Read Part One Here
“They’re real?” Joey asked.
The woman couldn’t suppress her chuckle. “Our organization, as advanced as it is, isn’t able to manufacture live unicorns.”
“But how is this possible?” Joey took a cautious step into the room and felt the spongy grass beneath his shoe. He moved slowly so as not to spook a unicorn no more than ten feet away. The unicorn paid him no mind.
“Some trapper with an overabundance of dumb luck caught the last pair in existence by accident. Fortunately for him, and us, they were a stallion and mare. We made him a very wealthy man in order to breed them in captivity.”
“For food?” There went his tone again, but this time he didn’t care.
The woman shrugged. “There’s nothing else we can do with them. You can’t ride them. Young, old, virginal, virtuous… it doesn’t matter. They simply won’t allow it. Utilize the horn for its magical properties? It’s only magical for the unicorn; there’s no transference of power. Grinding down the horn and ingesting the powder for immortality? Turns out the human body is unable to digest the powder.”
“Then why not let them go?”
“Not until we recoup our investment. And we can’t risk one of our competitors getting hold of them and creating a revenue source we haven’t managed to think up ourselves… yet.”
“This is going to sound strange,” Joey said. “But I don’t know if I can do this.”
The woman looked at him with a mixture of amusement and annoyance. “You’re a butcher, aren’t you? An unemployed butcher who isn’t as financially secure as he’d like to be, and before you ask, yes, we had you vetted before arranging the interview. So let’s speak plainly here; you’re desperate for work, and this is a rare opportunity for someone in your field. Plus, the man who observed you in the butchery is a representative from the governing body that issues the unicorn butcher licenses, and he indicated that you made the grade, which means the pay bump you’ll receive will be exceptional.”
“There’s a governing body that issues unicorn butcher licenses?”
“Of course there is. The UPWC.”
“Unicorn Preservation and Welfare Council. They ensure that licensed individuals have the necessary skills, knowledge, and ethical considerations to handle these rare and extraordinary creatures. And we’ve received FDA approval that licorneine is safe for human consumption; otherwise, what we’re doing here would be illegal.”
“It has a nicer ring to it than unicorn meat.”
“Licorneine, huh?” Joey said to himself as he watched the majestic creatures peacefully grazing in the field. An uneasiness settled in the pit of his stomach. “I’m not gonna lie to you; the money is tempting, and it would certainly help me climb out of a financial pit, but what about their lives? Don’t they have a right to live out their days in peace?”
The woman sighed. “How are they different from any other animal that winds up on your butcher block? Because they’re the stuff of myth and legend? By and large, the human race are omnivores. Everything is meant to be eaten. And while I understand your heartfelt concerns, you need to understand mine. I have a business to run, and these unicorns are currently my most valuable assets.”
Joey’s fists clenched and unclenched several times before he said, “I can’t do it. I can’t be a part of this.”
“I don’t need to tell you, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another opportunity like this one.”
“Chance of a lifetime, I know. But what does that matter if I can’t live with myself?” Joey said, his hands trembling ever so slightly. His vision blurred, and a peculiar tingling sensation traveled up his spine, bringing with it a faint feeling of lightheadedness.
It lasted for the briefest of moments, but when it was done, the colors in the room seemed intensified, their hues more vivid and saturated.
“There might be another way,” the businesswoman said, her countenance softer now, her expression friendlier.
Joey’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“If you can find another way for the company to turn a profit, you could save these unicorns from their fate.”
Whoa. That was a heavy weight to drop on his shoulders. The only thing he ever knew in his entire life was how to be a damned fine butcher. How could he find a way to save these creatures and secure his own financial future? But one look into the eyes of the nearest unicorn, and he knew he had to try.
So, Joey took the job, but not as a butcher. Instead, he became the caretaker of the unicorns, and in their peaceful presence, he learned to access a part of himself that lay dormant since early childhood. He began creating incredible works of art that captivated the world. Paintings, sculptures, and even performance pieces that brought the ethereal beauty of unicorns to life.
His creations sold for astronomical prices, generating more than enough profit to satisfy the businesswoman and save the unicorns from slaughter. In time, the world came to see the true value of these magical creatures, not as a food source, but as a wellspring of creative energy.
And as Joey’s fame and fortune grew, so did his influence. He used his newfound power to lobby for the protection of unicorns, eventually leading to the creation of a sanctuary where they could live out their days in peace and safety, ensuring their survival for generations to come.
In the end, Joey Mac, once a down-on-his-luck butcher, became a hero, not just to the unicorns, but to all who valued the magic and wonder they brought into the world. All it took was a single choice, a single act of defiance, and a willingness to embrace the impossible.
Joey’s vision blurred, accompanied by the tingling sensation and lightheadedness from before, but when his eyesight returned to normal, he found himself back in the room designed to look like a field, with the businesswoman staring him dead in the face.
“Oh, I should have mentioned,” the woman smirked. “There are certain side effects to wearing the uniform. As it acclimates to you, you’re liable to experience what can only be compared to acid trips. Don’t worry, they’ll subside after a while.”
“They’ll subside right now,” Joey said as he tried to remove the jacket, but as he pulled and twisted, he was hit with a sharp pain similar to attempting to peel off a tight adhesive bandage. He realized with growing horror that the uniform had somehow grafted itself to his skin.
