AN: Hey, so I've pretty much re-written the first three chapters of this story. School is finally over and I had some time (and some espresso!) and decided to rewrite the whole thing. The plot is still the same, but I had more time to work on the writing itself, so it should be better. I'm not much of a fiction writer, and I'm really trying to make compelling scenes – and work with the fragmentation I want for this story without it being overbearing – so bear with me. I changed the tense to present, so I'm sorry if I missed a few spots. I'll check in the morning.
The poem is "The Truth the Dead Know" by Anne Sexton.
Disclaimer: Nothing affiliated with Labyrinth belongs to me.
At six-thirty-five a.m., veiled in the gray-threaded light of her bedroom, Sarah throws on her torn jeans and white t-shirt, chugs some day-old black coffee still left in the percolator, and walks out into the front yard, letting the screen door creak and slam behind her. This has become her daily ritual: the most familiar and comforting three motions of her life. She lives for the feel of the sea-wind across her face, relishes its force as she steps outside, stopping briefly to smell the salt in the air.
This morning, it is rainy, and the late-spring air is soft and warm as fleece. Halfway down the sandstone path that snakes from her door to the road, she touches her pocket -- realizing she's left her keys in the door -- and stops.
"Oh, it'll be fine," she mutters, and turns to go.
The sky is already turning white and thick with the sunrise. Sarah strolls along the roadside, her hands in her pockets, her burnt-brown hair tumbling in the harsh coastal wind. At the edge of the road, she sees the hill dip into the water, its scattered deadwood -- can already smell the dead crabs and dried seaweed -- and hurries a little. Even though she is not short on time -- knows the ocean will always be there, waiting -- she quickens her pace. She is anxious.
Today, so early, the water is so overcast and ghostly -- stretches so far into the fog -- it seems the end of the earth, where time stops and there's only forever. Only forever -- she puts the thought away instantly. A flock of seagulls disappears into the white. Sarah runs a hand through her hair.
No wonder they used to think the earth was flat.
The water pushes towards her, creaking, coaxing her in.
Where the sea swings in like an iron gate and we touch. The words echo in her memory. Once she had read them in a poem, and she had never forgotten them. No one's alone, the poem had said, and she wanted so badly to believe as much.
No one's alone...
The sea swings and swings.
What am I doing here?
Sarah -- twenty-four now, with true adulthood looming ahead of her -- had made a mistake. Overwhelmed, restless, she had left town -- her dad, stepmother, her brother Toby -- without telling anyone her whereabouts. Worse, she had left her fiance – Jacob -- alone in their rented apartment, with no money and no way of contacting her. One January morning, she had simply left a hastily-scribbled note for him on the kitchen counter, saying only that she needed a moment, just some days, and would be back soon enough. Then, with a slight gnaw of guilt in her stomach, she took the last of their savings from the coffee can in the back of the freezer, put what she thought she'd need in a duffel bag, and walked out the door. Only a week, she had thought. I just need some time alone, to sort out my head.
Just some time. But as days became weeks, then months, Sarah knew she didn't want to go back. It wasn't love, and she wasn't normal. She knew her life would never be normal again, at least not until she could find and face what force pulled and pulled, what led her to this spot again and again, what kept her awake nights -- what gave her such terrible nightmares.
The dreams had always – in some sense – been there, but had quickly escalated to such a point that she couldn't have one night of restful sleep. In some of them, the shadow of a man waited for her, his breath a cool knife at her neck. In others, she was the shadow, separating and merging into her body. In others still – the worst ones -- she could not stop bleeding, and no one could help her. And then, there was always the one dream from long ago – the most vivid one -- where she wished away her baby brother to the goblins, and fought her way to save him through some Otherworld labyrinth pulled right out of her favorite childhood play.
Afraid to even close her eyes, she forced herself to stay awake -- watching old love stories, like Breakfast at Tiffany's, or baking breads and muffins -- into all ours of the night. She "took a break"— as she termed the endeavor – from sleeping, for as long as he body would allow. But then she couldn't sleep when she tried. She would toss and turn, and throw off the covers, and that would be all.
