She saw him standing on the corner with a map in his hand. He was looking around, trying to read the street signs. He was just what she liked. If he was in a bakery showcase, he’d be the French eclair, directly from Paris.
He saw her and smiled. He held up the map. She walked toward him and tried not to lick her lips and say, “Yum.”
“I’m lost,” he said. “I’m trying to find a bookstore but the streets aren’t here.”
“Wait,” she laughed. “The streets aren’t here? You mean these aren’t the streets you’re looking for?”
“Yes. These are different streets. Do you know where the bookstore is?”
“Which one are you looking for?”
“This one,” he said, handing her a small black card with gold embossed writing.
“I never heard of it,” she said softly, turning the card over. There was no phone number.
“Do you know where it might be?” he asked.
She nodded. “I think it’s this way,” she said, starting to walk across the busy street against the light.
“WAIT!” he said loudly. “The light’s red.”
“Not from around here, are you,” she snickered. “When there’s a break in the traffic people walk across the street, no matter what color the light is.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“You’re not supposed to do it, but everyone does. Well, almost everyone. There are those who follow all the rules, so they wait until the light changes.”
He nodded. “I’m Luke.”
“Thank you for helping me.”
“You’re welcome but we aren’t there yet, although, it should be around here somewhere,” she said, looking at the street numbers. “Hmmm, that’s weird. This number is between these two places but there’s no building.”
A beautiful woman appeared in front of them and said, “Can I help you?”
They stared at her until Eva said, “We’re looking for this bookstore.” She handed the card to her and stepped back.
“You’ve found it,” said the woman. “Follow me, but don’t pet the unicorn, he’s not in a good mood today.”
“You have a Unicorn?” gasped Eva.
“You should have expected that,” said the woman, her long hair shining even though the light was dim.
They walked through a gangway that was so narrow, they had to turn sideways, at one point.
“Where are you taking us,” asked Eva, nervously.
“To the Bookstore, of course. That’s why you came here, isn’t it?”
“It is,” said Luke. “I have a list.”
The woman cackled. “I’m sure we can fill it.”
Suddenly, the gangway ended and they were standing among wildflowers of every kind.
“They’re beautiful,” sighed, Eva, her eyes wide with excitement.
“They bite, so don’t reach for them. If you pick one, they’ll all turn on you and I won’t be of much help if that happens.”
The bookstore was suddenly there and the unicorn standing next to the front door did appear to be grumpy, indeed.
“Remember what I said,” mumbled the woman.
“Yeah, don’t touch the unicorn,” whispered Eva. “But I want to.”
“It’s your life,” said the woman, walking up the two steps to the porch.
“Hi,” said Eva, to the unicorn.
He raised his lips and showed her his teeth in a very menacing way.
“Nice,” she said. Using her fingers, she did the same thing and showed him her teeth.
The unicorn was taken back. He stamped his foot and moved backward a couple of paces. He flicked his tail and raised his head as high as it could go. Then he laughed out loud. “Good one,” he said. “That’s a first. Congratulations.”
“Thanks, but congratulations for what?”
“Well, I didn’t trample you to death, for one thing.”
“Have you trampled many people?”
“Enough,” he said. “Aren’t you the least bit surprised that I can talk?”
“You should have asked if I was surprised that unicorns exist. Since they do, then anything after that, isn’t a surprise.”
“Wow,” he said, stomping his back foot. “My name is Clark.”
“No it’s not,” she said, chuckling.
“No. It’s not,” he said. “Unicorns are never named Clark.”
“Oh, good, because you don’t look like a Clark, you look like a Thunder.”
He put his soft, velvety nose as close to her face as he could, without touching her. “How did you know my name was Thunder?”
“I didn’t,” she said. “You just look like a storm, like a Thunder storm.”
“I see,” he said, shaking his beautiful mane, which was threaded through with flowers.
“You are so gorgeous,” she said, automatically running her hand down his face. “So incredibly lovely.”
The unicorn froze. “You touched me,” he said.
“I did?” she asked, looking at her hand.
“Uh. Because I couldn’t help it?”
“Because I wanted to?”
“Um,” she said, reaching out for him again. This time she walked up to him and hugged him, leaning her face against his neck. “You smell so good. I didn’t know unicorns smelled this way. But then again, I didn’t know that unicorns actually existed. I can hear your heart beating and you’re soft and so strong.”
The unicorn looked toward the doorway, where the woman and Luke were standing. He snorted at them and they both laughed. “Finally brought the right one,” he said, his unicorn body fading, leaving him standing in his human form.
Eva backed up. “What…”
“You broke the spell,” he said. “Thank you.”
“It’s kind of a long story,” said Thunder. “Maybe I can tell you over dinner.”
She turned to look at Luke. “We’ve been bringing people to him for ages, but no one’s been able to break the spell,” he laughed. “Until now.”
Thunder grabbed her hand and said, “Let’s go. You can’t imagine how sick I am of eating oats and hay.”
“But…” stammered Eva. “Where are we? Where is this place?”
“Think of the universe like layers of tissue paper. Each layer is just far enough away from the piece beneath it, to as not to touch it. Your reality is one layer and now you’re on the layer above it. We know about you, but you don’t know about us. Well, you do, obviously, but the other people don’t.”
“Pizza?” she asked
“Perfect,” he said.
She looked back but everything was gone. “Was the bookstore ever real?”
“Nothing’s real,” he said. “Not really.”
And that’s how they met.