Chasing Black Unicorns
When I agreed to scour the depths of the great beyond, I didn’t expect to find anything. I didn’t expect to find love. I didn’t expect to find her.
It was a send off mission.
One of those missions they dump you on because you’re asking too many questions, finding too many answers, and they really just want you to stop dissecting their heirloom of lies.
Or so I thought.
You see, the portals weren’t supposed to be real. People had written stories about these rumored gateways for ages. In an era where religion was dead, finding a crack in time was the holy grail of our age. Pirates pining for riches and fame struck out looking for these portals with aspirations of becoming legends and gods. Cowards of this age were looking to be daredevils in the next. Most returned crazed. I would bump into a few of them on occasion at bars around the way. I heard their bizarre stories, saw their reddened pensive eyes and shook my head. One guy, a high ranked flyer in his day swore he raced an invisible giant black unicorn – raced him from Uranus to Andromeda he said. Too much radiation exposure, I figured. Hapless, luckless fools, I thought.
But the Agency seemed to take these stories seriously. All of a sudden, the fantastic tails of despots were now top priority. Although my knowledge of space law unnerved my superiors and I was a laser beam piercing their weightless arguments and glacier shifting values, they selected me to go investigate these matters.
"Why me?" I asked.
““Why me?” I asked.
“Because you don’t believe,” they said.
No, I wasn’t a believer in these fractured gateways but I needed a break in time.
My old friend, Del was among the believers, though. My former copilot, he left the Agency chasing black unicorns, I suppose. He always had a pirate’s spirit, and he lived a life treading between dark matter and starlight, trading secrets for fuel, food and anything else he could wrestle from bounty hunters over card games.
I brought him along for this mission impossible that the agency sent me on. Actually he insisted on it and the Agency to my surprise approved. They needed someone with fleeting morals to spy on me. Del, as much as I loved him, wasn’t exactly a straight arrow. But I could trust him to be him, if that made any sense, and he had uncanny sensory abilities and survival instincts that in a pinch were invaluable. Plus, he was a good storyteller who knew the wacky underbelly of galactic characters and on a mission like this you needed a friend with a gift of gab and friends in weird places.
Or maybe I just needed a friend.
The Agency, under the auspices of the Pleiades Project, had assessed that the portals, if they existed weren’t at the heart of black holes as previously assumed. Nor are they hovering in an asteroid field. The black holes were terrestrial: a dock on a Martian lake, an ancient schoolhouse basement on Earth, an old frame house on an abandoned moon.
This, of course, was a different twist, but it gave some credence to some of the off kilter stories I’d been hearing.
Del claimed that other pirates talked of some old world magic man named Sapo who was selling golden watches. These watches were like keys that could unlock these gateways and for hapless souls that made it into the portal; these keys could get them out.
Sapo was as mysterious as the infamous watches. A man in a draconian cloak whose shadow had more definition than his face, he had no story of origin, just a trail of rumored tales of disappearance acts, hypnotized admirers, and magical dinner parties. He supposedly zipped through time and space at will.
Del claimed he saw Sapo once at an old windowless bar on Titan. He caught glimpse of him buying a solid gold watch from “the most beautiful woman he ever saw in his life.” This bar would be our first stop. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I figured I’d d kick the trip off with an icy black one before diving into the Agency’s excuse to relegate me to the great abyss.
But maybe I was already in the great abyss. With the Agency cutting back on my assignments, I was spending more and more time on my quiet patch of land on a distant moon. The high vibes city life was wearing on me. The flight life was wearing on me. With no family to speak of, the stars were my solace. Maybe this was a trip sent to me by the gods. Heaven knows, I needed it.
The bar was as narrow as it was high and lit with a black light that made us all a shade of royal blue. It was packed with drinkers all huddled on high chairs at the bars that lined both sides of the infinite aisle we walked down. The music was loud enough, the crowd was affable. Both of us tried our best to slide past the people dancing in the single aisle.
