Marta watched as the child approached the cabin, waiting. Her anger swelled as the young girl grew nearer. Here was one more opportunity. They would all pay. Every child in the village would burn.
Lisel crept up the steps, shaking from the chill and tired. Her dress dirty, the ribbons binding her hair snagged on a bush somewhere. He plaits had fallen and tangled, golden still with twigs and bits of leaf.
Marta tried to encourage the girl in, sending a chill breeze at her back. The child stumbled across the porch, tripping over a loose board. The enchantment had faded from the cabin, leaving behind only broken bits and sad corners. Some gingerbread trim remained on the eaves. The wind whistled in the broken windows. The roof had not yet caved in. The floor had not yet surrendered to the drip of rain.
Lisel felt something in this tiny house, something that made her hands tremble. Too cold to let the fear keep her outside, she ducked through the doorway. She stepped carefully as she made her way into a corner, warmer than outside under the trees. Perhaps her parents would find her if she stayed in one place. She had not thought to mark her way; she had no chalk, no bit of food to leave behind. When she finally thought to make arrows with twigs it was too late, she was lost. She wasted the last bit of light wandering, finally coming across the broken house with barely enough light to see the worn steps.
Marta hovered over the child. Gone were the days when she could lure the child in, cajole the child and ply her with sweets and cookies. No more could she treat the wicked thing as she deserved. The lovely expectation as she fattened her up. The screaming a necessary step to filling her larder, juicy roasts and stews and tasty revenge. Until those brats took her strength from her. But here came another chance. If only Marta could figure out how to manipulate the corporeal. She ached, trying to exert her will on the rotted beams above the child, but was thwarted. She was left with a tiny bit of influence, once so powerful, reduced to a puff of wind.
Lisel shivered, curled in a ball, trying to keep warm. She wished she was home, in her comfortable bed, her belly full and the fire roaring. She began to hum a lullaby, the one her mother sang to her when she couldn’t sleep. She sang in a whisper, “Sleep, little child, sleep, your father guards the sheep, your mother shakes a little tree, and down falls a little dream, sleep little Lisel sleep.”
Marta stilled when she heard the name, so close to her own Analiese. This child bore a resemblance to her own, golden hair, blue eyes, plump cheeks. Somewhere there was a mother who sang this song to the little one. Who must now search for her. The terror of those mothers came to her suddenly, as if a veil had been lifted, her vengeful madness clearing. Their loss was a palpable thing, smothering her.
Lisel relaxed, no longer shivering. The cabin didn’t feel so menacing, the wind wasn’t shrieking through the cabin any more. She drifted off to sleep to the sound of her favorite lullaby.