and seeing almost exactly the same thing flash simultaneously across the screen, made something in Ted’s chest turn over. Something in his throat whine. Something about seeing it now, on TV, at that awkward and harrowing fifteen, made him wince. He thought about those bloody-fingered children growing up, reaching his own age and beyond, to the terrifying unknown of college and adultdom.
“When we all grow up,” he thought, “what will be left?”
The broadcast faded into a commercial for a documentary about how Science had proven the existence of God. His name was Frank. He lived in LA. Mostly, all He said was, “Get these fucking cameras off my lawn!” Mostly, all He did was ignore the prayers people sent through Facebook. Leave it to Science to tell you that God has, for sure, seen your message. He just doesn’t care.
Ted shut off the TV, disgusted.
Something kept nibbling at his brain. Something he couldn’t quite shake. The Easter bunny wormed its way in there, too, scratching at the back of his memory. Miserably, he thought, “I mean, that’s it, then. Isn’t it? All the wonder has gone out of the world.”
He sat there for a moment, thinking.
He got up and went outside.
Ted had this huge lake right behind his house. It reached out for a long while, touching other backyards across the way. Everyone there had their own dock, stretching from their back porch over the murky water. Ted walked to the end of his and gazed out.
He had grown up with this lake. Knew it well. Loved it well. It was home to an old legend, which he had also grown up with. Supposedly, the lake was bottomless. Just went down forever. On and on, into the purest black abyss mankind would never know. Nobody had ever tested this myth. Maybe out of fear. Or respect. Or something more hidden and more sad.
Ted stood there for some time, looking at it. Watched it shimmer in the sunset. He thought about that bottomless pit. About dead unicorns and the Easter bunny and Frank. He let it all boil together in his mind as, all around him, the birds sang themselves to sleep.
Finally, he said, “Screw it. I’ll show them.”
He got a bunch of stones from the shoreline. Stuffed them into his pockets. He sprang off the dock into the muddy water and sank. He dropped for what felt like miles. The water grew colder and thicker, crushing him from every angle. But instead of panicking, Ted started to feel giddy. In fact, happiness beat throughout his entire body. He felt the pressure of his life on the surface leak out of his pores as the abyss began to work in the opposite direction. Began to grind him into an ear-ringing pulp. But the more he sank, the lighter he felt. Because at last, he knew. He knew there really was no bottom. The legend was real.
He grinned into the darkness. He had done it. He had found something, at last. Something wonderful and true.
Feeling pretty damn pleased with himself, Ted allowed the stones in his pockets to drag him further down. Further and further. Much deeper than anyone had been before. Beautifully, magically, deep. Down, down, down…until he felt mud swallow his toes.
Until he felt the bottom of the lake.
“Dammit,” he thought.
He tried to dig the stones out of his pockets and shoot back up to the surface.
But it was too far away.
“Well, shit,” he thought.
Honestly, though, what matters is that he tried.
Sam Rebelein recently graduated from Vassar College with a BA in English and Education. You can check out his short horror story, “Wag” in Issue 26 of Dark Moon Digest Magazine. He is an active member of the play development lab A Howl of Playwrights in Rhinebeck, NY, and the sketch comedy group, Crebuland. Both of which you should Like on Facebook.