“Hey Del,” a round faced waitress with mile high pink hair and a glowing white necklace beamed. Del, always the flirt, lived for the scene. He kissed her on the cheek.
“You see Sapo today?” he asked.
“No one says his name in public, Del,” she snapped, looking around as if someone could hear the name over the thrashing bass. “Are you trying to get us banned?” She frowned and darted off.
Del looked around, squinting to see who he recognized. I knew no one. I didn’t seem to know anyone anymore.
“There she is,” he said, nodding toward a woman with ornate coiled hair in a sea of regal locks seated at the far end of the aisle. I couldn’t see her face, but her neck was so elegant, and her posture so stately, I felt like I was looking at the silhouette of a goddess.
“That’s the lady who sold a watch to Sapo,” he whispered.
“Who is she?” I asked. The tall haired waitress pushed past us, and Del leaned in.
“Nina, who’s the lady on the end?” Del asked, flashing a grin as if that would get him a quicker response.
“Get away from me, Del,” she said, juggling her tray of drinks, as the tops rimmed over and splashed the two of us.
“Nina,” Del cried and followed after her, disappearing into the crowd. Del obviously was focused on other things. This was going to be a long trip. So much for back up.
A brazen, barrel chest man with a glowing X on his bare chest and close cropped yellow hair seated beside the mystery woman glided off. The seat next to her was empty.
It felt like a well-timed invitation.
Golden watches, ghost like men, mysterious ladies…why was I here?
Oh, yeah. Because I don’t believe.
“Do you mind?” I asked, sliding beside her. She looked my way with the most haunting brown eyes I’d ever seen. She looked away and I took a seat.
Something about her regal aura caught me by surprise. I’ve been around countless beautiful women, powerful women, deadly women - but her presence was weighted with a depth and magnitude that was uniquely striking. I was wholly captivated by her mystique and instead of shaking it off found myself enjoying the fact that we shared the same space in the same time. Can’t say I ever felt that way before. I took a deep breath. She didn’t look my way, but she was wholly aware of my presence. She was waiting for me to ask the question. Her magnificence was swallowing me whole as if she wanted me to give her a reason to speak.
It felt like she knew me.
“A woman like you would only be here for a reason,” I said coolly.
“So you speak Earth English,” she said with a cavalier curiosity in an accent I didn’t recognize.
“Is there another language that would make you more comfortable?” I asked. “I’d picked up quite a few touring the galaxy and my specialty were those that originated on Earth. But Earth languages were hard to learn if you didn’t go there much. Fortunately, most of the flyers had a penchant for English and Twi.
She responded with a slow sip from her oblong glass that glowed in the dark. I guess English would do.
“Where’d you learn English?” I asked. She smiling to herself as she recalled a vision I would never see.
“On a ship. A large ship in a lake on Earth. Have you been to Earth?” she asked, eying me squarely for the first time. I almost lost myself in her eyes. She was a walking painting, an ancient statue come to life. She must be wearing white, because this black light made her sheer gown lighter than the rest and her silhouette was hard to ignore. Her gold bracelets twinkled like the stars. Only the bangle sound of her jeweled foot at the ankle shook me out of my visual stupor. I was drunk with fascination. She wasn’t wearing shoes.
“Yes,” I said.
“When?” she muttered.
“When?” I asked.
“Yes, when were you on Earth?”
“Last time, about 2 rotations ago. I was in Cape Verde checking out some astronaut hubs that way,” I said. Her eyes fluttered as if she was trying to process the word Cape Verde, anchor it in the sea of lands she’d heard of on Earth. I couldn’t quite place her. Where was she from, I wondered. “I’m Dayo,” I said.
“Dayo,” she said, as if my name were an afterthought, a cloud floating through her mind. “Why are you here?” she asked. The question was so oddly forward, I felt obliged to answer.
“I’m looking for portals. Time gateways. And you?” I asked.
“So you’re like the rest of them. Are you a pirate?” she asked.
So she wasn’t going to answer my question.
