A Brief Foreward

First of all, I have to dedicate this posting to two different people. The first is Shinji Langley, without whom, this probably wouldn't have gotten started. I went to see the film a few nights ago, and shared my deep thoughts on it with him. His response was simple and unexpected--

"You're going to write a fanfic about her, aren't you?"

To be honest, the thought hadn't even crossed my mind. And I immediately asked myself, "Can this be done?" After all, the source material stands on its own. The world of Coraline is beautiful and complex, full of promise and potential. And yet, I had felt that it wrapped itself up nicely, and the thought had never occurred to me of doing something more.

It took me a few minutes to come up with something. Which brings me to my second dedication. I dedicate this entire project to Unifilar, a girl who always inspires me to do great things, encourages me to do my best, and is there for me when things are going badly. She makes some very trying times in my life bearable, and she's one heck of an author as well, so I do hope you'll check her work out sometime.

Now, with the dedications out of the way, a word on what lies below. This scene intentionally comes in at the middle of things. I would not call it the start of a story, but rather an advertisement or a trailer for the idea that I've come up with. Everything in it will make complete sense, and I feel that it does a perfectly good job of explaining itself without piling loads of exposition on the reader. But since I have no idea what the perspective fanbase might be looking for, to say nothing of my usual audience, I figured it would be best to send this up the flagpole and see who salutes before I decide to go any further.

I have kept this thing a complete secret from everyone, choosing to tell no one what I was doing because I wanted it to be something of a surprise. Sorry I kept you in the dark with this one, Pyrex Shards, but when we last spoke Tuesday night, I was already fully committed to my concept and didn't want to mention it to you or anyone else for fear that I might lose sight of my vision. This is one of those rare cases where I just got the idea in my head, and I had t get it into a Word file as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, honestly, I don't know what to expect from this one, but I hope my fans enjoy it, as well as anyone finding this that might be new to my work. I really struggled hard to nail down Coraline's character as she came across in the movie. I truly hope that I did her justice. I have a good feeling about it, but over the years, I've found it's always best to let my fans and critics be the judge, rather than making those kinds of judgments on my own. After all, an author always sees his work differently than his audience.

Lastly, just some background on the setting for this story. I'd say this takes place 2-3 years after the events of the film. Coraline would be 12-13 years old, in the eighth grade. It's the middle of the night, and raining outside as Coraline stalks the halls of The Pink Palace.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the story!

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The Devil You Know

It was dark, but for some reason, Coraline preferred it that way. Though she needed no convincing that this experience would be thoroughly unpleasant, she did not seek the light to shelter her, as might a child. Light was no protection against the Beldam, in a matter as grave as this, Coraline trusted only to herself. While she remained safe in the knowledge that she would constantly be in control, the idea of provoking the entity that lay imprisoned on the other side of the portal was simply not a good idea. Unfortunately, Coraline had exhausted all other options.

In a brief flash of lightning, Coraline saw Cat perched on the nearby window, perhaps to protect her, or maybe just to bear witness to what was surely a first. Several children had been lured to their eventual doom by the Beldam, but surely, Coraline would be the first to turn the tables and be the one doing the luring.

Stifling a shiver, Coraline padded her way towards a hidden door in the wall of the sitting room. A door that should never have been opened in the first place. A door that she vowed would remain shut forever. Breathing deeply, she ran a hand up the arm of her pajamas, gathering her strength. A small bundle of cloth dropped to her side, something bound within it. Cat visibly bristled when the bundle hit the floor, something the blue-haired girl did not fail to notice.

Centering her strength, Coraline shut her eyes, counted to three, then opened them again, folding herself down to her knees to come face to face to knob with the door and what lay beyond it. Prying on the wood with her fingers, she created just enough space to press her face up against. The door did not have much give, but the tiny space would be more than enough to suit tonight's purpose. "I know you can hear me, you witch, so stop trying to pretend you're not there."

