The sight of them made me want to vomit. In our hiding-place at the top of the stairs, I covered little Marie's eyes. They came in like locusts, waving their parchment so heavy with official seals it wouldn't roll up right. They demanded our wine, our bread, our meat -- Mother tried to explain that we had no meat, but her words fell upon callous ears.
"Bring us your food, woman," they growled, bayonets glinting in the sun through the window. "All of it."
Mother did as they said, carrying plates and platters and boards full of onions, stale bread, cabbage, turnips--even the tomato she was saving for Sunday.
"More," the soldiers shouted, crumbs covering their uniforms.
She did as they said, ferrying flagons of wine until the cellar was empty.
"More," they screamed. "Where is the meat?"
"We have none," Mother whispered.
One of the soldiers spoke up, his hungry eyes on Marie's terrified little face. "Oh, yes, you have."
Mother's eyes followed the soldier's. Her mouth opened, formed the word "no," once, twice, then other words that made no sound. When he climbed the stairs after Marie, I tried to hide her behind me, to drag her up higher away from him, but like a Musketeer's rapier his hand shot out and snatched her away from me, dragged her downstairs by the ankle.
They boiled my baby sister alive. Mother tried to pull her out bare-handed, but they wrenched her arms behind her and tied her to a chair. One of them held me by the arm, hard like steel, but that didn't stop me screaming like Marie was screaming. I cried and cajoled and begged them to stop, to look somewhere else.
"There's a butcher's shop around the corner," I pleaded. "You can smell it from here on hot days." That was a lie, but they were boiling Marie, and I didn't think God could mind one little fib to save her life.
They carved her up on the solid kitchen table, each one awarded his fair share of my baby sister's flesh. They ate badly, no manners, ripping the meat from her little bones. One collected his in a teetering pile, crunched them in half with his teeth, and sucked the marrow out.
When there was no more flesh for them, the one holding my arm asked, "What do we do with the skull?"
The one that had hungrily watched my baby sister grinned. "Is there any brain in it?"
There was. They fried it.
Finally full, the one holding my arm found some old rags and bound my wrists in front of me to the oven door, and then the lot of them trooped cheerfully upstairs.
It took me half an hour to untie the rags with my teeth, carefully lift the carving knife from what had once been Marie's body, and cut the throat of every man in the house.
Mother and I ate very well for the next few weeks.