Sophia was in her bedroom, listening to the chirping of her pet grasshoppers. Then she heard her mum shout up the stairs. “Sophia! There’s a turtle on the dining room table! And a box of mice!”
“Oh no,” Sophia said to herself. “I forgot to bring them back to my bedroom!”
She heard her dad say sternly, “Come downstairs right now, young lady!”
For the past several months, Sophia’s parents had found a new animal in their house nearly every week. In just one of the weeks, Sophia brought in two stray dogs, three abandoned cats, a few toads, a dozen mice and one crow.
Her parents hadn’t let her keep any of the creatures. They even made her shut down her insect zoo! But that hadn’t stopped Sophia from collecting more animals. She would say they kept her company. Sophia didn’t have any brothers or sisters and her parents worked long hours together in an office. So she was a little lonely.
It wasn’t always this way. When Sophia was younger, her parents would take weekends off. They would all go camping together. The family would hike, roast marshmallows and then snuggle up together in sleeping bags. But a few months ago, her mum and dad started new jobs that kept them very busy. Since then, the family campervan parked out front had been neglected. Sophia began to feel neglected too.
Sophia went downstairs to collect the turtle and mice. She was worried about what her parents would say. But her mum and dad said, “We’ll make you a deal. If you can go one week without bringing home another animal, we’ll give you whatever you want.”
“Really?!” asked Sophia, excitedly. “What I want is to go camping as a family, just like we used to. And I want to pick the campsite!”
Sophia’s parents weren’t sure if their new boss would give them the weekend off.
“But a deal’s a deal,” they said. They told Sophia that if she kept the house animal-free for the next week, on Saturday they would go on a camping trip.
Sophia hugged them both, then pulled a map off the bookshelf and sprinted back upstairs to her bedroom. She spread the map out on her desk.
But before Sophia could begin planning the camping trip, she heard noises coming from the upstairs bathroom. She knew it couldn’t be her parents – they were still downstairs. But something was making a rustling noise in the bathroom. And a clomping noise. And a noise that sounded like...mooing.
Sophia didn’t scare easily. So, she tiptoed into the bathroom and turned on the light. At first, she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Then, from behind the shower curtain decorated with pictures of lollipops, she heard a soft...
Sophia pulled back the shower curtain and was gobsmacked. Standing in the tub was an animal that looked like nothing Sophia had ever seen before!
It was almost as big as a cow and it had udders like a cow. But the animal was covered in spots of every colour of the rainbow. On its forehead was a long, pointy horn. This made Sophia think of a unicorn.
“But it’s not a unicorn,” thought Sophia. “It’s...a unicow!”
Sophia was confused. “How did you get here? And what are you doing in my bathtub?!” she asked.
The unicow shook its head, as if to say, “I haven’t a clue!”
Suddenly, Sophia heard footsteps coming up the stairs. It was her parents! Panicking, she slammed the bathroom door and locked it from the inside.
“Oh no! I can’t let Mum and Dad see a unicow in their bathroom. I just promised they wouldn’t see any new animals this whole week!”
The unicow tried licking the lollipops on the shower curtain. Sophia erupted.
“Those are just drawings!” she yelled. “Don’t you understand, unicow!? If my parents see you, they’ll call off the camping trip! This is a disaster!”
Sophia wanted to cry. But the unicow lowered its head and gently nudged its horn towards Sophia.
“You want me to touch your horn?” asked Sophia, confused.
The unicow nodded and so she did. As soon as Sophia touched the horn, she didn’t feel like crying anymore. In fact, she felt calm and full of hope. Sophia had discovered that the horn of a unicow is magical.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” said Sophia. “I think you must be lost. But don’t worry, I’ll figure out how to help you get home.”
Sophia opened the bathroom door a crack. “First I’ll have to sneak you into my bedroom.” She saw the coast was clear. No parents anywhere.
“Okay, unicow! Let’s run - now!”
Sophia dashed into the hallway. But the unicow had a bit of trouble.
First it tripped out of the bathtub.
Then the unicow knocked into the medicine cabinet and spilled all the bottles.
Then the unicow accidentally flushed the toilet.
Then it started licking the shower curtain again.
“Unicow!” Sophia whispered. “Hurry up!”
