The Gift That Keeps Giving
I know, I know, I should be writing the Oz crossover prequel to My Fine Feathered Friend but all the glitter was making me itchy. So this is just a little three-shot (if that is a term) based on Mercuralis's awesome pic of our sex-beast King, 'You Know You Want It'. Check it out in all its glory at deviantArt (or click on the link in my bio page). You won't be sorry—he's wearing leather. LOTS of leather. Go on, check it out—I can wait (sings elevator music while you check out the pic).
Disclaimer: I do not own the Labyrinth, creamed corn, or the Chicken Lickin' fast-food franchise. I do go to flamenco classes and completely suck at it, so much so that I would like to formally apologize to Spain for butchering their national dance. I studied salmon quite extensively at school...it's six months of my life that I will never get back.
Chapter 1: When Reality Is Stranger Than Dreams About Salmon
Sarah was dreaming when the knocking started. The dream itself was not particularly notable—it was not a premonition of events to come, nor some profound revelation about the secrets of the universe, nor was it something more intimate and delicious that involved slow languid kisses on naked skin, and long-limbed men with wild golden hair. No, Sarah was having one of those mundane dreams where she was walking barefoot through a supermarket in search of creamed corn. She was sedately maneuvering her trolley—filled, inexplicably, with live salmon—past the other shoppers, when a woodpecker suddenly appeared and started to tap tap tap rhythmically against a bottle of cranberry juice. Sarah raised an eyebrow and walked on past, but then a rather sprightly old lady walked up and joined the woodpecker, rap rap rapping her cane against a can of tomato soup. By the time the troupe of flamenco dancers burst out from the cracker section and began to stomp stomp stomp their heeled shoes on the floor, the noise was so loud that Sarah was forced to abandon her salmon-filled trolley and place her hands firmly over her ears. Valiantly, she tried to ignore the banging and make her way to the canned goods aisle, but when she heard cries of "fraggedy fradggedy wokkawokka!" coming from the frozen peas section, she realized that something was definitely amiss and reluctantly allowed herself to wake up.
As she awoke, she noticed that the knocking, banging, tapping, and stomping, was still going strong…and it was coming from her mirror.
"Sarah! We need your help!" yelled voices from the mirror, trying to be heard above the sound of banging.
Sarah rolled over and looked at the alarm clock by her bed. Midnight. Well, that figures. With a sigh, she dragged herself out of bed and made her way to the dresser mirror.
Looking out of the mirror was a motley assortment of Labyrinth figures; there were three pixies, identical except for their different wing colors; three flagstone brownies, all currently jumping up and down in a rather frantic fashion; and three goblins whom she had given a bag of marshmallows to only last week. Seeing that Sarah was awake, they abruptly stopped their banging.
"Hi!" they called out happily and waved.
Sarah attempted to wave back but instead covered a yawn. "What's wrong?" she slurred.
"We're sorry to wake you, but we need your help," said a rather polite pixie with blue wings.
"We are about to be bogged!" cried a goblin with a twitchy eye.
Sarah woke up immediately. "What!? Right this minute?!" she said in alarm, looking past the creatures to see if she could catch a glimpse of the vengeful King.
"No, not yet. But soon," said a pixie with gold wings quite anxiously.
Sarah pursed her lips. "What did you guys do? Did you get into the King's wardrobe?"
The creatures looked horrified.
"Oh no! That's punishable by certain death, not bogging," said the pixie with pink wings.
"Big difference," said a goblin with a dented helmet.
The goblin with the beaky nose turned to his companions. "Do you guys remember what happened to Vlod?"
"Ooohhh," they said, shaking their heads sorrowfully.
Sarah tried to wipe the sleep from her eyes. "What happened to Vlod?"
The goblin with the beaky nose sighed. "We once dared Vlod to put on the King's boots and sing and dance around the throne room while the King was away."
"What happened?" Sarah asked curiously.
"The King wasn't as away as we thought," said the twitchy-eyed goblin a little guiltily.
"Actually, he was still sitting on his throne," said the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Oh dear," said Sarah. "So what happened to Vlod?"
