In 1956 JR and George are ten years old and the best of friends; their ‘playground’ is Stapleford woods. It’s a bright sunny day, when, near an ancient oak, they discover some spots of a silver liquid shimmering and sparkling on the grass.
Is it paint? George asks.
Dunno. There’s no tin. Bad people dump tins of paint.
What’s them? JR asks, pointing at tiny silver footprints amongst the silver spots.
George takes a closer look. Too small for a deer. Is it fairies?
Fairies? JR asks. You don’t believe in fairies, do you?
Nar, that’s a girlie thing, but it’s a mystery. We could pretend we’re detectives and follow the trail of spots.
We don’t have to pretend, cos they’re real, JR says.
They follow the trail.
You excited? JR asks.
Yeah. Wonder what we’ll find.
If it was a hurt animal, its blood it should be red not silver, JR observes.
If it’s bleeding, it could need help.
Do magical creatures bleed? What did Mr Southall say?
About what? George asks.
The Royal coat of arms has got a unicorn on it. He said it was mythical.
Teacher said they was as rare as hens’ teeth, George says. One of them girls said a unicorn has silver blood.
The trail leads them to a leafy glade. JR stares at the grass. Blood’s stopped, he announces. You search over in the bushes and I’ll go down to see if it’s at the bottom of the field.
George sets off as JR disappears into thick undergrowth. After a few minutes, he stops dead in his tracks. As he stares at an open tin of silver paint, he hears George shouting, Any luck?
JR hesitates. No, nothing here, he says and carefully buries the tin in undergrowth.
Back in the glade, George looks downhearted.
Cheer up; it’s been an adventure, JR says. It’ll be shy, or hiding. We gotta promise each other to keep our Unicorn secret; we don’t want him frightened off.
George uses his penknife he makes a tiny cut in their index fingers.
They rub their bloodied fingers together and swear silence.
Many years later they return to the village to celebrate their seventieth birthdays and agree that they’ll return to the glade for the last time.
Did you ever think the Unicorn was here? JR asks as they stand in the leafy glade.
Not really. But I wanted to, JR says, wishing he could take back his lie.
The two men turn. In a bright pool of sunlight a unicorn whinnies and nods his horn. Get a photo, quick, JR says.
Using his phone camera George videos the Unicorn.
Let’s see, JR asks.
George presses play. Both men look down at the screen.
George shouts in triumph, We got him! We got evidence.
They look up; the Unicorn has gone.
Looking back at the screen they watch the images of the Unicorn disappear.
I need to tell you something, George, JR sighs.
© Phil Cosker 2023
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.