VI. C ORALINE WAS WOKEN BY
the midmorning sun, full on her face.
For a moment she felt utterly dislocated. She did not know where she was; she was not entirely
sure who she was. It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we
wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be.
Sometimes Coraline would forget who she was while she was daydreaming that she was
exploring the Arctic, or the Amazon rain forest, or Darkest Africa, and it was not until someone
tapped her on the shoulder or said her name that Coraline would come back from a million miles
away with a start, and all in a fraction of a second have to remember who she was, and what her
name was, and that she was even there at all.
Now there was sun on her face, and she was Coraline Jones. Yes. And then the green and
pinkness of the room she was in, and the rustling of a large painted paper butterfly as it fluttered
and beat its way about the ceiling, told her where she had woken up.
She climbed out of the bed. She could not wear her pajamas, dressing gown, and slippers during
the day, she decided, even if it meant wearing the other Coraline’s clothes. (Was there an other
Coraline? No, she realized, there wasn’t. There was just her.) There were no regular clothes in
the cupboard, though. They were more like dressing-up clothes or (she thought) the kind of
clothes she would love to have hanging in her own wardrobe at home: there was a raggedy witch
costume; a patched scarecrow costume; a future-warrior costume with little digital lights in it
that glittered and blinked; a slinky evening dress all covered in feathers and mirrors. Finally, in a
drawer, she found a pair of black jeans that seemed to be made of velvet night, and a gray
sweater the color of thick smoke with faint and tiny stars in the fabric which twinkled.
She pulled on the jeans and the sweater. Then she put on a pair of bright orange boots she found
at the bottom of the cupboard.
She took her last apple out of the pocket of her dressing gown and then took, from the same
pocket, the stone with the hole in it.
She put the stone into the pocket of her jeans, and it was as if her head had cleared a little. As if
she had come out of some sort of a fog.
She went into the kitchen, but it was deserted.
Still, she was sure that there was someone in the flat. She walked down the hall until she reached
her father’s study, and discovered that it was occupied.
“Where’s the other mother?” she asked the other father. He was sitting in the study, at a desk
which looked just like her father’s, but he was not doing anything at all, not even reading
gardening catalogs as her own father did when he was only pretending to be working.
“Out,” he told her. “Fixing the doors. There are some vermin problems.” He seemed pleased to
have somebody to talk to.
“The rats, you mean?”
“No, the rats are our friends. This is the other kind. Big black fellow, with his tail high.”
“The cat, you mean?”
“That’s the one,” said her other father.
He looked less like her true father today. There was something slightly vague about his face—
like bread dough that had begun to rise, smoothing out the bumps and cracks and depressions.
“Really, I mustn’t talk to you when she’s not here,” he said. “But don’t you worry. She won’t be
gone often. I shall demonstrate our tender hospitality to you, such that you will not even think
about ever going back.” He closed his mouth and folded his hands in his lap.
“So what am I to do now?” asked Coraline.
The other father pointed to his lips. Silence. “If you won’t even talk to me,” said Coraline, “I am going exploring.”
“No point,” said the other father. “There isn’t anywhere but here. This is all she made: the house,
the grounds, and the people in the house. She made it and she waited.” Then he looked
embarrassed and he put one finger to his lips again, as if he had just said too much.
Coraline walked out of his study. She went into the drawing room, over to the old door, and she
pulled it, rattled and shook it. No, it was locked fast, and the other mother had the key.
She looked around the room. It was so familiar—that was what made it feel so truly strange.
Everything was exactly the same as she remembered: there was all her grandmother’s strange-
smelling furniture, there was the painting of the bowl of fruit (a bunch of grapes, two plums, a
peach and an apple) hanging on the wall, there was the low wooden table with the lion’s feet,
and the empty fireplace which seemed to suck heat from the room.
But there was something else, something she did not remember seeing before. A ball of glass, up
on the mantelpiece.
She went over to the fireplace, went up on tiptoes, and lifted it down. It was a snow globe, with
two little people in it. Coraline shook it and set the snow flying, white snow that glittered as it
tumbled through the water.
Then she put the snow globe back on the mantelpiece, and carried on looking for her true parents
and for a way out.
She went out of the flat. Past the flashing-lights door, behind which the other Misses Spink and
Forcible performed their show forever, and she set off into the woods.
Where Coraline came from, once you were through the patch of trees, you saw nothing but the
meadow and the old tennis court. In this place, the woods went on farther, the trees becoming
cruder and less treelike the farther you went.
Pretty soon they seemed very approximate, like the idea of trees: a grayish-brown trunk below, a
greenish splodge of something that might have been leaves above.
Coraline wondered if the other mother wasn’t interested in trees, or if she just hadn’t bothered
with this bit properly because nobody was expected to come out this far.
She kept walking.
And then the mist began.
It was not damp, like a normal fog or mist. It was not cold and it was not warm. It felt to
Coraline like she was walking into nothing.