May 17, 2014

The Cell Tower, By Shari L. Klase

                  By Arthur Rackham

Editor's note: Rapunzel and the internet AND a dragon? This fun twist on an old story grabbed me right away.

Locked away in her high tower, Princess Emi sat contentedly among her books. Emi was a lovely girl; her one imperfection being her extreme farsightedness due to eyestrain. The eyestrain came from the hours and hours she spent reading and studying her large library of books, as well as the time spent surfing the Medieval Media. So engrossed was she in her study that she didn’t hear her mother call from the bottom of the tower wall.

“Oh, Emi, dear, could you please let down the rope so I can climb up to you?”

Emi often buried herself in her books to the point where she blocked out all distractions.

“Oh, that girl will be the death of me,” Queen Giselda said. She learned long ago to prepare for Emi’s distractions. She hoisted herself up the tower finding footholds in between the stones here and there. Her hands found greater stability from the vines that grew helter-skelter hither and yon over the face of the tower. Each time she made headway, her body ached with the strain and she cried out, “Oompf”." 
The closer she got to the tower window the more aggravated she became.

Finally, launching her leg up and over the windowsill, she fell, kerplunk, onto the floor. Emi startled at her mother’s entrance.

“Oh, Mother, you frightened me. Why didn’t you call?”

Her mother grunted. “Why didn’t I call? I did call, and you didn’t hear me.”

“I meant on the iPhone, mother.”

“You know I hate to use those gadgets. Oh, Emi, why do you confine yourself to this tower where it is so hard to reach you?”

“You know why, mother. I am protected in this tower. At least, I think I am. You keep climbing it and I’m not sure if an old lady like yourself can climb this tower, maybe someone else could climb it as well. Didn’t you take down those vines over the surface of the tower yet?”

“I am not an old lady! And as for an intruder climbing the tower, I would like some man to scale this tower and take you away from all these books and your dreariness. Don’t you ever want a little adventure, Emi?”

“I have plenty of adventures in my books, mother. Besides, I have great internet reception here. If I wanted a young man I could find him on maidenmatch.com. The world is full of dangers. It could be that some villain would climb the jagged, lofty mountains surrounding our village, get through the sentry guard surrounding the castle and then shimmy up this tower as quick as you please.”

Queen Giselda rolled her eyes. “I don’t see how any villain would even know you are in this tower since you never go out or even make so much as a peep.”

Princess Emi picked up her notebook. “You never know what someone can do if they hack into your account, even with all the encrypted seals I have.”

Her mother pulled the bag from her robe. “Well, you must at least eat. Perhaps, you could be so kind as to throw down the rope ladder when I call tomorrow, so I don’t have to skin my knees on the stones.”

“Of course I will, mother. I’m sorry to be such trouble. Only I feel so much safer in this tower.”

Emi wasn’t being quite truthful with her mother. At least, she wasn’t revealing everything about herself, but what grown daughter likes to feel she is under her mother’s thumb? She actually was on maiden match.com quite a bit. However, she found the assortment of knights, princes and rogues collected there quite boring to be honest.

The princes were all arrogant dowdies that were obsessed with their money and social position. The rogues were more attractive with their devil-may-care attitude but who wants to risk the dungeon for a man? Then, there were the knights.

Their profiles were almost all identical. I slayed fifteen dragons, I rescued twenty-two maidens. Only the numbers varied, as if each wanted to outperform others on the site. “My name is Sir Gallant. I ride a white horse. I am very fond of going on quests. I’m looking for a young maiden who is delicate and comely who will enjoy quiet evenings in the castle after my long day of crusading.” Yuck! Couldn’t be more corny or plastic. She wasn’t interested in even displaying a hanky wave to any of them.

To be truthful, the thing about slaying dragons bothered her the most. Emi studied dragonology since she was a child. She used to collect posters of them until her mother made her take them down. She said it was unladylike and repulsive to fill one’s private quarters with the beasts.

Emi loved the colors of dragons; iridescent green was her favorite. She was sure all that was said about them was not completely true. There had to be a friendly dragon somewhere; one that was not blood thirsty, wanting to rip apart every villager it saw. More than anything she would like meeting a dragon. Of course, locked up voluntarily in a tower it was quite unlikely she would ever meet anyone or anything.

