Dolores stared at herself through her vanity mirror. Over the years her looks had faded, lines had become pronounced around her eyes and mouth, and her hair was now copper from a bottle. Dolores sipped at a glass of whiskey before tending to her eyes. She applied a thick layer of mascara before gluing on fake lashes.
“Twenty minutes until curtain call!” The stage manager’s voice called beyond her door.
“Thirty years” Dolores told herself callously. She finished painting her eyes and sat back. She was in a long Greek gown and her copper hair hung amongst her shoulders, lightly turned and feathered in the ever-so-popular Farrah Fawcett style. Whatever happened to elegant hair?
Dolores opened up a small wooden box and pulled out a clear crystal ball. Long ago she had won it. She ran her fingers over the smooth sphere and put it away. She had done the same thing before every performance since she was 19. She made a silent wish for the show to go well and to end up with some good reviews. The crystal ball had given her the dream of fame and the nightmares that tagged along. Even now, with the lead role of Phedre in the stage version of Phedre, she had to face the good and bad. She was good enough to have the lead role, but the critics were calling her performances terrible, “forced and without emotional conviction” to be exact, and declared her to be “on the outs” in regards to her career.
“You never told me nightmares were included with my dreams” Dolores growled in the mirror.
Dolores rode her bike home through the leaf-strewn city park. It had been a blustery day and the evening had not changed, other than perhaps to become a little stronger. The pink bicycle clanked as she rode over a bump along the pathway. She was glad to have her older sister’s long coat on since it guarded her against the wind. Her older sister, Beth, had moved out, when the war had started, in order to live closer to the munitions factory she had received a job at. Dolores recalled her father not approving of her sister doing “men’s work”, but that had be squandered when her two brothers enlisted. Dolores had been in high school when the war was officially over, but people were still on edge about Germans and anyone from Asia.
Now, it was 1947 and Dolores was working as a shop girl in a little store called Henry’s Art & Imports. Dolores had taken the job in order to assist her family with bills, especially after her brother Bill came home without a leg. The shop would bring in books, art, strange food, and fineries from around the world. Dolores had found a strange little book there, a small red leather-bound thing called The Labyrinth. She had purchased it for 25 cents and found that it was becoming one of her favorite possessions.
Dolores pedaled faster, hoping to get out of the biting wind. It was nearly dark. Blue dusk filled the city and the park. She hurried to her house, dropping her bike along the side of the house, and hurried to the neighbor’s house. She pounded on the door and waited. Every Friday night she was the babysitter for the Fowler family. They often sent her away with five dollars and a slice of cake or a bag of cookies.
“Dotty” Mrs.Fowler said with a smile when she opened the door. Dolores stepped inside and started undoing her coat buttons. “How are you doing this evening?”
“I’m very good, Mrs.Fowler” Dolores replied. She automatically reached into one of the deep coat pockets and took out her little red book.
“Did you try out for that play?” Mrs.Fowler asked. She was looking at herself in the mirror, putting on her earrings. She looked beautiful in her red cocktail dress and her hair properly curled and pinned.
“Yes” Dolores said with a chipper tone. “Try outs were on Wednesday. I think I have a good shot at the lead.”
“You’re going to have to let me know if you get the part” Mrs.Fowler said turning to her. Her husband came down the hall towards them and began pulling his coat on. “We’ll bring the children to the play.”
“What play?” Mr.Fowler asked.
“Dotty tried out for a play called ‘Harvey’” Mrs.Fowler informed her husband. She pulled on her coat. Dolores straightened out her polka-dot day dress. The Fowler’s were a nice family, but they were very typical. Dolores wanted to be like Lauren Bacall, beautiful and stoic, not just another plain girl from a plain family. At her high school, Dolores had taken on several lead roles in the school drama club. It had made her feel special, needed, and completely alive.
“I should find out tomorrow morning if I got the part” Dolores chimed in with a large smile. Her parents never cared much for theater. With the war having taken a toll on them, her parents had simply treated it as a silly hobby, nothing more.
“Let us know Dotty” Mrs.Fowler said as they left. “We’ll be home around 11pm.”
“The kids are just finishing up their homework” Mr.Fowler called out to her.
“Have a good evening!” Dolores waved. She shut the door against the gusting wind and went to the kitchen. Dolores followed her usual routine and pulled out the popcorn popper, a covered hinged pot that was painted blue. Every Friday, she started the night with a large bowl of popcorn for her and the two children, Donald and Mary. She scooped in the popcorn kernels and waited for the popping to begin.
