Although the sun had gone beyond the horizon at least an hour before, the sky was still bright over the dense canopy of the forest, offering glimpses of light that I was grateful for as I made my way along the stony path. Late though I was for my engagement, and so far from where I had set out, at least I had some help from the celestial spangles above. A gentle breeze lifted my skirts from my calves and twisted tendrils of my hair, and spoke to the trees of rainy weather to come. Leaves rustled overhead and branches swayed to obscure the stars and dance with shadows. Despite the occasional call of a night wren, or the soft hoot of an owl, the certainty of being so alone in the dark woods weighed heavily, and a sense of foreboding loomed over my mind, causing me to glance over my shoulder far too often to keep up a quick pace. Why had I waited so long to make this journey? I feared I would be too late. Best not to dwell on the unthinkable.
The very air seemed to glow around me as mist swirled and created apparitions on the trail as I passed. But wait; the atmosphere was indeed becoming brighter. The mist was taking on shapes I could no longer pass off as daydream fancy. Was that a maiden cloaked in opalescent finery? Was that swirl caused by a peacock’s fluttering wings? I must have been delirious. I strayed from the pathway and knelt in a soft bedding of green ferns and moss. It was dark; I rested there a moment, to reclaim my bearings. As I looked about, orbs of light rose from the forest floor; fireflies, or faeries, I no longer knew. The forest suddenly seemed to be overcome with a hush; all living creatures took a bated breath, and waited. The silence deepened. The air stilled. The mist ceased to chill the bone, and at once became warm; a caress from an old friend. Then I saw it.
It seemed to materialize from the very fog itself; a being of cloud and vapour, yet it could not be mere fragile illusion. A powerful and ancient force took form for only a few heartbeats; ethereal and ephemeral all at once, yet unmistakable in its glory. I shall never forget the exquisite form and breathtaking beauty of the unicorn that galloped through the forest that night. It will forever haunt my dreams and tease my waking thoughts. As quickly as it had come, it disappeared as though evaporating along with the mist. I stood from my place on the mossy ground and watched as the myriad orbs of light strung throughout the undergrowth twinkled and went out. Tentatively, a fox called out, and was answered by a more confident owl. The forest came out of its temporary slumber, and the night resumed as any other. Back on the path, I looked for prints; evidence of my encounter. There were only my own. Still I know, deep in my heart, that I saw a unicorn. I believe.