The loss of a pet is a sad time for children and teens. Chestnut, a beloved horse, is dying. Does Jill really see a unicorn and what is its purpose?
Unicorns Come at Night appears in Pauline’s collection of stories called: “Gentle Journeys for Children,” (Published by Progressive Education, India.) ISBN 9731017-1-2.
Reviews from Author and CBC Broadcaster.
- Pauline Gallagher is a Canadian writer of children’s short stories. Her close association with children has given her an insight into their nature, and armed with this perception, she unfolds and weaves a variety of tales in GENTLE JOURNEYS.
These stories entertain as they educate and enlighten. Mala Thapar, Author of Children of India.
These wonderful stories are meant to read out loud. My two children (3 and 5 years old) loved the characters, and the situations they got themselves into. They were engaged and entertained. I’m sure these stories will encourage their love of reading. I also enjoyed the many levels of meaning in these stories. And my children and I had terrific conversations about what the stories meant to them.
Joan Melanson (Broadcast Journalist for CBC – (Canadian Broacast Corporation.
Synopsis: Unicorns Come at Night
It is heartbreaking for anyone to lose a pet, especially for children. I have provided the reader with the death of an animal with the promise of life for their pet in the Happy Hunting Grounds. Here is how the story began. On a holiday near the city of Boston, USA, I visited a pet cemetary. It was a bitter-sweet combination of loss together with loving memories. One particular statue stood out and it was a tribute to a beloved horse that was buried there. I wondered what was the horse’s story, and so I wrote this fictional story.
Unicorns Come at Night by Paula Key© 2015. This will become a children’s ebook in early 2016.
Unicorns Come at Night
Unicorns Come At Night-Book Cover designed by Tina Green and given to Pauline as a gift.
Chapter 1 – Chestnut and Jill
They knelt around him, their bodies casting shadows around the dimly lit stable. The veterinarian looked at Mr. Morgan and Jill. He shook his head. Jill Morgan felt a cold shiver creep over her entire body. She felt powerless as she looked down at her dying horse. Tears filled the teenager’s eyes. Her stomach felt tight and sore.
“Come along, Jill. Why don’t we let Chestnut rest? suggested Mr. Morgan. He led his daughter out of the barn. Glancing back for one last look, Jill’s sobbing shook her body. She reached for the door to steady her feet. Mr. Morgan put his arm around his daughter’s shoulder. His voice was gentle and full of love.
“Chestnut has lived a long, long life. Right now, he is a very sick horse.”
“Why don’t you just say that he is dying?” yelled Jill, as she twisted herself free of her father’s arm
“All things must die, Jill.” whispered her father.
This was a fact that Jill could not deny. Why did death have to happen to her horse? She was not ready for such an event. Her head began to hurt and she felt dizzy again. It was impossible to imagine a day without Chestnut. Slowly, she walked with her father back to the house. There was an uncomfortable silence. Neither of them knew what to say.
The dinner food remained on Jill’s plate in spite of encouraging words from her mother. Amy, her younger sister, spoke non-stop about her friends in the third grade. Jill smiled and tried to talk whenever someone spoke to her. As if sensing her pain, Mrs. Morgan gave permission for her daughter to leave the table.
“It will be over by morning!” her father’s voice was kind and yet, firm.
Fear and panic exploded in Jill’s mind. She rushed upstairs to the peace and safety of her bedroom.
Tears flooded her pillow, as Jill buried her face in it. She felt alone and afraid. Inside her were many questions about death. What was it like to die? Did animals and humans go to the same place? Why did death have to take people and animals that were loved?
The night became darker. Jill could not stop thinking about death. Her grandparents were both dead. Grandpa Morgan had died four years earlier.
Just weeks before his death, grandpa asked Jill to take care of old Chestnut. She had kept her promise and the horse became her best friend. Now, just like her grandpa, Chestnut would soon be dead. Life did not seem fair. Life had too much pain in it.
ill rolled over to the edge of the bed and took a picture frame off the side table. She smiled at the joy on the faces of grandpa and grandma Morgan.
Chestnut, a young horse, was pulling their wedding day carriage. Jill did not remember her grandmother. She had died before Jill was born. What would she have been like? How did grandpa feel after she died? Jill had asked her grandpa these questions. Now her mind would go back in time to remember the answers.
There was one particular night that Jill remembered. She was a small girl at grandpa’s farm. The two of them played a favorite game. Jill sat on his knees on the old rocker and he would say the same familiar words.
“Jill ask me a question, any question!”
Together, they had covered such topics as the stars, unicorns, earthquakes and foreign countries. One particular night, Jill had asked him a different question.
“Grandpa, why did grandma die?”
She remembered that he had not answered immediately. When he did, there were tears in his eyes. His voice was sad when he spoke.