“Dotty!” Donald called. His ears were always perked on Friday, waiting for the sound of popcorn.
“Hey Donald” Dolores said with a smile. Donald was in second grade and sported a dark mop of hair that Mrs.Fowler was trying desperately in the middle of controlling with her husband’s hair pomade. Mary wasn’t far behind him. She was already in her nightgown. The popcorn was quickly ready and the three of them headed for the living room.
Donald hurried over to the large radio cabinet and turned it on, finding The Big Story on NBC. After a few commercials, the show came on.
“The following broadcast for the National Broadcasting Company and a coast to coast network is being made on June 4, 1947. The story is based on the Snook Hicks murder case of 1929…” The radio announced. Donald was enthralled by the crime drama radio show. Mary was happy as long as she could have popcorn and could spend her time drawing or playing with her dolls. Dolores took a seat on their sofa and opened her book. She was settling in just as the radio announced the title of the radio show episode as “The Thirteenth Key”. She smirked when Donald gasped and muttered something about thirteen being unlucky.
After two half-hour radio programs, Dolores found Mary standing in front of her. Dolores put her book down.
“Yes?” Dolores asked.
“Will you read that book to me?” Mary asked. “You’re always reading it.”
“Donald would have to turn the radio off” Dolores said. They turned to look at Donald, who was staring at the radio as if he could see the people. “Donald, can I read this story to you two?”
“I wanted to stay up to listen to Little Orphan Annie” Donald whined. Dolores inwardly groaned. She had never liked that radio show. She stood up and turned the stereo off.
“Let me read this story to you” Dolores said with a smile. “I’ll be famous one day and you’ll appreciate it.”
“Fine, fine” Donald said with a pout. Mary found a seat on the floor with a blanket wrapped around her. Dolores opened her book to the first page. She looked around and quickly turned out the main lights, keeping the lamps on, for a dimmed effect.
“Nobody saw the owl, white in the moonlight, black against the stars, nobody heard him as he glided over on silent wings of velvet. The owl saw and heard everything” Dolores began.
Dolores found, as she kept reading, which she almost didn’t need to use the book for the words. It was only there to keep her on track. It wasn’t long and the two kids stopped squirming, giving her their full attention. Dolores had picked up one of Mrs.Fowler’s sofa pillows and held it out as the baby in the book.
“Sarah froze, with her hand on the handle of the door. "Aah," she moaned helplessly. "I wish the goblins would come and take you away..." She paused. The goblins were so still, you could have heard a snail blink. " ... right now," Sarah said.” Dolores said trying to sound like Lauren Bacall. Almost theatrically, the lights were suddenly off. Mary and Donald screamed. Dolores looked around in a panic.
“Dotty!” Mary cried. Dolores shushed the two. Had she heard something scuttle along the floor? She couldn’t see much of anything in the dark room. The window just behind Dolores’ right side rattled from the wind. She turned to look at the window and took a step back. It was similar to the book, too similar. There was more scuttling around the room, making her turn swiftly to try to catch a glimpse of what was making the noise. Dolores felt her stomach lurch with fear. She took a step towards the sofa.
“Donald, Mary” Dolores said to them. She knew she had to be close to the sofa now.
“They’re gone” A man said from the darkness. Dolores made a sound that wasn’t quite a shriek and stood up straight. A shadow of a man stood a mere arms-length from her left side. A circle of light suddenly popped on like a spot light for a stage.
“Who are you?” Dolores asked. She looked at the empty sofa and her eyes became large. “Where are the kids?”
“You’ve read the book over and over again” The man said confidently. “You know very well where they are.”
“No” Dolores said shaking her head. “It’s just a book. It’s not real!”
“Isn’t it?” The man prodded. He was strange in appearance. His hair was wild and long, not like the boys Dolores was used to with short cropped hair. He was tall and hidden amidst a plethora of clothing the color of midnight. He wasn’t unattractive, but definitely not the man she wanted to introduce to her family. Dolores watched as he produced a crystal ball. “I’ve brought you a gift.”
“You rascal!” Dolores said in a large voice. She took a step closer to the strange man and poked him in the chest. “I’ll phone the police if you don’t bring back those kids!”
“Look here” The man said rolling the crystal ball over his hands, almost hypnotically. “I can show you your dreams.” He took a half step closer to her, whispering in her ear. “Do you want it?”
“I’m saving for fare to Los Angeles” Dolores whispered back. “I need those kids back so I can collect tonight’s payment.”
“What a pity” The man replied. Dolores looked down at the book that was still in her hand.
