White is the color of the flowers that bloom among the the edges of the garden paths. They all pretend to be smaller replicas of the full moon that reflects from the surface of the pond. This pond lies at the center of my garden. It’s glass-like sheen is buttoned up with rows of ever-blooming lily pads that the fireflies use to waltz upon through the waxing nights. Everything is perfect here. I know the exact time in the evening that the crickets sing and crescendo their hearts until the morning fog gently kisses this world of mine. The dawn blushes in each, new, perfect way, as though she never expected to be wakened once more by a diminishing night. I somehow have imagined to myself that each time the dawn rises, the night is slipping away. He waves softly to her just as she breaks, and his last memories slip beyond her view. She chases after him age after age, never attaining him but always in the same, repetitive circle because she is too blind to be anything other than what she thinks herself capable of being.
Am I like the dawn?
I have always been here. This is my White Palace. I live alone inside these walls and do not know where I came from or what caused me to be. I only feel for certain that I am to remain here until I know that I am to not be so. Everything is provided for me that I would ever need, and I live comfortably, though I only ever talk to myself. My meals are served daily to me and appear in the large dining hall upon the dais. There are two places set at both ends of the table, but I am meant to always eat alone. Once I am finished, everything disappears in the similar manner that it first appeared – in a perfect second. You can never see change happen here in the White Palace. It only ever does.
The forest that exists beyond the White Palace and encloses it goes on for a very long time, but not so long that I cannot view the sea from the highest tower of my fortress. The ocean surrounds this place. There is no way out of here, and I somehow just know it. I think that if I were not meant to be here, I would not be content. I am content, but I am also lonely. I believe that I am supposed to be lonely, for everything here is how it is meant to be in its most perfect state. I am content with being lonely at this perfect second. Beyond this palace of marble floors and painted ceilings exists things in which they are not meant to be. I know this, because I have left the palace walls on several occasions. Outside the White Palace, I exist in a way that I am not meant to be. Both he and I know this.
Though, just because I believe that leaving the walls is not how things are meant to be, does not mean that I haven’t tried to leave them. I wander beyond them almost every evening now. When I leave, I am suddenly not myself anymore. As I enter into the trees that make up the green perimeter of my home, I am changed. It is an instant transformation, and I remember what transpires almost as though I were in a dream.
In this dream-like state, I remember wandering through the trees, though I am no longer myself. I do not think like myself or remember what I am, even though I will remember myself when I suddenly wake in my bed when the morning comes. The trees are suddenly taller than I remember them seeming from afar, and I stand on four white, delicate legs that can move like the gentle, scented breeze which plays in the overhanging wisteria that dips into my garden pond.
That is what my dreams are like. I wished once to know what lies beyond these woods. I wished to see the ocean at the end of them, but whatever I am says that it is not meant to be. He tried to take me there. He wanted to lead me away from here to escape this place so I could be with him, but not every dream is not a nightmare.
The first time I ever saw him was the first day in which I ever left the White Palace and ventured out into the woods beyond in a quest to meet the sea. I had always been here, but Time did not exist in this place until I met him. It was always pleasant summer here, and Time stood still with the sun standing on one side of the horizon and the moon peeking up over the opposite in harmony. I could not tell if it was always dawn or always sunset.
When I stepped into the shadow of the treeline of the woods, I experienced the first night that ever happened in this small and solitary kingdom that belongs to me. It was then that I realized that I was no longer myself…
Moonlight poured to the ground. Glancing up, my eyes blinked, and I saw the dappling, silver light escaping through the tops of the tallest trees that I had ever seen, likened to staring up at the surface of a deep lake with the sun shining on it, and you are far below in the depths. I was not sure how I remembered what that looked like. Maybe, at one time, I lived in a place that was not like this. Though I may have lived in a place that had a lake at one time, I knew that this was my home for an eternity. The White Palace was mine, and I would never leave here, even if I wanted to, but I was content in my knowledge.