They all shrugged.
"Gone," said the blue-winged pixie.
"Like magic," said the goblin with the beaky nose.
"But with more disappearing," said the goblin with the twitchy eye.
"Much more disappearing," clarified the goblin with the dented helmet.
Sarah shook her head. "Ok, as sorry as I am for poor Vlod, why did you guys come here tonight? How can I prevent you from being bogged?"
"It's the King's birthday," explained the blue-winged pixie.
"In two days!" said the shy pink-winged pixie.
"Each group of subjects has to present a gift to the King. Every group has got their present organized, even the dwarves…" said the gold-winged pixie.
"…except for the pixies, and the brownies, and the goblins," the blue-winged pixie explained.
"And if we don't get one, we'll be bogged!" the twitchy-eyed goblin cried, throwing his hands into the air melodramatically.
"Afreakakhewakawak" yelled a brownie, and started running around in circles.
Sarah quickly put her hand over the brownie's mouth. "You really need to calm down. Seriously."
The brownie nodded in agreement, but then ruined the effect by twitching.
"All the good gifts are gone. So we need your help to get something great. We bought you treasures to pay for the presents," said the goblin with the beaky nose.
Two brownies hauled over a small red velvet sack and presented it to Sarah.
"Look inside-edy wokkawokka!" the brownies yelled excitedly.
Sarah smiled at the group and dutifully reached into the sack. She pulled out an apple core, three copper coins, a bent spoon, four black chicken feathers, a glittery button that looked as though it had been liberated from the Goblin King's apparel, an hourglass where the blue sands shifted up instead of down, a shiny black rock, two moldy turnips, and half of a blue beetle.
"Where is the rest of the beetle?" Sarah asked curiously.
The goblin with the beaky nose covered his eyes, shame-faced. "Sorry, I got hungry waiting for you to wake up."
Sarah patted him on the shoulder. "Well, that is quite the collection of treasures, but I can't take you out shopping now. It's too late, nothing is open. But…," she said, looking at her computer. "…maybe I can help you order some presents for the King."
"YEAHHHYY!" the creatures cheered.
"But you guys have to be quiet!" she said, whispering. "Or I'll get thrown out of my apartment, and then I'll be forced to live on the streets, wandering around like the Wise Man."
"You'll grow a beard?" asked the goblin with the twitchy eye in horrified fascination.
The creatures all looked at her chin.
"I bet you'd look lovely with a beard," the pink-winged pixie said loyally.
The rest of the creatures nodded.
"Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that," Sarah said wryly. She walked over to her desk and sat down at her computer. "So, what do you want to get him?"
The creatures sighed. "That's the problem," said the gold-winged pixie.
"We don't know what to get him! It's a catastrophe!" said the goblin with the dented helmet, putting his face in his hands in utter hopelessness.
Sarah's lips quirked. "Ok, what does the King like?"
The creatures thought for a moment and then began to yell out suggestions.
"He likes bogging us!"
"And black—he loves black."
"And flinging us out of windows!"
"And bogging us!"
"I think you've already mentioned bogging," Sarah pointed out.
"Yes, but he really likes that," said the gold-winged pixie.
"So we should say it twice," explained the goblin with the dented helmet.
Sarah shook her head. "We're not getting him another bog. He does enough damage with the one he has."
"True," said the blue-winged pixie, sighing. "Which is such a shame because a bog would be perfect."
They all nodded.
Sarah turned to the computer and clicked on to an online shopping website that she had used in the past. "Ok, on here you can get presents for the King and they will be delivered by tomorrow afternoon if we order overnight delivery. They'll even wrap them up for you."
"Just like magic!" said the twitchy-eyed goblin.
"But with less glitter," amended the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Now," Sarah said briskly, "if we discount the bog, you guys said that he likes clothes…"
"Black clothes," corrected the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Black clothes," Sarah amended, "reading, singing, dancing…what am I missing?"
"Fling-edy fling-edy wokkawokka!" yelled the brownies.
