Following Adam’s death, The Princess Society changed quite a bit. No longer was The Princess just an idle object of fascination. She was a threat, and they realized their research could be a matter of life or death. Very quickly, The Society transformed into the way I knew it, a secret and close-knit community desperately scouring the internet for any new source of information on The Princess.
It’s reasonable to wonder, of course, why research continued at all. If attempts at negotiating with The Princess had been such a disaster, why try? “Establish communication” had always been one of the main goals of The Society, but trying to talk to such a hostile thing seemed incredibly foolish. It did to me, anyway, and I made sure to say as much. As it turns out, however, there was a reason The Society still believed communication was an option.
Shortly after Adam died, when the search for people with information about The Princess had been most intense, The Society came across someone with a very interesting (and very sad) story to tell. You see, years before Adam and Brian’s fateful misadventure, someone had already succeeded where they would fail. Someone had actually established open communication with The Princess.
She was a ten-year-old girl. She was also the first person The Princess ever killed.
Faye was never particularly into video games. She’d give them a try occasionally, but they just never caught her interest the way her books did. Her primary exposure to video games came from her little sister, Ellie, who had kept a Gameboy on her since she was six. Perhaps it was partly her sister’s influence which kept Faye away from video games. Perhaps she considered them “childish” because she associated them with her baby sister.
She would, in time, come to avoid video games for another reason.
On Ellie’s tenth birthday, their parents bought her a brand new Nintendo 64 console and a copy of Banjo-Kazooie. Faye was more than a little jealous. This was more than their parents had ever spend on her birthday presents. Still, she look of sheer glee on Ellie’s face as she tore the console out of the box made it impossible to stay mad. For all she could be a pest, Ellie was too cute to hate.
Ellie played that game religiously. 3D games were still new to her, so progress through the game was slow, but she didn’t care. She was simply amazed by the atmosphere, getting lost in a big 3D world and meeting new characters. Every now and then Ellie would run to Faye with a story about a new world she’d discovered or a scary enemy she’d narrowly escaped. Faye would generally just nod her head and continue to read. It wasn’t until she saw the drawing that she started to take an interest in her sister’s stories.
See, in addition to telling people about the games she was playing, Ellie liked to draw them. She’d made dozens of drawings of her Pokemon team over the last year, and a series of sketches posted above her closet catalogued her adventures in Link’s Awakening. So, when she started playing Banjo-Kazooie, she naturally had to draw a group shot of all the characters. Just as naturally, when she was done, she had to go bug Faye to look at it.
Faye glanced at the drawing long enough to seem interested. It matched the stuff she’d seen while watching Ellie play. There was Banjo, Kazooie, skull man, the witch, that other witch, one of those jinjo things…and a character Faye didn’t recognize. While most of the characters were grouped together in the drawing, one character was off to the side, peeking out from behind a tree. It was a girl, with red hair and a white dress, looking rather out of place.
“That? Oh, her? I dunno. She shows up in the game, sometimes. Not sure what she does, yet. I think she’s an angel.”
“Huh.” Seemed strange, but then again Banjo-Kazooie was a strange game. It didn’t seem unreasonable that there would be an angel character somewhere in there.
As the weeks wore on, Ellie played the game more and more, continuing to draw as she went. Faye noticed, however, that the focus of Ellie's drawings was shifting. The other characters were appearing less and less, and the red-haired angel was becoming more and more central. Equally strange was that, no matter how close Ellie drew her, she never had a face.
Eventually, Faye just had to ask. “So, what does the angel do?”
“She’s not an angel, actually. She’s a princess. She told me.”
“Oh. Well, what does ‘the princess” do?”
“She helps me! She makes the bad guys go away. Also, when there’s a tough jumping part, she can make me fly to the other side. Once she gave me eggs, but I think she gave me too many because the numbers turned into letters and everything started buzzing. It was pretty funny.”
Faye’s eyes were starting to glaze as, to her, Ellie seemed to be launching into another one of her recaps. She quickly tried to change the subject. “Why doesn’t she have a face?”
Ellie looked down at the drawing, as though she hadn’t even noticed. She eventually smiled and said “She’s not done, yet.”
“Oh, okay.” The drawing wasn’t finished. That made sense. Faye decided to make her exit before Ellie could begin another story.
Ellie never drew a face on that picture.
More weeks passed and Ellie was playing the game more and more. Faye was amazed Ellie hadn’t beaten it yet. This was more time than she’d ever put into a game. Her drawings had also stopped featuring anyone but the princess character, and her rate of drawing them was increasing. It seemed like there was a new drawing every time Faye came home from school or from hanging out with friends. Whenever Ellie was playing the game, Faye could hear her speaking quietly to the screen, but she’d stop the moment anyone else entered the room. Faye wasn’t the only one who’d noticed her sister’s odd behavior either. Her mother had mentioned a couple times that Ellie may be playing the game too much.
But, of course, her parents never interfered. Ellie was always the spoiled one, after all.
Eventually, Faye was too concerned to keep her mouth shut. She had to ask Ellie for some answers. It was strange, but she was almost nervous to confront her sister about it. She’d never felt scared or intimidated by her sister before, but something about how obsessed she’d become put Faye on edge.
“Why do you draw the princess so much?”
Ellie didn’t look up from her latest sketch-in-progress, “She says if I draw her, she’ll stop hurting me.”
A chill went down Faye’s back. Hurting her? What the hell kind of video game was this? How was it hurting her?
Ellie looked up and saw Faye’s chilled expression. “Hurting me in the game, silly!”