Then, I realized, as my strides took me through the darkened woods, that I did not feel the same. My head and neck lowered itself to gaze down and observe two, delicate, but hard white-cloven hooves that supported two, long white legs. Though the appearance was strange to me because I was so accustomed to seeing the bulk of my white gown flourish the floor when I lowered my eyes, I was not startled. Lifting my neck and glancing back, I saw that my entire body was white with the same hooves and legs behind my front. It occurred to me that the woods must have been magic and, upon my entrance, had transformed me into a starkly white mare.
Continuing on, my legs carried me through the darkness as though I were silent moonlight. I felt very free, and a portion of me wished to run and prance through the quiet woods, but I refrained, remaining wary because I had never been to this place, and never had my world seen night. I could not understand why my world was suddenly night when it had never been so before, but I did not feel uneasy about anything. This sudden onset of night was supposed to happen. My transformation into the white mare was supposed to happen. I was supposed to visit these woods.
Suddenly, I came to an opening in the trees that held a small lake that was fed by a small creek that bled through the forest. The silver moonlight showed brightly in this area because the trees were not as tightly enclosed around. Leaning over the glassy water that stood motionless and silent, I gazed down into the water to depict the reflection of the creature that the magical forest had caused me to become.
In the mirror of the lake, I saw the white mare. I shone more brightly than the moon with a white that was more pure than enlightenment. It was an unblemished white, and I stared at myself for several, perfect moments, but I was somehow not surprised or taken aback. I was accepting of my appearance. I was familiar with being this way.
At the very top of my forehead stood a crystal horn that glowed more brilliantly than all of the rest of my pure, white exterior. It appeared to flicker around me like a small, blue star that illuminated the night. I gazed at the horn on my head, and I knew that of all of the things in this place, that of all of the perfect things in this world that accepted to be my home for eternity, the crystal horn that gleamed like a blue star was the most beautiful of it all.
Snapping twigs broke from behind me, and I quickly arched my neck to look around. I was not afraid in the darkness. Being the creature that I was, I felt that no harm would befall me if I chose it not to. Though the white light was dim, it was not difficult to depict the tall man that was gazing at me just then. His eyes were wide and unbelieving. I did not know him, but we continued to stare for a very long time. The light of the moon fell over me from behind where the lake was and lighted the darkness for a small ways into the trees where the man remained, partially concealed by the brush. Our eyes stared and met for a very long time, but his were more disbelieving than mine. Though I could no longer see the stars from the direction that I was gazing, I saw the universe in its entirety glimmer in his eyes for a single, solitary, and perfect moment before he blinked them away. Our gaze was strange. We said nothing but everything. I felt that, in that unforgettably perfect moment, I had touched enlightenment, but had learned nothing. Who was this man? Never before had I ever seen another human exist in this world.
Shaking my mane instinctively, I lowered my head acknowledging his presence, but lifted it as our gazes continued to meld. The wind breathed against me and the memories of lilacs sifted through the air around us before silence continued. It was in that… moment, that the harmony of the night forest had ceased, and the fireflies were suspended in immobile flight like the web of stars that hung in space and frequented his thoughtful, but not quite discernible, glance. Who was this man?
Neither of us said a thing, but a great many things were meant, I think. I wondered who he was and how he got here. Did he come from the ocean? I wanted to ask him who he was and where he came from; but when I opened my mouth, no words came clearly. Instead, as I thought the words that I meant to say to him, the words came in dream-like echoes to his mind directly, and I wasn’t sure how I managed to put them there.
“Do you know the way to the ocean?” I asked.
I could hear my words as they reverberated inside his mind.
“Um. What?” He said out loud in the darkness and seemingly offset in his demeanor. The sound of his voice set the forest back into motion, and the stars began to twinkle, and the frogs and crickets chirped as though they had never ceased.
I did not choose to repeat the question to him. He knew what I asked, so I remained standing as he collected his thoughts.
“The ocean?” he returned finally, attempting to not appear perplexed by his own voice as he awkwardly cleared his throat.