Sarah rolled her eyes. "Flinging things out of windows—how could I have forgotten? So why don't you each pick one of the King's favorite things and then choose a present to match?"
"It's a sound plan," said the blue-winged pixie, nodding.
Sarah smiled. "I'm glad you approve. So, who's first?"
The pixies put up their hands. "Oh us! Us!"
The pixies huddled close together, whispering. After about a minute, they looked up.
"We want to get the King something to read," they chorused.
Sarah nodded. "That's a good choice. Here, let's choose a book …"
The pixies shook their heads frantically. "No no, Sarah! You can't help us. It must be a secret."
Sarah's mouth dropped open. "But I'm not going to tell the King! I haven't spoken to him in…"
You have no power over me.
"…years." Sarah sighed. "Many many years. And I doubt that I ever will." The thought was a little like a bruise, one that Sarah knew better than to probe.
"Still," said the blue-winged pixie, "you might talk to him if you had a secret to tell him."
Sarah shook her head. "I won't tell him. I promise."
The pixies shook their heads frantically.
"Oh but we'd tell him if we knew a secret; we just couldn't help ourselves! As it is, we'll have to avoid him for the next few days so that we don't tell him what we bought," the gold-winged pixie said anxiously.
Sarah threw her hands in the air. "Fine! I give up! I promise that I won't look at what you buy the King. But if you want this to be a secret, you're going to have to let me show you how use the Internet."
The pixies nodded happily and Sarah quickly showed them how to use the mouse and how to navigate around the page.
"Ok, now you have to turn around!" they squeaked, giggling uncontrollably.
Sarah reluctantly turned around, only to catch the beaky-nosed goblin in the act of trying to eat her pink throw cushion. The cushion-chewing goblin shrugged apologetically. Sarah frowned at him and pulled the cushion from his mouth.
"No eating the furnishings," she said sternly. "It will make you sick."
The beaky-nosed goblin sighed. "I was hoping it was a marshmallow."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "Doesn't the King ever feed you guys? How about I get you all a sandwich?"
"A marshmallow sandwich?" asked the beaky goblin hopefully.
"We'll see," she said dubiously.
"Yeahhhy!" the creatures cheered.
By the time Sarah returned from the kitchen with the sandwiches, the pixies had selected their gift and were giggling away happily.
"Ok, who's next?" asked Sarah.
"Oh us!" cried the goblins excitedly and ran up to the computer.
"So what do you want to buy the King?" Sarah asked.
"Clothes!" they shouted.
"Black clothes," clarified the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Let me guess—you want this to be a secret too?"
The goblins nodded.
Sarah sighed. "Fine, let me show you how to use the mouse."
The goblins looked at the mouse, puzzled. The goblin with the beaky nose bent down and licked it.
"Doesn't taste like a mouse," he said in disappointment. "Here, see what you think, Sarah," he offered generously.
"Ahh…I'll take your word for it," she said bemused, looking at the moist mouse. With a sigh, she wiped it down with a tissue and tried to teach the goblins how to use the faux mouse to move around the page.
"Ok, you got it?" she asked.
The goblins nodded solemnly.
"Let me know if you need anything, and don't lick anything else, ok?"
"Ok!" they chorused.
Sarah turned her back on the goblins so that they could order their black clothing in secret. She looked down at the floor and blinked. Someone…several someones …had taken down all of the books from her shelf and neatly laid them onto the floor to create a makeshift path.
"O-kay," she said slowly.
She began to follow the path, which wound through her bedroom and out the door into her living room. At the end of the path, the three flagstone brownies were carefully flipping over a copy of Alice in Wonderland.
"Gotit? Gotit? Gotit?" yelled one.
"Yep! Yep! Yep!" yelled another.
"Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! You're mother is a fraggin' aardvark!" yelled the third when the book almost fell on him.
Once they had maneuvered the book onto the floor without further mishap, the brownies pushed it into place beside the other books and looked admiringly at their handiwork.
"Nice path guys," Sarah said encouragingly.
"Thanks-ity thanks-ity wokkawokka!" said the brownies, jumping up and down.
