The Underground Groundhog

By Fireshifter

Prologue:

For Sarah Anne Williams, life had never been the same since her encounter with the Labyrinth. From the moment she realized how close she was to losing her innocent baby brother, all because of a selfish wish made out of self pity and ignorance, she vowed from that moment on not only to be a better sister and daughter but be a better person in all things.

The following morning after her adventures, her parents had instantly seen a sudden change come over her. From the way she walked, to the way she warmly smiled, they were beginning to wonder what exactly happened last night. When they asked her if she was alright, Sarah calmly assured them she was fine. They were astonished by the way, she helped out with the chores, without them even bothering to ask her and how she fondled over her brother like a second mother. They were even more bowled over when she started cleaning out her room, getting of stuff she used to be so highly attached to. She gave most of her toys to Toby, which was mostly stuffed animals. Her costumes and peculiar childish objects like the strange doll in fancy black costume on stand; were all donated to goodwill. However, she kept most of her books, because she couldn't bear get rid of them for sentimental reasons. However she did keep a dwarf book end and two stuffed animals. One looked like a swashbuckling fox; the other was orange and looked like a yeti. The rest she packed and put away in the attic.

Her parents couldn't figure out what out what happened, but they dare not spoil it by questioning her about it.

She had even asked Karen, if she would like to help advising her how to redecorate her room. Karen was of course astonished but all the more happy to oblige. However, accepting Karen as her new mother, proved to be not at all to be easy. She always knew deep down that Karen was no evil stepmother and was trying real hard to win Sarah's good favor of her. However, despite Karen best intentions, Sarah still couldn't see Karen as her new mother; they were just too different to relate to one another. She felt that Karen, without consciously realizing it, wanted to mold her into woman Karen wanted her to be, not the woman Sarah wanted to be.

From the way she dressed to the way she did things, who she socialize and what she did outside of school, Karen always had something to say that she should do things different otherwise, which proved to be a great trial on Sarah's patience most of the times. She didn't approve that Sarah enjoyed spending some quiet time by herself my taking walks in the woods near the park, when she should be socializing, and spend more time getting a boyfriend. When she did spend time with her friends, she usually spent time with them at the Pinewood Stables, where Sarah had taken horseback riding lessons. Karen though it was bad enough Sarah wore jean most of the time, even if she wore dresses on special occasions. And when she spent her time indoors, she always had her nose in a book. Most books, Karen didn't approve either. Sure Sarah read Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens, but most of it was fantasy stuff. Karen didn't consider it healthy, even if Sarah seemed to be more down to earth; she still had this dreamy, wispy look on her face from time to time. Karen fear Sarah was still too attached her dreamworld, and she didn't like Sarah reading Toby such nonsense. But for the sake of peace, she tolerated it, since Toby was still pretty young and she didn't want to appear like a dictator.

Karen wasn't really much of a mother figure around Toby either. Sarah knew Karen loved him, but she always wanted to go fancy dinners or seeing a movie with her father on weekend nights. A lot of the times she invited her friends over for lunch and or had a club meeting with the neighbors. Although Karen tried many times to persuade Sarah in joining them, Sarah politely declined. She felt a little disgusted that Karen took Toby for granted. Even her mom spent more time with her when she was little. She could only hope that as Toby got older, she would spend more time with her son.

Things also didn't improve much with Sarah and her father either. Although Sarah never said anything about it, she felt kind of hurt that her father didn't seem realize that he hardly knew his own children. He was work alcoholic before Sarah's mom left and now hardly at home most of the time. Sure, he inquired how they were doing and kiss them hello when he back home, but he would soon turn to his newspaper or be taking on the phone, completely oblivious of the world around him.

So Sarah made an extra effort to devote a lot of her time caring for Toby. She read him stories, took him to her special place in the park and sang him to sleep. Soon the two siblings had formed a strong bond despite their vast age difference. Toby's mischievous smile

Of course, Sarah's family wasn't the only ones that noticed Sarah's transformation. But after a while, many had grown to respect and admired the beautiful young woman she was becoming. When they asked their parents' what had happened, they simply shrugged their shoulders and joked around by saying, "At first, we seriously thought aliens had abducted her and had altered with her mind and personality a bit."

