Author's Note: The characters of Jareth, Sarah, Toby, Hoggle, Ludo, Didymus, etc. belong to the wonderful Jim Henson company, and I claim no rights to them. The goblins are another story, but any resemblance to any real goblins, living or (while improbable) dead, is purely coincidental and unintentional... except for Shove, because he wouldn't leave me alone until I put him in the story.
Author's other note: There were at least 2800 reasons why I shouldn't write this story, because it's all been written before. I haven't read everything else, at least, and as far as I can tell, this doesn't resemble the ones I've read at all. However, we all love the same story, so I figure it's possible that I'm only rehashing the same fantasies that many other people have had as well. But this wanted to be written, and as I'm not really much of a fan fiction person in the first place, I tend to pay attention when things want me to write them. So here you go. I've always told my mother when she asked me if I'd jump off a bridge just because everyone else was doing it that I might, but only if I could do it better. So... here's my attempt at better.
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young girl, named Sarah. To all appearances, she was a normal teenager: she spent far too much time on the phone and in the shower, she sometimes neglected to do her homework, she was a little obsessed with clothes and boys, and sometimes she argued with her father and stepmother. If she seemed a little too fiercely protective of her little brother, Toby, nobody seemed to mind except Toby who would have rather been able to run and play without his sister constantly keeping a sharp eye on him. If she sometimes spent an evening holding strange conversations with her vanity mirror, no one noticed since she was always careful to do so when her parents were fast asleep or out entirely. If she never seemed to get further than two dates with a boy before he dropped her quickly, no one seemed to mind except for her stepmother (who felt Sarah must be doing something wrong), and Sarah (who could never understand why they went from practically begging her to go out with them to practically begging her to never come near them again), and of course, the poor boys themselves (all of which had made the common mistake of assuming Sarah was available, until they'd had a dream or two that quickly convinced them that there were plenty of other pants they could get into more easily, and which wouldn't give them nightmares of ugly, sharp toothed creatures roasting their testicles with gravy).
So Sarah grew up from fifteen to sweet sixteen, and then seventeen and eighteen. Her baby fat melted away, leaving her slender and long legged, with high cheekbones and delicate features. Her freckles faded and her sometimes problematic skin became clear as porcelain, except for a light sprinkle of freckles that stubbornly clung to her nose. Her long dark hair stayed long and dark despite several attempts to cut it, only to find that within a few weeks it was even longer than before. As with her other peculiarities, Sarah took it in stride and learned to just get a light trim now and then, because it was easier than having to lie about hair extensions.
By the time she was eighteen, she was a quiet, introspective, delicately beautiful young woman, wise beyond her years, and often thought shy (by those who knew her) or cold (by those who didn't). There were a few who knew the real truth of the matter, but as no one else could see them, they weren't likely to tell.
Sarah often saw things that other people could not. She knew, for instance, who it was that stole socks out of the laundry, and who spoiled the milk before the due date. She knew who let mice into the pantry, and who it was that cats stared at when they seemed to be looking at nothing. Sarah herself seemed to be one of those lucky folk who bad luck just didn't happen to. Her tires never went flat, because after she'd scolded the one who did it once he was so ashamed of himself that he always made sure to keep her tires fully inflated. Her milk never spoiled, her socks never went missing, and she never woke up with her hair tangled into a hopeless nest.
What she often did wake up with was a lingering dream of endless corridors and rooms that had no ups or down, only endlessly tangled stairways which she climbed over and over again, desperately seeking something that she knew had to be just around the corner, or walking on the other side of the floor she was standing on. She didn't think it odd that she dreamed so often of the Labyrinth, after all, it wasn't like it was everyday that you go through something like that. Some people would have just chalked it up to a dream caused by indigestion or too little sleep, but Sarah had a lot to convince her that it was real: like the fact that she could see the Goblins now, and that her friends--a knobbled old dwarf, a valiant little fox-dog, and a giant, sweet tempered beast--visited with her now and then and filled her in on what was going on in their world.
