is the way the world ends:
with a bang but a whimper.
T. S. Eliot
one noticed the crow as it flew tirelessly through the sky, a glossy
black against the soft white and pale blue of the heavens, blended in
such a way as to make the crow appear unreal, a three-dimensional living
being against a two-dimensional sky painted on canvas. The crow had
been flying for a long time, but not without reason, nor purpose, nor
patience: it knew it would find refuge soon. A crow does nothing without
reason or purpose. A crow is nothing if not patient. A crow is patience
itself. It flew on, searching for the perch it knew it would find.
one noticed the owl as it winged its way silently through the sky, a
silken white and brown blended against a white and blue in such a way
as to make the owl appear unreal, the outline of an owl, where white
feathers met white clouds, and only the brown of the owl and the blue
of the sky indicated that there was indeed anything there at all. The
owl had been flying for a long time, but not without reason, nor purpose,
nor certainty: it knew where it was going. An owl does nothing without
reason or purpose. An owl is nothing if not certain. An owl is certainty
itself. An owl is born with all its questions answered. It flew on,
searching for the perch it knew it would find.
crow flew on and on until it reached a telephone pole beside an apartment
building. There it perched and watched, waiting.
owl flew on and on until it reached a tree inside a park. There it perched
on a branch and watched, waiting.
crow watched impassively as the police pulled a white sheet over the
murdered body of Eric Draven, watched as the paramedics pressed an oxygen
mask with increasing urgency onto the bruised, battered face of the
bleeding body of Shelley Webster. It flew nearer, following the paramedics,
then landed and watched as Eric Draven was taken hurriedly to the morgue,
which only held the promise of death, even as Shelley Webster was taken
hurriedly to the waiting ambulance, which might hold the promise of
is Eric? Tell him to take care of Sarah…”
Sarah? Your sister’s gonna be fine…”
not my sister, she’s my friend, her and Eric…she’s gonna die, isn’t
crow watched, listening patiently to the many voices: the anxious cry
of the girl Sarah, the feeble yet anguished plea of the woman Shelley,
the brusque yet concerned compassion of the officer Albrecht. It listened
to the hated yet spoken question of the girl, the hated yet unspoken
response that followed from the officer. Eric Draven was dead…Shelley
Webster was near death.
so it began with a parting…
owl watched impassively as the girl in the white gown dreamily walked
through the park reciting well-loved and well-memorized lines from the
little red book she held in her hand. “Through dangers untold, and hardships
unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the Castle Beyond the Goblin
City…” The owl watched as the white and gray Old English Sheepdog at
the girl’s feet barked once, twice, as if in reply. It watched as the
dreamy statement on the girl’s face turned to horror at the sudden
chiming of the clock.
can’t believe it! It’s seven o’clock!” she cried, then lifted the edges
of her gown and ran, ran through the park, ran down the streets, ran
as though she could outrun the rain that even now pelted the earth,
and the frustration that even now swelled and grew within her. The owl
flew after her, following her, as she ran through the streets fast and
then faster still. Turning corners, her lungs burning, her legs screaming
an aching protest, Sarah Williams ran faster and still faster until
she reached her own house. Never missing a beat, and putting on one
last desperate burst of speed, she ran inside, escaping the patter of
the rain only to run headfirst into the roar of an infant crying and
screaming, finally finding someone on whom she could vent all of her
anger. “Toby! I hate you! Stop crying! I wish the goblins would come
and take you away, right now!”
stopped crying at once.
Sarah Williams cried. “Why aren’t you crying?” The owl could see the
girl run to the crib, pull back the covers, gasp in alarm…there was
no one there…as if Toby had never been.
so it began with a parting…
away, O human child,
the waters and the wild,
a faery, hand in hand,
the world’s more full of weeping
you can understand.
Davis stared mutely down at the two graves. Her bouquet of flowers was
on one and the single white rose was on the other. She read the headstone
again; no epitaphs or anything; carved from gray rock, the tombs looked
they weren’t…because of the names.
read them silently. SHELLEY WEBSTER and ERIC DRAVEN. Then she spoke
them aloud: “Shelley! Eric!” Maybe if she repeated them enough she would
wake up from this nightmare, find it was all a bad dream, that Eric
and Shelley were alive and well and married instead of six feet underground
in what was undoubtedly G-D’s idea of a sick, humorless joke.
was so unfair. She’d read someplace that Death was the ultimate fairness,
because it struck everybody and didn’t discriminate against anybody,
but all she could think of now was how unfair that supposed “ultimate
fairness” was. A part of her hoped the police would catch the bastards
who did this to Eric and Shelley, but another part of her reminded her
that she didn’t have that much hope.
was falling apart. Part of a poem that Shelley had read to her crossed
and turning in the widening gyre
falcon cannot hear the falconer;
fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
anarchy is loosed upon the world,
blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
ceremony of innocence is drowned.
had loved poetry; she was often found curled up either on the bed or
under a tree (or, Sarah suspected, in Eric’s arms when he and Shelley
were alone) with a book filled with her current favorite poet’s poems.
Sarah smiled, remembering how, after Shelley had read that particular
poem, she, Sarah, had groaned about not know what “gyre” meant, or “anarchy”
either. Shelley had had to explain them to her. Sarah didn’t understand
most of it, but the part about the center not holding sure was true.
Things did fall apart, and the center
couldn’t hold and it seemed to her that innocence
was startled out of her thoughts by the rustling of wings, as a large
crow flew past her to settle on Eric’s headstone. “What are you, the
night watchman?” she joked, and was surprised as it gave a loud, friendly
caw, as if it had understood her question and had responded to it. “You
gonna watch over them tonight?” she asked, and received another caw
in response. “Well, OK…later,” she told Eric and Shelley. Then she turned,
hopped on her skateboard, and skated out of the cemetery.
crow sat perched on Eric’s headstone, pecking at it, pecking at it until
little stones chipped off and fell to the ground, waiting, ever waiting.
The crow sat perched on Eric’s headstone, waiting as the sun sank behind
the church and disappeared from the horizon, leaving as its legacy a
sky streaked with crimson and soft pink and periwinkle. Not stirring
a feather, patiently, the crow waited as the dying sun seemed to fill
the name of ERIC DRAVEN with a red light akin to blood, waiting until
the moon rose and bathed the cathedral and the cemetery in a silvery
night cloaked the earth in a glossy ebon, and only an occasional flash
from the crow’s eyes indicated that it was there at all, obliterated
as it was against the blackness of the sky. The blackness of the sky
and the grayness of the headstones and the brownness of the earth produced
an eerie, otherworldly effect. Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters might have
held council there, or Milton’s Satan.
Darkness is dizzying. We need
light; whenever we plunge into the opposite of day we feel our hearts
chilled. When the eye sees darkness, the mind sees trouble. In an eclipse,
at night, in the sooty darkness, even the strongest feel anxiety. Nobody
walks alone at night in the forest without trembling. Darkness and trees,
two formidable depths–a chimeric reality appears in the indistinct distance.
An outline of the Inconceivable emerges a few steps away with a spectral
crow sat and waited in the darkness, waited even as the first drops
of rain sprinkled the earth, as the few drops became a few more, and
a few more, and a few more still, until rain fell steadily from the
sky. Still the crow sat, pecking at the headstone, until the earth began
to shake. And as the earth began to shake, the earth began to crack.
And as the earth began to crack, the earth began to crumble, falling
away in brown wet clumps, skittering away from Eric’s grave. The earth,
crumbling and skittering and falling away, split open and a large crevice
appeared in front of the headstone, and a hand reached up and out of
the crevice, clawing rain and mud, clutching the wet earth. This was
not just any hand, this was a human hand, a human hand attached to a
human body. That human body was clawing at the wet earth, was ripping
and tearing and lacerating that earth until it worked its way out of
the gaping hole of a grave. It was as though the body had simply fallen
into a muddy hole by mistake and was now struggling to free itself from
it. It worked its way out of the hole and collapsed on the mud, howling,
screaming an almost bestial cry, shrieking in anguish at the sky, writhing
and twisting on the damp ground and finally struggling to its feet as
ungainly as a newborn foal.
screamed again, howling and shrieking as if he could scream away the
pain that streaked and raced and pounded within him. He was being reborn,
and birth is always painful. It was Eric, and yet it was not Eric…Eric
without name, without memory, without everything save some primal instinct,
some bestiality from some bygone time. He flinched instinctively, cringing
as the crow fluttered past him to settle on a nearby tree branch. He
flinched again as the voice of the crow whispered in his head.
warrior. Follow me. It is time.>
said nothing, but the crow heard a scream inside his head, a scream
that seemed to embody all of his pain and fear and confusion:
do I take this pain of mine
run, but it stays right my side
tear me open, pour me out
things inside that scream and shout
the pain still hates me
hold me, until it sleeps
like the curse, just like the stray
feed it once, and now it stays…
hold me, until it sleeps.
Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, Metallica
Eric screamed silently again. <Shelley! Someone help me, I am
in so much pain…and all of this is new yet so familiar…and Shelley…what
has happened to Shelley? Shelley! My Shelley! My dearest Shelley!>
He flinched again as the calm, patient voice of the crow filled his
not fear, warrior. I am with you now, and your Shelley is safe. You
will be with her again. But now, warrior, we must hurry. There is much
to be done. Come, warrior. Follow me. It is time.>
The crow cawed once and flew from the branch out of the cemetery in
a flutter of wings. Eric, obeying some unconscious instinct, drew a
shuddery breath, and followed it.
crow led Eric down deserted streets and through twisting, turning dark
alleys until they came to a Dumpster that held a pair of discarded shoes.
Eric walked over and picked them up, scarcely comprehending what they
were, picking them up and staring at them curiously. The crow cawed
and Eric slowly unlaced the laces, put the shoes on his feet, re-laced
them, and continued following the crow as it flew threw the dark night…
Williams was staring at Toby’s crib in shock, not understanding where
Toby had gone. The last thing she remembered was saying, exasperated
and angry, “I wish the goblins would
take you away…right now.” But surely that was just a story she’d made
up…the words hadn’t worked…they couldn’t have worked…the Goblin King
hadn’t really taken Toby away, had he?
gasped and turned quickly as something fluttered against the window.
It was a large crow, who flapped its wings and pecked at the window
until the window opened and the crow flew in the room, soaring over
Sarah’s head to settle on the crib. It gave a caw and a man came in
through the window. He was tall, with dark eyes and hair, dressed in
black, with paint and makeup on his face looking like a mask, like one
of those sad Harlequins in one of the Italian opera books Sarah had
read. He carried a black electric guitar in his hands. Too frightened
even to scream, she could only stare as the man stepped towards her.
He looked at her sadly, as if begging her not to be afraid. “Shh,” he
whispered to her.
she is, warrior,> the crow told him.
<Do what you must.>
continued to stare and then tried to back away as the man reached towards
her and put his hands on the sides of her head.
gasped in pain as a barrage of images pelted him.
Sarah running through the rain…shouting at her mother…sulking in
her room…running to Toby’s room…shrieking…saying words…turning off the
light…turning to go out, then turning back and gasping in horror as
she realized that Toby had gone…
leapt away from Sarah as though he had been burned. He huddled in a
corner, rocking and sobbing quietly, feeling the eyes of the girl on
him but ignoring them.
continued staring at him and asked the first question that came into
her mind: “Why are you crying?”
looked up at her curiously, as through remembering there was another
person in the room, and whispered, “I saw him disappear…I saw him through
your eyes…Oh, Sarah, I’m so sorry…no one should have to go through what
I have gone through, what you have gone through…”
are you talking about?” Sarah asked, and then, frightened, “How did
you know my name?”
crow gave a loud caw. <Help the living and you will bleed,>
it said to Eric. <However, in this case, we must break that law.
