Been feeling a bit morbid the past few days. Don’t worry, nothing serious, it’s a favourite past-time of mine, and has been since I was seven years old and my favourite hamster was found dead of exhaustion on the pavement outside our house. He had run away – so I’m sure there’s a lesson in there for all of us, somewhere. (His name was Columbo, but there’s definitely no lesson in that, and this piece of information is quite irrelevant to the subject of this post…) Anyway, since then I’ve developed the habit of envisaging the mortality of both myself and those close to me – really, sometimes the days just fly by.

But it’s the juxtaposition between all that we cherish and the inevitabity of death which fascinates me. If we knew things would go on forever they would quickly lose their significance. Love (and hate) would become mere passing fancies which we could be sure would come again,until they became indistinguishable blips on our emotional scales – if we could still talk of emotion. No, the intensity of and vivacity of love is always outlined by the depth of its loss, and this, between people, is always ultimately represented by death.

Of course, it is always a tragedy when death exposes its brutish head and transforms our love for someone into pain. We cannot avoid running this gauntlet all through our lives, but maybe our consolation is that it would be a pale and bland life without it.

As you see, I could go on and on about this topic, but I’m feeling hungry now, and despite my dark moods, I would really like to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, otherwise, how could I enjoy my funk to the full? I think I’ll have a pizza.

Sometimes I think that a preoccupation with reality is not always a good thing, especially if we want to look on the bright side of things – so I wrote a fairy tale as a metaphor for first love, the first time, sex etc…


Once upon a time, in a land, which, being the most distant of all lands upon this earth, is found closest to our hearts, lived a young princess. She, being so gentle, was called after a flower whose delicate and beautiful nature reflected her own, and was so named Chrysanthemum.

And indeed, the delicacy of nature being only a reflection of her own innocent soul, the touch of her skin was softer than the melting of the lightest snowflake upon the leaves of her namesake, and her hue was more radiant and as tender as the waxing light of the slowly fading silver of the morning moon. And indeed, the red of her lips was deeper than the single drop of crimson left by the fall of the chrysanthemum petal when it finally kisses the forest floor, and the dancing sparkle of her dark eyes was brighter than the glint of Venus in the evening sky. And indeed, the wave of her silk stranded hair was finer than the slenderest spray issuing from the curl of the sea upon the sand, and the ring of her voice more playful than the laughing gargle of the sprightliest mountain spring.

Although blessed in the mirror of nature, she, like all good princesses in all good fairy tales, was possessed of a troubled spirit. For the stately life of public duties and all that was necessary for them was slowly dawning upon her. There was so much to be done, so many new people to meet, so many new things to learn, and, worst of all, so many decisions to be made. It was all so breathtaking, so exciting, but oh, how difficult it all was to keep abreast of. Some days she could not even remember exactly what she had done, she had rushed so from here to there, from this to that, with hardly any time to place her dainty feet upon the ground.

Whilst this was all well and good, for she had plenty to occupy herself with, and found her days to be filled with puzzling new experiences and excitements, sometimes it would all be a little too much and she would sigh wistfully for a little quiet, a hushed place where she could simply repose and enjoy some peace. And so, occasionally, timetable permitting, she would leave her busy life in the palace, and wander out of its grounds, to the edge of the great forest which surrounded it. Here she would sit and drink of the fresh pure air, and let her thoughts wander dreamily through her head whilst her body rested in the cool caress of the breeze swept grass.

But always, always, sooner or later, nagging doubts would disturb her reverie – shouldn’t she be meeting so and so today, had she really studied hard enough yesterday, did she have to rise early tomorrow, oh, what would the future bring? – and so sometimes she would despair at the clamour of her daily duties, and find herself wishing that they could be conjured away, as if by magic, to leave her in the warm comforting clasp of the forest’s edge.

One particular day she found this feeling to be so strong that she feared it might press down and suffocate her. The weather had been so fine on this day that it had made her heart leap with pleasure as she peered out of her window in the soft morning light. She had run out of the palace to tread barefoot in the succulent grass, feeling herself nuzzled by the warmth of the sunlight, her flushed skin tingling in the touch of the light breeze, wafting the satin fragrances of honeysuckle and hyacinth over her. Delight pricked the corners of her mouth to a smile, and she felt she could have danced to the merry bird song floating in the air.

But then, on seeing the height of the sun in the sky, a finger of ice touched her spine as she remembered the time. At two was her french lesson, then tea with a courtier, and then dinner with the Queen, to be followed by a piano concerto….oh, the list seemed endless.

