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A Carnival of Dreams

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In All My Dreams I Drown
The ship, it swayed, heave ho, heave ho,
On the dark and stormy blue,
And I held tight to the Captain's might,
As he pulled up his trews.
"You haven't slept," heave ho, he said,
"In many suns and moons."
"Oh, I will sleep when we reach shore,"
"And pray we get there soon."

He said, "Now hush, love - here's your gown."
"There's the bed, lantern's down."
But I don't want to go to sleep -
In all my dreams, I-

- The Devil's Carnival

-pulled in another, gasping, heaving breath beneath him, shuddering and keening, and completely at his mercy as she was.

“Say your right words,” he murmured, his breath hot against her lips. “I have your fear, your love, and your utmost obedience, Sarah.” He paused a moment, dipping his head so that the point of his tongue could trace the hollow of her throat. When his eyes found hers again, they were dark and wild with the force of his lust. “I am yours to do what you ask … but you must ask it.”

It occurred to her then that she could end this now – turn the clock's hands as he once had, but backwards this time. She could deny him, and go back to a time before this, when her heart and her body had not laid entirely open before him. As much as she might crave that simpler time, she knew that she could never be so strong.

“Take me,” she whispered. Then, louder, “Fuck me.”

The Goblin King gave a feral grin. “Gladly.”

It was almost too much to bear as he shifted against her, poised as he was to claim her. The sensation as he entered her was lost to the morning.

Sarah blinked herself awake, and then gave a mewl of frustration that was worryingly close to a whine. The torment was worse than ever – that time, she had almost been able to feel him as he drove himself inside her.

The dreams had been much purer at first – simpler days now long behind her. They had begun almost as soon as her adventure had ended, after she had travelled to another realm to take on the trials of the labyrinth, and saved her baby brother from the devious yet oh-so-dashing Goblin King. She had been little more than a child herself then, so very young, and entirely naïve in the curious world that had been opened to her. The dreams of that world were equally strange, exotic things, that came to her once or twice a week, where her paths and choices inside the Goblin King's maze would come back to torment her. She had escaped the labyrinth, yet for some reason it never left her.

She was plagued by visions of dark magic and some new longing she could not quite grasp, calling out to her, drawing her to them. To him. She truly had faced dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, seen peril in the faces of ghastly, unknown creatures, but none of it had left her so confused, shaken her to her very core, as he had.

The library had become something of a lifeline in those early days, giving her somewhere to turn for information when nothing and no one else could help her. The plays and childish stories she read were put aside in favour of thicker tomes of myth and lore, books which brought her at least a little closer to understanding what had befallen her. She studied them with a determination that bordered on obsession, a girl who had put aside her fascination with dolls and dresses worthy of a princess, only to shove her head firmly into an entirely different cloud. She absorbed all she could about the fae realm, its dark lure, its beauty and magic, and all the wonderful creatures that existed within it, all with their own delights and dangerous tricks.

One piece of information she stumbled across in more than one text was a warning she wished she had encountered before her wild adventure. To accept any food from that world was to accept some of its power over her in return, and she felt certain that the one guilty bite of a peach was the tie that was keeping her bound. She had bested the labyrinth, defeated its keeper, and denied him his own power over her, but she hadn't counted on something as seemingly innocent as a bite of fruit to keep her linked to it in her dreams.

It was strange to her how, in those dreams, her dream-self always accepted whatever gifts were offered to her readily enough. They were harmless baubles and trinkets, mostly, reminders of the friends she had made, and who loved her, and of the foul creatures she had bested, and who were now in awe of her bravery. In those innocent, early dreams, the king of that mystical realm remained dark to her, glaringly absent from the adventures that spun themselves out in her head – but already the cracks had begun to show. On odd occasions, she would find some deep pool or shining pane of glass that stood out above all others, as clear and bright as perhaps a crystal, and in its depths she would start to see things. A certain bold someone, staring back at her, though she was alone, his contrasting eyes keen enough to see all.

Of course, in her waking hours, she remembered the Goblin King – how could she forget those strange eyes, those sharp, elfin features and cruel words that had plagued her throughout her quest? He had taunted and teased her at every step, turned her head every which way but that of the true path – a hard, cold man, but at the end he had softened and coaxed; pleaded for a mercy that she had not been able to give. That man reminded her too much of the one who had taken her in his arms and danced with her - not as if he was indulging a child, but treating her like the woman she was rapidly becoming - staring deep into her eyes and making her long for things she had been yet too young to understand.

