This short story is about a girl who travels to a fantasy land called Essieterra, where she discovers a slew of mystical creatures, a true sense of community, and later, a family.
I was thirteen when I first embarked on my voyage to the island of Essieterra. I sailed on an enormous galleon, though there were few passengers on board. The captain was a centaur, and the crew consisted of amiable mice and geese. I was the only human on the ship, amid the handful of werewolves, trolls, dwarfs, fairies, and a few other mystical creatures.
“Where are the unicorns?” I had asked when I first laid my eyes upon my shipmates.
“There’ll be countless unicorns in Essieterra,” Captain Carrot promised. “My dear, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.”
I had been wishing to get away from the human world for the summer, and after much pondering, believing, and dreaming, I had perceived a phantasmagoric place called Essieterra. Here, mystical creatures dwelled, and passion propelled the dreams of young and old. It was all a matter of traveling there.
Destiny took care of that. One night, as I lay in bed, I suddenly disappeared and was transported to a dock. Then, the galleon arrived to take me to Essieterra. “All aboard!” Captain Carrot had shouted, waving cheerfully and clicking his hoofs as he walked about the ship. All along, I wanted Essieterra to be more than a figment of my imagination, so I took comfort in the face that there were others who deemed it to be just as real as I did.
Though I clearly stood out for being the only human on board, I didn’t mind. To me, fitting in didn’t matter—being accepted was what truly counted.
“Essieterra, straight ahead!” Captain Carrot declared. When our ship sailed into the port, I was trembling with excitement. Finally, I could live among creatures that I had only seen in pictures; creatures that I had only dreamed of. I spotted a heard of rainbow-striped zebras a few feet away from the sea. I gasped in amazement, and recalled that I had had a poster of a rainbow zebra on my locker at school.
I took in every cell of the flora and fauna. Behind a patch of pink lilies, I spotted a silver horn glistening in the sunlight. Slowly, the creature stepped out from the plant and bowed in introduction.
“Hello, my fine travelers,” the unicorn said in a majestic voice. He was strongly built and quite muscular, and had a little curly beard on his chin as all male unicorns did.
My group bid him hello in return, and I continued to stare in awe at this magnificent creature. “Welcome to the land of Essieterra,” he continued regally. “My name is Cornelius, and I am the leader of the unicorns.”
His gaze drifted to each individual gathered in the throng before him. When Cornelius looked in my direction, there was an expression of hidden knowledge on his face; a look of immense respect and curiosity in his eyes.
“Now, you all must know this. The truth is that each and every one of you acquired knowledge of this hidden land not by accident or chance, but by predetermined destiny. All of you who are present have a special…gift, talent, ability, sense…anything along those lines. Something that makes you…” Cornelius trailed off, searching for the right word.
“Immortal?” a fairy suggested. Cornelius was still unsure. “Well, I suppose that may apply to some of you…but it’s more than that; oh, so much more!” the dapper unicorn told us.
Self-consciously, I raised my hand. Cornelius nodded towards me. “Ah, quite the diligent schoolgirl. Even when classes are dismissed, the lessons never cease.”
A moment later, I piped up, “I…I think I know the special quality that we all have in common. We are the rare—or, in some cases, the only—members of our species who have the power to truly see into the heart of the world; perceiving life in ways the universe has never witnessed before. Until now.” This notion brought forth numerous smiles and nods from those around me.
Before Cornelius could respond, a troll interjected, “Then how come the universe isn’t here with us?”
“The universe is everywhere. But sometimes, it can’t all fit into time or space. So a bit of it may spill out elsewhere. You see?” I replied simply.
Cornelius fixed his beautiful silver eyes upon me. “A very wise one indeed. It’s a pleasure to have you here, my dear.” Those words marked the beginning of an unforgettable chapter in my life.
As time went on, I grew both mystified and accustomed to life in Essieterra. Each day, I felt more connected to the community, and I relished in every surprise. Who knew that on a single island, it could be both day and night all at once, or that fairies could lend you their wings? I had always dreamt of flying, and now I was able to experience such an exhilarating thrill!
There were a multitude of places to live in Essieterra, consisting of ancient castles, cozy cottages, mushroom houses, and, of course, the forest. Many of the natives came and went as they pleased, but myself and most of the other newcomers lived in the abandoned castles. I would often go swimming with the fairies in the brook, or make shoes with the elves. Soon, my own clothes became tattered and worn, so some of the fairies kindly spun me new outfits.
Everyone was extremely benign in this land. Even the trolls amused me with their wry sense of humor. I wanted to stay in Essieterra forever, and the others couldn’t bear the thought of me leaving, either. But I knew that I had to come home eventually. If I stayed here for life, then I’d be cheating the rest of the world, in a sense. So many individuals told me that I had abundant gifts to offer the world, both the people back home and my comrades in Essieterra.
Most of the creatures whom I had journeyed with planned to stay in this land for as long as they lived. But to me, it was the summer vacation of a lifetime. I had made so many friends, and I didn’t know how I could ever come back to visit again. After all, Essieterra couldn’t exactly be found on a map of the world.
As the days went by, I came across an important realization. As mysterious, beautiful, unusual, and extraordinary the inhabitants of Essieterra were, none of us were absolutely perfect. Perhaps by having all of us special individuals come together, each could realize his or her own mortality within. What one had, another could be lacking, and vice versa. For example, a fairy could fly, but couldn’t lift boulders. Likewise, a giant could lift boulders but couldn’t fly.