If only Emi wasn’t so preoccupied with safety, she could leave these tower walls and venture out into the real world. Emi had good reasons for being afraid. All her family had been killed by an evil sorcerer. Her entire family had been wiped out; her mother, her father, her sister and her brother. The sorcerer took over her kingdom and would have killed her as well if she hadn’t been rescued by Sir Simon.

Sir Simon took her to his kingdom where King Edward and Queen Giselda reigned. They were enchanted with her because they had no children of their own and adopted her as their daughter. They sheltered and protected her which is perhaps why she developed an unhealthy fear of being stolen away or killed by the same sorcerer or a villain hired by him, intent on finishing the job he had started. So at the age of sixteen she took to living in an isolated tower and let the rumor spread that she had moved far away to another kingdom.

Now at the age of 19, Emi should have been enjoying balls and court functions. Instead, her only activity was surfing the net. Queen Giselda up to this point preferred to let nature take its course and hope that her daughter would outgrow this phase of her life, but now she was ready to take matters into her own hands.

She contacted a certain Prince Garett from a nearby kingdom, who had all the qualifications any future mother-in-law would require in a son-in-law; namely he was handsome, brave and rich. If Emi wouldn’t go to the mountains surrounding their village, the mountains would come to Emi. She sent for Prince Garett so he would ascend the tower, swoop Emi off her feet, and carry her away. Not too far away. It was a nearby kingdom she had selected, after all.

“Whose idea was it to put mountains around this kingdom?” Prince Garett grumbled. “A dragon is an easier conquest than this mountain. If it wasn’t that this Princess Emi was a real piece of eye candy…”

“I beg your pardon!” a voice roared.

Prince Garett turned his gaze to the skies. There, hovering in the air was the most fearsome, iridescent green dragon he had even seen.

“Ho, there. Who are you and how did you get here?”

“My name is Percy. This mountain is nothing to a dragon with wings. Do I understand you’re in the business of slaying dragons?”

“I’m not in the business of it, but I certainly have slain quite a few of you. I haven’t run into any talking dragons lately though.”

“So you think dragons are stupid?”

Prince Garett cleared his throat. “Well, as a matter of fact, I mean, well, present company exempted, I have always found dragons to be a bit on the slow side. If you come down here, I’ll demonstrate my techniques of dragon slaying.”

The dragon laughed. “Ha, if I did, I’d be proving your point, wouldn’t I? Besides, this is not why I want to speak with you. I heard you mention Princess Emi. Do I understand you wish to make her acquaintance?”

“What is that to you?”

“I’m also eager to gain audience with her.”

“Ha, that’s a laugh. I’m sure she’d fall into a dead faint if she even caught a glimpse of you. Maidens are so fragile.”
“Shows how little you know about her. She’s actually quite fond of dragons.”

“And you know this why?”

“I read profiles. Obviously you don’t. Not all of us dragons think maidens are just for lunch.”

“Why read when you can look at the pictures. One look at that damsel put my heart in distress.”

“I’m getting a little tired of this. I’d be out of here right now if I didn’t need you. I know everything about Princess Emi except where she lives. Once you take me to her, we’ll see who she chooses.”

“Um, how did you know I was even coming here?”

“Hey, I’m a dragon with a knack for hacking.”

“Whatever. Suit yourself, dragon. When I meet my lovely Princess Emi, I’ll further impress her by slaying you.”

“You haven’t heard anything I’ve said, have you?”

“You said something?”

Percy found following Prince Garett quite tedious. He often stopped to comb his hair or throw a tirade over a torn button. Plus his pace was too slow to a fast flying dragon. Finally he reached the village. Of course, Percy couldn’t reveal himself to the villagers. Townsfolk were so prejudiced when it came to toothy dragons. He had no choice but to hide.

“Are you there, Dragon?” Prince Garett hollered out.

“Psst, I’m in this tree,” Percy whispered loudly.

Prince Garett looked up. “Oh, there you are. I have to check in with Queen Giselda. She is to point out the exact location of the tower and give me last minute info. I will reconnoiter with you presently. You’re not leaving now, are you? I know dragons are cowards at heart.”

Percy rolled his eyes. “Sure, I’ll be right here.”

