Which is rather far from Hansel and Gretel.
Once upon a time there dwelt on the outskirts of the Cascade forest a businessman, William Ellison, with his wife and two Sentinel children; the boy was Jimmy and the girl Alex. He had always had a hard enough time trying to be the average businessman-next-door, so as not to shock away his clients, but this task was much complicated by the presence of his wife and children, none of whom were anything like normal. As if the Sentinel business wasn't bad enough on its own, little Jimmy had the disturbing habit of switching off the lights and pretending that nobody was home, thus losing him several clients, while his sister Alex... well, let's just say the local pet store did an unusually brisk business. Worst yet, however, was when Grace, his wife, started a rather disreputable sort of business in Spokane you don't really want to know about.
There had been an unusually severe economic slump, and poor William, who had enough on his hands to support them even when everything was going well, was at a loss. A client had recently switched to another company due to Grace's questionable connections, Jimmy had successfully tricked another one who had arrived while he was in the bathroom, and Alex had just done something irretrievable to her latest puppy, an adorable little wolf-like husky he had actually liked.
"What am I to do?" he demanded of Grace in frustration, not expecting any helpful answer. "The three of you will bankrupt me, and we'll all be thrown into the streets to beg!"
"I'll tell you what, husband," answered Grace coolly. "Early to-morrow morning we'll take the children out camping in the thickest part of the wood, and there abandon them. They won't be able to find their way home, and we shall thus be rid of them."
"That is ridiculous," said William, "they are only part of the problem! I want a divorce, and would rather keep them than you."
"Oh! you ungrateful fool," responded Grace. "If it were not for my sideline you would all have died of starvation by now, and what do they contribute but frustration for both of us?" And she left him no peace till he consented. "But I can't help feeling sorry for the poor children," added William.
It goes without saying that this conversation was overheard by their Sentinel children, of course, and Alex was outraged. "We must kill them before they can act against us," she declared fiercely, and began rummaging for a suitable weapon. " I'm sure we're still in their wills."
"No, no, Alex," said Jimmy, "don't fret yourself. We're Sentinels: they couldn't get rid of us if they tried. Be comforted, my dear little sister, and go to sleep," and they went back to bed again.
At daybreak, even before the sun was up, their mother came and woke the two children: "Get up, you lie-abeds, we're all going camping in the forest." Alex grimaced and started to reach for her water-gun, but subsided at Jimmy's stern look. Then they all set out together on the way to the forest.
When they had reached the middle of the forest William said:
"Now, children, go and fetch a lot of wood, and I'll light a fire that you may not feel cold." Jimmy and Alex heaped up brushwood till they had made a pile nearly the size of a small hill. The brushwood was set fire to, and when the flames leaped high Grace said: "Now lie down at the fire, children, and rest yourselves: we're going to fish at the river; when we've caught enough we'll come back and cook dinner." And the scheming couple took off homewards in a hurry.
Jimmy and Alex, quite unconcerned, spent their day in the woods thoroughly enjoying themselves. They picked berries, zoned on wildflowers, and harassed hapless poachers. When it came close to dinnertime, Jimmy started sniffing their way home, following the scents of Grace's perfume and William's cologne. They arrived just as dinner was served and their parents had to accept their continued presence, though William was slightly relieved that they had returned safely (and not been captured by a circus).
Not long afterward there was again a great economic recession, and the children heard their mother address their father thus in bed one night: "We are on the verge of bankruptcy once more, and when our savings are gone, it's all up with us. The children must be got rid of; we'll lead them deeper into the wood this time, so that they won't be able to find their way out again. There is no other way of saving ourselves."
William's heart smote him heavily, and he thought: "Surely it would be better to live in poverty with one's children!" But his wife wouldn't listen to his arguments, and did nothing but scold and reproach him until he gave in again.
But the children were awake, and had heard the conversation (naturally!). Jimmy restrained Alex once more, and nearly got clouted for his trouble, but at last they went to sleep again in anticipation of another day of camping.
At early dawn Grace came and made the children get up again. They led the children deep into the woods, far deeper than they'd ever gone, in hopes of losing the children, and much deeper than was wise, for once the fire was lit and they set off home, they found that, alas! they were themselves lost, and they meandered round and round in the woods for a good many days until a park ranger found them and brought them home.
Having had their fun, Jimmy and Alex set off sniffing their way home, but got so confused by the myriad twists and turns and loops the path took that they too became utterly lost, and Alex began to cry and blame Jimmy. "See, if you'd let me kill them both we'd be safe and comfortable back home, but now they have managed to lose us for real. What are we to do?"
"Never mind," said Jimmy to Alex, in hopes of forestalling a blow; "we'll find a way out;" but all the same they did not. They wandered about the whole night, and the next day, from morning till evening, but they could not find a path out of the wood. They were very hungry, too, for they had nothing to eat but a few berries they found growing on the ground. And at last they were so tired that their legs refused to carry them any longer, so they lay down under a tree and fell fast asleep.
On the third morning after they had left their father's house they set about their wandering again, but only got deeper and deeper into the wood, and now they felt that if help did not come to them soon they must perish. At midday they saw a great black jaguar crouching on a branch, which growled so like their stomachs that they stopped still and listened to it.
"Poor thing! He must be just as hungry as we are," sighed Jimmy compassionately.
"I wonder if we can eat it and sell the fur," mused Alex.
And thus when it bounded off ahead of them, they followed it and came to a great warehouse, where it clambered up and crouched on the roof, still growling.
Jimmy sniffed at the enticing smells that came from the warehouse. "Mm... I smell macaroni and cheese... pizza... And cold egg-rolls!" Without further ado the children kicked the door down, and made short work of whatever food they could lay their hands on, much to the surprise of the Neo-Hippie Witch-Doctor Punk residing therein.
"Why, wherever did you come from, children?" Blair asked as he poured out soft drinks for them, watching them devour his lunch in quite bemused fashion. They were too busy stuffing themselves to answer, and when they were done they crawled into his bed exhausted and fell sound asleep.
In the morning, when they finally woke for breakfast and told him their sad story, the Witch-Doctor clapped his hands and crowed in excitement: "You're Sentinels! I've been looking for you all my life! Stay with me and let me study you, and return I'll feed and look after you."
Then he looked at them more closely and frowned, for they had been wandering three days in the woods without bathing or changing their clothes, and they smelled horribly. "Come," he said to Jimmy, whose face was especially muddy, for he had done most of the sniffing since Alex was too prone to zoning to do much. "You must take a bath, and Alex, we must test your abilities so as to keep you from getting sensory spikes and zones all the time." Then he seized Jimmy with a hand and carried him to the bathroom, where he filled the bathtub with hot water.
On seeing the bathtub, however, Jimmy squawked in terror, for he had a phobia of deep water, and could only abide showers. Alex, hearing her brother, and seeing the steam rising from the water, misunderstood, which was hardly unexpected given that she had read too many fairy tales.
"You're trying to cook my brother, you vile Witch-Doctor!" she screeched. She clocked Blair on the back of his head with her water-gun, and shoved him headfirst into the tub. They watched as bubbles slowly rose through the water, and, horrified, Jimmy got over his phobia all at once, leapt into the tub after Blair and dragged him out, coughing and spitting water, but thankfully alive and well.
So while Alex was having her turn in the bath, Jimmy and Blair had a private conference under the protection of a white-noise generator, and they agreed that she should be sent to a psychiatric institution for treatment. With that matter resolved, they settled down to live happily ever after.
What of William and Grace? They finally had a normal little boy, Stephen, but eventually Grace took off by herself anyway, and William at last had the relatively normal family he had wanted.