Categories > Movies > Labyrinth

The Drosselmeier Effect

by shadowlurker13 0 reviews

the story, told from the other point of view...

Category: Labyrinth - Rating: PG - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2017-07-22 - 4912 words - Complete

Within You
(or, The Drosselmeier Effect)



Summary: An experimental, psychological retelling of the story. Or perhaps just a different camera angle. It all depends on your point of view.

(I owe a debt of inspiration from a couple of the psychological articles on Jareth’s Realm and the film interpretation on the old Within Your Heart site, especially the part about the Labyrinth itself, as well as some of Brian Froud’s more serious work. The title is a reference to Herr Drosselmeier, the mysterious, sinister uncle in The Nutcracker, who secretly operates the dream that Clara has. Once again, I own nothing here.)

The dream had already begun to descend as Sarah re-entered her parents’ bedroom but she hadn’t noticed. True, the light had been shut off but Toby was still there, finally asleep after all that tiring crying, snuggled into his little blanket. But Sarah couldn’t see him - he was hidden from her eyes.

The being she had inadvertently invoked had been watching, waiting for this moment for quite some time. Weeks, actually. He had been following different electrical conscious signals through the ether and had come across hers. And knew that, once again, his time had come. He had indeed no name nor any permanent shape, merely those temporarily imposed on him by the humans he worked with. Some might call him a faerie but that was an activity, not a personage. He was an interstitial being, a catalyst, an agent of change. It was who he was, what he did. It was enough.

He smiled as he assumed the form, the voice of Jareth the Goblin King. It was a surprisingly fitting incarnation; desirable yet feared, familiar yet foreign. Everything change should be. His presence was powerful in any of the shapes he wore and it was no surprise that this young human female automatically stepped back a bit upon seeing him. He commenced to half-banter with her in feigned seriousness, reinforcing the image, the impression he was planting in her mind of who he was - an invariably easy task. Most humans believed anything they saw if for no other reason than the alternative meant they were crazy.

He reflected with a note of regret that Sarah Williams was not merely a person but a story he had seen unfold in variation many, many times over, one in which he was but rarely allowed to intervene. In most cases there was a way forward, or at least a way out; someone else to help or the impetus and means to leave it all behind and get on with life even if the yearned-for scenario was far from ideal. Here, however, no help would come. This child was being nominally taken care of with goodwill, enough so that no one outside would question it if she remained silent. And she was silent, out of embarrassment and ignorance of what was happening to her. Love often didn’t last in the human world, but in this case it had completely stunted the psychological maturation of an innocent victim. She wasn’t too far gone but it couldn’t be left much longer or there would be serious consequences. She needed his style of push to start growing again. Hence why he was here.

The crucial moment had come. He could not force his assistance on anyone; they had to agree to it of their own free will. He actually had to try to dissuade them because his influence was so strong. The useless bauble he had made danced and sparkled before her eyes. While the glamour was of itself nothing, it did represent conscious choice. If she took it, he would quickly weave another dream for her, a wish-fulfilling one from which she would awaken a couple hours later, no better off but no worse for wear, with the false memory of accidentally falling asleep in the room after putting Toby to bed. He saw her falter for a moment, then her resolve hardened. Excellent.

With a grand gesture of his cloaked arm, he pointed out the window, forcing her to look. This, too, was a trick, but a most necessary one: he had to get close enough to her to be able to directly manipulate what she was seeing if the vision was going to have any kind of detail and clarity. Sarah herself had unwittingly provided him with all the material he could possibly need for the job. This fake, symbolic world was populated with things she knew, ideas taken right from her own room plus input from her own subconscious. All that remained was to put it together and set it in motion.

In her mind’s eye she could see, could feel, the sun rising over the maze of her own creation, the Labyrinth of her subconscious.

Outside in truth, the storm raged on. Wind beat sheets of rain against the closed pane of glass right in front of her face but she could neither see nor hear it; for her, the room had melted away into a dried-out, barren hillside. He gave her a time limit to give her a sense of urgency and disappeared.

Actually, he had been standing right behind her all along, whispering in her ear, working like mad to make the vision stay. He gently held her shoulders to balance her as her unseeing eyes slowly fell closed.

For a moment, she took in the scenery.