“Do you know the way to the ocean?” I pressed in the same tone that had penetrated his mind before.
“The ocean?” he asked once more after a hard swallow and gasp of air. His eyes were set wide, and I could tell that he was trying to remember what the ocean was.
It was obvious that our conversation was not going to get us anywhere. No wonder he had been placed in this world. It was apparent that he was just as strange as it was, though he seemed a bit unfitting for it in his clothing. Lifting my white hooves, I turned to retreat to the portion of the woods that I had wandered from. There was no point in asking a stray man how to find the ocean if he didn’t even seem to know what the ocean was.
My steps took me forward to the brink of trees before his voice caused me to halt and remain paused.
“Wait, the ocean? You said the ocean, right?” he asked, running up to my side.
I turned to him and stared. His enthusiastic steps led once backwards as our eyes met.
“Yes,” I replied in his mind as my eyes fell into his.
“The ocean! Ah, yes! The ocean…” he tried to smile, but I could tell he was strange. Did he think that meeting a unicorn was strange? If that is what I currently was… yes. A unicorn.
I waited for him to continue talking. He looked around before replying.
“I will take you there,” he replied confidently just as his eyes returned to mine.
“The ocean?” I asked, but he did not catch my sarcasm as to his previously favorite reiterating phrase.
He nodded with a singular, promising motion.
Turning my body fully, I replied: “I will go with you.”
His demeanor was so full of delight that I could almost sense the air around him dance as a pleasant smile lit up his face. He smiled at me for several moments before turning on his heel and bounding off into the woods. My seriousness could not fathom his sudden spark of pleasantness, but I chose to follow him. I wanted to see the ocean. If I found the way to leave this place there, maybe I would. True, my White Palace was the most beautiful place that any thoughts could imagine, but loneliness darkens the greatest of beautiful things.
We walked on for a short time in silence, with the strings of the crickets to create the theme of our midnight wander. It seemed to me that even the stars were singing that night. I had never fully seen the stars in my world, but now that it was completely dark in the sky, they showed with perfection through the crowns of the trees that stated in how many ways I had not yet seen the beauty of my eternal home before. The varied colors of the wisteria hung low and kissed the flowers that were prisoners to the earth like angels that were dropping to find a mortal’s lips.
“Are you a unicorn?” he asked as we stepped over the brook that fed the lake.
“Yes,” I replied.
“You are…” he stopped and turned to me, pausing to gaze at me. I looked up at him with unblinking, deep eyes.
“You are… so beautiful.” he said.
I did not reply. My head lowered to the ground, and I instinctively, once more, shook the snowy, pure white mane that flowed from my neck like frothing crests of the ocean that I so longed for.
We waited as the breeze once more crossed our paths and rustled against and throughout his white shirt. He was perhaps waiting for me to reply, but I did not. After our silence had found an understanding completion, he continued on, and I followed.
“Thank you,” I said at last in his mind, but somehow, the echo of my voice in his head seemed to bounce and play in the wind.
“No, thank you…” he replied with his voice. It was a nice voice. Pleasant. Not too deep, but it was definitely a man’s. I could tell it was, though I was uncertain how the knowledge of a man’s voice sounded existed in my memory, considering I could not ever remember meeting a man, or meeting any person, or ever existing in a life that was not in this small world with the White Palace.
“I have never seen a unicorn before,” he continued. “I did not know…”
I waited for him to finish, but his voice trailed off into thought. We walked on through the darkness. I never asked him to complete his statement, but he eventually did anyway.
“I did not know a lot of things… until I saw you…” he said softly, but he never turned to me. Clearing his throat, he walked on and did not turn to me again. Though I could not understand this stranger, I did not feel alarmed in his presence or uneasy in following him. I could sense things as a unicorn, and some of those things would be intentions of another.
“Do you come from the ocean?” I asked after a time of following his white-shirted frame. He remained silent, though I knew he had heard me. It would be impossible for him to avoid a voice that spoke directly inside his head.
