The Last Pentacorn

September was her favorite month, with all its post-summer glow and pre-fall warmth. She liked the idea of moving forward, crafting for the holiday season and creating plans for upcoming winter. She read and wrote poetry, did ballet and volunteered at the school library.

He was a metalhead. Complete, wholesome, irreversible. For as long as he could remember, he preferred heavy guitar riffs to anything pop. That “metal-ness” included art, literature and lifestyle in general. He wore black leather, chained his wallet to his belt and cut denim in shreds.

They met in early September. His school friends, who not exactly shared most of his views, advised to go and meet freshmen during one of their intro classes. A group of seven, they stopped outside the home econ classroom, where a dozen of unsuspecting students were working on their apron-sewing project.

She was deeply immersed into her work. Quiet and nerdy, she aimed to perfect her stitches and finish the project by the end of the two-hour class. They spotted her and tried to attract her attention, staying outside in the hallway. The teacher was not extremely happy with it and shut the classroom door.

Val knocked then, very politely. The teacher realized it was one of them and didn’t hurry to open. A few minutes later, there was another knock: a louder, more impatient one. The teacher opened slowly, getting ready to send them away.

– Is Uni available? – Peter asked. – We need to talk!
– What do you need? – The teacher responded, surprised that seniors would have any interest in talking to the shy and not very talkative Unicorn freshman.

The truth was, Uni was the only one whose name seniors knew at the time. She was often seen at school events as a presenter, and wore a badge anyone could see from the audience. Besides, she was the only Unicorn in town, besides her mother, and thus, was referred to as a “stranger beast”. It was hard enough to look different in a town of bunnies and kitties.

The teacher, an older Rabbit, unwillingly moved away and addressed the Unicorn. The student, who didn’t want to distract her classmates any longer, got up from her seat and stepped towards the door. Outside, she found a group of tall, smiling seniors, standing awkwardly in the hallway.

– Hello, – she said. – Do we know each other?
– Hi Uni, – Peter introduced himself. – We just wanted to welcome you and your friends to school. – How is it going so far?
– Hi Peter. I’m not sure if we should be talking right now, we have a sewing project due next week.
– So, this is true? – The boy reverted. – You really do all your homework?
Well, I try, at least. It’s quite fun.
– Oh, no doubt it is. Hey, how about you meet my friends? Val here, for instance, is dying to get to know you!

The latter was true. Val, a son of the town doctor of the Goat family, was eager to meet the only other horned beast. He actually knew a little about Uni, since his mother worked closely with Uni’s, who was a pharmacist.

– Hi, Uni, – he said. – How do you do?
– Hello, – Uni responded. – I’m well, and you?
There was an awkward moment of silence.
Peter stepped in then, hoping to get more of the conversation.
– So, what do you do Saturdays? We’re actually going to the club this week, and were wondering if you and your friends would be willing to join.
– Um, I don’t really go out much. Especially, to the clubs and other such places. My mom thinks clubs may not be the best places to visit.
– Oh, c’mon now! – Peter exclaimed. – You’re an adult now, and don’t have to listen to your mom’s opinions. – In reality though, Peter was terrified hearing himself saying that. He thought Uni-Mother was a very attractive woman, the one his father respected very much.

– We’ll see, – Uni decided. – I may have to get back to you on this. – She then returned to her classroom and continued working on the apron, thinking about what had just happened.

Once the class ended, Uni’s friends were all over her. Beatrice the Beaver was particularly eager to know all about an earlier incident.

– So, Peter and his friends just decided to stop by and say hello? – she asked.
– Well, they weren’t sure if any of us would be willing to join their group this Saturday.
– Are you even serious right now? – The Fluff Bunny exclaimed. – Of course, we would be! And we are!
– Yes, indeed! – Other bunnies chanted. – We should definitely meet them on Saturday!
– How are we going to connect? – the Beaver said. I don’t have a cellphone.

At that time, no one in Beastown had a portable device. Or, in any time, really. This was the world they lived in. When there was magic, there usually was no wi-fi.

– We will think of something, – Uni said. Even though she was not entirely thrilled, the idea of meeting new people and networking was quite appealing. The only problem there was, she’d now have to explain her agenda to the Mama Corn.

In the evening, Uni did all her homework early. She wanted to be prepared for the big talk with her mom, and thought she’d also make dinner and bake something to create a fitting atmosphere. Mama Corn got home from work late, tired and stressed out. Apparently, there were many of ram, trying to fill their prescriptions during the day. Uni waited until it was a good time, and started to present her weekend plans, when someone knocked on the living room window.

– Who might this be? – Wondered the Mama Corn. – It’s 9 o’clock on a school night!
– Let me check, – Uni responded. When she looked outside, her heart stopped for a moment. All of her visitors from earlier in the day were outside, having parked their bikes by the Corn garden fence.
– Mom, there are just a couple of friends from school, – Uni said. – I’ll have to go and ask them what they want.
– Ok, don’t be too long, – Mama Corn advised. – I’ll hop in the shower in the meantime.
Having spent most of her days with Bunnies and Rabbits, Mama Corn used their terms, sometimes.

