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Labyrinth

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On the outskirts of the Labyrinth, a dwarf named Hoggle was squirting pesticide at fairies. He didn't even really know why, he just did. He always did, until a Sarah came by. He vaguely wondered when that would be.

'HALLO!' a loud voice came next to his ear. He jumped so high that he bumped his head against one of the fairies, who fell unconscious to the floor.
'Aa! Who said that!?' Hoggle yelped.
'Just me!' said the voice next to him cheerfully. Hoggle turned. Pale girl. Nice eyes. Long dark hair. Child-like clothing. Right on time.
'Oh, it's you.' he said.
'You know me?' the voice asked.
'Of course I do, Sarah. Haven't you got somewhere to be?'
'Yes I do, but I'm not Sarah. My name's Mabel. What's yours?' the girl named Mabel stuck out her hand for Hoggle to shake.
Hoggle eyed it suspiciously. 'My name is Hoggle' said he, shaking Mabel's hand.
'THAT'S THE BEST NAME. Hello Hoggle!' Mabel cheered. Hoggle frowned. This was odd. The Sarahs usually didn't remember his name at first. But Mabel wasn't a Sarah. Maybe the cycle was broken, somehow...

Hoggle shrugged and went back to spraying the fairies. Mabel watched him for a while. Also strange. Most Sarahs tried to help the fairies.
'Could you tell me where the door to the Labyrinth is?' she asked after a minute.
'I could.'
'That's great!'
'What's great?'
'That's a good question. Not much today is 'great'. Lost my brother, met someone who abuses glitter's majestic properties... I'll be honest with you, today is kind of a bummer, Hoggle. What's great with you?' asked Mabel
'With me?'
'Who else?'
'What's...great?' Hoggle asked.
'Well, it's kind of like metal bars, or like a furnace, but I mean great as in-'
'No, what's great?'
'I asked you!' Mabel said.
'What?' Hoggle replied.
'You'
'Me?'
'You're great?'
'I am?'
'That's great!' Mabel cheered, jumping up and down and clapping her hands.
'This is starting to grate...'
'I agree, you're really giving me the run around here, Hoggle, as if I'm not already dealing with enough.'
'What...' Hoggle began, but the gleam in his eye had vanished during this exchange and now he frowned. He tried to find his way back to being the befuddler, but he was, for a long moment, himself befuddled. 'Me?'
'Yes, you. You're giving me the run around!’
'Am not!'
'Are too!'
'Then just show me the door!'
'It's right there!' he exclaimed, and threw his arms out before him, signalling a large area of the wall that slowly opened before them. It was like being in a haunted house in one of those movies that used to give Dipper nightmares when they were younger, and a low, sinister grumbling noise persisted as the doors revealed to her a space, obscured by an eerie smoke. Mabel considered it grimly before turning once more to Hoggle, a big smile now lighting up her face.

'Thank you, Hoggle!'
'Yes,' Hoggle said, disgruntled, 'Well, when you ask the right question-'
'What question?' Mabel asked.
'What do you mean, what question?'
'What was the question?'
'I asked, 'what question'?'
'Which one?'
'The one you're asking about.' said Hoggle.
'Yes, what was it?' said Mabel.
'What?'
Mabel blew a raspberry. 'We are getting nowhere quickly with this back and forth, my well-named friend. Thank you again for all your help, my brother needs me and I really must be going.'
'But...you never asked the question!'
'I asked lots of questions!' Mabel countered, already walking away. 'Surely one of them was the right one!'
She was through the doors before Hoggle could stop her, and he sighed in defeat, leaning against the wall and thinking back over the past 30 seconds of his life. A fairy flew too close to him, derailing his thoughts, and he sprayed at her twice in irritation. Had she asked the question? He couldn't be sure...

 

As the doors to the labyrinth closed behind her, Mabel could hear a faint voice.
'You'll never make it, you know! You take too much for granted!'
'You can always come with me, new friend!' Mabel yelled over her shoulder. The doors stopped closing.
'...not how it works, not how it's done...' Mabel heard Hoggle mutter from beyond the wall.
The doors slammed shut with a thud.
She was alone. Roots crept along the grey path in front of her and the grey path leading back, though not to the beginning. She picked a side that felt right, and started to skip again. Nothing happened. She didn't come to any turns, nor were there any side-paths. All that she saw were roads and roots and glitter covering those roots. She frowned. Then she grinned.
'Take too much for granted, huh? Well, let's see what you think of THIS!' Mabel yelled, turned, and ran... headfirst into one of the walls of the Labyrinth.
As she sat against the opposite walls, nursing her bruising forehead, she heard a chipper voice coming from beside her.

