This week's Flash Fiction piece is brought to you by Monique Happy. Find her links at the end, and enjoy!
Triumph of Chastity
She cocked her greying head and listened intently. She could faintly hear a baby crying, which was odd because she was nowhere near the village. It should have been deserted this far out in the forest. She rose stiffly to her feet, grabbed the lantern from the table and stepped outside. The evening air was cool and dark, and the lantern cast only a faint circle of light around her feet. It was enough, however, to light her way along the path to the creek. She could still hear the baby, its wail drawing her on. She shivered and hugged her shawl more tightly about her with her left hand, the right holding the lantern before her.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” She called out, then wondered why she felt so nervous. After all, if someone was traveling the dark forest at night with a baby, they probably weren’t a brigand or a…
She froze as she heard the branch break. All sounds nearby ceased, the forest holding its breath. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck bristle and she knew she was not alone.
“Hello? I know you’re there. Come out.” She tried a commanding tone, but her voice quavered, betraying her fear. She cleared her throat and called out again, louder this time. “Show yourself!”
Slowly, out of the darkness ahead a large, glowing shape detached itself from the lingering shadows of the conifer trees. Pacing regally towards her was a creature straight out of myth. It was vaguely horse-like in appearance, but its head was tinier, its neck more sinuous and lithe. What brought a gasp of delight to her wrinkled lips was the creature’s luminescent, nascent horn which spiraled straight up from its forehead. The unicorn - for that’s what it was - stopped directly in front of her and then bent its front legs in obeisance. It bleated gently, and she recognized the sounds she'd been following.
"Well, hasn't this turned into a fortunate excursion? Come here, my beauty," she crooned, aged hands stroking the unicorn's nose. The beast rose to its feet and trustingly followed her along the path towards home. The old crone smiled to herself, her fingers tangled in its mane. With what she could get for selling the unicorn's parts on the black market, she could retire and get out of this damned forest. It certainly came in useful, sometimes, being the oldest virgin in the kingdom.
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