[ Just a warning, this story does hint at sensitive topics like depression and suicide. Please be advised.. and if you ever feel like you are struggling with depression and mental illness… you aren’t alone. Even if it sometimes feels that way. Never feel ashamed to seek help or someone to talk to. ]
Everyone knew that unicorns were supposed to be beautiful, graceful creatures. Myth and legend spoke of incredibly fragile looking alabaster steeds with a glorious golden horn adorning their flawless carved faces. Creatures so pure and elegant that they would only show themselves to the purest of virgins.
This beast before her was fuming clouds of white smoke from large nostrils. It’s horn was wide and thick, curving down towards her in a dangerous point, and the beasts frame was far from fragile or elegant. It was thick, large, muscled and intimidating. It’s bold fierce head resembled that of some sort of primitive oxen which dwarfed her vision. It’s eyes were huge and piercing, split goat-like pupils peering down into her with an uncanny intelligence. It must have towered over her a good few feet. It’s large massive head drooped to eye her closely.
It breathed heavy. It’s large cloven hoofs cracked the earth with it’s weight.
It was far from what she expected. Then again, a unicorn that would appear to her would have to break expectations. She was far from the purest of virgins.
“I don’t understand.” the words tumbled out of her mouth weakly.
“You called for help, and I came. What is there to understand?” It’s voice was deep and rumbling. It reminded her of distant thunder that echoed deep in a storm.
She dared to look away from the massive creature to instead look at her pale palms. They seemed so tiny in comparison. Her pale skin, flushed slightly with nervousness did nothing to hide the white lines tracked back and forth in the skin along her wrists. She rubbed them instinctively, trying to cover the shame.
Had she called it here? Yes, perhaps. In the way one silently cries for help.
“I don’t understand.” She said again, only more feeble this time. “I don’t even know where I am.”
It breathed a loud huff of breath as a response. The fog curled around her and tingled against her skin.
“You are in the Dark place.”
She looked back up to the creature only to notice it hadn’t moved it’s eyes from her. Those large piercing eyes which blinked slow and deliberate. What colour were they? Black, brown… grey? It was hard to tell. Maybe it was all three. “What are you?”
“Is it not obvious?”
“You aren’t like any unicorn I’ve ever heard about.”
“Yet you know what I am. Is that not enough?”
She pondered this, as she glanced around the shadowy place she found herself in. How long had she been here, pondering her own existence? It felt like forever. It almost felt like she couldn’t remember a time she wasn’t here. Trapped in this place. Locked in her own misery.
“Are you here to punish me?”
“Why? It makes sense now. I understand why you’d be here like that if it was to punish me. You are just mocking me, aren’t you? Making fun of my little childish dreams… Of course I wouldn’t get rescued by something pure and innocent! Of course there would be nothing pretty and perfect for me… I’m a failure! I’ve always been a failure!” The tide came to a crest and it all began to flood over. “This is all just what I deserve, I’m useless and ugly and I deserve to be locked away here! You’ve come to make me feel ever worse about myself, is that it?! That’s it, isn’t it? Isn’t it!”
There was a tremendous rumbling then which sounded as if the whole world would cave in. The unicorn had lifted itself up and slammed it’s front feet down in front of her and the crushing weight made the whole world shudder for a moment. It’s massive head breathed a plume of smoke as if it’s entire insides had been ignited coal.
It shook her into a trembled silence as it’s huge head peered down at her with it’s curved sharp horn seemed to cut through the smoked breath like a knife.
“Silence!” It bellowed.
She waited for the inevitable attack, the crushing pain, the piercing horror of it…
“Child, you called for help and I came.” It’s thunder was stern, but softened.
She cast her eyes at it’s large cloven feet, almost the size of dinner plates. They looked large and heavy enough to crush her head with barely a thought. They seemed to be cracking and crumbling the ground around them just from their sheer gravity. She knew it was glaring at her, staring at her intently but she refused to look up into it’s judging eyes.
