There was a girl with blue hair.
Dipper nudged Norman, frowning, their hands still twined together as they walked. The girl was wandering off the path, blue hair pulled back into a ponytail and she seemed completely unaware of the dangers that lurked around Gravity Falls.
Norman glanced at her, watched her walk deeper into the trees, then looked back at Dipper and nodded.
They took off after her, moving decently quietly and managed to get to a point in the forest ahead of her. “Uh, hey,” Dipper waved, watching her rear back a little. “So, uh, my name’s Dipper Pines.” He put a hand to his chest and smiled, hoping it wasn’t going to come across as creepy. “And you’re trying to get into a really dangerous part of the woods.”
“Then why aren’t there any signs up?” she quirked an eyebrow at him, turning to look at Norman. “If it’s so dangerous, there should be signs.”
Dipper nodded. “Uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah, definitely, there should definitely be signs up. The thing is, the locals all know about the danger and forget to put up signs because mostly the tourists don’t want to go into the woods. They want to go into town and to the Mystery Shack.”
She huffed out an exasperated breath and leaned back on one leg, crossing her arms over her chest. “Uh-huh.” She looked at him, annoyed, as she took in the hat he wore and the rest of his outfit. Both of her eyebrows rose. “They sell that hat at the Mystery Shack,” she rolled her eyes. “So your plan to get me intrigued enough to buy a ticket for that tour isn’t going to work.”
Norman opened his mouth to say something to her and then stopped, his eyes going wide as he looked over her shoulder at something. “You…” he met her eyes and looked pale and almost horrified. “What did you have to deal with?”
She snapped into a straightened posture so quickly that Dipper thought she might have been having a seizure or something, just for a moment. “What?”
“There’s something behind you,” Norman backed away a little, almost hiding behind Dipper. “Not a ghost, more like…A ghost of a memory? Something bad happened to you. Something tried to hurt you.” His fingers curled in the fabric of Dipper’s shirt and the girl looked like she had been slapped. “Tried to keep your soul.”
She looked at both of them again. “Tell me what happened in the woods to make them dangerous and I’ll tell you what happened to me.”
Her name, as it turned out, was Coraline Jones.
Her mother and father had paid for her vacation for the first two weeks of summer and she had chosen Gravity Falls because of the legends surrounding the woods. The stories had scared her, more than a little, but courage had won out over fear in the end. If there was a way for the thing that had attacked her, the Beldam, to get back into the world, she figured it would be there. She needed to make sure.
That was why she had been in the woods to begin with.
Halfway through her telling her story, a black cat had appeared and promptly curled up in her lap.
Dipper stared at the cat, then back up to Coraline’s face. “Uh, what?”
“He’s a cat,” Coraline grinned at him, scratching gently between the cat’s ears. “Never seen one before?” she ran a hand down the cat’s side and he purred.
“Is he yours?” Norman tilted his head.
“He is his own cat,” Coraline shrugged one shoulder. “I suppose he’s mine, sort of, but he is mostly his own. He helped me a lot with…Y’know. Things. He clawed the Beldam’s face.” Her grin went softer, fonder. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I’d still be here. Since I beat her, I’ve just been trying to make sure that things like that don’t target kids who don’t know any better. I’m currently studying for my PhD in mythology and history.”
“To teach people about things like the Beldam?” Dipper chuckled a little. “Seems like a good idea.” He nearly flailed off the bench when his phone rang. “Excuse me for a second.”
Norman turned to watch him walk twenty feet away to take the call.
“So what happened to him?” Coraline waited until Dipper was out of earshot. “You seem really protective of him. I mean, it’s sweet and all, don’t date someone unless you like them as a friend and are willing and able to love them…But you seem really protective of him.”
“The thing in the woods,” Norman sandwiched his hands between his knees. “When it first happened, the ghost that was attacking us possessed me. Tried to kill me, him, his sister, and her girlfriend. Ended up tossing all four of us off the cliff. Mabel has a grappling hook, managed to get herself and Pacifica into a tree and from there they could climb down. Dipper’s arm got broken. Technically by me. We also ended up going off the cliff but his great-uncle also has a grappling hook and managed to use it to catch us before we fell.”
“Oh,” Coraline leaned towards him and patted gently at the top of his head. “You’re always afraid he’ll get attacked because you’ll get possessed again.”
The cat sat up in her lap and blinked sleepily at him, stretching before climbing across the table. He sat on the table and put a paw on Norman’s face.
“I think he’s telling you not to worry,” Coraline smiled again. “It’d be easier if he could talk to us here, but he can’t, so we have to kind of guess. That’s generally what that means when he does it to me, so I think he’s saying the same to you.”
The cat nodded and Norman felt himself smile.
“If you could talk to him here, that would make things easier.” Coraline scratched behind one ear for a moment before the cat shifted and she removed her hands. Once she had, he went sprinting off into the underbrush. “He’ll find his way home on his own. Probably just making sure there’s no trace of her here. He didn’t like her any more than I did.”
“I can’t imagine anyone liking something like her.” Norman shifted, bracing his chin on his arms. “Nightmares are always awful, especially when they find their way into the waking world.”
“Yeah,” Coraline sighed, leaning on the table and turning to watch Dipper walk through the underbrush. “Just keep each other safe, yeah? Got a whole world of monsters and nightmares and weirdness out there.”
“I think I can do that,” Norman smiled.