Words on Fire~~by Christine Larsen

Cover image for the story - burning books with the caption "Words on Fire"

“Take us! Take us too! We beg you!”

The creaking and groaning was more than pitiful. It reached horrendous levels. But strain as they would, the bookshelves could not disengage themselves from their sturdy shackles. Their beloved homes had become their bastilles – the only reason they remained in the tragically empty and lonesome bookshops when their ransacking was complete.

“We’d rather die quickly on a funeral pyre, than be left to rot amongst cobwebs and emptiness,” the empty shelves cried piteously. But nobody heard.

Who would have thought the first vandals would be university students, destroying upwards of 25,000 books written in an ‘un-German’ spirit. Or so it began. Tragically, this destruction quickly deteriorated into a frenzy of annihilation of the written word, no matter its form or message. The bonfires burned ever higher. Within days, 34 university towns across Germany had decimated even countless of their own authors’ classics and set the pattern for bookshelves to be ransacked across the land.

“Words are dreams and faith… our tomorrow. Without them, we are nothing,” the bookshelves cried in agony. But nobody listened.

Their cries fell on deaf ears, for this was a cry that shrieked loudest and most painfully in the hearts and outraged souls of true book-lovers… though the brutality ignited horror in even the most illiterate. Few have ever been able to understand why none of those heartless vandals protested, or refused to burn the books in the pogrom of literature lighting the German skies that memorable night. Few have found comfort in the knowledge of how often history has repeated itself. According to Wikipedia:

In some cases, the destroyed works are irreplaceable and their burning constitutes a severe loss to cultural heritage. Examples include the burning of books and burying of scholars under China’s Qin Dynasty (213–210 BC), the burning of the Library of Alexandria (c. 49), the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad (1258), the destruction of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl (1430s), and the burning of Maya codices on the order of bishop Diego de Landa (1562).

If you close your eyes and grant your imagination freedom, you will hear those bookshelves’ message of hope against the odds, saying –

“When WILL you learn Man is a storyteller – has been from the beginning of Time? He’s the reason your legends are born and persist through the history of forever. What he doesn’t know for sure, he imagines. Burn that if you can!”

And they tried, those would-be murderers of human hope – and this particular time was on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date for bonfire celebrations in Germany. The callous vandals of this day would not understand that you can NEVER destroy Man’s spirit; his imagination; his memory. It’s a package deal, this human spirit – an indivisible pact between reader and writer.

Throughout history, when all has seemed lost, words, like the fabulous phoenix of legend, rise ever again.

Hush now bookshelves. We hear you and will fill you with our words of hope again… and again.

OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

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