The Night the Unicorn Leapt from the Tapestry

The Night the Unicorn Leapt from the Tapestry – Kate Pentecost

The night the unicorn leapt from the tapestry no one was around
not the night watchman
nor the doddering docents
nor anyone else who would have been alarmed
to hear its cloven-hoofed clatter against the tile
(softer than you would think, for a beast so formidable)
As it left its woven field and woven flowers behind

The cameras craned their crooked necks
as the unicorn drifted beneath them,
drawing their eyes only to blind them,
turn them fuzzy with static, white with heat,
and moving onward through the dark museum
a bright spot in the darkness,
pulling like the moon

It moved through the Renaissance wing
velvet ropes unhitched themselves as it moved among the still lifes
like a fish among lily pads, secret and silent, glowing in the darkness
and every so often, it touched its horn to a canvas
and the colors would sharpen somehow,
become more Real for having been marked by it
and it left the air boiling in its wake

It went down the stairs into Pre-Islamic Art
and moved among the ivory and tile and filigree
leaving statues dancing and carved animals wriggling in their wood grain
It wove between the Greek statues, paler and more luminous than they,
All the way to the front desk, to the pool by the entrance
that children liked to throw their coins into when there were wishes to be made
and dipped its horn into the crusted, hard-watered murk

A thrum was felt throughout the museum
or would have been felt if anyone had been there
A deep bass resonance of magic, of importance, of purpose
and the unicorn rose, shook its mane, and went back the way it came
leaving the air smelling of untamed orchards and fresh water
the scent of a lost world that artists could never quite portray

In the morning, when the docents returned
lugging their lunches, sipping their coffees,
they stood in silence for a moment, feeling the air
They breathed deeply—was the air always this fragrant?—and drifted to their positions
all of them wondering why the pennies in the wishing well were all so bright
and why their museum suddenly felt like a church

Kate Pentecost is a Houston-based author and educator who specializes in YA and speculative fiction/poetry. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has spoken at several international conventions and conferences, and is represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties. She loves Houston, coffee and urban legends, and can be recognized by the enormous tattoo of Percy Bysshe Shelley on her arm.