Standard Disclaimer: "Labyrinth" and all its characters belong to Henson, Froud, et. al., and certainly not to me. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think! (Unless you absolutely hate it; then you don't have to bother, really.)

Crossroads

Prologue

         When it all had first started, her third year in college, she had tried telling friends about it, to ask their advice, or maybe just to get the crushing weight off her chest. Then she had started visiting a psychiatrist, hoping that perhaps a professional would know how to sort through the confusion to find something that made sense, to look for a way to cope with the dimness that suddenly loomed like a dispassionate shadow over everything she had once held dear. But she had stopped going, stopped saying anything to anyone, long ago. She felt that she was uselessly burdening them all. It wasn't that they didn't care — it was that they didn't understand.

         It was to be expected. She would have to tell them about her life, about her family, and a little light would go on behind their eyes and they would settle back comfortably in their chairs, happy that this whole thing had settled itself for them. "It's a grief reaction," they would tell her. "It's natural. It's part of the healing process."

         But Sarah knew that it was not natural. And she knew that she was not healing — the bleakness grew worse every day. But it was no use saying this, because she had no way of explaining it. So she would nod, and take the medication that didn't help, and try to bury herself in anything that would distract her from thinking at all. She managed to finish college somehow, superficially, as her grades plummeted and her dreams of an acting career faded away.

         She never went out anymore, it seemed. The endless round of bars and dance clubs that had so thrilled her in her early college days had become boring. She still liked movies and plays, little nuggets of escapism that they were, but they were a risk since they usually dredged up old dreams of her own misplaced acting career that consumed the rest of the evening in a deep melancholy. She had no interest in much of anything now, and the excitement-loving friends from her acting life had gradually drifted away. Now she got up every morning at an ungodly hour to drive the clogged half-hour to her miserable, dead-end desk job, and her days passed in a blur of paperwork and computer screens.

         The rest of the time, she read. Books were pretty much the only things she could enjoy without being threatened by social interaction, and so she read incessantly: on her lunch breaks, at stoplights, while eating dinner, in bed at night — and she read everything: mysteries, thrillers, science-fiction, nonfiction, history, even children's novels. Her only taboo was fantasy. It was too … vivid, and reminded Sarah of things she no longer wished to remember.

         All these other lives served as substitutes for her own. She knew this, and it was an acceptance that fundamentally seduced and scared her — that she could make this voluntary penance with so little regret. Looking at photographs of herself from bygone days was like looking into the life of a stranger. That girl with the sparkling eyes and the shining dark hair was someone else entirely — a play, like the plays with which she had filled so much of her life. The reality, the face that looked out from her mirror every morning, was gray all over, dull, washed out. Numb. It wasn't a matter of self-pity, or self-loathing. And she never bothered to imagine ending her life, because there was no need. She already felt as though she no longer existed.