Author's Note: This is a response to the "Reverse Illustration Challenge", brought to us all by Pika-la-Cynique. Specifically, this fic was inspired by her picture Here's the day you hoped would never come. She has linked to that super-cool work of art in her profile, so go there and check it out!
Oh, and – "You didn't finish the author's notes to Erlkönig yet!" – I hear you cry. My excuse is: 1) bwuh? you're reading the author's notes?, 2) I've thought over what Ruse Amour wrote, decided I agreed with her, and will soon move all the author's notes to my livejournal, and 3) I'm a lazy, lazy person, and I'm moving soon. But the notes will show up eventually, never fear!
Thanks: to Pika for the picture, and to Imbrium and thistlebush for the beta read!
Disclaimer: Labyrinth (and all of its characters – Jareth, Sarah, Toby, assorted fuzzy things and goblins) belongs to Jim Henson, George Lucas, et. al. I am not making a single red cent off this fic, or any other writing or drawing I do or will ever do in connection with Labyrinth. Unless I get to write the sequel to the Manga-That-Must-Not-Be-Named - hint, hint, Henson, Ltd.!
Further disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with certain characters' statements about organized religion, sex, marriage, and morality in general. So if you flame, please do not do so only because you have your knickers in a twist about some horrible thing that someone says in this fic.
A-a-and one more disclaimer: The M rating is for: violence, profanity, sex, nightmares, and Symbolism. OK, maybe not the last one. But you get the point. If you are underage, or if you find yourself uncomfortable with any part of this fic, go thou and watch the Muppets.
In a Glass, Darkly
"Here's the day you hoped would never come."
The words are quiet. They seem heavy, somehow – falling into the dark like coins into the water of a well.
Sarah breathes in, and realizes that her voice is the one echoing around her. She is the one who has spoken.
She closes her mouth.
Sarah stares at the mirror. There is the desk, the familiar chair. Pencils. Old books. A lamp.
And there, throwing a soft light into the room, glowing and perfect, sits a round crystal.
Its immaculate beauty almost keeps her from seeing the pale feather lying next to it.
Sarah sees it, though. Of course I see it. How could she not see it?
"No dream, this." Her whisper sounds thin, and disbelieving. "This is no dream."
A draft brushes over one bare shoulder; she ignores it.
If she were only to stretch out one hand, she could feel the desk. The familiar chair. The pencils and old books ...
One step forward, and she could take the crystal in her hand …
The draft turns into a light wind; she shivers.
And then she hears a footfall, behind her.
Sarah closes her eyes. Opens them. Stares at the crystal, and the feather, the desk and the chair, through a sudden haze of tears.
Here's the day I hoped would never come.
She remembers everything.
"I remember everything, Doctor."
Sarah shifted in her chair, and did her best to look encouraging.
The woman stared, her mouth slightly ajar. "I remember. What happened was that God came down from the clouds, and gave me a jar made out of alabaster, and full of the power of the Holy Ghost."
"What happened was that He said –"
"He said …"
"He said that I would be his Daughter on earth, and that I had to bring His message to the world."
"The message was that love is the answer. Love, and the Rules."
"You keep mentioning rules, Mrs. Johnston." Sarah flipped over a piece of paper on her clipboard, and scanned her notes. "Could you remind me of what they are?"
"You want to know the Rules?"
"… I can't tell you what they are."
"I see." Sarah made a note. "And why not?"
"Because they're a secret. Only I am the Daughter of God. Only I know the secret. You wash your hands of the blood of the Son, and take the birds from the outside, and lay down on your bed and call to Heaven –"
A beep caught Sarah's attention. She fumbled in a pocket of her white coat, and glanced down at her pager. Then she straightened, and spoke firmly to the woman.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Johnston, but we will have to continue our conversation later."
"I've been called to help another patient – I promise I will come back and talk to you some more, soon."
The woman pleated her lips; her eyes went wide and staring. "I am the Daughter of God."
"And I will see you this afternoon." Sarah took her patient firmly by her elbow, and ushered her into the main room. "Here's Nurse Joe." She lowered her voice and spoke to a harried man in green scrubs. "I'll be back as soon as I can – I have an emergency consult."
"The Cohen kid again?"
Sarah grimaced. "Yeah."
"Right." The bulky nurse flashed her a look. "Good luck with that. He kept the place hopping last night."
