The world revealed as an illusion, part 3

Imagine you are a child of eleven. You are reading a wondrous book, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

Following the adventures of Schmendrick the magician, you are at the climactic scene. He and his companions, one of whom is a woman named Molly Grue, are faced off against evil King Haggard, who has harnessed the evil power of a giant red bull (which is perhaps a demon) to kill the last unicorn on earth.

It seems that all is lost, that the very last unicorn will tragically disappear from the world. And then something miraculous happens.

Out of the ocean, thousands of unicorns stream ashore to join the battle against the evil king, like a vast wave of mystical salvation. Your eleven year old self is caught up in the wonder, the sheer majesty of this moment.

And then, for one paragraph only, the book takes a strange little detour, before continuing on to its conclusion. This paragraph, your very first taste of metafiction, stays with you forever:

“For Molly Grue, the world hung motionless in that glass moment. As though she were standing on a higher tower than King Haggard’s, she looked down on a pale paring of land where a toy man and woman stared with their knitted eyes at a clay bull and a tiny ivory unicorn. Abandoned playthings – there was another doll, too, half-buried; and a sandcastle with a stick king propped up in one tilted turret. The tide would take it all in a moment, and nothing would be left but the flaccid birds of the beach, hopping in circles.”

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