February 23rd, 1940
The crowd huddles tightly together like a can of sardines, waiting expectantly to see the fire lit. They long to feel the fire warm their bodies and set flame to the pride in their hearts.
I watch from above, perched in my moonlit tree, waiting less expectantly than the rest. You could even say that I’m dreading the moment when the spark is ignited. When I look at the black pile of books, I see the years of toil poured into them. I see the stories, true and fictional, telling tales that inspire the good in human hearts. I hear the words on the pages calling out to me, “Save us, save us!” I close my eyes, I breathe in the blackness, and ignore the cries for help.
A man in a dark uniform stands behind a podium, and gives a speech. I cannot hear what he is saying, nor can I hear the enthusiastic crowd’s responses. To me, it is all the same. The noises are drowned out by the sound of the night I fell below the ice two years ago. The crushing, deafening sound of ice cracking. The strong, rushing sound of water flowing. Those are the only sounds I ever hear now. They are the only sounds I ever will hear again. Only, they are in my head.
My attention is turned towards the bright light that is shot across my face. The fire has been lit. The books start at a low whisper, hissing their pleas for help in the form of a few inky tears. The words cry a little louder, and begin melting off of the pages. I can’t stop the feeling in my heart. It’s being tugged by the words. It’s being pulled by what they’ve meant to me. The stories I’ve read have given me a life again, and now, they’re killing them in the name of rebellion.
Einstein, Hugo, Hemingway, London, Keller, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy. Just a few of the names that are being mocked tonight by the pride of Third Reich. Their writings have been deemed “unworthy”. Their hard work, their perspectives, their stories, are being blotted out from the pages of history.
The books are wailing now. Crying to be set free. They call to me, but I cannot answer. I cannot get involved. So I watch. I can see the yellowed pages curling up from the oppression of the flames. They ignite, then are no more. Word by word. Page by page. Book by book.
It is over now. A few burning coals are left, along with a round moon the color of butter. We watch the remains of the books being swept into a pile. The night is still silent. The sky is silent. The world is silent.
But the books.
The books may have been destroyed. Their ashes may lie forever in silence.
But the colorful imprint that they have left upon my mind still speaks. Everyday, every hour, they speak.
Their words are still alive. The ghosts of the stories they once were still exist. In fact, they are screaming their dreams louder than ever, desperately trying to awaken the dark consciences of my countrymen.