Categories > Movies > Labyrinth

Formal Separates 2

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

an alternate ballroom scene - what if she had escaped later?

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 9855 words - Complete

Formal Separates



Summary: This is the second of two shorts, both completely different takes on the Ballroom Scene.
(Once again, I don't own any of this stuff and kudos to Henson and Froud and Bowie and everybody involved in the original work)

Formal Separates
Part 2

Sarah had the disorienting feeling of slowly waking up somewhere that she never should‘ve fallen asleep in the first place. The first thing she was aware of was the sensation of being held and then his darkly haunting, mismatched eyes; strangely beautiful music was playing all around her. Suddenly the movement jarred her to full alertness and she almost gasped in shock as reality came crashing down around her: she was in a heavy ball gown dancing with the Goblin King and only God knew where they were! How had she even gotten here? All of her previous memories were intact - Hoggle and the Cleaners and Ludo and Didymus and the fireys and the bog and the forest - everything except what had precipitated this. Brave little Sir Didymus had been leading their expedition through the forest and then… nothing. Blank. It was so like Jareth to do something like this; shanghai her and erase her memory of the event so she’d be incapable of escaping him. And then he’d be smug about it. Jareth was smiling down at her with a knowing, self-satisfied smirk that marred his nearly perfect features. His demeanor all but screamed ‘gotcha!’ At her sudden look of shock he donned an expression of curious concern.

“Is something wrong, pet?”

Sarah fought back the urge to spit in his face. And suddenly realized with a little nervous thrill that Jareth was not psychic! He couldn’t read her mind! He still thought her under his spell! She had wondered about it before during their previous encounters but this confirmed it: Jareth’s magic was strictly of the physical variety. Sarah’s mind was racing at the implications. An unbelievably daring and extremely dangerous long shot was within her sights if only she had the nerve and acting ability to pull it off. She deliberately blushed, modestly glancing down.

“No,” she smiled quietly, acting like she had a crush. She had to work not to stiffen from fear as he leaned in close and murmured in her ear.

“Sweet and modest and lovely. Have I not reason to smile?”

Hot and cold mixed in her veins at the compliment and its delivery. How could she still respond like that knowing what she did? It was insane! Then again perhaps it was a good thing if some of her reactions were genuine; it made the act more believable. But she couldn’t afford to be taken in by his charms. They whirled on past an ornate grandfather clock and she instinctively stole a glance at the hands, forgetting to pretend indifference for a moment. 12:00. One hour left.

“There’s no curfew tonight, darling,” Jareth crooned. “No need to worry about the time.” And with that the entire clock vanished.

Oh, that was brilliant, Sarah thought, trying to keep her expression passive, turning to face him again. The sudden fear of being completely trapped was creeping in. This was a man who wasn’t afraid to throw a stranger in a dungeon and lose the key. She needed to think but it was next to impossible the way they were spinning about the room, with him looking into her eyes like that. Maybe this really was hopeless. Maybe she should just enjoy herself; the social atmosphere in the room was strangely passive-aggressive but the party was obviously for her. There was a break in the music finally - the tune they had been dancing to had just ended. Sarah had no idea how long she had been dancing already but she knew she wouldn’t have to fake the fatigue her legs were feeling. It was now or never.

“Would you mind if we sat the next one out?” She actually stifled a yawn.
His response was an amused smirk; she had just openly admitted that he had tired her out.

“Not at all.” He let go of her and proffered his arm like the perfect gentleman he was pretending to be. He was still intently watching her every reaction, though. She took it, being careful to look a little dreamy. She was beyond caring where he took her as long as she could sit. There were scant pieces of furniture scattered about the periphery of the room, almost like an afterthought. Everything was white. To her surprise he led her to an old-fashioned chaise-lounge and offered her the armside. She sat down as carefully as she could but her skirts pooled out a full four feet in front of her. It was almost embarrassing how much material was under there! Who on earth had designed this shimmering monstrosity? Jareth had seated himself alongside her as close as the dress would allow - there was still a huge fold of fabric between them, she noted wryly. Maybe it wasn’t so useless after all.

The other dancers whirled by them. They were all dressed to the nines but there seemed to be something scandalous about each of them: some wore revealing clothing or clothing that was obscenely tight; others wore grotesque masks in the shapes of goblins and devils and - yes - even a few lewd-shaped noses. To say nothing of how they were acting. The open depravity here was unbelievable. It was certainly a villain’s ball. Nearly everyone was beautiful after a harsh sort of fashion, not unlike Jareth. Perhaps they were more of … whatever he was. She couldn’t be certain.

A strange female servant with gilt skin stopped before them, looking expectantly at Jareth. She was carrying a round tray laden with fruit and goblets filled with what Sarah assumed was red wine. He plucked a peach off of the tray and offered it to Sarah.

“Care for another, dear?”

The memory came rushing back now: he had drugged her! Hoggle’s peach… he must’ve strong-armed the poor little dwarf into doing his dirty work for him, she thought angrily. Fruit was to be avoided at all costs here. She was about to politely decline everything but she had noticed other people drinking here without adverse effect and she was so thirsty that she was desperate enough to run the risk of being duped.

“No, thank you. Perhaps something to drink would be nice, though.”

His eyebrows shot up at her sudden boldness but he conceded at once. “Of course. You must be parched,” he said, dripping with faux sympathy, putting the peach back. Then sharply glanced back at her as if sizing her up. He said something to the servant in a language Sarah didn’t recognize and she simply nodded, taking one of the goblets on the tray and draining precisely half of it back into the decanter. Producing a tiny earthenware jug out of seemingly nowhere, she filled up the rest of the cup with what Sarah truly hoped was water. He took the diluted glass from her along with a normal one and she moved on. He handed Sarah hers with a small conspiratory smile. “Drink this slowly,” he instructed her.

