By Steven Nordhauser

I was considered lucky to get the summons. So few were sent out, just me and Estella in the entire community. They marveled at the honor, the glory, and the chance at life that came with it, but I didn’t marvel with them. I didn’t consider myself so lucky.

I am a simple guy, with few wants in life. Enough to eat and a safe place to sleep and I will be content; if I might be so blessed as to be loved I will never ask for more. And by some miracle love found me, before I’d even thought to ask for it. Her name is Gabrielle, though I always call her Gabby. I’ll never forget the day we met. We were only children then, the tall summer grasses coming up to our bellies, ticklish. Her family had just come from the south, the fields dry with drought. I was shy, but she was friendly; she came and found me and invited me, or rather dragged me, out to play. I remember she challenged me to a race to the chestnut tree and she finished in half my time and I swore I’d be faster than her before a year was out and she laughed. We quickly became friends, and stayed friends as we grew up, until that fateful autumn evening when we were in the wildflowers, watching the first stars come out, and she leaned her head on my shoulder, and we both knew there was something more.

We have two children now, and they’re growing up strong. Gabby and I lead our little family together, traveling when food becomes scarce, and fighting when we need to. The land is fertile here and the predators few, and those few have mostly learned to leave us alone. I love my family, and I love my life. I cannot imagine myself happier than I am now. Why, then, should I answer this summons? Married by appointment to the cold, heartless Estella, my beloved Gabby gone from my life forever? Why should I consent to this?

Because she will be gone anyway, is why. In a few hours, it will all be gone. Everything I know, everyone I know, all the world will be gone. Save Estella and myself, assuming I go. The two of us, and all the other pairs, chosen by whoever sent these summonses as the best, the brightest, the most beautiful of our kind, to live on in misery while all those we care for die. All at the behest of some unknown being, claiming command over our life and death to some unknown purpose.

The rain is falling, Gabby tells me; you must go. Let them go, I tell her, I want no life without you. She smiles at me, a happy-but-sad smile, and leans her head against me, and our horns touch. Sail, Noah, sail, and leave me here, for I have no use for your salvation, and you shall have no unicorn.

Steven Nordhauser is a current student at Binghamton University. He is a creative writing/psychology double major, and vice president of the school’s board game club.