When Robert opened the child’s pink suitcase to check what looked like a skeleton concealed inside on the x-ray, the last thing he expected to jump out was a unicorn. Round, fluffy and fat, with a tiny golden horn in the centre of its forehead, it glared at him with unveiled animosity.
The child glanced at her mother, who started wringing her hands.
Robert decided to hide his surprise with officiousness. He checked their declaration card once more before snapping on a pair of blue nitrile gloves.
“Have you got a permit for this animal?”
The little girl wrinkled her nose, like she reckoned Robert smelled bad, and her mother started doing a goldfish impression with her mouth. Highly suspicious.
“I’d like to inform you that your declaration card is a legal document, and it is an offense to lie on it. Under meat and meat products you should have ticked yes instead of no.”
“You don’t eat unicorns, silly.” The child reached out to pick up the animal, but Robert held out his hand and motioned her to step back.
He’d never encountered a unicorn before, if that’s what it really was. It could be endangered for all he knew, or harbouring disease. He wasn’t going to be responsible for bringing down the farming industry because a cute little girl looked like she was going to cry. These people were smugglers, and that meant they had something to hide.
“I’ll have to check with animal control to see if it’s a concern for CITES.”
The woman pulled out her wallet and waved her credit card in Robert’s face. “Look, I’ll pay whatever fine I have to, just let my daughter take her unicorn home with her.”
Perhaps there was more than mere animal trafficking involved in this case, although Robert knew that was serious enough by itself. He picked up a black plastic wand and fitted a new swab to the end, then ran it over the unicorn’s back, ruffling its soft white fur.
The unicorn shied away from him. It whinnied in distress and reared up, its little horn glowing faintly at the base.
“Mummy, I want to go home.” The child started crying.
“Please, Officer, we’ve had a really long flight and we’re very tired. Can’t we just go home?”
The woman put her arm around the little girl. It was a good act, very convincing. Robert had seen many seemingly innocent people try to put one over on the country before, beautiful young women, honeymooning couples, even sweet old people. A mother and child were a first for him. The big shots behind all the drugs and criminal activity were who made Robert angry. They got rich on exploiting the vulnerable, ruining lives like those of the mother and child in front of him.
“Protecting the country from invasive species and diseases is my first priority,” he said.
He sounded sterner than he intended, but it was better that the woman and child were a little afraid of him. It would stop them from trying to manipulate him. He shoved the wand into the first defender drug analysis machine, which looked something like a cash register with a bulky body and a computer display. It beeped loudly and its screen flashed red.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to take this to the lab for some more tests.”
The unicorn tried to bite him when he reached for it, but Robert grabbed it firmly by the base of its neck and slipped his other hand around its body. The little girl screamed, her wails unnerving as he carried the unicorn to a private room. The animal struggled in his grasp, its little hooves kicking painfully against him. He’d have bruises on his arms and side in the morning. He noticed the horn glow brightly on the little horse’s head.
Marianne was arranging items on a shelf when Robert entered the room. She turned and smiled at him, then cocked one eyebrow when she saw what he carried.
“What have we got?” She prodded at the unicorn with a biro. The plastic lid warped when she moved it into the halo of light emanating from the horn.
“Not sure. Lit up the first defender like a Christmas tree.” Robert set the unicorn down on a counter. It immediately tried to jump down, so he kept his hand on its back, holding it in place. The animal snorted and looked between him and Marianne with obvious hatred.
“What drug?” Marianne grabbed gloves, put them on and collected the paraphernalia needed to perform a more accurate drug test. Robert was grateful for her help. For such a small animal, the unicorn was surprisingly strong. and it took effort to restrain it.
“All of them.”
Marianne made a circle with her mouth. “A literal drug mule, then. A true gift horse. A little trojan narco box.”
Sweat broke out on Robert’s face. He gritted his teeth. Normally Marianne made him laugh, but he wasn’t in the mood. “Get the street lab ready.”
A consummate professional, Marianne picked up the metal spatula to take a sample from the unicorn to put into the street lab drug testing machine, a more accurate diagnostic to the first defender that would break down the sample into its component parts and give a full report on all the illicit substances found.
The unicorn tensed in Robert’s grip as Marianne brought the spatula near to its body. He couldn’t see the horn anymore, it looked like a miniature sun that hurt his eyes. The animal tossed its head and sneezed, which caused rays of light to shoot out of its forehead and incinerate him and Marianne in their blaze.
The pain was intense. Robert reckoned it felt akin to being barbequed. When he could focus on his surroundings again, he lay on the floor looking up at the counter and the unicorn standing upon it. They both seemed to have grown to mountainous proportions.
His body felt strange and uncooperative, but he could still move his eyes, although they responded sluggishly to his commands. Swivelling his eyeballs to the right he made out a figure lying on the floor beside him.
A huge red jelly baby.
At first, he thought it was the size of a human being, but after catching glimpses of his own body out of the corner of his eyes, he realised it was probably normal sized, except now he was a tiny green jelly baby.
The red jelly baby’s eyes flickered towards him and he recognised the person behind the terrified gaze.
The ground shook as the unicorn landed between them. It towered over him, bigger than an elephant. It snorted, and Robert felt a fine mist of snot spatter against his candy shell.
It shot him a malicious grin. Robert could do nothing as it carefully stepped back, picked up Marianne in its mouth and ate her slowly, all the time maintaining eye contact with him. He wanted to cry, but no gummy tears squeezed through his sugary eyelids.
He waited for the unicorn to devour him next, but instead it pranced to the door. With a touch of its horn, the door swung open, allowing the unicorn to return to the rest of the airport.
Before the door swung shut, Robert heard the first of the screams echo across the large hall.