This experiment began as the above doodle, which inspired a short story, which inspired a song, the first song I have ever written, played, and recorded all on my own.
The Last Human
Once upon a time, there was a magical land full of unicorns.
Barry looked at the words he had scrawled on the paper. “That’s dumb,” said Barry out loud. “It’s not really that magical,” he said, scratching out the word “magical.”
Once upon a time, there was a land full of unicorns.
He continued writing.
And in this land there was one human left, named Barry.
Barry’s full name was Barry Blick, Jr., which was engraved on the large bronze placard outside his house. Underneath his name on the placard was a subscript, so it read:
Barry Blick, Jr.
The last human
The unicorns were good, beautiful, and kind, and had found Barry as a baby.
He had asked Sparkles about the placard once, and why he needed one. “It’s so everyone knows this house belongs to you,” Sparkles said. “So they remember.”
Barry had supposed that was alright, because he got a lot of visitors, and he certainly didn’t want any of them taking his house from him. Everyday, hoards of unicorns came to see him, some peering from afar in the surrounding forest around his house, others coming up to the walls, and some even trying to stretch their necks into his windows if he had them open. He didn’t fault them for this; he knew he was special, and so he just rebuilt his windows to be shorter so curious horns couldn’t fit through.
They realized there was nobody on earth like Barry, and invited him to live among them so they could learn from him.
Sometimes, he ate outside his house on the expansive lawn, much to the delight of his many visitors. Sparkles had warned him not to interact too much with these visitors, because they might not understand how unique he was, but he couldn’t resist when some brought him treats: Marshmallows, rainbow-colored candies, thickly iced cupcakes, and swirls of cotton candy. He often couldn’t eat them all, so he brought them back into his house to save for later. He loved gifts.
Sparkles was a nice unicorn, but was also very serious, and Barry privately thought that he was a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. Sparkles had been around for as long as Barry could remember, and visited him often. Whenever he visited, he always had some new piece of advice for Barry on how to clean himself, how to make conversation, what book to read next - all very boring, useless tips in Barry’s opinion.
They built for him a house and taught him many things.
On Sparkles’ last visit, Barry had proudly set out a dish of his most recent gifts, orange and cream taffies, along with a fizzy drink that tasted like cherries. Instead of being impressed, or pleased with Barry’s generosity, Sparkles had frowned disapprovingly. “You really shouldn’t eat too much of this stuff,” he’d said with a shake of his majestic, ivory mane. “It’ll give you a stomachache, and I can’t even think of what it’s doing to your teeth.”
Barry was irritated. “You eat this stuff all the time.”
Sparkles exhaled sharply. “Why don’t you try a salad? Or make a nice lentil loaf, out of that recipe book I brought you last time.”
Barry snorted and changed the subject. Luckily, Sparkles didn’t push the issue, though he did sneakily leave a sack of apples behind, with a note that said, “Research the effects of lack of fiber!”
Barry also taught them many things, like how to be a good human.
Apart from trying to run Barry’s life, Sparkles was good company, listening to Barry for hours at a time, interrupting occasionally only to ask thoughtful questions.
Barry was sorry that there was not another human around, because the unicorns had a lot of questions for him and it was tiring being the only fount of knowledge. There were a few that came around quite regularly, and were always ready to listen to whatever Barry had to say.
After one particularly rousing explanation of bathing and shaving habits, an older, dusky pink unicorn named Buttercup asked, “And what do you think about romance?”
The other unicorns looked at her, then looked at Barry.
“Romance?” Barry was caught off guard.
“You know, the feeling of love, amorousness, sexuality,” Bubbles said the last word awkwardly, shifting his weight from hooves to hooves.
“You’ve read books and seen movies about it, surely,” Sunshine stated, rather than asked, looking at Barry intently with amber eyes.
“We’ve talked about it many times,” Sparkles said a little too knowingly, and Barry wished he wasn’t there to hear him talk about this particular subject.