You must help the living, warrior. Only by helping the living will you
see your Shelley again.>
name is Eric Draven,” he told Sarah, “and I once heard your mother call
you Sarah. I saw everything…through your eyes. I saw how Toby was there
one minute and gone the next, and I’ve come to help you get him back.”
Quietly, he added, “Even if I bleed, I have to help you. It’s the only
way I’ll ever see her again.” He went to cover his forehead with his
hands but he realized that the solid black, six string, standard Fender
Stratocaster he’d “borrowed” from Gideon’s before it had “accidentally”
burned down was blocking him, so he slung it across his back. Then he
covered his face with his hands, and repeated quietly, “Even if I bleed…it’s
the only way I’ll see her again…my Shelley…my Shelley….”
glanced at his hands, at his little finger, on which was the golden
engagement ring he had once given to Shelley and which he had found
in a large metal box stashed rather carelessly under Gideon’s counter.
His face showed a hint of a smile, remembering how he didn’t even have
to look to know it was Shelley’s ring…how it had begun singing softly
to him as soon as he touched it…no words, just a soft, sweet melody
composed entirely of Shelley’s name…
himself a sad little shake as a reminder to stay in the present, for
if he dwelled too long in his memories the pain of remembering would
overwhelm him, he looked up and, louder, he asked Sarah, “Do you have
any idea what happened to Toby?”
last thing I remember was saying that I wished the goblins would come
take him away, but that couldn’t have happened, could it?”
possible,” Eric said with a half-smile.
Heck, he thought, I’m one of the living dead with the ability
to talk to a telepathic crow and experience other people’s memories.
What’s a few goblins? He then became serious. “What exactly happened?”
a story I read somewhere…or maybe I made it up…I can’t remember,” she
confessed. “It’s about a girl whose stepmother always makes her stay
home and look after the baby – that’s Toby – and the baby’s a spoiled
child and always wants everything and everyone for himself and the girl
– that’s me – is practically his slave. But what no one knew,” she continued
dreamily, as if to herself, “was that Jareth, the King of the Goblins,
had fallen in love with the girl, and he was so in love with her that
he’d given her certain powers. ‘Say the right words, and the goblins
will take the baby away to my castle and you shall be free.’” She sighed
and when she spoke next there was a pleading note in her voice, as if
she was begging him to understand why she had done what she had done.
“Toby was so loud and obnoxious and I felt like I would go insane if
I had to listen to him scream and cry another minute…so I said the words,
and the next thing I knew he was gone.”
Eric repeated. “Jareth and the goblins. A whole jolly club!” He laughed
bitterly. “I’ll find him, but you’ll have to help me. You know his world.
You tell him that Death is coming for him…tonight. You tell him that
Eric Draven sends his regards.” The crow gave a loud, piercing caw,
as if punctuating his words, and Sarah, Eric, and the crow were suddenly
transported out of the house and onto a windswept hill with a lone tree
next to them, the whole of it overlooking a broad valley and a magnificent
castle with turrets and spires and domes, massive walls, a portcullis,
and a drawbridge. The castle was on top of a large mound, and both the
castle and the mound were in the center of a labyrinth that stretched
as far as Eric, Sarah, and the crow could see, twisting and turning
so it made them dizzy if they looked at it too long.
how long do we have to find your brother and kill the king?” Eric asked.
opened her mouth to answer, but stopped and gave a small gasp as a voice
said, “You have thirteen hours in which to solve the labyrinth before
your baby brother becomes one of us forever.” The voice started fading
away. “Such a pity.”
and Sarah looked at each other.
they said together, and Sarah was frightened to hear the tone of utter
hatred and fury in Eric Draven’s voice.
adjusted his guitar. “Let’s do this,” he said, and strode off towards
the labyrinth so quickly that Sarah had to practically sprint to catch
up with him. As they neared the labyrinth, they saw that a shining pool
was off to the left surrounded by many bushes full of bluebells and
a little man, half of Sarah’s height (one-third in Eric’s case) standing
in front of the pool, his back to them.
walked over to the man. “Um, excuse me?”
Excuse me!” said the man, quickly, zipping up his pants and turning
around, adjusting a chain of various ornaments and jewels hanging from
his belt and ignoring Sarah’s look of revulsion; he had been relieving
himself in the pool. “Oh,” he said in a different tone, one full of
disgust, “it’s you.”
ignored this and asked, “Can you help me get through this Labyrinth?”
the man said noncommittally. Then he noticed a tiny fairy, gorgeous
in a white frock and shimmering incandescent wings, hovering around
one of the bluebells, and he picked up a spray can by his feet and sprayed
the fairy so it fell to the ground. “Ha! Fifty-seven! That’s two more
than yesterday,” he said happily, kicking dirt roughly over the dead
horrible!” Sarah cried. “How could you, you great monster? Killing the
poor innocent little thing like that. You’re horrible!”
I ain’t,” the man retorted hotly. “I’m Hoggle. Who’re you?”
Sarah retorted. She pointed to Eric. “That’s Eric Draven. How do we
get into the labyrinth?”
snorted, as if dismissing their names as unimportant, and sprayed another
fairy, shouting, “Take that, you nuisance! Fifty-eight! Ha ha!”
had had enough. Practically flying over to Hoggle, he grabbed the spray
can away from him, held him upside down, and said, “Mr. Hoggle. You’re
not paying attention.” Eric turned him the right way round and pinned
him against the wall with one hand. “We need to get into the labyrinth.
Where’s the entrance?”
yes,” Hoggle said nervously. “Um. I was just going to answer the little
missy’s question. You gets in there,” he pointed to an enormous gate
consisting of gigantic double doors of red stone. He stared at Eric’s
fist holding him. “Um, you wanna let me go now?”
Now you’re going to tell me if you work for Jareth and where to find
him and how to kill him.”
Hoggle stammered. “Um…” he stalled, thinking furiously to concoct a
lie; Jareth would dump him straight in the Bog of Eternal Stench without
a second thought if Hoggle gave away information like that.
seemed to sense his intention, and said menacingly, “If you lie, I’ll
find you and kill you so harshly you’ll think you’d been pecked by a
crow.” Hoggle started to laugh nervously at the idea of himself running
in terror from a little bird, but as if obeying some silent command,
a large crow flew over and landed on Eric’s shoulder, its wickedly sharp
beak just inches away from Hoggle’s eyes.
Me? Ha ha, of course not, I was just remembering everything you told
me! You know Hoggle, in one ear and out the other. Forgetful Hoggle,
they calls me. Ha ha,” he said nervously. Eric’s eyes narrowed dangerously
so Hoggle babbled, “Castle at the center of the labyrinth! I don’t know
how to kill him!”
you work for him?” Eric insisted.
of course not! Hoggle doesn’t work for nobody! He works for himself!”
considered, then relaxed his grip. “We’re wasting time with this sniveling
idiot,” he growled. “Let’s go.” He strode away from Hoggle and pounded
furiously on the gate, which swung open in response. Then he went through
the gates and halted, confused; two paths lay before him, one on either
um, which way do we go?”
jumped. Sarah had sneaked up behind him and Eric had been too distracted
with that dwarf and his own growing sense of urgency to remember that
there was someone else with him.
don’t know,” he answered her. “Let me think a minute.” He closed his
eyes. <Do you know the way?>
he asked the crow.
crow cocked its head to one side. <Two ways lead to the castle,
warrior. One of them is longer and harder than the first. The other,
short and simple.>
first Eric was going to suggest the shorter path, but a mental nudge
from the crow made him reconsider. Killing Jareth quickly would be too
easy and would not even begin to sate the bloodlust surging and rising
within him. To really do it, to return to Shelley, he would have to
take the harder road and kill Jareth slowly, painfully, making sure
that the king suffered as Sarah had suffered, as Eric himself had suffered:
long and slow and painful, the countless hours spent waiting, always
right road,” he said finally, pointing down it, “will get us there.
Lead us to the castle. To him.”
set off down the path, the crow flying ahead, sending images back to
Eric; a path littered with trees, rocks, dirt, twigs; walls of stone
that seemed to stretch on as far as eternity, with so many endless twists
and turns that even Eric lost track of them…straight, turn, right, turn,
straight, left, left, right, turn… Finally, with a leap that belied
his supernatural abilities, he soared up and landed on one of the walls
to view the lay of the land. He was dazzled, and had to cover his face
with his hands for a moment before looking again. The labyrinth seemed
to have multiplied, with even more paths and dead ends and endless choices;
for a minute, Eric was overcome with a feeling of utter despair; how
could he, even he, with his abilities, solve such a labyrinth? Then
he shook his head to clear it. No time to doubt himself. He swept his
eyes over the whole of the labyrinth, trying to decide where to go next.
He noted where the paths turned to other paths, and where the paths
turned to dead ends, and where the paths turned back to the same paths
so you were actually going back the way you came when you thought you
were going forward.
noticed a long path that seemed to lead straight to the castle and,
after following it with his eyes to see how far it would take to get
to it from where they were, he called down to Sarah: “Come on,” and
took off at a run.
she ran, trying frantically to keep up with him, Sarah was full of confusion.
Who exactly was this guy? Where did he come from? Why did that
crow follow him everywhere? And how
did he know what had happened to Toby? She risked a look up at him;
it was hard to do much of anything besides try to breathe properly when
she had to take three steps to his one. He was sprinting now along the
top of the wall, looking and moving like the crow flying ahead of them,
moving with a speed and grace and agility that Sarah wished she had.
Occasionally the wall broke off and turned down a different passage,
but that didn’t stop Eric; he continued leaping along the wall, sailing
from one stone to the next, graceful, surefooted, strong and swift.
she panted, “who are you? Where d’you come from and why do you have
still practically flying across the wall, shook his head. “No time,”
he said, and she took a minute to be both impressed and even more confused;
he had answered in a normal tone of voice, as if he hadn’t been leaping
and dashing for goodness-knows-how-long, and she’d practically had to
force her words out of her mouth. Who
was this guy?
much further?” she gasped. Her legs and arms and lungs were painfully
reminding her that yes, they were there, and they ached, and would she
please slow down before her legs collapsed and her lungs gave out.
going,” Eric said, not really answering. Then he grinned down at her,
a grin that was more of a sneer than anything else, and she shivered
when she saw it. “We’ll get there in time. Don’t worry. We’ll get to
the castle, and we’ll find him, and we’ll make him pay.”
gulped and continued running, taking her eyes off of Eric and refocusing
them on the path, forcing more speed out of her exhausted legs and more
air out of her exhausted lungs, trying not to notice how Eric hadn’t
even broken into a sweat.
while running, was thinking of something. “We’ll make him pay,” he repeated.
“We’ll damn well make that bastard pay.” He grinned to himself, and,
as he soared effortlessly along the top of the wall, he began to laugh.
