Looking for something spooky this Halloween season? Windowshopping after dark in Oslo might just suffice.
Near the corner of Uranienborgveien and Parkveien, across the street from Nomaden, the travel bookstore, is a storefront marked Kunst Handel, Norwegian for art dealer. In the daytime, it would be easy to walk past without taking so much as a sidelong glance at the windows there. You might see the bright corners of gilded-gold picture frames or sculptures high on pedestals. In a blink you're past it. But if you stop to look again, if after night falls the lights inside catch your eye and hold it, you'll find yourself swept into a strange world. Try, if you dare, to imagine the feverish brain which conceived of this bizarre collection.
King Gander was shot dead cleanly through the eye by a hunter at the lake who had no idea the geese were organized enough to have a king. The jewels in his crown dazzled the hunter through her scope. What a prize , thought she. What a trophy! The gunshot startled the flock and sent them scooting, panic-stricken across the top of the lake and then up into the sky. Behind them floated the body of their leader. The hunter's retreiver, Princess, splashed into the water, paddled out a few meters, and hauled the plump goose by the neck to the shore. The hunter knelt on the rocks and realized King Gander's crown was gone; it had probably tumbled from his head when the bullet tore through his eye and sunk into the dark lake water. No matter , thought the hunter, giving Princess's ears a scratch. When I stuff him, I will have his eye replaced, and I will replace his crown, as well.
Not long after the hunter placed the taxidermied king's body on display, she arrived home to find an antelope's freshly bleached skull sitting in the center of her driveway. At first she took this to be a warning, but inside she discovered the head of her childhood babydoll, eyebrows done in dark pencil, propped up on a pedestal. (So really, the antelope skull could have been a coincidence.)
After dinner she double checked the locks on all her doors and windows, then took the doll's head, the pedestal, and the bleached skull (a ring of fur still soft around the base of each antler), and set them all artfully in the window. There , thought she. Now there will be no doubt that I'm too strong to bow to such base and vulgar intimidation.
The hunter's penchant for trophies, particularly those of animal royalty, wasn't new. It ran in her blood.
Everybody who had watched the film Bambi knew that Bambi's mother had been shot by a hunter, but the Disney-fied version of the story ended with Bambi "married" to Faline, the father of two dappled fawns, and preparing to ascend to the throne. In reality, Faline, frustrated by the archaic rituals of mating season, left Bambi and became a vocal proponent of Does' Rights. Then, frantic to reassure the forest of his verility and vitality, Bambi attempted a coup. He failed the first time, resulting in a terrible falling out with this father, the Great Prince of the forest. Shortly thereafter, the prince disappeared.
The hunter's family had been sued by the Disney corporation for placing on display the crowned head of the Great Prince. While the hunter's father had always denied any wrongdoing, the fact remained that Bambi ascended to the throne uncontested, and the sudden unexplainable increase in the hunter's family bank account couldn't have been a coincidence.
The head of the Great Prince had long since been hidden away from public view. The Disney corporation's lawsuit had only been successful in that regard. But occasionally, walking through the halls of her shop of curiosities, the hunter felt guilty. Felt as though someone was watching her, judging her.
In time, the hunter was lulled into a sense of false security because nothing other than the babydoll head and the antelope skull had come to pass. The incident with the King Gander fell distant, barely remembered. The body was a conversation piece, nothing more. She even began to wonder if there'd truly been a crown. Perhaps the light off the water that afternoon had simply played a trick on her eyes. The hunter took her canoe to the lake of the geese and determined to row across it and find their clan. She would see if they'd crowned a new king.
Out in the middle of the lake, a massive teardrop shimmering in the dense forest, the hunter paddled alone. Between the trees on the bank, she thought she saw movement, muscled haunches and dainty feet, the white flag of a tail. But then nothing. And further out she thought she heard the wild, condensed honking of a flock of geese on approach, but scanned the sky and found nothing. That was when she lost her paddle. It felt as though something had yanked it from her hands. Gripping the side of the canoe, she leaned over and looked into the water. Of course, she only saw her own reflected face. Her hair in its dramtic swirled 'do, reminiscent of rams' horns or Princess Leia.
A beaver's tail slapped the water. It sounded like a gunshot. Startled, the hunter lurched back and found herself capsized in the icy water.
Her skirts and cravat became saturated, dead weight, and she struggled to keep her lips up to the air. She cried for help and thrashed, but there wasn't anyone for miles. Or, more accurately, there was, but no one who would reach out a paw, a hoof, or a hand to help her.