Truthfully, over the three plus years since Coraline had first ventured beyond the door, the Beldam had been rather quiet. Ever since she had placed the key out of the Beldam's reach, there had been no attempts by the Beldam to escape her imprisonment, at least, not that Coraline could see. Every once in a while, during the witching hour, Coraline swore she could hear her name being called--sometimes in a whisper, sometimes a scream, sometimes a soothing voice that sought to inspire trust. Coraline never could tell for certain rather it was real or just her imagination, and honestly, neither answer scared her much. If it was her mind playing tricks, she could just chalk it up to the stresses of school and bad memories of her Other Mother. And if it was real, well, she was safely out of the Beldam's reach, now. If she weren't, well, she would've certainly found herself in a bad way by now.

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you were afraid of me." Coraline snorted when her prey refused to take the bait. 'What's wrong, Beldam? Don't you miss me?" She continued to harass the entity. A cold breeze blew her hair slightly back, tickling her ears. Had the Beldam been roused? The passage between the two worlds was tenuous, but Coraline was certain that it still existed. If not, there would've been no reason for her to hide the key. Quietly, she waited on a response, not daring to overplay her hand.

Time began to pass with no discernible response. Raindrops splattered against the window in a pitter-patter sound, but the cat seemed to pay the falling water no mind. His entire being was focused on the door, awaiting the slightest bit of activity. Coraline never considered herself the overly patient type, but she counted off the passing minutes solemnly. As much as she hated to admit it, the Beldam was the only lead she had to solve the current mystery she was dealing with. Especially if her Other Mother was indeed up to something.

After listening intently for eighteen minutes, however, Coraline's patience was at its end. Growling to herself, she picked up the bunched cloth that had fallen to the floor earlier, unraveling it rapidly to expose what was inside. Her otherwise playful face turned dark with disgust as the mystery inside was revealed to the light once more, and she frowned in hatred at the miniature version of her that now looked back with its blank, buttoned eyes. Coraline crawled back to the door with the doll in her hands, hoping that now, some progress might be mad. Gingerly, she turned the doll upside down, yarn-like strands of its mock hair dipping into the cracks, like a fishing lure for the demon whose attention she know feverishly thought. Keeping the doll in place, she spoke again. "Hmpf. And here I thought that you loved me. That's our bond, you know. In spite of everything, I will never be able to forget you. No matter how hard I try." Her words were even. They contained no traces of fear, or hate, or even sorry. Simply acceptance of what was. "But if you're not going to answer, I could always ask my real Mom for help. You'd be surprised at how much more time she has for me now." It was something of a lie. Her mother did have more free time as of late, yet Coraline always had trouble defining her relationship with her mother. They didn't see eye to eye on many things, but every once in a while, the woman showed a remarkable amount of insight--more than Coraline cared to admit. And her father, well, when he could be coerced away from his work, he could be fun. Anyway, it was home, and it was working for her. And telling a white lie to someone like the Beldam was akin to giving out speeding tickets at the Indy 500 in Coraline's book. Lies were the Beldam's native language, her true craft.

Silence continued to be Coraline's only response, and she was beginning to wonder if she was wasting her time. Maybe the Beldam wasn't listening, or perhaps she was simply shutting Coraline out. Why should she want to talk to me, anyway? Coraline wondered, but the answer came to her almost as quickly as the question. Because she'll never be able to let go of me. Frustrated, she blew out a sigh. "This is pointless." She spoke louder now, pulling her head away from the door and announcing her displeasure to the room. "I'm going back to bed, Cat. Rouse me if anything happens." As it turned out, Coraline's threat of departure was the impetus that spurred her silent nemesis.

"Wicked child." The words were only a whisper, but they were not what Coraline was expecting. There was a distinct sadness to them. Curious. She had been expecting malice.