He laughed because he had always dreamed of moving like this, effortlessly
and swiftly and agilely. He laughed thinking of the doom that he was
going to bring to Jareth for making Sarah’s life as much a living hell
as those bastards who’d murdered him and Shelley had made his. He laughed,
thinking of the word which swirled and whirled within his mind, winding
and twisting through his head as endless as one of the paths of the
He put on justice as his breastplate;
salvation, as the helmet on his head. He clothed himself with garments
of vengeance, wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal. He repays his enemies
their deserts and requites his foes with wrath.
thought of this word, vengeance, and he laughed.
feet barely touched the wall as he easily flowed from one stone to another
as he laughed, his mind caught up in that glorious word which flowed
within him like the chorus to one of his songs: Vengeance!
feet barely touched the wall as he easily flowed from one stone to another
as he laughed, his mind caught up in that word vengeance, so he didn’t
notice where the stone of the wall ended and the leaves of the hedge
began. He tried to step from one to the other, and the leaves were
too weak for his weight, and he fell with a shout of surprise and dismay
and a loud curse: “Aw, fuck!”
out of breath and gasping, gratefully slowed to a stop, but grimaced
when she caught sight of Eric. He’d fallen right into the hedge, and
was now struggling and thrashing to free himself.
a few minutes of rolling around and cursing, Eric managed to break free
of the hedge. He shook himself like a dog as if he had just emerged
from a pool of water, and then cast an eye over himself.
he shouted. He was covered in leaves, twigs, and thorns. His hands were
bruised and bleeding and full of thorns, but he wasn’t worried about
them and he ignored the pain, because something else was wrong: his
prized black leather overcoat was scratched and covered in thorns.
after catching her breath, asked, “Are you OK?” She blushed, knowing
how stupid that sounded; the guy had just fallen into a thorny hedge,
for crying out loud, but she wanted to know why he was so upset.
at this!” Eric shouted angrily. “Look at this! Just look at this!” Awkwardly,
but still furious, he started cleaning up his hands, brushing off the
leaves and pulling out the thorns, ignoring both the passing physical
pain and Sarah’s gasp of surprise as he extracted the thorns one by
gasped again. Oh my GOD…His hands…!
As he brushed aside the leaves and the twigs, pulled out the thorns,
streaking his hands with dirt and blood, the cuts immediately healed…the
blood flowed back into them…the flesh closed… It was as if his hands
had always been large and white and perfect, with artist’s fingers,
never scarred by blood or dirt before.
grunted as he pulled out the last of the thorns, barely noticing that
his cuts healed instantly. Looking up at Sarah, he asked, “Help me with
Sarah walked over to him. “How bad is it?” he asked.
back is totally covered,” she answered.
Jesus Christ,” he groaned. “Help me with that, will you? Please?” Obediently
she began picking off the thorns from the back of his coat as he attended
to the ones attached to the sleeves and cuffs, repeating, “Jesus Christ.
Look at this. Leaves and sticks and all these thorns like little nails
all over my coat. Oh, Jesus Christ.” Suddenly he grinned and gave a
little chuckle. “Stop me if you’ve heard this one,” he started. “Jesus
Christ walks into a motel…”
still,” Sarah said, still picking out the thorns.
was quiet for a minute, then continued, “He hands the innkeeper three
nails and asks…”
Sarah said as she was stuck. “Hold
still, please. They’re almost out.”
sighed and then finished, “Can you put me up for the night?”
stood back, sucking on a bleeding finger. “There you go.”
Gingerly he shrugged off his coat and examined it, checking to make
sure it was all right. Satisfied, he put it back on and turned his attention
to his guitar, which had, in some miraculous way, escaped unscathed
except for the covering of leaves and twigs. Brushing them off with
furious but tender care, he then minutely examined every inch of the
instrument checking for scratches, stains, streaks, and thorns. Nothing.
a good thing my guitar’s OK,” he announced. “If it wasn’t I would’ve
killed Jareth.” He looked at Sarah. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m going
to kill him, but if he’d damaged my Strato I’d’ve done it much slower.”
voice trailed off; he heard a low, high-pitched laugh that was hard
as wood and as rustling as leaves: “Ooohssssshahahahahheeheeheesssss!”
you hear that?” he asked Sarah. She looked around, biting her lip.
it’s OK,” he began, then hushed as he heard it again, a little louder,
so that Sarah bit her lip again and creased her brow, looking worried:
wildly looked all around her, Eric circling where he stood, his eyes
darting here and there, suddenly holding out his hand and motioning
Sarah to look at the hedge.
hedge was staring back at them. Two large black eyes had appeared
through the leaves.
things happened at once. Sarah gasped in alarm, the eyes vanished, and
a voice yelled, “Ooohssshahahaheehee! Catcher ’ums! Get ’ums!”
from the hedge swarmed an army of furry little creatures dressed in
rags and leaves, armed with sharp sticks. They ranged in size from a
full-grown raccoon to a full-grown Chihuahua, with sleek yet stringy
fur that was black with white and gray patches mixed into it. They had
long snouts, long, fennec fox-type ears, sharp looking white teeth,
and beady black eyes. Brandishing their sticks and an odd assortment
of thorny branches, they rushed at Eric and Sarah, chanting, “Catcher
’ums! Ssssoohoohoohahaha! Catcher ’ums! Pricker ’ums an’ sticker ’ums,
in the world are these guys?” Eric asked.
goblinses! Us’ums be da hedger goblinses! Hahahahahahaheeheehee! Us’ums
sticker you’ums wiv our long sticks an’ kill you’ums dead! Ssssooohoohaha!”
goblins?” Eric repeated.
do you want to kill us?” Sarah asked anxiously.
be our mazeses! You’ums be trespassingers! Tresspassingers! Death to
tresspassingers! Death an’ more death! Ssssooohoohoohoo!”
huh?” Eric said. “Well, first come, first served.” He let out a yell
and started to charge them but the crow stopped him.
these creatures will not help, warrior.>
had an idea. He’d seen people like these hedge goblins before, street
punks who were always ready to fight and full of hot air, but who always
turned and ran at anything fiercer and louder than they were. He took
up his Strato, tuned it, and played an E major, full and long and loud,
following it with a few A majors and Gs.
hedge goblins panicked. “Aiyeeee! Big noiseses! Big noiseses! Bad’ums!
Bad’ums! Runrunrunrun! Ssssoooahhhayee! Runrunrun!” Falling over each
other in their mad rush, they dashed back into the hedge and vanished.
a critic,” Eric sighed. He looked around. “What the––?”
had changed. The path he had seen from on top of the wall was not the
path that lay before them now. The hedges appeared where the path had
been, and the path appeared where the hedges had been, and all the twists
and turns were in the wrong places.
after year beheld the silent toil
spread his lustrous coil;
as the spiral grew,
left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
with soft step its shining archway through,
up its idle door,
in his last-found home, and knew the old no more
Eric screamed, furious.
mocking voice laughed, and said, “You didn’t think I’d make it that
easy, did you? Credit me with more imagination than that.”
Eric screamed again, in helpless anger.
oh, by the way,” the voice continued, amused, “the longer you stand
here arguing, the more time you waste. A little thought to keep you
it’s not fair!” Sarah complained. Eric, meanwhile, swore loudly, then
reached into one of his overcoat pockets, pulled out a pistol, placed
it on the stone floor, and spun it. He and Sarah stood watching the
muzzle until it stopped. “West,” said Eric, repocketing the gun.
was beginning to see the upside of coming home late every evening.
back in the hedge, the goblins had gathered in a great rustling of leaves
and were now muttering darkly to themselves: “Wood rot! Leaf burn! Bad’ums
scaring hedger goblinses! Sssssoooh! We’ums catcher ’em! Heeheeheehee,
we’ums teach ’em not to tresspanginger our mazeses! Make ’um’s diedead
quickfastest, quickfastest, heeheehee!”
the airy mountain,
the rushing glen,
dare not go a-hunting
fear of little men.
Eric, Sarah, and the crow were unaware of their impending death, preoccupied
as they were with running down the path which Eric’s gun had shown them,
for Eric was far too angry to ask the crow. Eric was furious with the
crow. <Why didn’t you foresee this?>
he mentally hissed angrily at it.
The crow fluttered to rest on Eric’s shoulder, cocking its head to one
side and clacking its beak as if angry.
<What would you, warrior? I am not destiny. Even my powers are
limited. True, I possess some knowledge of the future, but even the
Inner Eye cannot see past its scope.>
crow ruffled its feathers and looked at Eric, cawing softly.
<Do not fear, warrior. You are the arrow unleashed that always
flies true. You are the blade polished that always strikes true. Then,
too, I am here to guide you. True, my powers are limited, but even then
they will prove propitious in the battle to come.>
sighed and, as the crow flew ahead to send messages back to him, turned
to Sarah: “Gonna be a little harder than I thought, but we’ll do this.”
however, was thinking of something else: “How much time do you think
shrugged, glancing at his watch, which had somehow acquired an extra
hour so a 13 appeared where the 12 usually was. “A few minutes, so no
problem. Of course, time might work differently in the labyrinth, so
a minute here might equal an hour, or a week, or a year, or a decade,
or even a century, in which case we are royally screwed. I don’t know.”
snorted. “Who said life was fair? The whole stupid world’s not fair.
I learned that a year ago,” he added quietly.
happened a year ago?” Sarah asked, a little ashamed of her outburst
and feeling sorry for him; it must have been something dreadful.
life was destroyed. My world was shattered. Everything I ever loved
was taken away from me. Shelley…my Shelley…my dearest Shelley…”
bowed his head to hide the tears coursing down his face as he was flung
unmercifully into memories past…
had started out as a perfect day.
had awoken to sunlight streaming into the room and slanting across the
bed in a sheet of gold. Opening his eyes revealed the further pleasantness
of Shelley curled up in his arms. He was full of a warm, tingling feeling,
like sparks of electricity going off everywhere. He felt as though he’d
just finished another successful concert, that wonderful natural high,
that wonderful elated, on-top-of-the-world feeling. He looked fondly
at the woman still sleeping in his arms, her beautiful lips curled into
a slight smile, her breast falling and swelling delicately with every
breath she took, and the feeling increased ten thousandfold. At first
he couldn’t figure out why he felt so excited, so alive, for every moment
with Shelley made him feel refreshed and renewed and like a boy again,
but then he remembered…tonight they were getting married!
a few more hours to go, and then she’d be his according to law, for
she was now and always had been truly his in his heart, the moment he’d
laid eyes on her.
ran over the program in his mind. They would be married tonight, on
Halloween – he and Shelley thought it would be hilarious, since his
band was going to perform a special concert…his band was entitled Hangman’s
Joke. It was going to be a sunset wedding. He didn’t know how other
musicians felt about it, but Eric thought the sunset a poetical, magical
time of day, and since he’d met Shelley he’d become even more convinced.
He could picture it: he in his tux that he’d bought especially for the
occasion, Shelley in that fabulous white wedding gown like a blanket
of silk and beadwork and lace, the two of them together in the old cathedral,
swearing their vows of eternal love as the sun sank slowly over the
horizon streaking the sky with pink and blue and gold…
reached over and took her in his arms, kissing her hair, her cheek,
breathing in her ineffable scent and smiling. “Mine,” he said, tightening
his grip as she turned and smiled at him, nestling her head into the
hollow of his neck. “Mine. Mine forever.”…
he kissed Shelley goodbye and went out to buy a few groceries, the last
thing he remembered thinking was how lucky he was, and how happy he
was going to be…
didn’t realize that he’d gradually picked up the pace, running as though
he could outrun his memories, didn’t realize it until Sarah, gasping
for air and breathing raggedly, panted in a pleading voice to stop for
just a few minutes so that she could both catch up to him and get at
her breath. He slowed to a stop, apologized, and waited till she could
breath without a racking pain in her lungs, then took off again, still
as the northern winds
is the cry that rings
this far distant shore.
has come too late,
close beside me
can I chase away
these fears deep inside?
he got back to the apartment, his arms full of groceries, some sixth
sense warned him that something was not right. He anxiously called out,
“Shelley?” and when she didn’t answer he frantically fumbled for his
key, put it into the lock, and turned it…
opened the door to the loft and stepped into his worst nightmare.
room was a mess, like some great wind of a tornado had ripped right
through it, not stopping until it had destroyed everything in its path.
