By Enelis C
You might have ever heard about a story where two children named Hansel and Gretel were lost in the forest and found a house made of gingerbread, cakes, and candies. Though the idea of such house sounds harmless, it turned out that the owner of the house was a cannibalistic witch who loved eating children by luring them to her house. Like other classic stories, there must be one moral or two from this story. Maybe it wants to teach you not to eat too many sweets. Maybe it wants to show you that good-looking something does not always mean good. Or to put it simply, it gives you a warning: beware a strange house in the middle of the forest.
The fog was getting heavier with every passing second and so was the feeling of regret in Harry’s heart at his stupid decision to leave the carriage and walk instead. Their horse accidentally injured its leg, preventing them from continuing their journey back to the city. The carriage would not be a warm place to spend the night, but it would be if his fear of their getting lost had been true. With the thick fog, he wasn’t so sure that the path they’ve taken was the right path to the city. He even wasn’t sure that they would find the carriage if they turned back. Worse, he even wasn’t sure about their location anymore.
Before leaving the carriage, the fog was not as thick as it was now. He was sure that they were so close to the city already, that it would take less than an hour to reach the city by foot. At least, they might find some inns along the way where they were supposed to get warmer than staying in the carriage. Unfortunately, the fog chose to get thicker when they have gone through the halfway of the journey. Now, after walking for an hour with no sign of life except the fog and the forest and the dim light of their lanterns, Harry was pretty sure that they were lost. He stopped, forcing the girl beside him to do the same.
“I’m sorry,” he managed. “We’re lost. I don’t know where we are right now.”
Anna didn’t answer, but she nodded. She kept shining her lantern to their right side, but nothing to be seen except trees. She lowered her lantern and gasped.
“Harry, do you see what I see?”
“What?” he answered rather too fast. He knew that they were alone inside the forest right now, and any idea of superstition didn’t make him feeling better.
“Is that a mailbox?” she pointed her finger to something that looked like a very rusty can impaled by an iron bar. They moved closer to inspect it. It was so rusty that Harry was sure if there was something written on it, nobody could read it without scraped the rust first.
“If that thing is here, there must be…” Harry shone his lantern frantically until the light shone into a large shadow lurking not so far from them. There are some rectangular shapes glowing on it.
“A cabin,” she finished his sentence. She shone her lantern to the ground and they looked at a small bushy path leading to the cabin. She looked at him expectantly. “Those lights mean there’s someone there. I hope that someone doesn’t mind welcoming two visitors in the middle of the night.”
They followed the smaller path towards the wooden cabin. Harry realized that there was a small clearing beside the cabin, hidden behind tall and thick trees they saw at the previous path. His lantern shone on strange-looking heaps within walking distance. He wanted to know what those were, but feared the possibility of swamp or bog there. He moved closer to Anna who was walking in front of him instead.
“Are you sure it is a great idea? This place sure is creepy.”
“It’s better than spending the night outdoor,” she answered.
“It reminds me of a witch’s house a lot.” Harry looked around, expecting some short monsters popped out and surrounded them. Oh hell, maybe those heaps were monsters that’d been waiting for ambush strangers.
“You listen to too many spooky stories, Harry.”
“I can’t help it. You’re the one telling me such stories,” he complained.
“My bad.” She knocked at the door.
No one answered. Anna knocked again.
“Excuse me?” she called.
Heavy footsteps echoed inside the cabin. Shortly, the sound of the door being unlocked was heard. They glanced at each other nervously. Harry prepared himself to see an old crooked frail witch to open the door. Instead, a very tall and fat woman holding a lantern looked down at them. “Yes?” she asked in a quite deep voice.
“I’m sorry. We have a trouble with our carriage. May we ask your favor to let us spend the night here?” asked Anna sweetly.
“Oh, my poor hamburgers!” the fat woman hugged them all of a sudden. “You must be so cold and hungry. Come in, come in.” She practically pulled them in and locked the door behind them.
“Did she just call us hamburgers?” Harry whispered in Anna’ ears. She gave him a quizzical look.
“You can call me Kathy. Welcome to my humble abode,” said the woman while hanging the lantern on the nail beside the door.
“Oh, thank you, Madam. I am Anna and this is Harry.”
“You meatballs come in a right time. It is so rare to have visitors here. I have some dinner prepared. I’m glad I don’t have to finish it alone.”
