Friday, February 12, 2010

Agnes in the Forest

Using the following picture as your visual inspiration compose a short essay (500 words or less) telling me what Agnes Dreary saw/heard in the forest. Feel free to develop specific characters and dialogue to enhance your piece.


  1. Entry 1
    Arabella looked toward the forest and saw the light, it was moving through the old growth as it had for the last three nights-she must know what it was! Easing through the side door of the mansion library, she strode through the wood till the light halted suddenly- Arabella ducked behind an oak tree, then peeked around to see a woman- her clothing and skin glowing luminous as a firefly. She realized in shock that it was her Grandmother Anya’s ghost. Grandmother saw her and began to trace in the damp earth, the leaves knocked away as her stick moved back and forth. She said, “I knew you were following me my dear, I have something to tell you.” Arabella stared at the ground, recognizing on the map the little pond and the hill with the statue of an unknown man, and she read the words slowly out loud that Grandmother had placed under her simple map… “I did not die naturally”.
    Grandmother continued, ‘Your Uncle Horace is here again, I have been watching and it is time-it was he who poisoned me and killed your father, and he will strike again - I have hidden evidence in these places for you to find, my time here has expired, be careful, and hurry!” Grandmothers glowing form wavered and was gone. Arabella ran through the woods to the lake, and looked around feverishly, wondering where the clue could be. She looked across the water to the ancient sycamore tree with an owl hole, and ran around the pond to it and reached inside. She felt a cord, and pulled. Up came an oilskin bag, and she took out a silver cup. She then climbed the hill to the statue of the unknown man and read the inscription, “Truth is Within” and realized that the hand holding his lapel, also pulled out one side of his coat. Inspired, Arabella reached in alongside his hand and found a little tube with a few small white grains inside it. She put both objects in her pockets.
    Arabella ran down the hill to the house-she knew Uncle Horace would be at the breakfast table, she felt she must confront him immediately. Walking into the room, Arabella startled the entire family with her wild hair and wilder eyes. Since her father had died, Horace, his brother, had been visiting more and more regularly and Arabella and her brothers and sisters hated him. He wanted to marry their mother they were certain, and now Arabella knew why. Arabella snarled, “Uncle Horace, How did Grandmother die?” and he said, “Why a heart attack, my dear, why do you ask?” but though he tried to keep his voice even, it ended abruptly with a sharp intake of breath just as Arabella raised her voice in a fierce cry, “Because that’s not what Grandmother says!” and Arabella- holding the cup and vial aloft and looking a vengeful fury, was the last thing Horace ever saw as his heart stopped.

  2. Entry 2
    Agnes was always wondering if there were more to everything than what
    books and teachers told her. Sure, there was ample scientific evidence
    about sound waves, and how those sound waves bouncing around a could
    create echoes, but was there more to it than that?

    Agnes had read the myth of Narcissus and Echo. She had seen enough
    narcissus flowers in her time, but where was Echo herself? Was she
    lonely, like Agnes herself was at times, doomed to repeat what others
    said? Though shy, Agnes did have a tender heart. She had a couple of
    sandwiches in her pocket, one for herself, and one for the lonely
    Echo, should she ever meet the tragic lady.

    It took a while to walk to a place where echoes were heard, but Agnes
    was not afraid of the gathering dusk. She had an affinity with night
    time that few could match. Besides, she had great night vision, and a
    big ball of string she would wind around a branch as she walked along,
    to show her the way home.

    Finding an echoing grotto, she said, “Echo, come on out!” in a loud,
    though friendly voice. Sure enough, she heard her own voice coming
    faithfully back, and smiled. She was here!

    After a while, though, it became a little tedious to speak that
    loudly, and hear Echo just repeating what she had said. Agnes frowned
    thoughtfully, as she remembered the old story. Echo had been cursed to
    repeat whatever she heard, and not say anything original on her own by
    Queen Hera. But what could she do to help Echo?

