Q: What do you get when you cross 'The Snow Queen' with 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'?
A: Neil Gaiman's fantastically creepy modern fairy tale!
What questions does Coraline's first visit to the flat next door leave you with?
Coraline was bored.
She flipped through a book her mother was reading about native people in a distant country; how every day they would take pieces of white silk and draw on them in wax, then dip the silks in dye, then draw on them more in wax and dye them some more, then boil the wax out in hot water, and then, finally, throw the now-beautiful cloths on a fire and burn them to ashes.
It seemed particularly pointless to Coraline, but she hoped that the people enjoyed it.
She was still bored, and her mother wasn't yet home.
Coraline got a chair and pushed it over to the kitchen door. She climbed on to the chair, and reached up. She clambered down, and got a broom from the broom cupboard. She climbed back on the chair again, and reached up with the broom.
She climbed down from the chair and picked up the keys. She smiled triumphantly. Then she leaned the broom against the wall and went into the drawing room.
The family did not use the drawing room. They had inherited the furniture from Coraline's grandmother, along with a wooden coffee table, a side table, a heavy glass ashtray and the oil painting of a bowl of fruit. Coraline could never work out why anyone would want to paint a bowl of fruit. Other than that, the room was empty: there were no knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, no statues or clocks; nothing that made it feel comfortable or lived-in.
The old black key felt colder than any of the others. She pushed it into the keyhole of the door to the bricked-up wall of the empty flat next door. It turned smoothly, with a satisfying clunk.
Coraline stopped and listened. She knew she was doing something wrong, and she was trying to listen for her mother coming back, but she heard nothing. Then Coraline put her hand on the doorknob and turned it; and, finally, she opened the door.
It opened on to a dark hallway. The bricks had gone, as if they'd never been there. There was a cold, musty smell coming through the open doorway: it smelled like something very old and very slow.
Coraline went through the door.
She wondered what the empty flat would be like—if that was where the corridor led.
Coraline walked down the corridor uneasily. There was something very familiar about it.
The carpet beneath her feet was the same carpet they had in their flat. The wallpaper was the same wallpaper they had. The picture hanging in the hall was the same that they had hanging in their hallway at home.
She knew where she was: she was in her own home. She hadn't left.
She shook her head, confused.
She stared at the picture hanging on the wall: no, it wasn't exactly the same. The picture they had in their own hallway showed a boy in oldfashioned clothes staring at some bubbles. But now the expression on his face was different—he was looking at the bubbles as if he was planning to do something very nasty indeed to them. And there was something peculiar about his eyes.
Coraline stared at his eyes, trying to work out what exactly was different.
She almost had it when somebody said, "Coraline?"
It sounded like her mother. Coraline went into the kitchen, where the voice had come from. A woman stood in the kitchen with her back to Coraline. She looked a little like Coraline's mother. Only …
Only her skin was white as paper.
Only she was taller and thinner.
Only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark-red fingernails were curved and sharp.
"Coraline?" the woman said. "Is that you?"
And then she turned round. Her eyes were big black buttons.
"Lunchtime, Coraline," said the woman.
"Who are you?" asked Coraline.
"I'm your other mother," said the woman. "Go and tell your other father that lunch is ready." She opened the door of the oven. Suddenly Coraline realised how hungry she was. It smelled wonderful. "Well, go on."
Coraline went down the hall, to where her father's study was. She opened the door. There was a man in there, sitting at the keyboard, with his back to her. "Hello," said Coraline. "I-I mean, she said to say that lunch is ready."
The man turned round.
His eyes were buttons—big and black and shiny.
"Hello, Coraline," he said. "I'm starving."
He got up and went with her into the kitchen. They sat at the kitchen table and Coraline's other mother brought them lunch. A huge, golden-brown roasted chicken, fried potatoes, tiny green peas. Coraline shovelled the food into her mouth. It tasted wonderful.
"We've been waiting for you for a long time," said Coraline's other father.
"Yes," said the other mother. "It wasn't the same here without you. But we knew you'd arrive one day, and then we could be a proper family. Would you like some more chicken?"
Discover the rest
Click on the links below to hear the author and his friends (including Lemony Snicket!) read the whole story.
Story Chair Special
Follow the link below for Mrs Walker's 'Coraline' Story Chair Special!