She discovered the hot water tank (it was in a cupboard in the kitchen).

She counted everything blue (153).

She counted the windows (21).

She counted the doors (14).

Of the doors that she found, thirteen opened and closed. The other—the big, carved, brown wooden door at the far corner of the drawing room—was locked.

She said to her mother, “Where does that door go?”

“Nowhere, dear.”

“It has to go somewhere.”

Her mother shook her head. “Look,” she told Coraline.

She reached up and took a string of keys from the top of the kitchen doorframe. She sorted through them carefully, and selected the oldest, biggest, blackest, rustiest key. They went into the drawing room. She unlocked the door with the key.

The door swung open.

Her mother was right. The door didn’t go anywhere. It opened onto a brick wall.

“When this place was just one house,” said Coraline’s mother, “that door went somewhere. When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up. The other side is the empty flat on the other side of the house, the one that’s still for sale.”

She shut the door and put the string of keys back on top of the kitchen doorframe.

“You didn’t lock it,” said Coraline.

Her mother shrugged. “Why should I lock it?” she asked. “It doesn’t go anywhere.”

Coraline didn’t say anything.

It was nearly dark outside now, and the rain was still coming down, pattering against the windows and blurring the lights of the cars in the street outside.

Coraline’s father stopped working and made them all dinner.

Coraline was disgusted. “Daddy,” she said, “you’ve made a recipe again.”

“It’s leek and potato stew with a tarragon garnish and melted Gruyère cheese,” he admitted.

Coraline sighed. Then she went to the freezer and got out some microwave chips and a microwave minipizza.

“You know I don’t like recipes,” she told her father, while her dinner went around and around and the little red numbers on the microwave oven counted down to zero.

“If you tried it, maybe you’d like it,” said Coraline’s father, but she shook her head.

That night, Coraline lay awake in her bed. The rain had stopped, and she was almost asleep when something went t-t-t-t-t-t. She sat up in bed.

Something went kreeee . . .

. . . aaaak

Coraline got out of bed and looked down the hall, but saw nothing strange. She walked down the hall. From her parents’ bedroom came a low snoring—that was her father—and an occasional sleeping mutter—that was her mother.

Coraline wondered if she’d dreamed it, whatever it was.

Something moved.

It was little more than a shadow, and it scuttled down the darkened hall fast, like a little patch of night.

She hoped it wasn’t a spider. Spiders made Coraline intensely uncomfortable.

The black shape went into the drawing room, and Coraline followed it a little nervously.

The room was dark. The only light came from the hall, and Coraline, who was standing in the doorway, cast a huge and distorted shadow onto the drawing room carpet—she looked like a thin giant woman.

Coraline was just wondering whether or not she ought to turn on the lights when she saw the black shape edge slowly out from beneath the sofa. It paused, and then dashed silently across the carpet toward the farthest corner of the room.

There was no furniture in that corner of the room.

Coraline turned on the light.

There was nothing in the corner. Nothing but the old door that opened onto the brick wall.

She was sure that her mother had shut the door, but now it was ever so slightly open. Just a crack. Coraline went over to it and looked in. There was nothing there—just a wall, built of red bricks.

Coraline closed the old wooden door, turned out the light, and went to bed.

She dreamed of black shapes that slid from place to place, avoiding the light, until they were all gathered together under the moon. Little black shapes with little red eyes and sharp yellow teeth.

They started to sing,

We are small but we are many

We are many we are small

We were here before you rose

We will be here when you fall.

Their voices were high and whispering and slightly whiney. They made Coraline feel uncomfortable.

Then Coraline dreamed a few commercials, and after that she dreamed of nothing at all.


THE NEXT DAY IT HAD stopped raining, but a thick white fog had lowered over the house.

“I’m going for a walk,” said Coraline.

“Don’t go too far,” said her mother. “And dress up warmly.”

Coraline put on her blue coat with a hood, her red scarf, and her yellow Wellington boots.

She went out.

Miss Spink was walking her dogs. “Hello, Caroline,” said Miss Spink. “Rotten weather.”

“Yes,” said Coraline.

“I played Portia once,” said Miss Spink. “Miss Forcible talks about her Ophelia, but it was my Portia they came to see. When we trod the boards.”

Miss Spink was bundled up in pullovers and cardigans, so she seemed more small and circular than ever. She looked like a large, fluffy egg. She wore thick glasses that made her eyes seem huge.

“They used to send flowers to my dressing room. They did,” she said.

“Who did?” asked Coraline.

Miss Spink looked around cautiously, looking over first one shoulder and then over the other, peering into the mists as though someone might be listening.

“Men,” she whispered. Then she tugged the dogs to heel and waddled off back toward the house.

Coraline continued her walk.

She was three quarters of the way around the house when she saw Miss Forcible, standing at the door to the flat she shared with Miss Spink.

“Have you seen Miss Spink, Caroline?”

Coraline told her that she had, and that Miss Spink was out walking the dogs.

“I do hope she doesn’t get lost—it’ll bring on her shingles if she does, you’ll see,” said Miss Forcible. “You’d have to be an explorer to find your way around in this fog.”

“I’m an explorer,” said Coraline.

“Of course you are, luvvy,” said Miss Forcible. “Don’t get lost, now.”

Coraline continued walking through the gardens in the gray mist. She always kept in sight of the house. After about ten minutes of walking she found herself back where she had started.

The hair over her eyes was limp and wet, and her face felt damp. Copyright 2016 - 2024