TREADING THE GRASS • by Konstantine Paradias

Look closely, oh mighty lord. Was that an assassin treading through the tall grass, lurking in the corner of your eye, as you read this letter? Was that a creak from the nightingale boards, betraying an intruder?

When you turn your head in your bed, do you fear not feeling the thin silk thread brushing against your lips, weighed with drops of poison?

Do you grow pale at the slightest sound? Do you avoid the simple pleasures of eating and drinking, the everyday joy of strolling through your garden for fear of your own life?

A lowly rice farmer lives with much less fear than you do. He does not tremble at the petty sounds of night. He walks across your domain with no retainer and no weapon at hand. He fears being drafted to your armies and having his home pillaged, his wife shamed by one of your officers, but he sleeps without fear for his life. He lies with his mistress and does not for one moment consider that he might be stabbed in the middle of the act.

Your burdens are many, mighty lord, your life harsh and sad. No man should have to live the way you do. This is why it is my duty and singular honor to end it.

Do not fear. Do not panic. Do not call your guards or lash at your advisors and your kin with anger. You will not find people more loyal than them. If you need to blame someone for your death, then blame me. I have killed you from the moment you opened this letter, the minute you broke the seal and touched the paper.

You might notice now that your fingertips are numb; that the numbness is starting to crawl across your fingers, up your joints, then slide up to your elbows. You might begin to feel as if you were drunk, your knees buckling. Your eyes may be tearing, oh lord.

Very soon, your throat will begin to swell, until it’s nearly closed up. You will find it very hard to breathe. Your body will go limp from the neck down, but all the while you will feel it as if pricked by a thousand pins. Your eyes will bulge and your fair skin will turn a dark shade of purple. You will be trapped inside your own body, praying for the release of death that will be hours, perhaps days away.

It will be at your last moments, before your body finally gives way that your torment will end. You will feel an exquisite relief from your pain and your terror. It will be the moment that your doctor must provide you with the antidote: no sooner, no later. Take it then and you will survive.

But know this, oh mighty lord: should you survive, your life will be worse than it was. You will now avoid the light completely; you will shun your friends and comrades. This brush with death will leave you far more scarred than any other before it.

And once you have survived my attempt at your life, be certain that others will follow. Assassins that will lack my finesse or subtlety or mercy. Unlike me, they will not be appalled at the thought of pointless killing.  Like you, they will not shy away from shedding the blood of someone weak, like a hot-headed lord might do with his serfs. They will strike at the things you hold dear: your holdings, your family.

Accept my gift and spare them.

Shun it and a life of horror awaits you.


Konstantine Paradias is a Greek science fiction and fantasy author. His short stories in English have been published in the Open Hearts Publishing Petulant Parables Anthology, Schlock! Magazine, the Breathless Press Shifters Anthology and, of course, Every Day Fiction. His first fantasy novella, Stone Cold Countenance, has been published by bibliocracy.com. He also has a website, called Shapescapes, where he muses on the superhero and comic book reviews.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Nicely done. Left me with a lot to think about.

    ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’

  • Petros

    nice short story!

  • SarahT

    Excellent choice, following the first Presidential debate of 2012.

    I did initially equate “Lord” with God, but had no troubles after realizing my error. This letter packed a real punch!

  • However, this is a well known and long known trick, easily circumvented with the use of secretaries. Rafael Sabatini made use of something similar in “The Banner of the Bull”, in which he has people try to present a petition or some such that had been infected with the plague to Cesare Borgia; it didn’t work (on him – he made them eat it).

    And eyes don’t tear, hands do, e.g. tearing open the envelope in question. Eyes wink, blink, focus, open, shut, water, weep, and so forth, but never tear; such manipulation is outwith their function and incidents. Yes, I know “any noun can be verbed”, but it does not follow that it should be, and particularly not when on the one hand perfectly good alternatives already exist and on the other hand there is scope for confusion of the sort that arises here since the very plot presumes the manipulation that tearing is.

  • PMW, the English language is evolving, and although you may not like it, eyes now ‘tear’ up. Check any dictionary (21st century dictionary, that is).

  • PAF, you are wrong. That is, you are wrong at a deeper level – I haven’t checked the dictionaries for this.

    Quite simply, you haven’t taken on board the issues I raised, which were about what people should do with the English language, not what they do do with it. In my book (not in U.S. practice), the former is not the job of a dictionary, although the latter is. I readily acknowledge the practice; I merely condemn it, for reasons which are quite unrelated (they have to do with the unnecessary multiplication of entities and with making confusion worse confounded).

    Not only is dictionary citation irrelevant, we can turn it on its head: if we were to concede U.S. practice (being prescriptive), we could tell people what should be in the dictionary rather than what is current practice, and if not, we are equally entitled to tell people – separately from the dictionary – how and why they should innovate and discard, hoping to set an example that would eventually show up in the dictionaries. Evolution proceeds by discarding as well as by innovating, even in language, and there is no reason at all to take the practice of yesterday as any more binding than that of fifty years ago. So the very fact that the unwieldy term got into usage allows me to recommend getting it out.

  • A passionate argument – I’m tearing up.

  • In context, I can only conclude that you mean that you are tearing up my argument.

  • joannab.

    shudder, not at the comments above, but at the story. it is an incredible story – the plot, the writing, everything about it. i’ve read it so far three times and each time am struck anew by its excellence. from “the assassin treading through the tall grass” to the “like you, they will not shy away from shedding the blood of someone weak” it enthralled me. congratulations and five stars.

  • A very chilling story.

  • Joanne

    Agree with Mary at #10—chilling. Very well done.