“It’s not important,” Barry waved his hand dismissively. “I’m here to be a resource to you, about what it means to be human. Not worry about romance and rose petals and fairy tales.”
“Hmmm,” said all the unicorns, but let him go back to talking about the intricacies of beard grooming.
Barry and the unicorns lived happily ever after.
Barry leaned back in his chair and looked over what he’d written. It was a short story, to be sure, but it was a good beginning to the record of his own history, and he could add more details later.
He heard familiar hoofsteps outside his house. “Barry? When did you change this door?”
Barry went to his front door and opened it. “Just yesterday,” he said. “It’s just a precaution, Sparkles. I can’t just allow anyone in here.”
Sparkles made a disgruntled noise. “I’m not just anyone.” Before Barry could reply, he asked, “Have you been writing like I suggested?”
It was true, Sparkles had suggested he take up writing as a way to express his thoughts in a semi-permanent way. And, Sparkles was right, it was therapeutic in some way, and he liked the idea that his words could be spread beyond only the unicorns that came to visit him. “Yes, just a moment and I’ll show you.” As he went back to get the paper, he called over his shoulder. “Want anything? Someone brought me a lemon bundt cake with cheesecake frosting.”
“No, I’m not staying long,” Sparkles said breathlessly. “Just dropping by.”
Barry returned and showed Sparkles the paper with a flourish. “Here it is, the first story by the last human!”
Sparkles looked at the paper in some silence. “That’s great, Barry. It’s a great start.”
Barry knew it needed some work, but Sparkles didn’t have to call it a draft so quickly.
“Listen, Barry. This is big,” Sparkles’ voice was hushed dramatically. “They’ve found another human. A woman.”
Barry stared at Sparkles. “You’re joking.”
“I’m not. She’s about your age, and seems to be in good health, good teeth --”
“Where did they find her? Why hadn’t they found her until now?”
“She was living with the trolls, I suppose they’d found her as a baby as well. Luckily, what with the Rainbow Bridge Treatise a few years back, all that bad blood between unicorns and trolls is over and done with, and we’ve decided to arrange a joint, um, meeting for the two of you --”
“Wait a minute, we have to meet?”
Sparkles paused. “Well, of course - Don’t you want to meet another human? And a woman, at that?”
“She’s a troll.”
“That’s quite rude,” Sparkles was flicking his tail back and forth, a sure sign he was getting agitated. “There’s nothing wrong with being a troll, as you know. It’s also quite inaccurate, since she was only raised by them. Her genetics are pure human. This is good news, Barry. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing.” Barry stared blankly into the forest behind Sparkles, his mind racing. Another human, he thought, turning his head to look at his bronze placard.
Sparkles followed his gaze, and a look of realization dawned on his face. “Oh, so that’s what this is all about. Barry, this is a wonderful opportunity. Think of the possibilities! You could bring humanity back to life!”
“With a troll,” Barry said stubbornly.
“You’re astonishing,” Sparkles said, astonished. “Simply ridiculous. Barry Blick, Jr., this human is coming to meet you in three days’ time, and you had better fix that attitude before you embarrass us all. Don’t waste this opportunity.” And with that, he galloped away, raising clouds of dust behind him.
Barry spent the next couple of days cleaning his house and grooming himself, glumly. Though he did not want to meet this woman, he also wanted to show how much more civilized he likely was, and could put out a proper spread. If she was raised by trolls, she probably ate things like raw goat and roots, permanent cakes of dirt under her fingernails.
The crowds of visitors were growing, and staying, all through the nights. Barry could hardly sleep with all the noises of nickering, neighing, and stomping around him.
On the third day, large canopies were set up, with banners that said, “Welcome Woman!” on them, fluttering gaily in the breeze. From his windows, Barry could see some of the audience had even attached mini pennants to their horns. The woman would arrive with a consortium of trolls at noon, and so Sparkles arrived an hour before to look Barry over and give him a pep talk.
