A/N: this was my English origional writing coursework and I got 26/27 (the mark off was from 3 spelling/grammar errors and i can't refind them, sorry) so i thought I'd post it. XD

And I wasn't sure about the rating because it does have a bit of violence so i went for T just to be safe.

Hansel and Gretel

The wind howled through the wood. The trees violently swayed, threatening to topple with every shudder. The rain tore through the night, drenching everything in its path. The dark grey sky crackled with energy, illuminating the whole forest for a fraction of a second. An almighty BOOM sounded throughout the forest, and all surrounding areas. A single spear of lightning darted down to the forest floor, gone before a second glance. The sky rumbled; a dark and ominous sound.

In the centre of the wood, being battered and attacked by the force of the storm, was a tiny wooden hut. A bolt of lightning shot down, setting a nearby tree alight. A girl watched this, her fearful eyes wide. The window shuddered as the wind picked up. She could hear it wailing through the trees. She shivered at the noise. She watched the burning tree with a terrified desperation. Her forehead was pressed up against the cold window, condensation surrounding it from her breath. Every few seconds she felt a cold drop of water land on her head. The rain suddenly blew harder, the window rattled. The girl stepped back in shock as the cold, brittle glass shattered, allowing a cascade of wind and rain to pummel her. She shrieked as the cold air smothered her, blowing out the pathetic remains of a once warm fire. She threw open her door and ran into her brother's room, where she stood in the doorway, soaked and shivering. She stayed there, gasping and snivelling, until he woke up.

"Gretel?" He muttered sleepily. She sniffed, and dived into his bed.

In the next room a man and his wife were having a vicious row. The woman had a very thin, angular face, with cheekbones that seemed to slash her cheeks. Her eyes were pale blue. She was thin; her bones clearly visible. Her husband was even thinner than she was, his height only accentuated this. His hair was dirty and looked like it had been cut with rusty shears. The lack of food had given his wife a bitter, almost cruel look in her eye, but his eyes still held kindness. The woman smashed her hand down on the table, looking murderously at her husband. The sky roared simultaneously, causing the door to rattle on its hinges.

"They have got to go! This dismal house is going to fall down any minute and you don't have enough money to stop it! I haven't eaten well in months! If you could keep your job for more than one stinking month, maybe we could afford to feed them. But I will not sacrifice my health for two motherless brats!" The woman yelled at her husband in a ghastly, screechy tone. The man yelled back at her, with a bit less force.

"They aren't brats! They're children, my children!" The woman laughed, a high-pitched, horrible noise.

"Children? All they do is eat and sleep and talk! They have no use. They have no point. If you could put them to some use we could reconsider. But you have to choose: it's me or the brats." She hollered this in a scornful tone, but the last was said with perfect seriousness. The sky flashed with lightning. A silence fell between the man and his wife. He turned and looked out of the window, watching the gloomy scene that lay outside. He could hear the rain thundering down on the roof, the unmistakable drip of a leak in the ceiling. And, if he listened hard enough, he was sure he could hear the howls of wolves in the distance.

"Well?" His wife demanded. Well indeed, he thought. Hansel and Gretel, or my beloved wife? In the end, the decision was easy.

Hansel heard the creak of the floorboards as the slight body of his father crept past his room. He leapt back into bed. Hansel heard the thud of his own heartbeat, the whisper of his breath. The rain had eased off; the leak in his room was now a lot less noticeable. The wind had died down too; the doors didn't rattle so much. He stayed motionless in bed for nearly an hour, and there was no sound from his father or step-mother. Hansel crept out of bed, trying to be as gentle as he could so to not wake his sister. He had been listening to the argument, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he and Gretel would have to make their own way. The door gave a very feeble squeak as Hansel eased it open. Holding his breath, he snuck out of his room and into the kitchen, where he gently pushed the back door open, hoping the creak it made would be unnoticeable in the still loud wind. He took his fathers boots from outside to go into the depths of the wood. He scurried under a tree, jumping as an owl hooted behind him. Hansel then spent two hours in search of things he could carry, things he could fit in his pocket. He found some pebbles he could carry, the rest were buried in the ground or too big. He had just enough to fill his pocket. Even the ones he got easily had been crawling with insects. After wasting 10 minutes attempting to pry a half buried stone out from the damp earth, Hansel decided he'd had enough. He gave up, and slipped back inside.

Gretel was woken abruptly by a large weight drop on her. Startled, she jumped upright. A small leather bag was lying on her legs; stuffed so full Gretel could see the seams straining to keep it together. Her sudden movements woke Hansel, and he sat up, rubbing his eyes. Their step-mother was looking down at them with an expression of cruel triumph on her sharp face. The evil spark in her eyes was strong, dominating her icy blue eyes.

