The flames lick greedily on covers and spines, tasting at first, quickly consuming. He sees the reflections of the flames in the empty eyes of the soulless masses. The crackles and pops of burning words echoes in the still courtyard. Men shuffle forward in the circle, tossing in their children's picture books, magazines, family heirlooms, diaries, letters. Sparks catch books that have fallen off the pyre, thick black smoke chokes the night. He watches. He watches his former friends across the circle from him, through a red haze. He owns no books. He has nothing to burn.
The night air is chilly at his back; his face burns from the heat in front of him. A man in a suit approaches a lectern and the crowd shifts en masse to meet him, faces upturned with trusting eyes. The man senses none are watching him, feigns a cough, ducks down. His hand darts out and back into his coat too fast for anyone to see. he's grabbed the first book he saw, a green, nameless book with a faded cover and tattered corner.
When the police come for him, he burns with his book. He regrets nothing.