Summary: "I'm afraid, Sarah, dear, that you have no choice in the matter," replied Jareth, eyes twinkling. He lounged back in his armchair and casually pulled a crystal from thin air. It danced between his fingertips. "The Labyrinth—and I—have chosen you. You are, in every sense of the word, our muse."
Disclaimer: I don't own Labyrinth—thanks, Jim Henson and Co., for this compelling story.
A/N: This is my first Labyrinth fic. Ever. Daunting? A bit. I started writing years ago, in college, and felt compelled to finish and post it, just to see what happened. Much of it is already written, so if you'd like to see more, please let me know. I'd love any feedback - thanks!
Paranoia is in bloom,
The PR, transmissions will resume
They'll try to, push drugs that keep us all dumbed down
And hope that, we will never see the truth around
So come on
Another promise, another seed
Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed…
("Uprising", The Resistance, Muse)
Most stories have a hero or a heroine. It has been that way since the beginning of stories; the reason for this is simply that heroes and heroines are easy to root for, for their innate ability to overcome hardship and emerge triumphant.
But—let's face it—heroes are boring. The heroes of those stories belong to childish fancies, content to live in worlds where they have but one drawn-out victory, and therefore one ending. Simply put, they lack the depth and complexity to exist as real human beings—which is hard enough.
And aren't villains just so much more fun?
They all knew her, of course. Everyone knew of Sarah Williams, whether it was by name or not—it was impossible to ignore such cold beauty. But no one spoke to her if they could help it, even her professors, who, despite her obvious intelligence, knew something was just...not quite right about the girl.
At Boston University, it wasn't out of the norm to see students with their noses buried in books, but Sarah was somehow different. When she first came to school, she was considered a normal freshman: nervous, small in a way that made it apparent she was still fresh out of high school, and a bit shy, despite her obvious good looks. Boys flocked after her and girls in her hall asked her for beauty tips; the intellectual coffee-drinkers invited her to poetry readings and the religious ones assured her they would save her a seat at church on Sundays.
After mere weeks, though, they all promptly stopped talking to her. Something was unnatural about her smile (when she actually did smile, that is), her cautious steps, her lilting voice. When you looked at her, you couldn't see yourself in her big green eyes. She was beautiful, definitely, and altogether a gracious girl, but somehow just too...strange.
The way she spoke, it was as if she was always waiting for something, always slightly peering around the people she was talking to as if they were not really there, but someone else was, just out of reach. On top of that, she never stopped reading, and though it was common to walk around one-handed while studying for the next big exam, Sarah was relentless. Book after book after book, Sarah read them all. Even the campus librarian didn't warm to her; in fact, quite the reverse. Of course, that behavior could have been cultivated just after everyone started avoiding her.
When anyone bothered to remark upon Sarah behind her back, they all said the same thing: it had to be lonely. She spoke only in class, and rarely then. Her roommate opted out of living with her after their first two months at school, mysteriously complaining of "strange nightmares". How Sarah could be the cause, no one knew, but they secretly thought they'd rather not share a room with her, either.
So beautiful, but so strange—of course they all knew of Sarah Williams. She was like something out of a dream—or a nightmare. At Boston U, she was the oddity, and she had been for years.
In Sarah's mind, though, she considered herself something closer to a leper. When she first entered college, she thought it might be different. In high school she had been the freak, too (though not always, not at first). She had hoped that by going away to school she would meet people who would understand her, befriend her, but as hard as she had tried to make friends, she somehow managed to spook everyone into acting as if she didn't exist.
After the first few months of this kind of behavior from the students and the staff, Sarah taught herself not to care. She was there to learn, and she would do it and then get the hell out of there. Despite her reputation as the weird quiet girl, she still had a will stronger than the fiercest of Kings (that she knew from experience). She knew that somewhere in the world, she belonged. High school hadn't been it. Nor university. Perhaps someplace after that.