"Get up. We have to go into the woods today." She walked out of the room before Hansel could ask the question on his lips. Gretel left to get changed in her room. When they got to the kitchen, they saw for the first time in months their step-mother was making a warm breakfast for them. She gave them each a little bowl of hot porridge. Gretel forced the tasteless thick gruel down her throat, shuddering as a lump passed down her throat. Hansel looked up as their father entered the room, looking as tired as Hansel felt. His father was pale-faced and bleary-eyed. He looked anxious and upset. The empty bag on his bag told Hansel that they were going to collect wood. Hansel and Gretel exchanged worried glances.

Not long after, Hansel and Gretel were leaving their house, trailing behind their father and step-mother. Every so often, Hansel would let a pebble drop from his full pocket. He would disguise the noise with a cough. His step-mother kept looking back at him and Gretel, an evil expression on her face. No one talked much on their walk, only their step-mother who spoke in a creepily gleeful way. Suddenly she stopped and cried "Here's the place." Everyone stopped as she walked into the little clearing she had spotted, and sat down on a damp log. Her husband looked doubtful, but he sat next to her.

"Come on you two. It's a perfect place to stay for a while." The woman's voice was unnaturally loud in the small clearing. Gretel looked at her brother. He looked back at her, and then at his step-mother. He shrugged, and sat down on the grass.

"Your father and I will go cut some wood. Build up the fire now, both of you need to make sure it is big by the time we get back." Their father and his wife left Hansel and Gretel. The two waited for the voice of their step-mother to disappear before speaking.

"Hansel, what do we do now?"

"We wait a few hours, so they can get home. Then we can find our way back." Hansel tried to keep the tremor of fear out of his voice, knowing it would worry Gretel.

"But we'll have to walk back alone." Gretel protested.

"I'll protect you." Hansel began to collect some wood for the fire, and before long there was a warm fire in front of them. Hansel sat down and ate a bit of the half loaf they had in their bag. Gretel sat beside him, munching on the other bit of the bread. Soon they had both fallen asleep.

Hansel jerked upright. He was breathing heavily, but was fully awake and alert. Something had woken him up. The moon shone down on him, a brilliant white light in a sky of black. He heard it again; the howl of a wolf. Hansel noticed the fire had burnt out. There was nothing to stop a wolf coming here. He shook Gretel with force, making her wake up. She opened her eyes groggily. Gretel yawned, making Hansel yawn. Then the wolf howled again. Gretel started, and she jumped up.

"Hansel, we have to go. The wolf." Gretel said, in a very high-pitched tone. Hansel did his best to soothe her.

"Don't worry, the wolf won't come here. It's alone, so right now we are stronger than it. It wouldn't dare risk its life." Hansel's words seemed to be useful, for Gretel calmed down considerably. Hansel wished he could be mollified so easily; he was on edge and very alert. Gretel opened the bag they had been left and found two cloaks. She passed one to Hansel, who accepted it gratefully, and put on one herself. They set off, occasionally bumping into trees due to the lack of light. Every now and then a wolf would howl and both Hansel and Gretel would flinch. They tried to follow the trail of stones Hansel had left, but it was hard and occasionally they went to the wrong stone. After hours of false trails, freak cobwebs, flying bats and hooting owls, they finally reached the glade they knew to be their home. Gretel went in first, trying to be as quite as possible. Hansel went in after her, and they went into their rooms to sleep until their father woke.

A couple of hours later, Gretel woke up from the noise of someone moving in the kitchen. She left her room and, seeing her father, threw her arms around him.

"Gretel! What are you doing here?" Her father sounded overjoyed, and hugged her right back. Gretel, not noticing her step-mother behind her, told her father how they had got back. Once she had finished her tale, her father began to apologise.

"I'm so sorry for doing that, but we had no choice. We have no money now, and your step-mother thought that would be the best way." Gretel, who was very naïve and trusting, accepted her father's apology with no doubts. Hansel on the other hand, who had been listening from his doorway, was not so ready to trust them again. He noticed a disgusted expression on his step-mothers face. It spooked him a bit, and he joined his father and sister. His father embraced him; giving him a similar apology to the one he gave Gretel.

They spent the rest of that day just relaxing and having as much fun as they could. Although Hansel was happy to be back he couldn't be sure that his father and step-mother wouldn't try to leave him and Gretel again, so he stayed alert and suspicious.

Three days later, at breakfast, their stepmother gave them some surprising news. She was going to see a friend and stay with her a few days. Hansel and Gretel were taken aback, but secretly pleased. They would get time alone with their father. Whilst saying goodbye, Gretel fought to hold back a grin and Hansel felt like laughing with pleasure. After their step-mother left, Hansel was asked to build up the fire.

"Father, the wood has all gone." Hansel was puzzled, as he was sure yesterday there was a lot left. His father looked unsurprised.

"It's amazing how quickly we use up firewood. I know, lets go cut some more. I promise it will be much better than last time, you won't be left to starve." Gretel grinned as he said this. His father noticed the lack of enthusiasm Hansel was showing. He ruffled Hansel's light brown hair.