Sarah hurried to the door, swiped her badge and keyed in the code to exit the ward. She half walked, half ran down the hallway.
She had been working as a psychiatrist at Mercy General for the past two years; in that entire time, she had never had the chance to work on as challenging a case as the one that now reared its head. Again. For the third time in the last week.
Biting her lip, Sarah tried to focus, dodging other doctors and nurses, wheelchairs and trolleys in the hall. Focus. Aaron Cohen. He had been the subject of hushed conferences in the upper circle of her office for months. If she could help them – if she could provide the breakthrough in his treatment –
– she saw herself, smiling, receiving the congratulations of her coworkers, her boss, and the entire staff of the hospital cheering and shouting "Speech! Speech!" –
"– speech that's the problem."
Sarah slapped down the flight of fancy. "Pardon?"
A coworker had fallen into step beside her. "Dr. Williams, yes?"
"Yes – yes –" Sarah floundered for words. It was her supervisor in the psychiatry department. Dr. Michaels. Mid-sixties, a recognized authority in such a wide range of subjects that she was still intimidated by reading about him in Who's Who – Dr. Michaels – "blind as a bat, sharp as a shark" was the joke tossed around by all of the lesser doctors –
"I thought so." He nodded. "I recognized your walk. But back to what I told you: it's Aaron Cohen. He's having another episode, with what appears to be a seizure at the same time. Practically foaming at the mouth. We can't understand a single thing he's saying. I am confident, though, that he will emerge from it – but that is usually when the psychosis takes hold." His eyes, hidden as they were behind tinted glasses, swiveled in the direction of Sarah's face.
"Really." Sarah nodded, absently, then jumped to attention and took his arm, protecting him from an oncoming lab cart. "Could you watch where you're going?" she snapped after the lab tech.
Dr. Michaels' wrinkled face creased in a smile. "Dr. Williams, I've had an entire lifetime to get used to dodging carts." He tapped his cane on the floor. "As long as I stay near the wall, nothing can injure me permanently."
"Oh, it's no trouble." The older doctor took a brisk turn to the right. Sarah ran to keep up. "As I was saying, Dr. Williams – I have asked you to consult here in recognition of your excellent work in the ward. I think you have a real gift for working through delusions of every type, with patients of all ages. Young Mr. Cohen –" he sighed. "Young Aaron is such a severe case that I remain unsure if anything further can be attempted in his treatment."
"So you're setting the newbies loose on him?" Sarah gave a wry smile, remembering too late that the other couldn't see it.
"One could say so." Now her boss was frowning, slightly. Sarah gave herself a mental kick for being too casual.
"I'm sorry –"
"Never mind that." The older doctor stopped at a door, and paused, as if gathering his thoughts. "Here we are."
Sarah looked at the door. "Observation."
She took a nervous breath. "I've never used this room before."
Dr. Michaels gave her a small smile. "There's a first time for everything."
A raucous crow split the momentary silence between them. Dr. Michaels snorted, and jabbed at his watch with one finger. "Three o'clock. They'll be expecting us."
Sarah opened the door. "Nice watch."
"Yes." Dr. Michaels went before her into the room, cane tapping. "I keep asking my son to buy me a new one for Christmas, but until then, I'm stuck with that obnoxious rooster – on the hour, every hour."
Sarah tried to find a witty remark about punctuality, while finding a seat in the dimly-lit room – but then she looked through the two-way mirror to see another doctor, and a boy sitting in a chair – and jokes, and wit, and anything approaching humor, fled her mind.
"It's the dreams I have." The boy was crying. "Bad dreams. Scary dreams."
"Shhh –" The doctor next to him patted him on the shoulder, and darted a look at the two-way glass.
"Make them stop! Make them stop!" His groan turned into a strange gargle; he bent double and began to rock back and forth.
Try as she might, Sarah could not seem to take her eyes away from his contorted face. Bad dreams.
She thought back to her first long discussion of – the dream –
"Dreams are a complex creation of a complex creature – the mind, ladies and gentlemen, the mind."
Sarah gazed at the motes of dust floating in a beam of sunlight. The light fell in a pale stripe across the dark wood of the professor's desk. Professor Wieck herself spoke softly, her German accent giving her voice a particular lilt that was not at all unpleasant.
"Yes, Mr. Romani?"