    Smiling a little, Agnes called out, “I’m sorry, Queen Hera, that I
    hurt your feelings. Can I please talk normally again? I have a friend

    From behind her, after her statement had been faithfully repeated,
    Agnes heard an unfamiliar voice say, “Yes, I do have a friend here,
    who gifted me with the right words for Queen Hera.”

    Agnes turned, saw the ghostly young lady standing behind her, and
    smiled as she pulled out the extra sandwich for her new friend Echo.

  3. Entry 3
    Once Agnes was in the attic when she heard swhish, swhish. She did not know what it was. So, she ran outside towards the Fae Forest . She said, “I need to calm down, it was just a sound.” All of a sudden, a lady came out of nowhere. Agnes stared at her and said, “Who are you?”

    The lady answered, “I’m your mother, dear. I’ve come home.”

    Agnes said, “I don’t believe you. My Mother is lost and so is my Father. I need proof that you are my Mother.”

    The lady said, “Ask me a question.”

    Agnes asked, “Who do I live with?”

    The lady said, “Your Sister and your brother.”

    Agnes said, “Yes, but I still do not believe you! Who is that behind you?”

    The lady said, “An old friend of mine. I found her while I was lost. She helped me to get back to you.”

    Agnes said, “And what is her name?”

    The lady replied, “Abigail Mae Lerch. Abigail? Please come forward.” Abigail walked towards Agnes.

    Agnes asked, “Do you know who I am?”

    Abigail replies, “Yes, I do. You are Agnes Caroline Dreary, daughter of Juliette Rose and William Thomas Dreary, sister to Viktor Timothy and Hannah Elizabeth.” Agnes raised her eyebrow and stared silently at Abigail. Agnes stared at the lady, she squinted her eyes, and tilted her head.

    Agnes quickly turned towards the house; and then, she turned back to say, “Here is the final question: Who is my best friend?”

    The lady smiles and says, “I am!”

  4. Entry 4
    All I really wanted to do was to quietly read my book, but Viktor would not stop talking at me. He was yak yak yakking about nothing at all. I thought I would simply lose my mind. I think I read the same chapter 6 times and I still can not remember what I read. I needed to escape so I slipped out the back door and down the slope that lead to the pond. The boat sat exactly where I had left it and both oars were waiting for my hands to grasp them. I untied the rope and sat myself down for the journey across the brackish waters. Periodically, I would peer into the darkness hoping to see her, the Lady that Viktor told me about 2 years ago. I thought I had seen her earlier, but I think my eyes were playing tricks on me. I looked into dark pool, but I saw no one but myself staring back at me, not even a frog.

    Once I was across the pond, I would head for the old Cemetery in the Forest . It was my secret place, a refuge away from my pesky brother. I grabbed my book and found my favorite gravestone shaped like a gargoyle. I leaned back and began to read.

    “Christmas shopping is exhausting! After dinner I decided to get into bed and read to take my mind off of what Gerard might get me. Once asleep, I had the strangest dream. I was lying in bed when the ghost of my mother appeared. She wanted to tell me something but she couldn't speak. Every time Mother went to speak, nothing would come out. She then took me by the hand, dragged me out of bed, and out the window we flew. Over Gol’gotha we fle…..”


    I jumped at the sound. I peered around the gargoyle; clouds a fabric blocked my view. It floated before me and disappeared. It was her, the Lady of the Forest . I crawled away to hide, but I peeped out at her. Her feet never touched the ground. The leaves floated around as her skirt brushed them. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up and prickle bumps covered my arms. I heard the pound pound pounding of my heart in my ears. She was real. She exists. Oh!!! She is turning towards me. I must duck further behind the stone. I hold my breath. She is right in front of me. Her skirt brushes the wing of the gargoyle. She is looking behind me, over my head. She shakes her head and turns away, but I see her; a pale reflection of her, the lady. I am all tingly and perspiration drips down my back as I shiver. I hope neither sees me, but the pale vision of her looks straight into my eyes. She knows I am here. Doesn’t she see her??? Oh my, a ghost haunting….. I need to tell Viktor!

