HAUNTED

Seventeen


Norman pushed open the door on the other side of the dark spider-webbed tunnel and crawled into the massive space. It was so dark he could hardly see anything at all; he heard Wybie stand up beside him. The cat had mysteriously disappeared; he paid no mind to it.

It was a cavern. The ceiling seemed to be a mile overhead; everything was covered in stone formations. Stalactites hung from the ceiling like inverted spires, sharp and deadly, ready to break their bonds and crush all that remained below.

A single small, dark passage loomed in the distance on the opposite side of the cavern. The distant sounds of someone crying could be heard echoing around the walls.

"Only one way to go," Norman said.

The two boys walked across the rough floor of the space. The cavern groaned at odd points of time, as if it was preparing to collapse. The crying continued, a haunting soundtrack to the dismal events of the day.

Eventually, it opened into another room, another massive cavern. This room, however, was decorated differently; the stalactites were still there, as were other stone formations. Another tunnel branched out opposite them, just like the previous room.

In the center of the floor there was a lipped pool of lava, completely calm. A shrouded figure lay crouched next to it, the source of the crying, partially lit by the light of the lava, enough to look like it was covered with some sort of cloth. Norman approached it slowly, with Wybie lingering behind him somewhere.

Once he was close enough to the small figure, he realized that some sort of old rotting blanket, soaked in blood, was covering the person. He grabbed a small fistful of it and pulled it off, horrified at the sight of the person under the blanket.

"Coraline?"

The crying stopped. "You were my friend," she whispered.

"What?"

"YOU WERE MY FRIEND!" she screamed, looking up at him, slashing out at his legs with her weakened, bloody arms. He backed up, knowing that the cause was lost.

They were too late. The beldam already had her prize.

Then the figure stilled, and it did not move. However, gravity won over the unstable position the body had been in, and it fell over, button eyes and all, into the lava.

A fire started on the skin and spread everywhere in a flash, as if it were made of cloth soaked in gasoline. It was a horrifying sight; the skin burned with concentrated intensity, the flames extremely hot; it burned away in patches, and something spilled out, almost like...

"Sawdust. Sawdust and cloth. It's all that's required to delude a child."

The voice startled him, and his horror was almost forgotten to his confusion. Norman looked up at the source; Wybie seemed to be close by.

There, on the opposite side of the lava pool from them, lit in the ghastly red-orange light, was the strangest being he had ever seen. A metal skeleton, shining with red light; a face of cracked porcelain, with lips the color of blood and greasy hair like black silk; button eyes like black stars, neatly sewn; a dress that had been torn to shreds and reassembled a size larger.

This was the creature that had taken Coraline.

"Ultimately, that's all that's required to create a world for a child to adore. The skills of a mother: sewing, tailoring, toymaking. Of course, there has to be love in any relationship."

It had a voice like silk, smooth, dangerous, and seductive.

Neither boy knew how to express their thoughts in words. The beldam expressed it for them.

"No, that wasn't Coraline," it said. "I wouldn't treat my children with such cruelty."

Norman wasn't sure whether to be relieved or horrified. He remembered what the cat had said, though.

"A game."

The monster smiled. "So, that vermin has informed you of my preferences? It's so kind. But I've already picked out what I want to play."

"And what do you want to play?" Wybie asked.

"Fear games. A three-for-all."

"Fear games?" Wybie inquired.

It grinned, revealing teeth like white knives. "Your worst fears displayed before your very eyes until you're screaming for mercy, needing it to stop, desperate for a way out of the pain... even if the way out is death. And if anyone gives up, all of you are mine."

"So then you haven't killed Coraline yet," Norman said.

It pursed its lips, and then gave a smug smile. "Perhaps."

Norman looked at Wybie. He seemed somewhat reluctant, but they both knew what they needed to do.

"Let's play."

(A/N): Would you believe me if I told you that I had this one completely ready before I even finished the fifth paragraph of Sixteen?

Well, I did. So there.

It seems, though, that I've made a lot of people excited over all this Norman/Wybie bonding time. I had one reviewer (You know who you are) that chat-screamed at their excitedness over Norman/Wybie overload.

Every good thing has to come to an end, unfortunately. As much fun as I've had playing with Norman and Wybie for FOUR WHOLE CHAPTERS, I am required to show you now what happened to Coraline while she was... ahem... away.

If you're wondering where Cat went, that's where.

So, the next chapters will be up way, way, WAY faster now, partially because I have more ideas for these chapters, and partially because I wanted to skip to the part where I get to torture these guys XD

I will be back soon, my readers, with more epikness! :D