She eyed the clear reddish-pink liquid for a moment before taking a very cautious sip. It tasted grapey enough but the bitterness of the alcohol surprised her.

This has to be an acquired taste. Yuck! At least she didn’t feel any different. It actually was what it appeared to be: just watered-down wine.


“… I wouldn’t know,” she answered in all honesty, awkwardly looking away.

He gave a short laugh. “I thought as much,” he pronounced, taking a swallow of his own, leaning back into the wall with his eyes closed for a moment.

This was certainly a bizarre turn of events; drinking with the enemy. What could she even talk about that wouldn’t betray the fact that she was conscious? Worse yet, she still felt movement in spite of the fact that she was sitting down. Was it an after-effect of whatever he had given her? She decided on playing dumb.

“It’s so strange…I feel like I’m moving but I’m not dizzy…” She took another teensy sip, grateful for the feeling of any liquid going down her throat.

Jareth’s smile deepened, making a pit in her stomach.

“Are you afraid of heights, pet?”

She pulled an ‘innocent’ face. “What do you mean?” It wasn’t easy doing a straight Marilyn Monroe under these conditions for any length of time. Sarah thought she deserved a Tony for the performance she was turning in. He simply turned to the wall and, with one clean wiping motion of his gloved hand, removed some of the iridescence, creating a window of sorts.

“Look,” he invited her. She uneasily pivoted enough to see and gasped, wide-eyed: they were floating at least 500 feet above the forest floor! They did in fact seem to be traveling to the left at a fairly decent clip - she didn’t know where north was here. She turned around and craned to see. Coming up was a bizarre valley filled with garbage that looked like a flea market gone horribly wrong. Beyond that were the high, turreted walls of the Goblin City. Beyond the city was the castle. They were going to the castle!

But how soon would they arrive? Would she get there just in time to lose? No, she decided. It wasn’t Jareth’s nature to simply let someone lose; he liked to rub it in, to tease, to taunt, he simply couldn’t resist it. It would be like him to hold Toby right in front of her face and have her not even recognize him - then time would run out. She had to find a way to trick him into letting her search the castle. A fortress it was but it really didn’t look that big comparatively-speaking. Unless he planned to circle; she had to check.

“Where are we going?” she asked, sounding like a child on a roadtrip.

“My palace. The party will continue inside until dawn.”

No boring estate life for you, eh? she thought, turning back around. Of course that last statement gave her no assurance of time but she was hoping her original hunch was correct. No one else showed the slightest sign of fatigue in spite of the hour and she had to remind herself that none of them had been running an impromptu marathon. They probably could last until morning. Perhaps these creatures were nocturnal, she thought, remembering Jareth’s owl form. There were so many questions she couldn’t ask him. Guess we’ll stick to the obvious. “Who are the other people here?”

He paused a moment as if lost in thought. “Dream shadows of the gods,” he responded quietly. “No more than you or I.” She glanced at him, surprised. He was looking down and away with a look of wistful melancholy, as if remembering something. And then it hit her: underneath his haughty, cold, brutal exterior, carefully hidden away, he was lonely. But why would he reveal such a weakness?

Of course, he thinks I won’t remember! It’s like talking to the wall. Wonder how often he does… Sarah couldn’t believe it but her heart almost went out to the man. He’s so afraid of being weak that he can’t let anyone know. What am I saying? I must be out of my mind, he’s tried to kill me! But at the same time she knew that she wouldn’t be held accountable for anything she did in here, same as him. Tentatively, she reached out and carefully placed her hand on his. He immediately snapped around to face her; she’d nearly startled him into dropping his glass.

“Are you okay?” There was actually concern in her eyes. His momentary emotion was instantly gone, replaced by his haughty, teasing smirk. She swore it was almost a little fond.

“Careful with that big heart of yours, love. It may get you into trouble one day.” He flipped his hand over and gave hers a light, quick squeeze, releasing it. “Now let me see,” he said, swiping a fan right off the dress of a woman waltzing by, opening it. “Hold this,” he said with a note of droll merriment. Sarah curiously held up the large, silver fan as instructed. He lightly grabbed her left wrist and had her place it between them. When he started to point at people from behind it she instantly understood its purpose: a privacy screen. “I shan’t trouble you with names, you won’t remember them, but do you see that woman over there in the dark green dress?”

“Yes,” she said, taking a small swallow from her glass before setting it down on the floor.

“She’s involved with that man over there by the pillar with the red mask, but he doesn’t realize she’s dancing with and kissing her paramour because he’s too busy dallying with that waif in the cream with those fake-gold curls. She’s naturally trying to gracefully get away from him or she’ll be late for a tryst of her own with the death’s head in the three-cornered hat” he pointed far-left “who’s distracting our redhead for his friend so he can finally have some peace and quiet with his lover. Ah yes, there they go now,” he said as a pair in the pit in the center began to make out with brazen abandon, careless of anyone else in the room. Sarah was shocked and thoroughly disgusted.

“That’s horrible!”

He turned to face her, a quiet smile playing about his lips that made her uneasy.

“Horrible? Why, it’s honesty. True, open, unashamed honesty, the one thing your world truly lacks. Or perhaps you thought all those tales of instantly finding the perfect person and living ‘happily ever after’ were true? Bah! That is reality, dear girl,” he said, roughly gesturing to the sadistically perverse crowd. “What ridiculous stories they’ve been filling your ears with. Such pretty ears, too.”

