Oh! Hi there. Are you here for the tour?
Excellent. The Bay is always restless in foul weather. Stirs up the mermaids, you know. Gets them all riled up and showing off in the big waves.
Unfortunately the dragons tend to keep to their caves. The damp isn’t good for their fire breathing and no one likes a whiny, chilly dragon.
What’s that? Oh, no refunds I’m afraid. It’s in the fine print.
If we get lucky we might see the local sea monster, who only comes out during storms. Well. Hee hee. He causes the storms so there’s something of a relationship there. You’ll love him. He’s better than ten dragons. You can see invisible monsters, right? Right?
Now, now, no need to be rude.
You see that patch of snow to your left? It’s actually a crew of ghosts what prowl this beach. Or, you know, part of the storm. Best err on the side of the fantastical, I always say.
What’s that? You’re leaving? Hogwash, you say? Not at all – wait! Look out for that storm wraith! No, I swear, this one’s real, don’t breathe that mist, it’s poison – aw. Lost another one. Not good for business. Not good for business at all.
When she was young, Granny volunteered at a retirement home for imaginary friends. She would read them books, listen to their stories, and keep them company. Her favorite resident was an aging, black unicorn with an opalescent alicorn who’d been popular in the 1700’s.
“You know, I’ve always been jealous of horses,” he told her. “I was James Watt’s imaginary friend when he was a boy. He grew up to coin the term ‘horsepower’. I’ve never gotten over that. He could have used ‘unicornpower.’ No one would have minded. It sounds good.”
Granny tested it out. “This baby has eighty unicorns under the hood.” She whistled. “Oh my. That does sound good.”
“Doesn’t it? I think he did it just to spite me for not spearing his sister with my horn when he wanted me to. Told me he’d rather have a real horse that listened to him than an imaginary unicorn who wouldn’t.” He let out a sad knicker. “James never imagined me again. He was only five years old.” A few tears dribbled down the unicorn’s muzzle. “Stupid horses.”
Granny always referred to engines in units of unicornpower after that. When she took up farming with Gramps she liked to brag she was the only woman in the county with a thirty-two unicornpower tractor. Drove him absolutely nuts.
“I’m a mythozoologist.”
“You mean a cryptozoologist?”
The Professor squinted at her. “No, a mythozoologist.”
“What’s the difference?”
Sighing, the Professor tugged at his mustache. “A cryptozoologist is someone who studies and seeks the existence of cryptids, like the Loch Ness monster and the Chupacabra. Sasquatch, you know, creatures people are always seeing but taking very bad photos of.”
“And a mythozoologist?”
“Mythozoologists like myself study mythical beasts. We try to understand their biology and their function as enduring and repeating creatures in the fictional record.” The Professor leaned towards her, his eyes flashing. “Why do unicorns keep cropping up? Why do dragons have so many incarnations in the literature of the world? Why do we have wizards in stories and not in our everyday lives? What is the purpose of legendary beasts? Why do we fiddle with gods but deny these beasts their due as creatures of influence?”
She felt like he expected an answer. “I-I don’t know. To inspire?”
He blinked at her. Grumbling under his breath, he wandered off into his dusty library and left her alone with her questions.
The mythozoologist stomped into his laboratory. “Have you heard?” he asked his apprentice, waving a sheaf of papers at her.
“They’ve discovered that narwhals use their elongated tooth for sonar, it improves echolocation! Do you know what this means for our study of unicorns? This is a major breakthrough!”
The apprentice looked over the journal article he handed to her while he paced across the room and back, muttering to himself. “Echolocation, of course. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Of course unicorns use their alicorns for echolocation! It’s not just for magical vibrations and random stabbings after all. I knew it!”
“They say that if hornets build their nest high, the snow will be high the coming winter,” said the man.
“How do you suppose the hornets know? Do they visit a fortune-teller?” asked his son.
“Does the snow fairy give them inside information?” asked his daughter. “That doesn’t seem fair.”
“Are they time-travelers?” asked his son’s friend.
“Is it possible unicorns use their horns to pierce hornets’ nests so they can protect children?” asked his daughter’s friend. “It might explain why they’re called horn-ets.”
The man stared at the nest and gave his head a small shake. He should have known better than to start a conversation with this group.
He left the solitude of his cliff-side home to attend a family reunion against his better judgement. Unicorns are solitary by nature not just because they are introverts at heart, but because meeting in groups can be dangerous. Why, there were germs, viruses, poachers, and narwhals on the hunt for replacement horns to think about!
A week after the reunion his worst fears came true: an infestation of horn-eating beetles. They burrowed into his alicorn, carving out homes, laying eggs, and tickling him in places impossible to scratch! Legend has it the only way to cure such an infestation is to stab a virgin through the heart, but that just sounded rather medieval, foolish, and messy to him.
Still, he tried all the other silly-sounding remedies: ogre snot, troll spittle, and even dragon urine. Then he found a shaman and asked for help. The shaman smudged him with sage thrice a day for a week and soon the beetles moved on.
His alicorn still bore the signs of an abandoned beetle village and the caverns they left behind made an eerie, mournful hum as the wind blew through them. Soon rumors that his cliff was haunted spread throughout the land. The mailman grew too afraid to deliver the unicorn’s mail and he never had to worry about family reunions again.
“Unicorns, harrumph! What’s a unicorn got that we elephants don’t? Sure, an alicorn, but that thing just looks cumbersome. The weight and the angle of it must cause those poor beasts terrible headaches. A trunk, now there’s a handy appendage. Breathing, picking stuff up, smelling things, making trumpet noises, and it even works as a hose. The possibilities are endless! What’s an alicorn do? It just gets you rumors about stabbing virgins and the next thing you know you can’t find any unicorns anywhere.”
“What do you suppose is on the other side of that door?”
She thought it over. “Maybe a wizard who can shrink down to any size, or a fairy taking a bath. I bet they like bubble baths. Or even a unicorn, polishing his hooves for a parade. Maybe even a goblin, making up some sort of mean potion to get back at the school bully.” She looked at her friend. “What do you think it is?”
Her friend blinked. “I was just thinking of cobwebs ‘n stuff.”