The Writers Voice
The World's Favourite Literary Website

Hansel and Gretal: The Rest of the Story


Marlicia Fernandez

Gretal hummed softly to herself as she swept already immaculate floors. The aroma of fresh cookies, pies and bread filled the cottage while a turkey turned slowly over the open fire. Fresh corn on the cob and new potatoes boiled in pots on the stovetop. Everything should be ready for his arrival. She smiled to herself as she remembered the familiar battle that was sure to replay itself this day. Hansel always insisted on having his sweets first while she wanted him to wait so as not to ruin his supper. Laughter bounced from gingerbread-trimmed wall to gingerbread-trimmed wall. She never could say no to him.

Whipping a cloth from a drawer beneath the sink, she wiped down counter  tops not covered with platters of food and then washed the dishes piled in the sink. It was a tiresome task but she had no other way of getting the job done-at least not yet. A knock sounded on the front door and Gretal leaned her broom against the wall beside the cellar stairs. Wiping her hands on her apron, she made  her way across the kitchen and through the living room, only to turn around  and return from whence she’d come. Removing her apron, she hung it on the  hook above the broom.

It wouldn’t do to answer the door dressed like a  cleaning woman. A second knock sounded sending her scurrying through the kitchen and  back into the living area. Her eyes scanned the tidy room as she made her way across it. “Just a minute, please.” She straightened a pillow on her  way to the door and peeked through its window. Through it she could just see a man’s head bobbing. Curling her fingers around the knob she pulled the door open. “I’m sorry if I kept you waiting. Please come in.” The man gaped at her.

“You act like you’ve been expecting me.” Gretal ignored his shocked expression and grasping his arm, pulled him inside. “That's because I have. Your family reported you missing days ago. Those who disappear in my woods always end up here. Eventually.” Her eyes clouded. “But I haven’t had any visitors for a very long time.”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” the man said, “but I’ve been wandering in  your woods for three days and two nights. Could I trouble you for a glass of water?”

Gretal's delicate hands fluttered in distress. “Oh, I’m sorry, what must you think of me? I usually have much better manners—but I haven’t had much opportunity to practice them. Come with me. I’ll get you some water and something to eat. You must be hungry as well as thirsty if you’ve been lost three days.”

She looked in the hall mirror to make sure he followed and caught his admiring glance. That was most promising. Focusing on her own  reflection for a moment, her self-satisfied smile stared back at her from beneath large blue eyes and masses of long blonde curls only to vanish from the glass, before he could see it as she entered the kitchen.

“Please, have a seat.” She heard the chair scrape against the stone floor as the water spurted from the faucet into the glass she’d taken from the cupboard. Taking a small packet from the spice rack, she emptied the colorless contents into the liquid and waited for it to dissolve. He would never taste it. “Tell me, what is your name?” she asked as she turned off the water. Turning away from the sink, she approached and handed him the glass.

He lifted the glass to his lips and drained it in one swallow. Placing the empty vessel on the heavily laden table, he then wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Thank you. That hit the spot.” He smiled, the first since he’d entered her home. “Before I forget, you asked my name; I’m Karl, and who do I thank for this hospitality?”

“I’m Gretal and I haven’t done anything, really.” She returned his smile.

"Why don’t you let me show you some real hospitality? It will be several hours before anyone can come out to get you. Why don’t you have dinner  with me?” She spread her arms wide, encompassing the food crowding tables and counters. “As you can see, I have plenty of food.”

His eyes rounded in anticipation as his gaze fell first on one dish, then another and then on Gretal herself. “It would be an honor, I’m sure, if you’re certain you won’t be inconvenienced.”

“I’m certain,” Gretal said. “It will be my pleasure.” She returned to the sink to fill a pitcher with water, liberally laced with the same powder she’d put in his glass earlier. “I’ve been rather lonely since my visitors have tapered off and it is difficult for me to get to town more than three or four times a year.”