“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” Joey’s fingers clawed at the edges of the uniform, but there was no discernible seam where the fabric ended and his skin began. Each tug at the material sent a sharp, stinging sensation through his body, making him wince and grit his teeth. Despite the pain, the desperation to remove the uniform drove him to keep trying, but ultimately, the uniform remained firmly attached.
“Did it forgive you?”
“The licorneine, when you cut into it. Did it forgive you? That’s the second requirement.”
“What the hell are you talking about, lady?”
“In order for an edged utensil to slice into unicorn flesh, two things need to happen,” the woman explained. “First, the person must be wearing the pearlescent uniform; it makes unicorns think they’re a unicorn. And second, the person has to be granted permission.”
“I can’t even wrap my mind around how a dead animal could speak to me inside my own mind, let alone why it would give me permission to carve it up.”
“I can’t speak to the motivations of a magical creature I barely understand, but perhaps the licorneine granting you permission could be interpreted as a form of acceptance and understanding of the cycle of life and death. Unicorns might possess a heightened sense of wisdom and spiritual connection, recognizing that their death could serve a purpose, even if the circumstances aren’t ideal.”
“All the more reason to let them live.”
“We’ve been over that,” the woman said in the tone of a parent speaking to their child. “In any event, when you heard the words ‘forgive you,’ that might signify that the licorneine understood the difficult circumstances that led you to take that action. It acknowledged that you weren’t acting out of malice or cruelty, but rather, you were in a desperate situation and needed the money to survive.”
“Wait, hold on a minute…if you need the uniform and forgiveness in order to cut the flesh, how was this uniform made?”
“We were extremely fortunate in that regard. We stumbled upon a skilled artisan who had a unique understanding of unicorns. She was granted special blessings from the unicorns to create the uniform by means of a unique ceremony, during which she paid respect, reverence, and demonstrated understanding of the unicorns’ mystical nature.”
“That makes zero sense.”
“And yet it’s the only answer I have for you.”
“So what, I’m stuck wearing this for the rest of my life?”
“I’m a businesswoman, not a monster. We know how to remove the uniform, and with the satisfactory completion of the contract you will sign, you’ll be free and very, very wealthy.”
Whoever said, “When you get what you want, it’s never the way you want it,” knew what they were talking about, Joey thought. Here he was with the opportunity of a lifetime, making the type of money he never thought possible, and it should have been a dream job. But each and every day as he walked through the butchery doors, he steeled himself against the sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction that weighed heavily on his soul.
Never let it be said that he wasn’t the consummate professional, though. Even though the work gnawed at his conscience, he performed his duties to the best of his ability, trying to take pride in the precision of his cuts and find some semblance of satisfaction in the craftsmanship.
The boss, ever punctual, always provided a list of tasks for Joey to complete that day. And as he broke down the unicorn carcasses, carefully cutting through the layers of muscle and sinew, doing his level best to keep the cuts clean and precise, Joey tried to shut off his emotions and suppress the wave of nausea whenever the licorneine absolved him of his sin.
A month in, he was greeted by the unexpected sight of a group of PAUTU members holding signs with bold lettering, displaying messages like “Save the Unicorns,” “No More Magical Bloodshed,” and “Unicorn Butchery Is Unethical.” Their voices rang out, harmonizing in protest songs and chants, such as “Hey, hey, ho, ho, unicorn slaughter has got to go!” and “What do we want? Unicorn rights! When do we want it? Now!”
The police were on the scene and prevented the picketers from blocking the building’s entrance by moving the protesters behind barricades on the opposite side of the street. However, Joey noticed passersby expressing support for PAUTU’s message, nodding in agreement and even joining the picket line.
Boss, as Joey now referred to the businesswoman who still refused to identify herself for some unknown reason, stepped out of the building, clearly annoyed by the protesters, and hooked Joey by the crook of his arm, pulling him inside. “Ignore them,” she said, her voice cold and dismissive. “They’re just a bunch of misguided activists who don’t understand the importance of our work.”
Joey couldn’t help but glance at the protesters as they chanted passionately. One protester, a young woman with fiery red hair, locked eyes with him and held up a sign that read, “You have a choice. Be a hero, not a butcher.” The message struck a chord deep within him because he knew he was on the wrong side of history.
As the day wore on, the PAUTU members remained steadfast in their protest, enduring harsh weather and handing out leaflets detailing the cruel reality of unicorn butchery to curious onlookers and urging them to take a stand against the unethical treatment of these magical creatures. They had no clue how badly Joey wished he was on their side of the picket line.
And it hadn’t ended with protests. PAUTU launched a relentless media campaign against Joey, writing opinion pieces about the unethical treatment of unicorns and Joey’s involvement in the industry. They gave interviews to news outlets, spreading awareness of the cruelty behind his work.
The group also took to social media, condemning Joey’s actions and promoting their cause. They created shareable graphics, hashtags, and encouraged people to sign online petitions and join their protests. They lobbied for legislation to ban or heavily regulate the hunting, butchering, and sale of unicorn meat, gathering evidence and persuading politicians to support their cause.
Some of the more radical members engaged in direct action against Joey, breaking into his apartment and car and vandalizing them. When they publicly shamed him and exposed his identity and his role in the unicorn butchery industry, sharing images and videos of his work and encouraging people to boycott unicorn products, even fellow butchers joined the smear campaigns. Then there were the government agencies and health inspectors who scrutinized his every move, and his parents, usually supportive of his endeavors, began contacting him regularly to voice their disapproval.
Not. The. End.