Uni hesitated before stepping out. She looked in the mirror, fixed her shirt and made sure there was nothing stuck to her horn. Horns can hide biggest of surprises, after all. Then, she breathed in and opened the door, to the street and the new possibilities alike.
The boys were excited and talkative, except Val. Uni thought they may’ve had something not intended for minors to drink. Peter asked about Saturday again, and whether any of Uni’s friends were going.

– Too soon to tell, – she responded. I haven’t had a chance to speak with my mom yet.
– Really? Just forget it! – Peter was not happy with that answer.
– I will speak with her, – Uni was slightly offended. And my friends would love to join!
That part was satisfying for the group. They all agreed on connecting the next day, to confirm the meeting place before the club. Right before they started their bikes to leave, Val faced Uni.

– If you can make it, I will come and pick you up, – he said.
At that moment, Uni has already made her mind and decided to go, no matter what.

Upon returning to the house, Uni’s knees were trembling. She was getting ready for the conversation, and terrified by it. Mama Corn has just gotten out of the shower.

– Mom, about this Saturday, – Uni started. – Is it okay if I go out with school friends?
– Of course, dear! – the mother responded. – Are you going to craft at Katie’s house?
– Well, actually, we were thinking about going to the club…
– NO! – Mama Corn shouted. – Why would you think this? Those clubs are filled with drunkards and druggies! – Then, after a moment, – Who else is going?
– Katie is going too! – Uni cried. – Also, Val volunteered to pick me up.
– And you didn’t mention it before? – Mama Corn sounded surprised. – Then, of course, you can go!
Uni was quite surprised by that reaction. Not that she expected a positive resolution – she just couldn’t imagine that Mama Corn would be happy about her going out with a boy.
– As long as you’re not going by yourself and there’s someone to bring you back home! – Mama Corn continued. – Besides, Val seems to be a decent young goat!

Deep down, Uni suspected that Mama Corn had this idea somewhere, deep inside her mind. Both Val’s and her mothers worked in medicine and had a lot in common. Val’s mom, the Doctor Goat, has always been fond of Uni, when they saw each other at the clinic. Uni, as all other kids, had to visit the clinic once in a while to get shots, get examined or receive prescription if she got sick. Although Mama Corn, having worked at the pharmacy, usually got all the necessary meds for Uni and herself without a physician’s recommendation. Her and Doctor Goat trusted each other and had a really efficient working relationship.

Saturday crawled upon Uni faster than usual. The school week has ended, and there was a whole day to spend before the club outing, since Mama Corn was working that day as well. She always worked, often 6 days a week, to be able to support the Corn family. Uni had practiced her ballet in the morning, read some literature, and decided to paint her nails black.

Mama Corn was surprised by the latter part. Uni, who was a “pretty weird kid” in her eyes, still preferred girlier looks most of the time. That Saturday though, Uni picked black and silver pants, fishnet shirt, and dark burgundy stilettos to match her lips. She had a ragged rockstar look, which Mama Corn adored, thinking her baby girl has really grown up.

Val, the Goat-Metalhead, arrived at exactly 7pm. He knocked on the window, and patiently stayed outside, waiting for Uni. When she appeared, he couldn’t look away.

– You look very nice, – he said.
– I want to, – Uni responded, not knowing what else to add.

When they arrived at the club, all their friends were already there. Girls wore bright makeup and heels and had a special sparkle in their eyes.

– Want a joint? – Beatrice the Beaver asked. – It actually tastes great!
– No, I’m good for now, – Uni was slightly shocked. She did’e expect all her friends to be sober, but this atmosphere was not something she was used to.

It was a beautiful night, and they stayed outside for a while. Then, people started disappearing: many went inside to dance, someone decided to get to know each other more intimately. By 9pm, Uni and Val were the only ones left in the alley. Silence felt really good, uninterrupted.

– Have you beed here before? – Val started the one-on-one conversation.
– No, this is my first time. Not sure I like it very much though.
– Do you want to leave? – He sounded concerned. – We can go anytime.
– It’s not that. I like it here, outside, though I’m not sure if I want to go in.
– Not big fan of dancing, then?
– Well, I like dancing and I do ballet, but this type of music.. I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense!
– Same here! – His eyes sparkled. – I can’t relate to anything pop.
– That’s what I heard… You’re into metal, correct?

Having said that, Uni instantly regretted. She didn’t want to sound odd, and make him feel uncomfortable. It’s not that she enjoyed gossip or other people’s opinions, but she did hear from other people that Val was not like the others. He did dress in all black, after all. He did like metal. His hair was long and wavy and smelled.. delicious? Suddenly, she was so confused. Her note didn’t have any affect on Val though, and he continued, as nothing had happened.

– Yes, metal is the only kind of music for me. I get irritated by pop and the cultural influence it has. I mean, look at them: all copying each other, pretending to be someone else.
– Very true! That’s why I like classical, – Uni noted. – It makes me feel elevated, motivates me to do better things. Do you like it?
– I really do, – Val responded. – Especially, if it’s a part of the ensemble! Have you heard any metal compositions, performed with a live symphonic orchestra?
– Not yet, – she smiled. – Sounds like a great idea though! Do you have any recommendations?
– In fact, I have a few CDs you might like! – He was so eager, and so interested.
They stayed outside till late night, talking. It felt so natural and much-needed. At midnight, they both realized it was time to go. Val walked Uni home, showing his knowledge of astronomy he’s studied during summer break. She looked at the pitch-black midnight sky and felt very happy.

