The Red Thread – Part One
Sarah opened her eyes and found she was in a familiar room. She would recognize those floating bubbles anywhere, not to mention the marble tiles, the luxuriant fountains, the strange steps, the floating platforms…
She was in the bubble ballroom, except it was empty.
No, nearly empty. Someone was sitting in a very familiar chair, a chair that once had provided her freedom from this very dream, the last time she had had it. The someone shifted and Sarah instantly recognized the mane of unruly, blonde hair, tendrils coming down to frame a face hidden by a grotesque goblin mask. In fact, that blonde hair had dyed black tips.
He stood. He was wearing a bejeweled jacket with embroidery and black, tight pants. Just the type of pants she always remembered.
On one level, Sarah was incredibly annoyed. Why was she here, facing down the Goblin King in an empty ballroom? Had he dared to bring her back? On another level, she felt a flare of excitement; felt her old self, the one that believed in adventures and wishes and magic, stir deep within her soul. Oh, she wanted an adventure now—she also wanted to challenge a certain Goblin King.
Sarah took two steps forward, but kept a good distance between her and the masked figure who could only be the ruler of the Labyrinth. "What am I doing here?" she asked—no, she demanded the answer. She wasn't afraid of him, and she wasn't young enough anymore to be confused by the plethora of feelings that jumped around inside her.
"Indeed, that is a good question," came the shockingly familiar voice from behind the mask. Sarah shuddered before she could help herself. He lifted something and to Sarah's shock, she saw it was a bright, red thread that was tied to his wrist. It curved through his palm, across the floor, and to her. "I believe this is the culprit."
Sarah followed the red as it snaked up and found the other end was tied to her own wrist. However, when he released it from his grasp, the red string disappeared. Sarah lifted her wrist, where it had been tied a moment ago, but now it was gone. She felt along her wrist for it, but only brushed against skin. She could feel her thundering pulse at her wrist.
"What kind of game are you playing now, Goblin King?"
"No game, I'm as annoyed by this turn of events as you are." And to her surprise, he sounded unhappy. "I suppose despite your words to me in that final scene at my castle, you are still tied to the Labyrinth—to me." He lifted a hand to stop her from saying anything and continued, "It is not some manipulation on my part, I assure you. I would not have it this way if I could."
"Oh…well…what happened? Am I dreaming?" Sarah tried to remember what she had been doing just before this moment. She had begun the day like any other Saturday: she woke at seven o'clock, enjoying the extra hour of sleep, before heading to the gym and sweating on a StairMaster (how she hated that machine, but she wanted to lose the extra ten pounds she'd gained in college, but the last three were giving her quite a lot of difficulty). Then she'd bought breakfast at the grocery store—fresh fruit, cheese, and milk for her oatmeal—as well as the next week's groceries before heading home. Right?
Actually, the last thing she remembered was picking out two grapefruits.
Sarah scratched her head, frowning. She looked down and saw she was wearing a plain, old T-shirt and faded jeans. So, had she woken up on Saturday? Maybe she was just remembering her usual routine and in reality she was still asleep in bed, waiting for her alarm to wake her up. The clothes would be little consequence, then, she could have been wearing a chicken suit for all the control she usually had on her dreams. Although she was very glad she wasn't wearing a chicken suit—that would have been embarrassing in front of the Goblin King. Then again, this dream seemed very real. Might as well enjoy it until she had to stop; it wasn't every day she got to talk to the Goblin King.
"It's been a while, huh?" she said.
It had been ten years, actually, and in all that time there hadn't been one bit of magic, one speck of evidence of goblins, and despite her friends' words—"if you ever have need of us…"—she had never seen Hoggle, Didymous, or Ludo again. She definitely hadn't seen the Goblin King.
"Has it? Time flows so differently where I'm from." He said it so nonchalantly that Sarah felt annoyance flare.
Fine, two could play at that game. She sat in a nearby chair, facing him, thinking that the five feet between them could have been a chasm five thousand feet across; his body language oozed cold detachment.
"Right, true. How're Hoggle, Didymus, and Ludo?" Sarah asked, pointedly not asking after his well-being. She smiled when frustration flared in his mismatched eyes. Good, he'd noticed.
However, the smooth, aloofness was back just as quickly and he smiled. The mask ended just above his lips. It obscured any close analysis of his expression. He said, "Just the same, I imagine. I don't have time to visit all my subjects."