Now she just barely dozes. She wakes almost immediately. The insomnia is a drug, or a poison -- for better or worse -- in her body. It makes the world seem blurred and illusory, and constantly demands more than she can give, demands the kind of superhero strength that exists only in film.
And right now, standing at the edge of the sea, in some tucked-away town in Maine, Sarah sees things she knows can't really be there. But when she closes her eyes, and opens them again, there they are: the milk-thick sky above her whirlpooling, waiting to suck her in; the ocean calling out her name. It pulls and pulls at her body with a magnetism that simply cannot be real.
I'm really losing my mind, she thinks, pulling out a cigarette, and steps closer to the water. She shields the match from the wind and lights the end. Stressed and bored, she had picked up smoking within the first week of her hideaway. In fact, the gas station clerk, from whom she'd bought her first-ever pack -- Marlboro Lights -- was one of the only people she had said even one word to in weeks.
No one's alone. Yeah, right. She lets the wind hit her face.
If only I could step away from all this mess I've made. She had wished that once – in a nightmare (why do I remember it so clearly?) -- and it had come to her, but not at all in the way she had expected. It had almost cost her everything.
But if only. How beautiful the sea looks in the morning, all shrouded in fog. How much she wants to be a part of it. It calls and calls and won't let her rest. Is it her name? No, but the call is like her name.
"Well, might as well go for a quick swim."
Sarah takes off her sandals, and steps in.
Sarah wakes up lying in dust, her head aching and aching. Her t-shirt and jeans are soaking wet, and sticking to her skin. Wet – why is she wet? The cesspool of sky above her spins and spins. Moment by moment, her headache widens and spins with it. The blood-orange glare from the lowering sun blinds her, making her head ache even more. But wasn't it just foggy? Wasn't it just morning?
She turns her head to the side. The dust whirls up from the ground like a swarm of bees -- hauntingly, without wind or sound -- wherever she is. A desert? It all looks and feels so familiar to her, but try as she might, she can't quite put a name to the place. The thick dust stings her eyes.
But wasn't she just standing at the edge of the Atlantic?
Shivering, dust-coated, she holds her arms over the chest and rubs her hands over her skin. What-- the aching in her skull -- hap -- she can't keep a thought for more than a few seconds. Now, with her eyes closed tightly, she lifts her hands, rubs them in circles over her temples, knowing she needs to get a grip on all this as quickly as possible, and find out where she is, before--
Sarah opens her eyes.
Someone is here.
Her heart stutters. Run? Could she run? Have I been kidnapped? She is not bound and gagged -- but where was she? Maybe this person can help her --
That voice, a man's voice. He knows her. She closes her eyes, trying to place a face to that voice, its cool sound -- its slight edge of brutality. And now, she knows that he stands above her. She can feel his body radiating above hers. Open your eyes, she tells herself. Just do it. And she does.
"I've waited for you."
He says the words so simply, so matter-of-factually, that her heart skips. There is still no wind, but his light-blond hair seems to blow with some force, and his black cape wavers in some imaginary gale.
Sarah tries to slide away from him, to keep a safer distance, but her spine is so sore -- the ache in her head so thick it weighs her down -- and he smirks slightly as she winces from the pain.
"Goblin King, what do you want from me?"
He stares straight into her eyes, and steps closer. Sarah knows he's trying to frighten her with those eyes -- so deliberate and calculated, with the glint of cold steel -- but she cannot keep her hold. She looks away into the dust, noticing how the setting sun seems to make little orange wildfires on the hill. The gnarled trees look drowned in the haze. She feels more vulnerable moment by moment, the sweat beaded on her brow now beginning to drip down the side of her face.
And as she watches, but for a moment, he kneels down to lay a cool hand on her feverish forehead.
Then, he whispers the words slowly into her ear, their sharpness rippling through her ache, making it harder and harder to think:
"I want what you have taken."
He places his hand on her mouth.