However, there also other changes that even Sarah's family didn't know about. Sarah saw things a bit more differently then most other people. Even though she no longer had her head in the clouds, obsessed by fantasy and fairy tales, the magic of the Labyrinth had never left Sarah. The goblins, who were captivated by the girl who had conquered the unbeaten Labyrinth, had stopped by to visit her every now and then. Of course, the mischievous imps liked to get her attention like playing pranks, raiding the refrigerator and stealing the food, spoiling the milk and causing poor Merlin to get riled up, by teasing him. Sarah, however, though somewhat amused, soon caught them in the act and firmly told they had behave themselves if they wanted to visit her.

The goblins had retained much of the human childlikeness before they were transformed in goblins and soon very much wanted to please her as if she was their motherly figure which they had secretly longed for. They were still mischievous playful, but did not cause any damage or disturbance to Sarah or her family. And when Sarah was alone, she would often call her friends, especially Hoggle, to talk with. And every now than, a strange magical creature would appear and soon then after disappear. Occasionally, a fairy or two would appear and chattering playfully and teasing Sarah's hair, as they flew about her. Shortly later, they would soon wink out like a small flash of light.

As the years past, Sarah did very well in school and worked in her hometown library. Although still liked plays and drama, she no longer wanted to be an actor like her mother. She wanted to be writer, most for children and young adults. Her experience of the Labyrinth led to a curious study about Folklore, Mythology and Fairy Tales. And eventually, she began to write stories of her. By the time she had published her first book, (which was a children's book) she was eighteen years old. Her story was already a popular hit by the time it the shelves, which was extremely rare! Within the first month of her book's publication, she had received her hundredth fan letter for excellent work, which was shortly followed by a request from her editor to write more. Sarah had never been happier—or so it seemed.

Sarah couldn't have been happier that night when she won her brother back, since she was given a second chance to start over with her life. She also overjoyed that she was still able to see her first true friends from the Labyrinth as the years past. She knew it was especially rare and a privilege to see magic in her modern day world. And yet despite all that, she quietly felt something was missing. She realized she yearned for something else. She yearned for someone special—someone whom she could share her wonderful secrets with, and just be totally her shelf. No inner masks, no interior walls. Just be plain Sarah, and feel good about it. And yet, although Sarah had many friends, both real and magically—she felt torn; like she was alone, on the dividing line between fantasy and reality.

Although she very much wanted to tell her family about her secret world, including her brother, she dare not. She feared her parents couldn't handle it, even if she could prove she was not crazy. As for Toby, although she told him stories about her adventures, she never told him that the baby boy and young girl who rescued him was her. She also never dared say the words about the wishing part. She even locked the book away in hidden place for fear of Toby for discovering the Underground by accident like how she did and accidentally ended wishing someone away. She vowed something like that would never happen again. But there was another reason. She feared when Toby became a teenager and knew about the fantasy world, he might turn to the Labyrinth as a means to escape the problems and struggles of the real world. Sarah, knew well, that almost happened to her, and it wasn't healthy for her, especially after sudden departure of mother. The pain had faded, but it was still a scar upon Sarah's heart that would always cause a pain of sadness.

Sarah tried dating several times. There were some she really liked, but in the end, it didn't work out. Some just broke up with her on first date because they were interested in another girl. Other times, although they liked each other, it didn't go beyond friendship. Although one or two still remained close, it became more of brother and sister type of relationship. It just seemed like that guys she had dated, were something more or less.

Occasionally, her mind would drift back to a certain fey she had once known. But then, she would quickly snap out it and pushed it away. Sure he was charming, and extremely attractive, but he was nothing more than a ladies' man. How could she ever love a guy who kidnapped children and reduced them to goblins? How could she ever feel attracted to him, when he enjoyed sneering and humiliating his subjects? She especially could never forget or completely forgiven him for threatening Hoggle to give her the peach, so he could just brainwash her, make her forget Toby, and play with her feelings. She felt sick when recalled how she acted, like a dazed deer among ravished wolves, a naive love stricken fool that fallen for something that wasn't even real. He was just used her to toy with for his sick amusement. Even when he pleaded with her to reconsider his offer in the broken, floating room, she knew it was just a bribe to prevent her from wounding his pride by succeeding in her quest. He probably wouldn't have offered it her to run the Labyrinth, if he seriously thought she had chance of beating him. He lived for pleasure, nothing else. He loved only himself.

Still, she had often wondered what had become of him. When she was relieved that her friends fled Jareth's reach, and were safe from his wrath, she never questioned about him or even dare say his name, lest he should answer her. As time went on, she was beginning to think that it was unlikely she would never see him again. Yet on the eve of her fifth anniversary of running the Labyrinth, she had received an unexpected visitor.