A Minute Too Late
Nicholas was terrified, crying as he soared through the sky. “Mamma! I’m going to fall!” Then he did, tumbling across the floor and falling just in front of a life-sized house made of desserts. He stared in awe as the bird perched itself on the roof top to rest. There was so much food...
There was another child? Adiscordia was awakened from her rest immediately by the smell of innocence at her door. It wasn’t Grizelda but it was a child. Adiscordia ran out, and put on her glamour. It was weakened in her current state, but it would need to be enough. She needed the pure youthful innocence. “Hello child! what’s your name?”
Nicholas fell to the floor in surprise, frosting smeared on his face. “N-Nicki... “I didn’t meant to eat anything! My Mamma’s coming soon! She’ll be here! Mamma Grizzy!” Nicholas stammered.
Adiscordia froze, her disguise fading. Grizelda… had a son? She was an aunt? She felt sharp stones impale her with a grunt as she heard the boy run. She raised an arm causing him to freeze in place. “Don’t struggle my dearest.” Nicholas whimpered as he was brought to Adiscordia, facing her close.
“Mother Grizelda?” she asked, taking in his scent. Grizelda had recently held him. Nicholas nodded quickly. “Well Nicki, I’m your aunt, Adiscordia. I promise I won’t hurt you, but you cant run away. We wouldn’t want you to get lost before your mamma arrives.” With that the boy was released. “Do as you like, we’re only waiting for her to join us.”
“I can do anything?”
“You can do anything except leave.” Adiscordia gave a painful smile as the curse took away her breath. A strong vessel would have killed him for his innocence. Yet Adiscordia hadn’t surrendered entirely, there was still some love in her. With that Adiscordia went inside herself taking deep breaths. Plans would need to change, Grizelda needed to be there today, Adiscordia didn’t have much time left. Her father was smart in bringing her son as bait.
“Verre!” She called out as Guinniverre ran to her. “It’s time to roast the piglet! Fat or lean I will cook him and feast today.”
“But Adiscordia!” Guinniverre protested not knowing what to do. They hadn’t thought of a plan.
“Yes, Verre?” she asked turning to her. Guinniverre took a shaky breath. She had to act on her side. What if she roasted her too? “What about the wishing heart?”
“There has been no luck Verre, and I’m out of time.” With that she went to the cage.
“Progress Check?” Hansel asked hopefully, his tone faltered. He had heard and hadn’t exactly come up with an idea for how he was going to hide all of himself.
“No Piglet. I hope you’re nice and stuffed, it’s time for the preparation.” With that the door of the cage swung open entirely bringing in more light than the window ever had. Stunned, he could barely respond when Adiscordia took his leg and stopped. He was soft. She squeezed, getting closer to him and pinching him throughout. Hansel wasn’t just ready, he was perfect. She slowly turned her head to Guinniverre.
“How? Adiscordia I thought you were checking him properly!” Gretel started trying her best to act shocked and confused before she remembered. “Was this because you were cooking Adiscordia, and not me?”
Adiscordia hardly responded but summoned a large tray. She was flattered, and impressed by Hansel’s trickery but there wasn’t a second to waste. “Prepare the oven Verre! And make it blazing hot for him! I’ll tie him up so he won’t be able to run again.” She nearly sang the last part and Gretel could sense Hansel’s horror. She was clearly referencing other flames, and she could see him tense up.
“How do I prepare the oven?” She asked opening the door by pulling a heavy lever.
Adiscordia groaned in aggravation pointing a finger as suddenly flames blazed in the oven. Gretel couldn’t help but scream, running away at the heat. “A warning Adiscordia! I don’t have your endurance!”
The ropes dug into his flesh as he struggled and was placed on the metal tray. It was so hot! Hansel’s eyes watered as he cried quietly. “You’re covered in filth!” Adiscordia snapped angrily grabbing a sponge and beginning to clean Hansel like a prized hog. Gretel looked over to him. Adiscordia had tied his hair back, leaving him to plead and beg to his younger sister with desperate crying eyes.
‘What would Hansel do?’ Gretel asked herself as she quickly looked around the room, there was nothing. It all came back to the flames. The flames! “Adiscordia!” she yelled as a young boy came to see the commotion. Grabbing an object and quickly throwing it in the oven she warned. “There’s something wrong with the oven! It’s changing color and it smells!”
Adiscordia took a sniff. Definitely, there was something in there. It would contaminate the piglet. She let go of Hansel and headed to the oven. “Do you see it?”
“No! I just know it smells bad! The color seems to turn purple really far in, it must be somewhere in there. “I can’t get much closer. I’m not as powerful as you and I get easily burnt!” Slowly she took a few steps back as Adiscordia turned to shove her cane in the fire and blindly search. With that Gretel ran, shoving Adiscordia in her own oven and locking it shut. Adiscordia tried to rise but by the time she had it was too late. She howled and screamed, banging at the door.
She had caused the flames. She thought she could call them off but with her current weakness all she could do was burn. There was no more hope. Grizelda would arrive and the curse would go to her. It was her fault for calling her. Had it planned this? Spikes rose at the thought consuming her heart. She was so close to seeing her one last time on good terms. So close to keeping her from this...So close...
Gretel paused and watched for a moment before holding her chest. It felt like a part of her had been ripped away in an intense pain. “Grizelda will carry on!” a voice screamed from behind the oven. Smoke rose from Gretel’s mouth as her eyes shut tight. Having watched the whole ordeal Hansel stared at his sister wide eyed, then the ceiling as his head thumped against the tray. “Please tell me you’re okay.”
