for a few moments longer, she thought at it, wondering if it could hear her. I’ll get us both home. I said I would. I promise. She felt the cat relax ever so slightly in her arms.
The other mother walked over to the door and pushed the key into the lock.
She turned the key.
Coraline heard the mechanism clunk heavily. She was already starting, as quietly as she could,
step by step, to back away toward the mantelpiece.
The other mother pushed down on the door handle and pulled open the door, revealing a corridor
behind it, dark and empty. “There,” she said, waving her hands at the corridor. The expression of
delight on her face was a very bad thing to see. “You’re wrong! You don’t know where your
parents are, do you? They aren’t there.” She turned and looked at Coraline. “Now,” she said,
“you’re going to stay here for ever and always.”
“No,” said Coraline. “I’m not.” And, hard as she could, she threw the black cat toward the other
mother. It yowled and landed on the other mother’s head, claws flailing, teeth bared, fierce and
angry. Fur on end, it looked half again as big as it was in real life.
Without waiting to see what would happen, Coraline reached up to the mantlepiece and closed
her hand around the snow globe, pushing it deep into the pocket of her dressing gown.
The cat made a deep, ululating yowl and sank its teeth into the other mother’s cheek. She was
flailing at it. Blood ran from the cuts on her white face—not red blood but a deep, tarry black
stuff. Coraline ran for the door.
She pulled the key out of the lock.
“Leave her! Come on!” she shouted to the cat. It hissed, and swiped its scalpel-sharp claws at the
other mother’s face in one wild rake which left black ooze trickling from several gashes on the
other mother’s nose. Then it sprang down toward Coraline. “Quickly!” she said. The cat ran
toward her, and they both stepped into the dark corridor.
It was colder in the corridor, like stepping down into a cellar on a warm day. The cat hesitated
for a moment; then, seeing the other mother was coming toward them, it ran to Coraline and
stopped by her legs.
Coraline began to pull the door closed.
It was heavier than she imagined a door could be, and pulling it closed was like trying to close a
door against a high wind. And then she felt something from the other side starting to pull against
Shut! she thought. Then she said, out loud, “Come on, please.” And she felt the door begin to
move, to pull closed, to give against the phantom wind.
Suddenly she was aware of other people in the corridor with her. She could not turn her head to
look at them, but she knew them without having to look. “Help me, please,” she said. “All of
The other people in the corridor—three children, two adults—were somehow too insubstantial to
touch the door. But their hands closed about hers, as she pulled on the big iron door handle, and
suddenly she felt strong.
“Never let up, Miss! Hold strong! Hold strong!” whispered a voice in her mind.
“Pull, girl, pull!” whispered another.
And then a voice that sounded like her mother’s—her own mother, her real, wonderful,
maddening, infuriating, glorious mother—just said, “Well done, Coraline,” and that was enough.
The door started to slip closed, easily as anything.
“No!” screamed a voice from beyond the door, and it no longer sounded even faintly human.
Something snatched at Coraline, reaching through the closing gap between the door and the
doorpost. Coraline jerked her head out of the way, but the door began to open once more.
“We’re going to go home,” said Coraline. “We are. Help me.” She ducked the snatching fingers.
They moved through her, then: ghost hands lent her strength that she no longer possessed. There
was a final moment of resistance, as if something were caught in the door, and then, with a crash,
the wooden door banged closed.
Something dropped from Coraline’s head height to the floor. It landed with a sort of a scuttling
“Come on!” said the cat. “This is not a good place to be in. Quickly.”
Coraline turned her back on the door and began to run, as fast as was practical, through the dark
corridor, running her hand along the wall to make sure she didn’t bump into anything or get
turned around in the darkness.
It was an uphill run, and it seemed to her that it went on for a longer distance than anything could
possibly go. The wall she was touching felt warm and yielding now, and, she realized, it felt as it
were covered in a fine downy fur. It moved, as if it were taking a breath. She snatched her hand
away from it.
Winds howled in the dark.
She was scared she would bump into something, and she put out her hand for the wall once
more. This time what she touched felt hot and wet, as if she had put her hand in somebody’s
mouth, and she pulled it back with a small wail.
Her eyes had adjusted to the dark. She could half see, as faintly glowing patches ahead of her,
two adults, three children. She could hear the cat, too, padding in the dark in front of her.
And there was something else, which suddenly scuttled between her feet, nearly sending
Coraline flying. She caught herself before she went down, using her own momentum to keep
moving. She knew that if she fell in that corridor she might never get up again. Whatever that
corridor was was older by far than the other mother. It was deep, and slow, and it knew that she
was there. . . .
Then daylight appeared, and she ran toward it, puffing and wheezing. “Almost there,” she called
encouragingly, but in the light she discovered that the wraiths had gone, and she was alone. She
did not have time to wonder what had happened to them. Panting for breath, she staggered
through the door, and slammed it behind her with the loudest, most satisfying bang you can
Coraline locked the door with the key, and put the key back into her pocket.
The black cat was huddled in the farthest corner of the room, the pink tip of its tongue showing,
its eyes wide. Coraline went over to it and crouched down beside it.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry I threw you at her. But it was the only way to distract her
enough to get us all out. She would never have kept her word, would she?”
The cat looked up at her, then rested its head on her hand, licking her fingers with its sandpapery
tongue. It began to purr.
“Then we’re friends?” said Coraline.
She sat down on one of her grandmother’s uncomfortable armchairs, and the cat sprang up into
her lap and made itself comfortable. The light that came through the picture window was
daylight, real golden late-afternoon daylight, not a white mist light. The sky was a robin’s-egg
blue, and Coraline could see trees and, beyond the trees, green hills, which faded on the horizon
into purples and grays. The sky had never seemed so sky, the world had never seemed so world.
Coraline stared at the leaves on the trees and at the patterns of light and shadow on the cracked
bark of the trunk of the beech tree outside the window. Then she looked down at her lap, at the
way that the rich sunlight brushed every hair on the cat’s head, turning each white whisker to
Nothing, she thought, had ever been so interesting.
And, caught up in the interestingness of the world, Coraline barely noticed that she had wriggled
down and curled catlike on her grandmother’s uncomfortable armchair, nor did she notice when
she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.