He lifted his hand to smooth away the fall of thick, brown hair in front of the left one and bent in close. Sarah thought he was going to whisper into her ear but he suddenly covered her hand that was holding the fan and brought it up higher, shielding them. Without any warning at all, his mouth descended on her ear, making every last joint in her body go weak. Her eyes fluttered closed as she gasped and shuddered with pleasure at the sensation of him nibbling the edge of her earlobe, grazing higher over the round, running the very tip of his tongue back down before planting a hot, open-mouthed kiss behind her ear near the pulse-point, pulling back slightly with a teasing, knowing smile, leaving her shallowly panting from his ministrations.

“Now was that really so awful?”

Sarah caught her breath enough to speak but she still wasn’t thinking very clearly.

“Jareth, we can’t-”

“What did you just say?” Sarah suddenly panicked - she’d slipped up! She had to cover herself and fast or he would know! She forced her voice to remain calm.

“I mean, we barely even know each other! Aren’t people supposed to at least get to know each other first?” Take the bait, come on, just bite! His eyes told her that he was mulling something over, but his careful expression said that he was willing to believe the fact that she had remembered his name was innocent enough. But it meant that the spell was wearing off sooner than he had expected. Well, there were ways around that.

“Yes, of course, my sweet,” he crooned, beginning to stroke her hair, lowering the fan, “but I feel that I already know you. So much excitement for one so young. You must be worn out. Why don’t you rest a while?” Suddenly the room was warm and cozy and her large formal dress with bone ribbing in the bodice was ludicrously comfortable and felt like the softest material imaginable. The feeling was nothing short of rapturous and she found herself relaxing into the arm of the lounge without her conscious volition and with no desire to move. When her eyes started sliding closed her brain suddenly fired a belated warning - a spell! There was no logical reason for her to be feeling this way, it had to be what he was doing. She went to move her arm to bat his gentle hand away before it was too late, only to find that she could barely lift it, the muscles now heavy as lead. There was no way out this time. Trapped. What did he intend to do with her? Visions of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty flashed through her panicked mind. To say nothing of poor, innocent little Toby. And it was all her fault. She had sworn to herself that she would never complain of things not being fair ever again but the odds were so monstrously stacked against her that she hiccupped a little sob in spite of herself as her eyelids pushed closed; she couldn’t fight him much longer. To her surprise he shushed her almost as one would shush a frightened child.

“Shh, don’t fret, my darling. There’s not to be afraid of. Just relax.”

“You have to…to promise me…” she managed before a yawn overtook her. An amused smile played about his lips. He leaned in close to her face.

“Promise what?” he deeply intoned in her ear. His sudden closeness amplified the effect tenfold and she felt as if she were already dreaming. Her grip on consciousness was slipping.

“…to wake me up.”

His cold, clear whisper seemed to float to her from far away.

“I promise.”

And with that she uneasily let go and slid unconscious before him once again. Jareth sat back up straight presently and took a long draft from his goblet, discarding the fan on the floor. Knowing smiles surrounded him as he chatted and gossiped amiably with various people, all the while keeping a calculatingly careful watch over his precious cargo as he bore them all through the stark night sky.


Sarah thought she heard her name called from far away, followed by utterances she didn’t understand. Slowly she regained consciousness in a bizarre place. She was standing up in a white room wearing in a white ball gown with a man standing directly behind her with one white gloved hand pressed firmly to her abdomen with the arm wound around as if to keep her from falling; his other hand was caressing her hair. His cultured English accent finally succeeded in driving reality home and she suddenly remembered.


She should’ve been panicked or at least tense from the knowledge and his proximity but oddly the idea didn’t even faze her to mild concern. His closeness felt incredibly wonderful for some strange reason and she felt no fear.

“Ah, there’s my beauty,” he crooned. “Hold on tight, darling; we’re about to land.” There was a touch of devious mirth in his voice that was not lost on her and, having no idea what to expect, she hung onto his forearms as he brought the other around to rest on her waist with the first. She completely failed to notice, however, that she had acted before thinking, following his command.

She felt like they were going down in a elevator - the final descent. She still had no clue as to where they were; the window was nowhere in her immediate range of vision. He began to speak again out of the blue.

“Contact in 5...4...3...2...1, and-”

Sarah gasped, wide-eyed as the contents of the room seemed to explode outwards, covering everything in sight with similar, sparkling decorations and white, white, white everywhere. A gigantic gilded chandelier hung from the ceiling high above the large cushioned pit in the center of the room with others gracing the silk-draped walls.

A vague, drunken cheer went up from the crowd and some began to disperse into the adjacent hallways while others resumed dancing about the room and dallying in the pit as the music recommenced. She noticed a resplendent chair off to the left with an inverted crescent for the back and arms that was an enormous carved blue-flash moonstone, partially draped in the same pale silk that bleached the rest of the room. No, not a chair, a throne. They were in the Throne Room of the castle!

She had to force herself to breathe normally as she spotted the original clock he had shown her outside the maze on that wind-swept hill and inwardly collapsed in relief: twenty-eight minutes left. She warily accepted the fact that the forced half-hour nap had done wonders for her fatigue. He’d be kicking himself for it later if she could ever find a way out of this mess. Currently she was still trapped in his embrace and the clock was relentlessly ticking away.

