Categories > Movies > Labyrinth > 3,564 Clappers Later

Echoes and Shadows

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

hiking and musing

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Romance - Published: 2017-07-21 - 3254 words - Complete

Chapter 18 - Echoes and Shadows

True to his prediction, Sarah was dead exhausted for two whole days after the power-draining incident; she spent the following Saturday and Sunday almost entirely in bed, asleep. Jareth nervously kept watch over her, trying to remember the scanty knowledge he had of the human bioelectrical system and how it responded to the occult; it wasn’t really what had happened but it was probably the only comparable thing as far as first aid went. He couldn’t just keep feeding her energy, either, because that would tire her body out, too. She mostly just had to rest and keep her blood sugar and liquids up, which he carefully tended to the few hours she was awake. By Monday, she was sufficiently recovered to go back to work but only because her job was largely sedentary; she was still pretty weak. It took an entire week-and-a-half for her to bounce back fully. At Jareth’s insistence, she had been going to parks in downtown Golden during her lunch break to ‘ground’ - just taking off her shoes and socks and trying to find a spot in the grass that wasn’t covered in goose doo to stand for about 15-20 minutes.

“You are of the earth, Sarah, and being of the earth, it can heal you as I clearly cannot.”

That’s what he’d told her, anyway. She wasn’t really sure what this was doing but, whatever-it-was, it seemed to help. After she was recovered she had taken to doing it after work when the weather permitted if it wasn’t too late. For some strange reason, it helped her unwind, too.

It was around 4:00 p.m. on a Thursday and Sarah was just pulling her reclaimed-leather-mules back on in Parfet Park, sitting on the large, semi-circular cement bench over by the bronze dragon, when Jareth surprised her; she didn’t even see him walk up.

“I’m glad to see you’re still taking my little bit of advise to heart.”

Sarah jumped a little but looking up, she smiled.

“J! How long have you been here?” She suddenly stopped smiling. “Please tell me you zapped-in someplace discreet.”

His answer was a sly little glance to the left. The public bathrooms in the park. She nodded assent.

“You are getting better at this.”

He simply shrugged, sitting down on the bench beside her. “Adapt or die is the basic rule of life in this world. I’m doing my best to adapt. Actually, that’s why I’m out here. With most of my power back I’m beginning to notice how much more weak iron is making me merely by there being a greater comparison between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ and staying in your apartment all day, or even in the city, is simply no longer an option. I’ve been coming out here to wander about the mesas daily while you are away at work and, between the exercise and being away from substances that weaken me, my energetic endurance is getting markedly better; I can to much more with the staff now. With any luck, I should be ready to try The Great Leap - at least partially - very soon.” Abruptly he stopped and took her left wrist in his hand. Morgan had taught him how to do this eons ago but he’d never been very good at reading vitals this way. Nope, nothing. It was worth a try. Sarah had a quizzical look as he let go. “Guess I’ll just have to ask. How are you holding up?”

“That’s what you were trying to do?!” she laughed.

“I’ve always been miserable at medical magic. Reading minds is one thing; reading bodies is quite another animal altogether.”

Sarah thought about it seriously. “I think I’ve been alright for at least a couple days, why?” She looked highly suspicious of where this was going. He smirked.

“Mostly concern, dear. I understand, I’m not going to use you that badly ever again. From now on anything I obtain from you power-wise is going to be small and incidental. No more grandiose schemes… for the time being anyway. No, I was actually wondering if you felt up to a small hike. I discovered something today that I’d like to show you.”

Sarah knew that look - he was positively bursting at the seams - and surrendered a smile.
“Well, I guess I could do it but, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not dressed to go traipsing across the mesas after you. I’m not even wearing decent walking shoes.” It was then that he shifted slightly and she realized that he had hidden a small cloth shopping bag behind his back. He handed it to her with a devious smile. Inside were her terrain sneakers, thick socks, and one of her more sturdy pairs of casual pants! She sighed in slight annoyance. “Jareth, what did I tell you about digging around in my closet?”

“I did not dig! I merely opened the door and it was all right up front. The socks are new…”

Looking closer, Sarah saw that they were still attached at the toes with a tag. She laughed, shaking her head. “Alright, wiseguy, give me a minute to change,” she said, taking the parcel from him and walking to the bathroom.


In a few minutes they were on the road and Jareth was giving directions that clearly showed that he had no idea of how to drive where they were going but Sarah had a rough idea of where he was talking about and managed to find the trailhead anyway, parking along the side of the road. He had directed her to the south side of the mesa, barely a block away from the west side of the GELA complex. Jareth was positively giddy as they were getting out of the car. Sarah just kind of looked at him with an odd little smile.

“What’s that face for?”

“Oh, nothing. I mean, it’s great seeing you excited about being one with nature and everything but, you know, I’ve climbed this mountain before. Sure, Table Mesa has some great views but mostly what I remember is a lot of dead grass, small cacti, and rattlesnakes under every last scrub oak. I can’t even begin to imagine what you think is going to be surprising up there.”

