- LABYRINTH II
...             ...


CHAPTER II

The engine of Sarah's car fell from a hum to silence as she turned the key in the ignition.  She looked up from the steering wheel and out to the house in which she had spent her entire life.  Her car was parked in front of the garage, which occupied a third of the left side of the twostory house.  It was open, her father's grey Buick on display amidst the clutter of old bicycle tires, tools, boxes, and other junk that should have been thrown away years ago.  As she wandered about the mess of a garage her eyes wandered to the rest of the building whose wooden sides were whitewashed.  She saw her window just above the roof of the house and wondered if somehow her childhood had been trapped long ago in the walls of her old room, never to be released.

         She got out of the car, taking Toby's gift with her, and gently closed the door behind her.  Her dark brown hair shimmered in the bright sun of the summer day and contrasted sharply with her periwinkle silk shirt and beige shorts.  She put her keys in her pocket as she approached the garage.  An airpump toppled over as she tiptoed her way a bit clumsily through the junk in the garage and surveyed the assortment of items.  Just as she was beginning to dig through things, she heard the screen door on the front porch slam and her brother running down the steps.  She looked up just in time to see Toby making an abrupt halt in front of the garage.  He hadn't yet seen her, and his siennacolored hair flipped about on his head as he turned his eyes from her car to the yard to the street, and finally the garage.

         He jumped suddenly and exclaimed, "Hi, Sarah!!" with the discovery of his sister's location. His enthusiasm was as Sarah had predicted it would be.  "What are you doing in there?" he asked, picking his own way through the menagerie of junk, but giving up when his short legs couldn't climb over a box.  He abandoned his first question before she could answer and prodded, "Where've you been?  You took a long, long time."  He got a perplexed look on his face.  "Mama said she would start growing grey hairs, how long it was taking you."  He paused a moment before continuing.  "What does she mean she'll grow grey hairs, Sarah?"

         Sarah laughed and climbed over to him.  Picking him up to hug him warmly, she answered him, "She's just teasing, you silly.  She means that I'm taking so long that she'll get old before I get here."

         She was still holding him when he pulled away from her close embrace to look at her and say with a shake of his head, "I don't want her to get old, Sarah.  You don't want Mama to get old, do you?"

         "Of course not!" Sarah exclaimed, putting Toby down as a broad smile took hold of her face.  "Why would you think that?"

         "Well, cause you took so long!  I was waiting forever and ever and ever for you to get here! Merlin jumped up on the table and almost gobbled up my cake.  He didn't, though.  Mama stopped him."  Toby giggled before continuing, "He got dog fur all over the table."

         Sarah took his hand and answered as they walked across the lush yard toward the porch, "I guess he got so hungry that he couldn't wait anymore, huh?"

         Sarah looked down to examine her little brother.  He was taller than when she had last seen him and his cheeks were not as fat.  She had also noticed that his speech had improved; he was certainly getting older.

         Her mother and father were waiting on the porch to be the next to see their daughter after such a long absence.  Indeed, Sarah's stepmother had grown grey hairs, but she doubted it was from waiting for her stepdaughter to arrive.  Sarah's stepmother was getting up in years, but it showed very little. Though her stepmom was not as beautiful as her real mother, she was still an attractive woman whose wisdom was not to be ignored.  Her father was tall, but not as much as usual due to his easy stance.  His smiling eyes hid behind glasses and his hands took refuge in his pockets; he slouched comfortably, as he had when Sarah was Toby's age.

         "Did you find your sister?" Sarah's father asked Toby.

         Toby nodded his head energetically and squeezed Sarah's hand as tightly as possible in what Sarah thought to herself was probably an attempt to keep her from running away.

         "Are you sure it's Sarah, Toby?  It doesn't look much like her."

         "It's Sarah, Daddy," Toby replied with a complete lack of humor.

         Sarah's father took his hands out of his pockets and pulled back his daughter's hair.  Both Sarah and her mom gave him a questioning look.  He examined her neck and finally seemed satisfied that he had discovered something.  "Sorry, Toby, she doesn't have a collar.  We're gonna have to turn her loose."

         Sarah let go of her brother's hand and shoved her father teasingly.  "Dad!!"

         "Come on, give me a hug," her father exclaimed warmly.

         Sarah did as she was bid, and hugged her mother in turn. "How's New York?" her mother asked conversationally.

         "Everything everyone says it is.  Loud, smelly, dirty, and ugly.  But it's home."

