- LABYRINTH II
...             ...


CHAPTER XV

Sarah felt misplaced within the ballroom and its masked dancers.  It was a masquerade ball, glittering and glamorous in nature.  Reality had no place in this ballroom, and neither did convention or propriety; it was a magical and sensual place.  The writhing, dancing, laughing, and lavishly dressed persons who crowded the room were aware of nothing but their own fantasies; indeed, they were even a fantasy in their own one-sided existence.  The room warmed tremendously with each second, due to the extreme heat generated by their active bodies, but even that was an illusion, for their minds, their very lives, were suppliant to the wishes of the crystal sphere and the one who possessed it.

            One figure stood out amongst all of the glamour, mainly due to the fact that she wore no mask.  Her young, gentle face not only portrayed the sole innocence to be found in the room, but her dress did as well a glittering gown, the only white to be found amongst the cream and scarlet-garnished dancers.

            It was Sarah Sarah, alone and timid amongst all of the vile displays that were presenting themselves to her.  The snake-like slithering of the dancers enchanted and frightened her, causing her to unconsciously pull her arms about herself.  Everyone saw her discomfort and relished in it, their laughter bubbling over like poisonous pink champagne.  Wherever she desired to tread, they made a combined effort to block her path, and when she squeezed her way through them, they laughed all the harder.

            It was Sarah Sarah, older and wiser the longer she stepped through the crowd.  She was looking for something, but was unsure of what it was that she truly desired.  Then she caught a glimpse of Jareth and found her purpose; she shoved through the crowd of dancers with more force and determination, only to reach the spot in which the Goblin King had stood and find it empty.  The eyes of the dancers glittered merrily from behind their masks, for they were amused anew at her chase of the very man that had created all of them.  It was at that moment that Sarah realized that these were Jareth's playthings, and they were laughing at her out of spite.  They spited her because she was everything they were notshe was still innocent, she was still in control, and she was not wearing a maskand, because of all of these things, Jareth found her more intriguing than he did them.  They spited her because they had to fight for his attentions by degrading themselves, while all she had to do was avoid his attentions to receive them.

            Despite her realizations, she felt she must catch him, must beat him at his own game of cat and mouse.  She caught his image in a mirror before her and turned around to find him gone.  Then, yet again, she saw him at the center of a great horde of women, each fawning over him and pawing him as he stared ahead, unaware of their silent cries for his regard.  His gaze was fixed on Sarah, and, as soon as the women saw this, they looked at Sarah as well, and grimaced.  Sarah stopped and became entranced by Jareth's focused eyes, causing her to forget her purpose; her lack of action cost her, for someone passed before her, breaking her trance, and, once they had passed, Jareth and the throng of women had disappeared.

            Her disappointment did not have long to present itself, for a firm hand placed itself on her shoulder; she jerked about to find herself face to face with Jareth, the mask still covering his countenance.  He motioned for her to dance, and she did not protest, her confusion over his behavior ultimately overwhelming her.  Deja'vu swept over her and persisted, yet she felt that something was not quite right.  She looked at him, eye to eye, and brought a finger forth to run it down the sharp, creme-colored beak of the bird-like mask that he wore.  It all felt like a dream, yet there was such a strong reality to it allnot an image was blurry, everything was precise, exact; even the music was too real for it to be a dream.  Sarah looked longingly into his eyes; who was this silent man?  It was Jareth in body, but not in action.  He danced carefully with her; he was entranced, it seemed, by the very presence of this lovely woman he was dancing with. His grip was gentle and his manner subordinate, his face warm in color and his eyes a hazy green.

            "Who are you?" Sarah asked.  "Please tell me, I am curious."

            A sadness came into his eyes and he held her closer.  "Do not ask that of me..just let it be silent awhile longer."

            "But I must know..you are surely not Jareth," she persisted.

            He gripped her hand firmly and passionately.  "Let it be," he begged in a whisper.

