Prologue


The trees whispered in the wind as their leaves fluttered. It was a cold night, and the moon could be seen peeking out from behind a cover of dark clouds. The hill above the Pink Palace apartments was shrouded in darkness.

Coraline Jones wandered up the muddy trail, wearing her yellow rain boots and hip-length yellow raincoat. Several inches of her dark pink skirt stuck out below the coat. Her bobbed blue hair shone in the moonlight.

Despite the chilly night, the peace of mind the trip would bring had spurred her into action. She smiled humourlessly as she came around a bend in the trail and started down a small slope toward an old apple orchard. She remembered being chased by a feral cat here on the day that she first moved to Ashland, Oregon.

The moon was huge tonight. Really huge – so big, in fact, that she could even see the dark spots on it. Four, to be exact.

Wait, four dots… Just like a button…

With mounting horror, Coraline realised that the moon did indeed look like a button – those horrible things that had haunted her nightmares for the past two months. She had awoken with a start many times after seeing two buttons staring back at her. Two black buttons that were the eyes of the Beldam, the terrible witch who had nearly trapped her forever.

It's just my imagination. That sort of stuff only happens with the moon in the other world… In her world...

Coraline squeezed her eyes shut and counted to ten before she opened them again. However, when she looked back up, the moon still resembled a button. Perhaps it was just a coincidence…?

She shook her head clear and continued on the path through the dark trees. She still found the area creepy – the way the trees seemed to stoop over the path, the abandoned cart lying off to the side, the way the dead leaves all over the ground rustled in the wind. The whole thing was creepy.

She shrugged off these counterproductive thoughts as she reached a familiar clearing and saw the ring of small mushrooms that marked the location of the Old Well. However, something was wrong. With mounting dread, she raised her flashlight and saw exactly what she had been fearing the most. The wooden cover over the well was smashed, its planks snapped and strewn all over the muddy ground, as though something trapped below them had broken its way through.

It can't be! She can't have escaped!

Coraline slowly approached the dark hole and shone her flashlight down into it, but the angle of the ground prevented her from seeing very far. She reluctantly stepped forward and aimed the light down into the well to see a glint of metal –

She screamed and dropped the flashlight when a metallic spider-like appendage leapt out of the well and grabbed her around the throat. She felt sharp stabs of pain as the needle-like points of the fingers pricked her neck. She raised her arms and grappled with the disembodied metal hand, gasping desperately for breath.

She caught a flash of movement in the well, looked down and saw them. Two black button eyes, illuminated by the moonlight, stared out at her from the darkness of the well. She tried to scream in terror once more, but could not draw enough breath. The hand around her throat pulled forward with terrible strength, forcing her forward, toward the well.

No! Please!

She struggled, but the hand was too strong. The waiting button eyes in the well gleamed hungrily as Coraline was haplessly pulled toward them. With a final tug of the hand, she was pulled forward into the hole.


Coraline awoke with a strangled scream, her pyjamas soaked in sweat. She fumbled for the bedside light, and it took her a moment to comprehend that she was in her bedroom. She looked out the window, saw the moon and was relieved to see that it looked perfectly normal. The girl took a moment to calm her breathing and glanced at the bedside clock. Three a.m. Yet another night of sleep disturbed.

Coraline fell back to the pillow with a sigh and tried to get comfortable. She felt that she should go to the sitting room downstairs and check on the seemingly innocuous little door in the wall – the mystical doorway that, in reality, led to the Beldam's world – and make sure that it was still closed.

But she was tired, and harboured a weary sense of déjà vu. Every time she had gone to check on the door in the dead of night, nothing had been wrong. It was still locked tight, and its key had been thrown down the Old Well, along with the pieces of a shattered metallic hand – the hand of the beldam that had followed her home two months ago.

She sighed and closed her eyes again, telling herself that she would check on the door tomorrow morning. It could wait until tomorrow, right?


AUTHOR'S NOTES:

This is a story I have been looking forward to writing for a while, particularly because it is a chance for me to work on my horror-writing skills, which I am still fairly new to. If anyone has any tips on how to write a good and suspenseful horror story, please comment and let me know.

I would like to extend a thank you to a number of writers (Dottie-Ditto, Marquis Carabas, Woodswolf, Tobu Ishi, RySenkari) for their excellent Coraline stories. Their work has inspired me to start writing this.

This story may not follow a regular update schedule at first, as my priorities are to my other fics for now (Left for Dead, Donkey Kong Country). However, it will certainly not be neglected.

Also, reviews are greatly appreciated. I am always open to constructive criticism. Thanks for reading.