         "I told you it would be that way," Sarah's stepmother reminded her.

         "Yeah, I know, I know," Sarah replied teasingly.  "Mom knows best."

         "Oh, come on ladies, let's not get started just yet," Sarah's father quipped.  "You'll have plenty of time to bicker." 

         Toby tugged on the edge of his sister's shirt to get her attention.  "I wanna show you somethin' in the back yard," he declared.

         Sarah looked up at her parents and told them she'd be back.  Before following her brother she handed them his gift.  "Ooh, what's that?" Toby asked, grabbing for it as if he already knew it was his. 

         "It's your present," Sarah replied.

         "What's inside?" he asked as his father held it above his groping hands teasingly.

         Sarah grabbed one of those groping hands and said, "You'll find out soon enough.  I thought you wanted to show me something in the back yard."

         "Yeah," Toby said, his enthusiasm over the display in the back yard fading at the coming of his curiosity over his birthday present.

         He dragged her behind the house and into the forest that sat at its rear.  Sarah looked about her and recalled how she had once thought that magic lived here when she was a little girl.

         She felt the cool shade on her skin as it counteracted the effects of the hot sun, and she sniffed the nostalgic air.  The smell of the air itself possessed memories that were difficult for her to place.  There was her first climbing-tree, there was where she had her first drama club, and there was where she carved the name of her first boyfriend.  It pleased her to think that, soon, Toby would make his own memories here.

         She set aside her thoughts for the time being; her immediate problem was keeping up with her brother and making sure she didn't get lashed by the tree branches which his size allowed him to pass easily, yet made her way complicated. She almost fell over him when he stopped, and had to bend over to keep from bumping into a large tree branch.

         He was panting himself, and with the paranoia of a child who thinks that there are people hiding, listening to every word that he might say, he whispered to his sister, "I'm going to show you my secret spot, but you can't tell anyone else about it."

         Sarah played along. She understood how important the few places of childhood magic were to all children.  "I won't," she assured.

         "You promise?"

         "Cross my heart and hope to die."

         "Okay," he said as he pulled her along once again, as if she were a dog on a leash.

         They walked through the area a short while longer when Toby finally stopped before a small clearing. Sarah gasped at the sight that stood before her.  An opening showed in the trees and the sun fell through, teasing the colors and mingling them, throwing the shadows of the leaves on her face. Honeysuckles crawled up the trees, like beautiful snakes with sweet aromas.  The ground was covered in rich soil and fallen acorns, and the roots made twisted shapes as they formed askew seams in the ground.  Sarah closed her eyes and inhaled the air, the smell of memories being much more intoxicating than it had been anywhere else.  Warmth and serenity wrapped about her, making her want nothing more than for the present to continue forever.  This was indeed a place of magic.

         She opened her eyes and felt a smile cross her lips.  "It's so beautiful."  Toby looked up at her from her side, and smiled at the approval his haven had gotten from the audience.

         She looked around to see some of Toby's toys scattered about the clearing. Between some old toys of his she spotted a box.  Immediately, her curiosity was instigated, and she went to pick up the object.  It turned out to be a jewelry box, depicting carved images that had been lined in gold leaf.

         "Toby, where did you get this?"

         His young face scrunched up in puzzlement. "I don't know. What is it?"

         "It's a jewelry box," she replied absentmindedly as she gazed intently upon it.

         "Haven't seen it before," he said, quickly shrugging off the question.

         She examined the beautiful designs and golden highlights with complete wonder and amazement. It was engraved with flowers of all sorts all unlike any flower she could remember having seen in her lifetime.  There was no apparent method of opening the box; she slid her hands across its rough exterior and traced the outline of its one glistening sapphire with her finger.  With a soft mechanical sound, a panel on top slid aside due to her pressure on the gemstone button.  Like the quickened blooming of a flower, a mirror formed itself by constructing panels of reflective glass into a curved wall.  A hole opened in the bottom and a twirling figure emerged; it was a girl in a white, glistening gown.  It teased Sarah's memory, and then the recollection instantly vanished.  Sarah gazed up suddenly, an unprovoked feeling of paranoia coming over her.  She jerked about in all directions, filled with dread, feeling as if someone would pounce on her at any moment. 

         "What's wrong, Sarah?" Toby asked.

         Sarah looked down at him and gave him a wan smile.  "It's nothing, Toby."

