a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
HANSEL: A man. Brother to Gretel.
GRETEL: A woman. Sister to Hansel.
Lights go on. Half on the stage, there is the inside of a small cottage. It’s decorated with candy and the interior is small and has a small room to eat in and a small kitchen. On the other half of the stage, there is a dense forest. It’s quiet and dark and there is a small trail in it leading to the cottage. You can’t tell, but there is a breadcrumb once every foot on the trail.
HANSEL and GRETEL are in the kitchen together.
HANSEL: (Absolutely done) Gretel, you’re gonna calm down, you’re gonna be quiet, you’re gonna fry up these fries, and you’re– NOT– gonna make– ANY MORE OF THESE JOKES!
GRETEL: (Immature voice) You can fry up my fries.
HANSEL: NO. NO MORE OF THESE JOKES. GOOD GOOSE WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS. AAAUGH.
GRETEL: You can like my this.
HANSEL storms off to the side. He goes over to the window, exasperated. He points out there.
HANSEL: Look at this. Look. Do you see any customers coming to our door? Any people at our window who want food? No? NO? Yeah, that’s right. NO. THEY DON’T WANT TO EAT HERE BECAUSE YOU KEEP ON MAKING THESE JOKES. You need to stop.
GRETEL: You can see my customers. You can want my food. You can eat my here.
HANSEL shakes his head. He sits on a chair and he holds his head in his hands. He sighs.
HANSEL: You know what? Fine. Make these immature jokes. I don’t care.
What are we gonna do, Gretel? What are we gonna do?
GRETEL: I’m pretty sure my jokes aren’t what’s making people go away, Hansel. We’re in the middle of the woods. We’re doing fine. Just think of that ketchup-loving elf who came yesterday–
HANSEL: No. That’s the thing. We’ve got plenty of elves and stuff, Gretel. Plenty of dwarves and the like. But that’s not the problem. The problem is–
There’s a beat. He can’t finish the sentence.
GRETEL: Hansel, you know that that can’t happen. We gave that up ages ago.
HANSEL: But– but I’m lonely.
GRETEL: Well, so am I. Do you think I make these jokes because I’m happy? No. I make them because I’m bored. All we do is make food and serve food and eat food. It’s the same goddamn food, all the goddamn time. I never thought I would’ve gotten tired of burgers and fries.
Do you think this is what I expected becoming witches to be? Living a repetitive fast food capitalist life in the woods? Living in the same home where we were supposed to die once? Having no contact with other humans ever since– ever since. . .
Ever since what feels like forever?
Silence. HANSEL turns away. He sits around in his chair and stares at the trees outside.
You were supposed to die in that oven, Hansel. You were in a cage. In this room. You were going to be eaten. I was a slave. I was a slave, and I was forced to work for her. I had to kill her. I had to save you, Hansel. What kind of sister would I be if I let my own brother die?
I know you can hear me. I know you’re upset. Trust me. I’m upset, too. Do you think– do you know how I felt inside of that house from before? How you felt? How we had to deal with that awful woman who loved him and kicked us out of the house and —
They called him woodcutter for a reason, Hansel.
Silence. HANSEL gets up. He doesn’t look back at GRETEL, he continues his stare at the forest. He stands in front of the window. He is silent for a long time, and then he sighs.
HANSEL: I know that.
GRETEL: The things that would happen to —
HANSEL: I know that.
GRETEL: Hansel, it’s the only way we can do things right. We have to be witches.
Even if it gives us another thing in common with our trauma for this new home.
HANSEL: Witch soap.
HANSEL: Witch soap.
GRETEL: I don’t understand.
HANSEL: We can make witch soap.
GRETEL backs a bit, her hands out in front of her. She’s unsure of the morals of what HANSEL is suggesting.
GRETEL: Hansel– you can’t– we can’t– that won’t–
HANSEL turns around. He is dead serious.
HANSEL: Gretel. If we get witch soap, we can deal with this no more. We’ll be able to live in a normal home. Live a normal life. Be around other humans.