Jareth was suddenly himself again, mysterious once more, the old guard back in place, and Sarah instantly rued saying anything. But he looked over his shoulder after her at the start of the path with a small tease of a smile.

“You’ll just have to wait and see then, won’t you?” he beckoned her, holding out his hand.

Barely five yards in, he deviated from the bicycle track, cutting across the open field. The wind always blew on top of the mesa; the parched, thick, thigh-high grass was waving and rippling like a surreal sea about them as they made their way across nowhere, with only the setting sun to show which way was west, the outside world completely hidden by the edges of the mesa. It was only when Jareth started hearing rattles coming from all directions at once that he stopped momentarily. Concentrating, he closed his hands together, cupped, and when he opened them again they contained a small crystal, about the size of a large marble, mounted with a little fine wirework onto a short necklace like a pendant. Stepping behind Sarah, he secured it about her neck, carefully pulling her hair out from underneath the chain. It looked a bit heavy but it barely weighed anything; if she closed her eyes, she could barely feel it at all.

“Precaution, love. I don’t have the power to keep all the snakes at bay and teleport us both back when we’re finished - we’ll have lost the sun by the time we reach our destination and I don’t relish the idea of you making this trek back in the dark even with me. The item I just made you will keep anything within ten feet of you docile enough not to strike, even if you accidentally step on one. Poisonous creatures simply aren’t a problem for me - my body can handle most earth-made organic toxins. Shall we?”

Sarah fingered the pendant. “Okay, this is getting exciting.”

“Sarah, Sarah,” he tisked, “where’s that indomitable spirit of adventure? You’re a scientist, aren’t you even just a little curious as to what’s out there?” That little knowing smile was both teasing and patient. Sarah just rolled her eyes with a sigh and took his hand again.

They walked for a long time, past a small broken segment of a rusted barbed wire fence that was goodness-knows how old, past the odd kitchen sink and washing machine that had been dragged all the way out here because someone had been too lazy to take them to the dump, through a gradual but deep ravine with a few scraggly small trees, past a rusted-out stripped car from the forties that was completely riddled with bullet holes. The very earth under their feet was worn away in tiny areas and the rock of the mesa was visible, red and green with lichen, quartz sparkling in the dying sun. At last they came to a natural landmark: a large outcropping of white rock, honeycombed with two-inch holes. Masses of sharp-winged, bright-voiced little birds were zooming in and out of the structure like it was a high-rise, wheeling above in the air currents, dive-bombing and chasing each other just for fun. The cacophony echoed out across the plain. Jareth stopped, seemingly checked his bearings, and they headed off again due east.

Sarah sincerely hoped he knew where he was going and how long it would take to walk there; even now the sunlight was beginning to dim. It wasn’t much longer before they reached a portion of the east edge of the mesa. She could see the Denver skyscrapers clearly in the distance, the city starting to light up at the beginning of the evening, and in their immediate surroundings there was a hew housing development under construction not seven blocks from where they were. She breathed in the cool, clear air as she took in the view, stretching her legs.

“Alright, J, it is pretty out here. Was this it or was there something else?”

“Something else - we’ve not even arrived yet. One little drop to go. Give us both your hands; the last part’s pretty steep.”

Slowly, carefully, with him climbing down backwards one foothold at a time, he led her halfway down the side of the jagged cliff-face to a very thin, vertical opening in the rock. He motioned for her to be silent and listen. To Sarah’s complete surprise, she heard the distinct sound of water trickling inside!

“You’re kidding me - this is a cave?!”

His expression was suddenly completely serious. “Sarah, where I am about to take you, no living man has walked in almost two-hundred years. I sense the dead here, but we may enter as long as we are courteous and completely quiet within these chambers. If we need to communicate, we can do so easily in thought. Come.”

Sarah had heard the story of Golden long ago at the Visitor Center when she first came to the area to work. An odd, vague story about the valley being haunted after an old Indian battle, how the natives wanted nothing to do with the land between the mesas and the mountains and how the miners thoughtlessly moved in and built the beginnings of a boom town. How lucky many of them were, how the boom town turned into a settlement and then a city, how this was just a silly superstition that had worked in the white man’s favor. But if Jareth was right, those ghosts of those wrongly-slain Ute warriors were real, and when men re-entered that cursed valley, they had gone somewhere else. Here.

Sarah took a deep breath and followed him inside.

