“Instructions for Operating Your New YOUR OWN UNICORN: Six Easy Steps,” short fiction by Rachel Steiger-Meister

1.) Open the box. (See Note #1)

2.) Open the box carefully. (See Note #2) (See Note #3)

3.) Unicorns do not have explosive farts like in that video your nephew made you watch on YouTube. Rainbows, however, do sometimes accompany their gases. For best viewing of gas rainbows, bring your unicorn to a sunny hilltop. There is no conclusive evidence that unicorn farts start fires.

4.) Carefully lift your baby unicorn out of the box. (See Note #4)

5.) Look into your baby unicorn’s eyes, while carefully holding your unicorn aloft. Eye to eye contact and the subsequent bonding that results before the unicorn’s hooves touch the ground is seminal for making the transition from boxed life to life with you as its new owner. (See Note #5) (See Note #6)

6.) After holding your baby unicorn carefully aloft and looking into its eyes, you are now happily bonded for life. You may proceed to enjoy a lifetime of movie nights, innocent, gentle nuzzling, shared farts, and annual trips to sunny hilltops.



1.) You’ve most likely done this if you are reading these directions. If this is not the case and the directions somehow evacuated from the box without your doing, step away from the box immediately; its contents may have been tampered with (See Addendum 1a).

2.) Presumably you have already done this. If not, and these instructions have somehow evacuated from the box without your action or interference, see Note #1.

3.) Unicorn flesh, particularly newborn unicorn flesh, is very sensitive. If you opened the box un-carefully, say with a box opener blade, scissors, or the 24-inch machete your wife’s teenage nephew Jimmy got for Christmas, and inflicted wounds on your unicorn, your unicorn will never be the same.

4.) If you did not properly follow Step 2 of Instructions—for instance, if Jimmy uses his 24-inch machete to open the box before you’ve returned home from work—you will most likely need to stop the massive hemorrhaging from your unicorn’s wounds. Bring sheets, towels—tear off your own clothes. Or someone else’s. According to my wife Mag, our neighbor Sam, a fine young black man, immediately stripped down to his briefs when he saw the pool of blood and raw bits of flesh oozing from the hacked-up box on our driveway. YOUR OWN UNICORN’s breeding process has rendered our product with the desirable, tissue-thin skin that is the most prized on the Special Fantastical Creatures Market. The low platelet count is an unfortunate side effect of our SPECIAL breeding process. Fortunately, Sam is training to be an EMT. (See Addendum 4a)

5.) If affixing elastic to your unicorn’s horn is necessitated, perhaps due to the wildly inappropriate and violent behavior of your soon-to-be-former wife’s nephew, and you accidentally (because we can’t imagine you’d torment your $200,000 plus unicorn on purpose—pricing range based on: mane delicacy, hoof sturdiness, and fart capacity) snapped your unicorn in the eye with said elastic, you’ve no doubt seriously abraded your unicorn’s cornea. Like unicorn skin, delicate as tissue paper, unicorn eyes are also highly sensitive. (See Addendum 5a)

6.) If your unicorn’s hooves touch the ground before you’ve made eye contact for no less than thirty seconds and no more than two minutes, there is a 97.2% chance that your unicorn will suffer from Magical Creature Dissociation Disorder. (See Addendum 6a)



1a. If the contents of the box have been tampered with, you will need to return the box to the nearest manufacturer. We are located in Hong Kong and Chicago. Due to potential hazard, it cannot be shipped. For a ¾ refund (see Addendum 1b), return in person. Maintain a safe distance from the box at all times during your travels. Tampered with unicorns have a tendency to become seasick.

1b. ¾ refunds are the only kind of refund available. We will only accept unexploded and/or un-singed boxes. No ¾ refunds for remains.