“I do not,” he said.
“Where do you come from?” I asked.
“Where do ‘you’ come from?” he returned the question.
“I have always lived here. This is the forest that surrounds my palace,” I replied.
“You have a palace?” his voice was interested. He wanted to know very much and was brimming with questions that I could tell were itching at him, but he was trying to not overwhelm me and attempted to only ask one at a time.
“Yes,” came my short reply before silence grew between us. I could sense that he wished me to embellish on it, but I did not.
“This is a very beautiful place to call home. It must be nice,” he added. “I bet you live in a very grand palace.”
My silence could not have been more apparent.
“Are there many other unicorns?” he asked.
“I am the only unicorn here,” I answered.
“Oh. You must be lonely.” He had very quick assumptions. “You must like being lonely though; otherwise, you wouldn’t live here if you didn’t.” He lifted an overhanging branch to allow me passage. “Then again, sometimes one must live where one doesn’t want to out of convenience… My apologies if that is the case, but my apologies again because I am fairly certain that everything is convenient for unicorns.”
Noiseless clomping of my cloven-white hooves made more comments on his verbal assessments than I did, but my silence did not quell or impede him.
“If I ever lived in a palace all by myself, then I might be lonely. Actually, I am not sure.” He paused to analyze what he would do as he lifted his well-defined chin into the moonlight and thought very seriously. “I am not sure actually…” He paused again before continuing to walk and lead me away. “I am very good at making the best of things and end up liking situations that others might consider terrible. In a way, I am just good at playing cards, even when they are bad. Do unicorns play cards?”
For a moment, I considered answering.
“Probably not,” he replied, giving me very little time to respond. “Unicorns do not play with luck; they play with magic, and those things are both very, very different.” He smoothed his dark hair with his hands and pulled slightly on it, smiling back at me with well-lit eyes.
“I like your horn…” he continued after a slight pause and a relieving few steps of silence aside from tree frogs and night fowl.
“… Thank you.” I responded formally.
“Do you shine it?” he asked quickly.
“No,” I replied.
“Of course you don’t. Magic things don’t need to be maintained to keep their perfection. I like these trees. They are full of life. Everything is buzzing and humming and singing. Contrary to popular belief, I think that crickets sing because they are happy and want to make the most out of every moment because their lives are so short. The adult cricket actually only lives about three weeks once it is fully matured, so I think they sing so that they can make the most beautiful music that they possibly can in what short time is given to them.”
“How far is it until we reach the ocean?” I asked, ignoring his meandering topic choices.
“I honestly have no idea,” he said without hesitation.
“Well, do you properly know the way?” I asked as my hooves stopped. Standing in my position, I gazed at him as he turned to me with his response.
“Not really,” he replied. “I am just following the Moon. She has never lied to me.” With a whimsical smile, he spun around to look at me. His eyes lifted to see the moon and where it seeped through the branches. “You are like the moon, but you are much, much more beautiful.”
I said nothing.
“Everyone has the ability to see the moon, so its beauty is taken for granted. The moon requires so many strokes upon her egoism that she shows herself nightly for lovers to gaze at. But you… there is not one that has ever taken a unicorn’s beauty for granted. It is an unblemished privilege that I managed to find, and I am so happy, that I could fly. Can unicorn’s fly?”
“If you do not properly know the way to the ocean, we may part ways. I am strictly in preference of seeing it above all other things,” I stated clearly, but without any harshness to my echoing voice.
“Why is it, that you wish to see the ocean when you have so many other beautiful things to see here? Look at the branches and knolls on the wood. Such character. See how they are adorned in leaves wherein none of them are the same? It is unbelievable when you realize that, in all of this expanse of forest, that none of these trees are the exact same. They are all unique. I like this. I was admiring them all just before I saw you, and then I could admire nothing else once I did.”
“I do not think that you should need to know why I wish to see anything,” I replied.
He paused and glanced down from the trees to me. The pleasant smile had diminished from his lips, but my words could not take the smile that glimmered in his eyes.