“No,” I said. “I don’t have the patience for recklessness that my pirate friends thrive off of. I work for an agency that’s curious about them.” I was sharing more than usual, but she hung on to each word like a thirsty woman clenching a goblet of cooled water. What was she looking for?
“But you’re not so curious. Just your Agency?” she asked. I still couldn’t place her accent but I was spellbound. She didn’t look like she was from this world or any other I’d seen.
I yearned to get behind the veil of her mystery. I yearned to see how she saw this world. How did she see me? How did she see all of this? This world, this life was new to her and her dreamy magnetism couldn’t cloak that she was a novice in this space. I’d never encountered anything quite like it.
“I don’t chase invisible black unicorns,” I said. “I’m grounded.”
“And yet you fly,” she said. “Who is this agency?” she asked before sipping coolly from her glow in the dark glass. Her shimmery gold ankh ring wrapped around her slender hand like a snake that coiled up her arm. For a fleeting second, I think the snake moved.
I looked about. Del was nowhere in sight. I leaned in close to her ear. She smelled like jasmine.
“The galactic military,” I said. She grew a bit tense. I felt heat searing through my chest and noticed her eyes were soaking in my small silver ankh hanging from a leather string. She placed her hand on my chest, twiddled the ankh between her fingers and pressed it softly.
“You’re wearing one, too,” she said.
“I like them.”
“You’re from Kemet?” she asked.
Kemet, the ancient land and alter name to what we’ve all called old Egypt. Funny to hear someone claim it as their home. I guess it was in her heart.
“My heart connects with the ancient world, too,” I said, “but I’m not of it,” I added.
“And what about this world?” she asked.
“I have to rebuild my world,” I said. “I need a new one.” I need a new everything.
“Yes, a new world,” she repeated wistfully, as if a fog of memories had just blown by.
“If I tell you a secret, will you turn me in?” she asked, her eyes rounding with innocent curiosity. But her play at coyness couldn’t belie her unusual strength. She could break me in two if she wants, too. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know the answer.
“You wouldn’t let me turn you,” I said. Her smile was all honey and stardust and she shifted in her seat to face me. I looked into her haunting brown eyes and I felt I was being drawn through threads of time. She shivered.
“I think you’re here to find me,” she said. “You can call me Hathor,” she said extending her hand. I took her hand, pulling her near and kissed her cheek.
“Like the goddess,” I whispered in her ear. She smiled. “It’s not often that one meets the Milky Way personified,” I added.
“My reputation precedes me even here,” she said, smiling to herself.
Her glass was empty. “Would you like anything to drink?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “Would you like to go to Kemet?”
Before I could answer, she slid out the chair and glided through the bopping crowd. The pulsating music mimicked my heard beat. I found myself following in her footsteps. The world, it seemed slowed down. The lights and sounds blurred and yet I had clarity. My future lied in this woman’s eyes.
Del was nowhere in sight. Hathor waited patiently, standing by the sole white door on the opposite end of the lean hall as I floated the crowd to meet her.
“I’ll show you my world but you have to show me yours,” she said.
“Titan’s not my home,” I said.
“It’s not mine either.”
“Aren’t you supposed to sell me a watch?”
She looked at me puzzled.
“A watch?” she asked. “Who have you been talking too?”
“Wait,” I said, shaking off my hypnotism as I gliding my fingers down her arm. “Is this a portal?”
“Do you want to go to Kemet, Dayo?”
I looked behind me, hoping to catch a glimpse of Del, but I really didn’t care where he was.
She turned the brass knob on the door took my hand and we slipped inside. Just as the door was closing I could see Del pushing through the dancing crowd and heading our way.
“Dayo,” he yelled in a panic and then the door shut. All was black, but Hathor’s all seeing eye was guiding me.
“He’s not invited,” I heard her say. “He’ll never be invited. This is for you.”
“For us,” I said. She stopped in the darkness and I did the same. Her body found mine and we kissed from this world into the next.