Tears of anger needled her eyes, for the day was so fine and the forest so serene, she wished she could stay forever enfolded in its endearing embrace. Why did life have to be so? Why couldn’t it be otherwise? In frustration she stamped her foot, but her anger was dissipating as a heavy melancholy settled over her, sad tears freely streaming down her blanched face. She wandered ponderously over to where her shoes had lain, her lip trembling, her heart wrenched by a hollow sigh, the reason for which she could not fathom.

And then she started. Her shoes were no longer where she had left them. Bewildered into forgetting her sad state, she looked around and about, but they were nowhere to be seen, they had simply vanished into thin air. She could not return to the palace shoeless, for not only was that unbecoming for a princess, it would also be painful for her delicate feet. Bemused, she sank down to sit upon the ground, not knowing what to think. Then, to her left, from within the forest, she heard the rustling of bushes and, peering hard in the direction of the sound she thought she saw something moving. Slowly she stood up and walked over right up to the line of trees which marked the beginning of the forest. Trepidation made her blood beat through her veins and her stomach turn over, but, clenching her fists, she took a step into the twilight, and stared into the gloom ahead.

Again, this time slightly to her left, something moved, and, without thinking, she ran towards it, stumbled against a clutching bush, and fell right through it. Although she landed with a bump which sounded like the crash of a drum amongst the quiet of the wind whispering trees, the foliage of the forest floor cushioned her fall and she lay there unhurt, although a little ruffled. When she looked up from where she lay she let out a loud gasp of astonishment at what she beheld.

For she had fallen into a small clearing in the forest, where the sunlight managed to break through the sky stretched trees and dappled the greenery which melted softly into shadow. Small rabbits sprung here and there, undisturbed by the new arrival, whilst woodland birds warbled and flitted overhead. But it was not at this tranquil scene that the princess had gasped, but rather at the beast which stood before her in the middle of the clearing.

She gazed with such wonder in her eyes that she actually forgot to be frightened. At first she thought the animal was a large horse, but as her eyes grew accustomed to the light she saw otherwise, and gasped once more. For such a horse had she never before seen. Standing proud, its back reached the height of a tall man carrying another upon his shoulders, its coat glistened with the shimmering shifting colours of a golden autumn fall, and its eyes burned blacker than the hardest stone of moonlit coal. Its flanks and shoulders were staunch and breathed with a heavy pervading power, whilst its mane hung, silver carved in gold, thick and shining upon its broad taut neck. But what truly held the princess’s eye was the curl of the sharp gleamed silver horn striking out from the finely chiselled beam of the animal’s head, which defied all rational words of explanation.

A Unicorn…” she stammered, “but Unicorns don’t exist…,” and she jumped back suddenly as the animal loudly and roughly snorted through quivering nostrils, shaking his massive head as if in admonishment. But she could not help smiling with delight for as its mane swung through the air the fine strands sang with the distant laughter of young children playing, and she could have sworn that its eyes glinted with a hint of amusement. Then she cried out “My shoes, you have my shoes!”

And indeed, entwined around the animal’s neck were her shoes, waiting to be rescued. And then the animal did a curious thing. It folded its legs beneath its body, and looked directly at the princess. She caught her breath as, within her head, she heard the deep chime of a wordless voice, urging her to approach the supine animal. As if in a trance she rose to her feet and walked slowly towards it, her breath trembling in her mouth as she saw its beauty close to, and its strength. And, without knowing what she was about, she clambered upon the animal’s back, curling her hands in the velvet soft furl of mane, her head swimming with the recklessness of what she was doing.

Suddenly the Unicorn surged forward, springing wildly into the air, and careering off into the forest at full gallop. She screamed in terror, but the wind of its passage whipped the sound from her mouth and she clung tightly to the mane, terrified she would be dashed against the bough of a tree, or be thrown off and smashed against the ground. At first she prayed with all her might that the animal would soon slow down, but it ran on and on, ever faster and faster until she thought she was floating in an unreal world made of roaring dancing colour. But soon her vision took on the clarity of mountain water, and she uttered small cries of pleasure as the forest unfurled before her, the woodland animals dancing out of the path of the great beast, and far from falling, she felt as safe as a child in its mother’s arms, whilst the branches of the trees curled away to let her pass, their leaves lightly brushing her face like the tiny kisses of butterflies, and slowly, still on the animal’s back, the rocking movement began to make her feel drowsy, and it was not long before she fell into a deep slumber.