Deep down, Sarah thought she knew why they didn't want to know her. Perhaps she had been irrevocably changed; perhaps magic just couldn't be undone. She had long since riddled out why she kept dreaming of broken crystals, mazes, owls, and cackling goblins—those were obvious. But what about everything else? What about her strained relationship with her parents? They, like every other adult she knew, sometimes seemed to have trouble just looking at her, let alone having an adult conversation. There had to be a reason to explain how every time she looked in a mirror too long, she thought she saw something out of corner of her eye in the reflection, but then, nothing was there. The persistence of magic could even explain why her brother Toby seemed like the only person in the entire world that smiled at the sight of her…but she refused to accept that. It was too cruel.
But then, he said he could be cruel.
These days, Sarah pretended it didn't bother her; that none of it mattered or even existed. She was normal, and she tried her best to conduct herself that way, despite what others seemed to think, or see in her. It had been nine years since everything had changed—nine years since that fateful night and thirteen hours in the Labyrinth. She pretended it had never happened, even though every nightmare and dream proved otherwise, even though she sometimes felt she would go mad if she couldn't acknowledge just how real it had been.
Then again, Sarah had always been brilliant at pretending.
In school, she earned top grades. After graduating from Boston with honors, she had decided to stay to get her Masters, despite her less-than-welcome reception at the place. She told herself it wasn't cowardice that kept her from moving on into the real world, though she had a healthy fear that she might not belong there, either. Besides—having no friends meant no distractions from her studies, which were almost a relief from her lonely existence.
After getting her undergraduate degrees in English and Early Childhood Education, she enrolled in Boston U's grad program for English. She still wasn't sure what age she would end up teaching for the long haul, children or college students, but she wanted to be prepared either way (despite the astronomical amount of debt she was racking up in the process). Currently, she favored the former; with a part-time practicum with one of nearby Morse Elementary's kindergarten classes, Sarah had found that she greatly enjoyed working with young children, mostly because they didn't seem to find her as odd as everyone else did. If older people didn't understand her quiet dreaming, children always did. Still, she couldn't help but wish for intellectual conversation with someone over the age of 5 now and then.
Nine years after her imagined adventure in the Labyrinth, sitting in a kindergarten classroom, helping manage boisterous children is where Sarah Williams' story resumes.
The day is October 31st.
"Robbie, you know better than to glue the Lincoln Logs together," scolded Sarah. The small kindergartner she was reprimanding, Robbie Colt, looked up at her with big blue eyes.
"I'm sorry Sarah," he muttered apologetically, shuffling his feet. Sarah wasn't buying it. Robbie was the class menace, adorable as he was with his baby blues and mop of dark curls. On average, he got into trouble at least three times a week.
"You know I'll have to tell Ms. Frank, don't you?" asked Sarah. Robbie gulped and nodded. Sarah hated having to play the disciplinarian with the children, but that was a part of the job. She was a firm believer that it was possible to be liked as well as respected.
"All right, take a seat. The day is almost over," said Sarah, ushering him to his tiny desk. The rest of the class had just finished coloring time at their desks and were all looking up at her expectantly.
Usually following coloring was show-and-tell, and Ms. Frank was in charge of that. If she would hurry up and finish screwing her boyfriend in the parking lot…
Sarah opened her mouth to speak just as Ms. Frank rushed back into the room, large blonde hair tousled.
Kelly Frank was older than Sarah by about ten years, and was one of those women that never really met your eyes, as if she was ashamed of something she would never admit. She was taller than Sarah, with a tiny waist in comparison to large hips and bigger thighs, and wore copious amounts of makeup, but the overall effect was a good one, if a bit out of place in a school setting—she was definitely an attractive woman.
She often left Sarah on the days she was there for a half an hour or so to have sex with her current boyfriend in the back of her parked car. It wasn't the actual sex that bothered Sarah; in regards to that, she subscribed to the 'to each their own' school of thought. What bothered her was Ms. Frank's complete disregard for her students at times. Well, that and Ms. Frank did a particularly bad job of not staring at Sarah like she was something she couldn't quite figure out. Despite Ms. Frank's flaws, however, she was good with the children, and they took to her no-nonsense attitude.
