SFReader 2003 Story Contest
First Place Winner
Okay, I admit it. I had this… this affair with a cartoon–an animated babe. I don’t mean she was hyper, I mean she was a drawing–you know, not real. No, that’s wrong. She was real all right, but she was a real cartoon, like Mickey Mouse or Roger Rabbit. Confused? Believe me, I was too. But I don’t expect you to believe me. I wouldn’t believe it myself, if she wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to me. She was this vibrant, tough, intelligent woman. All right, she was a cartoon, but she was still a woman. A woman I fell in love with.
You can choose to believe me or you can laugh it off as one man’s perverted fantasy. I don’t really care what you think, because I lived it. I know it happened.
That first time it was late, like most of my nights were. I had the TV on, and I was a little drunk and a little stoned. Hell, there wasn’t even a decent old movie on, so I was flicking the remote like I was getting paid by the channel. On top of my boredom I was feeling a little lonely, and more than a little horny. It had been a while.
It seemed to me that life, of late, had dealt me a rather putrid hand. I won’t bore you with the insipid details, but I was as low as a lizard’s belly. Half the time I walked around in a daze, like I’d been hit by a bag of nickels. One more straw and it wouldn’t be just my back that broke.
I’m flipping from station to station when this one program catches my eye. Something I hadn’t seen before–a whimsical mixture of science fiction and fantasy. I didn’t know if it was one of those obscure, animated Japanese films or a regular series. So I’m about to zap the remote again when she swings into my picture. I mean literally swung in on some cable right into a cluster of Brand X bad guys.
She had high cheekbones and long hair as deep, dark red as the Merlot I’d been drinking. A thin, silver headband kept it out of her tempestuous green eyes. The black leather strips she wore were just enough for the modesty of the censors, and the flesh it did expose was every comic book artist’s ideal of sinewy yet supple perfection. In other words, she had it all.
Her boots pounded the head of yet another generically depraved minion as she drew her rapier from its ebony scabbard and began dealing death to and fro. She’d feint to the left just as her blade licked out like a serpent’s tongue to the right. Leap and parry, roll and thrust. Her battle dance was as deadly as it was seductive.
Waging war with my own lethargy, I found myself imagining what it would be like to get naked and do the nasty with this voluptuous heroine darting across my TV screen. And this, of course, is where you’re going to think that I’ve totally lost touch with reality. You’ll probably write it off as drug-induced, or maybe severe manic depression. I know I did… at least at first.
I was still fantasizing about what it would be like to be deep inside such a powerful woman, tempering her pleasure with every stroke, when she comes flying boots-first through the television screen and lands with a distinct thud on my living room carpet.
I did what any red-blooded American male would do in that situation–I froze. I sat there with my mouth hanging open and my hand clutching the remote as if it were a high-tech crucifix that would ward off televised apparitions. For the first time in my life, I thought I’d blown a fuse.
There was something odd about her that added to my understandable amazement. She no longer looked like–well, like a drawing. In becoming three-dimensional, her flesh tones had taken on depth, her emerald eyes the spark of life. But there was still something not quite right about her color–about the corporeality of her presence. It was as if she were only part human, and still part the pen and ink of someone’s imagination. At that moment, however, with her standing there flashing the look of a trapped panther, blood dripping off her sword onto my coffee table, I had no doubt of her existence.
“What wizardry is this?” she demanded in character as both her eyes and her blade threatened my very existence. “Who are… ?”
Before she could get the “who?” out of the way, the big “where?” popped into her head. She scanned the room as if she’d just gotten off the bus in Bizarreville. My black and white photo of Leonard Nimoy seemed to intrigue her, but she didn’t know what to make of the stuffed Alf doll. Then she saw the television and just about freaked. The show, her show, was still on. She saw the villainous hordes she’d been doing battle with and spun into a fighting stance, knocking over my Tony Gwynn-autographed baseball. The bad guys were searching for her, looking everywhere. But it wouldn’t do them any good, because she was in my living room
“It’s all right,” I found myself saying, “nobody’s going to hurt you here.”
“Where is this?”
“You’re in my house. I don’t know how you got here, but you’re obviously here.”
“Where is this house? What strange world is this?”
“Well, until a minute ago, I thought this was the real world. Now I’m not sure what’s real. But you can put your sword down. I swear no one is going to hurt you here. Please.”