 

''allo!'
'…'allo to you too. Where you at?' Mabel said confusedly.
'I'm over here! I'm the worm.'
And sure enough, a worm with blue hair and a red scarf sat next to her.
'That's quite a bruise you got there.' the worm said.
'Yep.' Mabel said brightly. 'Can you tell me if it's bleeding?' She bent over so the worm could see.
'Not bleeding, but you're gonna have a bleedin' swelling.' the worm said cheerfully, after examining her forehead.
'That's ok, I've had worse' Mabel grinned dazedly at the worm. 'D'you know the way through the labyrinth?' she asked.
'Who, me? No, I'm just a worm,' the worm said apologetically, shaking his head. 'Wanna come inside, have a cup of tea, meet the missus?'
'I'd really really like to, but I've gotta find my twin brother'
'A twin? King's never had twins in here before, no.. He'll be interested'
'I hope he'll be sore. I kicked him' Mabel said angrily.
'You kicked Jareth?' the worm said. 'What did he do?'
'Treated me like a kid.' Mabel replied. 'Wait, his name is Jareth?'
The worm nodded. 'Where is he then, that twin of yours?' He said.
'In the Castle beyond the Goblin City...'
'Oooo, you've got a long way to go, miss. Tell you wot, you just go to the spot where you bumped your head... good. Now step two paces to the right. Ok, now go forward.'
Mabel did. She passed through what seemed to be solid walls.
'I KNEW there was a doorway somewhere!' Mabel said.
'Oh, yah, it was just two paces to the right!'
'The castle, is it left or right?'
'It's left, but that's not the right way, miss. You gotta go through an entire hallway of bad things before you get to that there castle. You'd probably lose your mind. The last one sure did. Became a statue.'
'And the right way?'
'Is to the right of you, miss. It's a long way...Sure you won't come inside, have a cuppa tea?'
'...can I have it to go? Dipper needs me'
'With a name like Dipper, he does.' the worm replied.

Mabel went right. The stones changed from grey to yellow. The first part was wet and chilly, but this part was hot and sweltering. She saw a yellow stone pillar with hands on it. One of the hands pointed to the castle, so of course, honouring her friend Quentin Trembley, Mabel went in the exact opposite direction.

***

Meanwhile, at the Goblin Castle, the Goblin King was trying to make Dipper do funny things.
'I see it in your mind, human child... The lamby lamby dance. Sing for us, boy.' he demanded.
'Shove off, man. Stop bothering me.' Dipper folded his arms. The Goblin King raised an eyebrow.
'You dare disobey me?'
'Hey man, I don't belong to you. I can't disobey you. Sure, you can hurt me, but judging by your ankle it seems like my sister hurt you first. You really want to deal with that again?'
Jareth looked slightly put-out. But only a little, and his cocky façade soon came back on. He dropped his ice-pack from his ankle. He grabbed Dipper by the collar, lifting him up to his face.
'..don't you dare disrespect me in front of my subjects. Soon you will be one of them...' he spoke softly. Dipper just shrugged.

'Sure beats dance class.' he said, feeling braver than he had felt since last summer. He... He felt like... He felt like Wendy. Ignorant and brave in the face of danger. Plus, what was a guy with Gideon hair and fairy makeup when he and his family had stood up to the biggest demon in the Nightmare Realm?
This wasn't real anyway. Probably a weird dream. Bill couldn't be the only dream demon, right? Besides, even in his dreams, Mabel would probably come and get him. He'd do the same for her.
The King dropped Dipper on the floor. Dipper scrambled to his feet, and ran. He leaped over some goblins on his way to the door. Dipper opened it, and...

Ran into an Escher painting. Dipper looked around. The ledge on which he was only a couple of feet long, and ended in nothing. The stairs were upside-down. Some turned into one another like a sadistic mindscape. The floor ended halfway the ceiling, and the ceiling stretched out into the sky.
He sank to the floor.
'This isn't real, this isn't real.' he continued his mantra for a couple of seconds before he heard the shuffling of the goblin feet behind him. He collected all of his courage, and convinced himself that there would be an invisible bridge of some sorts beyond his ledge. He walked back a bit, and jumped.
He fell. He fell a long way, though not as long as once in the Bottomless Pit. As he fell, he saw that somehow the floor became the ceiling again. He saw the ledge from which he had jumped, and the goblins that were waiting for him.
'Come on, man, wake up, wake up...' Dipper prayed to himself.