His right hand strayed up to momentarily fondle her neck as he nuzzled her hair. Those darn thrills that he could make dance all through her veins were markedly worse now. There was this dark, reckless urge out of seemingly nowhere that made her want to say the hell with it all and give into him, preferably starting with kissing the lips off his face. Sure he was handsome in an odd sort of way and he was doing his best to be charming but there was absolutely no logic involved in the reaction she was experiencing. There was no real reason for it, especially at this strength. Her general detest of him should’ve been canceling out any physical attraction she might’ve otherwise felt toward him.

It’s another spell, she finally realized. One that would make her have to fight not only him but her own body as well.

“Welcome home, pet,” he murmured hotly in her right ear, making the blood rush to her cheeks and her breathing a bit shaky.

So that’s it, she thought with a touch of disgust. He plans on keeping me, too. Or maybe it’s just another lie to waste time. Oh well, be that way. If that’s his angle I have a sudden right to be shown around, she thought, steeling her nerves, rapidly trying to come up with a plausible way to ask him.

Something odd that had been knawing at the back of her mind suddenly popped into the foreground: this room was covered in decorations. Covered up. What was he hiding in here? The thought should’ve chilled her but it didn’t; she remained oddly calm and content. Oh, to be able to just stay in his embrace…no! Come on, brain, don’t give out on me now! She shoved hard against the feeling and felt it give slightly. In that moment she gracefully stepped out of his arms - only to grab his right hand and look flirtily at him over her shoulder.

“Would you mind showing me around a bit? I’ve never been to a castle before, and certainly never anywhere this beautiful.”

And his ego fell for it; he switched on a predatorily sexy smile that roared ‘ready for anything.’

“Of course, daring,” he purred, bringing the back of her hand to his lips, his eyes never leaving her, but at the last second before contact he deftly bent her hand back and rapturously kissed the pulse point on her exposed wrist, making her knees go weak. Oh, the feeling was heavenly but she had to work to control herself as he brought her hand back down to the crook of his arm, securing it there with his free hand, effectively ensuring that she wouldn’t be able to escape again. It seemed he had no end of tricks up his sleeve when it came to these things. As if to drive the point home he leaned in close again and it was almost as if she was drawn to him like a magnet.

He began to lead her out of the room to the hallway to the right; almost no one paid the slightest notice as if this was a normal occurrence. It suddenly dawned on Sarah that perhaps it was. Maybe it was nothing more than the difference that was shown the king but the idea was vaguely worrying to the bit of her brain that was still functioning somewhat. There was the faint sound of rustling fabric getting distant as they entered the hall but everything looked stationary: just a short landing with a long flight of marble stairs going down interrupted by a small landing in the middle with huge bronze doors in the left wall. Same colorless splendor as the last room.

Bilevel, she thought with a twinge of amusement as they descended the stairs; not even a ceremonial entrance. Jareth was certainly taking his time. Her time, she realized. Anything he did here he was doing to waste time. There was more rustling ahead of them at the bottom but the exact same scenery was there as they reached the end of the flight and turned the corner. A straight hallway lined with doorless entrances and rooms for at least a hundred feet in both directions. The rustling continued quickly in the rooms then disappeared on down the corridor. Sarah was about to ask him what the sound was when in a flash it dawned on her: he was covering everything up as they went! The music from the ball echoed faintly down here.

Even if we did reach the right room, the doorway might be covered over, she thought with a sudden note of alarm. He had thought of everything. The trap was absolutely flawless. This was it, then. She had done everything she could and then some. Hoggle had warned her that it would get worse but he hadn’t said how. Oh, to be able to rip herself free of this sadistic creature and tear through the halls freely!

The room he was leading her into was different, though: it had cherry wood flooring and deep crimson drapery with the gilt chandeliers. A proliferation of old-looking musical instruments were lined up in glassless cherry wood cases along the walls and a grand old crimson velvet backless couch with scroll arms was situated near a large fireplace. Sarah was all-too-aware of the dangers of faerie music from her storybooks but at this point it seemed beside the point to care - the venture was officially hopeless.

He was walking her over to the couch when she heard running steps coming down the stairway and through the hall. They both turned back to see another man standing in the doorway, breathing a little hard from the sudden exertion. Try it for half a day, she thought bitterly, eying the masked stranger. He promptly bowed to Jareth then started talking to him in a foreign language Sarah couldn’t understand. He was smiling so she assumed nothing was ‘wrong’ - was there such a concept for these creatures? - but from the way he was gesturing back the way he came, something was going on that required the presence of the king. Jareth gave a short clipped sigh of annoyance, looked down at Sarah for a moment then glanced back at the man with a sudden, conspiratorially mischievous grin that set her nerves on edge. What was going on? He turned back to her, his face serious once more.

“Alas, duty calls,” he said, letting go and taking a step back. Only to step forward and take her in a sudden embrace that seemed to lace her blood with longing. When he spoke again his voice was only a whisper but it made the entire room ring. “Stay in here, pet. I shall return presently.” And with that he pulled away, pretending reluctance, and left with the other man, who had been staring at Sarah as if she were a steak dinner with chocolate cake swimming in fudge for dessert. She could hear them talking all the way up the stairs.

Once she was certain they were gone she started scanning the room for anything that might be out of place; that was the trick to this place, if only she could spot it. If Toby was in another wing of the castle all was truly lost; she didn’t have enough time to search the whole castle; her movements wouldn’t go undetected for long. But if she was Jareth she would hide him right under her nose just to rub in how close she had been. On impulse she got down on her hands and knees (not easy with so much fabric to stifle) and looked at the underside of the couch. Nothing.

