Coraline (A Short Horror Tale written by Matthew Munsey - Edition 2)
It was a mewling, impish whimper. A sound nearer almost to silence than to any sound at all. A sound, in fact, that could have been no greater than that noise made by the tick tack tick brought forth by the scampering footpads of an emaciated manor rat - one so late in his desperate ambulation towards the end of his short and miserable life, that there was naught left to do but wallow. The sound danced and shambled it’s way through the cavernous bedchamber, careening back and forth between the dimly lit speckled wallpaper and the great mass that still, remarkably, rose and fell before her eyes. Slowly Coroline began to rise from the swarming tatters that were once her masters' bedsheets and, without truly understanding why let loose a short and yet unmistakable guffaw. And then there again, the small sound came from somewhere deep in the shadows. It was nothing more than a squeak now, like the dying breaths of a small dog, run down in the streets and left alone to die. But it was growing stronger, of that much Coroline was sure.
Brushing off her yellow nightdress Coroline stood in earnest now, transferring her attention away from the burning bed curtains and off into the darkness, towards that sound. It came again as she looked towards it, almost as if it had noticed her wandering gaze. Suddenly the darkness seemed to thicken, just as a slow chirp began to ring out through the room. Coroline felt like she was suffocating. She didn’t mind at all.
Without thinking much of it, Coroline began to walk. It was funny, as she hadn’t remembered telling her feet to bring her anywhere. And yet here she was, her body held snugly in the warm embrace of the house in which she had lived in her whole entire life. As a young child, she had always felt comfort in the corners of rooms, something about nothing be able to sneak up on her, she thought suddenly. Was she really surprised to find herself here? Coroline wondered aloud as she gazed deeply into the rippling red and orange of the two conjoined facades? Well no. No, of course not.
It had been a long time coming, that much she did know. After her mother had died, Friedricho had been the only one who was left to take care of her. A woman who came in a long black car had once told Coroline years ago that if she wanted to come with her, that if she didn’t feel safe with her new daddy, that all she had to do was say so - but Coroline did not want to leave. It was her home after all, and it had been her mothers. And so no matter how badly Coroline might have wanted to go with that nice woman in the long black car, she had stayed. She had stayed with the house that she loved, and with the memory of her dear mother. She had stayed with him.
It hadn’t taken him long. Although she was still just a child, Friedricho had approached her. It had not been long after Coraline’s mother had died that the man had shown his true colors. Appearing by her bedside late into the night, Friedricho, taking the form of the reaper himself, had come to slay Coraline’s innocence. He had said that Coraline reminded him of her mother and that he had loved her so. And he said that he loved Coraline, too. But she wasn't sure. Was this love? She didn’t think so, no. No, it couldn’t be, no matter what Friedricho said.
For a time Coraline’s life was cold. And lonely. And miserable. And all that she could do about it was to wait. To grow up and to leave this place. To finally be free. And in the meantime, she suffered. Day in and day out, she lived with the terror of knowing what was to come. Knowing that the monster from her nightmares wasn’t just make-believe. It was real, and it had captured her.
Suddenly, startling Coraline from her reverie, a deep borborygmus rumble rang out through the now brightly lit bedchamber, a crashing sound like metal on metal, like that of some long dormant beast, finally awakening from his slumber in order to great his brave new world. Coraline smiled. A lick of fire cascaded from a curtain to Coraline’s left, arcing its way towards the yellowed, wallpapered corner she now faced. Her eyes following the flame's journey for a moment, as it crawled and spread before her young, hollowed eyes. Behind the curtain, now revealed by tattered and flame, lay the estate grounds. The grass spread for as far as Coraline could see, and for a moment, she allowed herself to forget everything.
Coraline’s mother had always loved being outside. Her Father, a very long time ago, had once said that her mother was like a flower. Delicate and beautiful, and only really alive when she was in the sunshine, and in the rain. Coraline had never forgotten that her father had said that, even though she had seemed to forget everything else about the man. For some reason that had stuck. Maybe it had been important. Coraline wasn’t sure. All she knew was that her mother was gone now, just like father was. And that she was alone. Outside the window, there was only darkness. The sunlight that she had once so effortlessly frolicked in as a younger girl, her mother by her side, had disappeared. But she could still imagine it. The sun beating down on her small, cold face. The warmth carried in the wind, filling her meager body with the feeling of hope, dispatching her despair as it howled and blew.
She could feel it now. The warmth of the sun on her skin. The light of it, burning through her eyelids as she squeezed them shut against its unbridled strength. From behind Coraline, that sound had come again. The jarring, sound of teeth biting into broken glass. Funny. The darkness was gone, and yet she could still hear it, braying and rattling in lonesome reverie. It consumed everything, as she had known it would. That great beast, who had come to save her in her most desperate hour. Part of her wanted to look back and to see what had been done. But she knew that she could not. It was the place of little girls to see such things, especially ones who had already been through so much pain. And so in the corner, she had remained. Listening and watching the colors change behind her eyelids, from deep purple to brilliant red, and then back again. The warmth licked at her skin and her nightgown. And still, the monster rattled on. The snickering sound of its teeth chattering against one another as it worked. The rustling of its small feet crawling through the bed sheets. A low monotonous moan began to quietly escape from somewhere in the room as if a large creature was finally dying. Coraline’s smiled widened, her eyes still closed shut tight. A smell began to waft into Coraline’s nose. It smelled wonderful, and he mouth began to water. She was very warm now, and the room had become very bright. Even through her firmly clamped lids Coraline’s eyes began to sting, and so finally, she opened them. Smoke was rising now, red and inviting. A cloak over the world, hiding from Coraline any notion of evil that may live within it. The sound of that creature had stopped now, it’s appetite finally sated. For a moment Coraline looked out again over the grounds, and she saw herself, and her mother. She saw the happiness that she had once held and the happiness that had been taken from her. The smell was stronger now, and coming closer. It reminded Coraline of sunlight mornings, bacon and eggs with her mother before the end had come. The memory made her happy, and she was grateful for that, even if it was for the last time. From the dark smoke a hand appeared, and reaching out Coraline took it. Finally, she was home.
Hey Reader, thanks for reading. If you liked the story, please upvote and follow, and I'll see you next time! - Matthew Munsey
Image taken from Pixabay