4: The Herd

Jack unpacked the camera kit from the Range Rover and hoisted it onto his shoulder. Newswoman Kay Bailey was already marching through the crowd, screaming at people to get out of the way.

“News team, coming through,” she commanded. He was surprised she didn’t start with the don’t you know who I am, although that would probably come later, it usually did. He had seen pensioners and disabled passersby shoved to the ground in her arrogant stampede before. Jack sighed and ran after her. Every day with the uberbitch he thought about changing careers or retiring. He was only 25.

Social media had exploded, and the story was juicy and idiotic enough to send the 24 hour news channels into a feeding frenzy. A unicorn on the rampage. A real life unicorn in modern Britain. Animal rights campaigners, naturalists, environmentalists, social media gurus, politicians, police spokesmen and smug consultants were all getting their soundbites in the sun before chuckling newscasters. The story appealed to both the sarcastic unbelievers and the wide eyed suckers who so desired a mythical fairy tale animal to be real, even if it was a supposed killer responsible for a string of deaths.

The crowds had descended onto Dartmoor, where the last hoax sighting had been reported. Traffic had been a nightmare, and they had gone off road to shoehorn their way to the front of the herd, Kay threatening his bonus if Jack hit another ditch while she did her makeup.

The classic moor fog was thick and heavy, casting the heaving masses as silhouettes in the wilderness. Birdwatchers, cultists, professional protestors and picnicking families made up the rabble, despite police warnings to stay at home. After all, if a dangerous animal really was loose, why the hell would you want your six year old to pet it? But this was Brexit Britain, where people craved fantasy invention over facts.

Kay reached the outer limits of the throng, and spun to face the crowd, microphone at the ready. Panting, Jack reached her just in time to catch her vicious glare.

“Hope you’re ready,” she spat. He gave the thumbs up.

“Good.” The angelic smile appeared. “We’re here at Dartmoor where the last reported sighting of a unicorn has attracted hordes of well wishers…”

There was a yell from the crowd. “There it is.”

Everyone, including Jack, span en masse, and he joined their amazement as the shadow in the fog caught his lens. On a mound above them was a unicorn, celestial in the mist. A white horse with a mammoth spike on it’s head, overlooking its fans.

“My god, this is going to get me the damn Nobel,” said Kay. “I’ve got to be the first.”

Every time she opened her mouth Jack was tempted to bite her delusion in two, but he never did, being more than his job’s worth. Begrudgingly, he had to admit that narcissistic arrogance did grow her bigger balls than most. She strode forward, the courageous journalist first in line to befriend the ghostly creature.

Maybe she had a point, and some kudos could rub Jack’s way. This was amazing television. The cameraman kept a respectful distance, relying on the power of the zoom, as she soldiered up the hillock to the horse, who watched her approach, still and proud. He could hear her report through his earphone as she strode.

“I’m walking up to the unicorn now… its not moving… its not scared of me… I have to say its beautiful… this really is the most incredible thing… the first unicorn in years… and we were here first… I’m proud to be here… wow… its so big, so very big… oh, wait…”

Then it happened. The unthinkable. The unbelievable. A cameraman’s dream. The unicorn bucked suddenly, and Kay fell to the ground. The animal kicked her and she rolled arse up. The crowd gasped as one as she rose magically into the air beneath its belly. How could a horse hold a woman without using its hooves? Her shriek answered the question.

The animal had a second horn, as mighty between its legs as the one shining above its head. It thrusted manically, equine neighs drowning out human screams as the star reporter juddered with the frenzied motion of a puppet on a stick. The unicorn went up on its two hind legs, braying with laughter, and a hundred flash bulbs illuminated the tableau as Kay’s eyes popped out her head in a sputum of blood.

Jack had to hand it to the beast, it knew how to put on a show.

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