AN to those of you will with me: So sorry for the long delay. I've been too busy so work on this thing for long periods of time, so it just took longer. Please review!
Disclaimer: Everything Labyrinth is not mine.
I'm afraid that I do.
Sarah pulls back, nearly falling down into the tall grass. The clover-quilted field looks softened in the light, and suddenly she wants more than anything to lie down and fall asleep. Why couldn't this be one of her nightmares, some lucid dream?
Jareth touches her face.
"Take your hand off me."
Enough is enough. Her fear has transformed into fury. On one level, she still fears the man – is he a man? – standing before her, but she is through with playing these games with him. She is through giving him the satisfaction.
Jareth frowns. "Listen to me carefully." Using his free hand, he places a finger on her lip to silence her. "You are bound to the Labyrinth, as muscle to bone. You cannot leave. I cannot release you."
His words ring in her head, like a lingering organ chime. Bound. But can she break the bond, somehow cut the cord?
Jareth smiles at her sharply, baring his teeth. Sarah braces herself.
"Tell me. Do you remember being a little girl, and calling to me day and night? Do you remember calling for me in the park? In your dreams?"
Sarah grits her teeth. "No."
Jareth narrows his eyes.
"Pity." He begins to pace around her. "You called and called for me, your voice like a silver charm. And I came to you, Sarah, as I've always done your bidding. And even here" – now he comes close, and leans into her neck, and breathes against her -- "I can see your desire radiating, just as you radiated then, as I came to you and whispered into your ear. . ."
"I was a CHILD!"
But even now, she finds his eyes so beautiful. His eyes – she realizes – are coercive. The light sharpens them, forcing her to keep his gaze.
"A confused child, yes. I never touched you then – and I never would have -- but I could see through time to the woman you'd become. And now, here you are, so beautiful – my beautiful Sarah -- and what do you expect me to do?" He lowers his voice to a whisper. "Your little song still trembles in my ear. . ."
"I'm not singing, Jareth!" She cringes slightly. It is the first time she's said his name.
Jareth holds up his hand to halt her speech. "You made me love you." His tone turns low and callous, with a hint of excitement. "And yet you cannot even define the love you've created. Is it generous, Sarah? Or is it cruel and bloody, like your dreams? Did you want me charming and handsome – from some declawed storybook -- or did you want me to tie you down and take you on a bed of thorns? You wanted me to love you, dear girl, but you never set the terms."
"I was pretending!"
Or, at least I thought I was.
"Ah – you didn't mean it. You were pretending." He is nearly shaking with anger. "Well, Sarah, now that you know I am very real, what ever will you do? Do you really think your intentions are relevant now?"
"And what a shame for you that you could not define your desires, then. You have left it to me to choose. Generous, or cruel? Gentle, or bloody? What brand of love shall I show you?"
Sarah closes her eyes, remembering her dreams more clearly now – a glimpse of her body sprawled in the moonlight, a shadow breathing into ear, and then standing over her. . .
Fear me. . .
She wants to say so much in reply, but can only swallow and stammer a few words. "I – I never wanted this."
"Oh, but you did." He grins elfishly. "You would never admit so to anyone – not even yourself – but I've heard you." He lightens his tone, as if changing the subject. "Do you remember, Sarah, when my name slipped from your lips at a rather – inopportune – moment?" He grins.
"No." But she does remember. She was in bed with Jacob, and he had been pushing into her harder than he ever had – almost cruelly – and he had pulled her hair, and nipped at her neck, and suddenly, she blurted out his name. Jareth, said under her breath. In his passion, Jacob hadn't seemed to notice. But she had.
"Liar," he whispers into her ear.
He moves back from her, and his face calms and settles, like the last drift of a snowstorm. He seems so satisfied, so pleased with himself.
"No," she whispers back.
The horse grunts. A wind is picking up, combing over the grass and through Jareth's luminescent hair. Sarah looks around her. Now the horse pricks its ears, and shifts its footing. She feels her own face prickle with fear.
Something is coming.
She turns to look. Jareth steps behind her, his head hovering over her shoulder.
"Look, Sarah." He reaches out his hand to point. "There, do you see it?"
A black storm looms over the distant hill, swallowing the purple light at the horizon. Sarah feels a wave of deja-vu.
"The last of your power."
She opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes.
"Beautiful, is it not?"
"What does that mean? What will happen now?"
Jareth does not answer. Instead, he lowers his hand and stands behind her, holding her arms, so that she cannot move.