“Jill, your grandmother died because it was the time for her to go!”
“Go where, grandpa?”
“There is a place for everyone and everything that dies,” replied her grandpa. “It is a great place of happiness. North American Indians call it the “Happy Hunting Grounds.”
Her grandfather showed Jill a painting he had displayed in his office. Jill noted that the artist was Sophie Iremonger. She saw many horses, birds and animals.
Jill wanted desperately to believe that such a place existed. The clock ticked away as Jill slept. Suddenly, a familiar noise woke her up. Had she been dreaming or had she heard Chestnut?
Scrambling out of bed, Jill made her way down the stairs and out to the barn.
The heavy breathing of Chestnut told Jill that he was still alive. She adjusted the warm blanket, and gently stroked his head. Chestnut opened his eyes and snorted. This was his way of greeting her. For a moment, she looked at each other through the eyes of love.
Jill started to speak to Chestnut. She lay down in the straw and put her arm across his neck. His warm face felt good against her cheek. He snorted and it was the snort of happiness. Without warning, Chestnut’s body shook. Jill became frightened. She began to speak out loud to him.
“Chestnut, do you remember the first time we met?
Do you remember how we trained and trained?
Of course, I fell off many times, but you always came to see if I was O.K.”
Chestnut opened his eyes and snorted gently.
“You understand, don’t you? Do you remember the golden statue we won?”
And now, my bedroom is full of all the trophies and ribbons we won together. If you get well, we could win more!”
Chestnut’s body shook. Jill hugged him closer to herself. She wondered what would happen to Chestnut after he died. Was there a horse heaven? She had read more about the Happy Hunting Grounds after her grandfather’s story. Would Chestnut go there?
The thoughts of Chestnut dying made Jill cry. She sobbed quietly. Chestnut opened one eye. Jill thought she saw tears in it. Was he aware that he was dying? In the next few seconds, he made an effort to gently nibble her hand. Jill bent down and kissed him on the side of the face. Suddenly, and without warning, Chestnut stopped breathing. Jill shook his head.
“Breathe! Chestnut, breath!” yelled the girl.
There was no sign of life in the eyes of Chestnut. Jill began frightened. She jumped to her feet. She could not control her voice. She screamed, “Chestnut, it’s not time for you to go!”
Startled by Jill’s shouting, a large owl took off from a beam near the roof of the barn. Jill walked behind it and watched it fly out into the night sky.
Above her, stars twinkled and stretched out like an enormous carpet of diamonds. A full moon lit up the speckled sky.
Just then, Jill noticed a dark object moving across the face of the moon. She stared through her tears, unable to identify the shape. The dark image was coming closer to her. What could it be? Jill rubbed her eyes in disbelief at what she saw. Heading towards her was a winged unicorn.
The young girl looked immediately towards the barn. She told herself that her mind was playing tricks on her. People often imagined that they were seeing things when they were upset. And she was upset!
Jill stopped looking at the night sky. She decided that she should return to the house.
“I will wake up mom and dad. They should know that Chestnut has died!”
Saying these words out loud made Jill cry again.
The night air felt refreshing as Jill turned the corner of the barn. Her home was in sight. She felt safe. She decided that there was no unicorn flying in the night sky. She might as well look up at the sky again.
She had not been imagining things – her heart was wildly thumping. Approaching from the northwest, just above the treetops, was a magnificent white unicorn!
Unicorns Come At Night-
Jill stared at the wonderful sight. Large wings balanced its beautiful body, as it descended slowly towards the ground. The young girl marveled as the wings curled backward helping to slow its speed. Jill had seen airplanes reduce speed by using parachutes in a similar way.
“No one will believe me!” Jill said to herself.
Closer and closer came the unicorn, adjusting its speed. As its hooves touched the concrete driveway, sparks flew in all directions.
“There must be marks all over the road,” thought Jill. She remembered that her father had recently paved the driveway.
“Dad is going to be really mad when he sees those skid marks!”
Sleep was now out of the question. She forgot that he intention was to tell her parents about Chestnut’s death. Instead, Jill hid behind a rain barrel.
The magnificent unicorn walked gracefully towards the barn. Her coat was dazzling white. Silver curls of silk-like hair hung down each side of her mane. A glistening golden horn emerged from the centre of her head. It was studded with diamonds and gems of many colours.
The moonlight cast a shadow on the unicorn. Jill watched the ground. The shadow danced like a pony when it moved. Each hoof was lifted with the face of a ballerina and they flashed when moonbeams hit them. The unicorn pranced towards the barn with its ringlets bouncing from her mane.
“She must be the Queen of the Unicorns, but why was she here. Why was she going into Chestnut’s barn?
End of sample Chapter