"Come on Hansel, it will be fun. Your sister's looking forward to it." Gretel poked Hansel in the ribs, making him jump then smile at her expression. They gathered their stuff together, this time having more food than last. Hansel still felt a little suspicious, and tried to find things he could leave behind as a trail, in case his father was lying. He heard his sister calling to him, commanding him to come out. Reflecting on how bossy his sister was, he left his room and, on sight of Gretel's room, hesitated. He knew there was something he was forgetting, something he could use to get back with. The sun shone through into the small room. The glint of reflected sunlight hit his eye. Hansel's hand automatically shielded the light from his eyes. It was then he remembered the shattered window. He went into Gretel's room and put a piece of glass in his pocket. It would hurt, but it would do. His father had joined in the yelling, so Hansel walked back to his father and sister.

They left the house, Gretel chattering away to her father and playing with her blond plaits, Hansel digging a piece of glass into his hand to leave a trail. He winced every time he moved his hand. As he looked at his hand, he realised an explanation was necessary if he were asked about the massive cut on his palm. He decided to say he cut his hand on the axe when he was getting it for his father. Neither his father nor Gretel noticed the trail of red spots, or how quiet Hansel was. Hansel noted that his father was looking vaguely worried and was rather quiet too. This only increased Hansel's suspicion.

It was a long time before they finally stopped. There was a very small spot they decided was fine to sit and wait. Hansel observed the trees, seeing how close they were. He turned around, back to trees. Gretel was still talking to her father, but for some reason she turned a little, her eyes travelling past Hansel. It was then when she gasped, eyes widening, face paling. Hansel whirled around, faster than a cat. He saw the murderous face of his step-mother, the metallic gleam of an axe. He stepped back in horror as she slashed the air where his head had just been. For a second everything was frozen. Then his step-mother leaned forward, intending to try again. Hansel turned and ran, grabbing Gretel with his uninjured hand. They ran, full speed, trying to evade capture. Their step-mother and father did not chase them far; they seemed to think Hansel and Gretel were too far in to find their way out again. Unfortunately, this was how it seemed to Hansel and Gretel too. Gretel slowed to a stop, panting for breath. Hansel stopped too, just as breathless as he sat on the grass. Neither spoke for a few minutes, both trying to regain their breath. Gretel then pulled the bag she had been carrying over. Her eyes lit up as she opened it and saw a bundle of cloth. She pulled, and out came the bundle. Hansel snatched it from her, ignoring her objections. His eyes gleamed as lifted the heavy bundle. He unravelled the bundle, and stared at the contents.

"What?" Said Gretel, seeing her brother's crestfallen face. He wordlessly passed her the bundle. The disappointment flooded over her face, as she saw the axe inside.

"Great. We have no food, no water, no warmth and no home." Hansel spoke in a bitter tone. The scowl on his face reflected his mood perfectly. Gretel bit her lip. Her vision blurred. Hansel looked up, and seeing she was about to burst into tears, put an arm round her.

"Don't worry Gretel. I'll look after you. We'll find things to eat and drink. I'm sure there's a stream around here somewhere." Gretel swallowed back a sob. Hansel looked up at the sky. It was just past midday. Hansel looked around where he and his sister were. He decided they couldn't stay where they were, there would be no chance of a decent fire if they stayed; the trees were far too close together. First they needed food, although he was not hungry. He didn't want to have to go search for food in the dark.

"Come on Gretel, we need to find a place where we can stay." Gretel looked up at him. He picked up the axe and cloth and put them back into the bag. In response to the questioning look Hansel knew Gretel was making, he said

"You never know, it could come in handy." Gretel pursed her lips, but said no more.

Their shadows were long by the time they had found a place up to Hansel's expectations. Gretel just wanted to stop anywhere with a big enough clearing, but Hansel knew the quality of the clearing would determine their fate. Hansel wanted a place where it would be big enough for them and a fire, but not too big so they couldn't hide if needed, and trees near enough together so they couldn't be seen easily, but far enough apart so they wouldn't be trapped. They had found no food as they walked, and both Hansel and Gretel showed signs of hunger. Hansel's mood had darkened drastically; he had scarcely spoken a word in hours. Moans and whines escaped Gretel's lips frequently.

After hours of searching, they reached a satisfactory clearing. Gretel sat down, exhausted, on the bag whilst Hansel searched for dry grass and branches for a fire. He had already gathered a large pile of stones. Once he had gathered enough tinder and wood, he positioned the stones into a large circle, so to keep the fire contained. Sitting back on his heels, Hansel pondered over how he could light the fire with what he had. Gretel was dozing off on the bag, occasionally allowing a mumble to pass through her mouth. He thought about what could have been in the bag that would help. As he moved, intending to get the bag, he felt a sharp pain in his thigh. He dug his hand into his pocket, wincing as his fingers were sliced open on the jagged edge of the glass he had left in his pocket. He pulled out the glass. It was covered in blood, both wet and dry. He tossed it aside angrily, and sucked on his fingers. He looked up at the sun again, noticing how fast it was now sinking. Hansel got up and tried to find some flint. Something caught Hansel's eye. A glint of light, reflected into his eye. It was from the glass. Hansel glanced at it, scarcely noticing it. His head jerked up as he looked at it again, suddenly very alert. He felt like slapping his forehead. He ran over and picked up the glass. Wiping the blood off the glass, Hansel angled the glass so it was magnifying the light from the sun onto the dry tinder. Not long later Gretel woke to a large, hot fire. To the right of her was her sleeping brother. Gretel shifted nearer to the heat of the fire and fell asleep again.