Sarah smiled at her friend, Ben, as he ran his raised hand through his dark, curly hair.
"Um. Could you run down the main differences between Jungian and Freudian dream interpretation?"
Professor Wieck raised an eyebrow.
"Really, Mr. Romani. I hardly see the need to speak on something that was covered, at great length and depth, in your assigned reading for today."
Ben sank in his seat; Sarah winced in anticipation of a pleasant-voiced public flaying.
"If you had read the assignment, Mr. Romani, you would realize that the best encapsulation of the difference between Freud and Jung, the latter who was indeed Freud's student until they quarrelled, is this quotation of Jung himself: "As against Freud's view that the dream is essentially a wish-fulfillment, I hold that the dream is a spontaneous self-portrayal, in symbolic form, of the actual situation in the unconscious," from his 1916 work, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche - although, that is relatively early Jung, and the differences between them became more marked as time went on - the collective unconscious of Jung being the most famous of his ideas, and Freud's classic separation of the Id, the Ego, and the Superego -"
The professor broke off, and looked at Ben with narrowed eyes. "Clever, Mr. Romani. You know very well that I can speak on this to great length -" some of the students shifted, and others covered their smiles and giggles; Professor Weick acknowledged them with a wry grimace. "I refuse to do your own homework for you, young man - " Ben gulped - "... but ..." she tipped her head - "But I will eschew upbraiding you in favor of reminding all of you of today's activity."
Giving Ben a covert thumbs-up, Sarah grinned. It looked like he was off the hook. Ben met her gaze, and wiped his forehead in an exaggerated gesture of relief.
"A fun activity, boys and girls –" Wieck's voice was quietly mocking. "It has been a busy week, yes?"
The class mumbled.
"Ach, so enthused. Here is your assignment, then. You will find a partner, and analyze a dream of the other. Be sure to indicate whether you are acting as a disciple of Jung or Freud. Write down your impressions, and analysis, and turn them in at the beginning of our next class. I will select those with the most interesting analysis to give a public presentation, and we will all discuss the merits and shortcomings of dream interpretation. And, as you all know –" she sat behind her desk, and favored them with a thin smile – "I draw the line at the New Age."
A few laughs were quickly stifled. Sarah gave Ben a mocking half-wave, and turned to the person in the seat next to her. Lyn. Good person, good friend, and fellow suffering student in History of Psychology.
She watched Lyn dive for a notebook and pen, red corkscrew hair bobbing. When her friend sat back up, she blew one stubborn curl away from her eye before smiling broadly at her.
"I've been waiting for this all week, Sarah. Can't wait to get to know that big, sexy brain of yours."
Sarah huffed. "Give it a rest. Just because -"
"Just because you're on your way to fame and medical fortune - lady, I'm gonna ride your coat-tails all the way to the bank."
"Well ... not if you tell me about that dream." Lyn waggled her eyebrows. "You've been dropping mysterious hints forever."
Sarah felt a brief, self-conscious pang. To that day, her vivid, waking dream of the Labyrinth had held the place of honor in her imagination; she had been looking forward to seeing what another thought of it. I never shared it with anyone ...
A cool voice flowed through her mind. And you, Sarah ... How are you enjoying my Labyrinth?
Her neck prickled. She shut the memory away, with a shiver. Just a dream. Sarah turned back to her friend. "Are you ready?"
Lyn flourished her pen. "Ready!"
"My dad and stepmom had gone out, and left me to babysit, and I had this really, really weird dream ..." Sarah watched Lyn scribble. The other girl looked up.
"So – spill."
"It's kind of ... well, immature, I guess."
Lyn gave her a sly look. "Are you saying that because it had sex in it?"
"No!" Sarah laughed at herself. "Well, not really. Or maybe."
"How am I going to analyze if you don't tell me what it was, already?"
"Fine." Don't be silly – it was just a dream ... Sarah looked off over her friend's shoulder, and began again.
"So, I was standing in my parents' room, and I realized the baby had disappeared, and monsters were crawling over the floor instead. Then an owl flew in, and changed into a guy with weird hair, and armor, and a crystal ball, and said he was a King – and he said that I could have my dreams instead of the baby."
Lyn was taking notes. "Crystal ball – magic King – dreams for baby – gotcha."