But the dreams were changing.

As she grew older – riper – and put aside her childhood toys and games, so, too, did her dreams gradually take from her the innocent visions of her friends, leaving her instead with darker dreams, in which the Goblin King more and more often took the starring role. They brought her a new understanding of those charged encounters in the labyrinth, the ones that had left her feeling wild and weak all at once, and now took centre stage in her darkest, most private thoughts. Lingering, searching looks; fantasies of chaste kisses and tentative touches shifted into more intense, more physical needs that left her dazed and aroused upon waking.

In these new dreams, Jareth (how thinking the name she had never quite dared speak aloud never failed to make her shiver!) was charming and resplendent, positively seductive in his form-fitting silken clothes - a man who might be willing to offer her far more than crystals and magic.

As each birthday drew nearer, the dreams grew in both intensity and number, now coming to her each and every night and tearing her days asunder. They bled into her more wholesome daylight thoughts, half-remembered words and sights and sounds that felt all too dark, and far too confusing for her to process.

On the eve before her eighteenth birthday, on the cusp of womanhood, she had been all but positive that the Goblin King would appear to her in person that night, to lay his claim upon her once and for all. She had waited, but midnight came and went, leaving her with nothing more than her empty bed, and thoughts that were in equal parts relief and disappointment.

Until she fell asleep, for the dreams to begin anew.

Older, if no wiser, but so very, very willing, she had found them shifted once more. Gone entirely now were any thoughts but of him, and only him. If Sarah had any doubt at all of his intent towards her, these new dreams were more than enough to convince her. She would awaken each morning with a head full of hazy, yet dreadfully tempting visions, a cluster of hot little pebbles weighing low down in her belly and making her itch and throb. How could her days hope to compete with such nights? Nights in which he teased and tested her will with anything and everything that lay within his arsenal, delighting her whole body with the heat of his skilled lips and tongue; heating bare, wanting flesh with a steady hand and measured strokes from his riding crop, or the smooth crystal tip of his cane.

He offered more and more of himself with each encounter, tasting more of what she, in all her purity, would willingly surrender. Each time, he commanded her to speak the words that would give him free reign over her, body and soul, giving her what he would in return, and taking his pleasure in how well she cried out and begged for more. The Goblin King wanted her, and he would take, and take, and take, until he had consumed all of her.

The dreams were both a blessing and a curse, granting her a primal, intimate knowledge that she could only wish for – if wishes were not such dangerous things – in reality. They provided such a sweet taste of what she had come so badly to want, but had no grasp of how to obtain – the blushing virgin who knows all too well what she's missing out on. Her dream lover made even the simple matter of trying to flirt utterly impossible. She would be asked on dates, the eager college boys around her drawn towards someone who glowed like a beacon, innocent yet knowing; who wanted their advances but shied from them at the same time. Sarah wanted them, sure, she was ready and so very curious, and wanted something to make her forget Jareth's allure once and for all.

The dates never went as planned, though. Those she said 'yes' to soon abandoned her when they realised that even the most chaste of kisses was too much to ask of her. She had been called everything from frigid to a whore; a teasing bitch, and an ugly dyke – cruel reminders that men could be cruel when they were denied, but it made her refusals all the more determined. And Jareth, Jareth would be most generous in his response afterwards.

On the nights she turned a potential suitor away without even a handshake, the dreams would positively flood her every sense with their intensity, the Goblin King both rewarding and punishing her with pleasures untold, beyond her wildest reckoning. He would tell her again and again how foolish she was to even consider any of these pathetic boys, any panting, pawing pup who begged and pleaded to show her something that would not be even half as sweet as she deserved.

Any who might dare to covet what was so clearly his.

On her nineteenth birthday, she had awakened from one of these horrible, wonderful dreams, with a cry on her lips, one hand covering her mouth and the other wedged firmly into the fork of her crotch. If she had been able to keep a room-mate who could tolerate her, with her frequent sleep talk and apparent nightmares, she would have been helpless to stop herself even if they had been there watching. Blessedly alone, at least, she had brought herself to an immediate, shuddering climax, biting down on the heel of her free hand hard enough to stifle her cries, and enough to leave her nursing the bruise for a week afterwards.