Hansel woke up. The sky was clear; it was way past dawn. He looked for Gretel, who wasn't where he had seen her last.

"Gretel! Where are you?" He called out. He was thinking about all the bad things that could happen to her. Or ones that could have happened already. Something cold hit the back of his neck. He leapt up and whirled around. There was nothing there. He looked below, and searched frantically for whatever touched him. He felt it again, on the side of his arm. Hansel turned fast again. He breathed out, relieved as he saw the face of his sister.

"Gretel, where have you been? And don't scare me like that; I have enough to worry about without you trying to scare me out of my skin." Gretel smiled apologetically. She opened her mouth, but before anything came out Hansel cut across.

"Don't tell me; you're hungry." Hansel said. Gretel scowled.

"I don't only think about food. I have something much better to say." Gretel replied angrily, clearly insulted. Hansel waited. There was silence. Then he sighed.

"Well? What is it then?" Seeing her stubborn mouth still closed, he carried on. "Ok, ok, I'm sorry. Gretel, what was it you wanted to tell me?" She relaxed her mouth slightly, and began to speak.

"When I was waiting for you to wake up I got really hungry." Hansel bit back a snide comment. "So I looked really close by in the woods for anything I could eat. And then I found a path! A path, Hansel. A path has got to lead somewhere!" Gretel's eyes were bright with excitement, and her voice was high and light. Hansel looked astounded, and then he grinned at his sister.

"Gretel, that's brilliant!" Then, remembering he was her older brother and thus meant to be looking after her, he added "But don't go off like that on your own again. You're too little." Gretel frowned again. She grudgingly helped Hansel put out the remains of the fire and collect their stuff.

Gretel spent a few minutes trying to find where the path went, Hansel being very unhelpful by constantly doubting her. They walked down the path, feeling excited and hopeful. Both were almost skipping, or certainly cheerfully strolling, down the dirt path. They walked on for nearly an hour before it seemed they had made any progress. They had reached the end of the path. A dead end.

"Maybe we should have gone the other way." Gretel's voice trailed off. Hansel closed his eyes, hoping he was hallucinating, and tried to keep from losing his patience. He heard something rustle behind him. He opened his eyes. And slowly turned. A low growl reached his ears. He caught his breath. Hansel saw the yellow eyes of a wolf, eyeing him and Gretel hungrily. Both children just stared into its eyes, frozen with fear. The wolf licked its lips. It crouched. And pounced.

Hansel and Gretel had turned and sprinted away as soon as the wolf crouched. They ran as fast as they could, the wolf on their heels. They weaved in and out of trees, running at full speed. They had no idea where they were going, and they didn't care. They just ran, and ran. Hansel kept pulling Gretel in different directions, hoping he could lose the wolf that way. After a while, Hansel realised he couldn't hear the noise of the wolf's heavy breathing. He turned another corner, dragging Gretel with him. He was dizzy and his throat had never hurt so much. Hunger was gnawing at him stomach, sapping his strength, and he knew he could not go on much longer. Gretel was in the same way, only her legs were hurting badly too from having to keep up with her brother. She was feeling sick. Hansel tried to look behind him, letting go of Gretel in the process. He couldn't see the wolf. He turned properly, running backwards. No wolf.

"Hansel!" Gretel screamed a warning. Whirling round, Hansel found himself head first in a pink cloud.

Hansel blinked. He pulled his head back. Gretel was looking at the cloud too. Hansel realised it was not a cloud; it was a tree. It was pink and fluffy, with a thin white trunk. Picking off a bit, Gretel observed the tree. She had never seen such a beautiful and bizarre looking tree. Smelling the weightless piece in her hand, she decided it was unique. Gretel licked it, and found it tasted as good as it smelt. She ate it greedily.

"Gretel! Don't do that! It could be dangerous." Gretel looked at him with scorn. She picked a bit of the tree and stuffed it in Hansel's mouth. He smiled at the flavour. It was sweet and delicious, very light. He picked some more and ate it. Gretel did the same. They looked at each other, both grinning happily. Gretel laughed at a bit of the fluff on her brother's face. He laughed and rubbed it off. They both turned and saw an incredible house. The roof was brown, but a lovely brown colour. The walls were a gingery brown, and grainy. The windows were green, red, blue and yellow. There were white swirls all around the house.

"Hey, I wonder what that windowsill is made of." She pointed to a windowsill that was a yellowy-white colour. She broke off a bit, and ate it.

