Title: Fading Memories
nothing worse than the series and movie
disclaimer: I do not own any characters that you recognize. I do not own the Labyrinth or Jareth.
Distribution: Twisting the Hellmouth, otherwise please ask first.
Sheila looked up from her child psychology book, unsurprised to see that her dorm mate Lauren was glaring at her again. She wasn't entirely certain what the blond thought she had done, but she'd been getting glares like this for well over a week. It was even more frustrating that she wouldn't give her any sort of answer about the cause, saying things like 'don't pretend you don't know' and 'how could you do this to me?' which only confused Sheila more.
Lauren glared at her, slowly turning the pages of the book of translated German fairy tales that she was writing a paper on for her own degree in folklore and history. Tucking one dark blond wisp behind her ear, Lauren spoke again. "You told me that you weren't chasing him."
"Is this about Todd? I told you, I'm not interested in him. I haven't been talking to him, I most certainly haven't been flirting with him." Irritation was obvious in Sheila's voice.
Lauren dropped her book, her face gone blotchy with anger. "I heard it! He doesn't want me because he wants you!"
Sheila gasped in surprise. "Who... But I don't want him. I haven't given him any encouragement at all! You can have him!"
"What, you're done, so you'll just pass me you're left-overs? I hate you! You have to be the most self centered..." Lauren gasped for breath, tears rolling down her cheeks. She turned away, quivering with emotions, and her gaze fell onto the book that she had put down.
"Sheila, I wish... but they aren't... I wish the goblins would come take you away." She headed out the hall, not noticing how the temperature in the room had plummeted, or the strange feeling in the air. "At least, if there really were goblins."
Sheila felt the wind, even as her mind protested that there could be no wind inside the dorm room. She turned around, facing into the wind, and saw that the back wall had vanished, and instead there was a giant white owl riding the wind towards her, with a towering castle on a hill in the distance. She could smell trees and flowers as the wind whipped at the hem of her skirt and tugged at her hair.
Then the owl was gone, replaced by a tall man in white and grey, his clothing like something out of a medieval movie, clinging to lean muscles. His long blond hair fell in wild layers around his face, and there was something feral and dangerous in the shape of his bones. His eyes held her attention, one seeming as dark as night, the other a pale blue.
"Oh my god..." The feeble denial fell from her lips, powerless to stop the man.
He smiled, an expression devoid of warmth or humanity. "Oh, yes. It seems that you've been wished away, Sheila. Now I get to take you to my castle beyond the Goblin City."
She tried to back away from him, her hand reaching behind her for the door. Her heart was hammering in her throat, and there was a roaring in her ears. The doorknob wasn't there, the wall wasn't there.
Spinning around, Sheila saw that she had somehow been transported into a strange room, one with grey stone walls. There was a fireplace with a green and yellow fire blazing, and a massive four poster bed with a green quilt and a standing wardrobe in the corner. There were long green curtains framing a window, and the view was a twisting maze that extended as far as she could see in all directions.
"You can't go home, Sheila. There is no way to go to Earth except by magic, and nobody but me can work the spell. I suggest you get used to living here." His voice was calm, and he seemed to have lost some of the inhuman wildness that had been present in the dorm.
Licking her suddenly dry lips, she whispered. "I'm trapped here? But I don't even know where here is..."
"This is the Castle in the center of the Labyrinth, in the Goblin Kingdom. You would say that this is one of the realms of Faerie. I'll let you get settled in." With a look that hinted at plans for the future, the mysterious figure turned to walk towards the door.
Her eyes skimming over his back, Sheila spoke again. "But... I don't even know who you are. What's your name?"
Pausing in the doorway, he looked at her. Now, his eyes no longer seemed pools of primal force, but one was a pale blue and the other was brown. "My name? You may call me Jareth, and I am the Goblin King."
With that, he spun around and was quite simply gone, a mere shimmering sparkle of light the only sign that he had stood there mere moments before. She stood there watching in a mixture of awe, fear and futile denial as the sparkles faded. She didn't want to believe in magic, in goblins and faerie kingdoms. But she was here.
end part 1.
Sheila had cried into the pillow, weeping and screaming her frustration into the muffling of the pillow. She was furious and terrified and filled with this odd mix of dismay and... well, that Jareth person may have kidnapped her to this weird place, but he was definitely hot. With a groan, she had began to berate herself, furious that she might feel even a shred of attraction for her captor. It was unhealthy, she knew that, she had almost earned a psychology degree.
But he still had a great rear end.
