Before we begin, it is important to know that Satan never cheats at games. In fact she may be the only thinking being in the universe who is honest to a fault when it comes to games of chance. But her truthful nature does not mean that she is a good loser. Oh, she’ll shake your hand and heartily extol your virtues as a gamer; but she’ll never forget the sting of losing. In that regard it might be better if she did cheat, or at least flipped the board to conclude a Monopoly match with a mistrial. But, as we will soon see, that is not her way….
Now On With the Show
The Witch needed a name for her newest season on Earth. The need had nothing to do with business. Her vast wealth and properties were under the enchanted aliases of her human familiars–a trustworthy lot because they knew that something much worse than death (a something most likely to be as creative as protracted) awaited any servant caught dipping in the Witch’s till. Such certainty reinforces loyalty. No, the want of a name stemmed from the idiotic peasant need for labeling things.
For the record, the Witch was born in Gomorrah and was called Myrrh, as in the third best birthday gift for boys named Jesus. But upon becoming a Witch, among the many things she left behind was her name (which she never much cared for anyway). And she wouldn’t have bothered with one at all if it weren’t for the pettifogging peasants incessant need for labels.
Ever since ascending to Witchood, she alternated one-hundred thirty year seasons between Hell and Earth. In the old days, the nameless Witch would wreak havoc on the peasantry until it was time to return to Hell for another hundred-thirty-year sabbatical. There wasn’t anything the peasants could do about her after she had cast spells of obedience on the local authorities–usually the royal and monied clans in any region. Yes, there was a time when a woman who looked thirty could stay that way for generations, and the peasants who populated those rapidly changing generations knew how to look the other way, and taught their issue that it would be wise to do the same.
But even peasants get wiser, thus more dangerous. And prior to her previous term on Earth, which began in the second half of the 18th Century (and was her first season spent in the “New World”), the Witch took special note of the ugly doings at Salem, from her vantage point in Hell. Fortunately, not a single victim of that persecution had actually been a witch–but it stood to reason that maybe the peasantry had evolved to the point of feeling emboldened enough to interfere with the projects of an unmarried young woman of means who did not age a day over the course of many decades in a community that featured an inordinate amount of missing persons and a copious population of viscous Black Cats, Condor-sized Owls and somewhat arrogant Rats. This potential complication caused the Witch to devise a scheme in which she was a rich widow who aged (via a simple general eye of the beholder spell) for the first sixty years then “died” and gave over to a young “heiress” namesake who bore an uncanny resemblance to the young Witch–not that any peasant with enough sense to still be taken seriously would be around to notice, not with an average lifespan of around forty-five, not with the inexplicable way that villagers who looked in the Witch’s direction a bit long suffered unfortunate accidents. She also toned down the size of her Owls but did nothing about the attitudes of the Black Cats and Rats.
Her previous earthly season ended in 1891–according to the tiresome peasant way of numbering even the years. Hell keeps up on current events much better than its opposite number. Whilst “below,” the Witch rued missing out on the tumultuous 20th Century, but looked forward to entering the Twenty-first and practicing her special brand of mayhem well into the Twenty-second. She got restless–for all Hell’s splendors, one can only beat Satan at cribbage so many times and still get a buzz from it.
Although the peasants had multiplied, advanced wildly ahead technologically and were overall better educated–they were still peasants who continued to grossly overestimate the moral quality of their souls; thus the majority was just as tribal, labeling, superstitious, venal and spiritually bankrupt as ever–perhaps more so. Good times lay ahead.
So upon returning to Earth and relocating to a new home in the American Midwest in 2021 (for it it’s required of Witches to travel to new regions every Earth season), the Witch awaited a scroll to appear in the bough of an evilmost elm tree that she had enchanted, which served as her connection to Hell. Satan herself chose the names Witches went by.
In keeping with tradition, the scroll appeared in the enchanted evilmost elm at three A.M. on the day of the first new moon after her return to Earth. The Witch stationed a Rat Squad at the tree to await the scroll’s arrival. Of all her beloved animal familiars, Rats were the most efficient. And also in keeping with tradition, though she had hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Rats within reach of her magic, they were all divided into squads of thirteen. Rat Squads had the keenest attention span of all her familiars (humans included). Though she never punished any of her animals, the Witch knew that when she sent an unsupervised Black Cat out on a quick mission, the deed would get done but she wasn’t likely to see the fiend again for a week or so. No one does A to B better than a Rat Squad.
When Rat Squads perform a ceremonial march, twelve form a circle around a single Rat who serves as the “Star” in a Rattish pentagram. They take turns being the Star because only the Witch is considered the leader. Such a formation entered the open front door of the Witch’s house at precisely one minute past three on the morning of the first new moon. The Star toted the scroll freshly sent from Hell, it lay perfectly balanced on her sleek back.