"Hansel, this is amazing! You have to try it." She threw a piece to him. He tasted it. Gretel was right, it was amazing. He tasted the low, brown roof. It seemed to be a type of sweet bread covered in a delicious, dark brown substance. The whole house was edible. Gretel went over to the flower bed, where red and white striped short poles grew. She picked one up and stuck it in her mouth. They sat down, and ate.

An eerie noise, creaky and screechy, interrupted them. They looked towards the source of the noise, the door of the house. It had opened; they could see the end of a twisted walking stick. Holding their breath, they watched the door. Hansel cursed himself for forgetting to see if anyone lived there. The rest of the stick came out, with a very old lady clutching on to the top. She was bent over, leaning on the cane, and had thick glasses resting on her long nose. She had a greying shawl over her shoulders, and a faded green long dress. The black boots on her feet were muddy, and needed a good polish. Her long, silver hair peeked out from under the edges of another shawl, this one a faded blue. She peered at the children, who were frozen. Hansel swallowed and began to talk.

"Excuse us, we are very sorry-" Hansel began, timidly for he didn't know how the woman would react. The woman coughed and spoke over Hansel.

"Lost, are you? I'm not surprised, these woods are so dangerous. Hungry, I bet. You look very hungry, half-starved. But why eat my house? The best treats are inside." She beckoned to them with a wrinkly finger, a large smile on her face showing off her yellowing teeth. Gretel looked at Hansel, who looked back at her. Gretel walked over to the woman, and curtsied very delicately.

"Thank you, that is ever so kind of you. Hansel and I would be delighted to come in and eat. Oh, I'm Gretel and this is my brother Hansel." Hansel smiled at the woman. She grabbed Gretel's hand and shook it.

"I'm Adiscordia. It's a real pleasure to meet young blood." Hansel went up to her and shook her hand.

"Adis- Adi-" Hansel struggled to say her name.

"Just call me Addy. It is a much easier name for little mouths." She had a peculiar way of speaking, pronouncing every word with accuracy. It was as if she had learnt the language straight from a book. Not a syllable was rushed, or letter missed out.

"Addy. Thank you ever so much, you would not believe how grateful we are." Hansel knew how important it was for he and Gretel to be polite, as this woman had almost definitely saved them. She gestured for them to go inside.

Inside the stunning house it was just as wonderful. The first room was beautiful, this time not edible but was perfectly coordinated and lovely. Addy went into a little room off the side, and returned very shortly with a straw basket. She put a kettle in the fire. She was busy for a few minutes, until she lay down a whole load of delicious food on the table.

"Help yourselves, there's plenty." Hansel and Gretel ate as much as they could. Finally, once the table was almost clear of food, they sat back.

"That was delicious. Thank you again. I've never had such wonderful food." Hansel stood up, ready to go. Addy looked deflated. Her face had fallen.

"But it's so dangerous and cold out there. And it's dark now. Surely you would much rather spend the night here. I have some spare rooms, and I would rally love the company." Gretel looked pleadingly at Hansel. Hansel tried to refuse, but he couldn't; he knew how hard another night would be. Anyway, they could stay here a day and then leave the next, refreshed and energised, ready for anything.

"Well, I guess we could stay for one day." Hansel decided. Addy smiled.

"Well, come on then. Follow me." And with that she pulled Gretel through, beckoning to Hansel at the same time. They went through into the next room. Hansel was shocked as he saw this room. This room was hideous. The bare floorboards were grey with dust, the walls a very dirty off-white, the furniture looking 20 years old. The window in the corner was still red, but from this side Hansel could see the masses of cobwebs, and the dirt. Coming in they had stirred the dust and it had gone up their noses. Gretel sneezed. Hansel turned to Addy, meaning to say something. But before he could, the metal of a hammer came up and hit his head, turning the world black.

Gretel screamed as she saw the hammer smash into her brother's head. He hit the ground heavily, knocked out cold. Blood was already pouring onto the disgusting floor. Gretel looked in horror at Addy, whose weathered hand was wrapped around the end of the hammer. The kindness had vanished from her eyes, replaced with malevolence and malice. Gretel stepped back, terrified. Hansel's blood was seeping into the cracks in the floorboards, spreading through the dirty room. Addy's dirty hand extended in Gretel's direction, forcing her against the wall. The claw of a hand reached out, and stopped, wrapped around Gretel's throat. Addy slowly squeezed. She was much stronger than she looked. Her sharp nails were digging into Gretel's neck. Blood trickled down but Gretel couldn't feel it. All she knew was she had to get away, and breathe. Gretel's muffled shouts soon died out. She fell to the floor.

Gretel woke up, her neck in pain. She felt it, swollen and puffy. She scratched it and pulled her hand back with dried blood on her fingers. Coughing, she sat up. Gretel was on the floor, covered in dust, in the room she had been in last. Addy was not there, but Gretel could see a large cage. And in that cage, still unconscious, lay Hansel. Gretel ran over to him, but she was pulled up short by something on her ankle. She fell on the hard floor. She could feel something cold and heavy resting on her ankle. A metal cuff was on her right ankle, attached to a chain that was linked with the wall. Gretel pulled her legs up to her arms, and cried.

