Hello, all ye who clicked here.
This is my first attempt at a piece of fan-fiction or semi-serious writing. Any constructive criticism you have will be eagerly accepted and pounced upon like an oblivious mouse before a particularly ravenous kitten.
As the sun set on what was left of the garden party, Coraline found herself thinking of a piece of advice from her grandfather.
At her grandfather's ninetieth birthday party, when Coraline was six, she had asked him how he had lived to such a great age.
Everett Jones had been a huge man, even in his old age, with bushy sideburns and moustaches that Mr Bobinsky would envy. He had knelt down to the young Coraline, and in a whisper that bordered on shouting, he confided "Live your life like a grand party, petal, but leave the cleaning-up for some other poor bastard. That's my secret."
He winked and said "And don't tell your mother I used that word." He then inflicted a boiled sweet upon Coraline, and went off to drink his nephews under the table, and could be found still standing four hours later bellowing "Who's up for some tequilas?"
As Coraline shoved the last pizza-box into a garbage bag, she found herself wishing she had followed the man's advice after the garden party. It was hard to imagine a more tedious job than cleaning up.
Everett Jones had died true to his word, perishing in a freak bungee jumping accident two years later and, as always, leaving the cleaning up to others. Coraline still sometimes missed the old man.
Mr Bobinsky had withdrawn upstairs, claiming that the moushkas needed to practise before they slept, otherwise their notes would be all out of sync the next morning. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible left shortly after Bobinsky, a cluster of dogs trotting behind them. Wybie had left with his grandmother, who had spent most of the party either listening intently to Coraline or deflecting flirtation from Mr Bobinsky. Mostly listening.
"You know," she had said, after Coraline had finished her story, "It reminds a lot of the fairy-stories I heard when I was a girl, younger than you, even. Young person discovers another world, finds evil there, vanquishes evil, and returns with hard-learned lessons and a head full of memories." At that, the corners of her lips turned upwards in a smile. "You and my grandson saw it off for good, then?" She nodded at Wybie, who had been waylaid by Miss Forcible and was currently being treated to a long talk about the importance of one's bust when deciding upon a character role on the stage.
"Definitely," said Coraline. "The hand and key are at the bottom of the old well, and the door's locked. The Other Mother will never get out."
"Good." said Miss Lovat, in a grim, satisfied tone. Then, in a softer, curious tone, "Tell me...did you see my sister?"
The conversation had continued for a few more hours, until the sun began to sink below the horizon and Wybie managed to disengage himself from Miss Forcible. Miss Lovat had left satisfied.
Coraline now stared out across the darkening garden, at peace with herself and the world. The evening was warm, and crickets sang in the trees.
Charlie took advantage of her inattention to sneak up behind her and ruffle her hair.
Charlie chuckled and took the garbage bag from Coraline. "Busy day, fusspot?"
"Not too bad," said Coraline. "What did you think of the garden?"
"It's beautiful," said Charlie, looking at the massed ranks of tulips (and avoiding commenting on the newly-sprung beet patch). "I don't know where you found the energy." He gave Coraline a knowing smile. "Here's hoping you'll still have that much energy next week."
"Next week, yeah. Thats when you start school, remember?" He ruffled Coraline's hair again and walked inside with the garbage bag.
Behind him, Coraline groaned as the memory of school came rushing back.
If she had known any profanity other than "bastard", she would have gladly repeated it.
It was night-time in Rhode Island, with the moon hanging full and thick in the still air.
The old man on the white stone porch admired the familiar sight of the moon, his gaze running over the craters, the ridges, the seas and mottling.
The bloated pretentious sphere stabbed out from the encompassing darkness, he thought, full and redolent of the by-gone glories of diminished and faded ages, where the...the...um. The...
He sighed. Inspiration struck so rarely these days, and he found it harder to bring his old talent to bear.
Of course, he supposed he couldn't really write about what he had once handled with such skill. Not since all the... He shied away from that memory.
Concentrate on the here and now, old boy, he admonished himself. The world needs you now, more than ever.
He was a tall, thin man, with a long face and short silver hair and a neatly trimmed goatee. He picked up one of the newspapers lying next to him in a heap, and scrutinised it, page, by page, through metal-framed glasses.
