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by Destrier

I'm afraid I don't remember whose idea Petshop Exotica was, but the premise is a pet emporium whose animals were all once human. Either they chose to be transformed, or deserved it. More or less.

The young man had stood outside the window of Pet Shop Exotica for nearly forty five minutes: the shop keeper had been watching him. The youth's deep sighs, though not audible, were certainly visible, and he didn't really seem to be looking at the the cages on display but rather through them. Finally, the shop keeper went to the door.

"Can I help you, sir?" he asked.

The young man started and then said, "Not unless you sell Unicorns."

"I'm afraid not, sir," the shop keeper said. "Not legal to trade in sentient creatures you see."

The young man, apparently thinking he was joking, laughed shortly.

"A winged horse wouldn't serve?" offered the shop keeper. He had none in stock - too large to keep on the premises with a ten meter wingspan - but reckoned he could get one in without much delay.

But the young man shook his head. "Sorry. Forget it. I'll move along."

"Wait a minute," the shop keeper said, suddenly recognising the youth. "This wouldn't happen to be about a certain golden-haired young lady would it? The one with the Unicorn ear-rings, Unicorn pendent, and Unicorn teeshirt or sweatshirt, depending on the weather?"

"You've seen her?"

"Occasionally comes in and asks just what you did," the shop keeper acknowledged. "I've seen you following her about, haven't I?"

"She won't even talk to me!" the youth suddenly burst out, tears leaking down his face. " I love her! I told her so, but she just ignores me! All she's interested in is Unicorns!"

"You seem to feel something for them yourself," observed the shop keeper, nodding at the young man's left arm: just below the sleeve of his teeshirt was a tatoo of a rearing Unicorn.

"That's why I thought she might be interested in me," the youth sniffed. "Similarity of interests? I mean, how many guys are there that like Unicorns? But she's just not interested."

"But you love her."


"How much?"


"How much do you love her?"

The youth elaborated at some length, with much reference to golden hair, linked destinies, sleepless nights, until the shop keeper held up a hand. "Come inside. I think I might be able to help you."

The following day, a golden-haired girl wearing a Unicorn teeshirt smiled at the shop keeper who was standing in the petshop doorway. "Any Unicorns today?" she asked. It was a sort of daily ritual now.

"I've been looking out for you," the shop keeper said. "It just so happens we have one in stock at the moment, and I thought of you immediately."

Suspecting a joke but happy to play along, she entered the shop with him, and felt her jaw drop. Almost glowing in the dim interior, the slender white beast stood near the counter, tied by a golden bridle. She felt her throat tighten in reaction as she stepped toward the beautiful creature. It lowered its equine head, gently stroking her cheek with the long, crystaline horn that spiraled from its forehead. It whickered gently.

"He's... beautiful," she managed, quite lost for words. "How much is he?" Almost certainly beyond the reach of a working girl like her, but she had to have him!

"Oh, no charge," the shop keeper said. "It's illegal to take money for Unicorns. There's a nominal charge for the golden bridle of course, but we do easy payment terms."

"I think he likes me," she breathed as the Unicorn nuzzled her gently.

"I have it on very good authority that his affection goes a good deal deeper than that," murmured the shop keeper, eyes on the little tatoo mark on the Unicorn's left foreleg.

The End