Word Count: 1380
Genre: Dark Romance
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Jim Henson creations. I just gave them a spin.
Summary: Years after she returned from the Labyrinth Sarah wonders what was real and what could be- and whether she has the strength to answer a question asked years ago.
For nyruserra, a ficlet.
It was 4:30 AM again, and Sarah was awake. It was always 4:30 AM when she heard the whispers, but she didn’t know why that
particular time. It wasn’t as if that time had any significance in their strange history. Then again, some stark days she wasn’t even sure their history was real and not her imagination playing tricks on her again, dredging up snippets of past fantasy like they had a place in her life.
It was a gradual thing, looking back on it, this slipping away from childhood fantasies. Her time with the denizens of the Labyrinth had faded into reminiscences of fairy tales and princess costumes. The illogical streams of thought could find no purchase on her life any longer. They were pushed aside by nine-to-five working hours, teeth-clenching work commutes and soulless incantations of the CNN talking heads; they were drowned in a sea of rational behavior that threatened to smother her as well.
In the daylight hours she could fool herself that the light was all there was, that the soft whispers in the dark were nothing but dreams, wishes her heart made for a simpler time when imagination became reality.
In the dust-filled moonlight streaming through her bedroom window she turned to face the shadows on the wall, wondering for perhaps the thousandth time why she had stopped calling her friends, why she had let them fade. Was that what growing up really was? Drifting away from all you held dear and making do with what society said you should want?
A car. A house. A regular job. A blind date twice a month with perfectly nice strangers that bored her to tears, all because they weren’t him
At the time, viewing the Goblin King through child-eyes, he had seemed frightening, exciting and more than a little dangerous. Looking back with adult-eyes he seemed all that and more. Tantalizing realizations that he was, in fact, a he
, sent her fingers seeking warmth below her waist when she woke at 4:30 AM, craving something she never had and now decided she couldn’t live without.
It had taken years to get to this point- out of college and trying to live her life the way her parents wanted. She did the things she was supposed to, she lived the life they wanted; she even left behind her childish things so Toby could play with them. And all throughout she had felt lost, as if a part of her had stayed in that place, wandering forever the twisted paths and shadow-drenched alleys.
It had to be real, no matter what the therapists said. When last she visited her family, she’d found her old journals hidden away with a metal case containing old tubes of lipstick, a dried out flower crown and a dirty old dog collar. The journals wrote of visits by flame-colored monsters and gentle hairy giants, spastic foxes and plastic-loving dwarves. They didn’t read like the rambles of a fanciful girl- they were real
. They had
happened. Otherwise she would go mad with grief for losing something she never knew she needed.
It had been such a little thing to push her beyond dreaming and make her finally decide: a cup of coffee too hot to drink, too sweet for her tastes. It sent her spiraling back to the time when she would sneak her parents’ coffee, laden with sugar and cream, pretending to be the adult. She wanted to be that grown-up princess in the tower so badly it had hurt—left bright lipstick stains on her soul the color of fresh berries.
Now that she was finally there, that glorious age of Reason when all things were in her control, she wanted to yield. To give up and say --
You can have all of me-
Make me yours-
Don’t leave me alone here-
In the silent dark of sleep, how often had she mouthed those words, so quiet not even her heart could truly hear them? But tonight was different. She would make it different. She had to. She would speak aloud and see whether she was mad or whether surrender would give her the power she had always wanted.
The shadows on the wall shifted again, miming the flap of owl wings, silent in the dark. Soft whispers of hunting creatures curled through the corners of her thoughts, the gibbering snarls of nightmares made flesh.
She reached her fingers up, letting the moonlight splash over them and waited for the moment that always came, the soft hiss of her name that could be branches in the wind or the call of a jealous lover.
She waited in those endless moments that are only found in pre-dawn, suspended stillness that nothing could break, nothing dared break.
And then she heard it.
Voice as gentle and as deadly as the wind, a breeze and a hurricane lifting her, giving her strength. She sat up, sheets pooled around her waist, and traced the shadow on the wall with a trembling fingertip. The owl-shape had disappeared, leaving a slender form in a sweeping cloak.
She would not turn around, not until she said what she had been both dreading and hoping. Her breath hitched in her throat and she closed her eyes.
She was frozen, trembling, but when a soft-gloved hand caressed her bare shoulder, she sighed, leaning into the touch. It was chilling, as if from cool night air, and she shivered.
Still facing the wall, she said softly, “I have waited for you. Why did you take so long?”
A soft rumble of laughter, thick with the broken glass of a thousand cruelties. “Because you have not asked.”
She said nothing but reached her hand to cover his.
“And because you were the only one to ever get away. So lost and so determined. You left because you wanted to. You defeated me once, why should I open myself up to that again?” The hand on her shoulder turned her to face him, steel under softness.
He looked the same, eternal and alien. Cool light behind him, face half in shadow. Nothing to trifle with, not a diversion for foolish children.
“What you promised me before—is it real?” She met his eyes, eyes that reflected light like hunters in the darkness.
“That I would give you everything if you gave yourself up completely? That I would yield to you all the pleasures of my realm if you bound yourself to my fate? That I would love you until you bled?”
His teeth gleamed in the half-light, sharp and feral. A chittering from the shadows behind her made Sarah almost flinch, but she controlled herself. This was what she wanted, all of it. This was what made her heart beat like a dying bird, desperate for escape back to a fantasy more real than her own life.
She reached a hand up to his face, cold as stone, and traced his lips. They were soft, his breath warm on her skin. A flash of humor in his eyes and he pulled her standing.
“Make your choice, Sarah, or I will disappear forever. You can go back to your pretty little life, your gardening on weekends, your lunches with girlfriends. Or you can come with me and find out what it truly means to live.”
She stretched herself to tiptoes, breathing in the scent of him, wild things-dark things-hungry things, and rubbed her cheek against his chest. He didn’t seem to breathe, still as death, and she smiled.
“I wish the Goblin King would come and take me away, right now.”
He grabbed her arms and hoisted her to eyelevel. He searched her face for something she couldn’t define then pressed his lips against hers, hard enough to catch her teeth against his lip, drawing blood. She did not struggle, only moved to grip his arms with hers; when he pulled back, he smiled.
He swirled the cloak around them both and the shadows danced and cried, a tornado of darkness spinning in place. As they disappeared into the other, the beyond, she heard him murmur, “At last, it is done,” and she knew she was truly lost.
She was finally free.