The morning of her twentieth birthday had been much the same, waking wet and near-feverish with need, cursing and commending the Goblin King for these strange, dark gifts both in the same hitching breath. He found her wherever she was, it seemed, home or college dorm or vacation hideaway seemingly less important to him than bestowing upon her these most erotic dreams. Yet, wherever he found her, she always woke alone and frustrated beyond belief, driven half-mad by an impossible fantasy that never came to fruition.

If her king (and, oh my, when had that most submissive term of address for him begun?) truly wanted her, as the dreams told her he most definitely did, then he must realise that she responded to his longing in kind; had for years now. Surely, he had to know that, at least in that moment of weakness and desperate desire, when she awoke, panting and slick with arousal, she would be powerless to resist him. Yet, despite her mind's darkest desires, she went unclaimed, but also, in spite of Jareth's best efforts, not quite broken. Not just yet, anyway.

Of the dreams leading up to her twenty-first birthday – less than a day away, now – this had been the most vivid, the most torturous yet. How her cruel king had laughed, to have her submit to him so easily, so quickly and so helplessly aroused, and so very eager to bend to his will. So far, his attentions in the dreams had left her as virgin as her real body remained – though in her mind, she would never be quite able to consider herself pure, not thanks to him – and how it maddened her!

For months upon months, she had felt the heat and press of him, a complimenting twin to the deep, low down burn he caused in her own body, and oh, how well he had teased her with it. Every slow, sensuous stroke, pulse to pulse, skin to skin, had sent ripples of desire surging through her body, burning her to cinders from the inside out. Yet, always, when he finally seemed ready to give her what she so needed, when he finally saw fit to end his games and simply take her, she would wake without fail, upset and unfulfilled, and with the ghost of his laughter seeming to echo in her ears.

This year, the calendar had been cruel enough to see her home for the holidays, and just in time for her birthday. Her old bedroom remained much as she had left it before leaving for college, surrounding her with too much of what remained of her innocence, along with the less-than-innocent reminder of him all around her. Here, after all, was where he had first appeared to her, that gorgeous, dangerous, tantalising creature straight out of any grown woman's fantasy. So many years had passed, but these old, familiar surroundings only served to remind her of how powerless she had been before him on the night they had met, begging mercy for her stolen brother before she was sent off on his wild and unfair game.

Toby was, by now, of course, old enough to have been talking for several years, but thankfully, never of that strange time, which must have been like a dream for him, if he remembered it at all. Her father and stepmother were a few years older, too, and perhaps had mellowed a little now that their daughter had blossomed into a woman grown. A woman who, at least from the outside, was hardly the precocious, daydreaming teen that she had once been. Only Sarah herself knew better. In so many ways, she was still that fearful, naïve girl who had stood before that pouting, cunning snake of a man, and flinched.

She knew that, when he sought her out in her dream again, she would be just as powerless to resist him. He would make her beg for his mercy, only to toy with her at his whim, subjecting her to every cruel, delicious act he could conjure, only to leave her wanting in the end.

Well, not tonight.

Checking the clock – the nice, normal, less-something-out-of-a-triskaidekaphobic-nightmare clock – she saw that she would turn twenty-one in just over eighteen hours, and she had no intention of being tucked up in bed then. Last night's dream had been only a taste – a mere crumb of what she knew would come. It would be the most sadistic, most blissful torture he would want to inflict upon her, but she wouldn't be around to see it.

No, tonight, she was going to go out, and get good and fucking drunk.

Her father wasn't wild on the idea, but he agreed not to worry too much when Sarah announced her plans to see in her birthday with some old friends. In truth, only a small handful of friends from her hometown had bothered to stay in touch over the years, but she wasn't interested in playing catch-up that night. She set out alone, and by midnight had managed to find a bar that wasn't quite a dive, and that was willing to serve her the first legal drop of hard liquor to wet her lips and warm her throat. It went down smoothly, and was soon followed by an equally-smooth second, and then chased down by a third.

A fourth drink followed a little more slowly, but Sarah, who had never been too interested when her friends had sneaked a bottle into the rare parties she was invited to, managed to spill most of it down her shirt – though not before she had felt its effects start to sink in. She plucked at the damp fabric, giggling and cursing herself as a lightweight, but decided against trying to order another, swaying and stinking of booze as she was.

She called a cab to collect her, and then stumbled her way into a dark, sleeping house at a little after a quarter to three, by the clock in the hall. Sarah thought that the late hour, along with the alcohol in her system, might just be enough to ward off the worst of the dreams, though she didn't yet feel the slightest bit tired.