"Back in the nick of time," boomed Ms. Frank, glancing at Sarah as she chuckled. She had a large voice, distinctly feminine, but it still carried. The children turned to her in rapt attention. Sarah glanced at the clock on the opposite wall, noticing that it was time for her to go. Ms. Frank had obviously noticed, too.
"Say goodbye to Sarah until next week, kids," called Ms. Frank.
"Happy Halloween, Sarah!" shouted the children gleefully.
"Sarah, can I come trick-or-treat at your house?!" asked Robbie.
Sarah smiled at him as she grabbed her jacket off of the hook on the wall and gave him the thumbs up sign. Ms. Frank nodded at her jerkily before giving her a rare, if somewhat plastic grin before Sarah turned to leave.
Later that evening, Sarah smiled contentedly to herself as she emptied a bag of candy into a big bowl in her tiny kitchen. She never had visitors to her little apartment, and while trick-or-treaters weren't exactly company, she was still excited to take part in such a fun time for them.
She didn't have much of a costume, though. In addition to the outfit she had worn that day—black tights, ballet flats, a floral skirt with a long sleeve white top and a little vest—all she had was a sequined little black mask she had picked up on her way home from the grocery store. It wasn't much, but hopefully it would add enough flair to her ensemble to appease any trick-or-treaters. Besides, if any of tonight's little visitors were her "students", they would think it funny enough.
Sarah glanced at her kitchen clock. It was nearly six, which meant they would start buoying up if she didn't hurry. Grabbing the bowl of candy, she dashed to her front door and set it on the table where she usually threw her keys. Just as she went to sit down on her little couch in the tiny living room, the doorbell rang and little happy voices could be heard crowing outside the door.
Roughly two hours or so later, Sarah was nearly out of candy and already drained of her energy, but still in a pleasant mood. She was always happy to be around human beings who didn't whisper about her or throw furtive looks in her direction. Children were the only people that didn't judge her…until they got older, anyway.
When the doorbell rang for what Sarah concluded might have to be the last time (glancing down into the last of her candy she noted that she was significantly low on Snickers), she rushed to the door. To her surprise, there stood Robbie and a few other little ones, an exasperated young father behind them exclaiming "Trick-or-treat!" with a force that rivaled thunder.
But that wasn't what had shocked Sarah.
…They were all dressed head-to-toe as goblins.
"Sarah!" shouted Robbie.
Sarah's heart nearly jumped out of her chest before she realized that none of them bore too much of a resemblance to a real goblin (or, at least, what they had looked like in her imagination). Smiling and forcing her breathing to calm, she held out the bowl.
"You lot can have the rest, I'm nearly out," said Sarah. The little goblins squealed with joy, reaching into the bowl as quick as they could.
"Thanks, Sarah!" shouted Robbie gleefully (he, of course, got the rest of the Snickers).
"So this is the famous Sarah," remarked the man standing behind the children, "My son talks of nothing but you." Sarah blushed.
"Well, I'm sure he's exaggerated a bit," she said. Her grip on the candy bowl slackened, and before she knew it, the kids had stolen it, debating over whether Twizzlers or gummy bears were better.
"I'm Robert, Robbie's father," said the man, holding out his hand. His eyes quickly appraised Sarah, which she didn't miss. She couldn't really summon the need to be opposed, though—most men ignored her like the plague.
Sarah took his hand.
"Nice to meet you," she said, noticing that Robbie was Robert in miniature by more than name. He was tall, well built, with bright blue eyes, a dimple in his left cheek and a mess of brown curls. All in all, very cute, she thought—as well as being her student's father, probably taken, and out of her league, she hastily reminded herself.
"So how'd you get stuck with all of these little rascals on such a crazy night?" Sarah asked.
"Oh, you know," said Robert, chuckling, "When you're the only single parent on the block, the other ones beg you to take theirs so they can go out. Halloween is crazy, isn't it?"
