In a room, lined with long benches and whiteboards, Wybie stood.
His gaze was focused down at an Eroder, buzzing to life on the floor. His hands checked everything he had on his person, everything that he had prepared for what he would do next.
Covering him, hard-wearing clothes and a long, sturdy coat. Extremes of climate seemed likely, and he had packed additional cold-resistant items. Cold would likely be the least of his problems, granted, but it would be a terribly silly one to be caught out by.
Over his back, a pack containing, as well as clothes, about a month's supply of food and water. He didn't know what chances to restock would cross his path, assuming they existed. He would have to play that part by ear.
It also held pens and a large pad of notepaper, one part of which was now sitting on the workstation to his left. Electronic means of taking notes would have stood a snowball's chance in hell, and he had gotten into the old-fashioned habit of physically writing in any case.
For his own edification and that of science overall, things like a compass, an obsolete PDA, and a piece of iron and a magnet were also contained within. Physics might be all kinds of fun in the Sur-real, and it was worth finding out.
Also therein were things that fell under basic common sense for an undertaking like this. A lighter, and flint and tinder as backup. Binoculars, A sleeping bag and rope and a utility knife and changes of underwear.
Amongst other things, there was also a box of ferroshot for the revolver at his hip and the rifle across his back, companioned by an iron-bladed tomahawk. He would likely encounter all the psychephages he had ever encountered plus some, as well as a wildlife that included carnivorous trees. He was taking as few chances as possible, thank you very much.
Beyond that, he had little idea of what he would need.
Heck, he was working on effectively zero information. He might even end up breathing air that wasn't entirely adequate for humans, and end up suffocating ignominiously a couple of hours in. There were a million possible ways this could end badly, most of them unpleasant.
But he had made a promise. And he wasn't prepared to live a life with this undone, unwilling to leave parts of someone he had loved to languish in dark places for long ages, however long a long age might be.
For a moment, he stood there, pondering. Was he the first to ever even consider this, much less actually go ahead with it? To do something that belonged in the realm of fairytales?
Of course he wasn't, he mentally reminded himself, with accompanying mental dope-slap. Coraline had done the same with far less. And she and Wybie and Maria had gone on to make a habit of it.
He had no idea what lay before him, save only a few of the broadest details. A vast and dangerous journey in an alien world to locations he wasn't even aware of, to creatures he didn't know, to strike deals which would have prices or risks he couldn't even imagine.
A cost-benefit analysis had won over those concerns a while back, and he stayed where he was.
He waited, and finally got a response.
A doorway solidified out of appearing light in mid-air, and the head of a small coatl, small enough to be a mere juvenile sprung from the nest, poked around the opening door. It was curious and confused, and those states only increased when Wybie started talking.
He spoke, and it hesitantly replied, uncertain of how this sort of increasingly-rare encounter ought to be handled. But Wybie spoke with certainty and experience, and offered nothing that seemed to present any harm to the coatl.
It pushed the door open all the way, to a sunny day over pale green fields beyond. Past these fields, forested hills rolled across the horizon, and past these hills, the looming shapes of impossibly distant mountains.
Wybie stepped through, still chatting to the coatl, and with a last look backwards, closed the door behind him.
The door remained in mid-air, eventually fading away to a mere outline of light.
The light hung, began to fade, and, to the whisper of Sur-real wind, vanished altogether.
This was the longest thing as a series I've ever written for this site or any other, and saying that I had tremendous fun in the process would be a great understatement.
To you, who's presumably read this far and stuck with the series, thank you. To anyone and everyone who read this, dropped reviews, sent messages and gave support, online or off, thanks are due and thoroughly deserved. Model Builder; a fellow writer on the site who gave me unflagging support from day one and who made sure my depiction of American events and names didn't fall too wildly astray of the mark, deserves especial thanks. As does Calyn, likewise a writer on the site; who generously provided, at my request, the proper scientific name in Greek for psychephages. This isn't a request that should be sanely posed to any undeserving person, and anyone who answers it deserves thanks. Thanks also goes to Woodswolf, another writer on the site, who was sufficiently inspired to create recursive fanfiction for the series. I'm reasonably sure this is the most complimentary and terrifying thing that can ever happen to anyone.
Thanks goes also to Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick, for no reason that should need explanation.
The Station Sequence is over and done with, but this certainly isn't the last thing I plan to write on the site. A new series, not 'Coraline'-based, should get underway sometime in the summer. And for that and other planned stories, I hope to see some of you there.
- Marquis Carabas, signing off.