4a. We do encourage you to seek emergency veterinary care if the situation appears to merit it; however, it is imperative that you present your unicorn as a horse dressed up as unicorn for a child’s birthday party. Affix some sort of elastic to the horn on either side, going under the unicorn’s chin. You should probably grab this glue (see Addendum 4b) and elastic band when you run to get the sheets to staunch the unicorn’s blood flow. It’s highly recommended that you have a neighbor who is an EMT or training to be an EMT. Sam, though only partway through his training, is very resourceful at blood stanching. (See Addendum 4c)

4b. A glue stick probably won’t cut it. Try CRAZY CREATURE GLUE. CRAZY CREATURE CARE PRODUCTS is a subsidiary of our parent company MAGIC FOR YOU. If you mail in your YOUR OWN UNICORN proof of purchase, we will mail you a 50% off one CRAZY CREATURE CARE PRODUCTS coupon within two weeks to six months. Proof of purchase is not valid if blood-stained.

4c. As unicorns are recognized under the Global Cooperative Recuperation of Fantastical Animals Act as a Level 2 Endangered Magical Creature (see Addendum 4d), you may be subject to five to ten years imprisonment and fines of up to but no more than $999,999 if you are accused of having a unicorn in your possession. The length of imprisonment and monetary penalty are approximately the same worldwide, not including Singapore (see Addendum 4f). In other words, owning a Special Fantastical Creature requires extra special caution and care. I tried to express this to my wife Mag before the package arrived. I thought raising our own baby YOUR OWN UNICORN would be good practice for having children.

4d. While we strive to offer the finest in Endangered Magical Creatures, unicorns are not considered to be Level 1. As of the June 13, 2010 passing of the Endangered Magical Creatures Fantastical Animals Re-Hierarchizing Bill, the Loch Ness monster is the only internationally, legally recognized Level 1 Endangered Magical Creature. While the employees of YOUR OWN UNICORN recognize that Nessie technically (See Addendum 4e) doesn’t exist and that unicorns should be Level 1 (our parent company MAGIC FOR YOU would certainly not object to the resulting escalation in value and sales), the dedicated team at YOUR OWN UNICORN has no control over international law.

4e. Sam and I have often talked late into the night about Nessie. Our disagreement centers around the classic philosophical question: If a tree falls in the forest with no one around, does it still make a crashing noise? At YOUR OWN UNICORN we can guarantee a creature that will neigh, fart, poop, and whinny, whether alone in a wooded glen or at a grocery store. (If you bring your unicorn to the grocery store, please be sure to follow the party horn-hat guidelines noted in Addendum 4a.)

4f. We strongly discourage purchasing, harboring, or even standing near a unicorn in Singapore. However, due to our parent company MAGIC FOR YOU’s non-discrimination policy #1133472, we are not permitted to restrict Singapore buyers from purchasing YOUR OWN UNICORN products. (See Addendum 4g)

4g. Sam thinks YOUR OWN UNICORN should add a new non-discrimination policy to the books, #1133775: Unicorns shouldn’t only be white. I’ve tried to explain that this SPECIAL breeding choice is a result of our Product Research Unit’s extensive research into Indo-European unicorn lore showing that these Fantastical Creatures are typically white and associated with innocence, purity, and virginal young ladies. Sam says it’s just like white people to call only white things innocent and pure. I’ve told Sam that I do not play nor have I ever played a role in product development. During my successful tenure at YOUR OWN UNICORN (and other subsidiaries of MAGIC FOR YOU), I have worked strictly in Sales until my recent transfer to the Instructions Writing Department. I have also attempted to explain, on more than one occasion, that MAGIC FOR YOU and its subsidiary companies do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability or age. However, whenever I get to this point in my spiel, Sam has usually rolled over in bed, leaving only the top of his fine, muscular shoulders and back visible above the white sheets, his shaved head resting angelically on the white pillow. (Should I buy different sheets?)

5a. Baby unicorn eyes are typically a light violet to medium purple (see Addendum 5b). If one or both eyes turn green upon being snapped with elastic, you should—once the elastic is properly affixed—rush the unicorn to the nearest ophthalmologist for treatment and then to the vet for the emergency stitches which necessitated the elastic attachment in the first place. You should also ignore the scowls and glares Sam gives you over the baby unicorn’s bloody body that say: Why did you mess around with that damn elastic and CRAZY CREATURE GLUE? I had this medical emergency covered until you showed up, dumb ass.

