THE HASSLE OF THE HORNED LADY
Celestial events are powerful moments in time, when the veil between worlds thins, and just about anything is possible. The moon gets a billion times bigger, changes color, takes on magical qualities, cleanses chakras, cures warts, ends world hunger, summons hilarious genies, spawns Pokemon… You know. The usual. And every such event is the first one to happen since ever in the history of ever. So you know it’s extra good. I know all of this because Facebook memes won’t let me forget.
But when you get multiple events happening at the SAME time? That’s the real good stuff. That’s when worlds are saved, cracked crystals are restored, ancient sealed demons are unleashed and defeated, ushering in 1000 years of peace… I don’t have to tell you how conjunctions work. YOU know.
And so it was that we found ourselves heading for such a powerful conjunction event. Not one, not two, but THREE lunar alignments at ONCE. Super. Blue. Blood… er, moon. Who KNEW what such a conjunction could foment. Just how many worlds could be saved? Just how many Pokemon could be captured (ALL perhaps?). Just how many vortexes to dimensions filled with comely nubile nymphs might be opened? I dunno, I’m just spitballing here.
So, of COURSE, given all of this, I was out vortex hunting in the dead of night, in the fog, beneath a moon of indeterminate (and probably made up) special abilities, in the woods of Southern Oregon. Anyone local will tell you, this is absolute PRIME vortex hunting territory. We even have one you can tour, if you’re courageous enough and have $12.75. It’s not a nymph spawning vortex, regrettably, but it does make Coke bottles roll uphill, and honestly, sometimes that’s a much better option. Ucenter Dress baby blue colored items to wear of the prom
But my circumstances were less specific, and my curiosities soda unrelated. As a result of this and other aforementioned cosmic alignments, it was not long before my search yielded fruit. Why, I had only been wandering completely lost and terrified for a mere few hours, finding myself huddled, sobbing in fetal position and crying out for a Pepsi, before a strange woman stepped out of the shadows of the woods and into the eerie, pale, super blue blood moonlight.
Now, you might think it rude of me to describe anyone as a “strange woman” on sight, before actually getting to know them. On reflection, it does see a bit judgmental on my part. But when I describe her to you, I think you’ll agree, that like the moon, her nature was a bit… abnormal. Wait, that still sounds bad. Super normal. Yes! Nailed it.
I won’t waste words describing her beauty, as it would be rude to objectify a stranger thus (super stranger?). But there is one stunning feature that stood out so starkly, that I can see no way around it. Dear goddesses (and 3rd wave feminists) forgive me, but she had absolutely the biggest set of antlers I have ever seen on a woman. To my credit, I made no judgment about the type of person she might be because of this, but I must admit, I did find myself staring quite uncouthly.
She was dressed quite flatteringly in garb I am bereft to describe, so taken I was by the scale of her antlers, but it did exist. The one other feature I had the strength to notice, round her neck, hung a twisting chain, perhaps of celtic weave or teutonic styling, bearing the word, “SCHADENFREUDE,” in big bold letters. I sensed some sort of allegorical lesson brewing.
Her nubility, I could not yet determine.
Being who I am, and caught off my guard as I was, I proceeded in the only manner reasonable.
“What are you doing here?” I asked dumbly, as was reasonable, being who I am.
“You summoned me, didn’t you? You tell me.”
“I… ‘summoned’... you?”
“Exactly. It’s fucking cold out here too, so I’m not exactly happy about it.”
“Wait, can you explain how I managed that? I’d like to take notes for future applications.”
“Uh, the moon, turd. You triple stacked it, right?”
I stared up at our crater pocked satellite. I had to admit, by very loose definitions, it was indeed ‘triple stacked’. I had to suppose SOMEONE was responsible. “I, uh...”
“Well, whoever did it, I’m impressed. Perigee AND lunar eclipse during the second full moon of a solar calendar cycle. Potent.”
“Yeah, I definitely did that. How impressed, exactly, would you say?”
“The last time this happened, Tiamat was overthrown by Marduk. And we all know how that panned out.”
I chuckled, trying to keep up, “Yeah, that was… it was great. Right?”
“Hardly. Thankfully, I was around to take the summoning, and avoid anything catastrophic, but I’m still pissed!”
“It definitely could have not been me. Why pissed?”
“Why? Why do you think? It’s 3am, I was all settled in, in my camo Snuggie. I was about to watch the final episode of Seinfeld, when ‘poof’!”
“You haven’t seen the final episode of Seinfeld yet? The one where Jerry and everyone go to-”
“Stop! Don’t you DARE spoil the last episode of Seinfeld for me, you cretin. On top of everything? Really? You know how long I’ve been waiting for this moment?”