"I said that I wanted my brother back, and then he got annoyed and turned the crystal into a snake, and threw it at me –" Sarah sighed. Her friend had begun to grin. "What's so funny?"
"Sarah – a guy flies into your parents' bedroom, and throws a snake into your face ... hello?" Lyn guffawed. "Freud would have field day!"
Sarah gave her a level look. "I want a Jungian interpretation. No Freud."
"Yeah, whatever," Lyn snickered. "So –" and Sarah watched her draw a circle around the word "King" in her notebook – "Let's stick with Jung. This guy could be your Animus - the male side of your psyche. Did you get a hint of his personality?"
Sarah blinked, feeling foolish. "Um. Kind of. He struck me as – well, kind of a jerk. Nasty, and conceited. But mysterious, at the same time."
"Mysterious. And the owl is a loaded symbol in itself, and you definitely know that the snake represents fertility, or forbidden knowledge – and my inner Catholic schoolgirl has to remind you of Eden – and then there's the crystal." Lyn gnawed her pen. "At least he didn't have a magic wand."
Lyn tapped her pen. "Phallic."
"Oh." Sarah grinned. "Right. But if that's not Freud, I don't know what is ..."
"Ah, Freud. Is there anything the man can't do?"
"You know, a crush on a guy who's long dead and who thinks women are defective men is kind of pathetic, Lyn." Sarah kept her smile warm, to keep the sting from her words.
"I never said I had a crush." Lyn's tone was injured. "I can't get a date these days – I have to daydream about somebody. And he was groundbreaking!"
"Breaking the ground with his male mind ..." Sarah coughed, delicately. "Lovely image, that."
Her friend sniffed. "Well. Let's get back to your own lovely dream, shall we? The King ... the King ... Jung would probably say he's the male version of your Shadow self – the one who was pissed at her parents leaving her with the baby, and at her dad for getting married again, come to think of it – but that's probably more along the lines of the Id, with Freud – the part of yourself that wanted the baby and your stepmom out of the picture, and your father all to yourself – hmmm …" Lyn tapped her notebook. "How old was Mr. Magic?"
"Um ... older."
"Ah ha. Older. You say that in such a coy way. So, was he sexy?"
Sarah flushed. "Not going there."
"Hm." Lyn smirked. "Mysterious Mr. Magic meets Miss Sarah and sexes off her Freudian slip!" She dodged Sarah's half-hearted slap. "Fine. If you want to keep it relatively clean, he could represent your dark desires for the interlopers in the family to be destroyed. Happy?"
"It's plenty. Unease about your changing position in the family, or anger about being forced into an adult role too early, or a fear of your emerging sexuality. That's what I got from that dream."
"But that's only the beginning!" Sarah felt outraged; she could not say why.
"What?" Lyn blew out her cheeks. "There's more?"
"Lots more. I had to make my way through the Labyrinth –"
"Yes, a labyrinth, in the Und – I mean, underground – to get my baby brother back, and I made friends with a dwarf, and a fox, and a big monster – and I had to deal with the King in all sorts of disguises -"
"Ah – the archetype of the trickster -"
"And then I ate some magic fruit, and had another dream in which I danced with the King –"
"A dream within a dream?"
" – and then I broke out of that dream, and landed in a huge junk heap –"
"This is an epic." Lyn shook out her cramped fingers. "Could you sum up the rest, please?"
"Fine." Sarah felt put out. "I got to the castle at the center of the labyrinth, and I defeated the King, and I got my brother back. Ta-da. The end."
"And about time," Lyn muttered. "It's not fair. I get the most boring dreams imaginable, and other people get stuff like this. I don't suppose you were taking drugs?"
"I was only fourteen!"
"Yeah, well, little Miss Catholic Schoolgirl –" Lyn gestured to herself – "never got to try LSD, but it sounds like this dream comes close to a trip –"
"Ha ha ha –"
"I mean it, Sarah ..." Lyn's voice grew serious. "This pretty much was a trip. The whole bit about going to the Underground, and finding your way through a maze – that's the archetype of the Hero's Journey. Or Heroine's, in this case. And Jung was all about mythology – journeys to the Underground, or the Land of the Dead, or Hell, or whatever – those are always about ... well ... growing. Or changing."
She was quiet for a moment, gazing at her notebook. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think it was a cool dream to have."
"Oh." Sarah fell silent.