“I’m fine…” The feeling had only lasted a few seconds, but the remnants were still there. Even if she had the words to explain, she doubted Hansel would understand. She took a pair of scissors and began cutting at the ropes to free her brother.
As a witness to murder Nicholas ran to the front porch and hid. He had just watched his aunt burn to death! He decided to wait for his Mamma there, where he’d be safe.
Hansel laid there, relief washing over him. It was over. He was there with his sister without fear! He pulled himself up in disbelief before quickly grabbing Guinniverre to smother her face in kisses.
Gretel was surprised at his sudden show of affection. His grab had been so rough, and his hands and arms were a lot softer than she remembered. He would often kiss her to comfort her but he was usually hard to read and less affectionate. Yet somewhere past the change and trauma she knew it was still him. She wrapped her arms around him struggling slightly to go all the way around. As he thanked her over and over she rested in his warm embrace feeling the love she was missing for the past month or so.
Finally, he pulled away reaching for the clip Adiscordia had used to tie back his hair. He was definitely still him. “Now to find a way back home.” Hansel jumped off the tray ready to search the house but was met with weight pulling him different directions and weaker legs. He was soon on the ground and was met with chocolate tiles. The smell made his stomach growl. He pulled himself back up in a sitting position visibly annoyed, his plump cheeks giving him a pouty look.
Gretel muffled a laugh with her hands before offering a hand to help him up. Having to use just the slightest bit of what she had learned for some help getting him up.
“You’re stronger than I remember.” He smiled.
“And you’re-” Hansel’s hands shot up pulling his hair back to reveal a much angrier pout than she anticipated. His eyes warned her not to say it. “Free?” That was the best she could do to avoid the sudden change. He nodded with complete seriousness letting his hair back down. She couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
“Guinni!” He groaned in desperation. “Its not funny!” He had almost been burned, and Adiscordia was sure to touch the wound of him not being able to run away the first time due to being too slow and heavy from overindulging. The last thing he wanted to hear was that he had gained weight again!
“It isn’t!” She agreed. “But your reaction is!” With his arms crossed he walked away looking for a map or something of the sort. He checked his compass. It was fixed.
Why did this whole place have to be made of sweets? After a month of constant binging and today skipping breakfast and lunch to keep his sanity his stomach was gnawing at him. He used to do this constantly, and then chop wood! All he felt now was exhausted and hungry. “My compass is fixed!” He opened it showing it to her. “If we get out of this bubble Adiscordia made and head...” He paused, it didn’t help. He couldn’t remember where they came!
Not knowing of their visitor Gretel held his shoulders as he stared outside. “We have time to figure that out. For now I think there’s something else we need to fix. Looking at her brother she saw something she had rarely seen in him. A face of innocent and complete cluelessness. She gave his belly a poke before going to push up Adiscordia’s pail with soapy water for emphasis and going to pick up his shirt. Taking a peek back as she handed it to him, he was frozen, his cheeks much rosier than she remembered. “I” she emphasized. “Will go look for something to get us out. You can join me when-”
“Sì! Okay!” With that Hansel grabbed his things and raced into the guest room with more speed than Gretel thought was possible from what seemed to be a waddle in comparison to his long strides before. The door slammed loudly with audible embarrassment. “Don’t feel bad.” She called out. “Its just that you’re my brother, and there’s only so much I want to see of my brother!” An embarrassed plea for her to stop followed. Seeing him having so much emotion after so long was making her laugh. She missed laughter. She was determined as she searched around, searching the chests and book cases. She would most definitely not stop teasing him.
Useless. He scrubbed harshly in frustration. He felt absolutely useless in this state. The run here had left him breathless. He felt weighed down and guilty for not helping Gretel. Although- a grin washed over his face as he relaxed. She had called him her brother. She forgave him. He heard some noise as fabric curtains formed waving slightly from the wind. Adiscordia's magic was fading. The curtains were now completely normal. Usually, he would have thought of a plan to pull them out and use them as clothing. Instead he found himself scrubbing faster in a tired state to get this over with and take what he could before it disappeared. Last time his greed was immediately silenced by grief over his mother. Now, things were different. His stomach had been trained to eat everything in sight, and with two skipped meals, and the fright of his life it was making a convincing argument.
She had found nothing. She sighed, heading back to the dining room only to watch in wonder as things changed and faded. It made sense. How else could food stay fresh that long? There was something else. There was noise. She walked to a window to see a boy running through leaves to meet an approaching woman. She recognized her. It was Grizelda from the bakery. A sudden realization washed over her. It was Grizelda, the sister of the ashes in the oven. Grabbing a much more recently made fruit Gretel ran to her brother slamming the door shut behind her.
His cheeks completely pink again as he smiled weakly, mouth stuffed with truffles from the walls. At least he was clean. “Eat this.” She commanded shoving the apple between his lips after he swallowed. At first the shove was seen as an insult. It wasn't the best choice considering that he had almost been a roasted pig. Thinking about it and with his desire to lose weight and still eat he took it anyways. He was sure Guinniverre didn't mean any harm. She looked around. The bed. She could hide under the bed, but him?
He was quick to notice her panic, removing the apple he looked out the window. He saw nothing at first until Grizelda was insight. His brotherly instincts immediately took over. “Bed. Now.” Gretel smiled teary eyed, he really was still in there. She did as she was told. Hansel took his knife and cut through the curtains with a heavy rip, tying some of it over himself before looking around quickly. There had to be someplace he could hide!