A.C.H.Smith. The Labyrinth. Chapter 4: Which Is Which

      Sarah took a deep breath and set off along the passageway again. A clump of lichen on the gatepost opened its eyes and watched her go. The eyes, on tendrils, had an anxious look, and when she had gone some distance away the clump, swiveling its eyes toward each other, commenced to gossip among itself. Most of it disapproved of the direction she had taken. You could tell that from the way the eyes looked meaningfully into each other. Lichen knows about directions.
      When she had been walking for a while between the towering walls of the apparently endless passageway and gotten nowhere that looked different, she went on walking for a while more, and it was all the same. Another hundred steps, she told herself, and if I'm still getting nowhere I'll think of something else to do.
      One, two ... ninety-eight, ninety-nine. The walls stretched to eternity.
      "Is this what a labyrinth is?" she said aloud, for the company of hearing her own voice. "There's not a single turn, or corner, or - anything. It just goes on, and on." She paused, thinking of what Hoggle had said to her. "But maybe it doesn't," she reasoned. "Maybe... I'm just taking it for granted that it does. Because that's all it's done so far, go on and on. It could do that forever - and I haven't got forever." She wished she knew how much of the thirteen hours remained to her. It wasn't fair, not knowing.
      Taking another deep breath, she began to run. The only difference now was that the walls revealed their endlessness more quickly. She ran faster, skidding in mud, banging against the brick sides of the passage, faster and faster, and the walls stretched out ahead of her without turning or feature or end, until they began to spin above her head and she realized that she was collapsing, exhausted, tears running down her cheeks.
      She lay in a heap, sobbing. A clump of lichen nearby stared down at her sympathetically, its eyes boggling.
      When she had recovered, she opened her eyes very slowly, hoping she would see something different this time: a corner, a door, even her own bedroom. All there was to see were the two walls.
      With a little yelp of frustration, she beat her fists upon one of the walls.
      As though answering a doorbell, a tiny wormlike creature with large eyes popped its head out from between the bricks where Sarah had pounded. "'Allo?" it asked in a cheery voice.
      Woebegone, Sarah looked at the worm. A talking worm, she reflected; yes, I should never have taken it for granted that a worm can't talk. She shrugged. If a worm could talk, perhaps it could give her some advice. In a low voice, she asked it, "Do you know how to get through the Labyrinth?"
      "Who, me?" It grinned. "No, I'm just a worm."
      Sarah nodded. She might have expected as much.
      "Come inside and meet the missus," the worm invited her.
      She managed a faint smile. "Thank you," she told the worm, "but I've got to get through the Labyrinth. And there are no turnings, or openings, or anything." She blinked away hot tears. "It just goes on and on."
      "Ooh," the worm said, "you ain't looking right, you ain't. It's full of openings. It's just that you ain't seeing 'em, that's all."
      Sarah gazed around in disbelief. The walls stretched away forever on either side.
      There was no logic to it. Or maybe there was nothing but logic, and that was the trouble: all logic and no reason.
      "There's an opening just across there," the worm went on. "It's right in front of you."
      She looked. Brick wall, damp mildew, clump of lichen, nothing else. "No, there isn't."
      The worm sniffed, and in a kind voice said, "Come in and have a nice cup of tea."
      "There isn't an opening." Sarah's voice was insistent.
      "You try walking that way, over there," the worm said, with a nod of encouragement. "You'll see. But first, why not have a nice cup of tea?"
      "Where?" Sarah looked at the blank wall again.
      "I got the kettle on."
      The worm's hospitality was wasted on her. "That's just wall," she muttered. "There's no way through."
      "Ooh," the worm observed, "this place, oh dear. Things aren't always what they seem, you know, not here. Not here, no. So don't you take anything for granted."
      Sarah gave the worm a sharp glance. How was it that he had the same script as Hoggle? And in her mind she heard Hoggle's voice again. "Me? I wouldn't go neither way."
