A.N. - OK I'm sticking my apology on my profile page so I can stick to story stuff here. That said, on a weird note, I recently found out that there is an actual place called Fairhaven. I was talking to a teacher I work for and she mentioned it by name to someone over the phone. Needless to say I was a little freaked out and asked her about it. It's more of a group home for the handicapped and mentally challenged and from what she said, a pretty nice place. I so didn't mean to do that, and I am of course not talking about that place. The place I wrote about is entirely fictional, inspired more by some shady institutions I've seen in movies and such.

And one more thing – a sincere thanks to everyone who has left reviews over the past few years. I appreciate each and every one of them and they are a good reminder to keep writing already! =)

Ch. 29 – A Beautiful Release

Sarah opened her eyes slowly. She was laying on her side, bits of bark and dry leaves under her fingertips. She just lay there for a bit, staring at the bit of grass in front of her, the spreading roots of the trees just a little further off.

It felt like she'd slept for a hundred years.

Without lifting her head, Sarah let her gaze drift upward. The trees towered over her as they had done since she'd first wandered into the forest but something felt...off. She felt nothing living around her, nothing was moving; all was quiet.

This could have been any forest, she could be back home for all that she observed around her. The trees could be any trees and there were none of the creatures she'd become accustomed to seeing. They had all disappeared.

Sarah sat up quickly, ignoring the resulting head rush, and stumbled to her feet with a rising sense of panic. How in the world...

But just as the awful thought implanted itself in her mind she caught sight of something ahead in the distance, a gnome or some other little creature. He spared her one glance before scuttling away. Sarah put her hand over her pounding heart as she breathed a sigh of relief. She was still where she ought to be.

She set off, as usual not having any actual direction, but feeling the need to go somewhere all the same. To be perfectly honest, there were times when her actions began to feel pointless. She didn't actually have anyplace to go; she didn't know what exactly it was she was trying to accomplish. These moments always made her feel like she was being childish and selfish.

But then with what had happened a few nights ago... Sarah had for the first time begun to feel as though she were actually making some progress, that her being out here in the wild wasn't all for naught. She had started to think she had some purpose out here, that she could do some good after all. That maybe the Labyrinth might actually commune with her and she might actually be connected to this place.

It hadn't happened though. She'd only been dreaming, her supposed connection made up of an overtired mind combined with her desperation to be a part of something meaningful. The Labyrinth wasn't communicating with her, maybe it really couldn't do such a thing and she wasn't doing anybody any good whatsoever. She was just wasting time, hers and that of everyone else who was bothering to worry about her.

Sarah felt like a huge failure.

And she'd never felt more alone.

As she walked, the let-down she was feeling grew worse and worse. It became an argument in her head. Tension in her stomach that wound its way up till her neck felt stiff and she chewed unconsciously on the inside of her cheek. Fingernails that dug tiny creases into her palm.

She passed the morning walking around in a mindless way, distracting herself with random tasks that had no purpose. For a little while she almost convinced herself that she was searching for something she'd misplaced until she finally stopped and realized she had no idea what it was.

She was really trying not to think about what had happened, or when her thoughts did turn in that direction, she'd tell herself that it didn't matter. It was one small setback – one that would be easily overcome. She was not upset by it, was not angry or depressed.




Sarah kept repeating the word in her head until she had given herself a headache. And still the thoughts came. Failure. Ingrate. Unworthy. Silly child.

She could feel her thoughts beginning to race and felt the changes it brought in her physically. Her heartbeat quickened, temples ached. She hated this old familiar feeling, fought to push it down, bring it under control but knew it was a battle she was quickly losing. Just like always.

She decided to run. Running would be a distraction, would help her breathe again, or at least tire her out so that hopefully she'd be too exhausted to care anymore. So she ran. She ran and ran until her lungs burned and her legs were too cramped up to move anymore and flopped over gracelessly in a pile near a stream, careful not to fall in, in case it was one of those traps she'd seen before.

As she lay there panting, Sarah stared up at the sky balefully. Even though she knew she was still in the forest in the middle of the Labyrinth, everything still looked...bleak. Where the other night everything had been so beautiful, today the colors all seemed washed out. Hell it had even looked better when it had rained for days. Now it just looked sad.

She knew that nothing around her had changed so it had to be her. She was what was wrong with this picture. She was the one making everything look so negative.

Whiny brat.

Dammit. Sarah closed her eyes as she began to acknowledge the despair as it washed over her. She had tried to keep the feeling at bay, but no use.

She couldn't afford this. This wasn't supposed to happen anymore. She'd been doing so well lately, the nightmares weren't coming as frequently and even when they did, they didn't frighten her as much. She knew them for what they were. Her experiences in the institution seemed farther and farther behind her now that she was in a place so removed from her former reality. So why was this happening now?


Self-indulgent complainer.

It was this disappointment, thinking that she'd finally had a breakthrough, only to realize she'd been dumb enough to fall asleep and believe her own delusions to be true. She'd lost ground, taken a step backwards. This just opened the door to her self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness.

Spend all your time waiting / for that second chance / for a break that would make it okay / there's always some reason / to feel not good enough / and it's hard at the end of the day

She didn't want to give in, to be controlled by this but it overwhelmed her. When the tears came, they came hard. Sharp, angry tears that burned as they fell. Wet tears, dense with anger; they made her hands wet as she harshly wiped them away.

Sarah's throat constricted and her bones shook. She hated this suffocation! She hated these limitations; hated the fact that apparently she was doomed to always be the sad (pathetic) little girl.

