Prologue: In Dreams

"Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The Labyrinth. For seven years, Sarah Williams has dreamed about little else. Her dreams are built on foundations of sand; they are shifting and senseless, their meaning suspended just beyond her reach, among the pinprick stars and milk-pale moon. They form meaningless patterns and are nonsensical in the way dreams always are, but they are almost always about the Labyrinth.

In some, she recalls the fear. It sits tight in her chest, like a rattlesnake wound into a coil and ready to spring. There is someone far too close to her, and although the grip on her is lazy and easily broken, she feels caged in his grasp. Trapped. This is something she thought she wanted but as she stares up, mouth slightly agape, into a pair of mismatched eyes she realizes that no, this isn't what she wants. She is a child, and she wants to escape.

In some, she runs ceaselessly. Halls stretch endlessly before her, the options overwhelming. Tears prick at her eyelids as she makes wrong decision after wrong decision, hits wall after wall, turns and continues the frustrating jog. She has to find something, but her feet hurt and her knees ache and the clock she can't see won't stop its slow and maddening tick. Someone is laughing her. She's running out of time.

Sometimes they aren't nightmares. Sometimes she is in a place recognizable as her childhood room, but somehow different. Grander in it's scope and scale. She faces her mirror, seeing only the blurry reflection of what is behind her. Two small figures and one enormous one. She feels safe, and loved, and wants to turn around to greet her friends. But she's scared if she does, they won't be there. She'll have lost them. She's content to stare into the mirror, the blur better than nothing.

But in some, she is grown. He is there, and the whole world is stiflingly hot and she aches, arching and grasping at warm skin and silken hair. He smiles that Cheshire-cat grin of his, and whispers something unintelligible in her ear, but she doesn't care, can't care what it was because she's gone utterly mad under his skillful fingers. The world is falling down around her and she doesn't give a damn.

Most nights, Sarah Williams dreams about the Labyrinth. But what's important, what means the most, however, is the fact that Sarah Williams dreams at all.