If the baby unicorn’s eyes turn red when snapped with elastic, you should shoot the unicorn ASAP to put it out if its misery and bury it before your children come home from school (See Addendum 5d).

If the baby’s eyes turn green or red without the accidental elastic snap follow the same procedures as if snapped and turned red.

If your unicorn’s eyes are or turn a color other than light violet to medium purple, green or red, please contact our Product Research Unit at 1-900-MAG-ICUS in Indiana. They rarely get calls and will be the only people genuinely interested in this occurrence. Contrary to what Sam thinks, there is one person of color in the Unit (though Bev had yet to come aboard when the unicorn lore research was executed).

5b. If you are having difficulty determining whether your baby unicorn’s eyes are lighter than violet, darker than medium purple, or just right (see Addendum 5c), you can send away for a complimentary color card. However, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of this card as our YOUR OWN UNICORN quality inspectors are no longer allowed on site in the factory where the cards are produced due to a physical dispute that ensued when our Sales Department came for an impromptu visit. (I, along with other members of the team at YOUR OWN UNICORN, believe that the incident has been blown out of proportion. One of the line workers called YOUR OWN UNICORN unicorns “gay,” and I became a tad worked up. My Aunt Carol was a gay, I explained to the factory worker, and she was a lovely woman. Then I clocked him (See Addendum 5e). As we have a contract with this contractor until 2020, they will continue to print our eye color cards until then. Color cards arrive three days to six years after ordering. Call 1-800-SEE-PINK.

5c. If your baby unicorn’s eyes aren’t just right, we offer our condolences and suggest you love it anyway. (Sam says it’s just like white people to care about eye color. I explained to him that it’s about meeting the expectations and needs of the Special Fantastical Creatures Market’s customers. Sam says, Special Market just means Black Market. We can’t say Black Market, I say. Then, he says, Because Black is bad, right? At YOUR OWN UNICORN, while we are obligated by Special Fantastical Creatures Market codes to make the purchaser aware of certain ill-eh-gal-eh [I think you can take it from there] issues, the Special-ness of our product has nothing to do with badness. So then Sam says, Are you trying to say I’m retarded? I only stare at him, speechless, hoping my eyes can convey what my vocal chords cannot.)

5d. YOUR OWN UNICORN strongly discourages households with children from ordering a unicorn. Children do not know how to keep their mouths shut (or their machetes to themselves) when it comes to illegal Fantastical Animals. Jimmy was almost eighteen; he should have behaved better. He definitely shouldn’t have put up the video of him hacking away at the box with his machete on YouTube—it’s so insensitive. (However, due to the circumspection of the team at YOUR OWN UNICORN, there are no identifying labels on the box.)

5e. As YOUR OWN UNICORN’s top Sales Agent for the last ten years, I am proud to say that I was permitted to stay on with the team. (The contractor claimed I initiated a “brawl” that led to one-third of the work force sustaining mild to mildly serious injuries, but the management at MAGIC FOR YOU can sniff out bullshit, even the non-MAGICAL kind.) I was transferred to the Instructions Writing Department and only docked 10,000 Sparkle Points (a necessary slap on the wrist to avoid the appearance of favoritism).

6a. In unicorns, Magical Creature Dissociation Disorder most frequently manifests itself through refusal to shine ocular sunbeams, a neighing that is reminiscent of 1950s show tunes as opposed to the tinkling of fairy bells and playful cascades rushing into forest pools, and a tendency to bite off its owner’s toes. Less frequently, the Disorder results in an addiction to eating large quantities of lawn grass (real or fake) as opposed to DRAGON MEAT-TREATS! (See Addendum 6b) and subsequent vomiting of lawn grass (real or fake). Even less frequently, the Disorder may result in a Child Allergy Condition (See Addendum 6c). (See Addendum 6d2 and 6d3)

6b. DRAGON MEAT-TREATS! can be purchased from China. Sam says they are probably made of people meat. They aren’t. Though here at YOUR OWN UNICORN, we can’t vouch for the percentage of dragon meat present in every TREAT!.