He leaned in close, murmuring in her ear. “How expansive it is, with all the twists and turns of the mind. But it’s your mind and your journey to take by right. Be brave…”

Not knowing why, she felt a little more confident and started off down the hill.

He lifted her off her feet easily and, with quick, purposeful strides, crossed the room with her, carefully laying her mostly-unconscious form on the bed. Now the real work began. Visions like this could not be rushed and could take up to several hours to complete and he had to be there the whole time to direct it like a symphony, to hold it firmly in her mind so she could do what she had to. They were both in for a very long night.

So far, so good. She’d had a little trouble getting in at first but that was to be expected. The human mind resisted being delved this way but would not keep out its owner. Or the likes of him as long as he tailed her.

Sarah often felt the foreboding of the Goblin King’s presence but could not see him. He was discreetly following her, of course. The cute little worm had been a plant of his own design. In order for this process to truly work, she had to take the long way through.

He was seated on the bed right next to her, his fingertips resting on her cranium, splayed out so that he could more easily reach different areas of her brain and send minute bio-electrical impulses to either change what she was seeing or to sensorially reinforce it. The result would be so accurate, so vivid, that it would be blindly accepted at face-value as reality.

Of course, human-world distractions were an inherent problem with this sort of work. Toby had woken up and, seeing a stranger in the room, had begun to cry again. ‘Jareth’ instantly saw the danger as Sarah stirred slightly, recognizing the sound.

She heard his little voice from far away and changing her course through the stone maze to follow it.

There was nothing for it. He had to leave his post to calm the child. It was the work of mere seconds to make the baby sleep again and tuck him back in but he could not afford to leave his charge alone in this state for any period of time - the whole vision could start to fall apart! Quick as thought he was back at her side and none too soon.

Sarah had walked through the correct door but was suddenly falling…falling…

She could wake up this way! He grabbed both of her arms and mirrored the sensation along both arms and legs to stop her. Her endlessly fertile imagination took care of the rest. It landed her in deeper. Interesting. Time for her first test.

Freewill was paramount in these endeavors and had to be ensured periodically; forcing someone to go further than they were willing to could end disastrously. He casually re-introduced her ‘friend’ from the beginning - her cowardly but resourceful ego - to give her the opportunity to leave. She not only flat-out refused but bribed him to take her further in. Good. But it would take ages to dig through her subconscious in levels like this, precisely why he himself had chosen the maze: it had defined parameters. It couldn’t go on indefinitely like this could. He had to intervene.

Letting go of her arms and placing his hands on her head once more, he willed himself into the dream, imposing himself in their way. She couldn’t be allowed to wander around down here forever. He had to advance it. After convincingly playing his assigned part, he shortened her time and sent her flying down the tunnel, also providing for her escape. Up, up, up…

The rain had let up outside and he was mulling something over. It was a calculated risk but it could make all the difference in the world. He silently ran to the window and opened it slightly, racing back to his post. Ah, that was more like it:

They came out into a sunny garden! A hedge maze, but just the presence of recognizable plant life here made her feel a little better. Those plain stone corridors had been too sterile and alien.

Just the smell of something could bring on rich memories in a human and wet grass had been just the ticket. It wasn’t cold out; he could get away with this for a while.

He planted a Sage of sorts in her garden. Perhaps she would get it, perhaps not. He had to try. She was just about to reach…Yes! Her Heart! Dead ahead and larger than life, roaring in agony, persecuted by god-knew-what and her own inner demons. And now she was in the right position to fight them all off and free herself! Which she did valiantly. She had to learn to trust herself, however, and while her Heart had been initially defensive, it now seemed to recognize her as a friend. ‘Jareth’ smiled at the fact that it was an eight-foot shaggy beast. Off they went, hand-in-hand.

Her unseen companion gravely noted the appearance of the next two doors. Beyond this point his interference had to be minimal or he would risk reprogramming her subconscious himself. He could only intervene in dire emergency for quite a while; this area was simply too delicate.

The forest appeared, dark and foreboding and overgrown: the untamed, uncontrollable Id. In her panic, she hid away her heart and the beast simply vanished. It couldn’t be gone, though; it simply had no business in this place.

Sarah was suddenly surrounded by wild impulses, base instincts, and nonsensical thought patterns, all wearing the surreal, monkeyish form she had given them. Her primal urges tried to dissuade her from going further, even threatening to tear her apart, but she fought them off and was running…running…up to the next barrier.