After a few hours, she had resigned herself to the fact that he didn't intend to let her go. Which meant that she might as well check out the room a bit. Velvet quilt and curtains, and the wardrobe was full of gowns fit for a fairy tale princess. Not very practical, but it didn't seem like he wanted her to DO anything, so why not wear them? She changed into a gown of a deep amber velvet with gold and orange embroidery. Then, she went forth, hoping to find something that could serve for dinner.
Sheila meandered through the castle, discovering that there would be doors at apparently random intervals along the wall, and sometimes they lead into rooms, or hallways, or gardens, or stairways. Most of the stairways went somewhere, but some simply went up into the ceiling, or performed an unsettling twist and curved along the top of the wall. It made her more aware that this wasn't home. Then she turned a corner and found herself facing a goblin. It came no higher than the bottom of her ribcage, and in addition to leathery brown skin, it had large, floppy ears and a big nose. There was a moment of utter shock where all she could do was stare at the creature.
"Miss Sheila? I'm supposed to escort you to the dining hall." His voice seemed bigger than she would have expected from such a small body, and carried a faint accent that she placed as British.
Her mind was spinning. She'd been carried away to an architecturally insane castle filled with British Goblins, and she was supposed to be shown to the dining hall. Dressed like a fairy tale princess. She had the distinct feeling that her time here wouldn't be very logical at all.
Numbly, she followed the goblin through long hallways, until he led her into a vast hall, filled with flickering candle light. A vast feast was laid out on gleaming silver platters, and there was a place set for her with heavy silver plates, and a silver goblet filled with a dark amber wine. She couldn't identify half of the foods more than vaguely, as something vegetable-ish or some type of meat. She felt this odd sense of distance, as if she were watching a dream unfold. Surely this couldn't be real? Surely this was just a strange dream?
It was as she was eating a slice of pie, made with some sort of golden berries, that a thought occurred to Sheila. What if this was no more than a dream, did it matter what she did? No, she couldn't just abandon everything. If this was real, she had to remain calm and wait for an opportunity to go home. If this wasn't real... maybe she would wake up.
Jareth looked over at her from his seat across the table, and gave a sly smile. There was a calculating and admiring twinkle to his eyes. "Is the food to your liking, Sheila? If you don't like it, you only need to say something."
"No... the food is wonderful." She could feel herself blushing. Why was she reacting so much to him? If he was the king of goblins, then he wasn't even human!
"The gown looks quite lovely on you. Quite flattering for your complexion. Perhaps after dinner, you would care for some dancing?" There was that hint of interest again, as if he wanted her for something...
Sheila felt her mind spin again. Dancing? He was offering to take her dancing? Fabulous gowns, a feast, and now dancing? "I... that would be very nice."
She wasn't entirely certain where the ballroom was in relation to the dining hall. In fact, she wasn't entirely certain how they had gotten here. One moment he had been offering a hand to help her up from the chair, and then they had been swirling to soft music in a vast glittering pale hall. Other people in fantastic costumes danced there as well, beautiful gowns and astonishing suits, and everyone had masks on, hiding their faces behind strange and occasionally terrifying shapes. She had a mask as well, one with gold sparkles and plumes of amber feathers. Everything seemed so much like a wonderful and unsettling dream...
Things continued like that for weeks, although Sheila was certain that time ran funny here. She could wander through overgrown gardens of strange plants for hours, until she was ravenous with hunger, and the oddly tiny sun would have barely moved across the sky. Other times, she would settle into the vast bath tub for a nice hot soak, and by the time the water had gone tepid, it would have gone from morning to evening. There were balls often, and she would dance for what felt like forever, most often in Jareth's strong arms, but occasionally with other people as well, equally sleek and all seeming feral, almost dangerous. The oddness of it all began to lull her into a sense of ease, a feeling that none of this was real, nothing that she did here would really matter.
She slipped into an odd haze, moving through the days without really paying attention. It was better not to let herself think in this place. Permitting herself to think about this place ended up with her screaming and sobbing into a pillow, or standing in a room, swaying slightly as she tried to force the walls and stairs and doorways to make sense to her logical mind.
Sheila would take long walks into a garden, and Jareth would be there, lounging in a tree or on an elegant stone bench. He would smile at her, and tell her that she looked lovely, occasionally brushing his fingers over her hair or over her cheek. His touch was like velvet.