Books had been carelessly ripped and creased and lay all over the floor,
clothing had been flung just as carelessly over chairs, on the floor.
The refrigerator door was hanging open, looking for all the world as
though someone had simply forgotten to close it; the contents were totally
ruined; half-eaten food and food opened and left to spoil abounded…meat,
eggs, apples, bottles of wine…
barely had time to take in all of these details, each one screaming
its importance at him, silly little minutiae that were somehow rendered
extraordinary by his sense of growing urgency, before a sharp pain seared
through his chest and he looked down in horror at the flashing, glinting
silver blade whose handle protruded through his chest, his blood flowing
like a beautiful crimson river in droplets to stain the floor like tiny
looked up and through eyes blurred with shock and pain he saw men grouped
around something huddled in the middle of the floor…what looked like
three – no, four men… A fat bearded one, who seemed to be in charge…a
skinny little rat of a man who didn’t look more than twelve but had
to be over twenty…a slender guy who looked like a California surfer
king turned street punk, his long blond hair disheveled, his handsome
features twisted into a stupid grin…a man whose black skin seemed to
increase the hardness of his face… He was the one who had thrown the
knife, and through the tears that sprang almost instinctively to his
eyes, Eric could see the sneer that marred his face as he readied his
other knife for a second throw…
frantically tried to clear his head, looking at the men huddled over
something lying on the floor, grouped around it, sitting near it…he
stared, blinking with tears, at it, not comprehending…
hit him with a fresh wave of terror.
Shelley! My Shelley! He screamed silently. Shelley was lying on the
he screamed, and started towards her. The pain in his chest increased,
like a fire burning, a searing, blistering, hot-poker kind of pain that
rippled and surged through him. Fighting back tears, he struggled on…he
had to reach her…get those creeps away from her and out of their home…Pain
blinded him…he couldn’t see…he walked like a drunken man, putting one
foot slowly in front of the other, trying to get to Shelley…
could no longer stand the pain, and he tottered, then he fell…
ran fast, and then faster, still trying to outrun his memories, to put
even a small amount of distance between him and his demons of the past,
but it was no use…the faster he ran the more he remembered…
with a sword he clove my breast,
out the heart he made beat higher,
in my stricken bosom pressed
a coal of living fire…
fell to the floor in agony, still straining to reach Shelley…and that’s
when he saw her clearly, and his mind screamed in protest…no…oh, dear
G-D, no…not that…please…anything but that…no…dear
lay there, her beautiful face battered and bruised, her right eye blackened,
her pretty red mouth opened in a feeble attempt to scream, her slender,
soft, tender body bruised and bleeding…her simple yet elegant dress
was stained with blood…and there was someone on top of her, moving…moving?…and
others were gathered around her, laughing and cheering…and someone was
no, no, no, no! Me first!” It was the blond one…what was he doing to
Shelley? Eric struggled to think of alternative explanations, simple
clean ones, anything was better than what he was seeing…
blond one, leering over Shelley, his pants around his ankles, giggling…
“I’ve got a gun in my pocket. You happy to see me, sweetheart?”
writhing on the ground, helpless as he watched his own dear sweet beloved
Shelley being ravaged and violated and defiled by those bastards, Eric
never stopped struggling, straining his hand to reach her, to get her
out of their reach…
was struggling with all her might to free her body from those hands,
clawing, reaching, grabbing…hands everywhere…and to free her eyes from
those faces, leering, laughing, giggling…faces everywhere…laughing like
a couple of bullies watching their classmate being tormented…laughing
while she was in so much pain…oh please, get the hands and faces away,
get the people away, get me away, get me away from here, get the hands
away, get the hands away…it hurts, oh
G-D it hurts…nonononononono…please help me, someone help me…Eric,
where are you? EricEricEric…helpmehelpmehelpme… ohpleaseohpleaseohplease,
a painful, wrenching turn of her head, she seemed to sense him, and
turned her head towards him, pleading in a voice that was barely above
a whisper: “Eric?”
He was almost there…just a few more inches…a few million miles away…He
reached…missed!…reached again…his hand and fingers torn and bleeding,
as his hand was about to close reassuringly on hers, he felt himself
being lifted away from her…a few inches away…a million miles away from
her…and he began to struggle again…he
had to reach her! But whatever it was that held him wouldn’t let
go, and he gradually realized that two of the bastards who had broken
in and destroyed both his home and his love had him by his arms, were
holding him up by his arms in a grotesque parody of the crucifixion,
and he could only stare in shock and helpless rage down the muzzle of
the gun one of them held, and the last thing he heard was the shot mixed
with his own screams and Shelley’s cries of pain…And then he faded away
into blackness and nothing…
didn’t realize he was screaming. He’d stopped running, he’d fallen to
his knees, his face covered in his hands, and he was screaming, no words,
just a voiceless scream…
began flailing around, helplessly, like a newborn foal or baby, trying
to reach something solid, something to anchor him and pull him out of
his nightmare, and he didn’t stop until he felt something hard and sleek
and cool and he clung to it like a lifeline, not realizing what it was
until a sound erupted from it and he realized he had grabbed his guitar
and was strumming it madly, mindlessly, letting his guitar scream and
bleed its song into the empty air…
yes, hmmm…not very pleasant, mmmm, is it, m’dear? Hmmm, mmm, no, indeed,
no, indeed, no!”
still clutching his guitar and weeping openly, looked up, startled,
and instinctively flinched at the voice and the owner of the voice.
It was a tiny woman, just a touch taller than that dwarf Hoggle had
been, tiny but painfully thin, and gray-all-over, with ears like a cat,
and claw-like hands, and piercing black eyes, clothed in a drab mess
of rags and mud and leaves. She held a stout oaken staff, a little taller
than she was, in her hand.
was chuckling. “Mmmm…oh, no, m’dear, not very pleasant, no, no!”
in his eyes, Eric said brokenly, “Who…? Where…?”
so m’dear is looking around now, looking around now, is it not, is it
not?” The goblin, for that was what the woman was, gave a dry chuckle.
“Mmmm….looking around now, it is, it is! Hah! By what name are you called?”
had to think for a minute. “Eric,” he said finally. “Eric Draven.”
someone called. It was Sarah, and she was struggling over to him, her
hands and legs stained with what looked like gray sludge or mud or clay,
as if she’d waded into a soggy marshy bog-land. “Eric!” Sarah repeated.
“There you are! Where are we? I want to get out of here…it’s so horrible…I
keep seeing myself saying the words and then I see myself looking where
Toby was, only he’s not there anymore…it just keeps playing over and
over, like one of those old movie projectors that gets stuck, or when
I’m listening to one of my records and the needle sticks on the same
phrase over and over and over…Ugh! You can get us out of here, can’t
you?” she pleaded.
stared at her uncomprehendingly for a minute, looking at her stained
hands and clothing, and then turned his eyes to his own clothes, and
his eyes widened. He was standing waist deep in thick gray sludge, what
looked like a mixture of water and mud and clay, with tired plants and
sticks all around, and rocks, too, everything either gray or a tired
brown…even the plants were brown and sickly, not properly green…
am I…where are we?” he asked.
goblin smiled at them. “Hah!” it said, turning to Sarah, “here is the
other! How are you, eh? Hmm, mmm, you look shocked, shocked…like the
other. Scared, are you, eh? Sad, are you, eh? By what name are you called,
noticed the goblin and automatically answered, “Sarah. Sarah Williams.
Who are you? What is this place? Where are we?”
goblin grinned at her. “Sarah…hmm, mmmm…pretty, pretty…I am Aughura
Hoarfrost the Ancient. I am Ternea Grisatrea, the Drab Gray One. Aughura
Hoarfrost the Ancient! Yes, yes, hmmm, mmmm, Hoarfrost!”
Sarah begged, “where are we?”
mmm,” Aughura muttered to herself. “M’dear wants to know where she is,
hmmm. Has to be somewhere, eh? Can’t be nowhere, eh? Yes, yes, has to
be somewhere, yes, hmmm. M’dear has heard of the depths of despair?”
she asked suddenly.
Sarah said, “sometimes I feel the depths of despair, but what…?”
feel, hmm!” Aughura Hoarfrost the Ancient waved away the word. “Yes,
feel, yes, true, you can feel, but m’dear does not know of
the depths of despair? Hmmm?”
just told you, sometimes I feel…”
feel, yes? Forget, forget!” Aughura said angrily, waving her hand. “Hmmm!
Sarah Williams m’dear,” she continued, speaking Sarah’s name for the
first time, “feels in the depths of despair, and perhaps her friend,
Eric Draven m’dear, feels this too, yes, hmmm, but perhaps they did
not know of the place Depths of Despair?”
place Depths of Despair?” Eric repeated.
sighed impatiently. “Hmmm, mmmm, look, look around! All around you is
the Depths of Despair. Big, eh? Big, yes, and gray! Big swamp! Yes!
Ha ha! Hmmm!”
Let me observe here that when
I say the people abandoned themselves to despair, I do not mean to a
religious despair, or a despair of their eternal state; but I mean a
despair of their being able to escape the infection, or to outlive the
plague…The people were brought into a condition to despair of life.
don’t understand…” Sarah began. “How can we be in the depths of despair…”
lost her patience and jumped up and down, screeching angrily. “M’dear,
little big-eyes, little brain!” she screeched at Sarah. “There is a
feeling, depths of despair, but also a place Depths of Despair, yes?
You see, eh? Hmmm, mmmm! Feelings and places, they are the same, connected,
hmmmm, for every feeling there is a place, hmmm, mmm, oh yes!”
looked around helplessly: Eric, Aughura, and the crow were the only
other living beings she saw for literally miles around. The swampy bog
seemed to stretch to the right and to the left and in front of her and
in back of her and all around her for eternity, and it was gray, and
drab, and dank, and full of some heavy and aching sorrow that she couldn’t
name but that pressed all around her like a suffocating blanket. It
was threatening to drown her, and she tried to think of how to get away,
but her brain was like one of those saber-toothed tigers she’d seen
at the history museum, the ones who were stuck in the tar pits, and
all they could do was look around them and struggle and sink down deeper,
ever deeper, into the black, formless, heavy depths… She felt like one
of those tigers, ever struggling, and knowing in the back of her mind
how useless it was because the more she struggled the more she sank…
not fair!” she cried.
whirled on her: “Not fair, is it, eh? Not equal, is it, eh? Hmmm, mmmm,
m’dear, despair is fair!” Aughura burst into a peal of laughter,
as wet as the bog and yet as dry as her own robe. “Fair is despair,
despair is fair, fair is despair, despair is fair…” she chanted. “Ha,
ha! Hmmm, mmmm! Yes, yes! Oh yes!” She broke into another peal of reedy
laughter as dry as one of the twigs that was even now drowning in the
tried to flounce away, beating the gray slime around her in hopeless,
helpless anger. It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t
labyrinth was unlike anything Sarah had ever experienced, all reason
and no logic. Or maybe it was the other way around, and that was the
trouble, that it was all logic and no reason… Everything that was supposed
to be, wasn’t, and everything that wasn’t supposed to be, was… The paths
changed, goblins charged out of hedges, dwarves stood guard over the
gates, and now she was stuck in a horrible gray swamp called the Depths
of Despair with only the goblin woman Aughura who was more likely crazy
than not, and a man who’d come out of nowhere whose wounds instantly
healed and who could fly along walls for hours without breaking a sweat
and who had a crow as a companion, and it was all so miserably unfair…
to any of them (except perhaps Aughura, who kept silent about the whole
thing, for any matters directly unrelated to her realm were none of
her business), this sad picture was clearly beamed to a crystal in the
throne room of the Goblin King. “They’re in Aughura’s realm,” Jareth
observed, looking intently at the crystal orb in his hand. All the goblins
present immediately burst into laughter, some slapping their knees and
falling to the floor and rolling around. “Shut up!” Jareth snapped,
and they immediately fell silent, bowing and cringing fearfully. One
brave goblin timidly asked, “Wrong laugh, Sire, yes, no?”
ignored him. “They should not have gotten as far as the Depths of Despair;
they should have given up by now. Especially Draven.” He glared at the
picture of Eric Draven, too old and stubborn and experienced to be turned
into a really good goblin. Sarah, on the other hand…too old for a goblin,
but what about as a companion? It was very tiring with only a pack of
witless, foolish goblins to reign over, and Sarah at least would bring
some beauty into the midst of their ugliness…
crow-man won’t give up, Sire,” another goblin ventured.
he? Won’t they? Hmm. You never know. Aughura will keep them there for
a while, playing with them, and then lead them to the oubliette. They’ll
soon give up when they realize they cannot escape!” Jareth chuckled
goblins watched him apprehensively. Was it all right to laugh now? Jareth
glared at them. “Well, laugh!” he ordered. With that simple gleeful
mirth that comes so easily to the wicked and the foolish, the goblins
obediently burst into laughter, tears streaming from their eyes, shaking
uncontrollably. They continued guffawing as Jareth threw his head back
like a spirited stallion and burst into laughter.
the chilled air and gray formless mists of the Depths of Despair, Eric
and Sarah were still trying to find a way out.
looked around for the crow, which was fluttering uneasily in the air,
its eyes darting here and there, taking in everything, flitting from
one place to another on black wings that seemed dull in the bleak place.