Nothing seemed to make sense. For years nothing in her life had made sense. Now she was facing down a giant beast that was most likely there to crush her into a pulp and she could barely wrap her mind around how she got to this point.
And then it came back to her with a sick sense of clarity. She had tried to end it all. The scars on her wrists? It wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t the last.
Or maybe it was.
Being lost here? The Dark Place? It all made sense now. She’d actually managed to do it. She’d killed herself and this must be her own type of twisted hell. No rest for the wicked? It must be true.
Just as the panic started to flood and overwhelm her she felt a strange feeling of the beasts chin very carefully resting on her back, somewhere between her shoulders. She tensed and waited but it neither tried to crush her or manoeuvred it’s large head to stab her with it’s horn.
“Yes child. Your illness overwhelmed you. It is an illness of the heart, and a sickness in the mind – but it is not a stain upon your soul. Many have fought such things as you have. Many have found themselves a patron of this Dark Place. Some choose to never leave.”
She saw those large hoofs lift as the beast moved back a step. The very earth still trembled in it’s wake.
“So there is no hope then. This is it. I’ve lost.” She raised her tear stained eyes to peer at the unicorn as it lowered it’s large nose to near inches away from her. “It’s all over?”
It chuckled softly, the breath from it’s large nostrils was once again a plume of white fog which encircled around them in a hazing mist. “Nothing ever ends. It is not over. You can still return. I am here to help you, if you choose to leave this Dark place. You wonder why I come to you, this creature you did not expect?”
She merely nodded as she carefully reached out and dared to touch it’s huge cheek with a shaky hand.
“You are a warrior. You fight a war that is unkind and unfair. You will fall and you will rise, and it will not be pleasant or pretty. You called out to the universe with the dreams of a child, but that child has grown up long ago.”
It leaned into her hand with a careful strength and it’s large eye seemed to look into her very core.
“Perhaps you expected a unicorn like your childhood fairytale? But no Child, I have not come to wash it all away. I have not come to turn back time or make you what you are not. I can not heal you like that. I can not simply will it all away. No creature can. I can help you return however. I can help you leave this place.”
“Then what? What good does any of this do if you can’t heal me? Even if I could go back there… I’d still have to fight all the time! I’d still have depression, I’d still be fighting with my own head…”
“Some healing only happens with ugly scars. Some battles must continue to be fought.”
Out of pure desperation she risked it. Against all common sense she leaned forward and wrapped her arms as far around the large beasts neck as she could and sobbed into it’s thick rough hide.
She thought she felt it rest it’s neck against her but she didn’t care. She sobbed until her body ached. She sobbed until the shame, guilt, pain, and fear leaked out of her in rambled words about how unfair it was and how much it all hurt. Her mind raced faster then her shuddering lips could keep up.
And all along the beast stood and listened as if the tangled rant made perfect sense.
Finally when her frantic release seemed to dry against him and her quickened breaths returned to some semblance of normal he spoke again.
“The Dark place feeds from your most negative emotions. It lures you into believing you are powerless and broken beyond repair. It makes you feel as if nothing you are can save you. It is the shadow in the mirror. It is your darkest reflection made real. It works so well because it fools you into thinking that it is bigger then you are.
I can’t simply take you from it. I’ve not come to heal you. I’ve come to help you heal yourself. I can’t fight your battles for you, but with you. You do not need something tiny and fragile to save you… you never have. You merely need someone to help you see that you are strong enough to save yourself. Come. Let us walk this battle together..”
All around her the dark place started to crack. The ground beneath her started to tremble. No longer was it due to the gravity of the massive presence of the unicorn in front of her – but her own gravity. It shuddered at her self realization.
“We all fight our own battles, sometimes we simply need to remind ourselves why we keep fighting. Sometimes we need a beast of war to heal our battered souls. I can’t promise you it will be easy – but I can promise you’ll never be alone.”