"Because I'm just so important I don't have the time," his tone implied. Right, he was the all-wonderful Goblin King who ruled over the Underground.
"Of course," Sarah said, sarcastically. "How could I forget?"
Her tone said: "However, it was very easy to do so."
She felt childish satisfaction when the Goblin King stiffened. However, as amusing as this tête-à-tête was—and in a perverse way, she was having a lot of fun trading veiled insults back and forth with the Goblin King, and falling back into the way they had been ten years ago—none of it answered her most pressing question.
"What's the red thread for?" Sarah asked. She suddenly realized that this dream may be more real than she cared to admit. She remembered that Jareth had mentioned they were connected—and what if they really were? Did she want that?
I don't feel much anger or unhappiness about that, more like…relief? Relief that I'm still connected to the Labyrinth? She thought. Yes, relief was a good descriptor. She chalked the emotion up to her adventurous nature, which had a really hard time letting go of the Labyrinth and going back to her mundane life.
"It connects you and I," Jareth said, enigmatically.
"Because of your time here."
Something about the way he said it made Sarah think. He said "here," not "in the Labyrinth." She looked around the ballroom and said, "Here? Here here, as in the ballroom?"
"Yes, I suppose something happened during our encounter here that forged a link between you and I. One that, surprisingly, did not break when you rejected me later on."
"Rejected you?" Sarah's eyebrows rose. "What did I reject of yours, exactly? You took my brother! You tried to bog me! If anything, I rejected your cruelty and cunning!"
"Yes yes," he said, and to her surprise, his voice was bitter. "I am the horrible villain who took your brother away when you asked it of me, and sent you on a grand adventure the likes of which you had only dreamt of before. I gave you challenges to cleverly overcome, heroic lines to say, put you in the path of friends, showed you magic in all its glory, and reordered time. I am a monster."
Sarah wasn't quite sure how to react to his speech. On one hand, this was the Goblin King, who could not be trusted. But, on the other hand, she found it amusing and fascinating that the way he recounted events. He had conveniently forgotten tossing her in an oubliette or down a hole to nearly splash into the Bog of Eternal Stench; he had forgotten the Cleaners he sent after her; he had forgotten taking away her hours because she had tried to put on a brave front and told him his challenge was easy; he had forgotten the giggling and pointing of the ballroom dancers; he had forgotten the grabbing of the Helpful Hands and the Fireys who had wanted to take off her head. And, of course, he had smoothed over the unfairness of taking her brother based on a wish she hadn't meant, then forcing her to choose between her dreams and her love for Toby.
A choice that needed no deliberation at the end and one she had never regretted, but that didn't mean she hadn't lain awake some nights and wondered what might have been.
"You have an odd way of remembering the past," Sarah said, after a few moments of weighty silence.
"Is it odd to remember it a little more rose-tinted, if bitterly heavy?" the Goblin King asked, fiddling with his mask, but he did not take it off. "I find your tendency to label me as 'monstrous villain' naïve."
Sarah didn't like being called naïve, it was a little too close to the condescending words he'd spoken to her when she was fifteen—and now she was twenty-five, damnit! She'd graduated from high school, went to prom and shared a sweet night with her boyfriend (now her ex) afterwards, then went to college—and not just any college, but a very prestigious one! She'd graduated cum laude, she'd held a respectable job for two years now, and she was dating a very fine young man. She was a far cry from her fifteen year old self who hadn't realized what was fair and what wasn't, and had been a little self-centered and selfish, besides.
However, she tried to swallow her first few angry replies to his assessment of her. She would show just how mature she had become! She said, tightly, "I never thought you were monstrous. That's your word, not mine."
He looked surprised, she saw his eyebrows shoot up, barely visible above the mask. "Pardon me," he said. "I assumed you must, since I offered you everything you dreamed of and you simply said…"
"You have no power—"
"Yes, those words," he cut-in, angrily.
Sarah looked at him. The mask was very detailed, with grooves and wrinkles and a large, bulbous nose that added to the grotesqueness of it, instead of making it more comical. However, it couldn't completely hide everything, she still noticed the tightness of his mouth and displeasure twinkling in his eyes.
And looking into his mismatched eyes—which had always struck her as the most beautiful she had ever seen, full of contrasts and passion and mirth—she realized something. "You think I hate you!" she blurted out.
The Goblin King didn't say anything, but his mouth tightened and his body language changed subtly, enough that Sarah knew it was an affirmative.