Sarah perked up instantly after he said he was single. (In the back of her mind, rational Sarah marveled at how silly she was being. But rational Sarah and lonely Sarah were often at odds with one another).
"Yes, it is," she agreed quietly.
"I had no idea you lived in the neighborhood," continued Robert, still smiling, "Not a far walk from the school, is it?"
"Oh, no, not at all," said Sarah, smiling back tentatively. "It's great, actually; I can walk to work and to the university."
"You don't work there too, do you?" asked Robert.
"Oh, no, I'm a grad student. English," supplied Sarah.
"Nice," said Robert appreciatively, "So, why aren't you out tonight? No tubular frat parties calling your name?"
Sarah couldn't help it; she burst out laughing. Robert reddened slightly, but it still took Sarah a few seconds to regain her composure before she could respond.
"Tubular?" she choked.
"It's been a bit since I got my undergrad—I admit it, I don't know the hip slang," shrugged Robert. Sarah finally gave him a full smile. At that, he seemed a little less embarrassed, and grinned back at her.
"No worries," said Sarah, "Me neither. And no, no frat parties. Not really my thing. Plus—I'm a bit old for that kind of stuff, anyway."
"I hear that," said Robert, looking down at his son and the other kids, who were still arguing somewhat loudly over the candy.
Robert looked back up, opening his mouth to say something else, but before he could say anything, one of the children tugged on her skirt. Sarah looked down. A scream died in her throat.
Pulling on her skirt was a real goblin. With coal black eyes and a leathery, pinched face, there was no mistaking that this was no human child.
"More candy?" it asked, revealing dagger-like teeth as he grinned at her. Sarah shut her lips tightly, nodding her head no. The goblin shrugged and, without any warning, disappeared with a loud CRACK.
Sarah looked up. Robert was staring at her like she was insane, which led her to believe he hadn't seen the goblin at all; instead, he must've just seen her appear to react to thin air.
"Well, kids, I think it's time to leave Sarah be," said Robert, ushering the children away from the candy bowl, which finally lay abandoned on the floor. Sarah stared after them; her lips still shut tight, her eyes wide.
"Bye Sarah!" shouted Robbie as the children rounded the corner to the stairwell and disappeared, out of sight.
"Bye," Sarah croaked back.
For a few moments, Sarah just stood there, unsure what to do. Finally, she glanced down at the bowl on the floor and bent to pick it up. Peering down the hallway one more time, she went back inside her apartment and closed the door, locking it hastily.
A part of her wanted to believe she was acting silly, that that goblin simply couldn't have been real and that perhaps she was going loony, but the sick feeling in her stomach was much too real to ignore. She deposited the bowl on her kitchen counter and made for her small bedroom.
The room was dark, lit only by the moon in her window, but Sarah made no move to turn on the light. She sat on the edge of her bed in silence, wondering. Why would a goblin be here if not to drive her to the nuthouse? Coincidence wasn't an option; she knew better than that. Her only explanation was that she had imagined it, just as she had imagined the whole thing, the whole Labyrinth. A part of her knew she was lying to herself, but it was so much better than believing the truth.
After a few minutes in the still darkness, Sarah made a hasty decision. Slowly, she got up from the bed, and knelt to look underneath it. After spotting what she wanted, she reached out and grabbed a shoebox that was buried deep underneath. Righting herself, she resumed her position on her mattress and lifted the lid.
There was only one thing inside. A small, tattered red book titled Labyrinth.
Sarah had hidden it literally hours after her little quest, and had resolved never to open it again. When she had returned to the Aboveground, she often fancied herself like Frodo: more than once, she imagined she heard tiny voices issuing from the book, if she listened hard enough…but she was no hobbit, and she knew that story well enough, too. She shut the book away, knowing full well she'd never be able to truly get rid of it.
