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©By Alecia J Rivas


have dreams sometimes. Strange ones, full of owls and goblins and mazes. I know what you're saying, 'so what? Everyone has dreams?' But these are different. They are vivid, for one thing. I mean, they are so vivid that when I wake up sometimes I am not sure if the things I dreamed didn't really happen. And they are recurring. I don't always dream the exact same thing every night, but some events repeat themselves in my mind when I sleep. Almost as if something has happened to me and I am remembering those times. But how can that be? My entire 18 years has been fairly uneventful so far.
I think the dreams started about three years ago, when I was 15. I heard on the radio that those talk-show therapists believe that dramatic events can sometimes trigger strange dreams. But the only thing that happened when I was 15 was that my grandmother died, and since I wasn't very close to her it doesn't seem too likely to me that her death is causing these odd dreams. She lived in another state, and we didn't talk often. I went to stay with her when I was younger a few times, but very rarely, and it had been a long time since that had happened anyway. She was the one that had given my horse, Merlin, to me, on my 13th birthday. He had been fresh and young then, and he still was at heart.
So what is the source of these weird images? I can't always remember what I dreamed when I wake up, but sometimes images linger. A man haunts me, and yet…. Not a man. I know I am starting to sound crazy again. It bothers me, because I am known for being so levelheaded. But this is so strange, almost…. Otherworldly. Now don't laugh at me, I am not joking. I don't find it funny in any extreme. I want some answers about these dreams. Maybe I will ask my mother; maybe she will know what these dreams mean.

I spoke with her today, and she gave me a very strange look. The look was stern, but under that I could see what looked like fear almost. Is she worried about my sanity? She told me not to stress about them, that they would probably go away. But I know better. If they still hang around after three years, why would they simply stop now? Then again, why had they started in the first place?
My mother didn't really tell me anything else, and yet… Maybe she did, without meaning to. She asked me if I had spoken to my uncle about these dreams and I said that I hadn't. Now I wonder why she would ask me that. Actually, he was my mother's uncle, but my grandmother had been so much older than him that he had always seemed more like my mother's brother than her uncle. So to me he was simply "Uncle Toby."
It really bothers me that his name had been brought up when I raised the questions to her. I don't think that my mother would like it, but maybe I will call him. After all, she doesn't really have to know, does she? Ah well, it is something to think about later. It's late and it's time for me to go to sleep. Maybe I will be able to sleep without dreams tonight.

I dreamt again of the man, I just woke up- it's still so fresh in my mind. He was almost demonic, with features that seemed to leer even with his softened expression. He was dressed all in white, with some sort of cloak that fluttered about him. And yet white didn't seem to suit him, although he was striking in the color. I think I can more easily picture him in black, and I even think that I might have dreamed of him at another time in dark clothing. He was so strange! The whole dream had been strange. I remember some sort of troll-like creature, with gnarled features, and yet he had been crying so gently. I remember a great hulking beast with liquid eyes and huge paws that touched my face very softly. I remember a smaller creature, maybe something like a fox, which had been full of fire and courage and honor. What were these creatures? Why were they invading my dreams? I almost want to place names to them, they seemed so real, and they also seemed so… familiar. Why?
But my eyes are dragging shut, and I think I can sleep again. I only pray that if there is a God that He lets me sleep in peace for the rest of the night.

Well it has been three nights since I approached my mother, and more and more I feel my resolve firming. I want to call Uncle Toby. I feel in my heart that he will have answers for me. The dreams come more frequent now, and more vivid than ever. Names keep popping into my mind, and I am constantly distracted. I almost fell asleep while riding Merlin today. I am thankful that he is so well mannered, and that he didn't take advantage of my lapse. What is going on? I don't understand any of it. Names again… Names that I cannot quite put my finger on. But one stands tall and clear in my mind. Jareth. I am so confused!

