Hansel and Gretel Are Dead.
Hansel and Gretel are dead. The nearby town is littered with posters, amassed in gutters and garbage cans, carefully taped in shop windows and tacked onto trees. A photo of the siblings smiles eerily beneath two words, written shakily in block letters: “missing children”.
The kids in the town, schoolmates of the late Hansel and Gretel, whisper on playgrounds and in classrooms in soft somber voices: “a witch took them” and “they got lost in the woods, following a trail of sweets” and “they’re trapped in a house made of candy”. The stories spread quickly, insidious.
Hansel and Gretel lay hand in hand, cold and beginning to rot, in the basement of a cottage deep in the forest. The cottage is not made of candy. The woman standing over them, her dress covered in smatterings of dark blood, is not a witch.
It is easier to make believe, to live in a fairytale. It’s easier for the weary police chief to sigh heavily and dismiss the children’s mother with “they’re just runaways. They’ll come back in a couple of days time. No need to make a fuss.” It is easier for her to go home, repeating those words to herself like a prayer as she lays quietly in bed, not sleeping, in a house unusually void of bickering and laughter, until the sun rises.
It is easier too for the woman who is not a witch, beads of sweat building on her forehead as she drags two small bodies towards a hot wood burning stove, to know that she will never be found out. The eventual police report will be put on a shelf reserved for the town’s many runaway children and never opened again, becoming colder as the years drag on. Hidden deep in the woods, her unassuming little cottage that is not made of candy will never be searched. The fire that reflects in her dark eyes will never give up so much as a shred of evidence.
And in the nearby town, Hansel and Gretel’s posters will soon fade and fall, to be replaced by new children’s photos. The other kids will make up silly rhymes and sing songs about a candy house and a wicked witch. Their parents will warn them to stay out of the woods. They will exist in the ignorant bliss of their fairytales, all while breathing in the sickly smell of smoke that drifts into town on a breeze from a chimney deep in the forest - all that remains of their lost children.