            "You sound so afraid, as if you are hiding from someone," she said quietly.  "Who are you?  I will help you"  She brought forth a trembling hand toward the mask.  His mouth turned down into a frown, but he did not fight her.  Just as she began to raise the wooden concealment, he whispered, "Good-bye"

            Sarah was suddenly within the castle beyond the goblin city.  Her friends were before her. Hoggle stood and looked up at her while Sir Didymus was atop Ambrosius and Ludo stood between the two. They just stood there, staring at her. Sarah heard footsteps behind her and turned around; there was Jareth once again. He gazed at her as she did at him; the intense green eyes grew darker and blazed into a bluewhite light.  He looked god-like and fearsome as the blinding light that emitted from his pupils lit up the once-darkened space. His hand pivoted on his wrist and revealed a crystal within his palm.  It caught the light from his eyes and split it into several shards of differently-colored light, as in a prism. He threw it to her and she caught it with ease. In response to her catch, a deafening crash sounded behind her. She jerked around to see what it was and discovered that her friends were now trapped behind an iron cage.

            "Need Sarah help," Ludo cried out desperately.

            Sarah turned to look at Jareth again. As she faced his expressionless countenance, she felt her face redden with bitter anger.  The violent impulse that had taken her over was more than she could bear, but she felt frozen in fear.  If it weren't for the eyes, she might be able to fight him, but the eyes turned him into an icon, a thing which any harm upon would be blasphemy punishable by death.

            He chuckled at the sight of her fear; the chuckle became a laugh and slowly progressed to a mad cackle. Then, suddenly, the laugh ceased, and, to her horror, he began to melt. His molten body spread out over the floor and became one with the stone floor. The ground began to shake beneath her feet causing the rock in the ground to crack and crumble, forming an almost circular shape about its jagged edges.  Sarah lost her balance and fell onto her knees; lucky for her, she was at the hub of the splitting ground, keeping her from falling over the edge of the great circular rift that had formed about her.  The ground beneath her began to rise, and rose higher and higher into the sky until she was far above the castle, far above the entire Underground. She gripped the crystal firmly against her chest as the air began to thin. She watched in silence as the clouds came ever closer, and as the grey, stone floor changed color and texture. She was now atop an orange, sandy plateau high above the lands of the Underground. The plateau stopped rising and a cave rose from the sandy floor of the plateau.

            She got to her feet and cautiously looked over the edge. The land below was now just grassy plains that stretched to the horizon in all directions. She turned and looked curiously at the cave. She saw the silhouette of a man begin to emerge. Once completely out of the cave's darkness, Sarah could see that it was Jareth. He slowly progressed towards her, but  stopped a half a foot away. Sarah looked over the edge of the plateau and saw no means of escape, unless she wished to jump. She nervously watched as he raised his hand to her neck and touched the necklace that hung from it. He then retreated and proceeded to the cave again, taking slow, backward steps. She watched with relief as his figure disappeared back into the darkness of the cave.

            Just as she was counting her blessings, the necklace started to shiver and jingle. She looked down and saw that the links in the chain were disappearing one at a time, even though the chain remained whole. The length of the chain continued to become smaller until the chain disappeared from her sight and went beneath her chin. She felt it tightening. She grabbed it and jerked at it violently, but to no avail. It was now tightening around her throat. Her breathing became more complicated by the moment and she began to feel dizzy. She lost her balance and took one fatal step backward, finding herself suddenly plummeting down the side of the plateau in a deadly fall. She noted as she fell that she gripped the crystal firmly against her heaving chest, as if keeping it intact would be her last victory. She could see the land come frighteningly close as black and white spots came before her eyes, finally filling her vision. She checked once more that she was still holding the crystal before she blacked out due to lack of oxygen.

            Then she woke up.

            Sarah bolted upright in her bed. She felt cold sweat trickle down her back. Her hair clung to her hot, sticky face as she held her hand to her heaving chest, trying to calm herself. The dream had been so frightening and real. It loomed in her mind like a prophecy of doom. Already, it was passing away from her memory at her sudden wakefulness, but she held onto it tightly, wondering at the content.  The dream had presented two entirely different sides of the same man, but she was only familiar with one.  Where had the kindhearted man she had danced with at first come from?  And why did he not wish her to know his identity?

            She gripped her throat and felt the chain. It hung loosely about her neck. With a shaking hand, she pulled her hair behind her ears. She wet the inside of her dry mouth and licked her lips. She laid back down and tried to go to sleep, but sleep would not come. She twisted and turned in the unfamiliar bed and tried to get comfortable. She blocked thoughts from her mind, yet they continued to push their way through. Finally, she gave up and pulled off the covers. She moved to the dresser and looked at herself in the mirror; her hair was not yet messy and sleep hadn't yet formed in the corners of her eyes, making her draw the conclusion that she hadn't been sleeping long. She pulled her robe from its position on the chair and put it on.