She set the pitcher before him and filled his glass. Then she pushed a platter of cold meats and cheeses toward him. “Have an appetizer,” she said as she took a cracker and placed a bit of cheese on it. She ate it as she watched him reach for a cracker and then pull his hand back.

“You know, I think I’d really like something sweet.” His eyes fell on the cookies and pies, on the cakes and various breads.

“Do you think I could have a little of those.” Gretal folded her arms over her chest and frowned. “You can’t have  dessert before your dinner. You’ll spoil your appetite.” Laughter threatened as his smile coaxed dimples from his cheeks and his color rose.

“I know I shouldn’t but I really want something sweet-feel sure I need it. Maybe I need sugar after not eating for so long.” His eyes rested on the meat roasting on the fire as he sniffed the air. “Everything smells delicious. I promise I’ll eat all my dinner too, anything you set in front of me.”

“Anything?” She lowered her arms and smiled. “You’re just like my brother and I never could resist him either. Eat what you like, but I will  hold you to your promise.” She watched as he reached for a cookie and ate it, then reached for another and another.

“Tell me about your brother,” he said as he reached for a piece of pie.”

“Hansel?” She laughed softly. “There’s not much to tell. He’s my  brother and we are like most siblings, but we don’t see each other much any more.” He looked up from his food. “I’m sorry. It sounds like you miss him. Were you close?” Gretal allowed her eyes to tear. “Very.” Karl indicated the food. “I thought you might be expecting him.” He took another mouthful of food and Gretal took the opportunity to take her small mirror from her skirt pocket and look into it. Subtle lines, growing deeper webbed out from her eyes and lips. Smooth skin was beginning to wrinkle. She knew she didn’t have much time. It had been too long between infusions.

Gretal replaced the mirror and met Karl’s eyes a he looked up to reach for more water and a piece of homemade fudge. Much to her relief they registered no surprise at her deteriorating appearance, only satisfaction and admiration. “This is excellent,” he said. “Are you sure there isn’t something I can do to repay your kindness?” She ran her hand along the cold oven door. “You owe me nothing. You have done me a great kindness. But perhaps you could help me with my oven, if you don’t mind? The heat is uneven. I can’t control it and it burns my food.”

He pushed his chair back from the table and Gretal noted with satisfaction his rapidly growing girth. He should do nicely. He was almost as fat as Hansel was that day she'd discovered the secret-and he’d only been eating a few hours.

Placing a hand on his shoulder, Gretal stopped further movement away from the table. “Let me feed you first. After all, you wouldn’t want your food to spoil or get cold. It’s best eaten fresh and hot.”

Karl offered no resistance and returned to place at the table, his attention fixed on his food. “Did you say your brother’s name was Hansel and you’re name is Gretal? Were you the children who rid these woods of the wicked witch?” He paused to take another forkful of food. “If you are, I’ve been looking for you. That’s how I got lost and why I came to be here.”

"I don't understand. Why were you looking for us?" Gretal looked at her feet as her fingers twisted the hem of her blouse and she thought about his question.

“It was a terrible experience and it’s not something we like to talk about but yes, that was us.” He looked across the rapidly emptying serving plates and reached for a piece of bread. “I can understand that. It must have been very traumatic for you. But it might help if you told your story.” He took a bite, chewed and

“I can’t remember ever being so hungry,” he apologized. I guess it’s not eating for the past three days and the fact that you’re such a good cook.”

“Don’t apologize,” Gretal said. “I like to see a man with a healthy appetite enjoy his food.” She winked at him. “Especially if I made it. I consider it a high compliment.” But she did wish he’d eat faster. She could feel her skin shriveling, her strength diminishing. It was taking too long. She fought back rising panic and looked at the ornate wall clock. She still had time.

The chair scraping against he floor once more pulled her out of her thoughts as he pushed back from the now empty table and rose to his feet.

“Let me take a look at that oven. If I can fix it, I will and you can tell me what happened after the witch was gone. I think that would make an interesting human-interest story for my paper."