He tried to stop falling. He tried to slow down. It didn't work.
He landed on the ledge with a slam that rattled all the bones in his body. His left leg folded underneath him and made a horrible squelchy crunching sound.
The pain that shot up his foot and his leg, all the way up to his spine, felt very real indeed. Dipper screamed.

 

Numb with pain, Dipper found himself being picked up by rough hands. Three goblins carried him back to the throne room, and put him near the foot of the throne. Dipper raised his head to eavesdrop on the King.
Jareth, sitting on his throne, turned to one of his subjects. A secretary, by the look of it.
'Next time we're back to kidnapping babies. This one doesn't even bear any resemblance to the babe' Jareth said.
'What babe?' came the squeaky reply.
'Babe with the power...' Jareth said automatically.
'What power?' the goblin said.
'Power of...' Jareth started. Then he thumped the goblin on the head. 'STOP IT. We're not singing! OUT! ALL OF YOU!' the King kicked at a nearby goblin, but hit Dipper in the face. Dipper felt his teeth jam all the way through his lip. His head hit the floor with a thump, and he blacked out.

 

***

Mabel sipped her tea. She was lost once again. It looked like a courtyard, but almost every road lead to a dead end. She had tried writing on the floor with her ballpoint pen, but the pen didn't work. She had also tried leaving a trail of tea, but the tea evaporated on the rock heated by the sun.
It was hot. Hotter than the hottest day in California. The heavy air smelled of hot stone and sand.

Her pink shooting star sweater was sticking to her back. She felt somewhat comforted by the familiar weight. She had been through many adventures in it, and was glad they would share another. It was very hot, though, but she couldn't take it off, otherwise her grappling hook would be revealed. She was almost certain that the Goblin King was watching, but better be sure anyway. She went left, right, right, left, left, left, left, right again, then straight ahead. Then left, right, left, and then she turned around and walked backwards for a while just to see if that worked.
It did. She bumped into something.
'HEY!'
'Hey!'
There were four voices, but they seemed to be speaking in pairs of two. She turned around.
Two huge wooden shields blocked two doors. One with red decorations, and one with blue ones. Behind each shield there was a dog-like creature with two heads. One on top, and one on the bottom.
The upper parts seemed to be arguing with each other, while the bottom figures growled and snapped at each other with sharp teeth.

 

‘Told you it’s this one’ said the blue one.
‘How do I even believe anything you say? You’re a liar! You’ve been a liar for all your life!’ Said the red one.
‘That’s a lie!’
‘Oh? Oh? Then tell me one thing you’ve said that was true!’
‘This door is the safe door!’
‘It isn’t!’
‘Is!’
‘Isn’t!’
‘Guys…’ Mabel said reproachfully.
‘SHUT UP, SARAH’ the two guards snapped at her. She shut her mouth angrily and sat down on a nearby pillar, trying to work out which way to go now.
The red one continued his rant: ‘How can you expect me to believe you after all this time? You led all them Sarah’s through the bad door. You killed all of them!’
‘I didn’t! You did!’ Shouted the blue one.
A fight broke out between the two. Mabel rose to her feet, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to help the two or stop them. She had heard about this sort of fight before, and it didn't end well...
The blue one seemed to have the upper hand, but the red one was fierce. With a sharp growl, he shoved the blue one through the blue door.
‘There! That’s the right door. See? Nothing is happening!‘

 

The blue guard skidded to a stop only a short ways in. Nothing dangerous-looking jumped out at the guard – still, the creature hunkered slightly, turning his head to survey the area in a quick, paranoid way. He stood shaking in place. He hadn't wanted to admit it, but he'd been manning these doors so long, with so few visitors, he'd forgotten which door was which. They all had. He'd merely presumed the red guard would choose the right door.
Mabel could hear him whimpering. '..oh, no...' his small double-voice carried back out to her.
'Uhm…’ Mabel said.
'No worries' the red guard told her. 'He's just being dramatic'
Then, they both gasped.