Nuts. It was worth a shot. Maybe one of the instrument cases had a hidden panel. She ran to the nearest wall and started pressing various parts, frantically scrabbling at the paneling. Nothing. She turned to the next wall and though better of it. Well, we can rule out that one over there; there’s only hallway behind it……of course!

She ran over to it and began the same search. Her heart leapt into her throat when she felt it give on the right side: the whole thing would spin on an axis if she could locate the trigger mechanism. All right, what’s out of the ordinary here? The case was filled with a veritable menagerie of stringed instruments that looked like they should’ve been protected in a museum from the obvious age and opulence. There were pieces from every era of history, even a modern acoustic guitar. The one that caught her eye, however, was an old lute with a Chartres labyrinth carved into the sounding board. Apropos, she thought wryly. She stepped forward to examine it more closely. And gasped: the thirteenth string was gilded. Holding her breath, Sarah reached out and lightly plucked the string, quickly silencing it for fear of what might happen. The case creaked and lifted off the floor about an inch. There was flickering light on the other side. With a little push it swung easily like a Lazy Susan and she cautiously strode through, careful to leave it ajar.

The oval room was fairly small with bare gray stone masonry, a stark contrast to the gaudy opulence Jareth seemed to have a taste for when looking to impress. The only furniture in the entire room was a rocking chair of sorts (were those tusks for rockers?) and a wooden changing table…and Toby was on it!!! The room was completely dark except for a small rusty lantern that hung from a chain in the middle of the ceiling and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the light. And she nearly screamed: a dark, furry little goblin had hopped back up on the table out of nowhere with a fresh cloth diaper! He was gibbering in a quiet sing-songy fashion at Toby while he worked and Toby laughed. Oh, that does it, she thought and strode purposefully toward the table.

Upon hearing footfalls the goblin instinctively turned around but when he saw who it was the thing shrieked in fright, leapt off the table and scurried behind the rocking chair, fearfully peeking out from behind it, wide-eyed. Seeing that the thing was scared to death of her enough to not cause trouble or run off to sound the alarm, Sarah quickly finished dressing Toby, albeit a bit roughly; Toby whimpered a little. “Sorry, sweetie, but your big sister has to hurry up.” She picked the baby up and carefully backed out of the room, keeping an eye on the goblin, making sure to lock him inside. “Ready for some fun, Tobes?” Toby yawned and rubbed one eye with a pudgy little fist. She sighed. One way or another, he’d be in bed soon enough, she thought ruefully.

She ran to the doorway of the music room and arbitrarily chose to go right - and almost tripped: her shoes couldn’t make any traction, it was as if she were drawn to the spot like a magnet! She tried taking a deliberately large step and this time her foot only slipped back a little bit; the traction held. Why not put taffy or superglue on the floor while you’re at it, Jareth? she thought with disgust. He really had thought of everything; so far he had only made one miscalculation. One mistake. She hoped one was enough as she practically did lunges across the floor; she had to move fairly quickly or her heels started dragging backwards. They were almost to the turn in the passageway…just a few…more…feet…!!! Sarah took another step and suddenly flung forward, free of the magnetic force, and had to quickly straighten up, pivoting on her heels to keep from ramming into the stone wall. Stone! This passageway was unaltered, therefore nobody was supposed to see it! Sarah’s heart sped up at the implications and she raced down the corridor.
About fifty feet later it stopped in a t-shaped fork. The promising glow of torchlight emanated from both sides. Which way? She shuddered at the thought then strode forward into the passageway; back was not an option here.

As she looked down the left corridor she gasped in surprise: the torches were being held up by more Helping Hands! Sickly green arms protruded out of each wall holding age-blackened metal sconces. The arms ended at the elbow, which would allow for pivoting but little else, she surmised. The odd notion that they had been purposely designed to fit the size of the chamber briefly flashed through her mind but she didn’t give it much attention. Right had proven a useful direction before; maybe she should try it again. But there was no way of knowing for certain. Perhaps she could ask one of these things for directions; stuck in the wall here day in and day out they no doubt noticed who passed them and how frequently.

She walked up to the left side of the wall in the right passageway…then thought for the baby’s safety and put him down at the edge of the opposite wall. Toby looked up at her curiously. “Good, watch Sarah now. This should be interesting.” She walked up to the first Helping Hand, bold as brass, and neatly yanked the torch out of its grasp. It stretched its hand muscles briefly and formed a mouth with its thumb and fingers and started loudly spluttering.

“Why, of all the rude, fresh things to do - give that back this instant!”

“I’m sorry to disturb you-”

“Then give it back! Come on, good huge girl…”

“But I needed to ask you if you knew the way out of the castle from here. Does anyone come and go through this way?”

“Oh sure, lots o’ things! Big ones, little ones, ugly, pretty, unicorns, you name it!”

“Really?! So this is the way out!”

“…then again…maybe not.”

The thing was not going to give her a straight answer. She should’ve expected it, really; she’d annoyed the creature.

I wonder… With her free hand she reached up toward the Helping Hand.

“Wha…what are you-” She tickled its wrist. The thing laughed for a moment, convulsing a bit, trying to get out of her reach. Then it grabbed her arm - hard. She screamed in fright and whacked it with the torch in her free hand. It instantly released her and she thrust the torch handle back into its open palm. It seized upon the object and angrily shook its fist at her. Shaking, she backed up against the opposite wall, trying to catch her breath. Her light panting was the only sound in the hall. Suddenly her brain registered that something was missing - the music! All was quiet upstairs. Not a soul stirred.

Jareth had heard her scream.

