This week on Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood prompt, we were challenged to:
write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece about a time one of your main characters finds himself or herself paying back a debt–financial or otherwise.
This image is by Artoftheoldschool on DeviantArt – you can get to their page by clicking on the cottage. You’ll notice the cottage isn’t made of gingerbread. Gingerbreading, also known as stick style, is only captured a little in this particular cottage, but I love the dark feel of it. It looks like it could be located deep in the dark woods. If you’re looking for more explanation of gingerbreading/stick style, I suggest google images. Just ignore the ones made of gingerbread.
“You’ll be repaying me for that meal, surely?”
The siblings’ heads snapped up in surprise, the older girl automatically moving to shelter her brother. Their faces were smeared with their guilt and gluttony, icing and crumbs and sticky sweet honey.
They quaked in fear, trapped against the gingerbread wall, the old woman blocking their escape.
The sunlight trickling through behind her gleaming through the rough chop of hair that escaped from under her head scarf and cast her face in shadow.
“Please, mistress, have mercy!” the girl quavered, tears welling in her blue eyes.
“Mercy for thieves?” The woman’s voice was worn and cracked, the harsh caw of her derisive laugh echoing in the stillness.
The forest air was heavy with silence, devoid even of the constant background hum of insects.
“We was hungry,” the boy cried, wet lips sulky. His ruddy cheeks were plump, the button holes on his shirt stretched tight by his rotund torso.
“Oh was you?” the old woman crouched down, her short-cut pants riding up to reveal grubby knees. Out of the sun, her smile-creased face was revealed to the children, though her expression was grim and fearsome.
The children shrank back, the girls tears running faster, splotches of red marring her pale cheeks.
“We don’t have any money, Mistress. Please!”
The woman’s weathered hands closed tightly on each child’s wrist and she hauled them to their feet with ease.
She cackled as she dragged them up the worn steps to the door.
“What use have I for money?”
The door slammed behind them with ominous finality, made more ominous by the old woman’s confidence in releasing her grip.
The boy rattled the knob, but to no avail.
“You’ll just make her angry!” his sister hissed, tugging his wrist. They moved through the shadowy house, and found their captor humming as she stirred the contents of a steaming cauldron.
Without turning, the woman gestured with her spoon towards the corner of the room. “Broom, mop and bucket, boy. I want floors so clean I could eat off them.”
“Gregor.” He tried to sound fierce.
The woman turned and raised one eyebrow.
“M-my name is G-gregor. And sweeping is servants’ work.”
“Well, Gregor, I am the Witch Gretal Baer. Broom. Mop. Bucket.” She smiled wickedly at the way his face drained of colour. He swept feverishly, as though speed of movement could save him.
The witch turned to the little girl. “And you?”
The girl managed a wobbly curtsey. “Hansine, Mistress Baer.”
“You will start by scrubbing the dishes and cleaning the counters.” The witch turned back to the cauldron but was called away by a nervous throat clearing.
“Are you going to eat us?” She quailed at the expression on the witches face. “Only, the townspeople say you eat children.”
The swish of the broom stopped.
The witch Greta Baer smiled her most ferocious. “If I am known for cooking up children, then why on earth would you eat a pie on my sill?”
Green-faced, the children rushed to their chores with vigor.