Sarah squints. The cloud is swirling and funneling, and her instincts are telling her to run – run away from that thing – and she is reminded of the pyroclastic cloud she once saw on a television special, tumbling from the mouth of a volcano. It fumes towards them, palpable and at breakneck speed. It would be impossible to outrun.
Sarah is silent, his words still burning her eardrum.
Why is he holding me so tightly?
But there is no time to fight. Already, the cloud shadows them.
And Sarah's chest is burning.
Jareth releases one of her arms and stands beside her. He extends his own arm, and upturns his hand, his mouth serious and tight as an anchor's rope.
Sarah stares, aghast.
The storm eddies over them, but silently -- a black hurricane without sound -- and the cloud slowly pours itself into his outstretched hand. . . .So dizzy. . .and then her chest prickles, as if a bird is struggling against her ribs. . .
Shit, it hurts. . .like thorns. . .
Jareth sports a victorious smile, as if remembering some boyhood catch on the baseball field. He looks at her for a moment, then back at the storm in his hand. She tightens her frown and closes her eyes. She can't bear to look at him.
Will he truly have power over me, once he has what he wants? Sarah nearly doubles over from the pain in her chest. Will he be able to make me love him?
And then the pain subsides, the light opens against her eyelids. She looks at Jareth. The last of the cloud, a threadbare tornado, is streaming into his palm. Gone. Then the field is green and lit again, as if nothing has happened.
Sarah feels her legs weaken, and buckle. . .So empty. . .inside. . .
For a moment, she feels as if the wind has been knocked out of her. She can barely breathe. Jareth steps behind her again, still gripping her arms, and she resists the urge to pull from him.
So tired. . .
She could fall asleep. . .
Her eyes close.
"No!" she says loudly – to wake herself – and opens her eyes again. The grass sways. Her vision is blurred and she feels disoriented, almost giddy. Concussed. Get a hold of yourself.
Still holding one arm, Jareth steps in front of her.
"It's almost over, dear Sarah," he says, putting a hand to her feverish forehead. "Once this is done, your fever and ache will be gone, your strength will return. I promise you – once this is done, you will never suffer again."
"I'd rather suffer a thousand deaths than belong to you," she whispers harshly, holding his gaze. She feels empowered by her own words – by her own choice to say them despite the danger they create, despite the fear still lodged in the back of her mind.
"I would be careful what you wish for."
Narrowing his eyes, he stands straight and tall -- his voice cold and sliding from him, flicking her ear like an eel's tail. Cruel. Bloody. Would he really hurt her?
"If you tell the truth – if you love me – you will not harm me."
Jareth chortles. "You have a mortal understanding of love, Sarah. Do not underestimate me."
His mouth is tight and thin as he continues. "Do not tempt me." He pauses and releases her, and she struggles to stand against her exhaustion. "Really, now. Do you still think this some sweetened children's tale? You know -- the wolf loved the little red-cloaked girl so much, he devoured her."
I have been generous up until now, but I can be cruel.
Her stomach churns. "But that wasn't love. That was pure, visceral desire. Hunger." She speaks slowly, taking care to steady her voice.
Jareth takes her hand and kisses her palm, and licks it slightly, and flicks his tongue between her index and middle fingers. He looks up.
"Yes, I suppose it was."
Sarah swallows. Her mouth has gone completely dry.
Jareth's eyes have turned dark, and Sarah cannot breathe. He takes her other hand, and leans in, and kisses her on the mouth. Her heart beats faster, and so the pulsing air echoes, and now his tongue sneaks between her teeth – Oh god – and he traces her jawbone with his finger. Her vision swells, a feathery tingle rises up the back of her neck. . .What is he doing to me?
Jareth stops. "Come, love." He releases one of her hands, but tightens his hold on the other. "It's time."
He answers with a tug on her arm.
They saunter to the riverbank. Now they stand next to the horse, which strangely did not run away during the storm, as if enchanted under a spell of obedience. Has he kept the horse here for a reason?
"What – "
Jareth reaches into his cloak and pulls out a dagger.
"What are you doing?"
Silence. For a moment, she doesn't think he will answer.
"We must make you immortal." He runs a finger along the silver blade. "But first --" he pauses. "First, we must end your mortal life."
She steps back, preparing to run. Or else fight him, as if he were a mountain lion. She does not know what she will do if he comes at her with that dagger.
Jareth chuckles. "Oh no, precious thing. No. But I can't say you will not feel pain."
