From the author: Super-heroine Muscle Girl finds an unlikely ally in her ongoing battle with the villainous Petra O'Leum- one of mythical proportions....
GERDA AND HER UNICORN
By David Perlmutter
4, 893 words
I wasn’t expecting this particular adventure to happen to me. Not that I wait around for them to come. However, when you happen to be the fastest, strongest and brainiest pre-teen girl in the universe, adventure and danger tend to tail you like a stalker. Either it’s one of your enemies trying to kill you while trying to unsuccessfully to conquer the world while doing it, or day-to-day rescuing of fellow humans from harm, or someone coming out of nowhere, asking for your help because you seemingly are the only one who can give them that help.
This one had elements of all three of those things. Yet the thing that made it most memorable was that I was able to meet and befriend a real-life, no fooling, unicorn.
You probably have some ideas about what those things are, and where they come from, and why they supposedly don’t really exist at all. I did, too, but I learned better. A lot better.
My introduction to my horned friend came unexpectedly, like I said. I was at home, by myself, when the doorbell rang.
Given that I live in a rural part of the Canadian province of Manitoba, we don’t get a lot of people ringing our bell in the middle of the day. Especially if they’re not from around here. And I knew right away that she wasn’t from around here.
She was a magnificent equine beast, several hands high, with a spotless white mane and comb, cloven hooves, and enchanting, large black eyes. Despite having a slender torso and legs, her body radiated the strength and agility possessed by all horse-like beings, in spades. And, of course, there was the horn, which specified her existence as a member of the fabled unicorn race. It was a finely sculpted mass of bone in the center of her head, tapering in a sharply gleaming point, that any knight would have been proud to use as a lance.
Sorry if I seem a little gushy talking about her like that. What can I say? I’m a girl. A lot of us girls tend to develop crushes on horses before we even think about boys. Unicorns even more so, since they’re so elusive, mysterious and magical. Just because I’m a superhero doesn’t mean I don’t have human feelings like the rest of you, y’know.
Well, actually, I was dressed in the clothes and adopting the guise of my secret identity, Gerda Munsinger, at the time we first met, so I guess it really was a “human” reaction. But that’s beside the point. The point is: I was making an ass of myself, gaping in total awe at her.
She seemed to sense that right away, because she backed away from my blonde-haired, big blue eyed, sweater-and-skirt-wearing body almost as soon as we made eye contact.
Then she spoke, in the most melodious voice anyone could ever possibly have.
“Oh!” she said. “It appears I have ventured into the wrong place.”
Her speaking voice had the same sort of jolting effect on me that cold water would have if thrown in someone else’s face. Quickly, I shook my head and sobered up.
“No!” I uttered, in my mousy, secret identity voice, as I made my way towards her in a panicked but friendly way. “Wait. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare, it’s just….”
“You have no need to apologize to me in that regard,” she answered. “The relationship between virgin female beings of Earth, like yourself, and our race is of long-standing, and welcome at that. You are the only beings on your planet to view us without skepticism or malice, and for that reason you are the only beings here able to see us as the sentient beings that we truly are, rather than as the fabricated monsters we may appear to be to other eyes. However, I am seeking the particular aid of one of your kind, who apparently resides here, in this place.”
“Who?” I asked.
“A creature possessed of such formidable strength, agility, speed and knowledge that both her enormous physical power and her great personal sensitivity to suffering of all kinds have made her both loved and feared across the universe. She is, therefore, in the perfect position to assist myself and my race in dealing with those who currently torment us. Her name is Muscle Girl.”
The way she intoned my name informed me that she was very directly soliciting the kind of assistance I was only too glad to give. And so, suppressing the great amount of glee I felt at being to actually encounter my favorite kind of horse as a real thing, and not a dream, I answered her.
“Well, look no further, because I am Muscle Girl,” I said, with the full might of my superhero-duty voice. “Don’t let the disguise fool you- this is how I look when my assistance is not required. Just give me a minute or so to change.”
Then-with my full superhuman speed- I did just that.
When I returned, in my dark pink tights, white underwear and cape with monogrammed gold initials, and silver boots, I came up to her and gently displayed my strength with a pat on her head. She reciprocated my letting me touch her horn. It was very sharp, but my mighty skin was not pricked by it, which seemed relieved to find out.
