Charlie liked to think of the incidences with the pink and blue unicorn as terrible hallucinations. Obviously something in his meadow was a bit more exciting than it looked which led to these.. occasions when horrible, impossible things happened to him. It was the only truly plausible explanation.
And obviously, on these occasions, he might sometimes have accidents like, say, bumping into a tree and breaking off his horn, which was awful but only to be expected when you were under the control of a hallucinogenic substance. He hadn’t yet come up with an accident which might result in him losing his kidney and then having the resulting cut in his abdomen neatly sewn back up, but he was working on that.
In short, Charlie had concluded that the only way he could stay sane was to assume that these events, which in no way could have happened, clearly hadn’t happened, and there was some other more reasonable explanation.
This was why it was not a pleasant surprise when he trotted to the stream for a drink of water and a starfish fastened itself (Himself? Herself? Who knew with starfish?) to his face.
“Mmmph mm mmph!” it exclaimed which, had Charlie been able to speak starfish might have been interpreted as “Starfish love you!” As he most emphatically did not he hastily shook the starfish off his nose (not an easy job when the creature was hanging on with a whole body full of suckers) and backed off a few steps. The starfish continued to reach for him hopefully, stretching two arms out of the water.
Well, maybe whatever weird thing it was that he’d been eating had gotten into the water. That was a good explanation, a reasonable explanation. A much better explanation than some horrible nightmare he might have had once with a group of singing fish. Charlie decided to leave it at that and go back to his meadow.
The next day was harder to explain. Sure, the starfish might have absorbed something odd, but what kind of weird substance would cause it to kill – Charlie counted – one swordfish, one jellyfish, one catfish, one cuttlefish and... some strange type of fish that seemed to have a goat’s head. He might have put it down to poison in the water, but the starfish was still fastened over the goat-fish’s mouth and nose.
It stopped and waved again as he approached. For homicidal sea life it appeared to be quite friendly. Still, it seemed best for Charlie to keep his distance and try to drink a little further upstream. He didn’t particularly want a starfish attached to his mouth.
Of course, his life being what it was, that was exactly what he got. As soon as he dipped his head down to drink the starfish was there, clamping over his mouth and... was it trying to prise its way between his lips?
He reared in sudden panic, and the starfish flew off. It flopped onto the ground, still waving at him sadly, as he stood and spat. His mouth seemed to have filled with the taste of salt and seaweed. Just what he’d always wanted.
“You must believe in the power of love, Charlie!” And if there was anything that could make the day worse it was a blue unicorn appearing out of nowhere.
“Love will save the world, Charlie!” And of course, where there was a blue unicorn a pink unicorn was never far away.
Charlie glared at them both. “Every time I take your advice it seems to result in me losing some vital part of my body.” Because, yes, they were hallucinations, but they could still be hallucinations he was bloody annoyed with.
As usual they ignored him. Why should he expect otherwise? “We should go on a trip, Charlie,” Pink told him solemnly.
“Only when you’ve gone the length and breadth of the land will you understand the true power of love!” Blue agreed.
“I’m not falling for that one again.” Charlie sat down hastily. “I’m just staying right here and going nowhere!”
Of course, it did no good. They just did that disgusting thing where they wrapped him with their tongues again. The worst part was he could never get the feel of dried-in saliva out of his coat afterwards. The next thing he knew he was on a train. A heart-shaped train. Oh, and the starfish was there too. Wasn’t that just lovely?
“You two do realise this is kidnapping.” He didn’t actually expect them to care, he just felt it needed to be said.
“Love knows no boundaries, Charlie,” Blue scolded him brightly.
“You must learn, here on the Woohoo Choo-Choo!” Pink added happily.
“The Woohoo..?” Charlie’s gaze fell on the starfish. “Oh, god, you don’t mean..”
The two coloured unicorns moved to nuzzle at each other for a moment before they turned to stare meaningfully at Charlie. “Woohoo!” they chorused.
And god, he was never going to get the mental picture of those two together out of his head. “I am not... doing it with a starfish. I don’t care what you do to me. Do starfish even have the appropriate parts to do that type of thing? I thought they were just giant feet or something. Unless that’s snails.” Sensing that his protests were unlikely to do much good Charlie started to gaze desperately about for means of escape. He could always try jumping off the back of a moving train. He would probably only break one leg. There were three others he could limp away on.
As though sensing his intent, the two coloured unicorns moved to flank him.
“Don’t run away from us, Charlie,” Pink said in a way that sounded more threatening than appealing.
“We love you, Charlie,” Blue added soulfully.
And that gave Charlie an idea. “You love me? Really? Huh.” He looked thoughtfully at the starfish. “They love me,” he repeated in a slightly louder voice.
“Of course we love you,” Pink agreed. “Quick! A nar-“
He never got the chance to complete the warning which no doubt would have provided the excuse to bear Charlie away somewhere completely different. Charlie crouched in a corner of the train and waited. After a while, he turned around, shut his eyes, and stayed there until the screaming had stopped.
It was amazing how much damage a jealous starfish could do. Some things were worth having a possessive sea creature permanently attached to your leg.