He called to it, and it alighted on his shoulder, clacking its beak
uneasily and cawing fretfully.
said that if I helped the living I would bleed,>
Eric told the crow. <Is this what you meant?>
crow bobbed its head. <There are all kinds of wounds, warrior,
as there are all kinds of ways to be blooded. Here, in this gray place,
reliving all of your past horrors more vividly than ever, is not all
of this worse than any flesh and blood wound?>
the crow pressed him.
a flesh and blood wound will heal,>
Eric replied grimly. <This doesn’t. This seems to heal, but then
opens again and bleeds again, over and over and over…I feel like I’ll
break if I have to hear Shelley’s cries again, hear all the shots and
screams and see all of the blood and the glass again…Is this what insanity
feels like? Am I going insane? Will I ever see Shelley again? It would
be easy to just give in…just relax and let the memories wash over me,
and drown in them…just give in…just…>
the crow screamed.
am in the Depths of Despair…a gray, shapeless bog. I’m half-drowning
already. Why not just give in…dear
G-D, I can hear Shelley screaming…I can see us…in the apartment…I’ve
been pinned by Tin-Tin’s knife, and I’m trying to reach my Shelley,
and I can’t…I’m so tired…I’m trying to reach her…Shelley…my Shelley…and
I can’t…so tired…>
Struggle on, warrior! One flies or one falls. Fly!>
sister of misfortune, Hope,
the under-darkness dumb
joyful courage to your heart:
day desired will come…
knew that the crow didn’t really expect him to sprout wings and soar
away, but he got the message. Fighting back his lethargy, he waded through
the gray sludge until he got to Sarah, was beating the bog around her
angrily with little yelps of frustration. She gave up, still half-heartedly
struggling, sobbing quietly, then crying out. “It’s not fair… it’s not
fair… Toby, stop it! Toby, if you don’t stop crying I’ll say the words!
Stop it! Stop! Goblin King, Goblin King, wherever you may be, take this
horrible child far away from me! There! That’ll show you! Oh, stop it,
Toby, stop it! I wish the goblins would come and take you away…right
now! Toby? Toby, are you all right? Why aren’t you crying? Toby? Toby,
are you…oh no! Toby! Toby! Where are you? Toby! Toby! Toby!”
didn’t have to ask what she was doing. He could guess. She was reliving
those last few moments, the ones she’d told him about, the ones he’d
seen, where Toby was crying and wailing and she couldn’t stand it any
longer so she recited the words and then was struck horrified when they
really worked and Toby disappeared…
Toby! Toby! Come back! Please! I didn’t mean it! Oh, Toby, where are
you? Come back!”
One can no more keep the mind
from returning to an idea than the sea from returning to a shore. For
the sailor, this is called the tide; in the case of the guilty, it is
called remorse. God stirs up the soul as well as the ocean.
was paralyzed. She couldn’t move. She stared straight ahead of her,
her unseeing eyes on some distant point on the horizon. She couldn’t
see or hear properly; she didn’t even know where she was anymore. It
was like a haze or a veil or a scarf had settled around her head, obscuring
her eyes and her ears. She heard, over and over, with frightening clarity,
Toby’s wails, and her own furious protests, and then she saw, with growing
horror, the emptiness that now filled Toby’s crib when Toby had gone…
was like the time she’d had a song stuck in her head, a silly little
childish thing, and she’d been doomed to go around for half a day with
the chorus stuck in her head until one of her classmates asked her what
was wrong and had suggested another song to drive away the one lodged
in her brain. But this was different from a song. If a song becomes
stuck in your head there are always other songs to replace it, to drive
away the annoying, taunting words. But with images like this, images
full of guilt and sorrow and horror… what can drive them away?
stared straight ahead of her, transfixed, her eyes and her ears and
her mind totally on the sights and sounds of Toby crying, and disappearing…
They were so real that she hardly heard a voice that seemed to be growing
louder and more insistent.
voice was crying, “Sarah! Sarah!” It was Eric. He was trying to get
her attention, to get her out of her nightmare, but it was useless.
Sarah!” The words echoed in her mind, changing, whirling and twirling,
becoming bursts of mocking laughter. “Sarah! Sarah!…Sarah! Sarah!…Ha,
ha, ha!… Sarah! Sarah! … Hahahahahaha! You lost Toby!… Sarah! Sarah!
You lost Toby! Ha, ha, ha, ha! Hahahahahahahahaha! … Sarah! Sarah! Hahahahahahahahahaha!”
tugging at her sleeve, shaking it insistently: “Sarah! Sarah!” A louder
noise, a discordant sound, a cawing noise…
caw! Sarah, Sarah! Caw, caw! Sarah, Sarah!” …
screamed and flung up her hands, closing her eyes, trying to escape
the calls and the visions.
closing her eyes, in flinging up her hands, in trying to free her mind
of the pictures and the laughter and the screams, Sarah broke the spell
of Despair. “Who… what…?” She looked wildly around her and tried to
move, but the sludge inhibited her. She looked down at her jeans stained
with gray and wrinkled her face in disgust. “Oh, my gosh! What is this
Depths of Despair,” Eric told her. “Come on, we’ve got to get out of
is it? Go, is it, eh? Eh? Hmmm! No, no, m’dear, oh, no, no!”
d’you mean?” Sarah asked Aughura, frightened.
wants to go, is it not, is it not, eh?” Aughura repeated. “Hmmm, mmmm…Go,
is it? Hah! M’dear doesn’t like the Depths of Despair, eh? Yes? No?
Hmmm…M’dear wants to leave, mmmm…. Try, m’dear, try, hmmm…. Hahahahaha!”
go that way, I’ll go this way,” Sarah told Eric, pointing in two different
directions. Eric chuckled, gave her a mocking salute, and started off
in one direction, the crow on his shoulder ruffling its feathers uneasily.
Sarah stood, looking at them for minute, then started off in another.
trudged. Nothing looked different, and everything looked the same: the
same gray swamp, the same tired old rocks and twigs and plants, the
same chilled air and formless mists. “This can’t be part of the labyrinth,”
she said, just to hear something besides the unbearable silence; except
for her, Eric, Aughura, and the crow, she hadn’t heard any other sound.
No birds sang, except for the cawing of the crow; even the swamp that
sucked in the twigs and leaves did it silently. “This just
can’t be part of the labyrinth,” she repeated, trying to convince
herself. “Nothing changes. Same old rocks, same old twigs, same old
gray sludge…Ugh! It just goes on and on! Big spaces of gray nothing!”
looked behind her. Miles of the vast expanse of gray-all-over stretched
as far as she could see, and even farther. She looked ahead of her.
Miles of the vast expanse of gray-all-over stretched as far as she could
see, and even farther. She looked behind her, then ahead of her, sighed,
and struck out ahead of her.
trudged, lifting her leg out of the mud, squelching it back into the
mud, putting one foot in front of the other, growing more and more hopeless,
sinking deeper and deeper into Despair. She was half thinking about
just standing where she was and letting the memories roll over her,
no fighting, when she saw people in the distance.
she shouted joyfully, “hey!” Fighting the sludge, she ran, running towards
the creatures ahead of her, shouting happily.
could see them clearly now… a tall man all in black, a small strange
woman in a ragged robe, and a big black bird…
she saw in front of her was Eric, Aughura, and the crow.
it’s not fair!” she cried.
turned at her outburst: “Oh, no! Not you too! I walk and I walk and
I walk and nothing changes and I think about giving up and then I see
someone in the distance so I go over and it’s just this goblin and you.”
was slapping her knee, hooting with laughter. “Hahahahahahahaha! Not
so easy, not so easy, is it, eh, m’dear? Yes, yes, yes! Hahahahahahohohohoheeheehee!
Not so easy, oh, no, no! Try again, eh, m’dear? Eh? Try again, eh? Yes?
Always happens, yes! Easy to get into, hard to get out! Hahahahaha!”
rose in Eric’s eyes. Marching forcefully over to Aughura, he grasped
hold of her shoulders, looked her full in the face, his eyes flashing
dangerously, and growled, “If you don’t show us the way out of here,
I’ll beat you within an inch of your life with your staff. And then
I’ll take that inch by drowning you in your own swamp, and for the big
finish I’ll let my crow peck out your eyes.”
however, put a restraining hand on his arm: “Let’s look at this logically.”
however, wasn’t interested. “Screw logic, I need to kill something!
I’m through being stuck here reliving my sweet Shelley’s rape and both
of our deaths courtesy of those bastards! I demand
vengeance!” The last word was no mortal speech. It was a growl,
a snarl, a howl of frustration, rage, and pain.
do you want to kill her?!” Sarah demanded. “How will that help the situation?”
turned on Sarah: “Screw the situation! I just wanna feel better!”
realization struck him like a thunderbolt! He muffled a chuckle and
began to laugh. Sarah was beginning to look a little worried as Eric
continued to laugh: “I just wanna feel better… just make this pain go
away so I can get on with my afterlife…that’s how I can get out of despair.”
keeping me from my goals by using despair. So… I’m just not going to
despair anymore…” He turned to Aughura, a sneer–almost cruel–marring
his face. “I’ve got something for you,” he said, smiling. “I don’t want
What, what? M’dear, what are you doing, eh?” Aughura asked, worried
advanced on her. “I’ve got something for you that I don’t want anymore,”
he repeated. Reaching out, he clutched the right side of her head with
his hand. “Thirty hours of pain! Thirty hours of uncertainty! Thirty
hours! Thirty hours of despair!” Reaching out with his other hand to
clutch the other side of her head, he howled in triumph, “Thirty hours
of pain and despair! All at once, and all for you!”
screams as memories of Shelley’s last hours at the hospital swarmed
into her mind mixed with the violent shaking of the bog around them.
Trembling violently, the swamp fell apart, broke into pieces and fell
apart, crumbling and oozing away and leaving them standing looking down
a passageway whose walls had become black stone.
done, warrior,> the crow thought at Eric.
