I read this short story I think as a student c. 1980s. Most of the stuff I read then were older anthologies from second-hand shops and bargain bins.

A man lives in a house which is identical to every other house and drives an identical car to work every day.

One day he chooses to do something rebellious (or just unusual) and automatic shutters built into his house trap him until the authorities turn up to arrest him.

He is taken to an insane asylum where he finds other rule-breakers like himself under treatment. These include a woman.

Eventually the 'patients' all escape from the asylum and they turn into animals. He turns into a unicorn. I think the woman may turn into a unicorn too. They gallop off to freedom.

The word unicorn may appear in the title, which may have been a quotation.

1 Answer 1


I think this might be the short story "Mythological Beast" by Stephen R. Donaldson, collected in Daughter of Regals and Other Tales (which was published in 1984). The story was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 1979, and can be read at the Internet Archive.

The hero, called Norman, lives in a regulated society. He is fitted with a bio-transmitter that regulates his life, telling him when to get up and do things.

He finds he has a lump in the middle of his forehead, but the bio-transmitter ignores it. It slowly becomes a unicorn's horn. The computers say that he should be studied and destroyed. But the society he is in is not used to any kind of rebellion, especially a biological one, and trusts him to destroy himself.

Eventually he uses his horn to gouge out his bio transmitter and flee. He becomes a unicorn.

At the end:

But then he saw a young girl come out from between the houses. She went into the road to look at the fire.

Norman pranced over to her. He reared in front of her.

She did not run away.

She had a lump on her forehand like the base of a horn. ... There was a smile on her lips as if she were looking at something beautiful.

And there was no fear in her eyes at all.

So we have a man turning into a unicorn. He is taken to a hospital. At one point his house does get covered with shutters to try to lock him in. He meets another woman who is becoming a unicorn.

It seems to be a match to me.

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    You got in before me, you have a much better answer (I don't have the text handy). Nice one. Apr 1, 2022 at 15:22
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    Yes, this is definitely the one. The bit with them looking at the fire at the end is right. I had forgotten about that. Thanks. It's been on my mind for years. Apr 1, 2022 at 15:50
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    @PotatoCrisp, since this appears to be a correct answer, please mark it as such using the checkmark icon at the top left. This is important for management of duplicate questions (where "duplicate" for story ID questions means those with the same answer).
    – Otis
    Apr 1, 2022 at 23:13

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