The distinct sound of a pair of boots was slowly, quietly clicking its way down the stairs. She was out of time! Sarah was about to scoop up Toby and just run for it blindly when she felt something hard lightly tap her left shoulder and she jumped a little and whipped around: she had nearly backed into another Helping Hand without even seeing it!

“Sorry,” she mouthed. It cocked slightly to the side at the prompt apology, almost as if it were considering something. It then pointed to her with the torch, then pointed to the left hall like a traffic cop. Her eyes widened in realization - the right way! “Thank you!” she mouthed, picking up Toby and racing down the hall at a mad dash, the swishing of her skirts echoing after her. The hand was holding its torch a bit more jauntily than it had been before.

Sarah ran and ran and ran. The straight hallway had no adjacent corridors or doors to other rooms or anything. It suddenly curved off to the right and started to zigzag all over the place, even seemingly in on itself but Sarah was beyond worrying about what was impossible at this point. The path would terminate - probably coming upside-down out of somebody’s ceiling or the base of a tree like Alice in Wonderland. A couple of zags later it lengthened out again and coming up was a huge unlit flight of stairs going up. This was it! As she pounded her way upward with her skirts in one arm and the baby in the other, the passageway got smaller and smaller until she couldn’t even stand upright, until her dress was starting to block out the light from below. At the top was a tiny wooden door, only two feet wide and three feet high.

Oh, you have got to be kidding me… There was a sudden moment of panic: what if the door was locked? They were trapped! Even getting at the door wasn’t going to be easy. Bracing herself against the wall and ceiling for support, she gave it a judicious kick. It flung open freely and she almost wept with relief. Kneeling, she carefully got as close as she could manage to the small portal and set Toby just outside the door. He got up on his little baby legs and started toddling away. Sarah was so shocked she almost didn’t call after him - he had never been able to walk so far unaided so easily before! What in the world had they been doing with him?! “Toby, stop!” she whisper-yelled. He promptly sat down and looked back at her. “Don’t worry, I’m coming,” she smiled triumphantly, crawling through the door…

And stopped halfway. She was stuck! Her skirts were too big to ever fit through the tiny opening! She strained against it, shoving against the doorway from the outside. “This…stupid…poofy…” On the next shove she heard fabric rip. On the sixth try the skirt ripped off completely and she tumbled through the door onto the dirt path. Instinctively she looked down and turned pink, trying not to giggle: she was wearing knee-length white satin bloomers underneath that thing! Her tiny, flimsy shoes were finally visible, too; translucent mother-of-pearl like the top portion of the dress. She only hoped they wouldn’t tear or fall off as she was running for her life. She reached behind her into the doorway, pulling a strip of cloth off the skirt and kicked the rest down the stairs, closing the door. She quickly tied Toby to her front in a makeshift snuggie and started tearing down the winding path as fast as her legs would carry her.

She stole a quick glance back and realized that they had come out of the back of the castle. She thought her heart would stop when she heard Jareth calmly call her name two seconds later but she forced herself to keep running. Her adrenaline was kicking in now. After a quick series of curly-q’s, the dirt path and masonry suddenly emptied out in a brick corridor that was both straight and endless and she knew exactly where she was - the outskirts of the maze! The blue worm’s words echoed in her memory - “Never go that way!” She had failed to ask him why. She sort of sob-chuckled to herself for a second then kept going.

Wait. She had to switch to a corridor to the right but all of the openings were invisible to the naked eye. She grimaced at what she was going to have to do. Very tentatively she began to lightly drag her fingers along the surface of the right wall as she quickly paced along. It was cold and slimy and she had to keep dodging dead branches and eyeballs growing out of god-knows-what. She could hear marching that sounded like an army coming from behind and she tried to quicken her pace; it wasn’t easy. She ran across a couple openings but neither truly looked familiar; the coloring was off somehow. Her determination was beginning to flag when she came across another - and the same little blue worm was out sunning himself on his ledge! It felt surreal as she walked through the portal; a part of her couldn’t believe she was actually going to make it! The worm saw her.

“Oh, ‘allo again! My, but you look nice! Who’s the little ‘un?”

“My brother. I’m sorry but I don’t have time - it was nice seeing you again!”

“Wot’s with all the rushing? Why don’t you at least pop in and have a cup of tea before you run off again, eh?”

“I really have…to…did you just say come in?”

“ ‘course,” the worm chuckled warmly. “Can’t just leave you standing out by my front porch now can I?”

“…I guess I can come in for a minute.”

“Oh, wonderful! I’ll just get the latch - afraid you’ll have to let yourself in, my dear; the door’s a bit heavy for little old me.” The worm hurriedly inched inside a hole and Sarah nervously glanced behind her, hoping he’d hurry up; the army was getting closer by the sound of it. Presently, a series of gears and pulleys shifted audibly from within the wall in front of her and with a sudden click part of the brickwork jolted forward enough that she could grab the edge with her fingers and pull it open. Inside there was a cavernous space just large enough for her to kneel on a round cushion on the floor. A multistory worm-size complex of open-faced rooms lit by tiny lanterns filled the opposite wall. It was a mansion in miniature, like an enormous doll’s house. She had to hold Toby’s hands to keep him from grabbing at the minuscule furniture. Another blue worm with a bead necklace appeared on the third floor.

“ ‘ello, luv! Tea will be up any minute now! Why don’t you have a seat?” It was then that Sarah noticed a venerated-looking kettle of sorts that took up almost a fifth of the space that it took her to sit situated in the left side of the living quarters. Kneeling down, there was literally just enough room for her and Toby and those darned poofy sleeves she was still sporting. The first worm reappeared on the third floor.