6c. Unicorn Child Allergy Condition most frequently manifests itself through an extreme form of dermatitis in which the unicorn’s skin balloons into highly sensitive round purple and orange splotches that vary in size (dime-sized to trashcan lid, See Addendum 6d1). If one of these splotches is accidentally touched by human fingers (as we can’t imagine you’d injure your $200,000 plus unicorn on purpose—pricing range based on: mane delicacy, hoof sturdiness, and fart capacity) (See Addendum 6e) or the unicorn’s own delicate mane blowing in a gentle spring wind, the unicorn will shriek as if it is being stabbed with a million tiny needles dipped in cayenne. Less frequently, the Condition will cause the unicorn’s smooth, flawless white hide to become covered in fresh looking purple-blue bruises (that will turn a putrid green in seven to ten days), making it look like you attempted to beat your unicorn to death with a tire iron (See Addendum 6i). Even less frequently, the Condition will result in your unicorn developing a high-pitched, nasal, girlish laugh for a neigh. Sam sometimes says I have a girlish, nasal laugh. I think he’s jealous that I invested all of my Sparkle Points in a white unicorn.

6d1. The trashcan lid is approximately the same size as the one Sam and I met over. Sam’s family—good, upstanding, Baptist, black people—had moved in next door one spring while Sam was away at his freshman year of college. Then, that summer, when he was home for break, we serendipitously took out the trash at the same time one evening. The lid of my can fell off, and we bumped heads as we both bent over to pick it up.

6d2. If you look into your unicorn’s eyes for under thirty seconds, it will always move in circles chasing its own tail and never be able to walk in a straight line.

6d3. If you look into your unicorn’s eyes for more than two minutes, it will be over-stimulated by the smell of your farts and chew up furniture at an alarming rate, gnawing couches down to their frames and rutting against the legs of your dining room table. Less frequently, it will bash its head into television sets. Even less frequently, it will bash its head into the toilet bowl (See Addendum 6k).

6e. If the human fingers are those of a child between the ages of three to 17.99, the unicorn will vomit pastel glitter. If the fingers of said children bear any traces of a sticky, sweet substance, including but not limited to maple syrup, jam, and cookie batter, the unicorn will most frequently develop an inflammation of the throat and nasal passages, suffocate, and die. Less frequently, the unicorn will develop a runny nose that drips jelly beans (See Addendum 6f). Even less frequently, touching the unicorn’s inflamed hide will result in the child developing an Allergic Unicorn Reaction (See Addendum 6g).

6f. In 50% of these cases, a jelly bean may become stuck in one of the unicorn’s nostrils. It can easily be removed with pliers. However, in 5% of cases, the unicorn will suffocate due to jelly bean stoppage in both nostrils and simultaneous inflammation of the throat. In 7% of these cases, the unicorn will not suffocate due to jelly bean stoppage in both nostrils and simultaneous inflammation of the throat as one jelly bean can be dislodged in time with pliers. At 17.75 years of age, Jimmy’s touch caused my baby unicorn to instantaneously develop Unicorn Child Allergy Condition and the jelly beans began to flow. When I arrived at the scene, Mag was busily engaged with jelly bean-nostril removal, making valiant use of her tweezers and a set of pliers.

6g. In 32% of Allergic Unicorn Reaction cases, the child develops lifelong asthma. In 66% of cases, the Reaction results in a swift and painless death. In 2% of cases, the Reaction results in the child becoming a writer in the fantasy and/or science fiction genre(s). (See Addendum 6h)

6h. In 1% of these cases, the child will turn into J.K. Rowling. This sort of happened to Jimmy. Due to his proximity to the adult age of eighteen, a mutation of this 1% occurrence appears to have occurred. The bastard is now a best-selling author of Harry Potter pornographic fan fiction on the Deep Dark Web. The thirty-third installment is due out this month: “Harry Potter and the Dragon’s Junk.” At least I can be assured that Mag is living in comfort. (The Product Research Unit is dying to get their DNA swabs all over him.)