"Now we're getting somewhere." The blue-haired girl grinned, dropping back to her knees in front of the crawlspace door. "I would talk with you." Coraline spoke, simply and pointedly. She was not going to play any more of the Beldam's games than necessary. She was the one in charge of the conversation, not the witch locked on the wrong side of the portal.

"Oh you would, would you? You come to gloat, to tease, to make a mockery of my love?" There seemed to be something of a chuckle in its words. "No thank you."

"You don't love me." Coraline fired back. "You just wanted my soul to feed on. And you will never have it. There's no sport in mocking something as wretched as you. It's a waste of a good insult."

"You don't understand. Perhaps I have myself to blame. You were right to fear me, Coraline. You see, I make no apologies for what I am. I need the souls of children to survive. They are nourishment for me. Sustenance. Life." Again, there was a hint of amusement in the voice, as though the Beldam knew something that Coraline didn't. "But that doesn't mean that I didn't love them, you most of all. I always made my children happy, Coraline. I always loved them as my own."

"They were not your children, and neither am I! They were your victims, and no matter what creepy, tender moments you might've shared with them, they ended up the same, didn't they? Dead and gone, lost souls in your web, and then you'd have to go and get yourself another." Coraline scolded her, then became angry with herself for debating the Beldam about morality. Just who was supposed to be baiting whom, here?

'You shut the door. Stopped my food supply. Left me alone. It's all terribly ironic, isn't it? You must think that I hate you, Coraline. A part of me does. And yet, another part of me somehow loves you more than ever. And since you will never believe me, I suppose all I can do is prove it to you."

"Prove it to me." Now it was Coraline's turn to laugh. "Oh, this should be good. And how do you intend to do that?"

"Simple." And now she sounded like her Other Mother again, from the first time Coraline had crawled through the portal into the web being spun for her. "By answering your questions."

"Huh?" The plucky girl was surprised, momentarily. How could the Beldam possibly know that she had questions for her?! And then it started to come into focus. "The doll." Coraline whispered.

"You must be quite desperate to seek me out, after all. What could possibly be happening to my little girl? What could upset her so much that she would willingly seek out her greatest adversary for help?"

Coraline ignored the possessive comments--arguing with the Beldam was pointless and counterproductive. Channeling her anger, she squeezed the doll in her other hands forcefully, as though she could make the demon feel it. "Stop leaving me your little love letters. They're not funny."

"I'm afraid you'll have to give me more to go on than that." Her Other Mother again. Coraline didn't bother commenting. Everything, it seemed, was a game to the Beldam. The girl pulled the doll away from the door, examining it briefly in her hands. Glaring at it, she took hold of the eerie thing and savagely yanked its hair, several strands pulling free.

Coraline only took a moment to wonder if she was doing something wise before pushing her doubts to the back of her mind. Purposefully, she dropped them into the crack of the door, blowing forcefully to commit them on their journey to the demon. "These. The dolls. I'm tired of them. I know they're your spies. What, do you think if you can find out more about my life, that I'll somehow fall for your trick again?! You of all people should know not to take me for a fool."

The Beldam went quiet, as though it were concentrating on something far away, beyond the scope of Ashland. A slight sniffling was barely perceptible. Coraline scowled, growing tired of the games. An uneasy parallel of Clarice Starling standing in front of the cell of Hannibal Lector came unbidden into her mind. She didn't much like the thought at all. "Well?!" Coraline insisted when no further response came from behind the door.

"Quality material." The Beldam explained. "But I'm afraid that you're barking up the wrong tree, my dear. As much as I'd enjoy taking credit for it, this doll isn't one of mine. It has the scent of something...foul upon it." Her Other Mother noticeably lowered her voice at the end of that sentence.

"That's suitable; you're the foulest thing I can think of!" Coraline insisted.

"Coraline." The voice was softer than before, almost gentle, as though it were trying to convey concern and seriousness. "Please do not tell me that a girl as clever as yourself would be so naive."