  5. Entry 5
    Grandfather Black’s land backed up to the forest behind the city. Now, as she turned to look at the forest, Agnes saw a little fairy door. Excited, she ran outside towards the forest.
    When Agnes finally reached the forest she stepped onto the floor of the forest almost immediately. She was out of breath and stood a minute starring at the little fairy door. She’d been afraid it might have disappeared. Not sure what to do next Agnes decided to walk around the tree to look for clues. She walked up to the tree and the fairy door shimmered and she heard a tinkling sound.
    After walking around the tree twice Agnes was getting terribly frustrated. How was she to get through the fairy door? A third time she went around, looking very carefully at every nook and cranny of the tree. As she came around for a third time there was still no clue…until she heard a tinkling noise for a third time. The door shimmered, again for the third time. It was then that she realized she was there. Gone was the House and gardens of Grandfather Black. Gone was everything all replaced by trees. Agnes clasped her hands in front of her and rocked back and forth on her heels. She took in the fact that the forest seemed to take on a different air, lighter yet gloomier in appearance.
    There wasn’t much light as she walked deeper into the forest, though she thought she must be pretty deep anyway. That’s when she saw the shadow. She stopped, paying acute attention now. Was this why she was here or should she be wary? Not being one to shy from the different she was also bright. Agnes waited.
    Then, as if the tree had moved a bit out of the way, a woman turned to look at her…and she smiled sadly. She seemed to glow in fairy light as the sun seemed to not know how to penetrate the branches and leaves of the forest trees so it couldn’t be from the sun.
    “Your mother is looking for your father. She is lost. She’s been looking for your father for many years. You and Viktor need to find her and bring them together. Ask my boy, your grandfather, to take you on a trip to New York.”
    Agnes hadn’t said a word and was about to when the light shifted along with the tree and she was gone. All Agnes could think was, “Viktor and I are to find our mother and father? In New York? That’s so odd."
    Agnes bent and touched the fairy door’s tiny handle. She stood and turned to look one more time at her other world only to be surprised to see she was back ‘home’ already. She turned back to look at the fairy door but it was gone.
    Now, Agnes and Viktor had a mystery to solve. This was the beginning of a great adventure!

  6. Entry 6
    Agnes paused midstep. She had to get out of the castle for a while, it
    was just so hot and stuffy with that party. In her fanciest, not
    favorite dress, forced to be on her best behavior, it had all finally
    gotten so claustrophobic for her that she fled outside, just out of
    sight of the big window, to soak up some of the peace and quiet of the

    And that was when she heard it. Whatever “it” was. But had she
    actually heard something, or was it her over cranked nerves playing
    tricks on her?

    Looking around, she saw it was the same beloved forest which had given
    her mind ease whenever life got too crowded. Which was ironic, really,
    given the number of life forms here. The trees, the animals, the bugs…

    Then she heard it again. This time, it was clearer. But what could it
    possibly be? For once, Agnes despaired of her measly years. A grownup
    probably would have figured this out lickety split, because they were
    old and they had heard lots of things in their lives. She was still
    collecting years and experiences, however slowly they were coming to

    She frowned, scratching at where the lace tickled. This dress was such
    a pain! It was a bit small, and way too fancy. She couldn’t move
    without it squeezing or pinching, and if not squeezing or pinching,
    the lace made her itch.

    Between the heat and crowding she had fled, and this stupid dress,
    Agnes was in a full blown, no foolin’ around, grouchy mood!

    This time it sounded like someone speaking. Aggravated, she called
    out, “Either talk to me or stop it!”