Each individual had something to offer to the community. We shared in one another’s pain, grief, trials, and triumphs. Though I was the only one of my kind in Essieterra, I never felt lonely. There was always another who would join me in hypothesizing about life and existence, or share smiles and laughs.
One night (as well as day), when I was heading back to the castle after a great feast, I saw a brooding figure in the moonlight (and sunlight) gazing down at the shimmering waters of the sea. I realized that it was Cornelius’s silhouette. I walked over to him, feeling the soft grass between the toes of my bare feet. We had become good friends during my stay in Essieterra, and I deemed Cornelius to be a wonderful, wise leader.
“Cornelius? Are you alright?” I asked as I approached him.
“Yes, of course, dear. I’ve just been thinking about something…it’s been on my mind for quite a while, actually. I want someone to deeply love; someone to be with for the rest of my life. I want…a wife,” he told me, a tired strain in his voice. It was evident that he had been awake on many a night and day thinking about this.
All of the female unicorns in Essieterra were madly in love with Cornelius. They would bat their eyelashes at him and giggle incessantly; flirting intensely and constantly. But none of this captivated Cornelius. He wished for someone with a beautiful soul and intelligent mind who could help him watch over Essieterra and preserve the sort of impenetrable quintessence of love that the rest of the world seemed to be lacking.
“Darling,” Cornelius confessed, “You are an amazing girl. You have the power to see into people’s souls and cherish them. I will always love you dearly, and if you were a unicorn, I’d ask for your hoof in marriage. But you are a human, and it is a unicorn lady that I long for. When she comes along—oh, I do hope she does!—then I will be truly complete. But until then, I shall live a life of honor and power, as opposed to one of true, passionate love and romance.” A silver tear slid down his cheek.
“Cornelius, you’ll find her. You just have to keep believing in the power and potency of love. Promise me you’ll do this?” I asked.
Cornelius nodded. “Yes, dear. As sure and the sun shines and the stars twinkle.”
Then, I kissed his mane, glanced behind me once more, and walked back to the castle.
A few days later, while I was strolling through the forest, I came across an unbelievable sight. Against an oak tree lay a crying unicorn with a broken horn. She had glassy blue eyes and a white mane with pink streaks. She had broken her horn while hunting for food, as she had used it as a spear. When she spotted a wild boar, she had charged him, but he ran away a second before she could kill him. The unicorn ended up breaking her horn by accidentally running into a tree trunk. She told me all of this as I introduced myself and petted her soft mane. I found out that her name was Cornelia, and she had gotten lost in the enormous forest. She lived in a remote part of Essieterra that was only inhabited by a small number of creatures.
I led Cornelia out of the forest, and we walked along the main road that brought us to Essieterra Town Square. Though her sense of direction was impaired, Cornelia was a keen individual who could hear even the inaudible flapping of fairy wings. We found Cornelius loitering around the brook, occasionally taking a drink of water. The moment he laid his eyes on her, it was as if choirs of angels had come down from heaven to serenade the two lovers who were destined to be together forever.
I was a bridesmaid at their wedding, which was a huge event for all of the residents of Essieterra. Everyone in the land came, and we could all agree that it was a wonderful way to spend the last few days of summer. Cornelia had pink roses in her hair, and wore a veil made by the fairies. Despite her broken horn, she looked absolutely beautiful.
Finally, the time came when I had to leave the land that had become a part of my essence. I bid farewell to the mystical creatures who would never be mythical to me. Before I left, Cornelius said to me, his eyes gleaming with a newly passionate spark, “I don’t know how I will ever repay you. But I promise, somehow, I will. You found my true love, and as a result, I found true happiness. I thank you for everything. When the time is right, and if you want to come, then I will bring you back to Essieterra. Until then, farewell, my dear, and God bless you.”
The unicorn couple nuzzled each other lovingly, and I waved good-bye to my comrades as I sailed away on the ship.
My life in the mapped world continued right where it had left off. I faced trials and tribulations in my life, but also had triumphs and accomplishments. I did all I could to help people, and tried to learn from their strengths and weaknesses. Time passed, and my teenage years soon gave way to young adulthood. But one night, when the moment was just right, I floated away to Essieterra again.
Cornelius and Cornelia were there to greet me, and I noticed that they had aged since the first time I visited. Cornelius’s once-silver mane, tail, beard, and eyes were now gray, and more of Cornelia’s broken horn had chipped away. Moreover, they had another human newcomer to introduce me to—and the angels serenaded once more.
He was an undoubtedly handsome and strong young man, though he had several scars on his body from when he was attacked by a dog years ago. But despite his marred appearance, I could still see a look of pure endearment and adventure in his eyes, and a broad smile playing on his lips.
Inevitably, we got married in the land of Essieterra, and a prophecy was later fulfilled. Cornelius had explained that the name of the island, Essieterra, derived from a girl’s name, Essie, which meant “star”. This star child was to be born someday, and she would whisk sleeping humans away to Essieterra on starry nights, though at first only in their dreams. In the morning, most people would deem the land to be no more than a figment of their imagination. But those who really believed, and those who were truly worthy, would have the privilege of actually traveling there. They would experience the island fully and completely with every sense and cell of their being.
When I gave birth to Essie in the land that bore her name, my husband and I learned that she could never leave Essieterra, for she was needed there the most. Unwilling to forsake our daughter, we decided to make Essieterra our permanent home. By doing this, we found the place where the two worlds touched, between fact and fantasy; reality and dreamland. After all, we were still a part of the universe—spilled out into a filled empty space where the sun always shined and the stars always twinkled.