“Now…” I began, before I realized I did not know her name. “What did you say your name was?”
“I apologize. I should have done so at the outset. You may address me by either the full version of my name, or a shortened one, at your leisure.”
“What’s the long one?”
“The long version of my name is ‘The one who resides in the meadow, and is prone to excessive shyness, owing to the fact that, at one time in her youth, she was, unfortunately, badly scared by a….’ “
“Sorry to interrupt, but, even though I have a good memory for names, that’s way too much even for me to remember. Is the short one easier to…?”
“It is just ‘Meadow’.”
“I can assure you that the longer version sounds better in our native tongue than it does in your English.”
“The name I was born with does in my native place’s language, too. But we better stick to business here, Meadow. What is it that brings you from wherever you came from to seek the humble involvement of yours truly?”
“It is not a fool’s errand, lest you think otherwise. We unicorns have always lived in imperiled circumstances wherever it is that we reside. But now, we face a crisis so taxing to our powers of endurance that outside assistance is desperately required.”
“What is the problem, exactly?”
She was hesitant for a moment, as if it was something too horrible to relate, as I suspected it was. Then she spoke again.
“Several members of our settlement have been abducted in succession over several nights,” she said. “We did not suspect foul play at first, but the truth soon revealed itself to us that this was what it was. Only two nights ago, we spotted the interloper as it carried a member away while she was still awake. Previously, the attacks occurred while were asleep, and we were not aware of what had happened until the following morning. Our efforts at this time to free our colleague amounted to nothing. For the abductor proved to be an enormous beast with scaly skin and great wings that breathed fire at us….”
“A dragon, you mean?” I interjected.
“Oh. Is that the name for those creatures? We had never encountered their kind before. Consequently, we were uncertain about what response to take. The uncertainty persisted even after the creature returned to our settlement and spoke to us, demanding we surrender our horns to it en masse if we wanted to see our colleagues again!”
“Which you refused to do, I assume,” I said, crossing my arms as I mentally examined the situation.
“You are correct. A unicorn’s horn is the source of all the magical powers that it possesses. This includes speed, strength and intelligence far above the average for equines, not unlike your status among normal human beings, along with the capacity for flight, as well as the ability to concentrate light and energy in our horns, to be used as projectiles when fired from them. Without our horns, we would be mere mortals, and unable to possess even the power of speech beyond the odd bestial grunt! Therefore, we would be entirely helpless in the face of attacks by any and all of the predators whom we can now escape easily.”
“But what, exactly, would a dragon want with a cache of unicorn horns?”
“That is the most distasteful aspect of this whole affair. There are certain beings in the universe who are under the mistaken belief that our horns, when ground down to a fine powder, function as something called an “aphrodisiac”. The dragon claimed that its mistress, whom it spoke on behalf of, was going to sell the horns in such a fashion to make a “top dollar” sum of money, and thus we would be justly compensated for our losses. We knew far better than that, so we refused, to the last one of us. So it attacked, and overpowered many of us, dragging them back to wherever its mistress had its headquarters.
“I was dispatched to find help, so I know not the full accounting of what occurred at that time. All I know is what I saw before I escaped, and you know it now as well. Being that Earth was fortuitously nearby, I reasoned that I might be able to find help there. But there are not many human beings of your kind in political power, and, as I said, your kind is the only one on our planet that takes our sentient existence seriously. So I was forced to confront beings of your kind on a random basis, until I was referred to you.”
“You said the dragon had a mistress. Did it give you a specific name for that person?”
“Well, all we can do for now is go back in the direction you came, find the dragon, and persuade it to tell us a bit about its mistress. If we have to get rough, then so be it. You don’t mind that, do you?”
“Not at all. While we unicorns have a reputation for being shy and passive, that does not encumber us from engaging in a fight now and then. Particularly when our own personal existences are threatened if we do not defend ourselves.”
“So shall we….?”
“Yes. Follow me.”
She flew off into the sky with supersonic speed. I followed her at the same pace.
As we passed outside the boundaries of Earth, we synchronized our flight positions so we were flying neck-and-neck. We could thus look directly into each other’s eyes, with a growing sense of mutual admiration.
“I had no idea that unicorns had superpowers until today,” I said. “I used to think you were cool before, but now…”
“There is much we must keep secret about ourselves in order to survive,” she warned me. “You must be prepared to keep them for our relationship to continue.”