As Prince Garett entered the castle, Percy flew from his hiding place and surveyed the area from high above. It wasn’t difficult to spot the tower, or to deduce that a tower would be exactly the kind of place a shy girl like Emi would hide out. His only problem being that he didn’t exactly fit in her tower window. Luckily, the vicinity of the tower was far away from any spies who might be suspicious of a dragon hovering in mid-air.

He flew alongside the open window. He cleared his throat. How does a dragon call a princess? Excuse me, my dear? Yo, yo, Princess Emi? Oh smack, there you are!

In the end, the decision was made for him. He hesitated so long in deliberation at the window that Princess Emi saw him. She squealed in delight. “What a lovely dragon!”

“Thank you, Princess Emi. I’m Percy by the way.”

“Oh, please don’t be formal. Call me Emi. You must be tired, hovering out there like that.”

“I am rather weary.”

 Emi sighed. “I haven’t been out of this tower for years.”

“Perhaps it’s time then. Climb upon my back.”

Emi only hesitated a fraction of a second. She wrapped her arms around his neck and swung aboard his back. “You’re much softer than I would have imagined.”

“Yes, stereotypes are so unbecoming.” He glided down gently like a feather to the ground and Emi slid off him.

“I hardly remembered what the ground felt like.”

“You haven’t had much adventure, have you?”

“Only as an avatar in a RPG game.”

“Hey there, dragon! I thought you were waiting for me,” Prince Garett cried out as he approached them.

“You’re with him?” Emi asked disappointedly.

“Not exactly with him,” Percy replied.

“Excuse me! Focus on me.” Prince Garett pulled out his sword. “I will now demonstrate my prowess and slay this dragon.”

“You will not!” Emi shouted at him.

“Don’t you want me to show you what outstanding qualities I will pass on to our children?”

“No, I do not. I would never even consider having children with an egotistical dragon killing blowhard like you.”

“Why I’m flattered that you know so much about me.”

“I’ve read your profile on Maidenmatch. It disgusts me.”

Prince Garett turned to the dragon. “You see, she loves me. She has found out all about me.”

Percy grinned at Emi. “He never listens.” Pointing to Prince Garett, he asked. “May I?”

Emi nodded. “Be my guest.”

With one swish of his tail he knocked the sword from Prince Garett’s grasp. Then he grabbed Prince Garett with his claw and carried him to the top of the tower, where he deposited him through the tower window with a crash onto the floor.
 

“I believe a cell tower is the place for you.”

Percy landed lightly beside Emi. “What would you say to an escapade with a dragon?”

Emi smiled. “I’d say I’ve met my match.”

Shari L Klase lives in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley with her artist husband and writer daughter and crazy corgi. She loves reading and writing fairy tales and any kind of speculative fiction.


12 comments

  1. Fun story! I love dragon stories and this one was amusing and light.

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  2. I did like the story and thought the character might be based on someone we know. I was intrigued by the fact that she chooses not by outward appearance but from the heart. I found this interesting and enjoyed it. Thanks..

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  3. This story put a smile on my face--delightful:)

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  4. This story was quite intriguing and humorous to me. I loved how certain motives from our culture were brought into a fairy tale story concerning the term of a “maidenmatch” website that the princess was referring to when finding a male. This put someone of a twist on the story for me and made me smile.
    When first beginning to read the story I thought it sounded very much similar to the movie tangled, but then noticed many twists starting off with how the mother was very encouraging of trying to get her daughter to come out of the tower, explore, and live a more adventurous life rather than staying in “surfing the web”, reading, and laying around. Whereas in tangled the evil mother is the one forcing the girl to stay locked away in a tower while the girl desperately just wanted to feel the ground again, walking on the grass, and live a “normal” life. Her dreams of being in the woods and around other human beings were never ending.
    One last comment I’d like to make is how normally in these stories it is encouraged and just relevant that the male or prince rescuing the princess would obviously slay the dragon to woo her, however yet another twist that the author puts in this story, which again is humorous to me, is when he tries to slay the dragon and the gal is completely turned off by this and revealed by her exact words, “No, I do not. I would never even consider having children with an egotistical dragon killing blowhard like you.”
    - Kelsey S.

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  5. Thanks for all your wonderful comments. I am glowing! That's a good thing-especially in fairy tales.