“At least you cleaned up nicely,” Sparkles sniffed, turning this way and that to inspect both the rooms and Barry’s appearance at the same time. “Did you make dinner?”
“Yes, of course,” Barry said impatiently. “The linguine, like you suggested.”
“I’m going to need a lot of it to get through this,” Barry muttered, but Sparkles didn’t hear him.
“How about music? Or candles?”
Barry looked at Sparkles suspiciously. “Why would I need candles?”
“It’s a celebration,” Sparkles said dismissively. “A party! Look happy! Or at least, a little bit like you don’t hate everything about this. Anyway, I have to go prepare my speech.”
“Speech?” Barry echoed, but Sparkles was already trotting away.
At noon, a hush had fallen over the crowd, and murmurs could be heard as the unicorns made way for a the troll consortium emerging from the forest. Barry was standing under the largest canopy in front of his house, with President Giggles, Sparkles, and several other important officials. “Auspicious day, isn’t it, Barry?” President Giggles said to Barry out of the corner of her mouth. “And for you, Sparkles - Let’s hope it wasn’t all for nothing, eh?”
Barry looked to Sparkles, but the unicorn just nodded nervously. “Yes Madam President.”
The trolls were walking sedately in a single file line, hiding the woman from direct view, but were nearly to them now. To Barry’s surprise, they all looked quite clean and were simply but elegantly clothed. As they approached, the first in line held out her arms warmly. “President Giggles,” she said in a deep voice.
“Prime Minister Moss,” said President Giggles, bowing slightly. “So good to see you again. I hope your family is well.”
“Oh, can’t complain. We’re all very focused on the new all-species integrated school initiative, but that’s a matter for another time, isn’t that right?” She laughed quickly, sounding not unlike a barrel of rocks being rolled around. President Giggles looked somewhat discomfited, but let out a few short laughs. Prime Minister Moss stepped aside, gesturing to the troll behind her. “This is Dr. Mud. I believe she’s been in contact with your doctor…?”
“Yes, Dr. Sparkles --” Sparkles stepped forward, nodding quickly at Dr. Mud. “He’s been essential to this endeavor since day one, and nobody knows more about our human than him.”
Barry watched all this with his mouth slightly agape. He had never heard Sparkles being referred to so formally, and was still taking it all in when he realized he was being pushed forward to come face to face with the woman. It was deafeningly silent.
“Hello,” she said.
For the life of him, Barry couldn’t think of anything to say. President Giggles coughed.
“Um,” said Barry. Everyone kept staring at the two of them.
“Barry, this is Sherry. Sherry, this is Barry,” said Sparkles slowly. “The last two humans. On earth.”
“It’s very lucky that we found the two of you,” Dr. Mud said, looking at Sparkles. It was quiet.
“Right,” said Sparkles. “Well, why don’t you kids go inside and get acquainted. Show Sherry that Barry Manilow record I found for you, ha ha,” he laughed, nudging Barry towards the house, and Sherry followed.
With the sound of the door shutting behind them, Barry’s senses came flooding back, and he was suddenly aware of this other human in the house with him. Her back was turned to him, looking at all around the room at his books and knick knacks and photos.
“Your name’s Sherry?” he asked dumbly.
“Yeah,” she shrugged. “Funny, huh?” She walked over to the window and looked out. “Everyone turned out for the big show, just like Sparkles said.”
“Wait, you’ve talked to Sparkles?”
She sighed, and turned to face him. Barry had never looked into someone’s eyes that could directly meet his own, head on, and it was uncomfortable. “Look,” she said. “We both know why we’re here. I don’t know you, and frankly, I don’t really care to know you. But a lot of effort has gone into this whole thing, and for the sake of science, the sake of our species, I’m willing to make a sacrifice.”
Sherry rolled her eyes, and began loosening the clasps of her robe. “They told me you might be like this.”