– How was it? – Mama Corn was awake, and eager to hear Uni’s stories.
– It was good, mom. – Uni responded. – I’m tired though, and need to go to sleep.
– Go on then, – Mama Corn wasn’t convinced. – You can tell me anything, you know.
Uni knew, she just wasn’t ready to share her feelings yet. There were definitely some feelings, perhaps, of the kind she’d never experienced before.

Next day, Val stopped by Uni’s house, and the day after that. And so on, every day. They kept seeing each other at school, after school, and during the weekends. Uni’s friends were all questions at first, yet they stopped asking after a while. Her best friend, the nicest of Bunnies, Katie, knew that Uni wasn’t into gossip, so she never asked the details. She did mention that school beasties were talking though.

– They all call him a Satanist, you know, – Katie once said. He does wear all black and never talks about his life, right? Being from a good family doesn’t always guarantee anything.
– He’s a great Goat! – Uni protested. – He’s smart and kind and honest, and I don’t care what others say!
– You are aware that Goats’ horns stand for a Pentagram? – Katie inquired.
– No matter what the saying is, he’s the one. – Uni was sure of it.
– I know, dear. He does seem like a nice guy, I just don’t want you to get hurt.

The fall was over and winter came and with it, the holiday season. Uni stayed at school after hours, volunteering, dancing and crafting for Christmas sale. Not that she cared for Christmas itself, but the proceedings went to charities and she wanted to help those in need. Val was studying a lot, getting ready to apply to colleges in Spring. They saw each other only a few days a week now, both being overwhelmed by their responsibilities. “Metalheads”, as friends lovingly named them, were on their way to bigger challenges.

New Year’s Eve party was held at Val’s house, whose parents and brother were traveling. He invited Uni and a few other friends, and the night was spent in a warm and welcoming environment. By that time, Uni got accustomed with many metal genres and grew to love a few, mostly melodic doom and classic hair metal. They reminded her of times she never knew, as she hasn’t been born yet. By late night, most of their friends have secluded themselves into other rooms, and Uni and Val stayed in the living room, listening to Scorpions and dreaming of all the great times to come.

There was a short break between winter holidays and spring semester, which strangely, turned into a heartbreak. Val started working part time to get ready for his new college life, and Uni was too preoccupied with all the future education-related matters. Sometimes, she considered leaving everything behind from the past life in order to start a new one. Val had the opposite vision: for him, building a new life was more secure on already existing fundament. Once Uni brought the idea of separation to him, he sighed, yet said it was all up to her. She was too distracted, too excited, too unprepared for this new life, and chose to move on.

Summer flew by in a myriad of golden speckles, and fall was awaiting, with a warm smile and a brisk hug. Uni was all the way into her new curriculum, and Val continued studying full time and working as much as possible after. They saw each other sometimes, while in transit, or at bus stops, without making any verbal contact. Sometimes, they smiled. More often, Uni diverted her eyes and turned away, before bursting into tears.

Most of Uni’s school friends asked her all these questions about her new occupation, and never once mentioned the “Metalheads” breakup. Thinking it was pure politeness, Uni also stayed away from the topic and tried to sound as enthusiastic as possible. It wasn’t until she and Kate, who moved out of town in spring, finally met in person, she could see the bigger picture.

– How have you been among all the nerds? – she cried, once Uni loosened her grip against Kate’s delicate neck.
– Studying a lot, and reading more! – Uni smiled. – How’s your med schooling going, must be a lot to take in?
– Not really, I knew what I was getting into! It’ll be fine, at least, until the exam period. You better tell me what’s going on in the Metalhead world, are you guys doing anything fun this fall?
– We.. are not, – Uni exhaled, – we broke up before summer.
Only then, Uni realized she hasn’t filled her best friend in yet. There was a lot emotional paraphernalia involved, so we leave it at that. Kate always had a talent to summarize a story though:

– You can’t really break up: together, you’re basically, the last Pentacorn!

That phrase brought a lot of clarity into Uni’s troubled mind. Not long after, she sent Val a message: “We need to talk”. After 3 months of silence. At 1:30 am. On a weeknight. 5 minutes later, she received a response: “Name time and place”.

On a windy November night, Uni walked into the magic of a century-old cobbled alley Val used to take her for walks after school. He was standing there, dressed in all black, leaning onto a light pole. In semi-darkness, his majestic, twisted horns reflected the smooth black of his hair. Uni approached him from behind, only able to say a quiet, Hello. He trembled with his entire being and turned around; his eyes, gleaming.

– With a friend’s help, I realized, we are the Last Pentacorn, she smiled.
– You are my first and last, and my only one, Val took her hand.

Together, the 2 mystical creatures disappeared into the night. Light and Dark, pure and purer. There was a trail of sparkly dust left in the alley: a road to new possibilities and endlessly bright futures.


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