mangabreadroll's corner: In preparation of my Coraline/ParNorman (or Normaline) crossover fic(if it ever gets done), I decided to do this one as an 'appetizer'. I finally got to watch ParaNorman - an AWESHUM movie, by the way; good job, Laika - and I was so fascinated by Agatha Prenderghast that I decided to do this one-shot... DISCALAIMER: I SERIOUSLY, OBVIOUSLY do not own ParaNorman.
Both of Us
She sits under a tree, her hands stroking the grey fur of the stray cat washing itself on the grass. It mews affectionately as she whispers gently to it, rubbing itself against her knee.
Most people would've seen her reaching out to thin air. In fact, most people have been calling her a lunatic. Because even though she can see the cat with her own two eyes, it is a ghost. And she is the only one who can see it.
The girl's eyes light up as she sees a boy her age walking towards her from across the field. He has blue eyes and brown hair that sticks up at some parts on his head. A boy she knows very well.
"Hello, Aaron," she greets him.
The boy sits down next to her and watches her pat the (in his eyes) invisible cat. Aaron is a close relative of hers, something like a cousin. He cannot see or talk to ghosts like she can but he respects this special trait of hers. He wouldn't let the other children laugh at her. He wouldn't let the village people mock her or ridicule her. It had been like that for years.
"What is it this time?" the boy asks.
Agatha smiles. "It's a cat. The one that got attacked by the wild dog."
She clicks her fingers at it and strokes its neck before letting it run off. She looks up at the boy. "The grocer lady yelled at me for talking to her husband. She said it was rude."
"But that's like her, isn't it?" says Aaron, laughing. "She's a hot-tempered witch."
Agatha sighs. "Yeah, a witch. That's what she called me."
The boy puts a hand on the girl's shoulder. "I'm sorry. Why don't you talk to the ghosts in secret?"
"That would be only pleasing them. Besides, it'd make the ghosts lonely." She buries her face in her hands. "Why is everyone so scared of me?"
The boy keeps quiet for a moment. His free hand reaches for hers.
"I'm not scared."
Thunder rumbles in the sky as the two children run through puddles, chasing a ghost child they had been playing with earlier, the rain soaking their clothes. Aaron overtakes her with a playful grin and dashes past her towards the garden the ghost is running of to.
Aggie looks up into the sky. The rain is getting heavier. She hopes it doesn't get worse and that the game will end soon. Just then, she hears the snapping of branches and a cry of surprise. Her heart beating violently, she blindly follows the sound of the scream.
She finds Aaron, dangling precariously from a branch over a hole a few feet deep. It must have been an animal trap. He must've not seen it and fallen in...
"Aggie!" he cries. "Hurry!"
She bends down and holds out her hand to him but he cannot reach it. The branch he is holding on to gives a warning creak. She realises it is impossible.
Aggie stands up thinking fast, her eyes scanning the garden. She notices a rope tied to a scarecrow and unravels it, tying it to the tree. She tosses the rope down into the hole for Aaron to catch.
"Let go and hold on to the rope!" she calls.
Half-reluctantly and with some effort, Aaron grabs hold of the rope. The branch breaks and falls into the hole, which is gradually filling up with water. Aggie begins to hoist the boy up.
All of a sudden, the rope snaps, sending her crashing into the tree behind her. A shriek escaping her lips, she manages to grab the other end of the rope before Aaron falls to his death.
An ominous crack makes her heart leap in her chest, She turns around and realises that the tree she had knocked into is coming down, and fast. Her face goes white. There is no way she can stop it. She makes a desperate tug at the rope as the tree falls atop the hole with a sickening crash.
She blinks back tears, her hands shaking as she keeps holding on to the rope. She doesn't move. She doesn't dare to look into the hole.
"Aaron?" she chokes.
At first, she sees nothing. Then, very slowly, two shadows emerge from the mist - the familiar figure of Judge Hopkins, holding a trembling Aaron by the hand. The judge's cold eyes stare down into hers.
"Come with me. We have some unfinished business to take care of."
Aggie's eyes are red from crying, her frail figure, that of a small girl with long black hair in a grey dress as still as a stone in the court room.
Judge Hopkins gives his sentence. "In lieu of the testimonies of the witnesses, I hereby sentence you, Agatha Prenderghast, to be executed for meddling with alleged witchcraft."
A tear trickles down the wretched girls eye.
Aaron had refused to be a witness. She knows why.
The hanging rope looms menacingly over her as she steps onto the platform. A million eyes are focued on her, waiting for her just punishment.
As the rope is wound around her neck, she sees the face of the boy she had played with during their last game. His eyes are on her, but she cannot read them. What is in his eyes? Shock? Fear? Hatred?
The voices around her disappear. Time seems to slow down. She knows her time has come. But the curse isn;t enough. She feels the tears coming, threatening to burst out of her. She continues to look towards the boy in desperation. Their eyes meet, and for a second she thinks he will come and end it all.
But he doesn't. Slowly, he turns around. A piercing, bitter pain shoots through her heart as Aaron turns his back on her.
I'm not scared.
The rope around her neck shudders, ready to drag her to her doom. A mixture of emotions - anger, hate, grief, humiliation - surge through her. She closes her eyes.
A little girl stands in a vast white space of emptiness.
She recalls the events one by one - the pain she suffered for centuries, the rage she unleashed on the people of Blithe Hollow, the monster she became through the course of those events. She stops when she remembers Norman Babcock, the boy who brought her vengeful spirit to rest.
She remembers the betrayal she felt when he appeared to her for the first time, how similar he had looked to Aaron and how she had nearly mistook him for him before she reminded herself that Aaron was long gone. The same hair. The same eyes.
For a moment, she thinks she hears her mother calling her from beyond the white space. She turns toward the voice in the distance. Two other voices play in her head.
That story you told me - how does it end?
It's up to you to decide that.
She takes a deep breath and begins to walk. Her mother's voice becomes clearer, along with a few other familiar ones, but she doesn't hear Aaron's.
She pictures him quietly sitting in a corner. She quickens her pace. She will find him. She will apologize. And maybe, just maybe, he will forgive her.