A Perfect Spiral
A Dreamscapes Story by Alicia VanNoy Call If only I'd gone out there ten minutes earlier. The body was warm. Electric-blue light still coming off of her like steam. She lay on her side, legs splayed between the refuse of soggy cardboard and Hefty bags, mane tangled across the wet asphalt. My hand was red where I had checked for her pulse. She smelled like lilacs. I knew she was dead -- eyes glazed and staring skyward -- but I stood in the drizzle, blood pooling around my wingtips, and called for an ambulance. Homicide showed up first. They brought me a poncho, Ramirez and Campbell. I shrugged into the filmy plastic and pulled the hood up. We huddled in the rain, across from the crime scene, while Ramirez asked questions. Forensics marked and bagged and photographed. From here I could see the muck embedded in her silvery hooves. "And you came out here to take a leak?" Ramirez asked. I was watching the photographer as he moved around her, the flash brilliant and then dark, like lightning strikes over the knotted mane, the shredded throat. The raw gouge in her forehead where her horn, a perfect spiral, should have been. "Bryant." I looked at Ramirez, but my eyes drifted back to her rumpled form. The effervescent aura had vanished. At this angle, she could just be a dead horse. "Talk to him later," Campbell was saying. "He's in shock." Rain tapped on the hood of my poncho. I looked down to watch drops gather and stream on the plastic over my folded arms, the revolving light of the squad car casting all of us into red, blue, red, blue. "C'mon, Bryant," said Ramirez. "Let's get some coffee." + "I'd seen her working that corner just last week," I told Ramirez. Campbell was taking notes. I curled my hands around the coffee cup and listened to the scratch of her pen, watched the aproned waitress with the yellow hair wipe down tables. "Did you talk to her?" asked Ramirez. "Yeah. Sure. I told her it wasn't safe on the street like that." I breathed into my cup, warming my face in the cloud of heat. "Pretty piece like hers." I shook my head. "She said she was just doing healings in the alley. She told me to get lost. That I would scare away business." "Did she mention any enemies?" I almost rolled my eyes. "I talked to her for five minutes." "You know I've got to ask,” said Ramirez. "Anyone would have killed for that alicorn. It was perfect." "Would you?" he said. "Ramirez," said Campbell. They shared a glance. Ramirez shrugged. His eyes were bloodshot. "Can you describe it?" "I dunno, man. About three feet long? White. No flaws." I looked out the window. Rain glittered in the yellow light of the diner's flashing sign. “About the prettiest piece of ivory I've ever seen.” I said the last part quiet, like talking to myself. I ripped the tops off two Sweet'N Lows and poured them grain by grain into my cup, stirred the coffee with a silver spoon that needed washing, and then added a thin line of cream. It curled bone white into the black coffee – a slow-moving coil that went round and round. "We'll put the word out," Campbell was saying to Ramirez. "Anyone trying to fence an alicorn." "Try Chinatown," I suggested into my coffee. My cheeks were wet. + After they baggd my shoes as evidence, Campbell drove me home. That night I dreamed of the alley. I leaned on the wet brick, fumbling with my fly, three beers and two bourbons finally fuzzy in my brain. Smoke clung to my suit; last call was in five minutes. Then I saw her, shoved behind the dumpster, gleaming amid the piled rubbish. I stumbled away from the wall, bladder forgotten. "This is my body," she said in the dream. Her eyes were midnight blue, starry, swirling. Her throat gaped, her hide luminous with a fluorescent wash that gave off cobalt sparks. A scarlet gash between her brows seeped into the corn-silk forelock. "This is my blood." I looked down at my hand, the one that had checked her pulse. It was slick with red. + The next day, I was surprised to wake free of a hangover. Chasing my usual handful of multi-colored pills with a glass of grapefruit juice, I drove down to the station. My hands, always stiff in the chill of morning, did not ache when I flexed them over the steering wheel. At lunch, I lingered over my Philly cheese steak, the dream on repeat behind my eyes. I left early for my weekly doctor's appointment. The doctor knitted his brows over last my test results, compared them to the vitals the nurse had taken, and then asked me if I had started a new homeopathic regimen. "Unicorn blood," I found myself saying. I told him about the night before. "That'll do it," he said. He started to say something about healing properties. That my symptoms would gradually disappear. That I could start counting the rest of my life in years instead of months. This is my blood. I closed my eyes. + I walked past there tonight. The alley was stacked with stuffed animals, handmade cards, wilted grocery-store bouquets wrapped in plastic. I stood with my hands shoved deep into my pockets. Stumps of burnt-out candles, a child's drawing, a sign with hearts drawn in crimson glitter glue: We'll miss you. All of it soaked liberally by rain. I went in and sat at the bar, the television blaring. Someone laughed raucously and I shrugged deeper into my coat. I stared at the bottles lining the wall, amber liquid reflected in the mirror. Someone said my name. I looked around and spotted Ramirez and Campbell. They called me over and I bought us a round. We sat in silence, not drinking, until the ice in my scotch melted away, and condensation pooled around the glass, and I said good night to Ramirez and Campbell and walked home in the dark.