Through them she learned that the Goblins were running wilder than before, venturing out farther into the Labyrinth and causing mayhem and destruction to those that normally lived within the vast maze quite peacefully. She learned that the Goblin King himself seemed to be sulking within his castle, still pouting over the fact that someone had finally beaten him at his own game--although even Hoggle seemed a bit surprised that Jareth was sulking quite so much. Sarah was amused by this information at first, then later amazed, because time moved so strangely in the Labyrinth, and Jareth had never seemed to be the sort that would sulk for so long over being beaten by a girl. Most of the time, however, she was just curious about what it was her friends did, and when her thoughts did stray to the dark King, it was usually to think that it served him right for being such an arrogant prat, and for stealing her brother (although a tiny part of her was always reminding her that she HAD been the one to wish he'd take Toby off her hands in the first place and you couldn't really blame the guy for doing his job; she supposed he'd had plenty of time to get quite good at his job and it probably really bugged him that he'd failed for once). When she asked Hoggle about other people who'd attempted the Labyrinth, she'd been a
bit surprised to learn that most gave up before even setting foot inside.
"Ya see, Sarah," Hoggle had explained, "most people who wish away their babies don't really want 'em in the first place. Some of 'em are sick, or their mother's can't afford to keep 'em. So they end up here."
"I fail to see how being turned into a goblin baby is better than just having it adopted by someone who does want it," she'd pointed out.
"Well, most of the time, mind ya, they're not actually turned into goblins."
"But I thought--"
"There you go again, taking things for granted," he'd sighed impatiently. "They do get adopted, by elves and other fae who can't have children. It's only the ones that are sick, or deformed, and would probably die if left human that are turned into goblins. Although, it doesn't happen much anymore. Not many people are left who believe in goblins in the first place. They're far more likely to still believe in stupid, nasty fairies than in goblins and such. No one has even so much as breathed a thought about wishing babes away to the goblins since you were here. No wonder Jareth's sulking, he's probably bored senseless. Not that I'm about to go comfort him, oh no. Wouldn't catch me near the place with him in such a foul temper. Last I heard, the population near the Bog of Eternal Stench was nearly triple what it was before. I'm keeping as far from his eyes as possible." He threw a hasty glance over his shoulder as he said this, and Sarah thought how unlikely it was that Jareth wasn't watching Hoggle like a hawk. She wondered if he ever watched her. Sometimes she felt eyes on her when no one was there, or heard the echo of a booted foot behind her, when she was walking home at night from a babysitting job. Mostly, she figured that if Jareth thought of her, it was probably with revenge on his mind, and so she tried not to think about him thinking about her.
As she got older, she spent less time chatting with her old friends, but she never forgot them, or doubted the truth of their existence. Even if she had, the goblins wouldn't have let her. Every day she saw goblins. They were usually well behaved in her house, but she often found them making mischief in her friend's homes, or at the grocery store, or clogging up traffic. She wondered that everyone couldn't see them, as there were so many of them, but they were clever in their ownstupid way and even when you felt sure that they wouldn't be able to get away with a particular bit of mischief without SOMEONE noticing something out of the ordinary, they would surprise you with some little twist that left even the most suspicious person saying "oh well, these things happen" and tsking under their breath as they mopped up whatever mess was left behind.
Sarah was wise enough to know that no one would believe her if she told them the truth, so she kept it to herself and did what she could to try to keep some order around those she loved. Her stepmother had found it odd that she stopped playing with her costumes and toys so abruptly, but Sarah had found that a taste of what real magic was like had spoiled her for pretend. So she packed away most of her toys, or gave them to Toby, and hung up her costumes for good, and with the exception of her talking to mirrors and scolding goblins and the dearth of men willing to date her, she was pretty much as average a girl as you could expect.
