Hansel Lost — The Room Tilted

“GRETEL!” Hansel’s voice stopped the world.

All of the whiteness around him held still as if individually cemented into place. In the stillness, he saw her. She was no longer a little girl. She was a woman robed in glittering shine. Her blue eyes were like sapphires — cold blue. Inhuman. Her blonde hair was sunlight shining through icicles.

But he ran to her, screaming her name.

She didn’t move.

She didn’t even blink.

She stood still, silent and waiting.

If he could touch her, if he could bring her back, everything would be normal again. Everything would right itself. Life would be whole. No more empty aches. No more guilt. No more self-loathing and self-blaming. No more life living in regrets.

He could finally forget that house.

That witch.

The oven.

And him running away alone. All alone while she burned, while the witch ate.

If he could bring Gretel back, he would be whole again. Hansel would be whole again and the hole inside of him would finally be filled.

The distance between them lessened as he ran.

Closer closer closer closer closerclosercloserclosercloser. Just within reach. Just right there. Right there. RIGHT THERE!

He stretched his hands towards her. “GRETEL!”

She regarded his approach with steadfast emptiness. Her clothes were crystals. Cold, hard, lifeless crystals. And so were her eyes.

He flung himself at her, threw his arms around his little sister’s waist. “Gretel! Come home with me!”

Everything went dark.

But he held onto her.

The sickly smell of hard candies and stale red licorice overcame the scent in the air.

Wood smoke.

Wood.

Wooden beams.

It was a smell from long ago. Long terrible ago.

There was another smell in the air.

Cooking meat.

He held onto his little sister with tears stinging his eyes. “Let’s go home, Gretel. Please. Please come home with me. We can’t stay here. We’ll die. Please. Please.”

These are words he said a long time ago. He can almost hear their echoes.

“But Mommy will throw us out into the cold.” Gretel’s voice is icy adult and frightened child overlapping each other. He can smell the stale gingerbread on her apron and the cold sugar crystals in her hair.

“Then, we’ll run away to somewhere else. Anywhere else.”

She was supposed to respond to that. She didn’t. Like an actor who couldn’t remember their lines, she said nothing.

“I’ll take care of you, Gretel. I promise. I’ll keep you safe. This time, I will keep you safe. I swear upon my life I will keep you safe.”

Floorboards creaked over their heads.

He held onto her. “Please.” His voice cracked with emotion. “Gret, please. Please. Please. Please. I’ll protect you.”

Scuffled footsteps sounded above their heads.

He wanted to cry and scream and shake her. “Please!”

“I can’t.” There was no child in her voice. Only adult. “Hansel, what has happened has happened. It cannot be undone.”

“It can be. It must be. I need it to be!”

The footsteps approached the staircase.

“I’m sorry, Hansel. You have to let go of me.”

“I can’t. It’s my fault you’re dead.” He looked into her face. “Come home with me and you won’t be dead anymore.”

A hint of warmth, a touch of humanity, a glint of sorrow showed in her inhuman sapphire eyes.

The footsteps headed down the stairs.

“Hansel. I can’t come home with you.”

He hesitated a moment, frightened by the ready answer in his mind. But that fear did not stop him from speaking, “Then, let me come home with you.”

The footsteps stopped, as if waiting for Gretel’s answer.

Gretel went still and silent.

“This guilt and blame I feel…It’s devouring me. So, let her devour me too.”

A waiting silence lurked on the staircase behind them. Waiting. Waiting for the answer.

Gretel looked towards the stairs. The thought was there in her blue eyes. The temptation to agree, to whisper one word, one deadly word of only three letters.

“Please, Gret. Please.”

She pulled her gaze back to her older brother. “You must let me go.”

“Gret!”

She shook her head. “I can’t. I will protect you from her. Let me go.”

He laid his head against her and cried.

She hugged him. “It was not your fault I died. I let her catch me. Remember? Remember.

He scrunched his eyes and tried to block the memory from appearing. But it appeared anyway.