As she climbed the stairs and let herself into her bedroom, that changed. Sudden sleepiness seemed to creep up upon her with all the comfort of a warm blanket. Already, she could feel the dull heat of anticipation start to steal into her senses, with just the thought of his dream-caresses. The Goblin King had made it clear that he would not be denied his prize, and apparently tonight would be no exception. He would ease his way inside of her dreams with his skilled lover's touch, once more driving her to near ecstasy and despair, dashing all hope of ever refusing him.

Suddenly, tendrils of rage were rapidly winding their way through Sarah's thoughts. How dare he? She had beaten his goddamn labyrinth, bested him at his own game years ago and denied him the power he so sorely craved to hold over her. Though that cursed peach of his had bound her to the fae realm, what right did he have to use that link to his advantage? What right did he have to run her whole life this way, haunting her nights and her dreams like some malevolent, lecherous spirit, ruining her for any normal man she might have wanted?

There were curses in the books of lore she had pored over, and she wanted desperately to be able to remember some of them now, to make him suffer for a change. She had been living under his shadow for too long, entangled in its dark snare of dream and fantasy, and she had finally had enough.

The heat of her anger was stifling, and she marched over to her balcony with purpose, unlocking the French doors and throwing them open to let in the night breeze. She let it cool her burning face, relishing it as it washed over her skin. Trying to soothe her rattled nerves, she closed her eyes to the night, but not the feeling of electricity around her. The air was thick with tension, the storm that had been threatening for several days now finally on its way. Sarah could practically taste its power. The very wind seemed to throb against her chest, catching in her eyelashes and stinging each nostril. She breathed deeply, inhaling that power and imagining herself growing much stronger for it.

“I wish,” she said, and chuckled softly.

A small fluttering noise caught her attention, and Sarah's eyes flew open at once, widening in shock at the flash of pure white they saw, nestled in a nearby tree. All at once, she was wide awake again. Her mouth fell open, and she might have squeaked a little as she stared at the owl who she saw was watching her from between the branches. Then, the wind shifted again, and she saw the owl for what it really was: a plastic grocery bag, tattered and torn and flapping in the breeze amongst the tree's highest branches, nothing more.

Nothing, tra-la-la?

Jesus, the Goblin King sure has cut the budget on his grand entrances, she thought, and immediately burst into high, giddy laughter. He must need it to pay for his wardrobe. I'll bet those pants don't last too long, what with all the strain he puts on them. Oh, and now she could barely contain her mirth.

In a considerably better mood, and still snorting back giggles, Sarah raised a hand in mock-salute to the bag-that-was-an-owl. Caught up in the ridiculousness that was her life – a newly-twenty-one year-old woman caught up in some kind of insane dream-tryst with her sneering, salami-packing childhood boogeyman – she threw both her arms up above her head, as though calling on the Gods for some great deed.

“Goblin King, Goblin King, wherever you may be,” she called out, in delight. “It's been six years – get up off your ass, and come to me! I, Sarah Williams, Champion of your Labyrinth, Saviour of All Children, Kicker of Goblin Ass, and apparently Eternal Vestal Virgin Princess, most sincerely command it!”

She lowered her arms, still grinning at the tattered bag as she finished. “You … you poofy-haired fuck!”

At that, she gave a loud squawk of laughter, and quickly pressed both hands over her mouth.

Hopefully, her family were too deeply asleep to have heard her carrying on like this, but how she wished he had been around to hear it! That would teach him to toy with her dreams. Though her own curse was probably not worthy of a fairytale, at least it belonged to her, and not some mind-meddling, dream-manipulating, trumped-up excuse for a king.

In fact, she was so proud of herself, that she threw her whole body into a quick, dainty pirouette, right there on the balcony. At least, it started off dainty, and ended up depositing her flat onto her ass on her bedroom floor. Another one of those gleeful squawks escaped her, and Sarah hurried to put herself to bed, before anyone woke up and came to investigate what in the hell was happening.

She made a half-hearted attempt at undressing, yanking down her jeans and managing to wrench off both her boots and one sock alongside them in the fumble that followed. From downstairs, the hallway clock chimed three, welcoming in the witching hour, as Sarah started on the buttons of her shirt. When everything south of the collar began to blur into a haze, the material proving too damp, clingy and unwilling from her earlier spillage anyway, she abandoned her efforts entirely.

She crawled beneath the covers and into her soft, welcoming bed, leaving both the balcony doors and her dreams open for whatever, or whoever might come.