In the dark, her crystal started to glow with a pale, blue light, just enough to see the somewhat uneven cavern floor ahead of her feet; it was dropping quickly but steadily down a thin passageway. Jareth had produced a full-sized crystal of his own and was illuminating the area ahead of them with the same blue wash of light, just a little stronger. At last they came down into a large open room that had once been a lava chamber; the mesa was ultimately of volcanic origin rather than a more gradual process of erosion or upheaval. The Table Mountain formation on the west side was in fact the remnant of the cone. Many natural springs ran under the mesas and while the local brewery had a monopoly on the most productive one, there were clearly others running freely and untapped under here. Crystal Spring hadn’t been in use since 1900 and the resulting runoff from it and other smaller producers had resulted in a series of shallow lakes deep within the cave, most just a few feet down but some diving down as much as three stories below farther in. They quickly crossed the chamber with ease and, coming through a small, low opening in a wall, they finally reached the water’s edge. Sarah did a double-take: there was a small white boat like a cross between a shallow canoe and a gondola with crystals hung from both ends, waiting for them!

‘I got permission to make it earlier today,’ Jareth thought clearly in her mind. ‘Watch your step.’

Holding the small vessel steady, he helped her climb inside, then boarded himself and remained standing as he shoved off from shore with a long pole, ferrying them farther into the abyss.

The view was incredible, in no small part because Sarah had been completely unaware that this even existed, but the feeling of being watched had grown positively intense as they took to the water and the temperature had certainly taken a dive. They could almost see their breath. She felt she was in Chiron’s barge on the river Styx and briefly had the crazy thought that there should be a gold coin in her mouth for the boatman. The bubbling, trickling sound got louder as they went farther in; they both had to duck to get through a section. Rainwater from the surface of the mountain found its way down here through miniscule cracks in the rock above and medium-sized off-white stalactites were forming along areas of the wildly uneven ceiling. Even without the prospect of disturbing the dead, they were probably wise not to make too much noise in here anyway; who knew how stable any of these overhead rock formations were. The only sound they contributed was the gentle lapping of the water against the wood their makeshift vessel. Was it wood, she suddenly thought? There was no way of knowing that, either. The light crystals were doing much more than making the cave above visible. The water below them was remarkably clear, equally illuminated. For all the cold and dark and foreboding, it was a beautiful sanctuary.

And then Sarah spotted the snake - it had just about come fully into the boat on the right side, less than six inches away from her, when Jareth felt her panic. In one lightning-quick maneuver, he scooped it off with the pole and flung it into the water at the far end of the chamber. He knelt down behind Sarah as she caught her breath.

‘Easy,’ she felt his warm voice as he held her shoulders, ‘it wouldn’t have harmed you, remember? Look what it was after,’ he pointed into the water. Leery now, Sarah carefully peered over the edge… and two small, blind, colorless cave fish darted by! They were skinny but about five or six inches long. She realized then that there were more on the far side of the room, as if there was something to eat over there, coming up from below with the spring. ‘They used to be so large and plentiful here that men would risk coming down into these caves to catch them!’ Jareth suddenly froze at the beginning of a sentence then relaxed again. ‘Time to go.’

He stood back up and slowly navigated them to shore, two rooms back now. Upon disembarking, the boat simply vanished. Sarah could swear there was faint whispering far away in the back chambers beyond where they had been. They quickly climbed back up to the thin mouth of the cave and exited unscathed.

It had gotten considerably darker since they entered but Jareth insisted on leading her the rest of the way down to ground level; it was a much easier slope once past the exposed rock. He immediately headed over to a particular spot, overgrown with weeds and bracken. It was a tiny spring! Pushing back the undergrowth, Jareth knelt and cupped his hands, filled them with ice-cold water from under the mountain, and drank long and deep. He finally stood, wiping his mouth dry with a rakish smile.

“It’s good - try it,” he said, holding the brush out of the way so Sarah could get down. The water was so cold it stung her hands but it tasted of minerals, of the earth, with just the smallest tang of sulfur. This one obviously ran very deep, right down to the end of the volcano. Sarah drank her fill but as she stood up she noticed that Jareth was watching the cave, listening to something she couldn’t hear. He seemed to nod assent and turned to her. Sarah hadn’t worn much jewelry that day - just a pair of amethyst dangle earrings. They would have to do.

“Sarah, do those earrings have any personal or emotional significance for you?”

She shook her head no. “Not particularly. Why?”

“Good, then hand them over; I’ll buy you another pair at the lapidary. We must each leave something here,” he said quietly. Sarah had an odd feeling of déjà vu as she took them off. So there were places like this on earth, too.

“What about you?”

Jareth pulled his altered ankh sunglasses with the solid-silver rims and ear pieces out of the front pocket of his shirt. “I believe these will suffice. I’m going to send you back to the car ahead of me. I shall join you shortly. Close your eyes.”

Sarah did so, a little uneasy at the prospect of doing this alone, and felt the wind whip up around her from all directions for a second, then stop. She cracked open one eye and saw that she was behind a dead elm tree by the side of the road, just yards from her car.


Jareth picked his way back up the side of the mesa to the thin crag in the rock and carefully reached in, laying the earrings and glasses inside along the near cave wall as far as his arm would reach without stepping inside, and said a silent prayer to whatever god would listen for the human souls who were doomed to roam these hills, this valley.

Unlike him, they could never go home.
Sign up to rate and review this story