Jenny Thorton's life was a considerable mess.
Here she was, another state, another life, so much far behind her that she hardly recognized herself looking in the mirror each morning. Or even waking out of bed...
Clinical professionals would take copious notes of her sleeping habits and think her depressed.
Well, in a way, they were right.
Jenny Thorton was depressed.
If you feel that way, then maybe we shouldn't see each other anymore...
Damn Tom Locke...she thought in a rare moment of pure rage.
Now to understand how significant this is in and of itself, you must know: Jenny was a kind person without a hateful bone in her body. Even in kindergarten when some nasty bully had pulled on her blonde ponytail, she hadn't held a grudge. Even when her little brother had flushed her underwear down the toilet, she had hugged him to her and kissed his forehead. Even when people started looking at her and her small group of friends with wary attraction, whispering incoherant but undoubtedly unpleasant rumors behind their backs, or even to their faces, Jenny had understood why. Even when a shadow man of the Realm of Shadows had trapped them, tortured them, nearly kidnapped Jenny from the life and people she loved and killed her friend, Jenny still did not hate.
Sure, she has imprisoned the shadow man, but that was reflex talking. Her friends had been in danger. Tom had been in danger.
He had been right about something after all: survival of the fittest.
She may not have been the strongest out of everybody, not even close to the shadow man's strength by and inch, but that didn't mean she couldn't manipulate.
Let him stay there for eternity, she had thought to herself. Not even that, given he's probably immortal...but give him fifty, seventy, a hundred years to be locked away, and then we'll all be dead and he'll never be able to hurt us again...
For three years, as far as Jenny Thorton knew, Julian the Shadow man had been locked away in a broom closet in a paper house, held captive by an ancient magical rune sketched into the door, until another unwitting victim stepped inside The Game and released him.
Three years was a long time to wait and wonder.
A long time for the worst damage to be done.
Summer's parents were grief stricken, and a few months after their daughter's death, had turned to the friends she had been playing with that night and laid full blame on their doorsteps. Hatemail began arriving in considerable droves in various shapes and surprises. Enough of them had driven her mother into a heart attack at forty seven years of age. Jenny's little brother was starting to feel the pressure at school of housing a suspected murderer.
And that was just the home life.
Dee was thrown out of school more times than anyone could count for fighting until the municipality decided to save tax dollars and had her permanently expelled. Audrey's problems started simple: first prescribed drugs by doctors, then those prescribed by the kids who hung out behind the dumpster during lunch. Michael sat by, helpless, and watched her self-destruct. Zach had run away from home. She hadn't heard from him in over a year.
Who knew what Tom had gotten himself involved in. He hardly looked at Jenny anymore.
Everything around her was spiraling out of control, and Jenny was at the center, unable to do much except watch and know the truth behind it all.
All things considered, she had handled everything fairly well.
As soon as high school graduation hype had died down, her parents had announced plans that were supposedly five years old to pack up and move to Southern State University, where Jenny had been accepted to college. A new change of scenery, they told her. Some place new, where they themselves planned to settle and retire. Jenny suspected that these predisposed plans had been prompted along by the uncountable bricks through the window accusing them of housing a murderer.
The move had been swift, without much hectic to-do throughout the neighborhood Jenny had grown up in. Even Joey was silent and seemingly unaffected having to say goodbye to all of his friends and his school.
One month later, her parents had settled in a small three bedroom Victorian style humble single floor home and Jenny was staring with a distant daze to her expression at the bare walls of her new dorm room. The first night she was thankful she hadn't been assigned a roommate. She cried herself to sleep at sometime around two a.m. The next night, she managed herself to the sniffles an hour later.
It was such an upside down view of what she had known, of everything she has planned. Granted she had never known one hundred percent for certain what it was she wanted to do or learn or where she wanted to go, but always always always, Tom Locke had been there with his soft hands, gentle eyes and warm embrace. White picket fence and 2.5 kids as follows. Dee would have moved in next door or rented the garage, as she had commonly joked. Michael and Aubrey would call every month about their various world wide excursions. Maybe Zach would have become successful with his art. Not so much in the public eye, but underground work would have done him just fine. Summer would have continued to brighten every room and she and Jenny would call each other and Saturdays to reminisce.
Tom and Zach were gone, and, if Jenny were realistic enough to admit it, perhaps for good.
Dee was rougher than ever, a rusty steel blade that snagged on anything to cross her the wrong way.
Aubrey and Michael were descending faster and faster as years went on.
Summer was still dead.
And Jenny was still alive, in the world of the living to stare at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, to mourn her friend, everything that should have been, and hate herself because she was the one who had found The Game, she was the one Julian had wanted, she had been the one able to end it all in one moment, with one simple act, and maybe Summer would still be alive to smile with her family again.
Jenny had been stubborn. Jenny had refused to give in to coldness and darkness and evil.
Jenny had freed herself and the others.
Summer had paid the price.
Watching her reflection, she could swear she saw her heart sinking into her stomach and the hateful fire in her eyes doused by sorrow.
In the distance, the large clock in the main courtyard chimed nine o'clock in the morning. Her first class was at nine twenty sharp.
Almost roboticaly, she grabbed a scrunchy on the rim of the sink and yanked back the wild bush on her head that people called hair and snapped it into place (the way Tom liked it), threw on the same pair of jeans she wore the other day and a fresh sweater from her closet. Moments later she had brushed her teeth and packed her bag and stepped out the door to the watchful eye of a white owl perched in the sycamore outside her window.
First things first, I don't own anything. I don't own Forbidden Game (L.J. Smith does), Labyrinth or the characters in it (Jim Henson and Lord Lucas do), or any of the characters or monsters from Bleach (that's Kubo Tite). The only thing I own is the insane plot that has somehow merged these three worlds together in a thing I should call overkill.
Also, this thing is coming along to me at a very slow, comfortable pace. I know what's going to happen, I just need to make it happen. It'll take some time, so please be patient.
And since I don't want to give too much else away, I'm going to shut it...