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 door frame.
"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 Gruyere cheese," he admitted.
Coraline sighed. Then she went to the freezer, and got out some microwave chips, and a microwave mini pizza.
"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 tatatatatat. She sat up in bed.
Something went Kreeee ...
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.
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 in, 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, i> 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.
Copyright Neil Gaiman 2002. All rights reserved.
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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