“Like what? Whoa, what are you doing?” Barry had seen things like this in photos and movies, but never would have thought it would be happening in his kitchen.
“What does it look like I’m doing? You could be the father of humanity.” The robe fell to the floor.
Barry swallowed. “I didn’t sign up for this. And everyone outside --”
“Yes, everyone outside,” Sherry agreed. “They’ve all invested so much time and money into both of us. Dr. Mud and Dr. Sparkles both basically put their necks on the line to try to save one of the most dangerous species from extinction. You don’t want all their hard work to be wasted, do you?” She sounded like she was parroting lines she had heard many times. She stood facing him, unabashed, in view of all the onlookers outside, and yet Barry felt that he was the naked one.
“You mean… This has all been a plot to get us to procreate? We’re a… a science experiment?” The room was beginning to spin, the sound of the crowd outside was growing louder, and Sherry was still standing in front of him.
“There are things that are more important than you. You didn’t think you were living with unicorns just because you were special, did you?” She looked at him steadily, and laughed. “You did. You really did. Barry Blick, Jr., the last of his kind, the special jewel in the collection, the fairest human in all the land.”
“There’s no need to be so cruel,” Barry said weakly.
She laughed again, and he thought wildly that Sparkles was right, she did have good teeth. “Your whole life feels like a lie, doesn’t it, Barry? All these unicorns were taking such good care of you, but not because of you. They had other motives. We all do. That’s why you don’t like me. And that’s why I don’t care.” Sherry stepped back until her back was up against the wall, and she slid down slowly to sit on the floor. “We can rot together in this prison forever, you and me. Won’t that be nice, Barry?”
She was crazy, Barry thought. The trolls had made her crazy. “They’re not making us do anything,” he said.
“Like hell they’re not.” Sherry had pulled her robe towards her and was putting it back on. “They’re not your friends. They’re your zookeepers.” She raised her eyes to look at him again, and he could see that she was completely serious. “I hope you have more books,” she said. “We have a lot of time to kill.”
Barry was convinced she was wrong, but he also didn’t want to go outside to face the crowd, who would all know what he hadn’t been able to do. And so he stayed inside, as did Sherry, who spent most of her time as far away from him as she could possibly get. As the days went on, the canopies and banners went down and were taken away. He didn’t go close to the windows, but he could tell the crowd was leaving slowly by how quiet it was becoming.
A few weeks later, he heard a familiar tap on his door. He opened it slightly and peeked out. “Sparkles,” he said, relieved. Sparkles would clear all this up, and take this horrible woman away from him. “How is everything?”
Sparkles looked down at him. “Not great,” he said tightly. “How is Sherry? Any progress?” Barry shook his head, and Sparkles sighed. “Of course.”
“She won’t talk to me, but it doesn’t matter. She can go back home with the trolls.”
“They’ve left already, Barry.”
“So? She can go live in the forest for all I care. This is my house,” Barry said, opening the door wider so he could step outside.
Sparkles stepped in front of him, head lowered so that Barry was faced with how sharp his horn was. “I’m afraid we can’t let you go anywhere, dear boy,” he said, his voice strained.
“What do you mean?” Barry asked blankly. “I live here.”
“Yes,” said Sparkles. “You live here. Why do you need to leave?” He stepped aside to reveal baskets of food, toiletries, and other goods behind him. “We’ll continue supplying you with whatever you need, and you’ll be comfortable, you can be sure of that. I’m sorry things didn’t turn out like how we wanted.” He turned to go.
“Wait,” said Barry. “That’s it? This is how things will be from now on? I’m stuck here, with her?”
Sparkles looked at him for a long moment, and said finally, “If anything changes, you know how to reach me. There’s a new placard for you with the rest of the things.” And with that, Sparkles disappeared into the forest.
Barry stood in his doorway for several moments before gathering the baskets of goods and bringing them inside. Sherry came over and watched as he pulled out the placard carefully and set it on the table.