The blue guard was all too aware of what happened next, and knew all too well there was no point in running – back, forward, up, down, over...he'd heard too many others make that mistake. Some Sarahs, even. To his mind, the worst deaths were of the ones that tried to outrun it. If he was to die, he'd prefer to die cowardly than foolish. Better standing than running. He braced. He waited... How long was this going to take? It never seemed to take this long when he just had to listen. Why had he stood by, and listened to others die? He could have helped… He could have… Could have…

He felt it before he saw it. It was the sort of pressure you get when you’re underground. It was like the air was pressing. Tightening. The walls were closing in.
It took others longer to clock this, loud as it was; the walls made an awfully slow progress as they pushed in – even the ceiling, which didn’t make sense, but to be truthful, what thing in this place did? He was simply too familiar with the stone-on-stone grinding sound to have the privilege of spending any amount of time looking around him, innocently wondering, What's that curious noise? So close, and getting closer... And of course, by the time they realized, they'd try to unmake their choice. To go back the way they came, only to have one final, crushing realization.
This impossible, nonsense room they entered could not be exited. That was the moment that truly broke them, he thought, and that’s the reason why he would not be such a fool, he would not turn to confirm this, the second he did it would happe-
A fwip sounded nearby, and something disturbed his hat. That's new, he thought, and wondered what sort of evil this room was exactly, to greet his unwillingness to embrace its full horror by conjuring up new ones. He whimpered and raised his hands to his hat, eyes scrunched shut as though that might somehow lessen the unpleasantness of what he found there...

His hands curled around strange metal loops, and as he pawed around them he got the impression they extended from one long rod, both loops arching out and away in opposite directions, ending in an arrow-head – he tightened his hands around it in curiosity, which was a mistake, as he suddenly found himself yanked backwards, his head being pulled first and the rest of his body sailing along with it, and he shrieked in alarm as the doorway sped past his vision and he flew past a small figure and landed a ways away from the door, closed now, but he wasn't supposed to see that, his sight of the door was supposed to be lost the second he stepped inside this godforsaken-

'Oh my gosh, are you okay?' Mabel asked
'I'm alive?!' the guard squeaked, hands letting go of a hook that thudded to the ground, taking its poor, impaled hat with it. It slapped its hands to its head, then its chest, then his legs. 'I'm alive?!' he repeated, shriller this time, followed by an abrupt, hysterical laugh.
'Uh...yeah.'
'You saved me!'
'I mean...the events preceding that were Not Very good. I should have stopped you both, but…’
Mabel was interrupted by the second guard knocking her aside. They threw off their shield. The second guard knelt over its companion, and stroked his head.
Then the red guard turned to Mabel.
'You saved my brother.’ he said in pure astonishment.
'This is your brother? I'm looking for my own brother. The King took him.’
The second guard nodded. Tears streamed down his face.
'I... I didn't know, I promise.’ he said, partly to Mabel, partly to the blue guard. 'I didn't know that was the wrong door all along... I'm so sorry...

 

Mabel understood. She had heard of this riddle in Dipper's nerd books. True, false. Choices, choices. 'Will you allow me to go through the other door? I'm sorry, I would stay, but... My brother.’ Mabel said tentatively.
'For your brother, yes.’ the red guard said.
'Thank you. I hope you both don't do this thing again. My grunkles... I mean, you gotta stick by your brother. Even if he's being a stupid-face.’ Mabel said.
The second guard nodded. 'And may I hope the same for you. Fighting with your sibling just... sucks. And choosing between one of these crap doors is even worse.’ it said, gesturing at the doors. Mabel nodded.
She knelt over the first guard.
He merely stared up at Mabel, glossy eyed and seemingly still just in a pretty finite state of Holy Heck! Holy Heck! What In Heck! Holy Heck!
'Um.' She reached into her pocket and pulled out one of the sweets Grenda's grandmother had given her that morning. She hated them, they tasted like something you weren't supposed to like until your taste buds had been to hell and back, or just entered old age, but Grenda's grandmother had called them soothers, and she thought maybe this guy could use something soothing right about now. 'For, uh...for the...everything? For the everything!' She stroked the hair of the blue guard.
The red guard rose, and opened the second door for her. 'Go now. Seems like I have some talking to do with my brother...'
'Just one last question. Are you the truth teller?’ She asked him.
'Perhaps.’ said the red guard, smiling slightly.
Before it closed behind her, she could hear the red guard fussing over his brother.
The brother, the blue guard, finally spoke, after a long while of giggling.
'Don’t worry about me, I’m fiiiinneeee.' He hiccupped.