Lyn toyed with her pen. Then she looked up, and brightened. "It still could be all about sex, you know – hello-o-o-o, little girl, let me take you to my magical kingdom with my magic balls –"
Sarah wadded up a piece of paper, and threw it at her. "Pervert."
"Nah – just repressed. That's what nuns with rulers will do to you."
"Sure." Sarah smiled, and turned over a page in her own notebook. "Your turn."
"O.K. Here's one I had just last night: I was looking for my suitcases on a train, and I couldn't find them."
Sarah wrote: suitcases – train. Then she looked up. "Well?"
"Um." Sarah frowned. "Do you remember where you were going, on the train?"
"Well ..." Sarah looked at her friend. "Maybe your subconscious is trying to say that you're … forgetful?"
"The Heroine's Journey," Lyn intoned, "To Find Her Missing Suitcases. Damn straight I'm forgetful. I don't need a dream to tell me that."
"Sorry – but I don't know what else it could be, really. Unless you're anxious about where your life is taking you."
Lyn blinked. "Huh."
Sarah watched her own hand doodle patterns in her notebook, and waited for her friend to speak.
"So this isn't about me forgetting your birthday party, right?"
Sarah grinned. "I have a birthday party?"
"Shoot!" Lyn slapped her own forehead, and rolled her eyes. "Yes. Tonight: drinks on me. You're only twenty-one once, and I have a great present for you."
"Oh, wait – I forgot." Lyn looked at her, mischievously. "I've arranged for a special guest – a royal guest – who'll give you a crystal ball if you just give him a lap dance –"
Sarah rolled her eyes.
"Will she resist? Will she refrain? Or will she give in and be sexed up beyond her wildest dreams?" Lyn blared. "Tune in, to tonight's episode of … The Jung and the Restless!"
"Sounds very interesting, Ms. O'Connor –"
Lyn choked, and Sarah hid a grin – Professor Wieck was standing right behind them, eyebrows raised and hand outstretched.
"But for now, I'll settle for your essay. Yours too, Ms. Williams, please."
Sarah pulled her essay from her notebook, and handed it over, then looked at her friend.
Lyn was staring at her own notebook, forlorn.
"I knew I forgot something."
"Forget about being scared, Aaron."
The doctor's voice – Sarah squinted, and recognized her – Dr. Mary Brown, from St. Raphael's – was tinny, filtering through the speakers into the room where Sarah sat, sweating. She watched the young patient rock back and forth, groaning and twitching, and felt her fingers clench around the chart Dr. Michaels had given her.
"Dr. Williams –" The older man's voice was quiet. "Observe how his psychosis becomes more vivid. When one of these seizures runs its course, it usually culminates in hallucinations that are truly remarkable, for a child of his age."
Half of Sarah was listening. The other half was focused, in horrified fascination, on Aaron as he moaned. She had had delusional patients, psychotic ones – even violent ones. But the terror in the boy's eyes – the manic light that seemed to slice right through the separating glass – was all the more remarkable for being fiery and alive in his otherwise slack face.
"I'm afraid ..." His voice was thick.
"I know you are, Aaron." Dr. Brown spoke soothingly.
"She's gone. She's gone. She's gone –"
Dr. Michaels spoke. "And here we come to the crux of the matter. The break occurred after the subject's younger sister died of an acute infection. It was a rather miserable, drawn-out affair – but young Mr. Cohen seemed to believe himself somehow at fault, and has since worked this into his delusions to a remarkable extent."
"She's gone. She's gone. I can't find her. I can't find her!!" Aaron began to scream.
"Aaron!" The doctor knelt at his side; the young boy latched onto her hands, scrabbling in fear. "It was not your fault."
"He says it's my fault."
Dr. Michaels' face turned towards Sarah. She registered the tinted glasses in the corner of her eye; they reflected light in the darkness of the observation room.
"And now the hallucinations begin. There are patterns to them –"
"Patterns?" Her lips felt numb. What is it ...
"Yes. Particular themes, and figures –"
"He'll hurt me!" The howls were louder.
"Goodness." Dr. Michaels turned towards the divider. "You see what we face."
It can't be ...
"Who will hurt you, Aaron?" Dr. Brown's voice was level.
"Who is he?"
"No. No. No. I can't. I can't. I can't find her! He's coming! He's coming!"
Dr. Brown looked over her shoulder, directly at the glass, shaking her head.