Kathy placed her hands on their shoulders, ushering them into the cabin. Harry mouthed something to Anna, maybe wondering why the woman called them ‘meatball’ this time. But she didn’t pay much attention to him. She was distracted by the interior of the cabin.
It was not a large cabin, but it was sure a simple and cozy one. Fire roared in the stone hearth on their left, a comfy sofa bed facing it. To their right were a neat and orderly kitchen and a larder. At the backside, there was a staircase leading to the second floor and a trapdoor, maybe leading to a basement. But the most attracting part of the cabin stood in the center, which was a dinner table served with many kind of mouth-watering meals that could feed 20 people at most. Harry couldn’t stop goggling at the spectacular feast.
“Don’t be shy, pork chops. Eat as much as you want.” Kathy helped Anna to her seat then gestured to Harry to sit down beside her. Harry raised his eyebrow at the endearment. Anna was either very hungry or astonished that she didn’t care. Her eyes fixed on the dishes. Kathy sat down in front of them and started filling their plates.
“You cooked a lot for someone who lives alone,” Harry muttered. Anna shot him a dirty look. He mouthed ‘what’ angrily. He got the right to feel suspicious, didn’t he?
“I am a woman with a large appetite,” her laugh echoed throughout the cabin. Harry wondered whether he mistook the vibration of the walls all around them. Great. A large lady with a large appetite. Hopefully, two teenagers had nothing to do with it.
Harry didn’t feel reassured at all. Nevertheless, he couldn’t deny that he was hungry. What they had been through in the forest earlier had taken its toll on them. He’s not only hungry, he was exhausted as well. He began to chew and swallow everything Kathy had placed on his plate like somebody who had not eaten for weeks. He couldn’t help it. The food tasted as fantastic as it looked.
“Those are very beautiful eyes you have there, my pot roast,” said Kathy. Harry almost forgot that the woman was there watching them. He stopped halfway to pick some sausages, then realized that the woman was addressing Anna. She mumbled ‘thank you’ with her mouth full with cheese.
Anna was very beautiful with her redhead and clear sky-blue eyes. It was not the first time someone commented on those physical features of her. Yet, Harry couldn’t help the unsettling feeling in his gut. Kathy said those words like a hunter appraised her prey. He couldn’t stop noticing that Kathy kept watching on her all this time.
“Those eyes would be a masterpiece, indeed,” Kathy sighed. Harry shivered. However, the girl in question was not affected at all. She gulped down her milk like nothing happened. Well, there was nothing happened, literally, but, couldn’t she tell that their host were getting more suspicious over time?
Suddenly, after dropping the empty glass back on the table, Anna’s body went limp. She leaned forward and dropped her head to the table and didn’t move anymore. Harry panicked and stood immediately.
“Ah! My poor hot dog! She must be very tired!” uttered Kathy. In a very swift motion for a fat woman, she approached Anna and scooped her up easily. “She fell into a deep sleep. We better put her to bed. Follow me, my beefsteak.” She walked towards the stairs with Anna in her arms. The girl didn’t stir. Harry followed her halfheartedly, convinced that there was something wrong. He stopped at the bottom of the stair, looking down at the trapdoor, suddenly feeling curious about it. Kathy stopped and looked round.
“Chicken pie! You shouldn’t open that door!” Kathy sounded alarmed.
“Why? What’s in there?” asked Harry.
“Just some things I don’t want people to look at. Come on. We better hurry and put your girlfriend upstairs. She will be more comfortable, then.”
Kathy led him to the corridor upstairs. Two wooden doors stood ajar on one side. There was a small window at the end of the corridor which he was sure facing the small clearing outside. Kathy entered the nearest room and laid Anna down on a small bed. Beside the bed, a wooden cupboard was the only furniture available in the room. Kathy turned to him.
“You can sleep in the room next door. I think I will let you get some rest, as well. I will be downstairs if you need me.”
“Well… okay. Thank you,” said Harry. He watched the woman walking down the stairs in confusion. He re-entered Anna’s room to make sure that the girl was indeed sleeping before he got to the second room. Laying on the similar small bed and gazing at the dim lamp above his head, Harry couldn’t help thinking that maybe Kathy was truly a kind loner as she seemed to be. He felt bad to think otherwise. The woman had let them into her home, eaten her food, and even used her bed. However, he couldn’t put aside the need to stay alert. He decided not to sleep until sunrise when they would be ready to leave. Something told him to keep awake and he felt it will be safer that way.
Of course, he managed to do that for only ten minutes before he snored.
To be continued