      Neither way. Right in front of you. What else was there to do? She would try it. Very tentatively, flinching in anticipation, she walked into the wall, and through it, into another passageway.
      Sarah was delighted. This passageway, too, stretched out infinitely to either side, but at least it was a different one. She turned back gratefully. "Thank you," she said to the worm. "That was incredibly helpful."
      She had begun to walk along the new passageway when she heard a little shout from behind her. "And don't go that way!" the worm was calling. He looked up at the lichen, whose eyes were worried as they watched Sarah. The worm gave the lichen a cheerful grin, but the lichen just went on boggling anxiously after the girl.
      She halted, and then came back panting. "What did you say?"
      "What I said," the worm told her, "was, don't go that way."
      "Oh," Sarah nodded. "Thanks." She set off in the other direction.
      The lichen watched her go again, and sighed with relief.
      "Whew." The worm rolled his eyes. "That was close. If she'd gone the other way, she'd have walked straight into that dreadful castle."

      In the stone chamber of the Goblin King, Toby, still in his red-and-white striped pajamas, had his mouth wide open and was howling. His little fists were clenched tight, his face was scarlet, his eyes were shut, and he was putting out a din that would have made Sarah groan aloud.
      Jareth watched him with an amused smile. In that place no one else took much notice of Toby. Horned or hairy or helmeted goblins racketed around the place, across the filthy floor, over the steps of the throne, up on the ledges of the room, some chasing chickens or a black pig in a helmet, some squabbling over a tidbit, some peering into any vessel in the hope of finding something to eat, some just sitting and gnawing on bones, others staring balefully at all the rest through crazed eyes. The place was littered with half-finished platefuls of food, and rotting bits of meat and vegetable matter, garbage and junk. A small pterodactyl flapped around, taking its chances. The curved crown mounted heraldically above the throne, decorated with ram's horns, had been appropriated by a vulture for its nest. Or perhaps Jareth had installed the vulture there for his own amusement.
      He needed something to keep him amused here. The goblins were, frankly, a bore. They were so stupid they couldn't find their own way through the Labyrinth. They were without wisdom or wit. In the old days, when many babies had been offered to him, Jareth had been more tolerant, reckoning that soon he would certainly find one who could be trained as a worthy companion to the throne, one whose young blood would serve to refresh Jareth's, whose high spirits would dispel the thoughts of aging that oppressed the King of the Goblins. As calls upon him to steal a child became rarer, so Jareth sank deeper into dejection. He avoided mirrors and reflecting water. He could feel that the corners of his mouth had tightened, and he needed no proof of the wrinkles that creased his brow when he did not deliberately narrow his eyes to tauten his skin.
      Lounging in his draped throne, which was in the form of an interrupted circle, Jareth looked at the bawling figure of Toby. With any luck, he might grow up to be an intelligent goblin. He might make some jokes, or anyway see the point of Jareth's. He might be of some help in ruling this ramshackle empire. At the very least, he might have some fresh ideas about mischief. Two-headed sheep, curdled milk, banging pans, snatched nightclothes, barren fruit trees, shifted tables, moldy bread - Jareth had seen it all, much too often. But this lot, rooting and pratfalling around all day, still found such tired old cliches a perfect riot every time. Pitiful, they were.
      Jareth yawned, and looked wearily around the room. The walls had been decorated with skulls and bats. Dear god, he thought. Skulls and bats yet. How jejune could you get? He looked hopefully at the clock. Half past three, the sword-shaped hands indicated. Another nine and a half hours to wait, until the goblin striker struck the thirteen. He would have to do something to pass the time.
      He stood up from the throne, stretched his arms and paced restlessly. Another goblin came dashing past. Jareth reached down and picked him up by the scruff of the neck. The goblin's eyes boggled at his.
      "You're a boggling goblin," Jareth said, with a forced laugh.
      The rest of the goblins howled with merriment. Jareth had been their King for as long as they could remember, which was about four seconds at best, and they hoped he would be King forevermore.
      Jareth winced at the pain of it all.

