The Princess Television
Andrea Baldwin had lost all of her friends. Sarah and Lisa both went off to college far away and now had careers and fiancés. Kim got a job and an apartment in the city. The rest of her graduating class had either moved on or just stopped answering their phones. It seemed like by her mid 20s everyone she knew just drifted apart. Apart from her, at least.
Andrea worked at a photo developing kiosk in the mall parking lot. It didn’t pay much, but it gave her plenty of time to read. After work she typically went to her one-room apartment, ate a frozen meal, and watched tv until she fell asleep. Usually on the couch.
One night during a Mork and Mindy rerun her tv screen went fuzzy, then blacked out entirely.
“Dammit!” she said, as she got up to give it a whack. That usually got the old tube running. But this time it did nothing. She smacked it a dozen times to no avail.
Giving up, Andrea hit the lights and went to bed reading “Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern”.
In the morning she awoke with the book on her face and a cat on her chest. Monroe, her overfed tabby with terrible breath, swatted at her gently to remind her that feeding time had come.
She stumbled into the kitchen to open a can of cat food and plop it into a decorative bowl on the floor. Monroe attacked the bowl as if he’d never eaten in his life.
After coffee and a quick shower Andrea headed to the bus stop to take the 404 to work. As she exited her building something caught her eye.
A small pink television sat on the curb, presumably left for the garbageman to take. Andrea looked around but didn’t see anyone in the vicinity. Thinking of her dead TV up in the apartment she decided to give this one a shot. She picked it up to find it surprisingly light.
As she lugged the set back to the building the 404 bus pulled up.
“Aw crud.” she said to herself, but this little tv drew her attention. She couldn’t just leave it to be found by someone else, or worse, sent to the dump. She climbed the stairs to her place and brought the small television in. She could always catch the next bus.
Monroe dashed at her feet the instant she entered. He meowed hungrily, as if he hadn’t just eaten an entire can of salmon pâté.
“Fine.” she said, and opened another can. This one he devoured just as quickly.
Andrea placed the tv on the coffee table and plugged it in. She half expected it not to work, but the screen flickered to life. She turned the knob but all of the channels she knew loaded static. Getting frustrated she twisted the UHF dial all the way to the end. When nothing happened she noticed the rabbit ears sticking out of the back of the set. She pulled them up and adjusted them.
Suddenly the snowy rush of static switched to an image of actual falling snow. An unfamiliar theme song swelled from the set’s tiny speakers. The sweeping and dramatic music sounded vaguely classical. A title appeared on the screen as the camera panned over what appeared to be a fantasy kingdom. It read “The Quests of Seraphina” in a fancy script.
Andrea had never heard of it, but she loved fantasy novels and films. She would just watch a little before heading out to the bus. It turned out to be the initial episode of a series about a princess tasked with solving magical mysteries and saving brave dragons from cruel knights. Each episode contained an inversion of a standard fantasy trope. Andrea found herself immediately drawn in by the show’s premise and especially by its protagonist, the beautiful Princess Seraphina who righted wrongs throughout the wintry land of Arodem with her wit and courage all while wearing delicate flowing dresses, each more elegant than the last.
The next thing she knew the sun had set and she remained glued to the tv. She’d missed work and hadn’t eaten all day. Monroe sashayed underfoot again, meowing for food.
“I’ll get to it.” she said absently, never taking her eyes off the screen. The show continued to play, one episode after the other. It must have been a marathon. Andrea didn’t even notice the utter lack of commercials during or even between episodes. They just ran into one another.
The next day she called in sick. And the day after that. She stopped leaving her apartment altogether. She only moved from her spot to feed Monroe or use the bathroom. She lost weight and stopped showering. Her hair became greasy and matted.
She watched at least twelve hours of the show a day. She must have been sleeping periodically but even her dreams were full of the magical adventures of Princess Seraphina in the fantasy land of Arodem. The difference between waking and dreams became so blurred that she couldn’t tell where real life stopped and the show started.
Then one day the doorbell woke her from her reverie.
She answered the door in her pajamas to find her old friend Kim- a short young woman with cropped black hair, a leather jacket and dark lipstick. Andrea almost didn’t recognize this new look. In high school she had mousy brown hair and dressed conservatively. Living in the city must have changed her.
“Hey!” she said, looking Andrea up and down. “Are you sick or something?”
“No. I’m fine.” Andrea lied.
“I’ve been trying to call you for weeks! I finally looked up your address and came by to see if you were okay.”
“I’m fine.” Andrea said again.
“Are you sure? You look...not good.”
“I had the flu,” said Andrea, “but I’m getting over it now.”
“Can I come in?”
“No! I mean… I’m watching my show.”
“The Quests of Seraphina.”
“You’ve never heard of it?” said a surprised Andrea. “It’s this great show about this princess who goes on all these adventures.”