6i. If the Endangered Fantastical Creatures Commission deems that you have physically and/or mentally abused your unicorn (See Addendum 6j) you may be subject to the standard five to ten years imprisonment and fines of up to but no more than $999,999 for having the unicorn in your possession. In addition, you will be subject to a fifty-seven-year to lifetime sentence and fines up to but no more than three million dollars for reckless abuse.

6j. If you mentally abuse your unicorn, you are sick and should seek counseling. I take what little solace I can from the fact that my baby unicorn Candy-Prance died safely in a hospital room, far from Jimmy, who no doubt would have tormented her physically and mentally as she grew—the meddling, mentally incompetent prick.

6k. In 22% of cases, head bashing into the toilet bowl causes the unicorn’s horn to be stuck in the bowl siphon (See Addendum 6l). I imagine the unicorn feels a frustration and hopelessness in this position similar to the feeling one has when the $125,000 ($135,000 if you take into account the total before the slap-on-the-wrist $10,000 Points docking) you’ve earned in Sparkle Points in your seventeen years of dedicated employment at various MAGIC FOR YOU subsidiaries, most recently YOUR OWN UNICORN, and the $75,000 socked away in your savings account that you’ve been building on since you started mowing lawns at the age of seven disappears in a puff of bloody smoke as the baby unicorn you’ve invested the cumulative $200,000 in life savings in is carelessly hacked to near-death by your soon-to-be-former wife’s nephew (who you never liked), and your soon-to-be-former wife explains it away by saying that Jimmy was just over-stimulated by the five bottles of Mountain Dew he’d drunk that day and in that moment, as you look into your soon-to-be-ex wife’s eyes as she casually makes this announcement, you realize several things: the reason Jimmy has such bad teeth; that you are wildly, passionately, and madly in love with Sam who is covered in unicorn blood and working furiously to save your new “horse”; and that you and your wife will never be able to have children together—not only because you haven’t had sex since 2002. Because if you can’t even get a unicorn safely out of a box and look into its eyes for no less than thirty seconds and no more than two minutes while holding it carefully aloft and not mauling it to death, it’s unlikely you will ever be able to preserve and nourish the life of a small creature with a skull even more delicate than that of a baby unicorn, whose eyes you were never able to look into.

In 76% percent of cases, head bashing into the toilet will result in the horn completely breaking off from the unicorn’s head. This breakage will result in the unicorn dying a slow, painful death (See Addendum 6n). The excruciating pain, no doubt accompanied by nausea (given unicorns’ susceptibility to motion sickness), is probably similar to the feeling one has upon the revelation, when walking into the bathroom after a long day of driving around a bloody, dying, squealing unicorn (that you’d been looking forward to having in your life for approximately ten years, five months and three days) in order to scrub the blood out from under your fingernails, clean the clumps of pastel glitter out of your hair, and have a good, muffled cry in the shower, that the awkward position your wife and nephew are in on the toilet is, in fact, a fucking position (though not one you and Mag ever tried).

In 1% of cases, head bashing into the toilet will result in a Unicorn Concussion (See Addendum 6o).

In 1% of cases, head bashing into the toilet will cause the unicorn to be slightly dazed for twenty-four hours or less and then be fine (See Addendum 6r). This daze is probably similar to the twenty-four-hour stupor you are in when you realize that your wife’s nephew only started showing up for holidays, weekly dinners, and movie nights three years ago and that perhaps the gentle, innocent nuzzling your wife engaged in with her nephew (that made you yearn even more strongly for your new YOUR OWN UNICORN) was not merely platonic, auntly behavior but an indicator of something more.