Sarah licked her lips. It took an effort to speak. "Dr. Michaels ... Dr. Brown looks like she's having trouble."
A sigh. "We're all having trouble. I have not had such a disturbed patient, so young, in well over ten years. I hope, Dr. Williams –"
A screech from the other room.
" – I hope that you can be of assistance in –"
Dr. Michaels' voice faded.
Sarah felt the observation room go cold. She saw darkness thread together in a corner near the writhing boy and the harried doctor. And then, with utter shock, she saw something – from my dreams -
"– because Dr. Brown will be on leave beginning in September –"
– and Sarah stared at a whirl of glitter and bones, feathers and rotting velvet – and felt her mouth fall open as the flying scraps coalesced into a gleaming figure of silk and old leather, whispered wishes and forgotten dreams – and it slid out of the corner and into the light –
" – Dr. Williams? Are you listening to me?"
– No dream, this –
–and Sarah felt the bottom fall out of her stomach, as – who is it? – it can't be – you're him, aren't you? You're the Goblin King –
–the Goblin King found Aaron with his glittering eyes, and grinned, and pulled a crystal from thin air.
The gesture she remembered, from her dream.
"How nice to see you again, my little friend!"
But the voice – the voice was from a nightmare. A waking nightmare – one she had only had once.
Sarah remembered it –
"I can't believe you ate the whole thing!"
Lyn stumbled next to Sarah, in the entryway to their dorm.
Sarah felt like sliding to the ground. She settled for giggling. "It was a dare! And I did it!"
"But that was a whole steak, Sarah –" Lyn made a huge gesture – "That's a hella big chunk of meat – You're probably going to be sick. You'll have a nightmare. A nightmare about a cow, coming to eat you alive."
Her stomach was churning. "I needed something to bala – balan – balance – out the drink."
"A little drink."
"A little drink. A teensy, tiny drink."
"Right!" Lyn clapped her hands and began to sing. Loudly. "Happy Birthday to you ... Happy Birthday to yo-o-o-ou ..."
"Not that again."
"You sound like a duck. A dying duck."
"Fine ..." Lyn grinned a lopsided grin and shoved open the door. "Bedtime for the birthday girl. And bed for me. And hope I'm not too sick tomorrow – gotta write another paper for Queen Bitchface Wieck."
"Shuttup." Sarah aimed a punch at her; she missed. "She's cool."
"Just cause you're good in her ass – class." Lyn slurred. "Her class!"
"I'll get you for that."
"Sure you will." Sarah left Lyn at the door to her room. "Maybe tomorrow?"
"Yeah, tomorrow. 'Night. Happy birthday ..."
Sarah stumbled down the hallway to her own room, and fumbled with her keys, and leaned against her door until it creaked open.
"Happy birthday to me ... Happy birthday to me ..."
Happy birthday ...
She flicked on the light switch. Nothing.
"Bulb must be out ..."
She squinted in the dim light – light? Light from where? –
And then she saw the crystal on her desk.
Happy birthday, Sarah ...
A whisper floated out of the darkness of her mirror.
"What –" Sarah croaked. Her stomach had stopped churning and was now revolving, slowly, with the room. Round and round.
The only fixed point was her desk. Her desk, her familiar chair, the mirror and lamp, some old books – and the crystal. And – Sarah peered into the flickering, silvery light – a feather -
A feather ...
The walls of the room pressed inward.
"Who is it?" she choked.
Look what I'm offering you ...
The voice slipped through the air and slid over her body – her heart thumped once, hard, and her mouth went dry.
"No." Her breath was ragged. "No. It can't be."
The feather inched toward her, on a puff of wind – from where? The window was closed ...
Sarah took a step forward, and stared into the mirror. Saw her own pale face, her clothes askew, her eyes wide. "Is it really you?"
Her reflection rippled, and began to change – She froze in fear, feeling her stomach leap up into her throat.
And then she squared her shoulders. "No." I won't play this game. I'm not a child anymore.
The rippling stopped.
"You're there, aren't you?"
She bit her lip. "I know you're there. I know who you are –" Sarah gulped, and tried to keep her voice steady. "I know you're watching. So listen up."
The silence deepened. The room stopped churning. She had a sudden image of someone, somewhere, holding his breath, and leaning forward –
Sarah took a step back from the mirror.
