My name is Adrian Parker, and I am not a hero. If you remember nothing else of my story, remember that, because it's the entire reason I'm writing this memoir. News of my recent adventures is already leaking to the public, and my fear is that I will be romanticized as some great pioneer, bravely embracing a rare opportunity to expand mankind's horizons. In truth I made every effort to decline that opportunity, out of humility as much as cowardice. By my estimation there were hundreds, if not thousands, more qualified than myself to take my journey -- and more accepting of its risks. But circumstances and bureaucracy conspired against me, and despite my resistance I was pushed into a destiny that would change our world forever.
It all started on an ordinary Saturday, in an ordinary house, in an ordinary American suburb. Since I didn't work weekends and my household chores were fairly well caught up, I had chosen to sleep in that morning. Alas, my slumber was interrupted by the ringing of a doorbell. At least I assume it was; the exact noise that woke me up eludes my conscious memory to this day, but the bell rang several more times while my head was coming out of its fog, so it seems like a natural inference. Regardless, I crawled out of bed and toward the door, silently cursing whoever dared to interfere with my day off. Still dressed in my clothes from the previous night, I swung open the door to confront the nuisance, and...
"What the [REDACTED -- Eds.] is this?"
Knowing what I know now about the historical import of this moment, I regret not choosing my words more carefully. But at the time, I was still half-asleep and wholly unprepared for the sight before me. Standing on my front porch, just outside the screen door, was a creature unlike any I'd ever seen. If pressed, I would have described it as some kind of horse, but there were some obvious differences. The snout was too small, the eyes too large and too far forward, the head too round, the torso too compact, and the legs too short and stocky. Also, the mane and coat were varying shades of purple, and there was a single spiraling horn coming out of the creature's forehead. It was like the unholy offspring of a unicorn and a gummy bear. To my knowledge, such a thing did not exist in nature, and thus was I led to express the sentiment noted above.
As if in response to my question, though hardly answering it, the creature's horn began to shine with a faint purple aura, nearly the same color as its hair. "What the [REDACTED] is that?" I asked of this new development. Almost as soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a strange pressure envelop my skull, as though a helmet two sizes too small had been forced onto my head. At the same time, my head felt somehow lighter and hollow. These sensations were making me slightly dizzy, so I clutched the doorknob tightly for balance. After a minute that seemed like an hour, the discomfort passed, and I was left to utter the three words that had become my refrain: "What... the... [REDACTED]?" Then, inevitably, things got worse.
"I'm so sorry! Are you all right?" The voice wasn't my own. It talks? I thought. Of course it talks. It's a psychic purple unicorn. Why wouldn't it talk? By this time, I was convinced that I was in the grip of a powerful hallucination. The only question was what had caused it. I mulled over the situation and settled on four possibilities. Either I was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, I was tripping due to a gas leak or other hazard, I was being tormented by something supernatural (i.e. Satan), or I was simply dreaming.
That last option was the first to be crossed off. Even the most bizarre dreams only use images that are already in our memories, and the creature before me didn't register as the least bit familiar. I ruled out the devil soon after. What little I could remember from church told me that visions sent by tricksters and deceivers were sent with the purpose of manipulating mortal emotions, and this vision wasn't making that sort of impact. It wasn't satisfying. It wasn't terrifying. It was confusing, but only as much as a fraternity prank. One might wonder how they got the dean's car inside his office, but it doesn't shatter one's entire perspective on life. If this was the devil's work, he had really lost his touch.
Okay, two down, two to go. I was either going crazy or getting stoned. Neither choice was particularly pleasant to consider, but I had to decide on one or the other in order to take proper action. Of the two, mental illness seemed less likely. I hadn't experienced any symptoms in the past, and going from zero to a complex audio-visual hallucination struck me as a long shot. On the other hand, an environmental cause wasn't a sure thing. I expected a drug-induced psychedelic experience to be, for lack of a better word, more psychedelic. The unicorn was weird, to be sure, but it wasn't what I would call trippy.
Yet the longer my mind waffled between these two possibilities, the more a third intruded on my thoughts, a possibility I had initially ignored altogether. As remote and as ridiculous as it was, there was at least a chance that my senses weren't deceiving me -- that this creature was real, if only in the broadest meaning of the word. It didn't require me to admit the existence of talking unicorns, just of objects made to look like them. People had been building machines to look like living things since antiquity, and modern animatronics had turned the old art form into a fine science. But even assuming that the creature wasn't simply the product of an addled brain, I would still need professional help to identify its exact nature.
With that realization, I finally decided on a plan. I didn't want to drive all the way to the hospital unless I was sure I was some kind of crazy, and the psych ward wouldn't make a house call unless I was a danger to myself or others. If the unicorn was real, however, the appropriate authorities to deal with it would be more than happy to come to my house. And if they didn't find it here, I would have the confirmation of my slipping sanity that I was seeking. From start to finish this whole thought process was resolved in a matter of seconds, so while the possibly imaginary creature at my door was silently awaiting my reply, it hadn't yet become impatient. "Uh, yeah, I'm fine," I said to the unicorn. "Just give me one moment." I closed the door and walked back to my bedroom, where I grabbed my phone and used its Web browser to look for the phone number I planned to call. Once I found it, I dialed the number and was met by a live receptionist within two rings.
"Centre City Animal Control. How may I help you?"