<The Depths of Despair is one of those places that is easy to
enter but difficult to leave. I congratulate you.>
was staring at Eric. “How…what did you…how did you…what happened?”
crow cocked its head and clacked its beak. Eric, after listening intently,
answered, “You know the saying, Nature abhors a vacuum?” At her
nod, he said, “All I did was fill the vacuum. Despair is the absence
of feeling, right? Well, Anger is the excess of feeling. All I did was
get angry. Suppose you had nothing and you added something to it. What
would you have?”
nodded. “Simple arithmetic, that’s all. I filled the vacuum. So much
for despair,” he added cheerfully, petting the crow on his shoulder.
a piece of cake!” Sarah cried happily.
soon as the words were out of her mouth, the ground underneath them
opened, and they fell, falling down, down, down, as the hole through
which they fell became a fast-dwindling shaft of light.
down, down… The wind whistled and sang in their ears. The crow, although
it was supernatural, could not hope to carry the weight of both Eric
and Sarah, so it fell with them, cawing angrily.
landed with a dull thud (because thuds aren’t very interesting in the
first place) in what looked like a darkened room. No windows, no doors.
All around them was black stone and the sound of water running somewhere
in the distance.
alone, in a terrible place,
utter dark without a face,
only the dripping of the water on the stone,
the sound of your tears, and the taste of my own
St. Vincent Millay
Sarah, Eric, and the crow had re-oriented themselves, they looked over
their new surroundings. As far as they could make out, it was all stone,
with a large dark shape that they took to be a bench in the corner.
A single shaft of light streaking diagonally across the floor was the
only source of natural light, and not much at that; the whole of the
place was almost as dark as the grave.
sank onto the bench, trying to get at her breath, dizzy after that wild,
crazy fall. Eric fell into a corner, his knees huddled against his chest.
The crow hopped along the floor, as if measuring the dimensions. Occasionally
it stopped and pecked at the wall.
didn’t know what in world it was doing, and told it so.
<I don’t think there are any worms or beetles here for you to
warrior. As I freed you from one dark place, so too am I attempting
to do so again.>
crow’s gonna try and get us out of here,” Eric told Sarah.
The crow’s just a crow, it’s just a bird, how can it get us out of this
how it’s pecking at the walls?”
don’t expect it to break through, do you?” Sarah asked incredulously.
shrugged. “A crow’s beak is incredibly sharp. It freed me.” He looked
fondly at the big black bird, still clawing and pecking at the wall,
at his guide on his mission of vengeance, his confidant, his trusted
take a while,” he said truthfully. He looked at Sarah: “How about another
one of your stories to pass the time?”
I want to know about you. Where did you come from and how can you dash
along the walls like that without breaking a sweat and why on earth
do you have a crow that follows you everywhere and
how did you know about Toby?”
sighed. “It’s a long story, but OK. I’ll tell you the story. They say
it helps if you talk about it, whoever ‘they’ are. But it doesn’t, sometimes.
Sometimes it just makes the pain stronger. What the heck,” he sighed
again, “nothing better to do. I’ll tell you the story. Once upon a time
there was a man named Eric Draven. He was full of big dreams and he
played a mean guitar – a six-string, solid black Strato, in fact, was
his instrument of choice,” he added, nodding towards the Fender strung
across his back, then realized it was useless, since neither of them
could see that well in the darkness.
played a few gigs now and then for pay, but really struck gold when
he and some guys from school formed a band. They called it Hangman’s
Joke and started playing music the way they thought it should be played:
passionately, wildly, intensely, expressing every kind of emotion you
can think of; loss, hate, pain, hunger, friendship, you name it. One
day Eric met a woman named Shelley Webster, and the minute he laid eyes
on her, he felt as though a half of him that had been missing had been
found again. She was his soul mate, his kindred spirit, his other self.
She was talented, intelligent, beautiful… They fell in love. They took
a room at Caulderon Apartments and lived together, playing music, reading
poetry, joking around, just being alone together…and every day they
fell more in love. Soon they thought of getting married, and Eric even
got Shelley a gold engagement ring.”
attic didn’t feel cold and drafty at all, like most attics, but soft
and warm and glowing in the candlelight, the golden ring setting off
glints of fire and twinkling and winking in the soft light. Shelley
looked up at him, and the smile on her lips was miniscule compared to
the smile that was in her eyes…
smiled back at her, and took her in his arms, murmuring, “I love you…”
melted into his embrace, and caressed his ear with this angelic whisper,
“I love you, too, Eric…so much…”
he whispered happily.
he repeated, tightening his hold. “Mine forever…”
had been reciting this in a cold, mechanical voice devoid of emotion,
in a voice that sounded as though he were struggling to keep his emotions
under control. Now his voice changed, brimming with tears. “It was a
simple golden engagement ring, but it was just for her, and when she
put it on it was even more beautiful.” He stopped, chuckling. “Funny…I’d
planned to make a speech, you know? One of those flowery ones that you
read about or hear about, all full of
I love you and be my wife and
forever and all that… But when I showed her box with the ring
inside, it’s like I forgot how to talk. I just got embarrassed, like
a little kid giving his first sweetheart a valentine. Huh,” he chuckled.
“It didn’t matter. I took her up to the attic, I showed her the ring,
slipped it on her finger, and she fell into my arms…” He stopped, blinking
was…she was so…so happy…she was thrilled…she…she couldn’t believe it…and
I…I just held her, and whispered that I had everything I ever wanted
now that she was going to marry me…” He stopped, his voice choked with
tears. Then he continued. “We were going to get married on Halloween.
We had it all planned out…a sunset wedding at the old cathedral…I’d
bought a tux and she’d made this fantastic wedding dress, all silk and
lace and beads…and Sarah was going to be our flower girl…”
looked blankly at her for a minute, then said, “Sarah Davis was – is
– like a daughter to me, and to Shelley. Her mom, Darla, works at the
Pit as a barmaid and is always going through a string of boyfriends
and drugs and so Sarah…well, she met Shelley this one time in the florist
and they started talking like they’d known each other for ages. Sarah
started spending more and more time with us in our apartment and less
time on the streets, which is where she took refuge when Darla was gone
too long, as she often was, or she just couldn’t stand it…
were going to be married on Halloween,” he repeated. “A year ago, at
sunset, in the old cathedral – just last year. I woke up that morning
just on top of the world. Just a few more hours and Shelley would be
mine by law. I walked out of the apartment to get a few groceries, and
when I came back…”
voice stopped, but his lips moved.
was almost as bad as the Depths of Despair.
memories kept coming, and coming, and coming, and the words he had spoken
so lovingly now came back to haunt him and taunt him…
she’s not yours anymore…
found her and lost her…she’s not yours anymore…not yours…not ever again…
is she still so beautiful…a final joke?
art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe
unsubstantial Death is amorous,
that the lean abhorrèd monsters keeps
here in dark to be his paramour?
I came back,” he resumed, trying to fight his way past the pain, “my
arms full of groceries, I could feel that something was wrong. So I
called Shelley’s name and she didn’t answer. I got out my key and opened
the door and walked into my worst nightmare. The house was a mess. Books,
clothes, jewelry everywhere. The fridge was open, food was rotting,
looked like a normal robbery. Then I took a knife in the chest…”
talked on and on, relating how he’d fallen to the floor, how he’d seen
T-Bird’s gang (“T-Bird, Funboy, Tin Tin and Skank, a whole jolly club
with jolly pirate nicknames!”) violating Shelley, how T-Bird’s gang
had shot him and thrown him out of the sixth story window, how the crow
had freed him from the grave and guided him.
Sarah listened, she felt more and more sorry for him. She also felt
ashamed of herself, complaining about having to look after Toby a few
days a week and giving her stepmother such a hard a time.
Would it have been too much,
she thought, to baby-sit now and again?
She, her father and her mother and even her stepmother were all alive
and well. She hoped Toby was, too. She thought he was – Jareth had just
threatened to turn Toby into a goblin which, while it certainly didn’t
constitute “well,” meant, at least, that Toby was still going to be
alive – who needed a dead goblin? She felt so ashamed about it all:
She was complaining about babysitting when right in front of her was
a man who had had everything he had ever loved and cherished taken away
from him. His life and his love had been stolen from him in a single
night – and when they were about to be married, too! Horrible irony!
It’s not fair, she thought to herself.
was interrupted by the crow, who had been pecking steadily at the walls
and was now emitting angry caws and squawks, fluttering its wings agitatedly
and clacking its beak furiously.
have tried to free you, to free us, but I cannot. There is something
within this place that blocks and contorts my powers.>
The crow cawed irritably a few more times.
then fluttered toward a scratching sound.
sound became a cry of alarm: “Ahh! Gerroff me, ya feathered fool! Gerroff
me!” The crow circled, low to the ground, flying around for a few times
as if coming to a decision, then landed and walked, with dignity, to
Eric, looking proud of itself.
scratching sound continued: “Who’s there?” Sarah asked, frightened.
“Who’s in here?”
a voice said gruffly. “Or what’s left of me after that great lummox
nearly pecked my eyes out. Hmph.” A light shone, illuminating a match,
and holding the match was…
match burned out, singeing his fingers; Hoggle swore loudly and hastily
lit another. “Ahem, well, yes, I knew you were gonna get into trouble
the minute I saw you, and so I sez to myself, Hoggle, sez I, you better
look after ’em. I mean you,” he added, nodding towards Sarah. “The big’un
looks like he can handle himself all right.”
blinked at the sudden light and, for the first time, got a good look
at her surroundings. It seemed to be a cell made of stone with a wooden
bench in the corner and a few unlit candles in the sconces; Hoggle had
lit several candles, burning himself in the process.
noticed Sarah’s gaze: “Oh,” he said cynically, “the little missy’s looking
around now, eh? Suppose she’s noticed that there ain’t no doors or windows
or anything – only the hole up there?” He paused, and said dramatically,
but with a touch of sarcasm in his tone, “This is an oubliette.”
fancy that,” Sarah shot back, matching his sarcastic tone perfectly.
sound so smart, little missy,” Hoggle said scornfully. “You don’t even
know what an oubliette is, you don’t.”
you do?” Sarah retorted, stung.
Hoggle said proudly. He assumed a dramatic tone as he said impressively,
“It’s a place you put people to forget about them.”
the French,” Eric spoke up unexpectedly. “The verb
oublier, to forget. I used it in one of my songs to Shelley.”
He softly hummed the first few notes to “How Could I Ever Forget You?”
which was one of the first love songs he’d written for her.
then,” Hoggle said, continuing his earlier conversation as if neither
Eric nor Sarah had interrupted, “what you need is a way to get out of
here. And it just so happens that I knows a reliable shortcut out of
the entire labyrinth, starting from right here. Just follow me, and–”
Eric and Sarah cried at the same time.
can’t quit now,” Sarah protested.
straight you can’t quit,” Eric growled. “None of us can quit. Shelley
would never forgive me if I left now. I would never forgive myself.”
just plain aggravating,” Hoggle said, exasperated.
come this far,” Sarah pointed out. “We’re doing, um…” She faltered,
looked around her. “We’re doing OK.”
of course you are, little missy, of course you are,” Hoggle said reassuringly,
sitting beside her, “an’ the other one too, of course, but I should
warn you that it gets a lot worse and a lot more difficult once you
get out of the oubliette. A lot more difficult,” he clucked, patting
Sarah’s hand with his gnarled fingers.
and Eric regarded him suspiciously, and even the crow looked sideways
at him: “Why are you so concerned about us all of a sudden?” Sarah asked.
Hoggle realized he was sitting beside her, touching her hand, and he
quickly jumped up, snatching his hand away, “I just am, is all. No reason.