"Now look who's throwing around insults." Coraline mocked her, unimpressed with any of the monster's theatrics.

"There are for worse things than me, Coraline. Far, far worse." The Beldam let her words hang there in the air. They were not a threat. They were not a promise. They carried no malice, no concern. Only mere statement. "How many?"

Coraline hesitated to tell for a moment, then decided to press on. "This one is the fourth. I've been burning them, but whenever I do..."

"...Another appears." The Beldam finished for her.

"The very next day." Coraline frowned.

"So you stopped destroying them."

"I know what the definition of insanity is, thank you."

"Let me give you a little bit of free advice then, child."

"I am not a child!" Coraline seethed. "And the last thing I need is advice from something as twisted as you!"

"An observation, then." The Beldam followed. Coraline turned her head away from the door, but said nothing. "As I told you, there are much worse things than me. It appears to me that you've managed to find one of them, Coraline. Or perhaps..." Her voice trailed off, though Coraline already knew where her Other Mother was going with the thought. "...One of them has found you."

"If you're trying to frighten me, it isn't going to work." Coraline crossed her arms over her chest.

"Of that, I have no doubt. But know this, Coraline. My mistake was that I underestimated you. And my weakness was...is, that in spite of everything, and in spite of what you might believe, I am quite fond of you. You were fun, Coraline. I gave you a sporting chance, and you tricked the trickster. I both love and hate you for it, but there it is. Do not count on your charms placing you into such a fortunate position next time."

"Is that all?" Coraline did her best to sound bored.

"That's all. Except for this. Don't be such a stranger. You can talk to me anytime you like. After all, a good mother listens to her daughter's problems.

Coraline growled in anger, lowering her lips just to the crack in the door. "You will die in that place. You'll never get out; you'll never feed again..."She dropped her voice similar to how the Bedlam had moments ago. "...And you will never be loved. Especially by me."

"You do seek to wound me, don't you? Ah, but you shall see. We will speak again. I know it."

"Not if I have anything to say about it." Coraline stood, stuffing the remains of the doll into the pocket of her pajamas.

Again, the chuckle was heard, but this time, it seemed to make its presence more well-known in the little room. "We'll see."

Coraline turned her back and walked out of the room towards the central staircase. Cat stood, bristling at the tiny door the girl had just departed. He hissed at it for effect, hoping the being trapped on the other side would remember his claws, then dropped to the floor and scurried after his friend.

Unsurprisingly, Cat found the girl in her bedroom, sitting on the floor with her back against her bed. He let out a soft meow as he pawed his way into the room, drawing her attention. "This may sound strange, but I think I believe her." Coraline said, clenching and unclenching her fist around the doll that bore her resemblance. She was not used to being frightened, and even now, she still wasn't. The scariest thing to her was that she felt she should be frightened.

Yawning, Coraline stood, tossing the doll into a chest. She didn't know if it could "see," if it was spying on her or not, but she certainly wasn't going to take any chances. Keeping it blind was still the best course of action until she had more information. "Maybe it's time we let Wybie in on this." Cat purred in response, rubbing himself against her leg. "All right, first thing tomorrow morning, on the way to school." Coraline stared out the window, watching the rain as it fell. Sighing, she crossed to her bed and climbed inside. "I just wish I had more to go on." She yawned, shutting her eyes. The last conscious thought she had carried the sound of her Other Mother's voice.

"Be careful what you wish for..."

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Author's Notes

And there you have it. When prompted to come up with a story idea for Coraline, this is what my feverish brain came up with. Because I have never tried to write a story of this kind before, I'm very excited to hear what people might think. Reviews are most welcome, and I'm always open to talking with people personally. So please, don't be shy

Send your questions, comments, compliments, complaints, love letters, death threats, marriage proposals, and ransom demands to:

Lord Malachite

02/11/09

6:12AM EST

E-mail: ranger(underscore)writer(at)yahoo(dot)com

AIM: Asukaphile26