            As she sat in the chair she examined the room from its converse through the spotless mirror. The room was really quite magnificent, and she almost wished that it could truly be her own.  Tapestries and paintings had always mesmerized her, and she had hoped throughout her lifetime that she might eventually own a home and decorate it so.  She stopped in her examination abruptly when a certain painting caught her eye. It was a small painting of Jareth, almost hidden entirely by the undone curtains of her bed.

            Then she noticed the most peculiar thing about the hidden painting. In the work, a goblin's head poked out from behind the standing Jareth; the young, goblin face belonged to Isabelle. In her hands she held a crystal, and, though it was not depicted in so many images, Sarah could see, by his expression and that of the young girl's, that the girl also held the heart of Jareth in her hand.  It now made sense to her! Jareth had made himself a substitute father to this little goblin. Sarah recalled the way Isabelle had looked up to him that evening with admiration; she also recalled the way that Jareth had, in his own awkward way, shown fatherly love to the young goblin. She had never seen him show such a human kindness. Even though he still seemed to treat Isabelle as a slave somewhat, she could never recall him to be that kind to anyone. She didn't know why he was doing it, but she wanted to find out. Maybe this was part of that side of which she had gotten a glimpse that evening; maybe it was the instigation of her dream. Or, maybe it was another way of him trying to con her into faithfulness. She couldn't tell.

***

Jareth sat in his throne, disturbed by the events of that evening.  He was unsure of his reason for behaving as he had, for, though the wine's purpose was to make one lose control of their faculties, it should not alter one's behavior to such a degree as it had. Sarah had behaved differently than he had expected, as well, giving him the desire to explore her feelings of him by reading her diary.  Over the years he had watched her fill it with words, and, throughout those years, he had planned to read it someday.  Today was that day.  He opened it to the first page of writing. It read as follows:

                        He isn't kind to anyone. Asand I

                        stood there, he moved the hands of the clock

                        a few hours ahead. I cannot remember hating

                        him more. I said that it wasn't fair and he

                        said something like,"I wonder what you

                        compare that to, or, "I wonder what your basis

                        of comparison is." Something like that. I just

                        wanted to

 

            It stopped there. It was beginning to look as if she had done nothing but feed her hatred towards him during these five years. He sat back in his throne and closed the book, his line of vision drifting to the right-hand wall, the painting seeming much larger than it ever had before. The enclosed surroundings captured by his peripheral vision escaped his notice for many moments as he focused his attention on the covered painting. Although he was tempted to rise from his seat and uncloak the picture of the woman who had caused his feelings to become turncoats, his violent and resentful side overpowered the temptation. He rubbed his chin as his mind worked at the process of translating Sarah's character.

***

Sarah went back to the dresser and focused an empty stare towards her reflection. She abruptly decided to spy on Jareth with the mirror. Her mind raced from one consequence to the other as she began to envision the results of him seeing her efforts to pry into his affairs. She finally decided that she had nothing to lose, for her friends were gone, unlikely to be brought back to life, and he still needed her for something. That something was bothering her. She needed to find out what that something was.

            She closed her eyes and channeled all of her thoughts to the operation of the mirror. She pushed her problems aside and allowed herself only to think of the mirror. She frequently opened her eyes to check on her progress. Each time there were no results.

            She finally gave up. She didn't know how she had received the vision of her friends before, but whatever she was doing at the moment was not the proper approach. Perhaps it had only been chance; maybe luck had been on their side. Sarah thought back to those hours ago; hours that seemed like days. She saw the image of her friends after she hade heard the goblin scurrying down the hall in need of a club to use on Ludo. She remembered the hatred she had felt towards Jareth at that moment and how the mirror had showed her her friends only moments after.

            It suddenly hit her that only hatred could power the mirror. That, or possibly strong emotion. Hatred was the strongest emotion she felt of late.

