Hansel and Gretel awoke to a feral-deep-growling thirst for life, and a sense of freedom in their lower bellies for their father had inadvertently given them new life by leaving them there in that deep dark woods. They blinked their eyes slowly as they adjusted to the dark and wiped mud stained tears from their cheeks, the echoes of their excitement on hyperdrive as they strained to get a good look around. They saw the breadcrumbs that Hansel had left as a trail to return that old life that never seemed to serve them well and they laughed to themselves when they were still on the ground. “We won’t be going back this time, not to that abhorrent fat bitch’s home, the platform from which she dishes out her meager cruelties and when she has our stupid father dancing around to her screeching tone is no longer ours.” Their father thought he was so cunning leaving them to the darkness of the woods yet again, but they had been here before and no longer feared the woods for they had grown strong enough to fend for themselves and it was time to leave that sadistic childhood home of horrors.
They were overcome with a sense of peaceful power and well-being as they stepped just past the edge of grief and into their new life when they heard the calling song of what sounded like some wild exotic bird, straining their ears to hear they felt into the tune, sinking into the melodic rhythm of the beat, it was a half-time beat and one that they had never heard before. As they began to trance and their eyes to glaze over there came a startling whoosh and their surprised gasp as it flew straight in and, the beast was a great and terrifying black thing with a huge expanse of wing. The monstrosity landed perching itself directly in front of them on a low-lying rock with its talon claw toes curling around the rock and so sharp that they had the potential to cut the heavy stone in two. The great beast bird shook its feathers twice and tapped its toes once with authority and the woods began to pulse to the bird’s ancient rhythmic drum beat and the creature began to do a terrifyingly strange dance. It tore at its own feathers until one wing began to bleed and it let the blood run down its crooked beak, purple tongue lapping it up and as it did it peered at them through great golden eyes and said “whoooo, whoooo are you and why do you NOT run away and cry?” Gretel replied, “don’t you see you crazy old beast bird that we are actually found again, we are free with a new home here amongst the trees, this is our house now and as odd as you are you have not been our most terrifying thing?” The bird stared at them with what might have been an approving look in its eye and spread its great wings and it was then that they saw the power that it held locked in its gaze and the ethereal way that she glowed so they took its hint and they followed its lead, as it soared and it swooped. They did not know what new destiny this bird had for them but they ran underneath, shoeless and cold until the bottoms of their feet too began to bleed, and still they ran until they came to a clearing copse inside of the woods.
The bird swooped down once more in a spiral spin of light and wing and flew straight down through a cloud of smoke, through the chimney of a twisted and wicked looking dark cottage, and a little grey cloud of smoke billowed up from the great brick stack, a single blue gold flame shot out and then a few eerie lights suddenly flicked. The creeky spiked metal door of the little cottage swung wide with a welcoming groan. A hideous looking old woman with straggly thin wild white hair, sagging skin, frail and thin, whose appendages appeared when examined up closely to be made of willow limbs and she glowed the most unholy of greens. Her strangely familiar golden colored eyes stared back at them until she finally said, “do you like poison my sweet child? Do come in and I will pour you some, but I can’t promise that you will live.” Stepping aside she cackled with a sound that was most certainly full of mirth and sin. Hansel and Gretel caught a whiff of something pungent and strange and their curiosity got the best of them and they made their way in through that old metal gate. Did she really have poison they wondered? They wanted to take just a peek.
The old hag served them a banquet of a meal, with roasted meats, sweet cakes, ginger snaps, sugared plums, nuts and warm milk, and they thought to themselves had she gone mad? What was this feast? This spread of delights wasn’t the poison that she had promised but their bellies sure weren’t sad, but they wondered to themselves about what it was they were celebrating? The time had come for their evening tea and Gretel saw the old witch pour from a black vial nine drops in all three as she chanted to the cups and they billowed with smoke. Well, the children decided if she was going to drink it too then they would all die together and so that’s what they did. They gulped it down and not long after they were sure they were dead as the world began to fade away and they were hovering above their own bodies on that strange feast day. She took them to realms that they had never before known and taught them all of the witchcraft that she had ever honed. She showed them life and she showed them death. The old witch announced that there was to be a sacrifice on this day, it was to be her final spell a beautifully horrific ode to a life lived well. She gifted them her grimoire, she named them with new names inscribing them onto her tome, and they noticed the list of names upon it that came before hers. She passed down her cauldron, wand, chalice, and a freshly sharpened athame.
They awoke from their still half lidded haze but they were now filled with the remembrance of the magical ancient ways, their blood dancing in their veins, and she told them that it was time to repay. She bade them to listen and to listen well …hang my entrails from everything, place my head out front on a spike, hang my bones from the trees with thick string to ward off the drones and make it bloody glorious my loves. She cackled and with an awesomely loud primal crack, she roared out a powerful sound with her tongue hanging out of her mouth, her eyes went black as the woeful wail spilled forth with the serenade of a banshee’s song, and the woods responded in turn, all screeching and wailing for it was finally this great hag’s turn to return the mysterious beyond. Why had she loved them this old crone? It’s a question that they will never know for they ceremoniously laid her out on a large stone slab and with a growling powerful cry they slit her throat clean with a single jab and let her blood spill forth into the chalice with her face so serene. Hansel cut off her thumb and put it in his pocket as she rose now in her spectral form and she told him “anytime you’re feeling caged just stick out that old thumb bone and call with me forth to play. I will come to you and haunt you well, perhaps I will even teach you another spell.” The half-time drum beat of the woods returned as hovered and then turned to a blue, to a green and then a burst of gold and she was gone. The honored her well and completed all of the last parts of her spell, and her bones clanged in the woods to that strange rhythmic drum and her head sunk onto the spike eyes black and dull. They never looked back to their old lives then for this was their home now, they had died and were born again and one day it would be their turn to become the spectral haunts of that deliciously evil woods. The End.
Written by Tara Nordstrom