When Hansel awoke, Gretel was still crying. His head throbbed and pounded. He felt the side of it, where it was itchy. His hands had dried blood on them. His hair was stuck on end, held with his own blood. Blearily blinking, he surveyed the room. It was still out of focus to Hansel so he rubbed his eyes. His hazy vision showed him a small, dark figure, huddled on the floor. Hansel lifted his head, and tried to speak.

"Gretel?" It came out as a hoarse, scratchy croak but it seemed to do the trick as Gretel turned to face him. He could see purple bruises on her neck, making it swollen, and dark tracks of blood that had oozed down. Anger raged through his body, at the woman who had just come in the room: Addy. She smiled, this time not a warm beam. It was a cold, cruel smirk.

"Right, you girl. You are going to make this room spotless, and make sure the fire never goes out. You boy, you are going to have something to eat." Hansel and Gretel both frowned with puzzlement. Addy walked out, and then came back with a big basket.

"Girl! Get here and put this through the hatch of the cage." Gretel did so, standing on a chair, giving Hansel the basket. They were too scared to disobey Addy.

"Boy, eat it up. Eat it all up. We need to fatten you up." She cackled, and went out, leaving Hansel and Gretel alone to do as they were told. Hansel opened the basket to find it stuffed full of the sweet bread; hard, fruity, sugary treats; and the creamy brown delights. There were balls of soft bread, dusted with sugar and full of jam; warm, salty, chopped potatoes; flasks of sweet, milky tea. It was wonderful, and Hansel scarcely noticed that Gretel was cleaning below him, sweeping the floor. One time her small voice piped up.

"Is it nice?" She asked. Hansel immediately felt terrible. He passed her one of the soft jam breads, and smiled as she gasped with pleasure at how nice it was. He passed her enough food for her to not be hungry.

"Why do you think it's only me who's been given food?" Hansel asked Gretel. Gretel thought a while, getting into the rhythm of sweeping.

"She's a witch, isn't she?" She asked Hansel. Hansel licked his fingers while he thought.

"I think so, she does seem like one." Hansel tried to remember all the stories he'd heard about witches.

"Well, maybe she eats children. And you seem nicer to her than me." Hansel pondered this, and thought it was a viable reason. He wasn't sure why he seemed nicer; maybe she preferred boys, or he was fatter than his sister.

"Yes, that could be right. I expect she's fattening me up or something then." Gretel was shocked by his matter-of-fact tone.

"Aren't you worried? You are to be eaten and you don't care?" Gretel's voice had enough worry for the both of them.

"We'll think of something." In fact, Hansel was too relaxed and full to get worried. Gretel sneezed from the dust.

Hansel had another full basket of food later on that day. He would gain weight like crazy if he were fed this much every single day. Still, this was probably what the witch intended. Hansel was able to sleep well that night, full of food and warmed by the fire Gretel had kept going. She had worse sleep; despite Hansel's food she was hungry, and she was lying on the hard floor. Dust kept her awake, tickling her throat and making her want to sneeze and cough. She had to stop herself, for she did not want to wake the witch or Hansel. Her neck had been throbbing all night long, made worse by the solid floor. Most of the night she had been massaging her neck. Addy roused her shortly after she had finally dropped off, and Gretel was given the unwelcome gift of a broom.

Hansel was woken up by Gretel poking him, giving him a basket of food. He saw Addy there too.

"Boy, give me your finger." Puzzled, Hansel stuck out his finger between the bars of the cage. The witch felt his finger and frowned.

"Far too thin. More time, more time. Eat up, eat it all up. And you girl, this room needs cleaning. Don't you dare stop? And this fire isn't warm enough." The witch left the room. Hansel opened his basket. The first thing he saw was a large, cooked chicken. He tossed a drumstick to Gretel, who gnawed on it hungrily. She handed back the bone once she was done.

"Here, you'd better take it. I think Addy would notice if I had a bone." Gretel seemed to have aged a lot overnight.

"She'd probably think it was your finger or something. She's really blind." Hansel said with a grin. He sat up straighter suddenly.

"Gretel, Gretel. I've just had the best idea!"

"Idea? For what?"

"So she won't eat me! I'll just let her feel this bone every time she wants to check my finger. She'll think I'm not getting any fatter and we can plan our escape!" Hansel spoke in an excited tone of voice. Gretel sounded doubtful.

"Are you sure she's that blind? She's already felt your finger once, maybe she'll know something's up once you've suddenly lost your skin." Hansel frowned; he hadn't thought of this.

"But, what if we wrap some cloth around it? That could work!" Gretel got excited as she said this. Hansel's eyes lit up, and he nodded. Maybe he could be saved.

"Great idea." He tore a little of the cloth from his cloak off, and wrapped it around the bone.

"How does this feel?" Hansel held out his finger, and the bone wrapped in cloth. Gretel moved nearer and felt both.