She regained some of her regal composure as she surveyed the room and decided there was no immediate danger. One look at me cowering against the cushions of my couch made it obvious that I was no threat. So she sheathed her sword and turned her attention back to what was on the TV screen.
“That’s… my world?” It was part statement, part question.
“That’s where I was watching you, until you popped in unexpectedly.” “This is a window between worlds?”
Not only heroic and gorgeous, she was bright too.
“Yeah, I guess it is. Actually, it’s a window to many worlds. Watch this.”
I aimed the remote at the TV and click–I changed the channel to CNN, which was airing a report on a new electric car.
That, as I was momentarily to discover, was a big mistake.
As I watched her watching the television, I noticed she began to change. Her colors weren’t quite as bright, her presence not quite as imposing. She was dwindling away, becoming transparent. When I finally realized was happening, she had all the substance of a ghost.
As fast as I could fumble with the remote, I switched back to her show. But it was too late. She had vanished–at least from my living room. I saw her there, back on the screen. She looked disoriented for a moment, and that moment was just enough for the bad guys to drop a wire mesh net over her.
That was it. That’s where the episode ended. They rolled credits over scenes from previous shows and I dove for my TV Guide. The name of the show was Phaedra, The Warrior Princess, and it was on Channel 3 five nights a week at that same time.
I couldn’t get to my TV quickly enough the next night. I left it on Channel 3 more than an hour before the show was due–just in case. Instead of working, I had spent the day worrying. Worrying what might happen to her in the hands of the villain–though I told myself she was the show’s star, and that nothing really bad could happen to her. I also worried that I’d never see her again, except on television. And, I worried plenty about my sanity. Who wouldn’t after what I’d seen?
So I waited. But this time I didn’t have anything to drink or smoke, I didn’t even want to eat. I was damn sure going to be in my right mind if it happened again. I was fairly convinced it wouldn’t.
When the show came on I learned she was indeed the title character, and that she now lay at the mercy of the grotesque Dark Prince, who intended to use an odd amalgamation of science and magic to make her his love slave. She had been stripped naked and strapped to a table somewhere deep in the bowels of his citadel. The straps, of course, strategically covered her more feminine parts.
As the episode progressed, there appeared to be no rescue for Phaedra. The Dark Prince was only minutes away from reshaping her mind, and I didn’t see any way for her to escape. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all my fault. If I hadn’t started fantasizing about her and sucked her into my world, she probably never would have been captured. Yeah, I know, it was schizoid reasoning at best. On one hand I was sure I had imagined the whole thing, and on the other I felt guilty. There was only one way to find out for sure, and only one way to rescue her.
I stood up, closed my eyes, and began thinking about her as hard as I could think. I thought about her straps coming untied… I thought about her cutting the Prince’s throat and escaping… I even thought about her beaming into my living room like something out of Star Trek. But nothing worked. I was such a dismal failure I couldn’t even hallucinate properly. She was doomed to become the mindless bride of that villain now, unless….
I tried to remember exactly what I had thought of the night before. That was easy–the same thing I was usually thinking about–sex, of course. So I envisioned making love to Phaedra–the passion of her kisses, the power of her thighs, the deep dark red of her–and wham! There was a rush of cold air past me and suddenly I could feel her. I opened my eyes and she was there, right there in my arms, just as naked as she had been on that table.
“You,” she said, actually sounding somewhat relieved.
I, of course, was my usual eloquent self. Standing there with this incredibly beautiful, naked woman in my arms, I replied, “Hi.”
“You have saved me from the clutches of the Dark Prince,” she said, still in character.
“It, uh, was the least I could do.”
That’s when she kissed me. And it wasn’t just any kiss. At least it wasn’t like any kiss I’d ever had from a real woman. It was a kiss that seared my lips, assaulted my insides with waves of martial spasms, and rendered my legs immobile. It was a TKO.
Have you ever been in a situation like that? Of course not exactly like that. But a situation where you thought, This is too good to be true. Well, that’s what I thought at that moment, and I wasn’t about to waste a second of it.
I kissed her back, one thing led to another, and we proceeded with the most passionate, most ferocious lovemaking I have ever, or will ever, experience. On the floor, across the couch, in the shower, over the kitchen sink–she couldn’t get enough, and who was I to argue?
