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 He also has a website, called Shapescapes, where he muses on the superhero and comic book reviews.

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