When she awoke she found herself cradled in the moss carpeted roots of an ancient oak. She looked around sleepily, lulled by the quiet murmur of a gurgling spring running by her side. “I’m dreaming,” she thought until she felt the moist hot breath of the Unicorn upon the back of her neck and realized it had been standing over her like a guardian angel all the time she had slept. “Oh, it’s you,” she smiled, and said playfully “You know, you probably ruined my dress,” and this time her spirit smiled as she once again heard the laughter of the Unicorn’s shivering mane. She looked down at her apparel, and drew her breath in sharply. For she was clothed in a dress of tiny flowers of a sugar sweet smell and of a blue so pale she feared to touch it less it fade away to nothing. She sighed happily, and slipped once more into sleep.

The next time she awoke, she awoke with a start, for the sun had begun to set, and spiked fingers of shadow had begun to curl around her. She sprung to her feet, sleep falling quickly away to fright as she looked wildly around for the Unicorn. But it was no longer in sight. She span this way and that as panic began to set in, “I have to get home” she thought wildly, “Oh, how will I ever get home?” Tears welled in her eyes and she called out loud, fear clawing at her voice as the forest darkened swiftly, “Where are you? Come back, please, come back!” she shouted. But almost as soon as she had shouted she heard a rustling of leaves and there stood the Unicorn, and in its mouth it held a branch heavy with succulent fruits of all kinds. The animal trotted over to her, its mane still singing with laughter, its eyes bright, and dropped the branch at her feet, and nudged it towards her with its nose.

The princess, still shaking with fright, looked up at the grand beast, her face wet from her tears. Trembling she said, “Oh thankyou, but really, I must be going now, I must go home – there’s dinner with the Queen, you see, and a courtier to see, although I won’t miss him too much, and there’s a piano concerto…” Her voice trailed of into silence as the Unicorn glared at her, and then once more nudged the branch of fruit towards her. “No, I can’t…” she stammered, “Please, let me go, take me home…” and then she turned and ran off into the dark forest, branches tearing at her face, brambles clawing at her knees. She ran and ran, until she fell to the ground, her body wracked with her sobbing. She looked up slowly to see the Unicorn standing over her, and she cried out loud “Take me home, take me home.” The animal snorted, and rose up on its hind legs, its hooves slashing at the empty air, and the princess covered her ears, as it let loose a great roar of pain and rage, as if a white hot sword had pierced its heart. The princess rose to her knees, her sobs dragging the breath from her voice, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please take me home…” and she fell crumpled to the ground unable to control her weeping.

After a while her tears subsided, and she looked up, bleary eyed, to see the Unicorn waiting for her, once more knelt down on the ground. It watched her with a heavy eye as she slowly and wearily climbed upon its back, and once more it surged off into the now black forest. This time the princess saw nothing, only darkness prevailed, until they broke through the edge of the forest, into the clear moonlight. The princess dismounted, and quietly stroked the Unicorn’s neck, whilst it nuzzled her cheek. Once more, she heard the voice chiming in her head, urging her to stay, but she sadly shook her head, and said “I’m sorry, I can’t, you know I can’t,” and watched as a single large tear fell heavily from the Unicorn’s eye to the ground, and then the Unicorn was gone.

The princess sank heavily to the ground, she could go no further, she had to rest, to sleep, and soon that sweet healing darkness enfolded her as she drifted off.

Her nose twitched again at the fly that was tickling it, and her heavy eyes opened, as she raised her hand to brush it away. Startled, she looked around, and then laughed aloud. The sun was shining, she had her own dress on, and her shoes lay by her side. It had all been a dream, she had dozed off and dreamt everything – of course, Unicorn’s weren’t real, how silly of her. And then she felt something resting upon her head, and, lifting her hand, felt flowers in her hair. She grasped at them, and found it was a garland of delicate white roses. Puzzled and a little afraid, she looked up, and there, where the Unicorn had shed its single tear, grew a magnificent pear tree, full with its heavy fruit. And circling its trunk was a beautiful rose tree, from which her white roses had come. She swallowed as she remembered what had occurred, and, sighing, she stood up and began to walk back to the palace. She did not know whether she would ever see the great beast again, but she knew that the tree would always be there for her, to remind her of the magic of the Unicorn.

© andrew rossiter 2009