Faye let out a tentative sigh. She was only slightly relieved, but still just as confused. It was time for more questions. “Okay, if she’s a princess, what is she the princess of?”
“She doesn’t like to talk about it. It makes her mad, and when she’s mad she starts hurting me again.”
There was a mild twinge of fear in Ellie's voice as she said this. Even if she was only being hurt in the game, Faye could hear that something about this princess character had Ellie on edge.
“Ellie, it’s just a game. Maybe you should give it a rest, eh?”
“But she’ll be lonely!”
“Just stop playing for a little bit.”
“You’re not Mom! You can’t make me!”
“I’m a caring sister! I just think you’re taking the game too seriously. The princess isn’t real.”
“She is! She is real, and you can’t make me stop!” Ellie grabbed her sketch and stormed out of the room.
After this conversation, Ellie didn’t stop playing. If anything, she played the game more, and started playing at odd hours. Faye, chronic heartburn sufferer, would often wake up in the middle of the night only to hear the faint sounds of the N64 from the upstairs playroom. When not playing, Ellie seemed to avoid Faye, undoubtably remembering their last confrontation. Faye, faced with her sister’s obvious decline into madness…decided it was no longer her problem. She’d tried, and Ellie had refused to listen. So she had a crazy sister who talked to video games. So what?
Her sister, however, decided to bring the problem to her.
Faye awoke to her usual heartburn one evening to find Ellie silhouetted in her doorway. Faye was understandably startled at first but, when she flipped on the light, she saw Ellie had tears in her eyes. She looked absolutely terrified.
“I had a nightmare,” she cried.
It had been years since Ellie had done this. When they were both younger, Ellie used to come to Faye for comfort when she’d had a nightmare. At the very least, Faye got a nice scary story out of the deal. She’d always wondered why Ellie never went to their parents, but in the moment it never seemed right to ask.
Just as they’d done years ago, Ellie toddled up to Faye’s bed, sat at the foot of it, and summarized what it had happened.
“In my dream, The Princess…she showed me where she comes from. It was…it’s bad. It’s weird and scary and it makes her mad when she’s there. It’s like a kingdom, but it’s not. Nothing’s right. Everything’s broken. It’s full of people and things that are all blank like she is, but most of them can’t think right because no one gave them brains…or something. There’s no sky, no water, no grass, no…no…”
Ellie started to cry. This was certainly the most elaborate nightmare Ellie had ever described, much better than “There was a mean-looking jack-in-the-box with a gun!” Faye reached out a hand to comfort her. “It’s alright,” she said in as soothing a manner as she could.
But her hand was pushed away. “It’s not alright!”
“It was just a dream.”
“NO! I think…I think when I’m not playing…The Princess has to go back there! When I’m not playing with her or drawing her, she has to go back. It makes her so mad! I don’t know why it makes her so mad to be there!”
Ellie stood up and headed for the door.
“Ellie? Are…are you going to play the game now?”
“I can’t leave her there!”
“She’s not real!”
Ellie slammed the door behind her. It seemed Faye had lost another battle for her sister’s sanity. Her heartburn had calmed, at least. She tried to lay down and return to sleep.
But it wasn’t over.
Apparently, this door slam had been loud enough to wake their mother, who had decided it was finally, finally time for some discipline. At first, Faye just heard some muffled discussion from the playroom. This discussion, however, quickly escalated. Eventually, Faye could hear everything the two of them were saying.
“Elanor-Jane, you go back to bed this instant!”
“Mom, I have to save The Princess!”
“She isn’t real! How many times do I have to tell you video games aren’t real!?”
“But she is real! She’s not just in the game! She’s here! She’s right here! Look!”
“These are just drawings. They aren’t-…Oh…Oh, god. Ellie, did you draw this?”
“See? She’s angry, now! She’s real and you’re making her angry!”
“Ellie, just go to bed.”
“No! I have to help her!”
“Go to bed!”
The screaming continued down the hall as Ellie was dragged back to her bedroom by her mother. Near as Faye could hear, Ellie was tossed into her room and the door shut behind her. Though faint, she could hear her sister weeping. Occasionally, she would cry out something increasingly incoherent. One particular thing stuck with Faye for years afterwards:
“You’re just like them! They said she wasn’t real! They ruined everything, and you’re just the same!”
This last outburst proved too much for Ellie’s parents to ignore. In the following week Ellie was sent to a psychiatric care specialist. When this specialist found himself unable to “cure” Ellie of her “delusions,” he recommended the use of medication to regulate Ellie’s apparent hallucinations. Faye suspected that the recommendation might not have been entirely ethically-motivated, the relationship between psychiatry and the drug companies being what it is, but one couldn’t argue with the results. Within days of beginning her medication, Ellie’s behavior was like that of a completely different person. No longer loud, shrieking and scribbling everywhere, Ellie became very quiet and withdrawn. Most notably, she didn’t pick up her games anymore. Not even her Gameboy.
After a couple weeks, Faye worked up the courage to ask Ellie if she still believed in The Princess. Ellie considered it, calmly, coldly, before looking back up at her sister and replying “She’s not real.”
And then, one Saturday, Ellie was late for dinner.
Faye and her parents searched all over the house for her, calling her, looking out the windows. She was nowhere to be found. That is, until Faye realized no one had checked the playroom. Why should they have? Ellie never went in there, anymore.
Sitting on a couch, in front of a glowing screen, Faye found her sister. She was dead. Covering her body were bruises, cuts and welts. She had been killed in nearly the exact same way as Adam would be years later, but with one key difference. Unlike with Adam, there was no indication she’d tried to fight back.