He didn't notice the woman gliding up the front path towards him until she coughed.
"Good evening, my dear," he said, putting down the paper. "I trust your tickets are booked?"
"Of course," the woman said with a smile. "By next week, I'll be imparting all my hard-earned knowledge to the children of Oregon."
"Heaven help them," said the man, and ducked a playful swat. "Go on, Abra. Put that degree to good use. And take care of yourself out there. It's on the Pacific, after all. We all know what that entails."
"I'll be okay. It's just..." Here she hesitated. "Look, are you sure you can cope with me leaving? The nights are getting darker, and you're not getting any younger. If they decide to..."
"Pish. I've had a lifetime's experience of surviving their actions. Besides, we're undermanned on the West Coast. I'm glad you're taking a station there."
"Very well." Her face softened once more. "Remember to write to me, you old goat. I know what you're like for neglecting correspondence."
They exchanged farewells, and Abra left the way she'd came. The man picked up his newspaper, and went through every page.
His interest especially lay in those articles outlining anything relating to the ocean, strange accidents, cases of insanity, and supernatural sightings.
In the white void between worlds, the Beldam dangled from her unwound web. She had torn it apart in a rage, her fury and desperation seeking an outlet, and what was left of her world hung down around her ears.
As loathe as she was to admit it, the Beldam had lost.
Her plans had been shattered by that girl and that...that vermin, her hand had been destroyed at the well by that other child, whatever energy she had had before the whole affair had been wasted on the world she had made.
The garden, the food, the circus, the theatre, the other father and that other boy...her greatest works had been rejected by a mere child, a girl of low cunning and lower gratitude. A child who had outwitted her at every turn and denied her a victory.
She hung alone, with nothing but grey strands of web and her ebbing strength as companions.
The door, which hung in mid-air, swung slightly ajar.
Alarm shot across her face at this last realisation, and she lurched up and scuttled her way up the web to face the tiny door.
The Passage Between Worlds waited, mocking her with its silence. She grovelled to it, a feat easier said than done when all of your legs are keeping hold of a strand of web.
"My lord..." she began, hesitantly, fearfully. "I...I can explain."
+No need,+ thought the Passage, its dead voice echoing through the Beldam's skull. +I saw it all myself.+
The Beldam cringed and lowered her head further.
"It was...she was too devious for..."
+Deviousness is your speciality. Pardon me for a hasty first impression, but I considered you to be intelligent enough to deal with any mortal.+
"My lord!" the Beldam wailed, curling up into herself. "There will be other children. Other sources of strength, of energy, other souls for me to gain! Just … just give me energy, my lord, energy enough to build a new world, and I will never fail you again, never!"
She hung in the void, drained and defeated, and all too aware of her likely fate.
+It seems,+ the Passage whispered, after having drawn out the silence for an agonising few moments, +That you have forgotten the bargain we struck. You give nourishment to me, Beldam. The reverse is not true. You merely listen, and obey, and survive on my sufferance.+
+Your importance was minimal before. After this affair, you are nothing but a hindrance. I have other sources of nourishment, and you are not one of my greater servants.+
As it spoke, it released the bindings on the passageway between worlds, which flickered and vanished behind it. It raised itself in the air, becoming its true form. Its gaze fixed the Beldam in place with a cold intensity.
The best job the Beldam could do of describing its true form was "something out of the ordinary."
+But...+ it hesitated. It seemed to be considering something, giving hope to the Beldam. +Do you swear to truly serve me? Do you swear to provide me with a source of nourishment?+
"Of course, Lord Zoth-Ommog," gabbled the Beldam, giddy with relief. "I swear to those, Dweller in the Depths, I bind my life and soul to them."
+Then hold still,+ Zoth-Ommog said, its jaws flying open in a parody of a grin, and its head bending down to the Beldam, who could do nothing but scream in the last moments of her life.
After it had sated its hunger, Zoth-Ommog turned its head up, as if to regard something on the horizon.
+My parent must be informed of this.+ it mused to the remaining web strands.
It faded away into nothing, vanishing from the void, whilst the web-strands rotted away.