'SARAH WE'RE FINISHED!" the goblins yelled.
Sarah rolled her eyes. If she was evicted, she would force Jareth to reorder time until she was un-evicted.
"Ok guys," she said to the industrious brownies. "You're up next."
Sarah walked back into the bedroom, the brownies following her along their brand-new path.
"So what do you want to get the King?" she asked as she settled the brownies next to the computer.
"Fling things!" yelled one.
"Fling-ity fling-ity wokkawokkayeahhhy!" yelled another.
Sarah frowned. "Hmm, I don't think you'll find a catapult on this website. You may have to settle for a slingshot."
"SLINGSHOT! SLINGSHOT!" they chorused, twitching manically.
Sarah put up her hands defensively. "Guys calm down, ok? Let me show you how to do this…"
Although Sarah tried repeatedly to show the brownies how to use the mouse, their hyperactive mouse clicks meant that they flicked through the pages far too quickly to see any of the shopping items. Clearly this was not working.
"Ok, stop, stop!" said Sarah, taking hold of the mouse. "You guys have got to calm down." She paused for a moment, an idea forming. "Hang on, just sit here a moment."
She ran out of the room, past the goblins and the pixies who were eating sandwiches in front of the television, and into the kitchen where she riffled through her vitamin draw.
"NOOOOO!" yelled the goblins from the living room.
Sarah grabbed what she was looking for and ran out to see what the commotion was all about.
"What is it?" she asked, looking at the goblins who appeared to be completely grief-stricken. "What are you watching?"
"Horror movie," said the goblin with the twitchy eye, pointing a shaking finger toward the screen. He turned away, as if he could not bear to watch a moment longer.
Sarah looked curiously at the television and saw that it was showing an advertisement where a man dressed as a chicken was encouraging people to go to Chicken-Lickin', a fast-food chicken outlet.
"Oh dear," said Sarah, sighing. She looked at the chicken-loving goblins. "Are you guys ok?"
"No," they said shakily, covering their eyes with their hands.
"Why is the giant chicken trying to get people to eat chicken?" asked a puzzled pixie. "Doesn't he like his friends?"
"He's a traitor!" yelled the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Chicken-Lickin' is a death trap!" cried the goblin with the twitchy eye.
Sarah tried not to smile. "It's television—nothing is what it seems on television. Your chickens are safe."
"Ohhhh!" said the goblins, uncovering their eyes. They looked much happier now that their beloved chickens were no longer in danger of being consumed at Chicken-Lickin' at the urgings of a giant treasonous piece of poultry.
Sarah picked up the remote control and quickly flicked through the channels until she got to a re-run of Godzilla.
"Here," she said, "you'll like this; a big lizard comes to the city and squashes a lot of people."
"YEAHHY!" they cheered. "Go lizard!"
"I hope he squashes that big chicken," muttered the twitchy-eyed goblin.
Sarah shook her head and went back to her room where the brownies were jumping up and down manically on her bed.
"Here," she said, opening a pill bottle and giving them one pill each. "This is Calm-Ease; it's an herbal supplement that helps you relax. I take it whenever I have something stressful to deal with or when I have problems sleeping. It's extra strength so it should even calm you guys down. Just swallow it."
The brownies sniffed their pills suspiciously and then swallowed them down. Almost immediately, they stopped bouncing.
"Wow," said one. "I feel so…mellow."
"I feel like a brand new brownie!" said another.
"Everything is just so clear to me now," said the third brownie.
"O-kay. That worked fast," Sarah said, bemused.
One brownie shook his head a little. "Thanks Sarah! I don't think we've been properly introduced—I'm Fitch, this is Fretzel," Fretzel waved to Sarah, "and that fellow over there is Fitzmark." Fitzmark gave her the thumbs up.
"It's nice to meet you all," Sarah said, smiling. "So, shall we try again to buy the King a gift?"
"By all means," Fitch said gracefully, and the brownies sedately climbed off the bed and sat down at the computer.