Impressive; it was too high to scale unaided. Hmm, perhaps she did need help; they were closing in. Just a little confidence boost right over here and the next thing he knew her ego had come to the rescue.

Unfortunately, it was her physical body that was going to need rescuing and soon: a skunk had just sprayed a yard down the street and the bedroom window was still open. Sarah made a face that, even in her somnolent state, was unmistakably disgust and she began to shift. There was only one thing to do. He got up and, hoisting her in his arms, quickly got her out of the room. It was a small miracle the baby hadn’t woken up! But where to take her? The hall, and, no doubt, her room, were probably almost as bad at the moment and he had to leave the windows open so it could air out. He had to somehow get her downstairs without bringing her to; too much jostling might do it. With painstaking care, he began to descend the staircase with her at an excruciatingly slow, even pace. As he feared, the event stimuli had already worked its way into the vision and there was nothing he could to about it now.

What he did not comprehend was that this waste area had been there already and the stench had only altered the terrain slightly.

A vile place full of every negative thing imaginable: taunts, abandonment, punishments both just and unjust, feelings of guilt, and many varieties of lack - all was here in a messy heap across a cruelly oppressive landscape that threatened to taint her at every moment. At least all of her was there, yes, all; her superego - a ludicrously brave foxlike creature - was zealously guarding her access to the area, albeit at the moment against her will.

‘Jareth’ managed to get her to the living room and lay her down carefully on the sofa with one of the pillows under her head.

For one moment she was in peril in the dream - as slow as it had been, her body registered the drop, but, in a stroke of brilliance that even he could not have orchestrated, her heart came to the rescue, proving stronger than her pain and her past, providing a way through it all. A rather important moment. Even if she got no farther, that alone would have been enough to effect some positive change. The delicate area was past for a while now.

Of course, there was another problem in the physical world; these things were never easy. The living room was much closer to the garage. And in the garage, Merlin was barking his head off and whining to be let in, hearing the footfalls downstairs.

Sarah had heard him and he had already entered the vision; the fox was now riding him.

Oh dear. If he let the dog in, the animal would wake her in an instant and the alternative safe choice - leaving him be - would likely have the same end. He hated to leave her alone again but Sarah had proven to be strong and remarkably resilient the last time; chances were good that she would be alright. He left her wandering, wandering through a lush evergreen forest while he went and took care of the dog. He teleported to the garage, imprinting the feelings of ‘friend’ and ‘safe’ and after just a minute of petting, the beast was crashed out on a big flannel pillow that was left out there for him.

‘Jareth’ was back in the living room fast as thought but when he looked to the couch he literally froze in his temporal boots: his charge was gone! He forced himself calm instantly, rationally thinking it out. Clearly the impulse to wander that he had generated within her had been just a little too strong but she couldn’t have gotten far. The thought was still troubling though as he began to quickly search the ground-floor rooms. He’d only ever had one other somnambulist and the man had awoken prematurely - confused, terrified, and horribly disoriented. It had taken extensive leg-work to straighten the poor mortal’s mind back out but he had just been capable of doing it. He was not fond of the idea of a repeat performance. ‘Jareth’ hadn’t had to search long: Sarah was in the kitchen over by the small square kitchen island. He noted that the smell of ripe peaches had drawn her thither; she was trying to reach one. He smiled, bemused by her craving and predicament. So be it.

He walked over, first checked where she was in the vision, and, deeming this the safest way to make her placid once more, took a large fruit from the center of the bowl and deliberately wafted the heady perfume in front of her nose. Sarah automatically, slowly, turned in his direction. Her eyes had come partially open but were still unseeing. He held it out for her within easy reach and she took it from him blindly, seeming to simply know where it was. He brought her other hand up to cup it in both and carefully brought the fruit to her mouth. It was a bit unusual but as long as he could electrically coordinate her physical movements at close range like this, she could technically eat and drink in safety in this state. She took a bite, chewed, and swallowed, and he quickly threw the rest in the trash can right next to them. He couldn’t afford to waste any more time on this diversion; he’d had her in his power for a little over four hours now and, frankly, he had to speed things along if they were ever going to reach the center before her parents got home.