GRETEL pauses. She is now starting to process what HANSEL is trying to get at.
I haven’t seen a human in years. I’m tired of this just like how you are. I’d like a home that won’t remind us of our own traumas. No amount of french fries and candy canes can cover up the smell of all that’s happened.
Silence. GRETEL sits down on the floor. She sighs quietly, her head in her hands.
GRETEL: (Quiet) I know that.
Silence. GRETEL looks up at HANSEL. HANSEL turns around and doesn’t look at her.
It’s not right. It wouldn’t be right to do. I’d love to be around other humans. They’re all spooked off. Humans these days can pick out a witch a mile away. I know that witch soap would take care of that. They’d never be able to tell. But– but–
Hansel, it’s immoral.
GRETEL: Hansel. We’d have to kill one human child for each bar. You know how it works. You can’t make witch soap without that.
HANSEL: That’s true.
GRETEL: How would– how would we even get a human if we can’t even attract any with this?
Everybody knows what happened. They know that this is a house designed to attract children. No child falls for this trap anymore.
I’d prefer french fry soap, Hansel.
HANSEL stops. He turns around slowly, giving GRETEL a very weird look.
HANSEL: You’d prefer what?
GRETEL: French fry soap. Make soap out of french fry oil. I’d rather do that than make a child suffer.
HANSEL: The entire point of soap is to wash away oil. How the fuck would you benefit from creating that?
GRETEL: I don’t mean that I actually want to do it. I’m just saying that I don’t want a child to suffer. I would personally slather myself in french fry soap if it meant that nobody would die.
Silence. HANSEL turns around. He goes back to behaving the same way from before.
HANSEL: You do that.
There’s a child outside.
GRETEL: A what?
HANSEL: A child.
Silence. GRETEL slowly realizes what HANSEL is getting at.
GRETEL: Hansel– you can’t– you shouldn’t–
HANSEL: I’m going to.
HANSEL walks through the door. GRETEL runs after him in panic.
GRETEL: HANSEL! YOU CAN’T! YOU SHOULDN’T! YOU–
HANSEL turns around. There is murder in his eyes. He tries to throw GRETEL off, only halfway succeeds. HANSEL runs into the audience. GRETEL regains herself and runs after him. HANSEL has a child from the audience selected, he has them grabbed by the shoulders.
Hansel. YOU CAN’T. DON’T DO IT. You–
HANSEL: I don’t care.
Silence. GRETEL stares at him.
HANSEL: It’s a way out. It’s a way to freedom.
GRETEL: Is it really freedom when it comes at the cost of someone else?
Silence. HANSEL slowly unhands the child. He looks at his own hands for a long time. Slowly, he looks up at GRETEL. The two of them slowly walk back towards the house. He collapses on the way.
HANSEL: (Quiet and scared) What are we going to do?
What are we going to do?
Silence. The lights darken. She helps him back up, and they finish their route to the house. Without much warning, she punches the house. It starts to shudder and shatter a bit where she hit it. HANSEL runs after her, shocked by her behavior.
HANSEL: GRETEL! What was– what was–
She turns around. She is flat and expressionless. HANSEL’S shock is so high that he has fallen to the ground again.
GRETEL: We build from the rubble. We destroy it. We then create something livable from the broken bits.
Silence. HANSEL lets out a hand, as if to make an expression, his mouth opened to say something, but then he stops himself. He closes his mouth, and slowly puts away his hand.
Nothing can be made out of nothing.
It’s the only way, Hansel.
The only way.
Lights go off. End of play.
Mercury Marvin Sunderland is a Hellenist transgender autistic gay man who uses he/him pronouns. He’s from Seattle. He currently attends The Evergreen State College, and his dream is to become the most banned author in human history. He works for Headline Poetry & Press, and he has been published in magazines such as The University of California Riverside’s Santa Ana River Review, Arcadia University’s Marathon Literary Review, and Memoir Magazine. His art has been featured by the UglyDolls company and he represented Seattle at Brave New Voices 2017, the national tournament for youth slam poetry.