Sarah Williams groaned as the alarm clock proudly beeped in her face. She slammed her hand down on the snooze button. She was still far too tired from last night. She had been covering another employee's shift at the restaurant, and she had ended up working until 11 o'clock that night. One of the customers (a bratty little child) had tripped her while she had been carrying a large tray of food. Everything had come crashing down, covering herself, the customers, several tables, and a fairly large sized portion of the floor with broken dishes and various foods. Her boss had been quick to inform her that everything that was broken was coming out of her paycheck. She sighed now as she thought of it again, and tried to bring her mind back the present. She sat up in bed and looked over at the calendar on the wall. Her breath caught in her throat. It was August 23rd. With everything being so busy and hectic, she had almost forgotten. It had been 13 years since that day.
She scolded herself in her mind, how could she have almost forgotten? It was a very important day to her. Still, she thought, her old friends had forgotten about her… She hadn't seen them in so long. As she got up and began to get dressed for the day she thought back over the years. That night when she had just defeated the Labyrinth and everyone was in her room with her, she had told them that she needed them. And she had needed them. So they kept coming back to see her.
They were there for her all throughout the rest of high school. They would come and visit at least one a week, and she would tell them all about her evil teachers, what the popular girls had done, and her homework. Sometimes they would come and just sit in her room with her as she did her homework, because when you're that good of friends, you don't always need to talk. It was enough to know that they were there with each other.
When she graduated from high school and was getting ready for college, some of her friends started coming less often, but the mains ones were still there for her. Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus, they still came to see her during college. They didn't come as often, maybe once or twice a month, but they still came. But little by little, by the time she had finished her bachelor's degree, all of them had stopped coming.
She frowned as she thought of it now. Her masters degree in mythology hung on the wall, a reminder of how hard she had worked to get it. Normally when she looked at it, she felt proud of the things she had done. But when she looked at it today, all she could think of was how she had gotten this degree alone, with no friends by her side to cheer her on. She gently touched the edge of the frame. She would have loved for her friends to to have seen her learning about all the creatures and stories, and to see the looks on their faces as she told them about the things she had learned. But there was no one there for her to tell. Not even Ludo.
She turned around and tried to push it all out of her mind. Sometimes people just grow apart, she told herself. She certainly hadn't kept in touch with any human friends from all her years of school. It still made her feel wistful, though, because she had thought her friends from the Labyrinth would always be there for her.
She had started working at the restaurant when she had started working on her masters degree. It was just a way to pay bills, she had told herself, she wouldn't do this forever. When she graduated, she would get a real job, something related to her degree. She had told herself that for so long that when she did graduate and didn't find a job right away, she told herself that it was ok to stay at the restaurant for just a little longer… It had now been two years since she graduated, and she was still at the restaurant. Although she would never say so out loud, she was afraid that she would never leave the restaurant, never find another job, and just be… Ordinary. What she did say out loud was that the restaurant was still just temporary, that she was looking for another job, and that she was going to do great things. But deep down, she doubted it.
Thirteen years, she thought as she walked out to her car. Had it really been that long ago? She pushed it out of her mind once more. Sticking the key into the steering wheel, she focused on what she needed to do today. Groceries, then work. She cringed a little as thought of going back to work after what happened last night. That's when she realized she had been turning the key for several minutes. It was't starting. "No, no, no! Not again!" Her car was very old and run down. She had often said that it didn't matter what the car looked like, as long as it ran, it was just fine. Now it wouldn't even do that. She punched the steering wheel and then leaned her forehead against it. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. "Why can't anything just go right?" she muttered to herself. It had been such a stressful time recently. "I wish…" Sarah stopped herself before she said the rest of that sentence. She hadn't used those two words for 13 years. She sniffed. No, she wouldn't let today get the best of her. She would walk to the store. She got out and started the mile long trek to the store. The weather was so strange today. It was overcast and cloudy, and the wind was blowing in the most peculiar way. It was almost as though a thunderstorm was coming, and Sarah could feel the electricity in the air. There were very few people out and about, so the sidewalk was almost deserted.
It wasn't until she was halfway to the grocery store she noticed something in the window of a little store that seemed to sell dresses. She stopped and stared with a gaping mouth. There in the window was a dress that looked all too familiar. The gold and silver embroidery covered the creamy fabric that bunched together in frills and ruffles and wrapped around the mannequin just so. It almost seemed to mock Sarah as it stood there, so perfect and pristine, exactly as it looked 13 years ago when she had worn it. She looked around but there was no one else out on the streets. She pulled on the door handle to the store, but it was locked. She took one last look at the dress, scowled at it, and started to walk away from it. As she turned, though, she didn't notice that someone was walking towards her and she bumped right in to them. "Why don't you watch where you're going, little girl?" a cruel voice snickered. Sarah looked up and gasped. From a brief moment, she was certain the person had been wearing a strange mask with a very long nose. When she blinked however, it was just a regular person. He hadn't even stopped, and he was still walking down the sidewalk and away from Sarah. She took a deep breath. "Ok, Sarah," she said out loud to herself. "Pull yourself together. You're just getting sentimental. That dress is… Just a coincidence. That guy… Just your imagination! Let's just go to the store, get some food, and go home!" She continued on her way to the store, trying to come up with some reasonable explanations for what had just happened.
When she got to the store she had almost convinced herself that she hadn't even seen anything in dress store window. She picked up a little shopping basket and began to walk up and down the rows, picking out a few things. Every so often she would hear a little noise, like little feet running around, or tiny voices laughing. She gritted her teeth and tried to ignore it. This is not happening, she told herself. Everything is fine - just keep getting your groceries! As she walked up and down the isles she noticed something she found very strange. There were no other people in the store. No customers. No employees, at least none she could see. Inside the store, too, was that strange electricity feeling. It seemed like something was just around the corner, waiting for her to discover it. She tried to ignore this feeling, but the longer she shopped, the stronger it grew.
And then, there it was. Right there, in the middle of the dairy shelf. Between the yogurt and the sour cream there was large, gaping hole. It was as though something had tunneled out of the earth itself. There were a few pale bricks laying just inside of the tunnel, and small delicate vines with tiny flowers were reaching out. A dusting of frost covered the inside, and some spilled out onto the grocery store floor. Sarah looked around in disbelief. There was no one else around, but she felt sure she could hear goblin voices coming from somewhere inside the store. She set down her grocery basket and tip-toed closer to the tunnel. As she drew nearer, a cold breeze issued from the tunnel and wrapped around her, almost pulling her in. Before she could stop herself, she reached a hand towards the darkness inside the tunnel. As she did do she could hear a faint voice whispering, but she couldn't tell what it was saying. She pulled her hand back quickly and voice died away. She shivered. Everything was eerily quiet. She thought of her friends who would be waiting for her on the other side, and of the adventure they could have together. She missed them so much it hurt. Then she thought of what she would be going home to - a tiny little apartment and a crummy job. She hadn't realized it until this moment, but she longed for an adventure. It was why she had majored in mythology, to be able to spend time in a world so unlike her own. She looked back one last time at the world she was about to leave and took a deep breath. Her boss would just have to be one waitress short for tonight, she thought to herself with a grin. She stepped inside the tunnel and didn't look back.