“Sounds cool.” Kim said, “Can I watch it with you?”
“No! I mean… I don’t want to miss anything.”
Kim looked taken aback by this reaction. She and Andrea had always been close, closer than either of them were with Sarah and Lisa. Andrea felt the uncomfortable weight of guilt in her stomach as she slowly shut the door on her. She did her best to avoid the palpable sense of betrayal in Kim’s eyes.
Once she closed the door, however, Andrea returned to her comfort space with Seraphina in the land of Arodem.
When she turned toward the television the screen was missing. It wasn’t broken. Just missing. Andrea leaned in to get a closer look and she felt a crisp winter breeze against her face. A sudden burst of wind coming from the TV blinded her for a moment and a bright white light engulfed her.
As her vision returned Andrea found herself standing in a snow-covered meadow at mid-morning. Her pajamas had been replaced by a diaphanous gown and her greasy, tangled hair had become luxurious and flowing in the winter wind. Pine trees surrounded the field in which she stood. Beyond the trees she could see what appeared to be chimney smoke rising into the clouds.
“Princess Andrea!” came a voice from behind her “You’ve finally arrived!”
Andrea spun around to see Princess Seraphina grinning back at her. Standing beautiful and proud, the protagonist of her show stood before her in a sinuous white dress that waved in the breeze.
“Seraphina?” she said, “How?”
“Anderak the sorcerer, probably.” said Seraphina, “Or mayhaps ‘twas Jazeroth the trickster spirit. No matter how, you’re here! You've come to me at last!”
“How-how do you know who I am?”
“My dear, you know who I am, do you not?”
“Well, sure, I’ve been watching you for a while now.”
“Well, I have been watching you in turn! Did you think the magic only worked one way?”
“The magical box through which you view me.”
“You mean the TV? A pink box about this big?” Andrea said, gesturing with her hands.
“Tee-Vee?” asked the Princess, “I know not this word, but if that is what you call it. It is a magical box that allows discourse between our two realms.”
“Yes, and I could see you as well. I implored Anderak to use it to bring you here, but he said it was likely impossible, yet here you are!”
“Anderak, the chaotic wizard from your show?”
“The same! He is quite capricious, but as you know he will sometimes aid me in my quests...when it suits him. But he did not seem keen on breaching the portal between our worlds...so as a backup plan I made a deal with Jazeroth.”
“Jazeroth the demon prince?”
“He prefers the term ‘Trickster Spirit’, but yes. I know he is not to be trusted, but I had no other choice. I needed to bring you here.”
“I need you to save Arodem!”
“Me? Save Arodem? But how? Why me?”
“There is a prophecy, darling. It says that only the watcher in the dark can shatter the Mirror of Ombra.”
“Mirror of Ombra? I’ve never heard of it.”
“It is a dark artifact. A cursed object that is draining the power of our beautiful land.”
Andrea realized only now that she must be dreaming. Her waking and sleeping worlds had been so intermingled that she frequently became confused as to which was which. But this was certainly a dream. In previous dreams it felt like she was merely watching a new episode of her favorite show, but this one was different. She actually became a character in “The Quests of Seraphina”! Andrea rarely became aware of a dream while it happened so she decided to embrace it and have an adventure with her imaginary idol.
“So...you’re saying that if we destroy this mirror, Arodem will be safe?”
“There will always be new threats to our fabled land, but yes, for now Arodem will be saved by you and you alone!”
“I’m in!” said Andrea.
“What do we do?”
“First,” said Seraphina, “we need to get to the Cavern of Twilight through the Emberwood.”
Andrea followed Seraphina as they marched through the forest, feeling the biting cold as the winter chill passed easily through her flimsy garment.
“How do you manage to have adventures in these outfits?” asked Andrea. “I’m shivering!”
“Oh, I do not feel the cold. It is one of the benefits of being a magical princess.”
“I don’t remember that ever being mentioned in the show.”
“My dear! I am ever so sorry for your predicament. Once we have destroyed the mirror the magic of Arodem will protect you as it does me! You will never need feel the pain of cold weather again.”
“I sure could use some of that magic now,” said Andrea, her arms wrapped around her frame.
“Here,” said Seraphina, as she draped a necklace over Andrea’s head, “for now the Amulet of Boreas will protect you.”
“That’s a little deus ex machina.” said Andrea, but she couldn’t argue with dream logic, and besides, the cold subsided instantly and she felt as warm and comfortable as if she were seated by a nice fire.
The pair trudged on and soon came to a clearing in the woods. At the edge stood a rock-face and a wide-open cave.
“Is that it? The Cavern of Twilight?” said Andrea. “This has been pretty easy so far.”
“Oh, my sweet Princess Andrea. No one who has entered the cavern has so far returned.”