“I see. My apologies, most beautiful unicorn” he said with a reverent bow towards me. “My apologies also that I do not know your name so that I might apologize to your name directly and must abide by the reference of mere ‘unicorn’ alone, not that any unicorn could ever be considered ‘mere’, but if you should tell me, then I will quickly make heed to bow once more, and with the knowledge of your true name, I would do so with even more enthusiasm than the predecessor.” His smile quickly found its way again, and I could tell that he thought himself clever or funny or both or something.
Then, suddenly, as his large, dark eyes gazed at me with curiosity and pleasantness in the night, I realized something that I had never once thought of before. In all of my life that I had known at my White Palace, the thought had never occurred to me. I was silent and meeting his stare, but my mind was churning. The realization set me off, and I must have looked slightly in the way that he looked when our eyes first met, but I attempted visual composure. It was then that I knew that I did not have a name.
“Oh? You do not wish me to know your name either?” He asked, his eyes narrowing slightly with almost saddened disappointment.
My head lowered to the ground, and my shimmering white mane trailed slightly lower with it. I could feel his eyes examining me, but he was waiting patiently for me to respond. He did not push, but his wondering as to what my name could possibly be did not wane.
“… I do not have a name,” I replied softly.
“No name? The unicorn has no name?” he reiterated as he drew nearer to me. I could not tell if the expression on his face was one of sympathy or adoration or curiosity or wonder. He was quiet in his thoughts, but then, he spoke again with his surmise. “Oh, yes. I see it now,” he continued quietly with understanding. His face was very expressive, which was a contrast against my own, which I knew to have none.
“There is no name befitting one so perfect such as you,” he stated.
I was very silent.
“But then…” he thought aloud, “what name should I call you by in order to refer to you? Nothing would come close to being worthy to be known by she who is the unicorn of the White Palace.”
“Call me as you wish, stranger as long as it does not offend,” I replied.
“As you wish…” a short smile lighted on his features as he bowed with reverence.
We continued to walk in the way that he suggested. I could tell that we were getting further from the White Palace because the peaks could no longer be seen through the cracks in the large boughs of the trees behind us.
“My only wonder now,” he said, “is what kind of name I should come up with for you that would not offend me for how unfitting it would be to describe you.”
“I am sure you will come up with something,” I pressed. I felt the subject was unnecessary. The only importance to me was in seeing the ocean.
“Oh, yes, m’lady. I am quite clever, but that is only because I push my cleverness with consistency and hope to be even more clever than I ever was before.”
“You seem very amused in yourself,” I stated.
“I know,” he replied.
We did not speak again for many hours. The forest was unending and beautiful at times. Time moved forward, and I could tell that the sky was tinting lightly with gray blue as dawn approached.
“We are almost to the ocean,” he said.
I could feel my heart beat more quickly at the sound of his words. Would I really lay my eyes against the sea? Would I find my way beyond this place?
The trees grew smaller as we brushed past the thickets that encased the forest, leading us to the small beachline of white sand.
“See?” he said as the ocean spread out before my eyes and the dawn assembled itself it her purest, magenta glory. “The moon has never lied to me.”
I gazed for a long time into the sunset, and my heartbeat began to meld with the crashing waves against the shore. Slowly, I took steps forward towards the water but never removed my eyes from the horizon that boasted the rising sun.
“I will see you tomorrow evening?” the man asked.
I did not say anything. He walked up beside me and laid his hand against the place on my lower neck where my mane stopped. I did not know what to think. I could barely think. The world was once again frozen in its place, including myself. I was as motionless and silent as the waves that stood upright and the wind that hung my mane suspended in the air.
“Every time I see you, you are more breathtakingly more beautiful than the last time I remembered seeing you, whether beast or my lady. Someday, I will take you away with me from here.” He ran his fingers against the portions of my mane that would not move, even beneath his touch.
The sun still rose as he spoke. Everything else remained as immobile as I was.
“Goodnight, my lady,” he said.