Monday, February 20, 2012

Braving the Dark

"Hansel, Gretel!" the man in the doorway called out.

He opened his arms wide and wrapped Hansel in a giant hug. I hung back, not sure what would happen to me when the man realized I was not his daughter Gretel, but someone else entirely.

"Come, Gretel," he said as he looked over Hansel's shoulder and waved to me. I looked into his twinkling blue eyes, and I saw nothing there to fear. So I stepped forward slowly, waiting for it. Waiting for the look in his eyes to change. For the question mark to replace the welcome. But it didn't appear. One step turned into two, and three turned into four. Before I knew it, I was wrapped in the same warm hug. I couldn't understand what was happening. Why didn't he see that I wasn't Gretel? I could only rationalize it one way--this was a dream. As much as it felt real, it couldn't be. So with that resolution, I followed Hansel's father into the cabin. A warm fire flickered gently in the brick fireplace in the corner. A small table was laid with a white tablecloth. I could see few furnishings. Certainly nothing like our living room at home. There was no television, no computer and no telephone. In the corner was a small bed made up with a faded red blanket.

"I thought we had lost you forever," Hansel's father was saying to us. "I searched and searched, where were you?" I noticed that his eyes were filled with tears of joy at our return. I was about to tell him what had happened, but just then, a rush of cold air struck my face, stinging me like a slap.

There she was. The stepmother. The reason Hansel and his sister had been left in the forest.

"Hansel, Gretel--you have returned," she said with a happy lilt to her voice. I wondered if anyone else could see the narrowing of her emerald eyes, the clenching of her jaw. "We thought you were gone," she finished.

"You hoped we were gone," I muttered under my breath. It was so quiet, no one could have heard it. Yet, somehow, inexplicably, she did. She turned her venomous smile on me.

"Well, then, you must be too tired to eat, Gretel. Off to bed with you then." And just like that, I was sent up the ladder to the second floor to sleep. I climbed the ladder, reaching the top rung and looking around to get my bearings. A small alcove, filled by a mattress on the floor and nothing else. It was cold and dark. And I was hungry. It was definitely time to wake up from this nightmare.

I sat down on the mattress. It looked clean enough. I closed my eyes. And hoped that when I opened them again, I would be home.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Walking in Gretel's Shoes

Kate here, back to tell you more about my adventures in fairytales. There I was, walking in a dark forest with an odd boy named Hansel. The glow of the moon helped to illuminate the tiny white pebbles Hansel had dropped along the path. To lead him home. It was a really long walk. And I could hear strange eerie sounds in the forest. Sounds that caused shivers to run down my neck. My heart was beating a strange quickened rhythm that left me gasping for breath. I kept reminding myself that this was only some kind of dream and that it wasn't real. But the cool breeze that ruffled the flowered dress that wasn't mine, and the very real ache in my feet from walking in ill-fitting buckle shoes didn't feel like a dream. The wolves howled near us, and I thought they were coming closer. I wanted to run, but I didn't know how far we had left to go. At the same time, my brain was searching its memory for the rest of the Hansel and Gretel story. My grandfather read fairy tales to me when I was little. I could remember the house made of candy, and that there was a witch. But I couldn't remember why the kids were alone in the forest. Something was dancing in the shadows of my mind. I just couldn't bring it into the light. So I kept moving forward, not knowing what the future would hold. Or when I would wake up from this very strange dream.

"There it is!" Hansel exclaimed, pointing to a swirl of pale smoke in the sapphire sky. "We're home!" As we drew closer, I could see the smoke was trickling out of a small chimney set atop a quaint little cabin made of wood and brick. Hansel began to run, but I held back. The door opened and I could see a man standing in the doorway. Suddenly, I was gripped with fear. In the light, surely I would be recognized as an imposter. What would happen to me then?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Becoming Gretel

Hi - it's me, Kate, stepping in for Deborah to tell you about my adventures in fairy tales. There I was, standing in a forest in the middle of nowhere. With a boy calling me "Gretel." He was taller than me by a half a head, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Oh, and interesting factoid--he was dressed like a gnome. You know, the ones that stand around in gardens with the pointy blue or red caps? Well, this boy was a dead ringer for a garden gnome. Only he could speak. And he was calling me "Gretel."

"Listen," I told him. "I don't know who Gretel is, but I do know I'm not her." I was trying to set him straight. But he wasn't hearing me. He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. "Gretel, I'm your brother, Hansel. We're lost here in this forest. Don't you remember?"

The boy was trying to explain things to me. He thought Gretel was confused. I'm not sure about Gretel, but I sure was confused. I remembered reading the first words of Hansel and Gretel but I couldn't remember anything else. I could only remember arriving here, to find this odd boy in the woods.

"Gretel, listen to me," the boy was pleading. "When our stepmother led us out here, I had a feeling she was going to do something terrible. So I left a trail of tiny pebbles behind us. If we can find the pebbles, we can follow them home. Then we will be safe."

I remembered a little bit about the story of Hansel and Gretel. Enough to know that he and his sister were far from safe. The strange part was--I didn't see the real Gretel anywhere. I didn't understand how Hansel could think I was his sister. Even in the moonlight, he had to see my brown hair and green eyes. Nothing like his own. And my clothes were so different. I glanced down at my sweatshirt and jeans, only to find that I was no longer dressed like myself. Instead, I was wearing a faded dress with tiny red and yellow flowers. And in place of my sneakers--red buckle shoes!

Before I could begin to make sense of my strange new attire, I heard a sound. An eerie howling. It was returned by a chorus of other howls. I didn't have to ask what that meant. I was in a fairy tale. It had to be wolves.

I wasn't going to wait to meet Little Red Riding Hood.

"Okay, Hansel," I whispered. "Let's find that path of pebbles."