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  6. If the point of this fairy tale was to provide a humorous outlook, then I call this a success. While reading, I can only imagine a princess dressed in something similar to Renaissance garb, while holding an iPad. It’s not exactly what most people think of when thinking about fairy tales. Princess Emi seems to be growing up in the tower with all the modern advancements of today. These modern twists really lend a relatable hand to this tale. It’s also quite unusual that a fearsome creature is actually a protagonist of the story. The prince is so self-absorbed, he becomes the villain, lacking though he is in creativity and a plotting nature. Percy, the dragon, more than makes up for the lacking prince, in both sincerity and creativity. The modern touches in the story draw you in and make it relatable, but Percy is the character that you want to hear more from and get to know. He brings a refreshing twist to the tale when he literally sweeps Emi off her feet and gets her to be adventurous again.
    Rachel B.

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  7. How fun! I was not expecting to read any fairytales with a modern twist, and this was brilliant. I really enjoyed the discussion about her protection in the tower. Emi was not only surrounded by books but also her phone. I thought it was funny how she says, "I am protected in this tower. At least, I think I am." It made me consider the idea that maybe roaming in a land filled with dragons would be far safer than confining yourself to the web; something that makes sense nowadays, what with the obsession with technology. And maybe Emi questions that herself.

    I also enjoyed the difference between Emi’s story and that of Repunzel’s, which the story seems to be loosely built around. Emi puts herself in the tower for protection, rather than a character like Dame Gothel forcing Repunzel to be there. The sense of independence is not always the most common occurrence in fairytales, but Emi’s independence was fun to read about.

    -JP

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  8. This story is a quaint, cute antithesis to the predetermined destiny of most romance in fairy tales, which are commonly implied to be somehow set by fate, kingdom politics, and class similarities --that is to say that the glass slipper usually only has one true fit! It parodies the internet by mingling it in with more traditional and trope-aligned elements, while focusing on the female protagonist’s own self-empowerment. Although some old fairy tales actually do this, they seldom go so far as to reject the prince; so in that regard, this story sets itself apart! In the end she chooses a path that most typical fairy tale protagonists wouldn’t dare tread, with the cliché of an antagonist dragon being intentionally inverted. Together, those two elements elevate this particular protagonist into a level of empowerment over her own fate which the vast majority of princesses fail to come close to (It makes me think of The Dirty Shepherdess, really). These reversed themes are also seamlessly integrated with a touch of humor (“He never listens.”).

    (…And also I may or may not love dragons so this may or may not be a really cool story for me--!).


    --Dylan Richardson

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  9. I really liked the fairy tale “The Cell Tower.” I felt it was “Tangled” meets “How To Train Your Dragon” by DreamWorks Animation. I like how the author appealed to the millennial generation by using iPhones and the Internet. A part of the story that made me chuckle was when the Queen was calling out to Princess Emi and Emi tells her she should have called her iPhone instead. In addition, the deeper meaning of “The Cell Tower” is not judging people on only outward appearances. Several other fairy tales also deal with this idea. Princess Emi is not looking for some good-looking prince that is wealthy and can slay dragons. She wants a relationship that goes beyond just good looks. This is a great lesson, especially for those looking for that significant other. Beauty fades after a while, but what is on the inside can last forever. In “The Cell Tower,” Princess Emi makes the correct choice in the dragon because she found someone who likes her for who she is and not just her outward appearance.
    -Brad-

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  10. I really enjoyed this fairy tale. It put a very interesting twist into a fairy tale. It modernized it adding internet which I thought was very interesting to do with a fairy tale but I liked it and it was pretty funny. While reading this, I was really amazed at how different the fairy tale is from the movie Tangled. I am actually a big fan of Tangled. In the movie, her mother forces her to stay in the tower to keep her away from society and keep her "safe" when she wanted to keep her for herself to keep her young with her magical hair whereas in the fairy tale, the mother wants her to leave the tower and meet people which is completely the opposite. Also, if I remember right, there is not even a dragon in Tangled and Flynn Rider stumbles upon her tower by accident running from the 2 big guys trying to catch him. The fairy tale was definitely an interesting twist I was not expecting but I enjoyed it and even found it to be funny. T.R.

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  11. My favorite part of this story was the dialogue. It was very humorous and well-written. Good tone and good blending of modern and conventional fairytale features.

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