“Certainly. I have plenty of secrets to keep myself. Not just that I’m an alien, but the identities of my fellow…”
“Alien? You are not an Earthling?”
“Not originally. But we emigrated when I was young. In fact, the transfer between my home planet’s gravity and Earth’s was what gave me superpowers in the first place.”
“I imagine there are not too many other virgin females on Earth who possess your abilities, though.”
“There are some. Good ones, and evil ones. Some of them aren’t even virgins, if you get my meaning. Not a large number, but we cover all races and species, so we’re a more diversified lot than the media likes to think that we…..HUH?......MEADOW!!!”
In that instant, my companion was suddenly pulled backwards out of her orbit, as if she had been roped by a cowboy’s lasso and the cowboy was pulling her backwards, before I could get to her. She uttered a loud cry of distress. Not a horse’s whinny, but a cry any human girl might make if she was suddenly being overpowered. I knew that sound- and that feeling. I’d been in that position too many times on my home planet before I became a super-powered Earthling. And the helpless are always the ones I fight the hardest for, as a result.
I quickly followed her trajectory and discovered, to my horror, that Meadow had been correct when she identified her race’s attacker as a dragon. Namely, because it was exactly such a beast, massively muscled and with scaly skin the color of blood, that was flying off in the opposite direction from where we came, with Meadow in its talons, as if she weighed nothing at all.
Not on my watch!
I quickly overtook the burdened beast and got directly in the path of its face, forcing it to stop where it was.
“Drop the unicorn!” I ordered.
It didn’t do anything, at first. I hoped it was one that spoke English, and might be agreeable enough to want to avoid violence, as I knew at least a few of them were.
It wasn’t one of that kind.
It roared at me, ejecting flame from its throat as it did. I responded by taking a big breath in my chest, and then exhaling an icy blast that neutralized the flame. Approaching the beast, I then threw a punch in its face that knocked it sideways. That was how I discovered it was a robotic dragon, rather than a biological one, since sparks flew out of its mouth when I punched it.
So surprised was I by this discovery that I made the mistake of letting my guard down. The dragon released Meadow, and turned its attention to me. I weakened it with a couple more strong punches, but then it withdrew its flame again, right in my face. That did to me what I had done to it, although I wasn’t seriously burned. It swooped up and caught me in its talons as a new prize. In my weakened state I couldn’t break free, and it looked bad.
But the dragon had forgotten about Meadow. Suddenly, instead of me rescuing her, she was rescuing me. She confronted the beast just as I had before, to its surprise and shock. Her eyes took on a dramatic, gleaming glow, and her horn glowed with pulsating light.
“FACE MY WRATH, DEMON!” she roared.
A live wire of light flew from the horn into the creature’s body, destroying it slowly but effectively, enough time for Meadow to free me from the talons and us to get to safety. It exploded into broken fragments of metal. One fragment was blown towards us and was impaled on the horn, but Meadow quickly and powerfully shook it off into space.
“Thank you,” I said, as soon as it had all ended. “I don’t usually have to be rescued, since I’m the one who usually saves people. It’s interesting to know how it feels on the other end.”
“You were attempting to do the same thing to me,” Meadow responded. “So I felt the need to reciprocate. However, I fear now that we are no nearer to resolving our problem than we were when we started.”
“I have to disagree with you, Meadow. I have a pretty good hunch as to who controls that dragon and why it was sent to trap us. This was the kind of dragon that did the abducting, right?”
“The very same!” Meadow was astonished. “But how can you….?”
“That was not a real dragon, in case you were wondering. That was a robot.”
“A machine made of metal?”
“Exactly. There’s only one person in the universe who has the scientific know-how to make robots which are both that functional and that realistic. That person is also the only person in the universe who has the amount of tactless greed in their personality to want to make cash by robbing unicorns of what makes them unicorns.”
“And who exactly is this wicked being?”
“Petra O’Leum. The most evil pre-teen girl in the universe. She despises me so much for justly thwarting her schemes for world domination on a regular basis that she’s vowed to employ all of her great physical and mental resources in the name of killing me. And I’m not exactly fond of her, either.”
“We must locate her promptly, then, and exact our revenge.”
