The Burning

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Chris hung up the phone and pulled out his pocket knife.  He quickly cut a hole in his mattress big enough to fit his book into and shoved it inside.  He pushed the mattress back against the wall and prayed that they wouldn’t find it.

He ran down the stairs, grabbed his heavy winter coat, and walked calmly out the door.  The smell of smoke was in the air.  He started toward town.

 As Chris made his way toward the black clouds of smoke, the cold air bit into him and sent shivers up his spine.  He had to find out what was happening.  He passed a man whose coat was stuffed with books.  The man looked at him and started running.  Chris turned to watch him, but was soon distracted by something else; something that sounded like awful wailing.

 He began to see more houses and more smoke.  The eerie sound became louder and he could finally distinguish what it was.  It was people.  They were crying as they stood in front of their houses watching them burn.  Some houses had been left and others had been torched.

 There was a massive pillar of smoke coming from the town center, and all around the countryside there were other smaller pillars rising up to the sky.  He heard a loud voice booming over a bullhorn, but wasn’t able to make out the words.  Then, he turned the corner and saw the largest fire he’d ever seen.  There were mounds of books burning in the town center.  The flames were giving off enough heat for him to forget the terrible chill of the arctic air.  As he heard the voice on the bullhorn, he had another chill.  This one was from fright.

“Citizens of Brookville, please remain calm.  The supreme leader has order the destruction of all books.  If you do not comply we will be forced to take drastic measures.  As you can see, we have emptied the library here in the town center.  We encourage you to bring your books now and join in the celebration.  You do not want us to search your homes, as you can see what happens when we do.”

He quit listening to the man and pushed his way back through the crowd of people who had gathered to watch the burning.  He didn’t understand why those whose houses were burning had not had the time to turn over their books.  He saw a man standing in front of a burning house and asked him, “Is this your house?”

“Yes,” the man replied coldly.

 “Didn’t they give you time to turn your books over?” Chris asked.

 “No, they are using some of us to make an example.  I fear this is only the beginning of our dark days.”

Chris started running back along the route he had just taken into Brookville.  In his mind he could see the fire raging.  He had many books, but the bible in his mattress was his prized possession.  Ahead he could see a familiar blackness rising from the direction of his house.  He slipped off the road and into the woods.

 He crept up to the property edge and his fears were confirmed.  There were five soldiers standing in front of his house watching it burn.  He wanted to scream at them, but he was afraid of what they might do.

 As the soldiers left, Chris stood by as the flames devoured everything that he held dear.  With one order from the Supreme Leader, his world had changed.

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