***Gretel had yelled at him to run as she pushed the witch towards the oven. Over and over, she had yelled, “Run!” And he had run away. Even when the witch had let out a triumphant yell and Gretel had screamed, he hadn’t stopped. But he had glanced back. Just once. Just as the witch bit into Gretel’s arm. And he had turned forward and kept running.***

“Do you remember?”

He nodded through his heartbreak and tears. Even as she had screamed and bled, she kept telling him to run.

“Please let go of me.”

He held on, because he needed to hold on. He couldn’t let go. He couldn’t bear to let go. After so many years, how could he finally let go?

“I never blamed you, Hansel. Never. You need to know this. You need to believe this. My brother…You need to let go. Let me go. Let me finally go.”

“You’re telling me to run away again.” he said.

She fell silent again.

“I’m tired of running away, Gretel. Let me stand still. Let me rest.”

“And you are telling me to let you die. After I saved your life. After I sacrificed myself so you might live. You are telling me to let you die.”

He could not respond to that, despite the truth in her words.

She hugged him in her sugar frost crystal arms.

He held onto her and the moment froze. Picture perfect ice crystals glittered in the air. The silence of a new winter’s night filled the room.

His heart beat inside his chest, but her heart was still. No matter how hard he held onto her, her heart remained oh so still.

“I miss you.” he said.

The stairs behind them creaked. One footstep on a wooden step. Another creak. Another footstep.

Hansel looked up at his sister. “I’ll always miss you, no matter what.”

“Do you know what you need to do? Have you decided?”

Another footstep.

Another.

Another.

ANOTHER.

The last footstep landed on solid ground. Hansel and Gretel were no longer the only ones in the room. “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanselllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll….”

“I’ve decided.” He let his sister go.

The witch let out a mighty roar and shout. She started to run at Hansel, but then the room tilted to one side, like someone emptying a cereal box.

Hansel fell on his back on the chocolate and pine tiled floor. He tumbled in a disorderly roll to the graham cracker door. The door was closed and locked. His body hit it hard. The door crumbled apart.

He landed face-first in the snow.

The snow smelled of peppermint and vanilla and white chocolate.

“Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaansellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll…”

He raised his head.

Gretel was gone.

The witch stood before him. A lone black-cloaked figure in the pure white snow. The scent of black licorice and deeply sweet wine clung to her. She held out her gnarled hands to him. “Haaaaaaaaansellllllll. Come with me. I will give you everything you long for. I will erase the past. You can start again, all over again. You and Gretel can be together again. Happily ever after again. Life will be brand new again. The winter will be gone and it will be spring again. All you have to do is take my hands.”

“Start all over again…” He fixed his gaze on her hands. Maybe they weren’t so gnarled.

“Yes, Hansel. All over again. Brand new again. Young and free again. Hearts young and joyful again. All you must do is take my hands. Take them, Hansel, and the world will be yours again.”

He stood with his gaze still fixed on her hands. Maybe they were soft. Maybe they were gentle. Maybe they would feel like silk and velvet and cashmere and all of the finest things.

She smiled, baring her teeth. “Gretel will be yours again. Just take my hands, Hansel. Take them and hold them. Hold them strong and tight. Don’t let them go.”

He pulled his gaze from her hands and looked at her.

“Come, Hansel. One touch. Just one touch. One touch that will last forever. And the world will be yours. You’ll be free again. You’ll be home again. Regret and—”

“No.”

“What?”

He jammed his hands into his pockets. “I said, no. I let Gretel go. It’s time I let you go too.”

“WHAT?”

He kept his hands in his pockets. “Good-bye.” He turned and walked away.

“WAIT! You can’t leave me! You need me! You need her! You never will be whole without us. You’ll never be whole again!”

He kept walking.

“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANSELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!”

He didn’t look back.

Her voice disappeared into mists and snow.

And the forest was just a forest.

The snow was no longer peppermint and powdered sugar and vanilla and white chocolate.

It was just simply snow.

THE END.

https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2022/01/01/january-2022-writing-prompts/

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