"They feel quite similar, maybe it will fool her. She is very old, and wrinkly. Everything could feel like that to her." They spent the rest of the day eating (in Hansel's case) and cleaning (in Gretel's case). Addy came in later, with more food. She asked for Hansel's finger. He poked the bone through the bars, and she felt it.

"Longer, longer. Make sure you are eating everything." She threw a loaf of bread at Gretel, which smacked her on the head, and pointed to a bucket near the door.

"There's your food. And that bucket is full of water. That's where you drink. And from now on, every morning you will go out and get more from the well and milk the cows." Addy left. Gretel tore off a bit of bread, and devoured it. Hansel eyed her with amusement.

"Hungry, are you?" Gretel nodded enthusiastically, before taking a drink from the bucket. She coughed, sending water flying over the floor. Hansel laughed.

Hansel and Gretel soon fell into a routine. Every morning, usually before Hansel was up when it was still dark and cold, Gretel would go outside to get more water from the well, then go to the field at the back of the house to milk the cows. She would then have to pick some special foods from the magical garden, for the witch to feed to Hansel. It was very hard for Gretel to steal any of this food, but Hansel would always give her some of his. She would get a loaf of bread every two days. Hansel himself was getting very chubby, probably perfect for the witch if she felt his finger instead of the bone. The witch got ever more impatient as she found Hansel never seemed to get any fatter. She began to give him more food, meaning he had to give more to Gretel, who then managed to eat so much she had to throw some away every morning. Gretel soon lost her fear of the wood as every morning she went there. Both got used to being with the witch, knowing there wasn't anything to fear at the moment. Gretel would spend the rest of the day making sure the large room was spotless, and keeping the fire alert. The witch would occasionally give her tasks, such as repainting the room. Hansel would just sit in his cage, eating or talking or sleeping. Neither child liked the way they now lived, but they stuck with it, knowing sometime soon they would be able to break free. And Hansel rather enjoyed not doing anything, and never feeling hungry. He could last for a while longer.

"Finger." Addy shouted out the command. Hansel scrambled about until he found the bone. He poked it through the bars, as he did every morning and evening. The witch felt it, and gave a hiss of annoyance. She scowled, her mouth a tight, white wrinkle. She picked up the basket of food, just about to give it to Gretel when instead she threw it on the floor. The contents exploded everywhere, showering the beautifully clean room with food. Gretel leapt back, shocked. Food was splattered all over her, she could hear it burn in the fire behind her. Hansel's cage swung a bit; he had made a sudden movement in shock too. As Gretel looked around the room where she had been held captive in for weeks, she couldn't help but feel a slight disappointment that all her hard work cleaning had gone to waste.

"I've had enough of this. You just don't get any fatter. I haven't the slightest idea why. But I refuse to wait any longer. Girl, check the oven is hot enough." Addy belted out angrily. Gretel frowned, confused.

"How do I do that?" Gretel replied, trying to make herself sound stupid.

The witch replied in an eerie tone. "Well, what you do is you open the door and, just to check it's hot enough to cook a person, step inside. Then you come out and tell me if it is hot enough." The witch's eyes gleamed, getting Gretel suspicious.

"But can you help me? I really don't know how you are meant to do this." Gretel asked

"Girl, how stupid can you be? Just step inside and tell me if it's hot." Addy slapped the cage impatiently.

"But Addy, I daren't get it wrong. Please could you possibly just show me?" Gretel made her voice sound whiny. Hansel then guessed her plan and grinned to himself.

"Look, you just open it and then I'll tell you what to do." The witch was nearly shouting with irritation. She strode to the kitchen, Gretel racing after, where the massive oven was situated, easily big enough for three people to stay in comfortably.

"So what do I do?" Gretel asked meekly.

"Open the oven door." Gretel opened it.

"Now, step inside." Addy commanded. Gretel hesitated, and bit her lip.

"Well? Aren't you going in?" Gretel was chewing her lip, looking anxious.

"The thing is, I'm really worried about getting this wrong. If only you could just show me, I would be able to do it without being so nervous." The witch was now furious; all she wanted was two delicious children to eat.

"Fine. Do exactly as I do." The witch stepped in the oven and then turned around.

"See? It's easy. Just-" The witch broke off as Gretel jumped into action.

She had seen the bag belonging to her and her brother as she came into the kitchen, and now had it open in her harms. She unravelled the axe and lifted it high above her head. Addy fell to the floor as Gretel swung the axe with all her strength at Addy's head. She used the flat side, so Addy still had her head attached. Gretel grabbed the oven door, and slammed it shut. She grabbed a rolling pin from the table and used it to lock the oven door shut. Gretel's triumphant grin faded as she remembered the witch had the keys to Hansel's cage, and kept them on her person at all times. Gretel pulled out the rolling pin and, gritting her teeth, she opened the oven door. A wave of heat and the smell of burning flesh overpowered Gretel, and she had to turn away. The witch was dying horribly. The smell was sickening. Holding her breath and averting her eyes, Gretel reached into the witch's pockets. She pulled out a burning hot set of keys. She threw it behind her and ran out of the oven. She relocked it and waited as the keys cooled. Once they were finally cool enough to touch Gretel raced into the room where Hansel still was. Hansel was looking very irritated and bored.