Another test of sorts was in order, a rather serious one actually, in spite of where it had to happen. Sarah was very dizzy and her memory was slipping as he slowly led her by the hands, walking back into the open foyer. It was ridiculous but she would have to be able to see him and he quickly changed his appearance for the occasion. They had to pass through the chaos of her adolescent development, many strange impulses and desires, only half-understood at best, crowding her growing mind and body. She found it intriguing, enticing, and frightening all at once but it was the common experience as far as ‘Jareth’ had seen. It was merely uncommon to literally have to face it first-hand. Time to intervene. The idea for their current wardrobe and locale had simply been plucked from her vanity stand: a doll on a music box and a statue. Such a sad, beautiful, twisted dream of a place, a confusing hell of a heaven that she wouldn’t be even close to making sense of for a few years yet, but its’ genesis was here in this fantasy of a ballroom. He opened her eyes slightly, half-aware. She saw him in truth but the room was still the vision. He gently took her in his arms and danced with her slowly about the open space of the foyer, quietly singing to her, reassuring her that she wasn’t alone in this space. The hard part of this was all on her: being cruelly derailed of her true mental purpose here she had to come back to it completely on her own. To his amazement, she physically pushed away from him in moments, walking toward the door and…was she going to actually try to pick up that chair?! He was at her side instantaneously, stopping her body but allowing her mind to finish the action, closing her eyes fully once more.

As she burst free of the trap, she was falling…falling through nowhere, watching with detached interest as it all fell apart.

‘Jareth’ had taken advantage of the situation, neatly scooping her up and running back up the stairs with her, taking them two at a time, not a moment to be wasted in being careful. The upstairs had fairly cleared of the worst of the skunk smell by now. He set her down lightly on the floor in the hall.

Ah, the past, deeper in her memory now, her present completely forgotten for the moment.

The tattered but dear remnants of her childhood mixed with so much unsorted, garbled rubbish in the unconscious it was amazing she could separate any of the landscape out with clarity. So tempting to stay, stifled but safe with her familiar trappings.

This was, as much as he hated it, a possible early out in the vision quest. He pulled her to her feet, handed her her teddy bear, walked her over to her room, opened the door fully, opened her eyes and cleared them, shoved her in and quickly closed the door behind her. She was mostly aware now but not beyond his power just yet; he could easily bring her back inside herself still.

There were very tense seconds going by outside in that hall, pacing, worrying, waiting as he heard her jump onto her little mattress and, after only a couple seconds, commence talking to her toys once more.

Had it all been for nothing? Nothing changed at all? Inconceivable, and yet…

His spirit soared when he suddenly heard the doorknob turn - action time! As she opened the door, he plunged her headlong back into the dream, leading her back in, sitting her down at her vanity table. She watched herself in the mirror, desperately trying to remember…and then she saw the red book and picked it up, flipping to the dog-eared page. She whispered the line to herself and dropped the book with a sudden look of comprehension that made ’Jareth’ want to shout for joy. Quickly taking the reins from her just one more time, he led her to the bed by both hands, lay her down, and got back to work manipulating the vision.

She was almost there - the very core of her being was dead-ahead but heavily guarded as it must be. This was the last danger zone; no matter what happened to her out here, he couldn’t help her at all. It was hard going but bravely she fought on through her own petty defenses, on her heart labored through her fears and insecurities, up, up, up to the citadel of her soul. The massive doors were opened and all of her entered.

She was about to come full-circle, properly aligned now with nearly all of the corrections in place that he had designed for her. It was time for the final catharsis, the breakthrough at the end that would complete the vision and release her. And what better way to do it than with a copy of a painting he had seen in her room - stairways going every which way, zigzagging crazily about an open void which she must enter. And this meant it was time to incite some physical movement; he needed to start waking her up. With only minutes to spare, ‘Jareth’ took both of her hands, got her to her feet, and led her back to the staircase, partially opening her eyes so that she could see them, but through the sensibilities and the distorted perspective of the vision, mirrored many times over. He almost rued that it would be over soon - she had been marvelous - but he had no time for sentiment; he had to be the cold, stern Goblin King of her fantasy one more time.

He ran down the stairs partway, to the landing, and began to sing to her again, a poignant song of complaint, but its’ true purpose was to get her to follow him. Heedless of the heavy banister, using the wall for support, she easily descended the long portion of the staircase to the landing and stopped there as he desired. Good, she was up for this.