 

It turns out there are things worse than certain death. Mabel took a few steps through the door, thinking that Sparkle Man sure did have a repetitive streak with choices and Mystery Doors going on in this dizzyingly evil labyrinth of his. Must have gotten lazy at some point, all this intricate planning and yet he returned so often to door puzzles. Mabel was so caught up in her judgement of the Goblin King, she didn't hear when the red guard behind her called 'Wait, I forgot! You have to wait, or jum-'
Too late their words registered, and Mabel was falling, falling, falli- oh! She stopped sooner than she expected, though in her defence she'd experience some pretty lengthy falls. At this point she just stoically accepted it when gravity went runnin'.
Upsettingly, it seemed what had prevented her fall was just...hands. Just a bunch of hands extending out of the narrow shaft she'd been falling down. They pinched a little too tight on her arms, or held her legs up just a tad too noncommittally, and she was torn between discomfort and thinking she'd be dropped any second now. She was reminded of crowd-surfing at the Woodstick festival, though that had been much more fun.
'So...um...hello?'

 

'Up or down?' the hands asked in unison, somehow. Talk to the hand, cause the face ain't present. She could picture Dipper rolling his eyes at that joke. She could imagine Grunkle Stan beating her to the punch making that joke.
Mabel considered the question. Not for too long. Up seemed the right way to go. That was the way to the castle. Down might bring her there too, but when had underground tunnels ever done anyone any good? Not in her life. Not in any the movies she'd watched. Underground brought danger. Up top, she at least knew some of the dangers that awaited her. And honestly, how badly could Jareth's next door-puzzle mess her up? Oh, now there are three doors? Choose one, open another, change or keep your choice... However will she choo- syke! She'd seen this episode of Myth Busters. Next door trick, Glitterbug.

 

'Up, please' she said, meaning to sound more decisive, but she was still quite disgruntled at this whole disembodied hands scenario. If she smiled at them would they smile back? How? If she had lipstick she might be able to draw lips along their index fingers, give them some makeshift lips so she knew if they were happy, or annoyed or pouting.
'Are you sure?' they asked, and she just about held back from asking where their mouth holes were.
'Yup, yup! Absolutely sure and certain! Up, up and away.' She wanted to get a hand on her grappling hook just in case they didn't keep their word, but she couldn't quite dislodge either arm from where they were held, and instead had to just have faith that they would do as she asked.
Sure enough, she found herself being lifted back the way she came, the hands continuing to never grant her a properly comfortable support. By the time she reached the mouth of the hole, she was fairly certain those hands had given her arms and legs a few light bruises. 'Um...thanks, hands. You've been very... handy.'
The hands didn't answer, at least not audibly, and she again cursed herself for having no lipstick with her. Even some marker! A sachet of ketchup! A glitter pen!
'Oh, that all worked out then!' a voice sang, and Mabel saw the red guard had not yet returned to his post, and stood watching her, something like pride in his eyes. His blue brother still sat on the ground behind him. He smiled at Mabel.
'You're alive!' The red guard said.
'Nope! We're not! We're aaallll dead!' its brother said happily.
Mabel bade them goodbye and walked on.

***

'Master, we have found the girl' The goblin was fidgeting with his hat while he talked. It was obvious that he didn't want to say anything, but judging by the little match clutched in his paw, fate had decided a different direction for him. His name was Zareez, not that he had much use for it now.
'Ah, in the oubliette, is she? Exactly how it should be. The dwarf will lead her...' The king said, delighted on how his plan was developing.
'Actually, your eminence...' Zareez said.
The King got that certain look in his eye. Zareez cowered before him.
Zareez spoke so fast that he skipped every comma that could have been in the sentence.
'Well you see she first shoved one of the guards through the wrong door and then she saved him and then she got the right door and the helping hands asked her if she wanted to go up or down and she chose up and now she's... almost... out...' Zareez finished lamely.
'And how, may I ask, did she save the first guard?' The King asked.
'We... couldn't see, my lord.' Zareez hung its gnarly head. He didn't deserve this. He had always been a good subject. Or at least he thought so.
Jareth walked over to Dipper, who was in a gilded cage in the middle of the throne room. He banged his sceptre against the bars a bit and watched the wounded teen shift and scowl in his sleep.

'Truly a new thing, twins...' He mused. 'Oh, go away, Zizi.' He said to the goblin. Zareez stumbled backwards. He banged into the bars of the cage, making the cage rattle and Dipper shudder in his sleep. Zareez shook his head to get rid of the pain, making his ears flap.
Jareth snapped his fingers. Somewhere in the Labyrinth, the Dwarf called Hoggle found himself transported from a dark oubliette to a sunny hedgerow.