"Took you long enough. I was really worried in here." Hansel grumbled. Gretel jammed the key in the lock and turned. The door swung open, and Hansel jumped out. They hugged with pleasure, Gretel laughing with how hard it was for her to get her arms around her once thin brother. He certainly had gained a lot.

"Come on, let's go." Hansel pulled Gretel out of the room.

"Hang on Hansel, we haven't been in here." She gestured to a room to the left of the kitchen. They walked through to find the room where the witch must sleep in. It smelt horrible; they could see blood dried in various cracks in the room. It seemed they weren't the only people to be taken in by the witch's home. Gretel was already rummaging through the witch's belongings. Gretel felt a strange weight on the top of her head. It was light, but noticeable. Something was moving in her hair. Thinking nothing of it, she reached up to feel the hairy legs of a tarantula. She screamed at the top of her voice and shook her hair. The tarantula landed on the floor, and it began to walk around. Gretel jumped onto the bed, keeping both eyes firmly on the tarantula, one hand on her head making sure there was nothing else there. She jumped as the back of a chair squashed the tarantula flat. She had forgotten about Hansel, who was now holding a chair by its legs. He lifted it up and Gretel saw blood mixed with hair and legs. She shuddered. She slowly slid onto the floor and checked for more tarantulas. As she looked under the bed, she noticed two large trunks.

"Hansel, what are they? Help me get them out." Hansel pulled out one of the trunks, Gretel the other. They were heavy. Gretel opened hers to find a pile of bones. There were skulls, rib bones, some still with bits of decayed flesh on them. Hansel had found similar things in his. Neither said a word, just slowly paled. Hansel saw one skull in his was the size of his fist, a baby's skull. He felt sick.

"Come on Gretel, let's go." He extended his arm down to his much smaller sister, and pulled her up with little effort.

Gretel showed Hansel to the road she had found once during her many mornings outside. They both had bags full of food, and were wearing a large amount of clothes. Gretel had gotten a lot stronger during their time as captives, but Hansel had gained a lot of weight and lost a lot of muscle. They followed the road, considering themselves fortunate as they never met a wolf. They finally reached a bit of the woods they knew as they continued down the path. The sky darkened. Rain clouds were drawing in, and before long, both Hansel and Gretel were drenched. They knew they weren't far from home though, and it was this that kept them going. Hansel stopped to rest against a tree. Gretel took the bags off her shoulder, ready to rest a few minutes. A flash of colour caught her eye, and she moved towards whatever it was. Revulsion rose within her, as she saw the decaying remains of a human woman, lying propped up against a tree. Before she looked away, she had worked out who it was. The step-mother. Gretel smiled as she turned back towards Hansel.

"Hansel, Hansel, she's dead!" Hansel looked a little puzzled.

"I know she's dead. You pushed her into an oven."

"No, no I mean our step-mother." Hansel looked amazed, and then his face broke into a grin.

"You're sure?"

"That's her over there." Gretel pointed in the direction of the corpse. Hansel wrinkled his nose.

"I'm not going to check that out. Anyway, shall we continue?"

As their hut came into view, Gretel began to sing.

"Shut up, we don't want to give father another reason to not let us in." Gretel scowled at him, but she stopping singing. Neither could stop grinning as they walked up to the hut. Gretel walked in first, yelling "Father, father it's us! Hansel and Gretel! We're back!" Hansel followed her, joining in with her shouts. Neither noticed the person behind them.

"Father? Father, where are you?" Hansel called, confused by the silence. Gretel heard a swish from behind her, and then a loud thump. She began to turn, not seeing the gleam of the axe on the other side of her head. Hansel and Gretel lay on the floor, head separate from each body. Their father stepped out from the shadows, brandishing a bloody axe. He smiled, with evil and madness in his eyes. His second wife had died from hunger, and he had grown mad with grief. Just as his children had not noticed him behind them, the father didn't know there was a hungry wolf mere metres away. A low growl alerted the man of its presence. He slowly turned around. He looked into the hungry eyes of a wolf. The man stared. The wolf licked its lips. It crouched. And pounced.

Once upon a time, there was a wood. In this wood, there were only two houses. One was a beautiful house, made out of rare, edible delicacies. The other was a tiny, run down hovel. Both houses were deserted; the remains of those who died there scaring away anyone who dared go near. Not many people did dare though; the wood was well known for being ruled by the wolves. The few who did venture there swore they saw a trail of blood, leading to a clearing. Others were certain there was a body that had decayed to become part of a tree. The floor in the hut was red from blood. Three skulls lay in wait for visitors. A single axe lay on the floor, a dirty bloodstain the only imperfection.

13

Caitlin McLarty