“Would you mind closing the door behind you, too, dear? Lets in a terrible draft, let me tell you!” Sarah did as she was bade, pulling the wall closed by a great iron ring. She could now see that there was a series of air holes in the ‘ceiling’ and was immediately grateful for them; it would’ve been awfully stuffy without them in short order with someone of her size in here for any length of time. “We would’ve never moved in here save that the taxes are so cheap.”

Sarah paled. “You’re…good subjects of the King, then?”

“Oh, we’d do our duty if called on, of course, but… best to keep the government away from the door, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh, shush, Herbert,” the female reprimanded him, inching over to the brass contraption, “that’s hardly the way to entertain company you’ve just met…you haven’t even introduced us!”

“Oh, forgive me, Amelia,” he laughed, “it’s been so long. This is the missus. And you are…”

“Marie.” It really was her middle name. She felt a bit guilty about the white lie but if these creatures were in cahoots with Jareth in any way, shape or form, she couldn’t afford to give them any more information than absolutely necessary. At any rate she certainly felt a bit like Marie Antoinette right now with what she had on!

“Oh, that’s a pretty name,” Amelia gushed. A tiny pot on top of the brass kettle started to whistle and Herbert turned down the tiny burner at the top.

“I know this is a bit unconventional but this way everybody can have it as strong as they like and as much as they please,” he said, motioning to a regular-sized porcelain cup and saucer by her knee that she hadn’t even noticed in the dim light. “The tea’s in the top and the water’s in the bottom. Allow me.” She carefully held up her cup and Herbert poured a tiny amount of concentrated tea in. Toby was looking on with wonder as Sarah filled the rest from the water nozzle farther down the machine after seeing Amelia use it for her own teensy cup.

“Sugar and cream are on the first floor,” Amelia said primly. “Would the babe like a bit of cream, too? He could suck it off your finger, dear.” It wasn’t a bad idea. Sarah quickly finished doctoring her drink then put a bit of cream on the saucer and trickle-fed it to Toby while her tea cooled a bit. All noises outside were muffled somewhat by the thick brick walls but there was no mistaking that Jareth and his entourage were nearing this very corridor. This was the moment of truth. She put down the empty saucer and took a rather unladylike gulp of tea - who knew how much time they had?

“Do hear that, Amelia? It sounds like the whole army’s out there! Wonder who they’re after this time.”


At this, Sarah could no longer pretend innocence. They were being so kind to her. They had the right to know.

“They’re after me,” she sighed, bowing her head in shame. She should’ve never sought shelter here and brought this calamity on their heads.

“You?” Herbert laughed warmly. “What harm could you have possibly ever caused anyone?”

Sarah started to tear up but she tried to fight it back. “All I did was wish my brother away and get him back and now they’re coming to take him away from me!” she finally sobbed. The worms looked at her then at each other for a moment.

“Douse the lights, Amelia,” Herbert said with more gravity than Sarah could’ve imagined from such a jovial little guy. She looked up just in time to see them scurrying about lickety-split, blowing out all the little lanterns. Within seconds they were all sitting in the dark save for the cracks in the ceiling. Fortunately, Toby was not afraid of the dark or they would’ve been in big trouble, she suddenly realized. If he cried out for any reason at all it was all over.

But the tromping outside had ceased. All was quiet. Too quiet. Sarah had to force her breathing to stay quiet, too, as that pair of ominous-sounding boots slowly clicked down the passageway right up to the wall she was hiding behind, stopping for a moment…then paced on for a short ways…then started pacing back. The mortar of the brickwork was so deteriorated in so many places that the entrance to this room was completely invisible to the unaided human eye - she would’ve never known it was here herself. But Jareth wasn’t human. She held her breath as he passed by again, praying that he wouldn’t see. If he did, they were sitting ducks. He suddenly stopped a ways down the other direction and gave a strange little chuckle and a sigh. She thought she would die of fright or anticipation or both. And then he started singing.

It was the sweetest sound that ever she heard in her entire life. There was a vague memory of hearing him singing before but it was too fuzzy; she must’ve still been drugged in the ballroom. But it would’ve been hard to not be drugged by a voice like that! He was singing in a language that her mind didn’t understand but her heart understood perfectly: Come out…come to me, and know love as you have never been loved in your entire life. Pleasure beyond anything you could possibly imagine. Me at your feet to worship you forever. Come…come to me…I long to hold you…come…

It was so beautiful she almost couldn’t even think at all, let alone be rational. It was completely irresistible. She had never been so happy in all her life. She automatically started to rise when she felt a painful little pinch on her right earlobe that shocked her awake.

“He’s lying!” Herbert was perched on her shoulder! His voice was so tiny that he would’ve never been heard outside with the nearest hearing being busy making noise. “He’s lying! Every last word of it! He’s just trying to get you to come out so his men can take you away in irons and only the powers know what he would do with either of you! You must fight, Marie! Fight him with all your will! All you have to do is outlast him! Think! Think of anything! Think of the baby!” Sarah suddenly did think of Toby - and quickly covered his ears with her hands. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her heart was rending. If only the song and singer were true. It was beyond cruel what he was subjecting her to. She wished she could die right then and there when he abruptly stopped.

And gave such an unholy shriek that Toby sat up stark still in her lap! He didn’t make a peep though, but the meaning of this was obvious - he had just tried to make Toby cry! All the feelings she had just been experiencing instantly dried up.

That low-down, dirty, rotten bastard.