Somewhere between unbridled lust and rubbed raw passion, she wore me down. We were lying there on the couch and I realized the TV had been on all this time. I let go of her to sit up and check out what was on. Her show was long over with now, and some infomercial had usurped the channel. When I turned back to look at her, she had already begun to dissipate.
She opened her eyes and sprang to her feet like an adrenalized cat, then realized what was happening. I tried to grab her, but it was too late. She faded from my arms like a misty day and vanished.
From then on, I was by my television set every night, five nights a week. My weekends were one long holding pattern, waiting for the arrival of her show late Monday. Though it seemed she was staying with me longer and longer after her show finished for the night, we discovered the only sure way to keep her from dematerializing was continuous lovemaking. That led to some marathon sessions I will not elaborate on here. She relished escaping from her violent, barbaric world into mine, and I relished her–the feel of her, the sound of her, the scent of her.
It was the perfect love affair. Perfect, that is, if you fail to consider the fact she was just the figment of someone’s imagination. But I no longer worried that I was losing my mind. I didn’t care. I was immersed in a cascading pool of bliss. Every night with her was ecstasy, and “reality,” whatever that was, be damned. Hell, she called me her “hero.” What more could a guy want?
Then, one Monday night, after a particularly long and boring weekend, I turned on my TV and waited for her. I had a bottle of semi-expensive champagne and a new kind of chocolate for her. In the few weeks we’d been together, she was always wanting to try something different from my world.
I no longer had to concoct elaborate sexual fantasies to make her appear. We had established some kind of preternatural link. One quick thought was all it took now. And you could see it in her face. No matter what the creators of her show had her doing in a particular episode, her heart wasn’t quite in it. I could tell she was waiting for the moment when I would whisk her away from the fighting and into my arms. I never waited long, and the more she disappeared, the more the show’s minor characters began to take center stage. In fact, her “mysterious” disappearances had become part of the plotline, with both her allies and her enemies left to wonder where she had vanished to, and what “magical powers” she had acquired. In the opening of one show, I actually saw Phaedra confide to her maidservant that when she disappeared, she flew into her lover’s arms.
So there I was, waiting for her, when I see the opening sequence to an episode of Gilligan’s Island. I started messing with the remote, figuring I’ve got the wrong channel, but I don’t. Now I like Ginger and Mary Ann as much as the next guy, but at that moment pure panic clutched my throat. I flashed through the TV listings and there it was, Gilligan’s Island, right where Phaedra should’ve been. I spent the rest of the night looking at every single show in that week’s listings, figuring maybe she had been moved to a different time-slot. I frantically stabbed at the remote until my fingers grew numb. But I couldn’t find her anywhere. Finally, I drank myself into oblivion with the champagne I had bought for her.
The next day I called the station and found out Phaedra had been cancelled. I’m sure I sounded desperate. But I guess they get a lot of crazies calling about their favorite shows, so the woman on the other end took it in stride. I asked if the show had only been cancelled locally, and whether it might still be on other stations around the country. Even before she answered, I was contemplating what I’d have to do if I relocated to a new city.
“No,” she said, the show was an independent that had ceased production, and as far as she knew, there would be no new episodes. I asked her about reruns. “Yes,” she said, in time, some station somewhere might pick up the show for reruns. Would her station? She sincerely doubted it. It seems viewers had been complaining about the show’s change in focus from its heroine to other characters, and its ratings had nose-dived. Could she give me the address of the production company? Sure.
For a long time after that, I wrote letters to the company that had distributed Phaedra, The Warrior Princess, and then to the company which had created the show. I begged, I pleaded, and, in one particularly deranged moment, I even threatened. They thanked me for my interest and my praise, empathized with me, and eventually told me, in so many words, to get a life.
After the third letter they did send me a videotaped copy of one episode, but there was no magic in it. No matter how much I fantasized, no matter how much I conjured up images of the nights we had spent together, Phaedra no longer left her world for mine.
Like any great love affair that’s ended, I’m left with wonderful memories, memories that seem to widen the cracks in my heart when I think about them too much. Of course, if you’re reading this, you’re more likely to think I’m cracked in other places. That’s all right, I don’t care. I know it was real. I know she was real. I know I touched her, kissed her, and, on occasion, even transformed that stoic warrior look of hers into a childlike smile. She was real all right. She was the love of my life.Share