I have to call him. I know that Mother won't be happy, but I have to. The dream I had tonight was the worst yet. I don't remember all of it, but I know that something was wrong. I feel that there is something that I have to do. What is it? I just don't understand any of it anymore. I never did, it's that it is so much worse now. I have to have some answers, and I sense that Uncle Toby is the source of those answers. I hesitate over the keypad of the phone. It's late. Maybe I should wait until tomorrow.

I can't wait anymore. I had gone back to sleep, almost unintentionally, and I saw a woman that looked so much like me in the arms of that strange man. She had her back to his front, and I could see the tears welling from her eyes. She seemed to reach out to me with those sad, sad eyes. I heard my name, and yet… It wasn't my name. It was my grandmother's name. What is going on? I pick up the phone and dial Uncle Toby's number. I sit on the bed in my room and my gaze goes to the vanity that sits on the opposite wall. It had been my grandmother's; I had inherited it when she had died. The phone rings for the third time, and it is suddenly picked up. There is silence at the other line, absolutely nothing. I feel a frown cross my face. "Hello?" No one has answered. What is going on? "Hello? Uncle Toby?"
A hissing snicker came across the line, a strange half-mad-sounding laugh. I pull the receiver away from my face and stare at it for a moment, then put it back up to my ear. "Hello? Who is this?"
Nothing. Absolute silence, then suddenly a seemingly all-too-familiar voice. "Sarah, I need you. Why did you leave me?"
"Who the hell is this? Who are you? What do you want from me? Why are you in my dreams?" I know that I sound hysterical, I am probably getting to be that way, but I can't seem to stop myself. Nothing else came back across the line. I wait a few more minutes, asking questions to try to get some answers. But I know no answers will come. I hang up the phone and stare it for a little while, then I pick up the receiver again and I slowly and carefully dial in the number again.
This time it is Uncle Toby's hello that I get. "Hi Uncle Toby, it's me, Melissa."
"Melissa! How are you doing?" I can almost see his shining eyes and blond hair, his playboy look in spite of his age.
"Fine. Well, no, actually, not fine. Uncle Toby, I really need to talk to you. I have some questions to ask you. Questions about Grandma."
There is silence on his end for a moment, then "What is this about, Melissa?"
"Did Grandma ever know a man named Jareth?"

Uncle Toby had told me to get off of the phone immediately, that he was coming over. I am worried now because he had sounded so upset. But my mother isn't home, and neither is my father, so it seemed like an okay idea. After all, I truly need answers now. I hear his car, I go to let him in, and he is carrying a big cardboard box. He sets it on the kitchen table and pulls out a chair. "Sit down Melissa, we need to talk."
I sit, and I know that my eyes must be huge, but he is almost radiating stress. He kneels on a chair and leans into the box, and he starts bringing things out of it. I feel the blood drain from my face. I stare in mute silence at the stuffed animal that he sets before me, and the bookend, and other things straight out of another's childhood, and then… a musical box with a doll that dances in the center of it, dressed in a sparkling white gown, with a face that is identical to my own. I feel shock run cold through my veins to nestle in my heart. I raise my eyes to his, and he nods with a look of regret on his face. "Let me tell you about what happened when your Grandmother was 15."