The unicow trotted into the hallway, tangled up in toilet paper. Before Sophia could react, she heard her dad’s voice behind her.
“Aah!” yelled Sophia. She quickly stood in front of the unicow to try to block it from her dad’s view. Behind her, the unicow’s tail swiped a vase on a table. Sophia caught the vase just before it hit the floor.
“Good catch!” said her dad. Then he added, “Okay. Good night!”
Confused but relieved, Sophia watched her dad go into his bedroom.
“I wonder why my dad didn’t see you,” Sophia said to the unicow.
Then she gasped. “I bet you can make yourself invisible if you want to!”
The unicow nodded happily. Sophia quickly ushered the unicow into her bedroom and shut the door.
“Phew!” Sophia said. “That wore me out.”
She leaned on one of the unicow’s purple spots. It began to glow. Sophia heard a whirring sound coming from the unicow’s udders. On a hunch, she grabbed an empty cup from her desk and held it underneath the udders. The cup filled with chocolate milkshake! And it was the most refreshing, delicious chocolate milkshake Sophia had ever tasted!
“Do you make a milkshake every time someone presses one of your spots?!” Sophia asked. The unicow nodded.
“Do different spots make different flavours?” It nodded again. Sophia hugged the unicow.
“You’re just the best! If only I knew where your home was so I could help you get back there.”
The unicow trotted over to Sophia’s desk. It looked at the map. Then its face brightened and it touched its muzzle to a spot on the map.
“That’s where you live?” asked Sophia. The unicow nodded. It was about 300 kilometres from where they were now.
“That’s far away. How did you end up here?” Sophia wondered. “You couldn’t have walked.”
Unicows simply vanish from their home and appear wherever they’re needed. Sophia didn’t know this. But now she did know where she wanted to go camping with her parents on Saturday: the unicow’s home.
So, the unicow spent the week in Sophia’s bedroom. It became invisible whenever one of Sophia’s parents came into the room. The unicow kept Sophia company and gobbled the biscuits Sophia brought to feed it.
During the week, Sophia had a vanilla milkshake, a minty milkshake and a blueberry cheesecake milkshake, before deciding that was enough milkshakes for now.
Finally, it was Saturday morning. Sophia’s parents took the weekend off for their camping trip. They were very excited as they packed up the campervan. But Sophia felt guilty. There had been a new animal in the house all week.
Just before they got into the van, Sophia told them everything.
“And I’m leaving the seat next to me empty because I’m hoping the unicow can come on the trip with us,” she admitted.
Her mum said, “Of course the unicow can come with us.”
Her dad said, “The more the merrier.”
In other words, neither of them believed her story. But that was okay.
Sophia called out the campervan window, “You can come in now, unicow!”
Her parents smiled as they watched Sophia slide open the door and then shut it again. They couldn’t see the unicow sitting on its haunches next to Sophia in the backseat.
As her mum drove, Sophia used her map to direct her parents to the campsite near the unicow’s home.
They arrived and parked the van. Sophia looked at the map and said to the unicow, “I think we’re very close now.”
Her parents had never been to this part of the country before, but they were willing to trust their daughter. So they put their backpacks on and began to hike to the campsite.
They hiked over hills and down into valleys for a long time. Sophia began to worry that perhaps she and the unicow had gotten the location wrong.
But Sophia saw the unicow’s expression suddenly change. It recognised where it was! The unicow started galloping over the hill.
“Come on!” Sophia said to her parents. “We have to follow it!”
“Follow what?” wondered her parents, who still couldn’t see the creature.
But when they climbed over the next hill, the view took everyone’s breath away. Down in a hidden valley was a whole herd of rainbow-spotted unicows galloping towards them.
Sophia’s unicow (which her parents could now see perfectly well) looked happy as it greeted its family. Soon, Sophia and her parents were amongst the unicow herd, sipping refreshing milkshakes and thinking the happiest thoughts.
And now, ever since that day, Sophia’s family comes to this valley to go camping amongst the unicows. Her parents had insisted to their boss that they needed all weekends off to spend time with their daughter. To their surprise, the boss had agreed.
The family never brings food because they know there will always be plenty of milkshakes.
Actually, they do bring marshmallows because Sophia loves marshmallows roasted over a campfire.
They also bring lollipops for Sophia’s unicow.