            Attempting to bring her most despised memories of Jareth to mind, she clenched her fists and gritted her teeth. Memory after memory flooded her scattered mind, only to leave her emotion neutral. The arrival of each horrific picture accompanied a vision whose sole content was the portrait of Jareth and the small goblin face that peered curiously from behind the king's throne. At the slightest feeling of anger, Sarah unconsciously brought to mind an image of the recent past the image of Jareth bringing his hand to her face, gazing into her eyes with intent emotion.

            Within moments, all anger had eluded Sarah and only sympathy and respect remained. A new battle had begun within Sarah, and the feeling that the battle would last for a long period of time filled her with trepidations and wonders that built within her at the passing of each moment.  Once these feelings reached their climax, her mirror image shimmered and a vision of Jareth replaced it.

            Reclining in his throne, Jareth's image stared emptily at the opposite wall. An amazing combination of serenity and frustration could be read from his pale, thin face as he propped his fist against his chin. Sarah observed with awe as the king she had so long known to be verbose and in control sat quietly and brooded.

            If only for a moment, she no longer felt as if she was looking at a man of insane delusions and violent notions her eyes saw a man of great confusion and pain who was never brought to terms with his anger and frustration. Never dealing with it, he seemed to have battled it without progress or consciousness until he had finally made a compromise; he had accepted it as a part of his character that could not be rid of.  She saw the very man that she had danced with in her sleep that night; a man who was bitterly submissive to his own self.

            She followed his intense stare and saw that it was fixed on a covered painting.  He rose from his throne and went to uncover the painting.  Pulling a golden cord at its side, the curtain slid away to reveal Sarah, age 15, staring into space.  She wore the gown from the masquerade ball, and her hair was drawn back at the temples.  A strange glow surrounded her figure, and gave her an angelic appearance.  Every detail was perfect.

            Having the chance to look him over without interruption, she carefully analyzed the king with great interest.  Age was not revealed on his face he didn't seem any older than when Sarah had last seen him.  His eyes were now an intense blue and stood out remarkably against his pallid complexion. His wispy, whitish-blond hair was drawn back into a pony tail, unlike earlier that day when it had been unrestrained and had eerily but majestically cascaded from his head like a cream-colored fountain of water. The garment he wore was made of off-white and light grey silks, cut off at the waist in the front to show his white tights, but long enough to touch the ground in the rear. A silver amulet hung from a leather strap around his neck and could be seen easily due to the low-cut collar of his outfit; in his hands was an open book with a cloth cover.

            Sarah wondered what he might be reading.  Resembling something she had read once, the book poked at Sarah's memory, but she couldn't remember where she had seen it.

            Figuring out what role the book had played in her life plagued Sarah's mind and caused her to leave all other thoughts in oblivion.  Within moments, the answer came to her.

            "My diary!" she exclaimed.

            The image of Jareth jerked his head to face her. Understanding of his reaction flashed through Sarah's mind as she recalled the fact that sound could be transmitted by the mirror, as well as visual images.

            Jareth rose gracefully from his throne and walked toward the mirror, a blank expression on his face.  As he stopped, a glass sphere glistened in his formerly empty hand.  Glancing at it and then at Sarah, he brought it to eye level. Sarah sat motionless, curiosity and fear tensing her muscles and freezing her in place. Momentarily she came to her senses and prepared to run for her bed to escape the obligation of looking into the mirror.  As she pushed herself up, gripping the arms of the chair, Jareth lowered the crystal and gazed into her eyes. She let go of the chair and relaxed. Impulses were sent by her brain to her legs, commanding them to move, but the limbs never responded.

            Paralyzed, Sarah sensed Jareth prodding her mind, felt the light touches and breezes that blew through her head like those of a cool, summer night.  The glistening crystal sphere was pushed through the mirror by Jareth as it hung in the air like a thick bubble in front of Sarah.  As sweet music drifted slowly into the room, the sphere swished and swirled in transparent rainbow colors before her.  The ball bobbed up and down like a carousel horse in turns about her head, but never floated to the ground.

            The music filled Sarah's mind, making her feel peaceful and calm, cushioning her mind and weighing down on her eyelids. Moving her attention from the bubble to the mirror, Sarah sleepily gazed at Jareth.

            Blackness began to swallow her surroundings and, before it could take in the mirror and the image of the Goblin King, Sarah saw a beautiful smile widen on his face.

            He mouthed two words.

            "Sweet dreams."

Jennifer Connelly     David Bowie    Jim Henson            C     C