“Are you…the Goblin King?” Dolores asked. The man smiled and pointed to the window that had rattled before. Dolores turned to look. Out the window was a land that was definitely NOT her parent’s backyard. The tree outside the window blew a little in the wind. Dolores gasped when she felt the wind touch her face. She dropped the book.
“You have thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth” Jareth told her. “Or your two darlings will become ours forever.”
“This is not fair!” Dolores yelled when she saw him fade away. She was standing outside of the Labyrinth, on a small rise of land, just tall enough to understand the vastness of the Labyrinth. She maneuvered down the steep mound, glad that she had worn her well-worn saddle-shoes instead of the more lady-like pumps her mother had insisted on. She looked up at the outer wall of the Labyrinth and contorted her face into a frown. She looked for an entrance, but only saw one in front of her that was the size of her hand. “What the heck? It’s so small!”
“Talkin’ to me?” A smooth voice asked from behind her. Dolores whirled around, surprised to see a strange navy man standing there. He was in his white pants and his sailor hat, but was only in his white undershirt – a tight tank top. He looked fairly nice, but his eyes were too long and thin and his skin a bit too smooth.
“I was talking to myself” Dolores replied, trying not to stare. “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“M’name’s Firch” The sailor said. Dolores watched him pull out a cigarette and light it up. “You need inside, doll?”
“Yes” Dolores replied cautiously. “Is that tiny door the way in?”
“Yeah, but it ain’t that tiny though” Firch said. Dolores glanced at the door. It was tiny. “Go on, go check.”
Dolores hesitated and then walked towards the small door. Somehow it was further away than she had realized. She ended up running until she collided with the door, now definitely her size. She reeled back as if the door had burned her. How could something so tiny now be so large?
“Told ya” Firch said in a bored tone. He leaned against the door frame, watching her as she approached the door again. “You got a name?”
“Dolores” Dolores replied. The door was painted in a thick coat of yellow paint. It seemed like a normal heavy door with a brass handle. “You can call me Dotty, if you’d like.”
“Dolores” Firch said. “Dotty.” He reached over, pushing past her somewhat rudely, and opened the door. He gave her a firm shove and stepped through the door behind her. Dolores cried out at the sudden shove. “Dolores sounds a bit grown up, don’t it?”
“You don’t have to shove me” Dolores snapped. She pushed past him and began to walk down the long corridor. “And, I am grown up.”
“And what do you do in yer grown up life, Dolores?” Firch asked following her.
“I’m going to be a famous actress” Dolores replied. “I’m saving up to go to Hollywood and I WILL make it into the pictures.”
“What a hoot!” Firch said with a chuckle. “Cookie, you aim high.”
“Don’t call me cookie” Dolores said. She stopped and looked around. Everything looked the same. “Why were there so many turns when I was up on that hill? There’s nothing like that now.”
“Be the eager beaver and make your own path” Firch said standing next to her. “Dolores.” He bent down and picked up a small rock. “Toss that at the wall.”
“Is it magical?” Dolores asked taking the rock.
“It’s a rock” Firch replied. Dolores rolled her eyes and tossed it at the wall. It hit and fell to the ground. “No dice. Pick it up, let’s try it down here.”
Dolores threw the rock at the wall a few more times until it seemed to almost go through the wall. Dolores and Firch had found an opening that was masked as the wall. Dolores delightfully pushed on, leading blindly, while Firch followed. Their banter continued until they found themselves staring at three doors and three statues. One was a lion, another was a unicorn, and the last one a thinking man.
“This place is so strange” Dolores commented. She looked to Firch who just shrugged. Dolores pushed on one of the doors, but it didn’t budge.
“You might want to ask first” The unicorn remarked. Dolores moved to stand next to Firch. She had never seen a talking statue before.
“Rudeness cannot be tolerated” The lion growled.
“Let her think it through” The man chimed in. Dolores nervously held onto Firch’s arm as she would with her father or one of her brothers.
“I am trying to get to the castle at the center of the Labyrinth” Dolores told the three statues. “Will one of these doors get me there?”
“Perhaps” The unicorn replied.
“Don’t you know?” Dolores asked incredulously. The lion roared at her.
“We don’t know every little thing” The lion huffed. “You have shoes, don’t you know the correct direction to walk?”
“Pick a door” The thinking man stated.
“Fine” Dolores sighed. The angry lion, the un-amused unicorn, or the nicer thinking man? She turned to the thinking man. “Can I go through your door?”
