Unicorn/Factory has a landing page here.
Terebina had thought, when she had first heard of unicorns, that they would be beautiful, majestic creatures.
She had thought that they would be proud, shining, pure beings, glittering white things, above dirt, above eating.
She had thought they would be like angels in her storybooks. That is, after all, what the whispers sounded like. “Pure,” she had been told, “So pure they clean water with their touch. So proud they won’t be seen by the unclean.”
But Terebina was clean, chaste, cloistered, or, at least, she had been cloistered, Back Home, back before her father took a position here. Before he had signed up to help run the Factory, and dragged her and her mother out to this tiny town which, at the very least, could boast of unicorns, since it could boast of very little else. There was no need to keep her cloistered here, she’d complained in frustration to her father, and he had agreed smugly. There was no one to cloister her from.
She dutifully took her lessons in the mornings with the other children, the daughters of the bureaucrats, and the sons too young to work, the daughters and sons of factory workers either too young for working or whose parents’ wages paid for this education for them. She studied, too, mostly from boredom, diving into her books in a way she never had back home.
And when all that became too boring, she enjoyed the fact that, here in this small Town, she could walk around unescorted, unprotected, unchaperoned, because there was nothing to protect her from and no-one to make her need a chaperon. There was the foreman’s son… but she avoided him, lest her father get ideas.
With time on her hands and an urge to explore, and a pressing need to avoid young men of her own age, to keep from being locked up again, and thus ending up avoiding the few other young women her age, Terebina ended up quickly an expert on the Town’s geography, on its small but well-tended yards and gardens, on its tall and snooty front facades and very practical, plain back walls. And, soon, she began to encounter Unicorns.
She saw her first one in Goodwife Jorie’s back yard, chewing on the roses, thorns and all. It looked up at her, its wicked-looking horn pointing in her direction, whickered, and went back to eating as if she wasn’t even there.
That was long enough for her to notice that its horn was not, indeed, shining white, but a coral pink, as if with blood flowing through it. And that, while standing in mud, it seemed to shed the dirt, a trick, she thought impertinently, that their horses would do well to learn.
She saw what she thought was another one – they looked rather similar – a few days later, eating the boots the foreman had left out on his back stoop (and never mind what she was doing in the foreman’s back yard); and a third – this one’s horn was almost entirely red – girdling a tree in her neighbor’s front yard. The adults couldn’t see them, she soon discovered, which make it even more entertaining to watch the creatures gleefully nibbling at everything they could reach.
“Aren’t you supposed to be pure?” she asked a small one, as, wobbling a little, it stood on two legs to eat the leaves off of a newly-planted tree.
In response, it looked at her, eyes clear and amused-seeming, and dipped its horn into a bucket of rainwater, turning the murky stuff clear as crystal. Its meaning, too, was clear: unicorns purified. Giggling, Terebina left it a sugar cube she’d meant for their horses, and left it to its lunch.
Unicorns, she was discovering, were a lot more fun than angels.
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