"I don't want to be immortal. I don't want to be like you. Don't you get it?" Even Sarah is taken aback by her tone.
"Oh, stop this charade, you ungrateful girl!," he spits. He leans toward her, so their shadows mesh. In this purple light – this light of her heart? -- he truly looks regal. She almost wants to say, No – you stop this charade, but she lets him continue.
"You know so little as a mortal. It is as if you're standing at the bottom of the sea, looking up at the surface. All you know is the pinprick of sunlight far above, and all that you cannot see slithers past your skin." Now he steps closer to the horse. "It is as if you see only though the eyes of this horse, and through its fears" – he puts his hand on the horse's neck – "but once immortal, you will see all. Everything. You will know the world as the world itself, and not as some dumb animal walking blindly through it." He traces the dagger along its neck.
"No!" Oh please don't hurt it. . .
Jareth ignores her cry and continues his monologue. "And best of all, little Sarah, you will forget the petty life you've left behind to come here. Your past will no longer weigh you down. Don't you see? Your burden will fall like sandbags from your ankles, and you will rise." He sweeps out his arm, dagger in hand. "And all will finally be aligned again in my kingdom."
No. Please don't.
"And you – you will forever belong to me. You will have nothing else."
. . . Sarah lunges at him.
She lobs her fist into his cheek, and then hits him hard in the gut. . .and pushes her whole body against his. . .
Jareth grunts, and takes hold of her hair – and pulls – and she yelps in pain, then presses her hands against his throat until he lets go. . .
She takes one step back, quickly gathering her strength, and rams into his chest with her arms extended like antlers. . .
And her last glimpse is of his snarled face – his furious eyes -- as he falls into the river. She turns away, and hears the thick splash.
When she turns too look again, he is gone.
Sarah swallows the saliva that had pooled in her mouth. It all happened so fast. What have I done? His words still burn. Cruel. Bloody. Bound. She remembers her hands on this throat, his skin reddening. His eyes were like icepicks. He had not expected her to fight back so viciously.
Sarah feels the heat returning to her face. She had been foolish. The dagger had been in his hand. . .which means he could have wounded her, if he had wanted. And what of his magic? If she had allowed him even one moment to conjure a spell. . .she doesn't want to consider the possibilities.
And yet, she feels strangely empowered.
The horse grunts, breathing heavily. Sarah steps towards it, reaching out her hand, and again it pulls away from her. She sighs. There's no time. She cannot stay here, and the animal won't come with her. So she hits its backside – hard – and watches it run away, towards some unknown place. At least the horse will be someplace else when he returns, if he returns here.
He will get me for this. He'll find me. Her thoughts bounce around in her head erratically as particles, and she feels as if she might throw up. But what then? Why does he want me immortal? All will be aligned again -- what does that mean?
Sarah begins walking upriver, aimless and lost in her questioning. He doesn't just love me. He needs me for something. I know he does. But regardless, she knows he desires her. Whether or not he has other "business" with her seems irrelevant: He wants to take you 'in a bed of thorns.' He wants to torture her for what she has done to him – You made me love you – in an assertion of power. His regained power over her. What kind of deal can I make with him to wake from this nightmare?
Sarah shivers, and snaps herself out of her reverie.
There's no time.
She begins to jog – then run – along the riverbank, the air still pulsing around her and the sky above purplish, faintly veined. It is warm. In my heart. For a moment, she almost forgot that this field isn't an ordinary one – that she moves and thinks inside some reflection of herself.
He offered me my dreams. What can I offer him?
Sarah knows that Jareth is not a man – man? – who settles for anything. Settling, for him, means he has relinquished some power. What kind of deal would he even accept at this point in the game? Whatever power she had left, he took. Whatever sympathy he had towards her, moreover, most likely dissipated when she attacked him. How could she expect him – a villain like him – to show her mercy?
Sarah pumps her legs as hard as she can.
"Well, at least he won't kill me. At least, I don't think he would," she mumbles, breathing heavily.
It is difficult for her to keep a steady pace. She is still dizzy and aching. I've really put my body through hell. Her body probably can't handle much more abuse – or time awake – but she cannot allow herself to collapse. She needs to find something –some clue that might lead to her escape from this mess – before she's lost herself.
"Christ, he's humoring me," Sarah says, almost imperceptibly quiet. "He likes this. He likes playing this game of cat-and-mouse."
