Once upon a time in the most beautiful part of the forest lived Little Moomba. All who loved her called her Little Moomba because she was little, she was cute and she had a big heart, which is what Moomba meant in her people’s language. Many were the ones who loved Little Moomba.

One day, while Little Moomba was playing among the trees with her best friend, Pooree, a small furry monkey, the Mean Spirit of the forest snuck up on little Moomba and swallowed her. One huge gulp and she was gone. Because this Mean Spirit was a particularly nasty one, he also took on little Moomba’s appearance. He took over her face and he took over her body. Thus, he deceived all of those who loved little Moomba the most.

On the outside, Moomba was still little, she was still cute and she still had her big heart. However, as far as Porree, her little furry monkey, and everyone else could sense, on the inside she had become a different person. Little Moomba clearly felt how everyone was frightened away by the sudden violent roars and nasty words that appeared to come out of her – even Pooree would scurry away, covering his ears with his little brown paws.

In the three hundred and fifty bones that had made up the skeleton of Mean Spirit when he was a baby, there was not one single love-bone in his body. As a result, by the time he learnt to walk, his body had developed an allergic reaction to kindness and affection. Greasy and gray pustules erupted all over his back any time he was not quick enough to shoo away, as if it were a pesky rat, whichever words of kindness happened to be intended for him.

Each time his back erupted in greasy, gray pustules, each time Mean Spirit became quicker and more effective at shooing away not just words of kindness but also every friendly, affectionate presence. In time, every mark of love, care and affection that still dared to flutter around his head was morphed into an unusual sort of aggravation that released foul clouds of toxic gases. Kept captive and constricted deep inside this festering body, the real Little Moomba could hardly breathe.

Of course, everyone who knew Little Moomba had noticed that across her eyes, there was now a large, glaring black smudge. At first they thought Little Moomba had not washed her face properly.Then, they thought that maybe she had somehow bruised herself, but no one dared ask because they feared the sudden violent roar and the nasty words.

Oh, it’s not that anyone gave up on Little Moomba, far from it. Some returned each month and some returned each week while some returned daily. They returned to her again and again, each time hoping to find their Little Moomba happy, cute and loving, but it seemed that such a day would never happen.

What no one knew was that under Little Moomba’s lovely dark hair, the Mean Spirit had embedded tiny little horns. No one could see these little horns under her hair, but she knew all too well that they were there. Every time Little Moomba’s hand brushed over one of their hard tips, she cried and cried some more. Mostly, she cried at night for she was afraid Mean Spirit would hurt her if he heard even a whimper out of her.

There were moments when Little Moomba wished hard-hard that everyone would stay away and leave her alone, totally alone. She didn’t want to feel responsible for their disappointment in the  new Moomba or their sadness. One day, it got all too much for her. She was so lonely that she wished for a quick death, the only way, she thought, to escape from the nauseating body of Mean Spirit. Death would put an end to her scaring away all the ones who kept returning to her because they still loved her, even in spite of the glaring, big, black smudge that covered her eyes.

Porree would be adopted by someone else and he would be much loved. Of that, Little Moomba was sure. Death would put an end to her loneliness. Little Moomba curled up in a little ball and waited. That day, Mean Spirit knew he had won – he became unstoppable.

The story could have ended here, but it didn’t.

From deep within the forest, one night near dawn, a unicorn appeared. As white as snow was Re-em’s powerful body. The length of her long horn glinted as the moonlight prepared to slide out of sight and make way for the morning sun. The thick, long tufts of fine silvery fur that adorned her neck and her rump swayed and swished as she moved.

Re-em, the unicorn, trotted directly to where Little Moomba was curled up inside Mean Spirit’s gaseous body. She noted the black mark over her eyes was as clearly defined as the dark mask on a racoon’s face. Moving her front hooves as hammers, the unicorn shook the mattress. As if they had a life of their own, the thick silken threads of her mane billowed around her as watery wings. Mean Spirit jumped up with such a startle that Little Moomba lurched deep within. His gaze focused on the sturdy body of the unicorn, on the gleaming sword that was the horn on her forehead. Mean Spirit cringed away from the thick and heavy rearing hooves. He backed up against the wall, too afraid to even breathe, but blinking dumbly, he fearfully scurried to shelter behind a cupboard.

“Mean Spirit, you will henceforth release Little Moomba from your poisonous grip!” Re-em ordered. With her sword-long horn, she tapped the black spread that covered Little Moomba’s eyes.  “I know who is hiding inside that spread like a germy disease!” hissed the unicorn. “I recognize you, Black Glare.” Black Glare was the one who had made it possible for Mean Spirit to swallow and never release Little Moomba. “Hear my words, Black Glare!” roared Re-em. “Disappear from Little Moomba’s face! Right this instant!”

Black Glare began to lift himself off Little Moomba’s eyes and somewhat fade away but, at the last moment, he resisted. He did not disappear completely. The unicorn reared on her powerful back legs. She was in no mood for a compromise. Her mighty sharp horn was bent towards Black Glare.

“Don’t even think of it, Black Glare! Obey now! Remove all of yourself from her face. Remove your foul smell from her lungs. Take all that is toxic away from her thoughts! Peel it all off and take it away with you! To the last smudge! This instant! Before I run my horn through your miserly self!”

Black Glare turned very pale. Mean Spirit belched and belched again releasing with each new belch a stinging cloud of poisonous gases. He was rent in half by this cataclysmic activity raging inside him. With two gnarly hands, he gripped the side of cupboard behind which he had taken refuge and hunkered down.

Finally, out of all of the gases belched from the depth of Mean Spirit like out of a nebulae, out came Little Moomba. She rubbed her eyes. They were red and swollen, but tears of gratitude rolled down her cheeks. She reached for Re-em’s silver fringed neck and hugged it with all her might.

“Oh, thank you, dear Unicorn. I owe you my life. I owe you my heart.”

“Never mind that now,” replied Re-em gently. She nudged Little Moomba with her white nose. “Go to all those who love you. Go to your little Poree. They have all been waiting for you for a very long time, Little Moomba. Together with them you will be strong. No need to fear either the present or the future which, itself, is already presenting under your feet. As for the past, it no longer exists anywhere. Go to them with peace in your heart, Little Moomba, and you will never be lonely.”