    It was clearly a female voice, giggling; it was coming from her left,
    and Agnes whirled around, fists clenched. A flash of cloth whipped
    around a tree, as if there were another girl there, playing hide and
    seek. Agnes knew no fear; this was her ancestral home, and one day, in
    the fullness of time, she would be the absolute mistress of this land.
    It was up to her, then, to investigate, and to throw out any

    Agnes stepped around the tree, but whoever it was knew she was coming,
    and she again caught sight of that bit of cloth, as the other – girl?
    – dodged around the next tree, giggling softly, as though pressing her
    hands to her mouth, as she herself sometimes did.

    Eyes narrowed, Agnes gave chase. Just as her hands closed on the hem
    of the other person’s clothing, she heard someone at the door calling
    her name. Triumphantly, she dug in her heels, tightening her grip on
    the cloth before replying, “I’m over here!”

    She looked over at the person she had caught, but there was no one
    there. In her hands was a see through silk bag with a piece of paper
    in it. Pulling open the drawstrings, she took the paper out, and saw,
    written in her own hand:

    Tag, you’re it!

  7. Entry 7
    The frost had finally surrendered, and begun a somewhat reluctant retreat. Even so, only the bravest shoots had dared to emerge, generously rewarded by the intermittent sunbeams that accompanied these first few days of Spring.

    A lone child in a whimsical wolf eared jacket ran light footed through the maze of trees, over bracken, sodden mosses, cracked twigs, leaving no trail behind her. Never looking back, she heard every sound, her amber eyes darting to and fro, strands of red hair escaping from her woollen hood as jumped a fallen log. She smirked to herself, recalling the cautionary fairytales of old, the warnings of wolves in the woods. She was on the prowl for an adventure. Approaching a small clearing, Agnes suddenly caught the scent of a familiar perfume.


    It was not unusual for Piroska Dreary to wander into the woods for some time to herself. She’d always felt at home with nature. Agnes had seen her leave the Manor many a time, but what she had not realised, was that Piroska came here to dance.

    Garbed in blood red silk, the embroidered dupion hugged her slim, pale shoulders, embraced her tiny waist in a cocoon of whalebone and ribbon roses. Her soft hair, hues of fire and copper, had been hastily gathered up. A wise move, perhaps, as the breeze was quickening.

    Piroska danced slowly, but purposefully, as though listening to some silent melody. She was an injection of colour against the grey, a drop of life blood on this almost barren landscape, fertility returning to the soil.

    Agnes watched intently, entranced by her young mother. Was this how her Papa had first seen her, all those years ago? Had he been this captivated by her beauty?

    Agnes sighed and turned to leave her mother to her dancing, when suddenly something caught her eye. Another figure had appeared in the clearing. A slight form, Agnes was unsure if the figure was male or female, but it was the way it glowed that surprised her. A hazy outline shimmered and flickered as this creature moved, no… flew, from one tree to another, always hiding, looking around trunks, through spindly branches, following the dancing woman. Agnes sensed the figure meant no harm, it seemed as curious as she, but as it neared Piroska, the air around her began to shimmer and Agnes gasped as an ethereal aura emanated from Piroska.

    Hearing her daughter for the first time, Piroska stopped and opened her eyes, looking around for Agnes.

    “Sweetheart! I didn’t realise you were out this far, come.” Piroska smiled warmly and held out her arms.

    Agnes clasped her hand to her mouth, and took a step back.

    “Aggie, what ever is the matter?”

    Agnes was staring in amazement at the light surrounding her mother, the shape it had formed. To Agnes, it looked for all the world as though her mother had…wings.

  8. Entry 8
    I simply can’t believe that Mother invited the Dreary family. I mean of all people in the Town, she invited the weird-os from the Homestead . What in the world are we gonna do? We have nothin’ in common. They’re strange, for goodness sake. Okay, so strange is a mild for the Dreary family. Just, look at what Agnes wears…. plain ole black, and Viktor, what a doofus! They gotta big Sister, but I don’t know what’s her name. She never says much. Oh man, they’re here!!

    The doofus is smiling. What’s he smiling about?? Oh no, he’s coming towards me… Ugh! EEEEEuuuuuuwwww!!! He’s grabbing my hand, gross!!