“If you must” The thinking man replied. The door behind him opened with a stone-on-stone sliding noise. Dolores pulled Firch along with her through the door. The door shut firmly behind the two of them after they had passed.
“Can you believe those three?” Dolores asked. “You would think that they might have a clue.”
“For a smart looking dame, you sure didn’t give them no time” Firch said. “Hope we didn’t take the wrong door.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Dolores asked. “I went with the most helpful of the three.”
“I find I get the most help from the most clueless people” Firch commented. The walls were changing from grey stone to light terracotta colored stone.
“Well there’s no turning back now” Dolores stated. They turned into an opening and found the Goblin King leaning against a rocky pillar.
“You are most correct” He said with a smile. He had changed out of his midnight garb and wore a more moderate set of clothes of tight grey breeches, black boots, a black vest, and a pale blue billowing shirt. Despite his change, he still managed to send an intimidating shiver down Dolores’ spine. He gave her a predatory grin and begun to slowly circle around them. “Enjoying yourselves?”
“Perhaps we can work out a deal” Dolores said firmly. “I need those two kids back. What can I do for them?”
“You did happen to wish them away” The Goblin King smirked. His golden hair bounced as he walked and made him look particularly dangerous.
“Stop clowning around, Dolores” Firch whispered to her. “Just solve this maze.”
“How are things going Firch?” The Goblin King asked. Firch stepped away from the tall blonde man. The Goblin King produced a crystal ball and rolled it around his fingertips. “I see you’ve brought her this far. I like how you made it seem like it was all her decision.”
“What are you talking about?” Dolores butted in. “He followed me. I didn’t follow him.”
The Goblin King stepped up to Dolores, making her crane her neck up to look at him. He bent down and for a second Dolores thought he was going to kiss her, but he only whispered into her ear. “I control everything here.”
Dolores blushed hard. She stepped away from the King, towards Firch, and watched the king fade away with a laugh. His crystal hovered in the air. As soon as he vanished, the crystal hit the stone ground with a clink. Black ooze rose up between the cracks of the stones. Dolores shrieked in disgust as the ooze touched her shoes.
“Firch!” Dolores cried. The sailor grabbed her hand and pulled her across the courtyard full of more stone pillars. Dolores looked back and watched the black ooze pooling together like a black oily pond.
“C’mon, cookie” Firch said climbing onto a raised flower bed that held a large vase. Dolores was hoisted up just as the black ooze moved past them, filling the courtyard. He looked into the vase and flicked his ever-present cigarette from his mouth. “In here.”
“What?” Dolores sputtered. She was watching the ooze level rise quickly. Firch scooped her up and put her in the vase. “Firch!”
Dolores found herself sliding down a long winding slide in the dark. She screamed until she landed with an ungraceful plop at the end. It seemed to have been a long ride down to where ever she was. She knelt on the cold floor. She couldn’t see anything, but she did hear….Firch. She was toppled over as Firch landed on her.
“Sorry ‘bout that” Firch said getting off of her. Dolores was glad that he couldn’t see her in the dark. While he got his bearings and pulled himself off of her sprawled form, he had firmly grabbed her butt. He pardoned himself and stood up.
“We’re never going to get to the castle” Dolores said picking herself up from the floor. She reached out and her hands bumped into Firch’s chest. She moved her hands until she clung to his arm. “At least we know where the other is now.”
“Ain’t this romantic?” Firch snorted. Firch reached out for a wall. “There’s usually a way out of these things if you can think of something.”
“Do you know where we are?” Dolores asked. The dark space was chilly. Dolores mentally kicked herself for not having a cardigan with her. Firch pulled her along until she felt a clammy cave wall at her side. Firch had pulled his arm out of her hands. “Firch, I don’t know where you are.”
“I’m not feeling anything” Firch said from somewhere not too far away. “No door or anything.”
Dolores moved in the dark. Her shoes made a slight sliding scuffle sound. Her hands were extended ahead of her, feeling for anything that protruded from the wall. “There’s got to be something.”
Dolores’ shoe came down on something soft. Before she could do much, she tumbled to the ground. She could feel her face turn red.
“You okay?” Firch asked.
“I’m glad you couldn’t see that” Dolores replied. Her embarrassment and frustration placed hot tears in her eyes; just enough she needed to wipe them away, but not enough to mark her as crying. She felt one of his warm hands on her knee. He lightly followed her body, shifting in the dark so he was sitting next to her. “Get your paws off of me.”
“There’s no need to be angry” Firch said. Dolores could hear the smile in his voice. He kept a hand at her waist, even when she sat up.