Paper, Gretal thought in amazement. He wants to put an article about us in the paper. Amusement coursed through her. If only he knew the truth…that would sell papers all right. He would get his story, she would see to that. There was no reason not to tell him what he wanted to know. She smiled at him and watched as he positioned himself on the rug in front of the oven.

“Thank you.” He opened the oven door. “Don’t thank me yet,” he said as he looked inside.

“Thank me after I’ve fixed it.” He poked his head deeper into the interior and after a moment his muffled voice echoed in the cavernous depths.

“I think I’ve found the problem. If I can just get it unstuck…” Tremors of excitement rushed through Gretal. He’d found it. It wouldn’t be long now. She watched as he backed out of the oven, careful not to bang his head. In his hand he held a baked apple. He smiled at it appreciatively.

“It smells delicious. Do you think it's any good?”

“It should be,” Gretal replied. “I made baked apples this morning. Iwondered why I’d come up one short. Now I know the reason. Would you like it?”

He looked at her, eyes filled with adoration and desire, whether for the food or herself, Gretal could not tell. Perhaps it was a little of  both.

“Are you sure?”

“I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t.” She handed him a plate, knife and fork but he’d already begun nibbling at the treat. She laid the items on the counter.

“Besides, you’ve earned it.” When she looked down, Karl lay at her feet, before the oven, the apple, now firm, fresh and juicy, stuffed in his mouth. He'd miss his story. She pulled the rug from beneath him, exposing the shallow roasting pan in which he was already soaking.

“Just like Hansel,” she said almost to herself. Karl’s eyes widened in shocked surprise at her words and she smiled at his expression. Or maybe he understands after all. A wave of her hand elevated the roasting pan and its content into the air, another gesture sent it into the oven. A feeling of satisfaction settled over her. It was all so easy. When Gretal had shoved her into the oven all those years ago she had done her a favor.

They’d released her spirit from an aging body, too feeble to regenerate further. They even provided a suitable replacement. The girl was a beautiful child, holding the promise of becoming a stunning woman. A woman who could lure what she needed to survive to the cottage, since she could never leave it or the surrounding woods herself. Once she’d entered Gretal’s body she’d enjoyed Hansel’s company. They had food and treasure in abundance and Hansel went into town whenever they needed anything, never questioning her desire to stay behind. Then she began to weaken.

When Hansel became curious she knew what had to be done. Gretal, still surviving within her body, fought the decision that had to be made but the girl was weak and easily overpowered. When that was done it didn’t take much to coax Hansel to eat more and more food laced with the growing powder. Once he’d reached the desired size he’d provided the necessary sustenance to maintain ‘Gretal’s’ youth, beauty and power. He was the first of her victims in her new form and he never suspected until it was too late. Gretal died that day, consumed by horror and grief but her body remained healthy, supported by her brother’s nutrients. When she grew weak others had had always come, providing what she needed but she hadn’t lied when she told Karl no one had been to see her in a very long time. Karl was the answer to a prayer.

She opened the oven door and using a wooden spoon basted the man roasting like a pig, tasting the juices and adding seasoning. Her skin began to tighten, her strength to return. Yes, this one should do nicely. Before the door closed between them she caught a glimpse of terror in Karl’s glazed eyes and realized he knew what was happening, that no one was coming for him, that no one ever would. She laughed out loud. They always realized in the end, not that it could save them, and that was the final cruel
joke. No one ever entered her woods and then left them alive.

the end

Critique this work

Click on the book to leave a comment about this work

All Authors (hi-speed)    All Authors (dialup)    Children    Columnists    Contact    Drama    Fiction    Grammar    Guest Book    Home    Humour    Links    Narratives    Novels    Poems    Published Authors    Reviews    September 11    Short Stories    Teen Writings    Submission Guidelines

Be sure to have a look at our Discussion Forum today to see what's
happening on The World's Favourite Literary Website.