    “Where are we going?”

    He just pulled me toward the forest. Great, Mother said that I was not to get dirty. Who does he think he is? Where’s that Agnes? Oh!! She’s running ahead. Her long black hair trailed behind her as she disappeared into the trees.

    “Viktor, what are we doing? And, where is your other Sister?” Viktor only turned and maybe smiled and pulled me harder and deeper into the woods. Okay, this is freaking me out!!! We came to a clearing. There stood Agnes, she wasn’t even breathing hard. I think I ripped my tights. Mother will be so displeased. These freaks are gonna get me in so much trouble!

    Behind a tree, their Sister appeared. Her eyes were tiny slits and she was dragging something. What in the world are they planning? Am I gonna die? I wanna scream like I have never screamed before, but I can’t. I felt frozen and sweat was drippin’ down my back. Dear God, Help me in my time of need…. please, I won’t ever ask for anything ever again. I promise. Sheesh, I hope he’s listenin’. Viktor stood still til he turned to me and stated, “YOU’RE IT!!!” and they all took off.

    What??? Are you kiddin’ me?? Hide and Go Creep?? Hey…….. I see Big Sister by the big knotted elm tree. Whose that behind her???? “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, a ghost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so outta here!!”

  9. Entry 9
    Agnes Dreary looked up in resignation as her door opened. As expected, it was Alice Liddell who had knocked, and was now peering around the edge of the door. Agnes sighed.

    "Agnes, I'm bored," said Alice. "Let's go for a walk."

    Agnes sat up slowly and studied Alice. "You might as well get used to being bored, since it's the better side of life," she advised. "Excitement is dangerous."

    "Remember, I know something about excitement and danger," Alice warbled. "I have no complaints. Come on, let's go!"

    Forty-five minutes later they were deep in the woods. The shadowy path suited Agnes's mood, and Alice was too bubbly to care. She was nattering on about school and boys, oblivious to the darkness around them. Suddenly Agnes stopped, causing Alice to slam into her back. "What was that ahead?" whispered Agnes.

    "What?" said Alice. "I didn't see anything. Why are you whispering?" She looked around. "Where the heck are we?" she asked, finally lowering her voice.

    Agnes ignored her classmate, and peered ahead into the gloom. She was sure she had seen a woman, dressed in a blood-red Edwardian frock, with her hair done up in a Gibson style bun. "Wait here," she told Alice.

    Agnes crept forward as quietly as possible until she reached the small clearing where she had seen the woman. There she stopped, causing Alice to bump into her again. "I told you to wait!" she hissed backwards over her shoulder, while not taking her eyes off the trees on the other side of the clearing.

    "Sorry," whispered Alice.

    As the two girls stood in the shadows, the woman re-emerged from the forest opposite them, and silently glided across the clearing toward them. She stopped about four meters away, and after a moment, she spoke.

    "You are in danger here," the apparition said calmly.

    "Life is dangerous," replied Agnes. "I find it quite discouraging."

    The slight smile that flickered across the corners of the woman's mouth vanished as quickly as it appeared. "I did not mean you, my dear," she said. "You are quite capable, and the world is not the tedious place you believe it to be. But your friend is in danger. You should both go back to your dormitory."

    "Let's go back to the dorm," echoed Alice, with the tremor in her voice making the last word sound like doh-rum.

    "What kind of danger?" Agnes demanded, cocking her head to the right.

    "The wood ahead houses a rare animal species," replied the woman. "They will lead you into danger."

    "Are they... rabbits?" Alice breathed.

    Puzzled, Agnes waited for the woman to answer. When she did not, Agnes glanced behind her and saw to her surprise that Alice was gone. Agnes whipped her head back to face the clearing, which was empty. She was alone in the deep woods.

    She slowly backed away from the clearing, and when she had gone about 100 meters, Agnes turned and ran, as fast as her legs would carry her.