      Sarah was wandering along brick corridors. They were still high and forbidding, but at least they didn't stretch out to the end of space and time, and sometimes there was a flight of steps, which made a nice change. Whenever she came to a fork or a turning and made a choice, she had found a sensible way of ensuring that she did not wander in circles: with the lipstick she had put in her pocket at home, she made an arrow on a brick at each junction, to show where she had come from. And whenever she put the lipstick away and walked down her new corridor, a little creature would lift the marked brick, turn it upside down, and replace it, so that the arrow was not visible.
      After she had marked eighteen arrows, a piece of the lipstick broke off as she was doing the next one. Determined to remain calm, she screwed another length out, and went on her chosen way, up some steps, into a chamber. Across the end of the passage behind her a squad of goblins rustled by, but Sarah's eyes were fixed on what lay ahead and she did not see them.
      The chamber was a dead end. She peeked in every alcove and behind the buttresses, but there was definitely no way out. She shrugged, and retraced her steps to the nineteenth arrow. When she reached the corner, she looked for her arrow and could not see it. That's odd, she thought. I 'm sure it was right here, at this corner, on that brick there. The bricks were blank. She frowned, and looked about her. On the floor she spotted the broken-off piece of lipstick. She looked again, hard, and still could see no arrow. That proved it, then. Something fishy was going on. She threw down the rest of the lipstick. "Someone's been rubbing out my marks," she said, loudly, certain that the culprit must be close enough to hear her. "What a horrid place this is! It's not fair!"
      "That's right," a voice behind her said. "It's not fair!"
      She jumped, and whipped around.
      Behind her, in the chamber that had been a dead end, she now saw two carved doors in the wall, and a guard posted in front of each door. At least, she thought they must be guards, since they stood foursquare and were emblazoned with armor. But as she studied them she was not so sure. They were quite comic, really. Their enormous shields, which were curiously patterned with geometrical figures and scrolls and devices, looked extremely heavy, which would account for the straddle-legged stance each of them had. Poor things, she thought, they have to stand like that all the time just to stay upright. The one to her left had incredibly shifty eyes beneath his helmet, and she said to herself that she would call him Alf, after an uncle of hers with eyes like that; but then she reflected his not-quite-identical twin to her right (she couldn't see his eyes at all because his helmet was too big for him) should therefore be called Ralph (R for Right, you see), and so mentally she corrected the spelling of the first one's name to Alph (not that it mattered to anyone, because she wouldn't be writing their names down).
      Having settled, in her mind, the business of names, she noticed the most remarkable thing of all, which was that underneath each shield peered another face, upside down, a little like a jack of spades gone wrong. The upside-down characters, whom she named Jim and Tim (the first rhymed pair that came to her mind), seemed to be hanging on to their uncomfortable positions by the great gnarled and horny hands she could see gripping the bottom of the shields. They must have added yet more to the burdens under which Alph and Ralph staggered.
      It was Jim Upside Down who made her jump by addressing her. He added, "And that's only half of it."
      "Half of what?" asked Sarah, twisting and ducking her head to get a good look at Jim's face. It would, she felt, have been faintly rude to remain upright. You had to adjust to people you met, even here.
      "Half of twice as much," Jim replied.
      "Twice as much of what?" Sarah was exasperated.
      "Twice as much as half of it."
      "Look." Sarah raised a finger and pointed to the back wall of the chamber. "This was a dead end a moment ago," she said.
      "No." It was Tim Upside Down speaking now. "That's the dead end, behind you."
      She stood upright again and turned around. He was right. The way by which she had come in here was indeed now barred by a solid wall. "Oh!" she exclaimed indignantly. "It's not fair. This place keeps changing. What am I supposed to do?"
      "It depends on who's doing the supposing," Jim said.
      "Not half," Tim agreed.
      "Try one of the doors," suggested Jim.
      "One of them leads to the castle," Tim told her in a cheerful voice, "and the other one leads to certain death."
      Sarah gasped. "Which is which?"