“Why is that?”
“Some sources say that an evil creature lairs here and devours all who try to find the mirror.”
“Well, let’s get going in there then.”
“Andrea! Such bravery. Do you not even have a moment’s pause before facing such peril?”
“Nah, I’ve seen the show. We’ll get in there and there will be a dragon, or an ogre, or a werebear. They’ll threaten us but you’ll trick them with a riddle or figure out that they’re actually just misunderstood and win them over to your side. We got this.”
“My word, such a cocksure princess you are! Nevertheless, our quest awaits. Into the cavern with us!”
The two peered into the gaping maw of the cave, seeing only darkness. Entering it, their eyes slowly began to adjust. Sure enough, came a disturbing sound from a tunnel at the far side of the cavern.
“Who disturbs my slumber!” said a gravelly voice.
“Tis I, Princess Seraphina and my stalwart companion, Princess Andrea! We have come to right the wrongs being done by your cursed mirror!”
“Yeah!” said Andrea, “Hand it over!”
A massive creature with the head and body of a lion, a scorpion’s tail and a disturbingly human face padded into the cave.
“A manticore!” gasped Andrea. “I don’t think you’ve done one of those before.”
Seraphina seemed a little nonplussed at Andrea’s glib attitude in the face of danger, but she moved forward. “Do as my companion says, foul beast, or we will be forced to take action against you!”
The creature lunged at them. Even though she knew she was dreaming Andrea let out a yelp as she felt the manticore’s fiery hot breath upon her. The two princesses split to either side of the beast. That was when she noticed the talisman hanging on a chain from its neck - a shiny black mirror in a pink frame.
“The mirror!” she shouted as she reached for it.
A flash of burning pain ran down her arm as she did so. The scorpion tail of the beast had found purchase on her shoulder while she grasped at the artifact.
“Trickster! I have need of you!” shouted Serpahina to the air.
A radiant glow filled the cave as a man with the face and ears of a rabbit appeared beside her. Jazeroth, the trickster spirit had arrived.
“Remember our bargain!” he said as he leaped to Andrea’s aid.
“This doesn’t feel like a dream.” she muttered as she nearly passed out from the pain.
“Hold still.” said the trickster as he laid a furry paw on her shoulder. The pain subsided almost instantly.
“You saved me? But why?” asked Andrea as Jazeroth barely pulled her out of the way of another swipe of the deadly stinger.
“So that you can use this!” he replied, presenting a longsword.
“What? I don’t know how to wield a frigging sword!”
“Andrea! Help me!” cried Seraphina.
Andrea spun around to see that the manticore stood atop her about to maul the princess.
“No!” she yelled, feeling very much like this was not a dream at all.
She didn’t remember taking the sword but as she sped toward the beast she felt it in her hands. With a fierce arc she brought it down upon the creature’s neck, breaking the chain that held the mirror and cutting off the manticore’s head in one blow.
Panting and covered in blood Andrea fell to tears.
“This isn’t how it goes.” she said, “Seraphina...your show isn’t violent. You always talk your way out of trouble. This whole thing is so very wrong.”
“It matters not, sweet Andrea. You have won the day and saved me for a change. Now you only need to destroy the mirror and you will truly be a magical princess just like me.”
“Yes.” agreed Jazeroth. “Break the screen! Shatter it!”
Seraphina languished on the cavern floor beside the corpse of the manticore.
“The Mirror of Ombra! Only you can destroy it! Quickly, please. It is draining my life force as we speak!”
Andrea brought the sword down once more, shattering the black mirror. For an instant the cavern went dark. When the light returned the manticore and Seraphina were gone. Only Andrea and Jazeroth remained in the cavern.
“Where is she?”
“She’s gone. You’ve freed her.”
“Freed? What do you mean?”
“The magic box was her prison. She is free now. Thanks to you.”
“I don’t like this, Jazeroth. I want to wake up now.”
“This is not a dream, Princess Andrea. This is a story. And you are the main character now.”
The credits rolled on the small tv screen in Andrea’s apartment. Her hand reached out and shut it off.
Her other hand pressed down on the rabbit ears and the set began to shrink until it became a tiny talisman. Scooping Monroe up, Andrea’s hands fixed the charm to his collar.
There was a knock at the door. Andrea’s body went to answer it.
It was Kim again. She’d come back with an arm full of Chinese takeout. Andrea’s face smiled to see her friend.
Seraphina’s voice spoke.
“Come inside, dear. Tell me all about your world.”
Intro and outro theme
Music Provided By Mediacharger
Artist: Darren Curtis
Track: Demented Nightmare
Background Music Provided By Mediacharger
Music Created By : Myuu
Song Title: Growing Shadows
Theme Music to The Quests of Seraphina was Stars and Warriors by Ezietto https://soundcloud.com/ezietto78