The Witch noticed that the wound scroll was thicker than usual. In all other ways it was the same–made from parchment peeled off the hide of a damned soul, slightly scorched at the edges, rolled and tied with a black ribbon, the Master’s wax seal in place. But it looked too large to contain a brief salutation and one name. Something about it caused the Witch to recall the cribbage tournament attended by Demons, Sorcerers and the Queen. She had defeated the Master fifteen times in a row and was crowned champion. Despite her gracious acceptance of defeat, the Witch knew that the fink would pull some kind of payback, by and by. Indeed, something about the scroll reeked of petty revenge. But tradition required she open it. She did so thinking that maybe it was time to let go of some traditions.
“My babies,” she said, smiling, kneeling to take the scroll. “You shall be the first to hear our new name.”
She unrolled the parchment. It said:
I already miss you! Yet since your departure my cribbage results have greatly improved.
I’ve given the matter of your name a great deal of thought.
I humbly present three choices. You must select one, for there won’t be a fourth…
The Witch laughed.
“I have a choice between three, babies,” she said. “The first I shall reject is ‘Cher Hitler’; next out will be the charming ‘Vicki Bin Laden’–with all the i’s dotted with little hearts–See?” she showed the scroll to the Rats–”how quaint.“
The Rat Squad laughed at a degree in keeping with their Mistress’s mood, yet not to a point which dared to insult the Master.
“Hi ho!” The Witch said, reading more, “the Master has locked the last choice with a spell which commands me to give it to my loyal Rat Squad to read aloud,” she said, handing the scroll to the Star.
All thirteen Rats studied the scroll and after several exchanged, nervous glances, the Star spoke up in English. “It’s a song, Your Royal Darkness…”
“Yes, milady, a reworking of a popular song from sixty years ago.”
“Well, I’m all ears.”
The Rats began to perform the tune. Six maintained a beat by smacking their tails on the floor, and six others vocally backed up the Star who sang:
Bo-na-na fanna fo-fam-bee
Fee-fi mo mam-bee
“Bambi?” The Witch said. “Bambi? Oh that unholy hussy. What a little baby! I knew she couldn’t handle losing–”
“There’s more,” the Star said, lifting the scroll toward the Witch. “It instantly appeared at the end of the song, but isn’t written in Rattish.”
“This ought to be rich,” she muttered. The Witch named Bambi read the addition, and for the first time ever her Rats saw a perplexed expression on her face. She read it several times and even flipped it over to see if there was more on the back.
“Babies?” she said, at last, “Did you pass anyone–or thing in the courtyard? Says here I’ll soon be hearing the beat of little wings.”
Although highly efficient, Rats are mission oriented. They only tend to the tasks the Witch sends them on and do not make mention of any oddities they might see. There could have been an elephant herd out in the courtyard, but if it wasn’t a part of or interfered with the mission, the Rats would ignore it. They would assume it was Witch business that did not concern them.
“Yes, Mistress Bambi,” the Star said, fully aware of the dark gleam that the name put in the Witch’s eyes, but also confident that the name was endorsed by the Master herself.
“O-un?” She spoke the Rattish word which meant “more than one”–for all their reliability and cleverness, Rats cannot count higher than one, but know when there isn’t just one.
Being a high tech matter, the Rats consulted one another and arrived at a consensus:“Yes, o-un.”
This is when I, the writer of this tale, and four new Fictional Characters (FC’s) of my creation appeared at the open door.
“Knock, knock,” I said. “We bring good news for Bambi!”
The Witch and I go way back. But that’s so many moved pegs on the cribbage board ago.
“You,” she said. “What’s the meaning of this?” She held the scroll aloft, the Rat Squad stood at attention. The witch glanced down at them, not without affection. “You guys could have told me that she was out there.”
“At ease, little friends,” I said. “Because I wasn’t until after they passed.”
“And who are they?” The Witch asked, motioning to the four FC’s who were hovering in the air, just behind me. “And why should I soon be hearing the beat of little wings?”
“These are the billygits,” I said, nodding to a row of four identical, winged, orange skinned, androgynous individuals of about two feet in length. Each one wore a blue polo shirt, a pair of khaki pants and hemp slippers that were always falling off. In fact, three of the eight slippers were already piled under them on the ground.
“Let me guess,” The Witch said, “these guys are looking for minion work.”
“Bingo, Bambi,” I replied. “Say hello to mothball, weasel, pinto and flounder.” (billygits eschew capital letters.)
“What if I tell you I have enough minions?”
“What if I tell you that Bambi could be rearranged to read Hezopatha?”
“I’d say welcome to the team, mothball, weasel, pinto and flounder.”
“Done, Hezopatha,” I said.
And with that, I left Hezopatha, the Rat Squad and the newly employed billygits to their adventures and returned to a Hell of mostly my own creation.