"Take your – your present and go. Go far away from here. I defeated you, Goblin King –" she stumbled over the words – this is unreal – "I reject you. I want no part of you – not now, not ever." She gulped in a breath, and spoke clearly: "You have no power over me!"
The air turned arctic. Was that – she squinted – was that ice on the mirror?
"That's right. Leave! Go away!"
For a long moment, nothing happened.
But then the mirror contracted in on itself, and expanded, and the feather blew off her desk in a gust of air and came towards her –
– and thin trails of mist shot through the mirror's glass, and coalesced into a faint image of a man wearing a white feather cloak, his face beautiful, and yearning, shimmering in the silver light ...
Goosebumps rippled over her arms and down her back – that voice – the same one that she remembered from the Labyrinth – from her dreams ... She clutched at her elbows with her fingers – I am not feeling this, I am not feeling this – as her body tingled with desire –
He held out one hand to her. She took one stumbling step forward, and she clapped her hands over her mouth in horror as her stomach lurched. Oh God ...
Come to me ...
– and the walls of the room pressed in on her further, in black bands – and was it a trick of the mirror, or the angle of light, that made the beauty of his face twist and distort into rage – all of a sudden, he was so much closer in the mirror, pressing one palm against the other side of the glass and baring his teeth in a snarl, his eyes molten silver, glowing white-hot with fury –
"No!" Sarah screamed, and covered her face. "You lost! Go away!!"
A strange noise – an answering scream? No – Sarah peered out from behind her hands, and saw a branch scraping against the window. Without thinking, she ran to it and flung up the sash.
A warm breeze brushed past her. The feather wafted outside, lost to her sight after only one breath -
Sarah stared after it, into the darkness of the night – looking for something telltale – something easily explained – an owl, its white wings a pale silhouette against the sky –
But there was nothing.
She turned back – only just in time to see the shining orb on her desk dissolve into thin air.
Sarah backed up, until her shoulders hit the far wall of her room. Impossible.
The room was pitch black. She could no longer see the mirror.
"I don't believe it."
The darkness swallowed her voice.
Her stomach began its steady churn again. I don't believe it, Sarah thought, wildly. But that doesn't mean I have to sleep here tonight.
She grabbed a blanket, and a pillow, and spent the night in Lyn's room.
Upon waking, she did not remember her dreams.
The Goblin King was singing.
"Dream, dream, dream –" he stopped, and smiled even wider, a smile full of crooked and jagged teeth. "Dear, sweet little Aaron. How are you? How are your dreams?" The crystal sphere danced across his fingertips; he snickered.
"No …" The boy moaned, and began to cry. "He's there. He's right there, in the corner – he's laughing at me!"
"You see, Dr. Williams?"
Yes – I see – it's impossible, but I see –
"The hallucinations are remarkable for their detail, and his ensuing reactions." Dr. Michaels' tone was academic. "He insists on the figure of a king. Occasionally, there are monsters present, and even changes in the weather –"
"He's there. He's here. He's going to hurt me!"
Inside the room, Dr. Brown was making clucking, soothing noises. Sarah felt dizzy. They can't see him.
"They can't see me, my fine feathered –" The Goblin King tossed the crystal to the ceiling, caught it in one smooth motion. "And who says I'm going to hurt you? Do the doctors say so? Hello, Dr. Brown –" he took a sliding step into the room, and bowed, and straightened, twirling on his feet – "and hello, Dr. Michaels." One leather-covered hand rapped sharply on the dividing glass. Sarah gasped.
The Goblin King paused. And turned.
Sarah felt her head swim, as she stared into his eyes. Those eyes, with their different pupils, and their glitter and gleam. How could she have forgotten his eyes? His eyes in her dreams. His eyes in her mirror – the glass of her mirror – the glass. The glass. He can see through the glass –
"And hello …" The shining, silvery hair brushed his shoulders as he tipped his head. He bared his pointed tips of his teeth in a slow smile. "What have we here?"
He pressed his hand to the glass. It rippled –
"No –" Sarah choked.
"Dr. Williams?" Dr. Michaels turned his blind eyes to her. "Is there a problem?"
"Dr. Williams –" the Goblin King breathed. He grinned, and clasped his hands to the crystal, and held it under his chin. "My old friend. My dear Dr. Williams – how well you look!"