      Jim shook his upside-down head. "We can't tell you."
      "Why not?"
      "We don't know!" Jim crowed triumphantly.
      "But they do." Tim nodded confidentially at Alph and Ralph. That took some doing, upside down, Sarah thought.
      "Then I'll ask them," she said.
      Before she could say anything more, Ralph was speaking in a very slow, pedantic voice. "Ah! No, you can't ask us. You can ask only one of us." He appeared to have difficulty in getting the words out at all, especially the C's and K's.
      "It's in the rules." Alph's voice came fast and sneering, and at the same time his eyes shifted uneasily. He was tapping a finger on some ciphers on his shield, which were presumably the rules. "And I think I should warn you that one of us always tells the truth, and one of us always lies. That's a rule, too." His glance flickered at Ralph. "He always lies."
      "Don't listen to him," Ralph said, sententiously. "He's lying. I'm the one who tells the truth."
      "That's a lie!" Alph retorted.
      Jim and Tim were snickering behind their shields, rather insolently, she thought. "You see," Tim told Sarah, "even if you ask one of them, you won't know if the answer you get is true or false."
      "Now wait a minute," she said. "I know this riddle. I've heard it before, but I've never figured it out."
      She heard Ralph muttering to himself, "He's lying."
      "He's lying," Alph replied.
      Sarah was scratching her brow. "There's one question I can ask and it doesn't matter which one of them I ask it." She clicked her tongue, impatient with herself. "Oh, what could it be?"
      "Come on, come on," Tim said tetchily. "We can't stand around here all day."
      "What do you mean, we can't?" Jim snapped. "That's our job. We're gatekeepers."
      "Oh, yes. I forgot."
      "Be quiet," Sarah ordered. "I can't think."
      "I tell the truth," Ralph declared pedantically, from under his helmet.
      "Ooh!" Alph answered mechanically. "What a lie!"
      Sarah was trying to work it out logically for herself. With a finger thoughtfully in the air, she reasoned, "The first thing to do is find out which one's the liar... but, no, there's no way of doing that. So... the next thing to do is to find a question you can put to either one... and get the same answer."
      "Oh, that's a good one," Tim was guffawing. "One of us always tells the truth and the other one always lies, and you want to find a question we'll both give the same answer to? Oh, that'll be the day. That's a good one, that is. Oh."
      Sarah narrowed her eyes. She thought she might have gotten it. "Now," she said, "whom shall I ask?"
      Alph and Ralph pointed at each other.
      With a little smile, Sarah said to Ralph, "Answer yes or no. Would he," and she pointed at Alph, "tell me that this door," she pointed at the door behind Ralph, "leads to the castle?"
      Alph and Ralph looked at her, then at each other. They conferred in whispers.
      Ralph looked up at her. "Uh... yes."
      "Then the other door leads to the castle," Sarah concluded. "And this door leads to certain death."
      "How do you know?" Ralph asked slowly. His voice was aggrieved. "He could be telling you the truth."
      "Then you wouldn't be," Sarah replied. "So if you tell me he said yes, I know the answer was no." She was very pleased with herself.
      Ralph and Alph looked dejected, feeling that they had obscurely been cheated. "But I could be telling the truth," Ralph objected.
      "Then he would be lying," Sarah said, allowing herself a broad smile of pleasure. "So if you tell me that he said yes, the answer would still be no."
      "Wait a minute," Ralph said. He frowned. "Is that right?"
      "I don't know," replied Alph airily. "I wasn't listening."
      "It's right," Sarah told them. "I figured it out. I never could until now." She beamed. "I may be getting smarter."
      She walked to the door behind Alph.
      "Very clever, I'm sure," Jim remarked disappointedly, and stuck his tongue out at her.
      She stuck hers out back at him as she pushed open the door. Over her shoulder, as she left them, she said, "This is a piece of cake."
      She stepped through the doorway, and fell straight down a shaft.
      Sarah screamed. The top of the shaft was a fast-dwindling disk of light.