         The anxiety began to die away, but not without leaving Sarah with the feeling that something had been stolen from her.  She looked back down at the dancing figurine and realized that she had been mistaken about the figurine's place in her past; the girl in the dress had no connection with her.

 

         In the two small compartments of the box were some pieces of jewelry. One she recognized as an old ring that she had possessed ever since she was a little girl  the other a bracelet a bracelet she had given to a friend from the Underground whose name was Hoggle.  He was a dwarf whom she had met at the start of her journey into the Labyrinth.  She had met him once again while trapped in an oubliette, and he had promised to show her the way out in return for her bracelet, which was made of plastic beads resembling polished stones.  The ring, she had given to an old man with a long mustache and beard in return for an answer to her question of how to solve the Labyrinth.

         The way forward is sometimes the way back, he had said.

         Toby let go of Sarah's hand and went over to a honeysuckle vine.  As she began to recede into her thoughts, he plucked flowers from the vine and sucked the honey from them.  She broke out of her reverie to watch him.  Five flowers had been plucked before he got one solitary drop to fall on his tongue.  She laughed inwardly at his innocence and began to wish that things could again be simple in the manner they had been when she was a child.

         Toby's present occupation only broke her train of thought for a moment; she continued to think of her past experiences with the land of the Underground.  Old bedtime stories of the land drifted through her mind; they were the same ones she had told her younger brother when he had learned to talk.  Toby was a great deal like she had been as a child in some respects; one of the things dearest to his heart was the concept of magic.  Since he was so eager to listen, she found no difficulty in reciting the stories to him.  He believed they were only fictional, which made the situation an easy one for her.  Besides, her thoughts of the Underground had been plaguing her then as they were now, and she needed the storytelling as a relief from her obsession with the past.

         She glanced back at the box. To her amazement, another necklace was now there.

         "This wasn't here before," she whispered to herself.

         Just like at the gas station and on the highway, something had appeared out of nowhere.  Then she began to wonderhad it been there all along?  Had she just missed it the first time?

         As she pondered the origin of the necklace, she examined it, as well. It had a silver chain, with a pendant of the same sparkling silver. The pendant was a single hand holding a glass sphere. The glass was so thin that Sarah was surprised that it had survived any type of handling, gentle or not. She remembered a glass sphere; yes, Jareth had offered a glass sphere to her in return for her brother. The same five year old brother who was kneeling across from her, playing in the dirt and celebrating a birthday. An experience, she realized, she was lucky to take part in.

         She held the necklace up to the break in the trees. The sphere turned black, as if flinching from the light. Then it turned red, as did the chain. A wave of tremendous heat seared through the metal and surprised her so that she immediately let it go. She looked at the necklace as it was sprawled over the dark carpet of earth; the sphere had not broken and the red color had died away.

         Without provocation, the sphere took on a new glow and a slight tint of blue emerged. She hesitantly picked it up from the ground and gingerly touched the sphere with her forefinger. It glowed a brilliant blue in response, causing her to retrieve her hand, only to test it again with the same results.  Convinced that it couldn't harm her in any way, she  placed it in her pocket.

         One more time, she looked at the jewelry box, the tune of Greensleeves tinkling mystically from its machinery.  The princess danced alone, twirling left, then twirling right, bowing, then doing it all again.  Suddenly, another compartment opened, and a man appeared, his hand raised just enough to touch the girl's waist.  His blond hair flowed to his shoulders and his silver frock sparkled as he danced with her.

         "Jareth," she murmered, shaking her head.  "Some nerve he has."

         She looked at her brother and wondered why he hadn't noticed the events that had taken place over the past few minutes.  He was usually very curious.  The mysterious jewelry box would have interested him under normal circumstances; maybe, somehow, circumstances were not so normal.  Or, maybe, he had just grown up.  She pocketed the bracelet and ring, and as she put the jewelry box back on the dark ground that it had come from, she heard her mom call in the distance.  "Sarah! Toby! Come on in, kids!!"

         Getting up, Sarah repeated the call for her brother, who was so engrossed in his play that he had not heard his mother shouting in the distance.  "Come on Toby, let's go," she said as she left the clearing.  She turned around to see Toby getting up while wiping his dirty hands on his pant legs.  Sarah smiled to herself; everything was fine, no matter how strange things seemedor how many cruel jokes Jareth played on her.

Jennifer Connelly     David Bowie    Jim Henson            C    C