It was Aaron, speaking. Aaron's voice, cracked and quivering, reached Sarah through the speaker.
She ripped her gaze from – him – it – and looked at Aaron – he was following the Goblin King's stare.
"Surprise, surprise, Aaron! What a surprise for you!" A cackle. "That, my boy, is a two-way mirror! You think it is just an ordinary one, but there are people on the other side of it watching you – people as real as I am! And one of those watchers is so special to me ..."
"Special?" Aaron squeaked, his face white with fear.
"Yes ..." the Goblin King gripped the crystal hard in his fingers; his lips drew back from his teeth. "My dear friend Dr. Williams is on the other side of that glass. She knows me! She can see me – just as well as you can!"
The boy's jaw dropped. "She can?"
"Yes!" The Goblin King's voice was full of glee. "Her name is Sarah Williams. She has hair as brown as bark, and eyes as green as grass – she is beautiful, she is brave – she is thirty-two years old, and has a brother named Toby, and a mother named Linda – there!" He pointed in one quick motion; Sarah flinched. "There she is!"
"Dr. Williams?" Aaron got up, jerkily, and walked to the glass, and whispered. "Are you there?"
Sarah froze, appalled. Beside her, Dr. Michaels inhaled. "This – this is – irregular –"
"Yes, she's there!" The smooth voice, magnetic – magical – flowed on. "Tell her! Tell her about herself!"
Aaron pressed both hands against the glass. They flattened, and beads of sweat pearled on the palms. He began to gabble. "Dr. Williams! Your name is Sarah! You have hair as brown as bark, and eyes as green as grass – you are beautiful, you are brave –"
"What?!" Dr. Michaels barked. He pressed the intercom button. Dr. Brown leaped from her chair, and picked up the phone.
"Dr. Brown – what did you tell the boy?"
"Nothing, sir – I have no idea where he got what he's talking about, but he –"
The rush of words continued, as Aaron began to shake where he stood. "Sarah you are thirty-two years old and you have a brother named Toby and a mother named Linda –"
"Aaron …" The beautiful face tilted. "She can see me – she can hear me. But do you want to know the best part, Aaron?"
"What? What? What?" Aaron rocked back and forth.
"She will lie. She'll never say that she can see me. She will never admit it. Because if she did –" and the King began to twirl the crystal in one hand – "if she did …"
He stooped to hiss his words into the boy's ear. "They'd think that she was as crazy as you!"
"No!" Aaron screamed, and began to pummel the glass. "I'm not crazy! Help me, Dr. Williams! Help me!!"
Dr. Michaels, white-faced, spoke quickly into the intercom. "Dr. Brown, get some restraints before he hurts himself!" The other doctor obeyed, fumbling for her pager.
Sarah gasped for breath, as the Goblin King leered at her. "Well, Dr. Williams?"
He twisted the crystal, and turned it into a long, silver needle, and began to spin it between a finger and thumb.
"Are you going to help poor little Aaron?"
She took in another, shuddering breath.
Dr. Michaels turned. "Yes?"
The Goblin King smiled.
And he jammed the needle into Aaron's right eye.
The child screamed in agony, and crumpled to the ground. He writhed, and howled, and the Goblin King bent over him, and adjusted the needle before standing back and grinning at Sarah.
"Dr. Brown!" Dr. Michaels shouted into the intercom, and grabbed his cane, and sped to the door as best he could; the other doctor ran to Aaron's side and held onto his arms.
Sarah found herself on her feet. "Stop it!"
"Ah, Sarah –" his whisper cut through the glass – "How long has it been, since we last spoke? It has been far, far too long, hasn't it? For both of us ... Both of us …" The Goblin King drew his cloak around himself. "Call me, Sarah. Call me by my name – tonight. We have things to discuss, you and I."
The Goblin King's smile was gone. He stared at her, his eyes burning in his stark white face.
"We have unfinished business."
Sarah saw his image ripple, and shimmer through the glass – and suddenly she could see through him – she could see Dr. Michaels and Dr. Brown bent over Aaron, holding the screaming boy still –
The needle was whisked away with gloved fingers, and thrown into the air - it dissolved into silver dust, sparkling and shining as it fell, like a blessing ...
And with the same whirl of feathers and magic, and unspoken words and nightmares, the Goblin King turned on his heel, laughing, and disappeared.
To be continued ...
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