Path of Grass Excerpt

But I had a dream. I was sitting on my cot, and a soldier came in. He stomped his way over to me and stood over me, smelling of beer, cigars, blood, and sauerkraut. I cringed and tried to turn away. He grabbed my neck and mumbled something in garbled German. He took out a sharp, shiny knife.

“This is for those who lie. Those who are self-centered. Those who pretend they are righteous but are not. Those who take food from the mouths of the innocent. I shall either use this,” he ran his finger across the blade, “or burn you alive in this room.” I shook at the thought of dying in a fire. He took advantage of my fear. “I think that is the best way to remove hypocrites from the world.” He took a match from his pocket, pulled the blanket off my bed, and made a pile in the middle of the floor with it. He snatched my father’s books from the shelf. “Perfect tinder,” he muttered.  He crumpled the sheets up on the blanket. “I’ll light the match, and as soon as the paper has caught fire, I’ll leave and lock the door after me. I’d better tie you up so you don’t escape.” He used his belt to wrap me to the bed frame. Then, holding the match firmly, he lit it and carefully dropped it in among a treatise on the development of civil law. The greedy flame consumed the first sheet within seconds, and then the man left. I heard him bar the door. With agonizing awareness, I watched the fire spread and grow. It charred the blanket and crept closer to the bed. Then in a moment it caught the mattress and the straw inside. Another moment, and it was inches from my body. I could feel the intense heat, and I screamed.

I woke up, sweating and throwing the covers off me. I looked around desperately for the fire, but there was none. The fear choked my throat; I could not swallow. Oh, no—I can’t live like this. Please, I must escape; I must do something to get away. It will be like this every night. Every night I shall be haunted by what I have done. So I worried and fretted until morning came.

– From Part One, Chapter 10

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