Until tonight. Perhaps her run-in with the little goblin had made her as reckless as she was curious. That, and she was still stinging from the way Robert had looked at her as if she was completely mental. Somehow, the idea of seeing the words again made the possibility of her being completely bonkers less likely. Not to mention, seeing a goblin was worth a little investigation, wasn't it?
Cautiously, Sarah reached in and plucked the book out of the box, which she carefully set aside. Running her nimble fingers over its rough binding, Sarah sucked in a breath.
She opened the book to the familiar words—because, even after nine years, she still knew them by heart.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl whose stepmother always made her stay home with the baby. And the baby was a spoiled child, and wanted everything to himself, and the young girl was practically a slave. But what no one knew is that the King of the Goblins had fallen in love with the girl, and he had given her certain powers.
"King of the Goblins," Sarah muttered, absorbed by the memory of mismatched eyes, "Jareth."
In the moment after the name left her lips, time stopped. A terrible chill engulfed Sarah, and a rushing sound filled her ears. For a split second, she couldn't see anything. Her room was dense in its darkness, and then suddenly, the world was itself again.
Sarah blinked, breathing roughly. Everything appeared to be the same. She was still alone in her room, sitting on the edge of her bed, holding her old book. Once again, it seemed her overactive imagination was playing tricks on her. Maybe she really was crazy. Chuckling nervously, she let out a sigh of sweet relief.
Then, quite suddenly, a figure silently emerged out of the shadow next to her window.
Sarah wanted to scream, but no sound could escape her mouth. She gaped in horror as the figure stepped closer to her, finally bathed in the moonlight where she could recognize him for who he was.
There was no thunderstorm, no sneaking goblins in her room, no persistent owl clawing at her window and no shower of glitter signifying his entrance, but the Goblin King was no less impressive. If anything, he was more so.
Tall and imposing, he was exactly as she remembered him. He was clothed entirely in black, in the familiar open shirt and tight breeches paired with leather boots. A strange pendant gleamed at her from around the man's neck. A halo of platinum hair framed his hard-lined face like a circle of fire. His sharp teeth were set in a feral grin, and his mismatched eyes, one pupil larger than the other, bore into hers mercilessly.
The predator sizing up its prey.
"My dear Sarah," he drawled casually, his cultured accent caressing her name as if it were a lover's, "It has been far too long."
Sarah still couldn't speak. This wasn't real, it couldn't be. She was dreaming, or had finally lost it. How many times had she thought of seeing the Goblin King again?
Whether she was dreaming or not, the Goblin King smirked at her, taking another step forward. He raised an eyebrow.
"No tantrum? Dear me, has little Sarah lost her spark?"
Sarah frowned at his taunt and miraculously found her voice.
"Assuming you're not a figment of my imagination, Goblin King, what are you doing here? You are not welcome," she hissed.
Jareth looked her up and down, a cold smile forming on his lips before he chuckled, his eyes glinting. Sarah felt some of her courage falter.
"Ah, but there you are wrong, Sarah, darling," he said smoothly, "You invited me here."
"No I most certainly did not!" shouted Sarah, leaping up from her seat on her bed.
"Yes, you did," replied Jareth, "You spoke my Fae name."
"So what?" she countered, "It's the first time I've even thought about you since the Labyrinth. So what if I remembered your worthless name?"
Jareth's expression grew dark, and in a flash, he was right in front of her, his strong grip twisting her arm. Sarah whimpered in pain, knowing she had gone too far.
"Do not lie to me, little Sarah," Jareth growled, "I am here because you wished it so, and now you can do nothing but accept the consequences of your foolish impulse."
"What? What are you talking about?" asked Sarah, her voice trembling in fear. He was too close to her. She could smell his scent; one of autumn and wild magic. She hated herself for it, but her knees grew weak.
Jareth smiled, bearing his sharp teeth, and leaned in to whisper in her ear,
"Time to go home, Sarah."
In a whirl of color, they were gone, the copy of Labyrinth lying open on the floor.
A/N: Well, that's chapter one. Like I said, I'd really appreciate any feedback. Best!