Continuing Tales

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 11 of 14

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What You Wish For

Stage right led to the green room, which was actually green, and doubled as storage space for furniture props. A moldy red velvet sofa blocked the way into the sewing room nook, which was filled with bolts of cloth and an ancient sewing machine.

Beside the greenroom was a wing space for moving sets on and off, which led to a workroom that spanned the back of the building. If Jareth had looked odd standing next to the art in the gallery, she thought, he looked utterly out of place kicking sawdust off his boots, and examining a table saw with his eyebrows raised nearly vertical.

Stage left was the stage managers station, and the fly system and catwalk access. A small door next to the prop table led into the dressing rooms, which were shabbier than the green room, and held shelves full of wigs and hats and costume racks with empty hangers. He looked at everything with the same sort of mild interest, not touching now, just observing quietly, and Sarah wondered what it was he was looking for here, and why he’d been so interested in seeing it.

She led him back out on stage, leaving him in the blue lights upstage, watching her, while she went downstage to check out the new construction Mike had finished. It was sound. The old stage extension had been slowly rotting underneath, the braces supporting it about to give way, and the old trap door unusable. She found the new trap door set about where the old one had been, behind the under-stage orchestra pit. It was nearly invisible in the wood planking, and opened easily enough. She could still smell the black paint. He’d done a good job. Too bad she’d still have to have a talk with him about working holidays. The man would work himself to death, and find a way around everything she said so he could.

Something was nagging at her. Something to do with Mike. Something to do with her, and Jareth, and all of this. What?

“Your turn,” Jareth said, from upstage, his voice taking wings with the acoustics and sounding even more seductive. She didn’t even want to contemplate how he’d sound with a microphone.

Still fighting that nagging sensation, she asked the question she’d wanted to ask before, the one that a part of her was dreading the answer to. “Hoggle promised me that he’d always be there, if I needed him. So did Ludo, and Didymus. And they were, at first. Then one day, they stopped coming. What happened to them?”

“You,” he said. She wanted to turn and look at him, but somewhere in her heart, he was only telling her what she already knew, so she didn’t. She was afraid he’d see the tears gathering in her eyes. So instead she turned to face out at the empty audience, a fitting tribute to the emptiness she’d felt for so long, whenever she thought of her friends.

“How do I explain this, Sarah?” he asked softly. “The purpose of the Labyrinth is to test those who attempt it. The creatures inside that one encounters can help, or hinder. Many of them are...shaped by the person who is being tested. They are made of your dreams, your fears, your imaginary friends, but they also have their own individual personalities. Tell me, didn’t most of them feel rather familiar?”

“Yes,” she said, thinking of her bookend. She’d known it was more than mere coincidence that it had looked so like Hoggle. And she’d had a stuffed dog she’d dressed like a pirate that was almost Sir Didymus’s twin. Then there was the doll her mother had sent her, of the evil faerie king, with the spiky blonde hair and tight pants. Had he just conjured it all up from her dreams? From her room? Had even her friends been an illusion?

“They were real,” he said, reassuringly. “It would take too long to explain how the magic works, but suffice it to say they were real, and still exist as part of the Labyrinth’s many denizens.” She took a deep breath.

“But they stopped coming,” she said.

“You stopped believing,” he said. “Perhaps you called, but you doubted. Or maybe you started feeling too old for such childish nonsense. Or maybe you started to think it was just another dream. In the end, Sarah, you stopped believing, and the magic that had brought them to you died with your belief.”

He was quiet then, and so still she might have been alone.

“If it will make you happy, know that they are happy, and healthy, and all three of them repaired my bloody bridge. Although the price they charged was ridiculously high, considering that they helped destroy it,” he sounded petulant.

She couldn’t help but laugh at that. Perhaps Hoggle had found his courage after all.

“My turn,” he said. She braced herself.

“Since I’ve already had a personal performance of your favorite monologue, which cost me more than you can possibly imagine, we’ll go with something less dangerous. I wish you would play for me your least favorite monologue,” he said.

“That’s an odd wish,” she said, turning now to look at him. He was standing with his back to the black wall, his arms crossed over his chest, one booted foot crossed over the other, waiting.

“Perhaps. Will you grant it?”

“I haven’t acted in a long time,” she said.

“I have every confidence in your abilities,” he said dryly. She turned away, to think. Her least favorite scene? She racked her brain, mentally reviewing every play she’d ever produced, directed, performed, or swept the stage for, every movie she’d ever watched, every student competition she’d ever gritted her teeth through judging. There were a lot of terrible performances in there, but a good actor could have made any of them better. There were some badly written ones in there, but they’d been well performed, so she had no complaints. There wasn’t any play she’d ever truly hated, and more than a few that she loved. Choosing a least favorite monologue was going to be hard...

Except, she thought, turning to look at him again, standing there in the false moonlight, with the shadows of the leaves over his inhuman beauty, there was one...

She took a deep breath, as she would before any performance. Stretched a little. Mentally reviewed the lines. This speech she knew very well, although she’d never performed it. She’d seen it done several dozen times, by good and bad actors, and always, always, it had left a sour taste in her mouth.

Sarah put that aside, turned to face her audience of one, and opened her eyes.

If we shadows have offended,” she began, in a light voice with a hint of amusement, “think but this, and all is mended./ That you have but slumbered here/while these visions did appear.” She smiled, moved subtly, her body light as a fairy, her demeanor vaguely apologetic and more than a little mischievous. “And this weak and idle theme,/ no more yielding but a dream/gentles, do not reprehend./ If you pardon, we will mend./ And as I am an honest Puck,/ if we have unearned luck/ now to scape the serpent’s tongue,/ we will make amends ere long;/ else the Puck a liar call./ So goodnight, unto you all./ Give me your hands, if we be friends,/ and Robin shall restore amends.”

She finished, and lowered her outstretched hands, taking a deep breath to bring herself back to herself. Yes, she thought, there was definitely a bad taste in her mouth. But she had never understood why it had caused that reaction. Not until now. Here. With this man.

“I would not have guessed that to be your least favorite,” Jareth said, his voice caustic. “Forgive me if I demand to know why.”

“Because,” she said, “I never liked the idea that what happened in the play was only a dream. I wanted it to be real, and Puck was offering to take it all away, the good and the bad, and make it seem like nothing more than an illusion. I know how you hate the phrase, but it never seemed fair.”

“The faeries play terrible tricks with the mortals in that play,” he said. “One would think you would not be so forgiving. Wouldn’t it be easier if they merely woke up and went on with their lives, as if none of it had happened?”

“There’s so little magic, in our world,” Sarah said softly, seriously. “I wouldn’t regret a minute of it. Even if some parts of it were awful. Even if I were being manipulated or teased or mocked. I would hold on to what magic I’d been given, and be grateful the rest of my life that I’d been lucky enough to have it.”

“Yet you forgot your friends,” he said.

“I didn’t forget them,” she said. “I never forgot them. I was growing up, and I worried that they had forgotten me. That you had even forgotten me.”

“You,” Jareth said, stepping forward, into her spotlight. “Are not something I’m likely to forget.” He reached for her, and she didn’t stop him. His hand smoothed over her hair, then dropped to fist at his side. She watched his eyes cloud, stormy with some emotion she couldn’t name.

What You Wish For

A Labyrinth Story
by KnifeEdge

Part 11 of 14

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