He distorted her sense of where he was: now walking seemingly along a vertical wall, straight through her for real as a nice touch, over precipices, dashing upside-down, coming back right-side-up. At last he threw a crystal, which she saw bounce in all directions, as if wherever there was a surface there was gravity, until it was caught by the phantom of her baby brother.

“Toby…” she whispered aloud - she had screamed it in her head. She was starting to come to.

Now for the tricky bit: he had to keep her mobile but safe. He stayed on the landing and had her run up and down the small flight of stairs at the bottom, ostensibly chasing her brother about the room. Each time she reached ’Jareth’, he made it seem that the baby had wandered off someplace different so she had to keep going after him, changing her sense of direction each time so it wouldn’t seem like just going back-and-forth. Up and down, up and down, even scrambling on all fours, Sarah ran that staircase fourteen times before he stopped her at the very bottom.

She could see Toby far below, perched on the outer edge of an arch and, gritting her teeth, she knew what she had to do…

As she bent deep into her knees, Jareth suddenly realized she was about to jump. She wasn’t going to get very far, naturally, but this was as good a climactic moment as any, and as she leaped for all she was worth in both the vision and the real world, he caught her up under her arms and carried her over by the front house window before gently setting her on her feet. He quickly opened it, knowing he had to leave this way visibly.

Sarah was becoming more conscious; the vision was crumbling, the world getting smaller, blurrier, as she stood on floating paving stones in the beginnings of the dawn. ‘Jareth’ stepped out from the shadows of the staircase; she could actually se him as he was but was still blind to the room. He had morphed his appearance for dramatic effect. He scowled down at her darkly, thoroughly enjoying the ruse now: Sarah was perfectly capable of standing up to not only her chosen childhood villain but to anyone who tried to impose their will on her wrongly, anything that tried to keep her down. She was strong enough to take care of herself mentally and emotionally now, to pass through her previous pain and disappointment into the beginnings of true adult maturity. Her quest was complete.

There was only one thing lacking - she had to oust him from her mind consciously. And, as in coming to this state, the choice to leave this place had to be hers. He had been walking circles around her, electrically stimulating her brain, but as much as he hated it, he couldn’t fully awaken her without her express consent to end the vision. If she denied and took the dream crystal he was offering her, she would immediately be out cold and he’d have to just lay her down on the sofa, and she would be rudely - but completely - woken up and revived back to reality by her parents, who were due home within the next two minutes.

Sarah was frantically wracking her brain - darn stage fright - when suddenly it hit her. She turned and looked him straight in the eye with dawning comprehension.

“You have no power over me!”

Full and complete success!

Her adversary managed to look a bit disappointed as he tossed the final crystal in the air, but she caught the faint, enigmatic smile in his eyes as he collapsed in on himself. As soon as the empty crystal touched her fingers…

She was fully alert at last, just in time to see him fly out the window. She didn’t even stop to think about it being open - she just heard the chiming of the clock, suddenly thought of the time, and ran upstairs to make sure Toby was alright.

Of course Toby was alright - ‘Jareth’ had made sure of that when he came back through the bedroom window into the house again seconds earlier. He closed and locked the windows, dead silent and quick as lightning, retrieved Sarah’s teddy bear from her room, and planted him in the middle of her parents’ bed for her to find, returning to her bedroom to wait for her.

Sarah dashed into her step-mom and dad’s bedroom and, finding Toby safe and sound, still snuggled into the blankets asleep, was so relieved that, upon seeing Lancelot on the bed, she immediately tucked the toy in with the infant, not even stopping to think where she’d really seen it last. All was right with the world as she entered her own room, closing the door.

What ‘Jareth’ was about to do wasn’t technically necessary but he wanted her to have some closure about the experience - this was herself, after all, in a manner of speaking. She deserved this gift. As she sat there at her vanity, putting away trinkets and mementos she was surprised to find that she no longer needed suddenly, he projected a light dream to her from the mirror itself, hiding his presence. In no time she was truly asleep, in the midst of a congratulatory after-party of sorts - all of her. She was resting her head on crossed arms on the vanity table. ‘Jareth’ materialized briefly beside her, fondly stroking her hair for a moment.

“Bravo, Sarah. Bravo,” he whispered to her.

She faintly smiled.

Smiling himself, he dissolved out of his temporal physical state and sped away into the night.

The End
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