“One problem with that idea. Petra comes from the same planet that I do, and, thus, she has all the same superpowers as I do. She can battle me to a standstill whenever we slug it out, and, worse, she can defeat me. Add to that her aforementioned scientific genius, her ruthlessness in dealing with her personal affairs, and her contempt for anyone who isn’t her, and you have a truly formidable opponent that you can’t overcome easily if you work with just brawn and without brains. We have brute strength and magical abilities aplenty, Meadow, but those kind of things are useless to you if you can’t use them in a strategic way.”
“Agreed. We must think, then, of a better way to confront this problem before we do so.”
Which is exactly what we did.
After we finished putting our inter-species heads together, we headed back to Earth to confront Petra. It wasn’t hard finding her.
Befitting someone known as “The Girl Made of Rock”, Petra’s primary means of transport is a giant cube made of a particular type of black onyx available only on our home planet. Therefore, only natives of our planet are able to use or manipulate it properly. As a consequence, for example, if Petra were able to build a weapon out of the material, I would be the only one capable of destroying it. Or, if she imprisoned me inside of a structure made of it, as she did one time, I would be able to free myself, where other beings would not. She forgot that, to her great displeasure.
As we approached the top of the cube-ship, landing on top of it, I tried to explain this to Meadow, but she already knew about it.
“We unicorns have lived in a wide variety of places over our long existences,” she explained. “Being immortal means that you gradually tire of living in one place all of the time. We are familiar with the properties of this rock, since we lived on your planet at one time, before you yourself existed. However, our relationship with it is not a positive one.”
“It is one of the few things in the universe that a unicorn is powerless against. When we resided on your planet, the natives entrapped some of us in it and were able to kill them. That hastened our departure. Your fiendish enemy undoubtedly intends to keep my colleagues as some sort of…pets…once she relieves them of their horns. I am very fortunate to have made your acquaintance if you know how to deal with that rock constructively.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” I responded. “We still got a job to do.”
I raised my foot up, and then down, kicking a hole in the rock. Then I stretched my body to the sides of the hole, and expanded the size of the hole until it was large enough to allow both of us to pass into the ship, but to resume its normal shape once we had done so, leaving no trace of my actions. Once we were in, I told Meadow how to manipulate the onyx so that she could free her captured friends, and sent her to the basement of the cube, since that was where Petra maintained her dungeon. She proceeded in that direction, and I went off in search of my nemesis.
Actually, she found me. I rounded a corner, and she was there, in all her black-leather clad, eye-patch-wearing, red-haired glory. She was shocked for a moment, and then enraged, at my presence.
“YOU!” she shouted. “How did you get in here?”
“The usual way,” I responded. “If you want to keep me out of here, Petra, you’re going to have to rethink your design scheme for the place.”
“You may be right,” she said, ruefully. “My efforts at security are obviously no match for you, if you can penetrate my domain so easily. However, it does not explain why you are here. So why are you here?”
“I think you know,” I said, coldly.
“I don’t think I do,” she responded, in the same tone. “Why don’t you tell me what I did? That is, if your intelligence has the same level of impact as your fabled brawn!”
“Don’t goad me!” I warned her. “I can destroy you if I want to.”
“Just like I can destroy YOU!” she warned me back.
It was a stalemate. We both knew what we could do to each other, but we wouldn’t do it unless one of us threw the first punch, and neither of us wanted to give the other the satisfaction of knowing how emotionally weak the other one was by blowing our façade of diplomacy. So I did what she asked, and explained to her what she was doing.
“I happened to make the acquaintance of a certain unicorn today,” I told her. “Up until today, I had some mistaken beliefs about what unicorns are and what they can do, which she relieved me of totally. But, being a devotee of those particular equines, I was very distressed and displeased to learn that some people want to capture them and take their horns away from them. Because, when those horns are ground up into powder, some people consider them an APHRODISIAC!”
“You’re not implying that I need one of those ghastly things, are you?” she growled.
“No, Petra. I’m implying that you are intending to engage in that trade for profit on the black market by selling them at upmarket rates to those who DO need them!”
“If I was, just how would I transport them to this ship? And where could I possibly store them? It’s not like I have enough room for a stable here.”
“One: you built robotic versions of dragons to capture the unicorns, knowing full well that it takes a creature with the same elusiveness, physical power and stealth as a unicorn to capture one. And you did it as a dragon would. Not all at once, but selectively. So it would appear to the unicorns that a group of dragons was capturing them at random, and it was not the work of a human being whatsoever. If a human being came out of nowhere and started herding them around in preparation for locking them up, it would be too suspicious an act for them to not see it as such.
