Sarah ran down the long corridor, the cobble stones dusty and unforgiving beneath her bare feet. In her old dreams, she had not been able to feel, at least not like this. She'd been a phantom in her own mind, and in her sleep the senses had no place. But in this dream world, every moment was as true and real as her life before she closed her eyes. It was exhilarating. It was terrifying.
The horizon loomed in the distance, and no matter how much she ran, it never got any closer. That didn't stop her from running. Sarah didn't know why she was running, couldn't see what drove her through the twisting, shifting corridors of the Labyrinth. She was only aware of her goal in the way she knew she was alive. Her purpose eluded her as she raced barefoot through the dreams of humanity and magic combined.
Every night, it was the same dream. She would run as she was running now. She didn't know where she was going, or what she was trying to reach, but she couldn't stop. A tingling started in the pit of her stomach and spread outward. It had used to frighten her, but now it was only part of the dream, a warning to what would come next. Then Sarah was falling, and this time there were no Hands to catch her.
When Sarah gently touched down, she had returned to the shattered room where she had last confronted the Goblin King. The broken stair cases loomed in the middle distance, so close and yet completely unreachable. The sky was a shining collage of color that could not decide which one should be most dominate, and instead writhed in a battle for control that rang familiar in the marrow of her bones.
Her mind protected by the soft embrace of sleep, here she could confront just how deadly her battle with the Goblin King had been. In reality the concept was too harsh, too real for her to understand just what she'd been gambling with. That she had managed to escape with her dreams intact spoke of her childish stubbornness and the Goblin King's honor in his word. Without those, she would have been lost forever, a broken, brittle thing that could not dream.
Sarah turned, and there was the Goblin King, Jareth. He was a magnificent creature, with his shining hair and mismatched eyes. He smiled at her, a smirking specter in her dreams, a looming shadow that reached for her with leather clad hands and taunted her with bittersweet stares that left her heart racing and her mouth dry.
She stared at him, her gaze taking in everything. "Jareth, why am I here?"
His smile kicked up in the corner, and he turned to watch her out of the corner of his eye. "I have a gift for you, Sarah."
Her chin lifted to reveal flashing brown eyes. "I don't want anything from you."
"But you have yet to see what it is that I am offering you. Don't be so hasty in your denials, Sarah. You just might change your mind." He waved his gloved hand and in a swirl of magic a clock appeared beside him. It was the same one that he had revealed to her at the start of her journey.
It was fashioned of heavy black wood, and the clock face was scripted with stylishly curling numbers that she thought suited the Goblin King's flare for the dramatic. The designs that flowed across black wood were gilded with gold and glittered in the strange light of her dream world. The image of the clock was helplessly marred when Sarah noticed that the fragile hands that tracked across the white face were gone.
She tilted her head to the side, her confusion apparent. "There are no hands. What use is a clock that doesn't tell time?"
Jareth smiled and he walked towards her then passed her, coming to a stop at her back with his breath warming her ear. "That is not an ordinary clock, Sarah. It is something very precious."
"How can a broken clock be precious?" She didn't turn to face him, unbothered by him at her back. Here, in her dreams, she was not frightened of him. There was nothing to fear of him, not when she had already proven that he held no power over her.
"Ah, but the clock is not broken. It is exactly as it should be."
"Don't be silly. What else does a clock do but tell time?"
Jareth stepped away from her and moved towards the clock. A gloved hand reached out to caress a path of gold, and then moved to touch one of the black numbers that fairly glowed against the absolute white of the clock face. "Clocks don't just tell time, they count down as well. They control the flow of time, give it shape and structure where it should be fluid."
"So you are offering me a way to control time?" Sarah crossed her arms, not bothering to hide her skepticism. She remembered him bragging about 're-ordering time' for her before, and her contempt for such a claim continued. One did not control time; they merely flowed with it or were swept along regardless of their desires.
"I am offering you the chance to be free of it entirely." Jareth turned towards her, and his eyes shone with a fevered light as he swept towards her, the air glittering and shining around his head. "This clock represents the absence of time."
Sarah frowned, skepticism morphing to outright disbelief. "You mean immortality."
"Just think of it, Sarah. You would be free to do as you wished, for as long as you wished. You would no longer be shackled by the endless race for gratification that is the human life." Jareth reached out and his gloved hand stopped a hair's breadth from her jaw, but did not close that last span of distance. "You would live forever."
"So you say," Sarah admitted, her brown eyes searching. "But what's the catch?" This time it was she who moved, and she circled around Jareth the same way he had circled her earlier. Her hands came up to feel the soft linen of his shirt, but stopped just short of actually touching him. "Your offer is very generous, Goblin King. You'll understand, of course, if I am skeptical."
Jareth spun, and when he would have placed his hands on her shoulders she stepped back. He smiled at her evasion. "I give you the same offer as before. Give yourself to me." He reached out again, and this time she did not step away as he brushed aside a lock of hair. "Let me rule you, and I will pull you from the stream of time."
Sarah shook her head, knowing that as tempting his offer was, some things came at too high a price. "No. Never. I have said it before, and I will say it again. You have no power over me, and that will not change."
The smile melted from Jareth's face, and in its place were faint glimpses of the creature that wore the face of a man. "Sarah, don't be naïve. Think of what I'm offering you."
"I don't need to," she retorted sharply. "For some reason you want power over me, and I refuse to let you have it." She shook her head and stepped away from the clock, knowing without a doubt that there was some catch, some agenda that she could not see. And if there was anything the Labyrinth had taught her, it was that just because she couldn't see it, didn't mean that something wasn't there.
"Would it really be so bad?" Jareth followed her across the broken cobblestones, his gaze pleading. "I am offering you everything in exchange for your will to be mine. I am being more than fair with you."
"That you want it so badly is reason enough to deny you." Sarah lifted her hands over her ears to block out his musical words, but they echoed around in her head regardless. "No, no, and a thousand times no!" Closing her eyes against his haunting beauty, Sarah drew up every ounce of her stubborn will and set it against the tempting presence that lingered just out of reach.
She gasped when her wrists were seized and her eyes flew open to meet blazing blue and brown. "This is not over," Jareth vowed, his voice deep with promise and nightmares to come. "Your will is great, that is true. But it will only last so long, and when it finally runs out." He smiled and slowly leaned in until his warm breath brushed against her ear, making her shiver. "I will be waiting, Sarah."
Then he released her and Sarah was falling through darkness. As she fell crystal balls began to rain down around her, each one gleaming with the promise of a dream yet unfulfilled. Ignoring the temptation to reach out and snag one as it passed her by, Sarah pulled her arms in close to her chest and shut her eyes.
It was with a strangled gasp that she woke, and she sat up in her bed, heart pounding and eyes wild as her body remembered the sensation of free fall. Surrounded by the heavy silence that only night could bring, Sarah forced herself to breathe and remember.
Or at least try to.
Even as she struggled to hold her dream close, it slipped through her fingers just as quickly until it was nothing but shadowy impressions that blended with her fantastical imagination. She did not remember the gilded clock with its missing hands, or Jareth's tantalizing promise. All she carried with her from the dream world was the distant echo of a dark voice whispering in her ear.
I will have power over you.