“How many people have solved this labyrinth?” Dolores asked softly. Don’t cry, don’t cry. There has got to be a way out of this.
“I don’t know” Firch replied. “Not many from what I’ve been told.” Dolores, frustrated with herself and the strange black pit, couldn’t help but let the tears of anger fall. She felt Firch pull her in for a hug. “Aw, don’t cry Dolores. It’s nothing to be sad over. We still have time.”
“I’m not sad” Dolores said with a cracked voice. “I’m just angry that we’re stuck in this pit.”
She felt Firch wipe at her cheek with a soft hand that smelled a little like tobacco. She breathed in the smell. It smelled of warmth compared to the musty black hole. Firch’s thumb brushed her lips. Dolores whimpered when Firch’s lips touched hers. The kiss was light and short.
“Open your eyes” Firch whispered to Dolores. She had closed her eyes when he had kissed. Opening them up, she found that she was cuddled up with the Goblin King, but he was in Firch’s clothes. He smiled at her. “You are such a sweet thing.”
“You!” Dolores gasped. She went to move, to stand or crawl, anything, but he held her firmly in place. “Where’s Firch?”
“Would you believe that he has been in a completely different oubliette this entire time?” The Goblin King whispered. With understanding falling over her face, she sat there just watching him. The king brought his hand up with a crystal at his fingertips. “You can end this at any point, Dolores. Imagine life in the limelight. All of that Hollywood glam. The movie roles guaranteed to bring you everlasting fame.” The crystal in front of Dolores showed her accepting a film award in a glittering pink dress. “All you have to do is tell me what you want and your dreams will become reality.”
“But…those kids” Dolores whispered. She watched herself in the crystal. The Goblin King leaned in enough so his lips brushed her ear.
“Those kids were never yours” The Goblin King whispered in a silky voice. “They will simply be forgotten. You will suffer no blame. They will live here, peacefully. You can live out your dreams.”
“My dreams?” Dolores whispered, blinded by his spell-binding voice. She wanted to believe him so badly that it almost hurt.
“You’ll never have to ration food, ever” The Goblin King promised. “You’ll never have to work multiple jobs just to get by.” His voice was hypnotic. His nose touched her cheek and she nearly moaned. “Just tell me what you want.”
“I want—“ Dolores whispered. “I want--.”
Dolores felt light-headed. The Goblin King brought his free hand up to her face. His lips fluttered along her cheek. “You want…?”
“I want to be a famous actress” Dolores whispered. As soon as she said it, she felt the crystal ball being pushed into her hand. The chill of the crystal made Dolores look down with near shock. She looked up at the King, who sat smugly.
“Go be famous” The King said. His smug smile remained, but his eyes became slightly saddened. Wind, from somewhere, blew around the cavernous pit until it was strong enough to make Dolores close her eyes...
Dolores awoke on her parents’ front lawn. Her bicycle was collapsed between her legs, as if she had taken a hard fall sideways with the contraption. The wind was whipping around her face. Dolores picked herself up, pushed her bicycle next to the house, and went inside. Whatever had happened had left her a little stunned.
“Dotty!” Her mother said when she came in. “You had a phone call from that theater group. You got the part of Myrtle!”
“They called?” Dolores asked. Her mother smiled at her, emerging from the kitchen.
“They said you were incredible” Her mother replied.
Dolores hurried to her room with a huge grin. Her dreams really were starting to come true!
Dolores sighed and watched herself in the mirror. She applied another layer of lipstick. They were thinner than they had been ten years ago. She thought about everything that had happened between her strange time in the Labyrinth up to her 1976 production of Phedre. Her life had been a series of dreams and nightmares. She had gone to Hollywood, as planned, landed some acting roles, as planned, and had even been able to set her family up comfortably. She had gone through a series of horrendous scandals and multiple husbands. She never had any children and the paparazzi’s had too many pictures of her drinking.
“Dreams and nightmares” Dolores whispered to herself. She took another swig of her whiskey. She often wondered what had happened to Firch, the handsome sailor. She always told herself that he lived a comfortable life in the Labyrinth. She felt a pain in her chest and frowned. Perhaps I should have asked about Firch.
There was a knock on her door and someone told her through the door that she had ten minutes until curtain. Her chest felt tight and she took her last swig from her glass. The whiskey burned this time and she caught her own gaze in the mirror. She thought about the Goblin King’s sad eyes and felt pity for herself. The glass slipped from her hand and cracked upon hitting the floor.
“Firch” Dolores said before slumping in her chair, her heart giving out. End