6l. If your unicorn’s horn becomes stuck in the bowl siphon, you can return your living unicorn in person for a ¾ refund to either our Hong Kong or Chicago facility. The unicorn’s head must remain in the toilet bowl (See Addendum 6m). If it appears any attempt has been made to remove the unicorn’s head from the toilet bowl (as evidenced by cracked bowl, unicorn neck bruises, broken neck and/or fractured horn), your refund will be forfeited. We strongly recommend you wear earplugs on your trip, as the unicorn’s discomfort will most likely result in it making desperate, gurgling, dying noises. (The sound is similar to the one your soul makes when, after surreptitiously going through your soon-to-be-ex wife’s backlog of emails, you learn that she met Jimmy almost three years ago at the McDonald’s where he was working behind the register. He slipped her a strawberry shake, on the house.) Less frequently, the unicorn’s discomfort will result in the hum-neighing of a song reminiscent of “Oh, Danny Boy.” Even less frequently, the unicorn’s discomfort will result in it pooping cotton candy.

6m. We do not offer refunds for drowned unicorns. (Sinking hearts can’t be helped either.)

6n. In 50% of cases, this death is loud.

6o. In 97% of Unicorn Concussion cases, the unicorn goes into a coma from which it will never awaken (See Addendum 6p). The unicorn’s coma, though no doubt undesirable, seems preferable to living with the knowledge that your home, though undoubtedly not as sacred as a unicorn’s grove, is not sacred at all, given that it has witnessed three years of incest, or, at best, pedophilia. It is then your moral and ethical burden to decide whether or not to keep the unicorn on life support (See Addendum 6q).

6p. A unicorn in a coma from which it will never awaken is not eligible for the ¾ refund.

6q. In 88% of coma cases, the unicorn will poop out mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate ice cream alternately on the hour. Your handsome, black, male lover, sitting with you in the hospital room for hours on end, may peevishly whine that the unicorn isn’t pooping vanilla and that’s his favorite flavor. Not like you are eating the poop. Not like you have anything to say when Sam’s broad, beautiful shoulders start shaking with muffled sobs, until he finally confesses that he is leaving you, that he is in love with Brett who lives in the dorm room across from his at the Baptist college they both attend in Florida and that when they graduate in June they are moving to San Francisco together to be out and proud, and that your liaisons, over summer, Christmas, and spring breaks, are over, now and forever. Twice a day, at variable times, the unicorn will poop out strawberry ice cream. This just adds to the pain, because you know now that when Mag was out of town on business (giving you blissful time alone with Sam), she was actually drinking strawberry milkshakes at McDonald’s.

In 12% of coma cases, the unicorn will die in less than a day. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies will linger in the death room for one to thirty days after the unicorn’s expiration. You’ll wish your own death could be as immediate and sweet as your baby Candy-Prance’s, so you won’t have to endure the loss of everything you hold dear.

6r. In 35% of these cases, the unicorn may develop a penny-sized light green bruise on its forehead (See Addendum 6i) that will disappear in three to five days, unless the unicorn repeats head bashing daily or every other day. Repeated head bashing into the toilet may cause Unicorn Concussion (See Addendum 6k). You will most likely feel like engaging in such a cycle when you wake up all alone in your purple sheets, without your true black love beside you (See Addendum 6s).

6s. Be wary of sharing your new YOUR OWN UNICORN with violent adolescents or your handsome, young lover. Your lover will leave you for Brett, and you will be haunted by visions of them joyfully dancing on Pride Parade floats, like in those videos depicting flamboyant men in San Francisco that you watched on the internet. Sam will be to-die-for in a midriff-baring tee that shows off his dark, muscular abdomen, and Brett will have a similarly buff abdomen, of unknown complexion. They will dance and dance and sprinkle glitter all over the place.




Rachel Steiger-Meister‘s stories can be found online in Carve Magazine, Lavender Review, and Gingerbread House, and on Amazon in the anthology Mosaics: Volume 2 A Collection of Independent Women. She won the 2013 storySouth Million Writers Award for online fiction and received Carve‘s 2012 Esoteric Award for LGBT-themed fiction. 

Image: nashvillewraps.com

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