I still cannot believe the story Uncle Toby had told me. After all, how can I? And yet…. How can I deny what is going on in my own brain? My mother had come home after Uncle Toby had told me the story, and she was furious. She had raged on about ridiculous stories and filling my head with nonsense. I can still hear them talking downstairs, their voices lowered so that I cannot overhear. My mind reels. What did this all have to do with me? Why was I dreaming about these things that had supposedly happened to my grandmother? I just don't understand.
I can still hear my mother yelling downstairs. She didn't understand that it wasn't Uncle Toby's fault. I had tried to explain, but she had practically pushed me aside to get at him. I guess that maybe she needed someone else to blame. Uncle Toby just tossed everything back into the box and pressed the box into my arms, directing me to the stairs that led to the second story, where my room was. I fled willingly when I realized that he didn't want to let me face my mother. Now I sat upon my bed and gazed into the box, wanting to touch everything, to examine it from every angle, but I am afraid. What will happen? These items that were such vivid reminders of such vivid dreams… How completely strange. I decide to face that fear, though, and I reach into the box. The first thing that my hand brushes comes out, and I stare almost dispassionately at the stuffed animal that I hold. It was an exact rendering of the fox-like creature from my dreams, complete with a little leather eye patch. It was dressed like a little pirate, almost, but I knew from what I could remember from my dreams that he had a pure and honest heart. Again the thought popped into my head that I must be going crazy. That thought had occurred to me a lot lately. Surely that must be the answer to what was going on.
I don't remember the name of this little creature, though. But I know his one good eye gleams with honor. His word is his vow. Although how I know all of this is still a complete mystery. I set the animal on the center of my bed and reach into the box again. This time I cradle a bookend on my lap, with a creature perched on it that roughly resembles a gnarled troll. I feel a pang in my heart and wonder why. I almost feel that this troll is a long-lost friend. But how can that be? I have never seen it before today, but then I realize that of course I have seen it. In my dreams.
I reach into the box again, and I draw out a strange looking creature of a flaming orange color with big white button eyes. Distaste fills my soul and I swiftly set it aside, not bothering to examine it further. What will I find next?
It is a squat-looking monster with protruding fangs that is covered with rough rust-colored hair. I somehow know that in spite of this beast's vicious appearance, he possesses a gentle heart.
How can I know all of this?! I stop for awhile and turn to my vanity. I stare into the mirror at my reflection, knowing for a fact that I was considered pretty by many with my long sleek glossy black hair and my big brown eyes. My figure is good, not too full and not too slim. I am well toned from hours of riding Merlin. But what about my mind? That which I was always most admired for was now turning into a bewildered mess. I sigh and look down at my hands that twisted in my lap. I clasp them tightly to keep them from fidgeting. Something draws my gaze from my hands to the drawer right above them. I can feel some sort of pull on my gaze, and in my heart. I suddenly push my chair back, knocking it to the ground with a clatter, and I kneel down to pull the drawer open. It had always stuck at a certain point, but for some reason it slid smoothly this one time. I pull the drawer all the way out, and look back into the space that the drawer had occupied. There, pushed all the way to the back, was a small book with a battered red cover. How did I know that it would be here? Why had I pulled that drawer out for no apparent reason? I don't understand, as usual, but I reach into the hole and draw the book out, being careful of it because it looks fragile. I have it in my hands now, and I stare at it with no feeling for a second. I feel completely numb, and then I suddenly feel a rush of feeling. Is it adrenaline? Fear? Excitement? I can't tell, but I open the book and read the first line aloud. "Give me the child…." I hesitate, then firmly read on. "Through hardships unnumbered and dangers untold I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, my kingdom is as great… You have no power over me."
I feel a shudder rack my body. What was going on?
A sound catches my attention at the same time as the movement in the mirror. Both distract me so that I cannot catch the exact source of either, but I catch a glimpse of the mirror, and my entire body freezes in horror as I meet the eyes of the troll from my dreams for a split second. I turn to look at the bed, where he was sitting in the reflection, but there is nothing there. I look back to the mirror above me and there is nothing. I look back to my bed again, and I stare in shock at the rumbled blanket that had been made up so smooth a few moments before. What in the- I take a deep breath and squeeze my eyes shut for long moments. I can hear and feel my heart beating in my chest, the thuds sounding louder than I have ever heard them. I feel like it is going to jump right out of my ribcage.
Slowly, I open my eyes and look back down to the book. I notice something sticking out of it, and I pull it out. My eyes widen yet again and I almost think that I am going to pass out. I am looking at my own face, and I am being held in the arms of the man from my dreams. I set the picture down on the vanity and slowly right my chair to sit down again, feeling as if I am moving in slow motion. The only sound I hear now is the thudding in my breast. At least I know I am still alive. Or am I? Is this some sort of living hell that I am stuck in? I leave the picture where it is and throw everything in the box. I lay down on my bed because I feel so faint. My eyes go to the picture of Merlin that I have framed and hung where I can see it. I think I need his presence right now. He had always been able to calm me. I leap to my feet and throw my door open, not caring that it slams against the wall and bounces shut. I run down the stairs, not sparing my still-arguing mother and uncle a single glance.
I run around to the back of the house and through the small yard to the small barn that my father had built for Merlin to get out of the weather so long ago. I grab Merlin's bridle from a hook next to his stall and throw his stall door open. He throws his head up and stares at me in curiosity, but he does not look surprised. I have come out here this way many times before. I slap the bridle on him and swing onto his back, and he is running almost before we even leave the stall. We head out of the barn and through the creek that borders the back of our property. I let him have his head and he dashes down the trail. It is long, almost-free moments later when I look down and notice that the little red book is still in my hand.
I almost toss it aside, but my heart quails at that. Maybe this book holds answers for me. I have to have answers; I hunger for them as if I hadn't eaten in weeks. Or maybe years, since I have never had answers…. Uncle Toby hadn't given me answers; he had merely given me more questions. And more fear. I am no longer curious. I am afraid, and it is time for me to admit it.
Merlin brings my mind back to the ride when he startles suddenly, a rare occurrence for Merlin. It takes me a split second to realize that I am falling, and then suddenly I feel nothing.