“Two: you do have a stable here, Petra, as your dungeon could easily double as one, and is, right now. You’ve penned up the unicorns there, in chains and manacles of the same rock that this ship is made of, since it’s the only substance they are helpless against. That being done, you felt you were safe enough to proceed with your plans to powder the horns. Or so you thought.”
Petra was so livid at the end of my speech that it took more than one minute for her to compose herself and respond to me.
“Congratulations,” she said. “You unraveled my whole intentions for the unicorns without my needing to even explain it to you myself. You have once again proven to me that your brain is just as powerful as your body. But, if you think I am going to allow you to go down to the dungeon and free the unicorns from imprisonment in the onyx, you are mistaken. And, if you attempt to do so, I will flog you within an inch of your life!”
“No need for that,” I said. “Because I just taught them how to escape the onyx on their own!”
“YOU DID WHAT?”
Immediately, the cube was filled with the thunderous sound of the hooves of recently freed horses- or, rather, unicorns.
“You heard me,” I said, over the resulting din. “I’d tell you that you should be ashamed of yourself, Petra, but I’d just be wasting my time and my breath. You’re too much of a bitch to be ashamed of anything you do!”
“You hatchet-faced HARPY!” Petra roared. “Prepare to DIE!”
Before I could react, she had zipped across the room and pinned me to the ground, punching and kicking at me. I fought back, but Petra weakened me quickly by playing dirty and hitting me where I was weakest, which knocked me off my game right away. She tore my hair, stuck her fingers in my eyes, ripped my clothes, and tried to bite me with her sharply filed teeth. We fought with such power that the cube vibrated, and I vibrated just as much from the power in her punches and kicks. Finally, she knocked me to the floor with one foot to my groin, and moved towards me menacingly, intending to wrap her powerful hands around my neck.
At this point, Meadow, having obviously heard the copious shouts of pain I had uttered during the battle, crashed into the room with a spectacular jump. She shot a vicious gaze at Petra and got between her and me, so we all knew whose side she was on.
Petra was enraged, so much that she did not realize- or know- how much power Meadow had inside of her. Otherwise, why would she have confronted her as she did?
“Do not disrespect me, you slatternly nag!” Petra bellowed. “When I’m finished with her, you’re next!”
“It is you who are being disrespectful,” countered Meadow. “Not simply to myself and my race, but to the one being capable of freeing us from your bondage- and has!”
“Do you think I care what some glorified guttersnipe pony thinks of me?” said Petra. “I despise the whole lot of you filthy, uncivilized equines. Too good for behaving like the servants of the human race you were always meant to be, is what you are! Especially you saintly unicorns! So uppity to humans you’ll only socialize with them if you WANT to. You make me sick! Now, stop interfering with my impending killing of the one blight on my life, or…..”
Meadow silenced her with that vengeful yell from her throat. And then did so again with a concentrated blast of light from her horn. Which left Petra, successively, spouting fire all over her body, screaming, and then down on the floor, unconscious.
After that, I was able to get to my feet, even though I had been diminished in power by my battle with Petra. Meadow gently touched her horn to my head. My full strength was suddenly restored, the tears in my clothes fixed, and my hair was back to the way it was before Petra tore at it.
“Thank you,” I said. “Again. I might not have made it without you today, more than once. I sure won’t be thinking of unicorns the same way anymore.”
“Nor I humans,” she said. “There are so many of them of evil intent in the universe that they make one forget that good, self-sacrificial ones can also exist.”
I gazed down at Petra on the ground.
“She’s not dead, is she?” I asked. “Not that I care all that much about her, but…”
“I do not suspect she would be,” Meadow said. “If she were a mere mortal human being, that may well have been the result. I put a great deal of power into that particular blast. Yet, as she possesses a superhuman body like yours, she will, inevitably, recover. Although restoration of her full strength may not occur, at minimum, for several months.”
“That’s just fine with me,” I said. “We all need a vacation from her ugly mug.”
And then, suddenly, I was giggling at my own cheap-shot joke, and Meadow joined me with what passes for a giggle among unicorns.
This story originally appeared in SciFiction Magazine (2017).