Flies stick to the rock-crystal windows, and the humid air makes the gingerbread walls sag in on itself. Gretel’s sweat blinds her, but her hands work mechanically as she strokes the fire nice and hot. The witch insists on it, she’s very particular. Her back is turned to Gretel, she is sharpening her knife.
Gretel breathes out, and to her, it is unforgivably loud. It is time.
The witch feels a change in the air. Not for nothing is she a creature of magic, of instinct. Her knife is out, brandished. Gretel knocks it out of her hands easily with a burning brand.
The witch is all astonishment, but she is quick. “The pig-boy is your brother.”
The witch’s voice become a whine.
“The world won’t miss him, another stupid man. I can show you —” Her thin hands reaches for Gretel, who flinches away. “I can show you how a strip of tender flesh could take you anywhere and one blue eye could make you more beautiful than any queen.”
Gretel inches closer to the witch. behind them the oven glowing demonic-red.
For once in his short life, Hansel stays quiet and still. He pretends to be dead already, his eyes squeezed shut.
The witch says, “I could make you my apprentice, teach you all my spells. My secrets.”
Gretel reaches out —
Grasping for something, anything, the witch shrieks, “I could let him live!”
With a sudden leap, Gretel pushes the witch in to the oven and slams the door shut.
The smell of burning flesh makes him retch. It mingles in the air, the cloying stink of burning fat and sugar.
Gretel remembers that she should say something. “We won’t be victims anymore, brother.” Her voice cracks.
Hansel gives her a blank look.
With a sigh, Gretel goes to look for the witch’s grimoire.