I mean, look around…Pretty young girl in a terrible dank dark black
oubliette. An’ her friend an’ his pet bird, all alone in a terrible
danced back, as if to state that he had no reason at all to be concerned
about them, and his jewels and badges and ornaments clinked and jangled
merrily against his legs as he moved, catching the light and sparkling.
cocked her head at him: “You like jewelry.”
Hoggle said cautiously. “What of it?”
you help us get out of here and get to the center of the labyrinth,”
she began, “I’ll give you…this,” she finished dramatically, holding
out her right arm for him to see the bracelet on it. It wasn’t one of
the fancy ones her mother had given her, just a plastic frippery that
she wore sometimes for the heck of it, a string with beads of different
like it,” she said, seeing him eye the bracelet appraisingly, with appreciative,
greedy little eyes.
quickly looked away: “It’s so-so,” he said dismissively.
she said, matching his tone, “all right then,” withdrawing her arm and
turning back to Eric, asking, “How’s the crow doing?”
wait a minute,” Hoggle said quickly. “Tell you what. You give me the
bracelet, and I’ll get you and your friend out of the labyrinth. How’s
were going to do that anyway, you little creep,” Eric observed.
well, that’s exactly why it would be a particularly nice gesture on
the little missy’s part, wouldn’t it?”
Sarah told him. “No. Tell you what. If you won’t take us all the way
through to the center, then at least take us as far as you can, and
then we’ll manage the rest by ourselves. How’s that?”
Hoggle hummed and hawed for a few minutes, considering. He asked, gesturing
to the bracelet, “What is that, anyway?”
shrugged. “Just plastic, nothing fancy.”
eyes lit up. “Oooh, plastic!” He’d never heard of it before, but it
sounded wonderful. He shuffled over to Sarah, leaned toward her confidentially,
and said, “I don’t promise nothing, but, er, I’ll take you as far as
I can, then you do it on your own. Right?”
Sarah handed him the bracelet, which he immediately slipped onto his
wrist. “ Oooh,” he repeated appreciatively, “plastic!”
admiring it for a few more minutes, he seemed to remember himself, and
said briskly, “Right, then! All we need is a door. Now, lemme see…”
He scratched his head, as if trying to remember something, then eyed
the bench. “D’you mind gettin’ up, little missy?” Sarah obligingly got
up, and Hoggle, with strength surprising for someone so small and rather
stout, pushed the bench up against the wall. The bench disappeared and
became a door in the stone wall, with a knob on the left and a knob
on the right.
lemme think…which one of ’em was it?” Hoggle muttered, scratching his
head and staring at the knobs. He pulled on the left knob but shrieked
and let out a curse as brooms and pails and mops came crashing down
on him, and Eric and Sarah both smiled as they realized the old broom-closet
closet,” Hoggle muttered angrily, slamming the door. Trying to recover
his dignity (and trying to save face in front of the “little missy,”)
he said gruffly, “Can’t expect me to be right all the time, can you?”
before turning the knob on the right side, which opened up on another
Hoggle said, pleased. “Here we go. Come on, then.” Practically puffing
his chest out at his own cleverness, he swaggered and strutted out of
the oubliette, leading them out of the darkness.
hadn’t gone far when a voice boomed out: “DON’T GO ON!”
wood and dale the sacred river ran,
reached the caverns measureless to man,
sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
voices prophesying war!
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
gasped in surprise, Eric spun around pulling out the pistols and cocking
them in one fluid movement, the crow cawing in alarm.
looked all around her, but saw no one except Eric, Hoggle and the crow.
Then she realized: carved into the stone passage wall was a face, and
it was from the face’s stone lips that the warning had come. Along the
wall carved in the rock were more faces on either side, and as the group
passed them, they intoned a resonant message:
BACK WHILE YOU STILL CAN.”
IS NOT THE WAY.”
HEED AND GO NO FURTHER.”
IT WILL BE TOO LATE.”
put her hands to her ears, Eric shook his head, even the crow bobbed
up and down uncomfortably; the words seemed to be echoing and resonating
inside their heads. Hoggle, who had gone a little ways ahead, looked
back at them: “Aw,” he said disgustedly, “don’t worry about them. They’re
just Phony Warnings. False Alarms, y’know? Don’t pay no notice to ’em.
You get a lot of them in the Labyrinth. It’s a good sign, it is, cause
it means you’re going the right way.”
NO YOU’RE NOT,” another face boomed.
up, you,” Hoggle snapped.
face sounded positively sulky, and said, quietly, “Sorry, just doing
you needn’t do it to us,” Hoggle told him.
rock face pouted a few minutes more, then grinned and intoned dramatically,
“BEWARE, FOR THE–”
held up one hand. “Just forget it, OK?” he gritted between clenched
rock face adopted a pleading tone. “Oh, please!” it begged. “I haven’t
said it for ever such a long time! Please? Just once?”
all right,” Hoggle said grudgingly. “But,” he warned, “don’t expect
a big reaction.”
no, no, of course not,” the rock face said happily. It cleared its throat
and resumed: “BEWARE, FOR THE PATH YOU TAKE WILL LEAD TO CERTAIN DESTRUCTION.”
He smiled and said politely, “Thank you ever so much.”
passageway they were walking through had as much twists and turns as
the beginning of the maze, but the rock faces looked different so Sarah
thought they were moving forward, if indeed such a direction existed
in the Labyrinth, and felt encouraged. As they listened to the rock
face boom out its dire warning, Sarah heard a clinking sound and looked
to see a crystal ball rolling and skipping merrily across the floor.
It rolled past them and around a corner, and when they turned the same
corner they saw the orb clinking on ahead of them.
was headed straight for a figure leaning against the stone wall, which
turned out to be an old blind beggar, whose legs, hunched against his
chest, were seen poking through ragged red pants with holes at the knees.
He was huddled under a blue drapery, over which was a black, tarp-like
cape. His face was a pink mask with a long beak like the face of a vulture.
He wore slouched on his head a large, floppy, dark brown leather hat,
the brim of which was folded up to the crown with a tiny, white, rodent-like
skull. As the crystal ball rolled and pattered along, the beggar apparently
heard it and held out his hat; the orb smartly skipped off the floor
and into the hat.
and Eric heard a small, strangled sound behind them. They turned and
looked at Hoggle, who had groaned and was staring, wide-eyed and scared,
at the hat. He took a step backwards as the beggar wheezed in a creaky,
tired voice, “Well, and what have we here, hmm?”
backing away, nervously stuttered, “Um, nothing.”
the beggar repeated. “Nothing? Nothing?” The beggar stood. “Nothing?
Nothing, tra la la?” He peeled off his cape and drapery with a flourish
and shook the rags at them, and Sarah and Eric could only stare: the
beggar was Jareth.
gasped in surprise. She remembered a phrase her mother had repeated
to her, quoting from a book of mythology: “Be wary and kind to beggars,
for they may be the gods in disguise.” Smiling faintly in spite of herself,
Sarah thought that the next time she saw her mother and she quoted the
line, she, Sarah, could add, “or it might be the king of the goblins.”
composed his face from nervous mode to what he hoped was a pleased smile
and, bowing so low and fawningly that he was in danger of falling over
and performing a forward somersault, said, “Your Majesty! What a nice
gave him a disarming smile. “Hello, Hedgewart,” he said pleasantly.
Sire,” Hoggle stammered.
Jareth asked, his tone light, “can it be that you are helping this boy
and his bird and the girl?”
Hoggle stuttered. “I-in what sense?”
put his hands on his hips and fixed the dwarf with a piercing stare.
His voice was hard and serious as he said, “In the sense that you are
leading them towards the castle.”
you mean, helping them in that sense. Um, no, no!” Hoggle protested.
“I was – I was – I was leading them back to the beginning of the Labyrinth,
stared at him. “What?” she demanded, outraged.
motioned Jareth to come closer, as if to tell him a secret. Jareth obediently
leaned in, and Hoggle said, “I told them I was gonna lead them to the
Castle, a little clever trickery on my part, y’see, but actually…”
interrupted him with a look of disgust: “What
is that plastic thing round your wrist?”
stared at the bracelet which someone must have slipped on to his wrist
while he was distracted, sleeping maybe, and which certainly hadn’t
been there before since he hadn’t noticed it until now. Who would do
such a thing? The fairies were mischievous enough…
this!” Hoggle laughed. “Why, I don’t know! My goodness me, wherever
did this come from?”
straightened, fixing Hoggle with another stare. “Higgle…” he started.
Hoggle corrected quickly.
I thought for one second that you were betraying me I would be forced
to suspend you headfirst into the Bog of Eternal Stench.”
fell to his knees. “No, your Majesty!” he pleaded, whining and cringing.
“Not the Eternal Stench! Please!” He leaned forward and grasped Jareth’s
legs, sobbing. “No, please!”
yes, Hoggle!” Jareth shoved Hoggle roughly away and turned to Sarah
and Eric, who was staring at him with a look of pure loathing.
you, Sarah,” Jareth continued, in quite a different tone, one that was
gentle and kind and – could it be? – loving, “how are you enjoying my
glared at him, and, with a nonchalance and carefree attitude that she
was far from feeling, she answered stubbornly, “It’s a piece of cake.”
covered his face with his hand and moaned softly at this. Jareth ignored
him, smiling at her, and replied, “Really? Then how about upping the
stakes a little, hmm?” He turned his head, and in the space of air in
front of him the ornate thirteen-hour clock appeared. Jareth gestured
gracefully, and the clock’s hands began to move faster.
out against the injustice, Sarah exclaimed, “It’s not fair!”
looked at her. “You say that so often,” he remarked. “I wonder what
your basis for comparison is.” He walked over to Eric. “Sarah doesn’t
seem to like my Labyrinth. What do you think about it?”
think you better get out of my sight before I get even angrier,” Eric
snarled. The crow cawed loudly, menacingly, as if adding a threat of
its own. Jareth looked at it: “Have you ever fought an owl? In a fight
between a crow and an owl, who do you think would win?”
are you talking about?” Eric hissed.
turned, and his crystalline sapphire and emerald mismatched eyes met
Eric black, angry ones. He smiled slightly. “I’ve brought you a gift,”
he said almost carelessly, holding his hand out to Eric, and a crystal
coalesced in his fingers, shining and iridescent.
is it?” Eric snapped.
a crystal, nothing more,” Jareth said in the same nonchalant tone. He
began playing with the crystal, turning it over and under and around
his fingers: “But if you turn it this way, and look into it, it will
show you your dreams.” He stopped playing with the crystal and held
it out to Eric. “Do you want it?” His voice grew hard, almost threatening.
“Then forget the baby.”
dreams, Eric,” Jareth went on in a much pleasanter tone. “Anything and
everything you want. Cast your mind back,” he smiled, “surely there
must be something …someone…you want…more than anything else in the world…someone
you want to see…?” He smiled slyly.
Eric whispered. He closed his eyes, bowing his head as tears streamed
down his face.
smiled and waved his fingers elaborately, and when Eric opened his eyes,
Shelley Webster stood before him, smiling, looking even more beautiful
than Eric remembered.
stared at her, scarcely daring to believe it. “Shelley?” he said, his
voice barely a whisper and brimming with tears and hope.
warrior,> the crow cried in his head.