Jareth irritatedly sighed, gave a curse and paced back through the adjacent corridor, yelling, “She must’ve doubled back - she isn’t here! Two of you - down each of these corridors! The rest back to the castle! Search the dungeons, the towers, every last room! Tear up the masonry! She cannot escape! MOVE!” She could hear the army doing double-quick-time back down the passageways, some of them splitting off from the main body as ordered but all headed back toward the castle. She collapsed against the wall to her back in relief. A spark was followed by a flickering light and one of the lanterns was lit once more, filling the room with its tiny, candle-like glow with Amelia beside it.

“That was very bravely fought, my dear,” she said sweetly. “Herbert?”

“Just making sure the coast is clear!” he called back from presumably ‘the porch.’ “All gone! I’ll unlock the door.” The same sound of gears started only Sarah could actually see what was going on this time since she was inside: it looked like the inside of a grandfather clock getting ready to strike the hour. The time! She had no idea how much was left! Probably just a few minutes if she was lucky. The door clicked out slightly and she pushed on the handle, swinging it open, shielding her eyes from the sudden light.

“I can’t possibly thank the both of you enough for helping me!”

“Oh, it was nothing, luv,” Amelia said. “Run along now!”

“Safe travels!”

“Bye!” She was going to make it! She was going to make it!! She was going to make it!!! Just a few more yards! She couldn’t see for certain but from the light shining in, the doors were standing wide open, waiting for her! She made a beeline for the entrance and screamed: Jareth was there! He was casually leaning against the doorframe with a triumphant little smile. Her jaw dropped involuntarily. He took a swaggering step forward.

“I always make it a point to hedge my bets,” he said matter-of-factly and began circling her like a shark. Sarah fought to keep breathing normally, staring at the ground; she couldn’t afford to panic now!

“All I have to do is say the word and you lose. I made it all the way through and back. I have Toby…”

“I know,” he said amiably. “Cute problem, that.”

“Excuse me?”

“You terminated the terms of contract yourself. It doesn’t work anymore.”

“I think you’ll find it does.”

“Oh, really? Well…I can’t give you the child, you see. You already have him.”

Sarah felt her blood turn cold - he was right!!! Her mind started to frantically race for an answer - there were none! “Now what are you going to do, pet?” Slapping him came to mind but she doubted it would do any good at this point. He stopped in front of her and pulled a small, gilt pocket watch out of his dress coat, checked the time and showed her the face of the clock, before snapping it shut and putting it away with a smirk. Three minutes.

“I’d suggest you make good use of it,” he said offhandedly. “Plead, bargain, do whatever you’re going to do.” He lifted her chin and looked her up and down appraisingly. “I might even be lenient.”

Her gaze was hard.

“Let me go.”

“You’re going to have to learn to ask, pet.”

“I’m leaving.” She tried to dodge around him but he blocked her escape.

“I don’t think so.”

“You’re letting me go home,” she managed to say firmly, looking right at him.

He laughed - how could anyone so wicked have such a wonderful voice? “Oh, that’s rich! Now this one I have to hear. Why am I letting you go?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do.”

He looked up thoughtfully for a moment then began to prowl around her again.

“Right for you, wrong for me. I am well within my rights to simply keep you both at this point and I have a mind to do just that.” He stopped at her right side and leaned in, hotly murmuring in her ear. “Try again, darling. Why am I letting you go?”

Darn the way he made her nervous system react! And she suddenly remembered. Would the truth actually save her? She swallowed her fear and turned to face him, taking him a bit by surprise.

“Because,” she said flatly, “maybe if you tried being nice to people for a change someone might bother to actually care about you and you wouldn’t be stuck crying on the shoulder of a drugged teenager when you’re feeling lonely.”

Jareth just about had a heart attack on the spot and froze, staring at her in panicked shock and confusion. Sarah didn’t believe that he could possibly get any paler but his face had just bleached to the color of paper. He tried to speak but nothing came out. At last the words started coming.

“You…You m-mean you were…”

She almost felt a little sorry for him. Almost.

“Goodbye, Jareth,” she said quietly, and strode right by him through the open portal. As soon as she reached the other side the world went dark.

It took her eyes a minute to adjust to the light but when they did she nearly cried in relief: they were home. Right in her parents’ bedroom where they’d left by the window. Like Peter Pan, she thought acidly, with a wry smile. Nope. Never again. She was done with magic, pretend and otherwise.

She put Toby back in his crib and noticed that she was still crazily clad in the half-dress from her adventure. The jerk hadn’t even bothered to return her own clothes to her. Figures, she thought as she went over to her step-mother’s sewing basket in the corner and dug out the cloth shears; if she couldn’t manage the stays on the back of top she’d have to cut herself out of it. And figure out a reason that I’ve suddenly stopped wearing my favorite jeans and need a new pair, geez…nope. No more complaints. The world is what you make of it. She thought of him then, what he had said about fairness. He’d at least been right about that.

She went to her room - and gave a cry of surprise, suddenly having to hold the dress up to herself! It felt exactly as if someone had just managed to pull the entire stay ropes out of the back of the top liquidly by the bottom row! She switched on the light and did a double-take with a little jump: the full, shimmering skirt was back on! The dress had been restored. Her clothing was folded neatly on her bed with her shoes on top, waiting for her. She whipped around to look behind her and scanned the room carefully: nobody was there. She was completely alone. Sarah looked in the vanity mirror and nervously laughed before exhaling in relief. She couldn’t believe it but maybe something of what she had just said to Jareth had actually gotten through to him. And looking at herself she sagged at the realization that she was about to face a completely different but equally as challenging problem. How am I ever gonna stuff this thing into my closet?!

The End



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