My head hurts. That is the first thing that comes into my mind. Where is Merlin? Is he all right? I force my eyes open and then close them again quickly when I see only darkness and that darkness seems to be spinning. How can darkness spin? But I was dizzy and weak, so I knew the fall must have taken a lot out of me. I wait a few more moments, then I open my eyes again. There is darkness still, and yet…. I cannot see beyond my own face, except that I can see my body. I am still wearing the loose-fitting tee and blue jeans that I had been wearing when I jumped on Merlin. Except that I felt different somehow. As if As if I were me, but NOT me. I don't know how else to explain it. How can I see myself if it is dark? It is almost like I am laying in nothing, on nothing. What is this place? IS it a place?
Movement in the inky blackness catches my eye, and I turn my head slowly to look at it so that my head doesn't spin as much. I see a white owl winging its way to me and for some reason surprise does not register inside of me. Maybe I was too far beyond surprising anymore. The owl swooped low and I could only stare and sit up as it materialized into a man. THE man. The one from my dreams.
"Jareth." The words seep from my mouth, nothing more than wisps of air.
He stands tall above me, with wicked eyes full of pain. He wears all white again, as I had last seen him in my dream, and the cloak now resembles the wings of the owl that had he had seemingly been. His features are harsh and all angles. His body is lean and tight with muscle. His face draws my gaze, and I stare unabashedly. His eyes are hooded and his nose is a little beakish. His mouth is firm, lips pressed together as if to keep something in. He had two deep grooves alongside his mouth, and small crow's feet fanning out delicately from the sides of his eyes. His blondish hair is rather wild, feathery about his face with longer tendrils snaking down over his shoulders. He is very attractive in some way that I cannot define, but I feel very drawn to him. He smiles rather sadly then and holds a hand to his heart. "Sarah."
My eyes grow wide again and my heart races. I cannot control my reaction to him. My palms grow clammy, and my mouth goes dry. I feel a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. "I'm not Sarah. My name is Melissa."
It's as if I hadn't spoken. "Sarah, you have come back to me. Will you love me now?" He takes a step towards me and I scramble to my feet, ignoring the sick feeling I feel at such swift movement.
"I-. I don't know what you are talking about. Who- What ARE you?"
"Oh Sarah." He takes another step towards me and I step back in turn. My back hits something solid and I feel bile creep up the back of my throat. He lifts a hand and reaches it towards my face. I close my eyes and wince back. But his fingers barely brush my skin before I hear him step away. I open my eyes to see his face perfectly emotionless, except for those wounded eyes. As I watched two tears track down his cheeks. "But I fear it is too late, Sarah. Too late..." His voice fades as does his form. I can see through him as he seems to disappear into the total blackness. Then he is gone and I reach up to touch my cheek, where my flesh seems to tingle. What was going on?
Suddenly a great weariness sweeps over me and I sink to my knees, dizzy beyond belief. I can't help but lay down and fold my arms beneath my head. I fall into a dreamless slumber for the first time in years.