When Sarah graduated high school and went off to college, her father breathed a sigh that said he'd miss her, and her stepmother breathed a sigh that said that she wouldn't, and Toby breathed a sigh that said "thank god, maybe now I can FINALLY have some fun." It was harder, in college, for her to see her friends, as she shared a room with a staunchly practical girl who viewed Sarah's proclivity for fairy tales and romance as one of those little personality quirks that you just have to learn to deal with or else it'll drive you nuts. So Sarah usually had to wait until Mary had gone to class or off to the library for a massive study session before she dared to touch her mirror and whisper "I need you" to one of her friends. She called on them in college as often as she could, for while she'd been able to accept the rejection she'd suffered from boys in high school, it was even more inexplicable in college. It was like she was invisible, and they'd look right past her at whichever girl was nearest, or, if there wasn't a girl nearby, they'd suddenly discover that maybe they liked boys more than they'd thought they had previously. On Saturday nights, when even Bloody Mary (as Sarah called her) had a date, Sarah's best companion was a gnarled, crabby old dwarf who told her stories about beautiful fae women who had desperately fallen for human men, and dragged them back to the Underground to keep them forever.
At night, in her dreams, she ran down long corridors toward the sound of music she could just barely hear, or ran up and down stairs hearing the echo of a song just around a corner, or catching a bit of red velvet gleaming from the corner of her eye. She awoke every morning tired and frustrated and turning words over and over in her mind, like a crystal ball being manipulated by a master juggler. If you turn it this way, and look into it...
She tried to study acting, but discovered after awhile that her heart just wasn't in it, so she turned back to books and found that she had a thing for mythology. She tore into comparative mythology classes, and studies on Joseph Campbell with a passion that surprised even her professors. She argued in favor of medieval superstitions and debated with art students over the validity of fantasy illustration as an art form.
She also found that she genuinely enjoyed working with kids. There was something of the goblin in them that made them a challenge to deal with, and her experiences working with children made dealing with the goblins a bit easier. They seemed to enjoy tormenting poor Mary, and while Sarah could make them behave if she was in the room, once she left it was only a matter of time before Mary's notes went missing (only to turn up in the back of a dresser drawer two weeks later), or her computer disks mysteriously got erased. Coffee Mary made always tasted vaguely of dirt, and she stopped taking her meals in the commissary after she tripped over her own feet there for the third time in a week. Both Sarah and Mary had part time jobs at the local public library, Sarah volunteering with the children's programs and Mary working with the circulation staff. Mary's section was almost always out of order, and she would sometimes find whatever book it was she was looking for mysteriously shelved in the bottoms of dustbins or behind the car repair manuals (unless it was a car repair manual she needed).
"I swear, sometimes, you're getting to me," Mary grumbled one evening as she picked burrs out of her freshly laundered socks. "I keep thinking that it's all that owl's fault."
"What owl?" Sarah asked, her interest in the difference between Arabian and European fairy lore suddenly lost.
"That damn barn owl or whatever it is that's nesting in that tree outside. He swooped down on me as I was coming back from the laundry mat and there went all my laundry, right in the bushes. I swear I'll be picking stickers out of my undies for the next two weeks. And do you know, last week, he dropped a mouse on my head! A freakin' MOUSE. It was alive still and you wouldn't believe how stupid I probably looked dancing around trying to fish it out of my sweatshirt."
Sarah got up and pulled her thin flannel robe a little tighter around her as she went to the window and peeked out. The tree looked black and barren in the fading red light of sunset, and it was still too warm for snow, but a snowy white feather rested on a nearby branch anyway. She opened the window and leaned out a bit to reach it. "Hey!" Mary said and hauled her back in. "Are you trying to test that urban legend about dorm mates getting straight A's if their roomie commits
Sarah only frowned and twirled the large white wing feather in her fingers. When she went to bed that night, she slid it under her pillow where she could touch it, while she dreamed.