Still a little bemused, Sarah taught the brownies how to move through the website. Oddly enough, they kept navigating toward the Women's Lingerie section. Strange. Either they were perverts or they knew something about the King that she didn't. She mentally shrugged. Given that these creatures were from the Labyrinth, and their King had a penchant for peach lip-gloss, either option was equally possible.
While the brownies chose their gift in secret, Sarah took a minute to sit down and catch her breath. She looked up at a shelf above her bed where a few childhood keepsakes still sat, most of which were reminders of the Labyrinth. In the centre, was her figurine of the Goblin King. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. In all the years since her big adventure in the Underground, she had seen glimpses of the Labyrinth every single day—her friends would regularly come by for a chat; pixies would wave impishly from the restroom mirrors; goblins would drop by to "borrow" marshmallows; and fairies would often light her way home on dark nights when the street lights were out. Over the years, almost every one of the Labyrinth's citizens had visited to say hello…that is, every one except their King. She had heard about him, of course; her visitors had discussed him in detail—whom he had bogged, what devilish task he had set for the latest runner, what he had said to some poor unlucky goblin, what he sang to the wished-away children, even what he wore. It was maddening, in a way; she knew all about him, but never saw him, and never spoke to him.
It seemed that her fairytale was missing its villain.
Or its hero, her heart whispered, traitorous little organ that it was. Sarah blinked. It was a rather unexpected and fairly uncomfortable thought. Sarah decided to attribute it to indigestion.
"We're all done!" said Fitch, breaking Sarah's reverie.
"Can we have another pill? I'm starting to feel a little jumpy," asked Fitzmark, twitching a little.
Sarah patted Fitzmark on the shoulder consolingly. "Sorry guys—you have to wait at least three hours for another one."
"Oh no! The madness will start all over again!" said Fretzel, pacing around in a circle.
"Hang on," said Sarah. She ran off to the kitchen and brought back a digital timer. "Here. I've set it to go off in three hours. When the alarm goes off, you can take another pill, but not before then," she warned, handing over the Calm-Ease and the timer.
"Thanks Sarah!" said the brownies.
"By the way, we're sorry that we changed your markings on the flagstones when you ran the Labyrinth," said Flitch.
"We had to—it's in our job description," said Fitzmark.
"Plus the King would have kicked our asses if we didn't…fraggin' aardvark," Fretzel grumbled.
"No problem, guys," said Sarah, smiling. "Why don't you round up the others and we'll choose some wrapping for the gifts?"
The brownies nodded happily and ran off to the living room, where she could hear the goblins and pixies cheering on Godzilla's path of destruction.
When all the creatures were back in her room, Sarah reclaimed her seat at the computer, and clicked onto the gift wrap section. In the corner of the screen there was an animated icon of a woman in a red gown jumping out of a birthday cake.
"Oh no! That cake ate the woman!" the gold-winged pixie said, horrified.
"Cakes are dangerous Aboveground," said twitchy-eyed goblin.
Sarah laughed. "No, no. The cake didn't eat the woman. The woman is jumping out of the cake—it is supposed to be a surprise."
"So people here like it when their cake is filled with women?" asked Fitch.
"You'd think it would make the cake taste funny," said the beaky-nosed goblin, shaking his head in disapproval.
Sarah smiled. "No, she doesn't actually touch the cake—the cake is hollow on the inside, so that she can jump out."
"Oohhh!" they said, nodding.
"It's a good idea," said the gold-winged pixie. "You really wouldn't expect it, would you?"
"Very surprising," said goblin with the dented helmet.
Sarah turned to the pixies. "Ok, what color would you like your wrapping paper to be?"
"Yellow!" they chorused. "So that it matches the King's hair," said the pink-winged pixie.
"Good choice," said Sarah, selecting the color. "Ok, what about you guys?" she asked the brownies.
"Blue!" they chorused. "So that it matches one of the King's eyes."
Sarah nodded and selected the color. "Which just leaves you guys. What color will it be?" she asked the goblins.
"Red!" they chorused. "So it matches the King's face."
Sarah looked at the goblins quizzically. "Unless the Goblin King has developed a nasty sunburn since the last time I saw him, his face isn't red."