I waken slowly, full of a strange energy. I stretch, and my muscles feel invigorated. I wonder what has happened to make me feel so rested, and then I realize that I had not dreamed. Or, if I did dream, I had not dreamed about those strange events and creatures that had been haunting me. I open my eyes and see my familiar bedroom surround me and enfold me in its comfort like a loving set of arms. I sigh, and smile. But my smile fades from my face as I remember what had happened. How strange and bizarre! What had REALLY happened between my grandmother and this Jareth fellow? He seemed awfully sure that she returned his feelings, and yet… Uncle Toby had given me a different impression on how she felt about the man. I sigh again. How was I to know? I hadn't even been a thought back then. And Uncle Toby had been so young. Only a toddler.
Oh well. That dreamless sleep seems now like a new beginning, and my spirit lifts a little as I look forward to more such nights. Maybe Jareth had said what he wanted to say. Maybe these things would no longer haunt me. A smile lights my features again and I surge to my feet and head into the hallway, my body itching for exercise. I head for Merlin's stall.

Thinking back now, I wonder how it was that Merlin had been in his stall. The stall door was firmly latched from the outside, a feat the horse could never have managed. And he still wore his bridle, the poor thing. All this time, since my fall, I hadn't thought of what had happened to him. And so now I wonder. I will ask Mother and Daddy later if they had caught him and put him in his stall. Stranger still, either one of them would have removed his bridle. Both were experienced around him, having helped me through my awkward beginning trials as an owner and rider. But still, maybe there was a good reason for it. It wasn't until I was cleaning Merlin's stall later that same day that I found the book again. It seemed to haunt me, to pop up into my life so that I could not ignore it. I tucked it into my pocket and finished my chore, then curried Merlin and fed him. It wasn't until an hour ago that I had remembered it again. Now I looked at it, sitting on my bed with all of my grandmother's strange possessions spread around it. I feel a sense of familiarity, of peace almost, as I look at the strange creatures and wonder what my grandmother had felt for them.
I had called Uncle Toby after remembering the book. He told me that he remembered the book, but that it wasn't possible for me to have it because my grandmother had burned it long ago. He had been present to see it's pages crumple and blacken and finally to burn to ashes. It had been a kind of letting-go for her, for the woman I had barely known, that was my flesh and blood. But Uncle Toby had read the book once, before that event. It had contained the story of another remarkable young woman, not the story of my grandmother. And yet here I read the very tale that Uncle Toby had related to me, almost as if he had read this story and given me a brief version. The events were the same, and yet Uncle Toby included details that were not included in this little red book. And vice versus.
Could I really believe this? Could I really believe that this had actually happened to my grandmother, who was once a girl named Sara that had entered into a strange world and that had traversed a Labyrinth in defiance of a king who loved her? But how could I not believe it? I had witnessed some of it myself, in the deep world of slumber.
Now I must decide what to do. What to do? Now I must be crazy. What is there TO do? I am not even a part of this, really. Am I? I take a deep breath to still nerves that are starting to unravel. Exhaustion overtakes me yet again and without clearing my bed I crawl onto it and fall asleep, surrounded by the strange items, and for some reason feeling safe because of it........