Who could ever love someone like that?

She felt like she might scream as the feelings got bigger and bigger within her. She didn't want to scream. She sometimes felt like if she were to start, she might never stop. And she knew, too, that it would more likely than not bring Jareth to her side, concerned as he was over her well being. She couldn't face him in this state. The hurt was too raw for words and she would only end up picking a fight, saying something hurtful that would cause him to leave in anger. The same had happened back at home, when she still had a home, Above. She'd argued, yelled, said mean things to cover up her own hurt and managed to isolate her family till they couldn't handle being around her anymore.

This could not happen between them. She didn't want to ever give Jareth a reason to shut her out.

As it always did, eventually her thoughts turned to the other choice she had. The other outlet...

Right away the notion was rejected. No doing that anymore; that was from before. That was what had gotten her into so much trouble in the first place. No.

But she couldn't help contemplating the idea. Did she really have to say goodbye to this particular friend forever? It was effective; addicting. So cathartic, she wouldn't have to be alone with her rage anymore. There would be her...and this.

This opening, this purging. This sacrifice.

I need some distraction / oh beautiful release / memory seeps from my veins / let me be empty / oh, and weightless and maybe/ I'll find some peace tonight

Maybe she'd been too hasty in trying to rid herself of this habit completely in the first place. Maybe it wasn't so bad a thing and those doctors had only put it into her head that it was bad, as another way of shaming her and controlling her.

Who were they anyway, to tell her how to feel and what to do with those feelings? Who were they to tell her that things were fine and that it was just her attitude that needed adjusting? Things were not fine and the world was a royally screwed up place. She'd learned that better in Fairhaven than anywhere else she ever been.

So tired of the straight line / and everywhere you turn / there's vultures and thieves at your back / and the storm keeps on twisting / you keep on building the lie / that you make up for all that you lack

Swearing to herself, Sarah jumped to her feet, anger coursing through her veins. Her eyes jumped around wildly, searching. As she passed a large tree, gnarled and weathered, she purposely brushed hard against it, letting the rough, cracked bark on its exterior scrape the length of her arm.

The slight pain and resulting rush was nice...but not nearly enough.

She found a branch on the ground and cracked it in half over her knee, noting the bite it gave. (sweet) Dropping to her knees and then sitting all the way down, she studied it, turning it this way and that. She decided on an end that looked wickedly sharp and brought the point to rest on her forearm.

It don't make no difference / escaping one last time / it's easier to believe in this sweet madness / oh this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

The first cut, the sting of it, gave her an immediate high, as it always did. She watched as little beads of blood rose to the surface; little jewels sliding, joining together, more and more until heavy enough to slip down her arm like a tear. It was beautiful. It made her feel warm and calm.

She made a similar mark on her other arm. Each cut after that was delicately made, a slow deliberate slice, not too deep but just enough to remind her of how painfully alive she was.

Looking over her work, Sarah felt the same giddiness she always did, the same 'Oops, look what I've done now,' feeling and the other feelings began to recede until she could breathe once again.

She turned the stick over, trying the other, duller end. Noting the different sensation it gave as it tore through flesh shallowly. This one would bruise.

Finally Sarah felt the deep soul-cleansing breath that she sought and the blessed stillness that was left in its wake. She leaned back against the tree and stretched her legs out, distantly noticing the cracking of cramped muscles and laid her arms out in front of her, still watching. The numerous lacerations still bled, lazily joining or criss-crossing one another, finding the lowest point from which to drop. Already the blood was slowing but Sarah wasn't watching where it came out anymore, she was watching where it dripped off of her skin and fell to the earth below. A nickel sized area had turned a dark maroon color and she watched as the earth seemed to absorb the liquid. Her offering.

There was a noticeable stillness.

Then...there was no way to describe it but Sarah felt the Labyrinth open up to her. It was the exact same feeling she'd had the other night except that she wasn't sleeping this time!

The wind blew; a gentle, warm wind. She put her head back and looked up. The tree branches seemed to sway over her, as if reaching to her, to cover her. Or perhaps comfort her.

Sunlight slanted down on her, seeming to come from multiple directions. It's beams crossed, creating a hazy prism-like glow and she thought of the way sunset looks when gazed at through tears. The thought had struck her so suddenly and naturally she wondered if this might not be the Labyrinth showing her its own emotion in the only way it could.

She could hardly believe this was happening and barely breathed for fear of shattering this moment. But still the thought came to her; maybe it was coming from the Labyrinth itself. It seemed to cry for her, with her, both for the pain it felt from her, but also to tell her that her sadness was nothing to feel shame over. That running from her feelings was causing her more depression and that to let herself just be in it – the fear, the sadness, even the happiness – that would be to experience true freedom.

She realized she was crying again, softly. They weren't the deep crushing tears she'd shed before, nor were they expressly tears of joy. They were closer to the release of shared pain, the comfort of finding release in someone's arms. They were a healing, and with a sound that was somewhere between a sob and a laugh, Sarah leaned over, tilting her face and letting the tears drip freely to the ground. Giving back.

The sun-warmed wind picked up again and she felt it kiss at her wet cheeks, making her smile.

You are pulled from the wreckage / of your silent reverie

"Thank you," she murmered.

Something in the way the wind sent all the tiny leaves aflutter seemed to whisper 'friend' to her and she shut her eyes, listening.

'Come to us again. We are always here. Come to the place within sleep, that is not sleep. We will lift you. We will show you.'

You're in the arms of the angel / may you find some comfort here...

~* Lyrics from Angel, by Sarah Mclachlan*~