"I don't hate you," she said, surprised that he could even care what she thought of him. She said as much. "I don't understand why it would matter to you anyway! I mean, here you are, this very powerful, magical, good-looking, immortal being. What does it matter what I think?"
The Goblin King grinned, showing off perfectly straight teeth. Sarah felt something inside her thrum seeing that grin—she'd never seen anything besides the self-assured smirk he usually wore—and wished he wasn't wearing the mask. She was sure that when the Goblin King smiled like that, it would light up his face.
"You think I'm good-looking?" he purred.
Oops. She hadn't meant to say that part out loud. She didn't want to hint he had any power over her. But, now that the words had been said, she couldn't snatch them back. Hadn't she learned? Words had power, after all, it was her careless words that had gotten her in trouble ten years ago.
Sarah lifted her chin and set her jaw in a stubborn challenge. "Yeah, so I think you're good-looking. So what? It's not so surprising, all things considered. Besides, as I said before, I never hated you—okay, maybe a little, in the beginning," Sarah added when she saw the doubt in the Goblin King's eyes. "I might have hated you went you took away a couple of my hours."
The Goblin King grinned again, remembering it. "I think I wanted to hear you say 'that's not fair' again. I was keeping a running count, you know. You proclaimed many things were not fair in my Labyrinth, I found it amusing."
"You were watching me then?" Sarah asked.
The Goblin King looked at her. They gazed into each other's eyes for a few long moments and something arced between them, something that hadn't been there before—or at least Sarah hadn't noticed it in him. The silence became heavy, pregnant with unsaid words and meanings. Suddenly, the Goblin King broke the staring contest and looked away first.
"Of course," he said, so softly she barely heard him.
"I suspected," Sarah said, with a shrug. The voyeurism didn't bother her now.
She felt antsy suddenly and stood, going towards one of the fountains. This dream was very long, and strange, considering all they seemed to be doing was talking. And in a companionable way, too, she thought with amusement as she neared the lip of the fountain. She leaned forward so she could stare at one of the cherub sculptures that adorned the middle spout. Her fingertips brushed across the cold, marble lip. Who knew it was possible to just talk to the Goblin King?
Which meant she had a wonderful opportunity, one she shouldn't squander. Sarah turned and took a few steps towards the Goblin King again. "Since we're here, can I ask a question?"
"Yes, since we're here." He gave a regal wave of his hand, encouraging her to continue.
"I've wondered this for a long time," Sarah said, then took a deep breath and met the Goblin King's gaze. "Why did you give me the power to call you?"
Author's Notes: Hello everyone! Long time no talk! I know, I've been scarce, but life has been VERY busy for me. If you've been wondered where I have been and what I've been up to, I suggest going to my weblog, Cordite Quill's Corner. The link is on my profile page. (But I will summarize the two major time crunches in my life: sending out job applications and finishing my novel).
This story, as some of you who have read my others may have noticed, is different than my usual stuff. There's not going to be a lot of action, there's going to be a lot of dialog between Jareth and Sarah (an "airing out of laundry", so to speak). I don't know if there will be much in the way of adult situations, it may not go further than a K-rated, it definitely won't go higher than T. It's also going to be a shorty -- only a three-parter -- and I plan to finish all three parts by this weekend. It's very late here, but I've suffered some insomnia recently and so I thought I'd be productive. However, now that I was able to put this down on paper (or word processor, as the case is), I find I'm getting tired so I only did a cursory edit and decided to post Part One up for your enjoyment. :) If you find any glaring mistakes, please let me know.
Please review! All comments/suggestions/questions/etc. are welcome, and I reply to every one! I am interested in seeing what you think so far, since this is different than my usual style. I'm also wondering what your guesses are -- is this a dream? Something more? Can anyone guess what the red thread is and what it means? What do you think will happen? Review and tell me your thoughts! :)
And so, without further ado, I head off to my own dreamland...
See you soon, dear readers!
P.S. To those who are wondering about my other stories -- rest assured, I am working on them. I'm also writing this shorty to ease me back into the Labby fic frame of mind. :) (Aah, Jareth, I have missed you...)
Disclaimer: As always, I own nothing in regards to the Labyrinth. It is a creation of Jim Henson and I'm probably just stomping around it inelegantly. This fanfic is not for profit, but please do not repost it anywhere without my explicit permission.