I had to admit, in spite of myself I felt a moment of deep satisfaction at her Seinfeld based misfortune.
“Hey… I see that poorly hidden smile. Are you gloating? You have any idea how difficult it is to find specific episodes of human television in the spirit realm? What kind of demon ARE you?”
“I could ask you the same thing. I think. Couldn’t I?”
“Really? You’re going to insult me on top of everything? Man, the curse I should drop on this place…”
“But if you do that, then I’ll be forced to tell you that Jerry-”
“Stop, stop, no more! Alright, we’ll consider this part a draw, and play nice. Dammit.”
“Okay, so, you’re not a demon. I apologize for profiling you based on your… head gear. But then, what exactly ARE you?”
“Whoah. Rude. Besides, you should know, you’re the one out here hunting vortexes of a HIGHLY specific nature, in the Oregon wilderness, during a triple conjunction…” she folded her arms and glared at me.
“I’m sure I have no clue what you’re implying.”
“Okay, well. I’m HERE. And I missed my show and everything. What is it you want?”
In truth, I had kind of wanted a hamburger, ever since the term ‘triple stacked’ had been employed. Maybe made with moon cheese… But I refrained from asking for that. “Well, uh… how do most people respond to that question?”
“They ask for wishes. ‘Most people’. But ‘most people’ also aren’t so rude about it. They at least ask my name and get to know my instead of just objectifying my antlers, assuming my species and silently contemplating my nubility.”
“Ouch. Sorry. Wait, so are you the white lady then? Because I saw this one episode of ‘The Magicians’ and there was this lady with horns who hangs out in the moonlight granting wishes...”
“I didn’t say GUESS who I am. What are you, a carnival mind reader? With super blue blood powers?”
“I think maybe I am…” I frowned, cupping my chin to consider the potential of being a super-moon powered carny.
“Oh, and I guess any person with lady parts and antlers wandering in the woods in the moonlight granting wishes is automatically white?”
“I don’t see color… on antlered moonlit ladies.”
“Well, I AM an antlered lady…”
“...just not a color coded one. No. I am the Lady…” rather than finish, she pointed to the winding chain around her neck.
“The Lady…” I left the sentence open ended, waiting for her to complete it. She gestured again to her necklace, sliding her upturned palm beneath the word ‘schadenfreude’ like Vanna White at her first job waiting tables waitress.
“Ladyyyyyy… Necklace. Letters. Chain. Chest. Boobs!” I noticed her getting more annoyed with each guess before remembering that guessing had already been deemed rude. Guessing enthusiastically that her name was ‘Lady Boobs’ probably did nothing to improve her opinion of me.
“No, you fool, the WORD is my name. The word on my necklace? That’s on my chest? That the letters make? The one that’s so prominently displayed above my boobs? I’m not speaking it aloud, because there are stakes.”
“Right. For hunting vampires,” I looked around shiftily in case any were lurking nearby.
“Wrong. For the moment. No, this is a challenge. If you can pronounce my name correctly, you walk away with a wish. If you can’t… something far worse.”
A daunting task indeed. The last time I had attempted to pronounce the word, I’d found myself utterly humiliated. The onlookers who witnessed this, very much enjoyed my failure. But I had to consider the possibilities. And decades of pop culture had taught me to be suspicious. “What kind of wish?” I asked, narrowing my eyes and stroking my beard with suspicion. “Like the cautionary kind that ends in painful irony and misery?”
“Hardly. What do you think I am? A djinn? A leprechaun? A monkey’s paw?”
“I would never confuse you for any of those things, except maybe a monkey’s paw.”
“I have only ever once been confused with a monkey’s paw, and that was a really weird day for everyone that I would rather not discuss right now.”
“Weirder than tonight?”
“Semi super royal blue crimson blood antler lady to hairy monkey paw transfer moon.”
“Whoah… I’d like to meet the wizard who managed THAT.”
“Eh, he’s still around. He formed a coven with some Russians, and cast a presidential election spell.”
“Honestly, I thought you were going to be a nymph, what with all the rumors that there would be vortexes spawning them and such.”
“A NYMPH? Please. I have professional pride. I don’t offer my gifts to just anyone.”
“Now now, let’s not nymph shame.”
“I am no Grecian nature hussy. I am a proud HORNED LADY of the woods!”
“That KIIIINDA sounds like a nymph…”
“And your face kinda looks it needs some antler stabbin’.”