One day, he offered to take her riding, to show her some of his kingdom. She had accepted, her cheeks flushed with color, a strange feeling making her tremble with something that wasn't quite nervousness. Mounted in front of him on something that wasn't quite a horse in the same way that he wasn't quite a man, he took her riding, through the Labyrinth at the center of his kingdom. There were expanses of twisting, manicured hedges, there were open spaces with charming meadows, there were patches with trees, some orderly as a park, others wild and tangled. Thre was a gently breeze, and Sheila found herself relaxing against him, delighted in his company. He smelled like peaches and spice...
Eventually, he reigned the not-horse to a stop, and dismounted. With a smile, he helped Sheila down, her dark blue gown complimenting the outfit of grey and deep blue that he was wearing. His hand lingered on her arms, and Sheila blushed.
"Jareth? Why have we stopped? The castle is very far away..." Puzzlement filled her voice.
He gestured grandly with one hand, and there was a pale grey blanket spread over the grass, an basket overflowing with assorted foods placed on the edge. Sheila could recognize some of her new favorites immediately. "I thought that you might like a picnic."
"It's lovely..." Sheila settled herself to the blanket, pulling silver platters from the basket, and serving the food onto them.
When they had finished the the dessert, he leaned over and kissed her, his mouth tasting of the sweet pie and heavy cream. She felt at the same time aware of every tiny sensation of her body, tingling at his presence, and yet everything felt like a dream. She melted into his touch, feeling bliss, accompanied by a faint hint of worry.
After that, there was a blissful time that truly felt like something from a fairy tale. They would share passionate touches, kisses that left her breathless and dazed. She learned about pleasures that she had only dreamed of before.
But everything was not perfect. Sometimes, she would feel his eyes on her, and if she glanced up, his brown eye looked as dark as shadows, and his face was unreadable, inhuman and calculating. As if she were merely a pawn in some sort of vast game. Then he would smile at her, and everything would seem wonderful again, like a golden haze settling over her eyes. The strangeness of the Goblin Castle was starting to get to her. She was becoming lost in the castle more often, sometimes unable to even find her way from the bedroom to the dining hall. She would get stabbing headaches from trying to follow all the staircases in some of the rooms, and she would sway, her balance thrown off and her mind disoriented. She would burst into tears for no apparent reason. Whole sections of time would vanish, and she would find herself standing somewhere with no recollection of how she had come to be there.
Slowly, the Labyrinth was driving Sheila mad. There would soon come a time when she would loose herself and never be able to find her way back to any semblance of sanity. Sheila could think of only one thing to do. She had to beg Jareth to let her go home, to return to Earth. Before the Labyrinth destroyed her.
end part 2.
She found him on a balcony, looking over the vast labyrinth that surrounded his castle. He looked wonderful, as always. Three crystal spheres were dancing over his hand, and there almost seemed to be an image in them, a small figure walking by tall hedges...
"Jareth?" Her voice was a soft whisper, hoping that he would be in a good mood.
With a flick of his wrist, the crystal spheres vanished, and he sat on the balcony railing, looking at her with a small smile, as if he knew some secret. "Is something wrong, Sheila?"
"Please... let me go back to Earth. I can't stay here. This place... it's driving me mad. One day... morning... whenever, this body will wake up, but I won't be there anymore. Or maybe I'll just finish my time in a curled ball in the corner, rocking and babbling... Please, let me go home." She could feel the tears falling down her cheeks as she spoke.
He looked at her again, as if he was measuring her, and the expression stripped the humanity from his features. Sheila shivered, reminded once more of how different he was, how very far from human. How could she have ever fooled herself into thinking him simply a man in a strange place?
"You fear that my kingdom will drive you mad... you fear the magic. Is that right?" His voice was soft, almost gentle sounding.
Sheila felt as if she had somehow failed, somehow revealed a weakness, a flaw. But his words were the truth. "Yes."
He looked thoughtful for a moment, or perhaps he was listening to the whispers of the breeze. "Very well, I can return you to earth. But... what of the memories of this place? What of your time here?"
Sheila remembered the stories about Faerie magic that she'd read in college. "Can you make me forget?"
It was as if a dark shadow crossed his face, and he glanced down. When he looked up again, the mask of humanity was farther away than ever, leaving a remote and dangerous creature that simply happened to have a shape similar to a man's. Power as bright as sunlight glowed in one eye, while the other seemed to pull in all the light. "I can send you back to Earth, and I can replace your time here with new memories, a summer on earth. Will that make you happy? Will you enjoy your sad and dreary life in the world of men?"
"That is my choice. Please?" Her words were barely whispered, impossible for human ears to catch.