In her gut, she feels he could just take her right now and be done with all this. Does he still want her blessing? Or is he just enjoying his own generosity? Regardless, she knows she plays into his fantasies, like the fish dragging the fisherman's line deep and forward. It's sport. The thrill is in the chase.
And yet she still runs, holding onto whatever hope she can. After all, once the fish is caught, its body is bashed against a rock and gutted. She would rather fall dead from exhaustion than fall into his hands, gasping for air, for mercy.
Sarah runs faster at the thought.
She runs and runs for what feels like hours, letting the thoughts turn in her head.
Then – finally! -- the landscape begins to change.
"Oh, thank god. . ."
Slowly, the river drops low alongside her, and she runs along a tall cliffside. Her bare feet kick up dust as she runs, stinging her eyes, and the cuts on her soles burn with it. The sky changes from violet to cerulean, as morning into afternoon, and now she realizes she has entered the high desert. The high desert of my body. She laughs slightly at the notion, then nearly cries.
Ahead of her, a deep chasm opens into light.
The chasm seems endless. Looking down, Sarah thinks it is still deepening, still creating itself despite the visible lack of river or other forces, right before her eyes. It must be a trick of the light, she thinks. But like the salt flats, it feels as if an enormous body of water once churned here – as if the place was once some underwater canyon, made from the bones of sea creatures and drowned men.
Sarah squints. Below, in the center of the dark ground, an object shimmers faintly and turquoise. Something is down there. Something important. Now she feels a slight burst of energy. Stepping forward, she kneels down and peers over the edge.
Her voice echoes faintly through the chasm, and returns.
I think I can make it down.
She takes a small pebble and throws it into the abyss, watches it disappear.
Sarah looks for the nearest ledge to place her foot, and dangles one leg over the edge. Looking down to the bottom – which seems deeper by the moment – she's reminded of the mouth of a giant whale. What if the shimmering object is some bait, luring her into the jaws of some creature? Will she be swallowed?
She looks up at the sky, then down the path she came. There is no easy way around the chasm. She could perhaps balance along the rim, but still then she risks falling miles down. And the object below calls to her. It is a beacon of hope. She can hear its voices – voices? – from here, like a choir of light.
I have to do this.
Sarah takes a deep breath and steps down, slowly and carefully, onto the ledge. The rock crumbles in her hand. She closes her eyes to steady her vertigo, takes a deep breath, and then looks for another ledge that can hold her footing. There – to the left – she can see a ridge.
She takes another step down. Part of the rock wall breaks off into her hand. She can feel herself falling backwards. . .
"Shit shit shit."
. . .but steadies herself.
Sarah had taken a climbing course in college, but a sixteen-week lesson on a gym climbing wall could never prepare her for this. She feels the vertigo through her whole body now; her stomach levitates. It must be miles, she thinks. And I'm barefoot. Why did I think I could do this?
She pauses, her body hovering over the void.
Ever since she fought him, saved the horse, Sarah had been feeling like the tenacious heroine that journeyed to the center of the Labyrinth. Invincible, fearless. Ready to face anything. She had felt like her old self, the person she had been before he had weakened her. She hated to admit that he had weakened her, but he had. He had tortured her with nightmares and insomnia, until she was so disoriented that her life fell apart around her. She had run from her problems only because he had exhausted her resolve by torturing her through wake and sleep. And she had run from him – here – as an almost Pavlovian response, as if he had trained her by sneaking into her mind and chasing her dream-self through her own unconsciousness.
But now, Sarah is scared. Her bones feel real, and breakable. If she falls – if she is no storybook heroine, as he constantly reminds her – her body will break. Death is not an option. She has come too far to die now.
She looks at the bottom of the chasm again, trying to gauge the distance. She squints and blinks rapidly. Thorns. The ground looks covered in thick, labyrinthine briar.
"Okay," she says again.
Sarah steps down.
But she missteps.
Sarah feels her foot miss the ledge, and then her body falling backward, and down. . .and down. . .
. . .And down.
And then her body stops in mid-air. It just stops, and hangs in the rock-shadow above the briar.
For a moment, silence.
"Well, Sarah, it seems you've placed yourself in quite a predicament." He pauses. Sarah can hear his footsteps below her. "Were you trying to fly?"
Jareth. He sounds angry. She tries to turn her head to see him, but he is hidden – or hiding.
"I'm not afraid of you," she yells.
Then Sarah hears him laugh, low and guttural.
"Oh, Sarah, Sarah Sarah." His voice is almost jovial. Then cold.
"You should be."