<She is not what she seems. She is not your Shelley.>
wrong,” Eric insisted. “Shelley’s come back…!” He started to reach out
to embrace her, but the crow said sharply,
<No, warrior! She is not
your Shelley. You are not seeing properly. Look at her through my
certain that the crow was wrong, Eric obediently looked at Shelley through
the eyes of the crow.
closed his eyes for a minute, then opened them and stared unblinkingly
at the spot where Shelley had stood, and then he opened his mouth and
howled a snarl of such pain and rage that the earth shook. Eric reached
out to grasp Jareth, to kill him with his bare hands, but Jareth laughed
and in a flash of light, disappeared, leaving Eric to grab at empty
air and shriek curses to the sky.
ah…” Hoggle stuttered after a minute, “come on, then.”
whirled on him: “How can we trust you now that we know you were in league
with Jareth all the time, you little double-crossing creep?”
not!” Hoggle protested. “I told him I was gonna take you back to the
beginning to get him off our backs – throw him off the scent, y’know?”
how can we trust anything you say?” Sarah demanded.
put it this way, little missy,” Hoggle said, “what choice have you got?”
looked at Eric, shrugging: “He’s right.”
now that that’s settled, come on, follow me.” Hoggle started off down
the passageway, with Sarah, Eric, and the crow right behind him. The
passageway was stony and long and seemingly endless, but they finally
came to a break in it, with a ladder leading up to a hole at the top.
Hoggle said, sounding satisfied. “This is what we need, right where
it’s supposed to be – this time. Come on, then.”
was all the fuss about the Bog of Eternal Stench?” Sarah asked as they
shuddered, which wasn’t a good idea if you’re five feet off the ground
and trying to keep your balance on a rickety ladder. “The Bog of Eternal
Stench is one of the worst places in the whole Labyrinth. Even worse
than the oubliette I freed you from.”
Stench, huh?” Sarah repeated. “That’s all it does, just smells?”
shuddered again. “Oh, believe you me, that’s enough. It’s – it’s –”
what the Bog was, was never revealed, because just then a rung broke
off of the ladder and everyone froze for a minute. When they had recovered,
Hoggle moaned softly, and resumed, “Oh my, yes, that’s enough. But that’s
not the worst part. If you set so much as a foot in the Bog of Stench,
you’ll smell bad for the rest of your life. It never washes off. Spending
an eternity dunked headfirst into a bog of stench – bloourrgh!” He took
several deep breaths, taking one hand off the rung he was on to massage
his stomach for a few minutes.
then, thankfully, they reached the top of the hole. “Ah,” Hoggle said,
relieved, anxious to leave the dark stone passage and all memories of
the bog behind him. “Here we are, then.” He heaved himself upwards,
Eric and the crow followed, and then Sarah, each stepping out of a large
ornate urn, like one of those Ming vases in some of the art books Sarah
had mused over in the library, stepping out onto another part of the
maze floor. It was made of stone, like the passage, but at least it
was in the sunlight.
dusted himself off and snorted, then announced, “OK, that’s it. You’re
on your own from now on.”
quit!” Hoggle declared.
a minute,” Sarah ordered, struggling out of the vase and rushing over
said I’d take you as far as I could. Never promised you anything,” Hoggle
said defensively. “Well, I took you as far as I could. I’m resigning.”
Sarah positively shrieked with outrage. “You traitor! You little double-crossing
argument was cut short by a low wheezing and murmuring. They turned
and saw a wizened old man, with a long drooping white mustache and an
even longer white beard and fluffy white eyebrows that barely showed
his large, surprisingly sharp blue eyes. He was dressed in faded robes
emblazoned with all manner of symbols all over them, mathematical symbols,
letters, all matter of signs. Perched on his head, on the top of his
hat, was a bird, or rather, the head of a bird, with a very sharp beak
and even sharper eyes, shrewd and piercing, darting glances this way
and that. The old man slowly shuffled over to a throne made out of stone
books. Seating himself gracefully in the throne with a small sigh of
relief, the man closed his eyes, absent-mindedly chewing on the ends
of his mustache, his fingers laced together, mumbling to himself.
tiptoed over to him, awed. He was obviously a very Wise Man, like the
ones she’d read about, the men who spend all their time thinking Deep
Thoughts. She wondered what this man was thinking. It must be something
very important, since he was mumbling to himself as if trying to voice
his thoughts. Was it some mathematics problem, like the square root
of negative two, or the cube of ninety-six times pi divided by half?
Or matters philosophical, like the meaning of truth, or the truth of
meaning, or even the meaning of meaning? Or thoughts historical, like
trying to remember how many wives Henry the Sixth had and the relevance
that had to when Charles the Second was crowned, or who won the War
of the Roses?
me,” she said tentatively, and the bird glared at her. “Hush!” it hissed.
“Can’t you see he’s thinking? Shut up or you’ll put him off!”
sorry,” Sarah said, “it’s just…”
quiet! You’re interfering with his profoundly important work!” The bird
then gave a hearty laugh, winking at Sarah. “Although, between you and
me, it’s all a lot of bunk! I’m the real brains of this operation. Ha
ha!” It noticed the crow. “What kind of bird is that? A squab?” It clucked
cheekily at the crow, who fluffed up its feathers and squawked indignantly.
What’s this?” The Wise Man had entered the conversation. He blinked
once, twice, staring blearily at Sarah and her friends for a minute,
before his vision cleared and he said, “Ah! A young girl!” The bird
gave a low, appreciative whistle, which earned him a glare from the
Wise Man and a shy smile from Sarah.
she began again, “can you help me?”
The Wise Man said reflectively, stroking his beard. “Whether I can help
you is one thing, and whether you can be helped is another.” He thoughtfully
looked at the sky for a while, then looked back at Sarah, and asked,
indicating Eric and Hoggle as if noticing them for the first time, “And
who are they?”
my friends…both of them,” Sarah said hesitantly.
said the man, and then sunk back into whatever reverie he had been contemplating
from the beginning. After a poking and prodding and quite a few “Ahems!”
from the bird, he spoke again, “Eh? Oh, yes, quite. Well, now, young
lady, and what can I do for you?”
– that is, I – well, we have to get the castle at the center of this
Labyrinth, but it keeps changing, and nothing stays the same, and –”
she sighed. “Do you know the way?”
the old man hemmed, chewing on his mustache again.
the bird mocked him.
Oh, yes…hmmm…where was I?”
me,” the bird laughed. “You’re the Big Thinker, remember?”
yes, hmmm…so…my dear young woman…you want to get to the castle, do you?”
the old man said slowly.
that for brain power, huh?” the bird exclaimed.
quiet!” the old man snapped.
nuts,” the bird sulked.
then, young woman,” the Wise Man continued, “the way forward is sometimes
the way back.”
bad for off the top of his head, huh?” the bird screeched, chortling
merrily. “Aye! Will you listen to this crap?”
you be quiet!” the Wise Man snapped.
OK,” the bird said meekly. “Sheesh. Touch-y.”
the Wise Man demanded.
often, young lady,” the Wise Man continued, “it
seems like we’re not getting anywhere, when in fact…”
are!” the bird finished.
are,” the Wise Man repeated, glaring warningly at the bird.
looked around. “Well, I’m certainly not getting anywhere at the moment.”
the bird laughed. “Join the club!”
by so much taxing mental travail, the Wise Man had closed his eyes and
was now snoring with gusto. The hat looked down at him, pulling a face,
then looked at Sarah, Eric, and Hoggle perkily. “I think that’s your
lot. Please leave a contribution in the little box.” As if on cue, the
Wise Man extended his arm and shook a box in his hand.
and Eric looked at each other, then at Hoggle. “What about something
from your collection?” Eric suggested, nodding towards Hoggle’s badges
you dare think it! Them’s mine!”
What about the ring?” the bird piped up, eyeing Eric’s ring with appreciative
that fried chicken I smell?” Eric threatened. The bird immediately looked
away, humming an innocent little tune.
sighed. They were going to be here all day, or however long a day lasted
in the Labyrinth. At any rate, they were wasting time. She wrung her
hands and then looked down at her fingers and saw a ring on one of them.
Like the bracelet she had given Hoggle, it wasn’t fancy, just a costume
ring made out of paste and a fake jewel. She slid it off her finger
and dropped it into the box, saying, “Well, I suppose I can spare this.”
ma belle,” the bird said politely. As Sarah, Eric, the crow and
Hoggle walked away, Hoggle asked, “Why’d you give him the ring? He didn’t
tell you nothing important anyway.” The hat watched them walk away,
and remarked, “Well, well, then, they’re taking your advice. What a
couple of suckers!” This comment was greeting with a particularly loud
snore from the Wise Man. The bird looked down in exasperation. “Ah,
it’s so stimulating being your hat.”
the Wise Man concurred.
“I never knew words could be
so confusing,” Milo said to Tock. Tock scratched himself a little above
half-past four and replied, “Only when you use a lot to say a little.”
walking, and more walking! That’s all they seemed to do! In the back
of her mind Sarah half-wondered if Toby really was in the Labyrinth
at all and whether this was one of Jareth’s tricks and whether she could
take anything for granted again once she got out of this place. However,
once they had left the Wise Man, they found that by walking forwards
they were actually going forwards, which made a nice change. Better
still, the castle seemed to be ahead of them, its turrets and spires
gleaming in the light and looming in the distance.
nice change, however, proved to be not so nice when the trio (or quartet,
depending on whether or not you counted the crow) turned a corner and
discovered that hedges surrounded them. There were hedges to the right
of them, hedges to the left of them, hedges in front of them, in back
of them, around them, a thorny mini-maze of green and twig and stickers.
It was like those old garden mazes Eric read about that were easy to
enter but hard to leave…much like the entire Labyrinth itself,
he thought grumpily, remembering the Depths of Despair.
his surprise, Hoggle didn’t seem at all alarmed. “Ah,” he said happily.
“Here we are, then. Come along.”
the long and short of it was, they couldn’t come along, for every time
they tried to go forward, they ended up going back again. Going down
an alley only led them to a corner, and going down a corner led them
to an alley, and to make things infinitesimally worse, scattered about
here and there (and, it seemed, everywhere) were stone columns upon
which were mounted stone hands pointing in all different directions.
Following a hand pointing left only led them to a hand pointing right,
and following that hand led them back to the hand pointing left. Following
the hand again for a second try led them to a hand pointing up, which
was of course impossible for anyone except the crow, who told Eric that
even if it took to the air and charted a course for them, it was bound
to change when they actually started walking along it.
what seemed miles and miles of nothing but dead ends and hedged alleys
and hands which only pointed back to themselves, Eric grabbed Hoggle
by the scruff of the neck and threw him to the ground. He then picked
up the dwarf and backed him into a particularly thorny section of the
hedge. “Answer me and you’d better think damned hard before you do or
your life isn’t worth crow’s-meat,” he snarled. “Where are we and how
do we reach the castle?”
right where we’re s’pposed to be,” Hoggle stammered. “This is the hedge
maze, y’see, an’…”
we’ve already run this part,” Eric hissed. “We’ve been retracing our
steps the whole time.”
no!” Hoggle protested. “We’re doing fine! This is…this is good!”
can it be good if we have to start at the beginning again?” Sarah demanded.
“This is where we were nearly gored to death by those hedge goblins.”
ain’t the beginning at all,” Hoggle said irritably. “It’s another trick
of the Labyrinth, see? Illusions and that. Things aren’t always what
they seem in this place,” he finished, “so you can’t take anything for
IDEAS FOR LATER IN THE STORY:
stared at the huge hole in his overcoat, the result of the cannonball
fired by one of the goblins. He looked back up at the goblin army, who
were alternately grinning with hope and whimpering with fear, both at
what they should do if their cannonball didn’t stop that big man and
what Jareth would do to them if it didn’t.
grinned at the goblins. “Ow,” he said, annoyed. “I really don’t like
it when people shoot me,” he continued. “It ruins my wardrobe and doesn’t
do anything for my temper.”/td>