There was a polite noise from behind her.
She turned around. Standing on the wall next to her was a large black cat, identical to the large black cat she’d seen in the grounds at home.
“Good afternoon,” said the cat.
Its voice sounded like the voice at the back of Coraline’s head, the voice she thought words in, but a man’s voice, not a girl’s.
“Hello,” said Coraline. “I saw a cat like you in the garden at home. You must be the other cat.”
The cat shook its head. “No,” it said. “I’m not the other anything. I’m me.” It tipped its head to one side; green eyes glinted. “You people are spread all over the place. Cats, on the other hand, keep ourselves together. If you see what I mean.”
“I suppose. But if you’re the same cat I saw at home, how can you talk?”
Cats don’t have shoulders, not like people do. But the cat shrugged, in one smooth movement that started at the tip of its tail and ended in a raised movement of its whiskers. “I can talk.”
“Cats don’t talk at home.”
“No?” said the cat.
“No,” said Coraline.
The cat leaped smoothly from the wall to the grass near Coraline’s feet. It stared up at her.
“Well, you’re the expert on these things,” said the cat dryly. “After all, what would I know? I’m only a cat.”
Sleek, black, dark, and clever: benzoin, honey, cedar, and dark musk.