By Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Dave McKean
On Sale: 9/27/2005
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Helena is about to embark on a most amazing journey.

Raised in a family of circus performers, she's always dreamed of leading a more ordinary life. But when haunting music draws her into a strange and magical realm, one where anything can happen, her real life is stolen by a runaway from the other side. Helena must rescue the realm from chaos in order to win back her own not-so-ordinary life.

MirrorMask is a breathtaking film written by bestselling author Neil Gaiman and brought to life through the vision of acclaimed artist and director Dave McKean. This original novella is Helena's tale in her own voice, written by master storyteller Neil Gaiman and accompanied by original art by Dave McKean and images from the film; it is a stunning and magical journey.

Q&A with Neil

Q: I’ve noticed that with CORALINE and MIRROR MASK, both stories have to do with girls in a world unbeknown to them. Do the two stories relate?
A: Not really. The story in MIRROR MASK is Dave McKean’s, a dream he had that he wanted to tell as a story.

Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One

This is my story about what happened to me last year when Mum got ill and Dad and I had to go and stay at Aunt Nan's and I had my weird dream.

It's the first story I've written down, although sometimes I like to make up stories in my head. (This isn't a made-up story, though.) Normally, what I do best is draw, although I can do a lot of other things, too. I can juggle. I can sell popcorn. I can walk a tightrope and I'm an extra clown when we need one -- and, trust me, the Campbell Family Circus pretty much always needs an extra clown.

I call this story MirrorMask and it is written and illustrated by me, Helena Campbell.

So. Last year I had my own camper, which wasn't big but it was mine. It had my drawings all over the walls. I love drawing places, imaginary cities with bits of all the towns the circus goes through put in them. We weren't anywhere long enough for me to go to school, so Mum would teach me things like geography and math, and the German Tumblers taught me some German, and Eric the Violin Player used to be a biologist before he ran away and joined the circus, so he taught me science.

You probably think that with a name like The Campbell Family Circus there would be lots of us Campbells, but it's only my dad, Morris Campbell, my mum, Joanne, and me. Everyone else works for Dad. Dad says the circus is in his blood, and it was his dream to have his own circus since he was a little boy, when he learned about the first Campbell's Circus, the one my grandfather owned. He says the circus is in my blood, too.

My dad says lots of silly things like that.

Dad's the ringmaster, also he juggles and takes bookings. My mum is the brains behind the outfit. She was once a great beauty, and my aunt Nan says it was a great disappointment to everyone when she married my dad instead of going off and being a film star or something. Mum sells tickets. She talks to the bank and to the tax people, keeps the books, does things with contracts. Also she does a Spanish Web act and is the Gorilla. (Dad bought the gorilla costume cheaply when I was seven and he uses it whenever he can.)

That night Mum was utterly furious, and it was all my fault.

I'd sort of lost track of time, and I was in my camper making up a story with my socks when my mum started banging on the window, and she's all, "Helena, you're not even dressed yet" (I was actually), and I was all, "Mum, it never ends. It's always smile for the punters, Helena sell popcorn, Helena juggle, Helena help with the washing up," and the washing up, even in a little circus like ours is -- well, you wouldn't believe it, that's all.

"Listen to those kids in there," said Mum. "They all want to run away and join the circus."

"Let them," I said. "I want to run away and join Real Life."

After that, the argument just got worse and worse, with me inside my camper and her outside, and I told her I was getting dressed and not to shout at me, and she shouted that she wasn't shouting, and it was all getting sort of horrid when she said, "You'll be the death of me," and I said, "I wish I was." I didn't think I'd said it loud enough to be heard, but she went very quiet. It sort of hung there in the air and it couldn't be unsaid.

"Real life? Helena, you couldn't handle real life," she said, and she went away, hurt, and I knew that this wasn't the last I'd hear about this.

I don't know what it is with me and Mum. We never mean to fight, but suddenly we're yelling at each other and it's all stupid.

I pulled on my mask, and I ran for it. The masks were my dad's idea. They make it look like there's more people in the circus than there are, so you won't go, "Oh look, that lady on the rope is the same lady I bought my ticket from." As if you'd notice, or you'd care.

I was in a rotten mood, but it started to lift when Dad and I went out to juggle (as "Raymondo and Fortuna, from Darkest Peru," and the name is Dad's. We have to talk in what I think Dad imagines a Peruvian accent sounds like. We'd just got up to the gorilla bit, where Dad says, "Hey, Bambino. You want to joggle the bananas?" and I go, "Uh-uh. You know what you get if you joggle the bananas?" and he says, "What?" and I say, "Gorillas!" and that's always when Mum comes out in the gorilla suit and chases us around the stage and then juggles the bananas.

Only she didn't. She missed her cue. And you can set your watch by my mum. And when she did come on, she didn't even try to juggle the bananas. Just ran around. But the kids were cheering, and, you know, when I ran out of the ring I was thinking that there are a lot worse things than being in a circus.

And that was when the gorilla took off its head, and it wasn't Mum. It was Fred, the strong man. Mum was on the floor. She'd passed out.

The show went on (the show must go on). An ambulance came and I watched them take my mum away. You'll be the death of me, she'd said, and I couldn't get it out of my head.