I elected not to further split hairs on the subject of horns versus antlers. “Noted. So what are the parameters of this professional wish? We talkin’ a bunch of provisos like Genie in Aladdin, or like, phenomenally cosmic and only limited by the imagination, like Genie at the END of Aladdin?”
“Well, the parameters are very specific, to avoid the kind of issues you mentioned earlier. In fact, based on experience, I’ve narrowed the options down to one specific possibility that you can win.”
“My company,” she offered smugly.
I looked around idly, like John Travolta trapped in a Pulp Fiction meme. “But… I already have your company.”
“My CONTINUED company.” Less smug, more annoyance this time.
I smartly did not inquire if that company had any nubile potential attached to it, “I see. And if I fail?”
“Certain death. Wait, no, that was LAST super blue blood moon. You just don’t get my company. I mean, unless I just decide I like hanging out with you anyway, and feel like it.”
“Wow, sounds fair. The stakes have never been lower.”
“That sounds suspiciously devaluing. Are you negging me?”
“Only if you count how I feel about your name. Why IS that your name anyway? Is it a title, an honorific...?”
“Because I enjoy the failure and discomfort of others, but ONLY under highly specific and very amusing conditions. Such as these. Otherwise, I just want everyone to be happy, and get to watch their favorite shows at 3am, unmolested.”
“So not a family name, then…”
“Oh, it was. We changed the spelling. The D’s used to be T’s. And most of the letters were rearranged. And there used to be twenty more of them. And it meant something else entirely.”
“Thank you. So are you going to take this sacred challenge, or just try to stall with banter all night?”
“What happens if just I walk away?”
“You’d diss me that way?! Like a coward? After summoning me all the way here in the dead of night under a triple stacked moon when I was about to watch the season finale of my favorite show?”
“I mean… let’s call it a hypothetical possibility.”
“Remember what I said about stabbing your face?” her right index finger hung in the air most threateningly, the other hand planted on her hip.
“Granted. So, we can safely say at least trying is the least deadly option, with the greatest potential reward of…”
“...maybe hanging out and stuff. Do you like Seinfeld?”
“Yes. No soup for you! Haha!”
She stared back at me blankly.
“You know… the soup nazi? It’s like the most famous episode.”
“Soup… nazi? I can’t even fathom how those two words connect.”
“You haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, have you.”
“I haven’t seen the FINAL episode yet, that’s for sure. But I’ve seen a LOT of them, which I assume means ALL of them. Other than the finale.”
Somehow this made me want to hang out with her more. If only to discover how many episodes of Seinfeld were missing from her portfolio. And why it was so hard to get them in the spirit world. Do they not have DVD players there? Too many mysteries that demanded my attention. “Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’m in.”
“Damn straight, you’re in. And on the clock too. You have three tries and 90 seconds.”
It was the most harrowing 90 seconds of my multi-decade life. I began to sweat worse than Jon Turturro in Quiz Show seeing a future where he’s only remembered for his roles in the Transformers films. Schadenfreude… my one true weakness… If only there were someone nearby I could watch fail, so I could draw power from the suffering of their soul…
With only a few seconds left, I pulled out my phone, did a google search, held the phone out to Lady Schadenfreude, and hit play.
“SHA-den-froy-duh,” stated the nondescript German version of Sirii.
She stared, nonplussed. I hit it again.
“Is that it? Did I get it right?”
“SHA-den-froy-duh.” I punched it a third time, just for fun.
“Okay, enough! You can stop playing it. Geez…”
“Did I win?” I asked excitedly.
“You didn’t state that in the rules.”
“I said you had to GUESS!”
“Right, and I GUESSED, the answer would be on google.”
“How are you even getting service out here?! This is such a fluke…” she pulled out her own phone to check for bars.
“But I’m right, right?” I smiled broadly, hoping I appeared exactly the right amount of pleased, rather than the self satisfied super gloating I was feeling.
“Technically.” she glared at me with an intensity stronger than a triple stacked moonbeam. I could feel my face being antler stabbed. Instead of any face stabbing, she swiped my phone from my hands and began typing some information in herself.
“What are you doing?” I asked, wondering if she was going to smash it, throw it, use it to cast a moon based counter-spell, or have German Sirii unleash a tirade of salty curses.
“I’m adding you to my Facebook.”
“So we can hang out?”
She didn’t look up. There was a long pause before she tossed the phone back with a frown. “We’ll see how it goes…”
Given it was me, and the celestial alignment, I had a feeling how it would go. And although I carefully kept it from showing on my face, and even though the outcome could be called neutral, I could feel myself powering up from the energies of her perceived and future misfortune.