“Place your hand on the Bible,” said the judge, and she placed her hand on the tattered old book. Luna rolled her eyes. They did realize she was a witch, right? She practices Wicca, not Christianity.
“Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” asked the bailiff.
“I do,” she replied. She really didn’t have to lie. Once she explained everything, she was sure the jury would not indict her.
“Please state your name for the court,” said the state attorney.
“Luna Rose Dappleforrth,” she replied.
“Ms. Dappleforth, please state your whereabouts on the days of June 21, 2013 through June 30, 2013,” said the attorney in a bored voice. He clearly thought this trial was a waste of his time.
“At my home, The Candy Cottage of Pastry Acres,” said Luna.
“The prosecutors, Hansel and Gretel Albertstein have testified that they arrived at your cottage on the afternoon of June 21st, 2013. Is this correct?”
“And is it also true that you imprisoned Hansel and Gretel, forcing them into slavery during the time they were at your cottage?”
“Of course not. I was mere…”
“Yes or no, did you keep Hansel and Gretel in your home?”
“Yes,” replied Luna, suddenly feeling quite nervous.
“And did the children cook your food while they were there?”
“And did you, on the night of June 30th, attempt to lead Gretel into your oven?” The attorney was pressing on with his agenda, giving Luna no chance to tell her own story. She started to sweat. How had she not been worried? Of course they wouldn’t be letting her tell her story. Of course they weren’t going to give a witch, no matter how innocent, a chance to give her account of the events. These people still think witches are some… magical, evil creatures. How hard is it for people to understand that witches are just normal people with different spiritual beliefs?
“Yes, but…” she said, her voice shaking as the attorney interrupted her.
“No more questions your honor.”
Luna’s heart was pounding. What was going to happen next? Were they done? She had just confessed to apparently heinous crimes, with no chance to explain. Were they just going to haul her off to prison now?
The judge spoke up. “You may return to your seat now, Ms. Dappleforth.”
“Right.” Luna pressed herself up with her arms, because her legs were jello. She wobbled to her seat as her attorney stood up and immediately called her back to the stand.
Of course! She had forgotten about her own attorney’s questioning. She’d get to tell her story afterall. She exhaled deeply, attempting to center herself. The jury were all staring at her, many of them with disgust on their faces. She also hadn’t considered the effect bias of the jury members would have on their decision. Her heart sank a little once more as she began to make her way unsteadily back to the stand.
Her lawyer’s name was Indigo Rain. He was a pure-bred hippie who shocked his parents into temporary estrangement when he entered law school. They had been in the same circle for decades, and his presence was calming for Luna. He may not be the most prestigious lawyer in Germany, but he was like her. He understood her.
“Ms. Dappleforth, could you please recount the events of June 21 through June 30th for the court?” asked Indigo politely and calmly.
“I, yes, I… sure,” stammered Luna. She wasn’t prepared for a structureless opportunity to recount the events, at least not immediately upon sitting. She scrambled for words, released another strong exhale, and began.
“On June 21st, I was out working the garden, when I broke my spade. I needed a spade to finish my work, so I decided to bike into to town to buy a replacement. When I returned, I found two children at my home.” She gestured toward Hansel and Gretel, who were sitting with their father at the prosecution table.
“The children, already delirious from hunger, had eaten some berries they found in the wood. The berries were poisonous — not only were the children’s pupils were huge, but when I found them, they were trying to eat my house. They must have read the sign in the garden, Candy Cottage. But of course, my house is not edible. It’s just a witty name I gave my house.
“I immediately took them inside and prepared them some real food. The poor things were skin and bone and completely off their rockers. I fed them milk, sugared pancakes, apples, and nuts, and then offered them beds to sleep in. I hoped that they would be able to sleep off the toxins that were coursing through their blood.
“In the night I heard the children scream through nightmares. I checked on them regularly, scared that they wouldn’t make it through the night. The next morning, they were difficult to rouse. I was first able to wake Hansel, but when I did so, he became extremely violent. He was thrashing and screaming, clawing at my face, kicking, and threatening. Though he was just a child, he was still strong, and I am growing feeble in my aging years. I was scared he’d hurt me or his sister, so I mustered up all the strength I could and brought him to the shed. I had to lock him in there until I could be sure he no longer posed a threat to his sister or me.
“I was finally able to wake up Gretel, and she was also still sick and very confused. I explained to her what happened with Hansel, and she became hysterical. I tried everything I could to calm her down, but nothing was working until I suggested that if we make him some food, maybe it will help him get better. She started to calm down but didn’t want me to make the food. She didn’t trust me; in her state, she thought I was going to poison him.
“Days passed, and neither of them showed signs of improvement. Based on their behavior and health conditions and Gretel’s description of the berries they had eaten, I deduced they had probably ingested belladonna berries, which cause extreme hallucinations. I happened to have the ingredients to make an antidote for them. The calabar bean is the main ingredient, but it’s very toxic itself, so it needs to be diluted with crushed crab shells.
“Gretel continued to suffer from delusions. She wouldn’t take the medicine, so I kept putting it in her food, but she just thought I was trying to feed her crab shells instead of food. She ate a little, but swore I was only feeding her crab shells.
“Several times a day I would check on Hansel to see if his condition was improving. He continued to yell and threaten me each time he came, so I was too scared to let him out. Gretel continued to cook for him, so I put his medicine in his food, as he wouldn’t take the medicine either. Each time I checked on him, I asked to see his finger. One of the symptoms of improper dosage of the calabar bean is a rash on the hands. I didn’t know it at the time, but he kept holding out a bone instead of his finger.
“Of course, my eyesight is going with my age, so I didn’t notice until the last day they were there, he dropped the bone while I was checking for the rash. At first I panicked — after all, I thought his finger had fallen off. I know now after hearing his testimony, that he thought I.. I was going to… to eat him!” Luna sort of choked on these words and the courtroom waited in silence as she attempted to gather the confidence to keep going.
“On the last day they were with me, I asked Gretel to get some water and hang the pot over the fire. She was not well yet, still delusional, but it always helped her state when I asked her to do things. I thought it grounded her physically, as though cooking and fetching water brought her out of her mind just enough to not go completely crazy. The water was for another preparation of the calabar beans, but Gretel was crying and acting strange indeed. She also thought I was going to eat Hansel. I realized that when Gretel visted Hansel in the shed, they must have been sharing delusions.
“Anyway, while the water was heating up, I asked Gretel to help me with my oven. I needed to bake some bread, but it hasn’t been working properly. Since she’s so much smaller and younger than me, I thought she would be able to look in there and tell me if anything looked out of place or broken. When I asked her to do it, she said she didn’t know how so I attempted to show her how she should climb in. But while I was doing that, she shoved me hard and I ended up in there. Of course, it wasn’t on yet — why would I ask her to get in while it was on — so I was okay, but she was able to push me all the way in and lock the door on me.
“I watched her run away while I yelled for help. I was very scared that I would starve in there. I was locked in the oven through the night and into the next morning, when my neighbor was riding by and heard my muffled yelling. Thank goodness he found me and let me out of the oven. By the time I got out, the children were gone.” Luna broke down into unmanageable tears. She sobbed for a minute or so, before she was able to regain enough composure to finish her statement.
“I tried so hard to help these children. I’m glad they made it home okay and made a full recovery from the belladonna, but I honestly wonder if it was worth all the trouble. I made them medicine, fed them, gave them shelter… they surely would have died without my help. But I myself almost died in the process of helping them.”
Her shoulders slumped as she relaxed. She didn’t feel any less nervous, but at least she was able to tell the jury what really happened. Now it was up to them to decide.