"Oh it goes red," said the beaky-nosed goblin.
"When we do something wrong," clarified the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Like last winter, when we put the chickens in his bed to warm them up," said the twitchy-eyed goblin.
"It went very red that day," the goblin with the dented helmet snickered.
Sarah tried not to laugh at the vision of the unsuspecting King retiring for the night only to find his bed full of poultry. "Red it is," she said, selecting the color.
With a few last clicks of the mouse, Sarah finished processing the order. "Well, we're all done. Come and collect them tomorrow, ok?"
"THANKS SARAH!" they chorused.
The gold-winged pixie sighed. "Well, I hope he likes them. He gets all funny on his birthday."
"Well, he's always pretty funny; he gets funnier on his birthday," clarified the goblin with the dented helmet.
Sarah pursed her lips. "What do you mean 'funny'? 'Funny' as in 'tells jokes'?'
The pink-winged pixie shook her head. "Oh no! 'Funny' as in 'sad' and 'funny' as in 'strange'. He stays in his chambers a lot on his birthday."
"And uses big words like 'futility', and 'angst'," said the goblin with the dented helmet.
"Though he's has been a lot worse since…," the gold-winged pixie looked at Sarah and stopped speaking abruptly.
"Since when?" asked Sarah.
Oddly enough, the creatures all started to clear their throats and look around the room, ignoring her question entirely.
Sarah narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Since when?"
The creatures looked at each other in alarm. The blue-winged pixie desperately glanced toward Sarah's alarm clock.
"Oh is that the time? We'd better be off then," the blue-winged pixie said hurriedly.
Sarah's eyes narrowed further.
The others quickly agreed and rushed toward the mirror. "Thanks Sarah!" they called, stepping through the glass.
Sarah sighed. "Remember to come back tomorrow!" she shouted after them.
"We will! BYE!" they yelled.
Sarah waved goodbye until they disappeared and then sat down at her computer. Just as she was about to logoff the shopping website, she saw a picture of a karoke machine. It was sitting there—all shiny silver and rich in microphone-y goodness—just waiting to be bought. The King loves to sing, she thought. She eyed the slogan above the machine; "Fun for the whole family!". Sarah smiled, imagining the havoc that would result from introducing a karoke machine to the Goblin Kingdom. She tapped her fingers on the desk and, for a moment, entertained an almost irresistible compulsion to buy the King the karaoke machine as a birthday gift. She could picture it, wrapped in silver paper with a large white ribbon, sitting amongst the gifts from the other members of the Kingdom. For a moment, she even imagined the King opening the gift and looking pleased…
Sarah shook her head ruefully. Silly girl, she thought. Here you are pining away…She stopped. Her mind objected to that statement quite strongly. She tried again. Here you are dwelling on the Goblin King when he probably hasn't thought of you in years. He probably doesn't even remember you. She imagined sending him the karaoke machine only to have him read the card and mutter: "Sarah? Sarah, Sarah tra la la? Do I know this ordinary girl?"
Sarah rolled her eyes and shut down the computer. Sometimes the way forward is to just forget about lithely handsome fairytale kings with all their ballroom promises and their melodious voices and their excruciating snug tailored pants. Damn him and his excruciating snug tailored pants, she thought irrationally.
Sarah looked over at her alarm clock and sighed. She was supposed to be up early tomorrow—her latest chapter was late and her editor was already on her back—and here it was, three AM, and she was wide awake. It was barely worth going back to sleep. Nevertheless, she poured herself back into bed, and threw the covers over her head. I'll never get back to sleep now, she thought. But she did. Rather quickly in fact, and she dreamt that she was in the Escher room in the Castle Beyond the Goblin City all over again, running up and down staircases set at impossible angles, toward a man with wild star-kissed hair and mismatched eyes, who was forever just out of reach.
AUTHOR'S NOTE #2:
Free trolley full of spawning salmon to all those who review. I will also throw in a can of creamed corn ABSOLUTELY FREE to anyone who can guess just what type of book the pixies bought the King…
This has been a community service announcement…