But Jareth wasn't human. He heard her whispered words. For a moment, he held another crystal sphere in his hand. Raising it, he held it out to Sheila, but now there was a round, juicy peach. "Take it. Eat the fruit, and you will sleep. When you wake up, you will be back on Earth, and all of this will be no more than the fading memory of a dream... as far as you will remember, you will have always been on earth, and your summer will have been... mortal."
Her hand shook as she took the peach. She looked up, and his eyes were still alien, filled with power and mystery and time. She closed her eyes, unable to deal with such a violation of the logic and order of her upbringing. She bit into the peach, feeling it's juices run down her chin, pooling in her palm. It was sweet, and full of juice, and no sooner had she finished the last bite than she felt herself grow dizzy, and the castle swirled into darkness.
Standing over her crumpled form, Jareth spoke, fully aware of the fact that she wouldn't hear his words. "You could have stayed here forever, safe from illness and the ravages of time. But you can't accept the magic. Too bad, too sad, little Sheila. But you will keep the ties between Earth and Faerie strong another way. Such a pity you'll never know."
It was no more than a moment's effort to gather her into his arms, to cross over the barrier between Earth and the Fae Kingdoms. Already, he could tell that they were closer, the new life growing inside Sheila drawing them together. For a moment, he wondered if this child, this living link between Earth and Faerie would ever be content, would ever find satisfaction in life on the mundane world of Men.
But that was of little importance. His kingdom would be safe. Without the dreams and fears of mortal men, without their belief in the Fae, the Fae would weaken, and become little more than feeble shadows of what they had once been. Their kingdoms would crumble into decay, and eventually, they would fade out of existence. By bringing humans here, they had no choice but to believe, to give strength to the Fae by dreaming and hoping and fearing. There was only one other way, to bring forth children that bridged the two realms, part human, part Fae. Seldom did the Fae do such things, knowing that the children would be doomed to live in the lands of their human parents. But, Sheila had been pretty, and for the survival of his people? There were far worse things that he would do than tumble a pretty mortal girl.
end part 3.
Sheila awoke on a bed, her back protesting the lumps in the mattress. Looking around, she realized that she was in a hotel room, her bag of clothing still in the corner where she must have dropped it last night. Her face felt stiff from dried tears. Raising one hand to try to scrub the salt from her cheeks, she noticed that it was sticky with some sort of juice. Sniffing her hand carefully, she felt the question form in her mind. When had she been eating peaches?
She'd left college, hoping to have fun and forget her argument with Lauren. She'd hooked up with Jarrod, one of the guys from the football team, and they'd spent the summer together. There had been hiking, and camping, and oh, but the sex had been great. But he'd left her. Why... then the memory came crashing back. She had suspected that she might be pregnant, and had innocently shared her concerns with him. He'd been furious, accusing her of trying to trap him, insisting that he would never marry an ambitious little tramp who just wanted to sink her hooks into him before he made his millions from his upcoming football contract. He'd left her at the lake, tears flowing down her cheeks from his harsh words.
What could she do now? She was alone, possibly pregnant, and the father of her baby had left her. Well, she did have her Psychology degree, but... At least she had her car with her.
Sighing, she took a shower, dressing in clean clothing in preparation for her day. The cotton shirt and the jeans seemed oddly harsh against her skin, and for a few moments, she felt almost underdressed... a wisp of an image flickered, twirling in a velvet gown across marble floors. But surely that was no more than the fragment of a dream.
Headed out to get some breakfast, she collided with someone, a man. He wasn't bad looking, not nearly as muscular as Jarrod, but kind of cute in a bookish sort of way.
"Sorry... I wasn't looking where I was going..." Her words were accompanied by a furious blushing.
He gave a slightly shy smile. "I should have been looking more too. Are you alright? Can I offer coffee to make it up to you?"
With a smile, she had accepted the invitation to coffee. They had ended up talking for hours. He seemed a bit shy, but very firmly grounded in the real world, with a plan for his future. In fact, he was on his way to California where he had a job lined up. After learning that she had no plans, he'd invited her to go along with him.
It had been with gratitude that she'd agreed to his suggestion. She could search for a place to stay, and a job in California. Until then, she could stay with him. Maybe the future was looking up after all.
Sheila took a moment to thank God for sending her Ira Rosenberg. Maybe she could salvage a future after all. One firmly grounded in logic. Except... maybe she did want a smidgen of happily after, with a house and a family.
But there was no such thing as magic, no fairy tale prince to come make everything easy. She would have to make certain that any children she had didn't allow themseves to become blinded by talk of magical solutions and Charming Princes. Sheila was a practical woman.
end part 4. End Fading Memories