Flames

Flames

A Story by Selena Elleen
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A short fiction tale, a little on the creepy side.

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    Children all have one thing in common.  They burn.  Everyone does, but it’s the children that really get people emotional.  Echoes of their screams and cries carry throughout smoke-filled houses causing panic to rise in everyone’s chests.  It’s the children, so filled with potential, that are so easily erased from this world with a simple spark.  They hide under their covers and in corners and in closets.  They hide where heroes cannot find them.  Hope so easily vanishes from their reach.

    As tragic as this all seems, I didn’t become a firefighter for the children; I became a firefighter for myself.  I did it to stop the nightmares.  The images of burning children.  I wanted them gone.  I thought that if I saved them in real life, the nightmares would stop.  They didn’t.

    As long as I could remember I’d had the same recurring dream.  It would be dark.  Suddenly, I’d hear a child weeping.  Calling out for help.  I’d walk forward and see a flame.  An image of a small, charred body would flash before my eyes.  I’d jam them shut, hoping to wish it away.  When I reopened my eyes, I would be in the room of a child.  They would be screaming, terrified.  No matter what I do to try and rescue them the same thing always happens.  A blinding white light takes over my field of vision.  Then I wake up.

    Eventually, when I realized therapy wasn’t working, I took matters into my own hands.  I thought I could beat the nightmares.  I thought I would be able to rest again.  When I faced my first fire, it was almost as if I had done it hundreds of times before.  Charging into the flames seemed to be as easy as drawing in a breath. I became a hero.  

    Harriet was studying to become a psychologist.  She approached me at the firehouse one day with hopes of interviewing one of us for a project.  She wanted to find out how we coped mentally being surrounded by the helpless and the dead.  I couldn’t tell her it was because I’ve been surrounded by them in my sleep since I was a child.  I lied to her and made myself out to be a hero.  She was fascinated and visited me at the firehouse frequently after.  Harriet praised me for my bravery.  She thought I was selfless, but I was as selfish as one can be.  When she fell for me, I followed.  She wasn’t a terrible person, and she was rather attractive.  I thought, maybe if I wasn’t alone, the nightmares would stop.  They didn’t.

    I will never forget the boy in glasses.  He was so afraid.  I was on call one night, and a terrible fire was unleashed in a suburban home.  When I arrived, I was told of the boy in glasses, hidden away in his closet.  When I rushed into the room, I was overcome with shock.  I knew this boy.  I had never seen him before in my life, but I knew him.  Unable to move, I watched the closet burn into nothingness.  That one night, I slept peacefully.  The nightmares returned the following day.

    When Harriet first told me about our daughter, I was overjoyed.  Not because I would be a father, but because, perhaps, if I had a child of my own to protect, then the nightmares would disperse.  When she was born and they didn’t lessen at all, I was crushed.  I told Harriet that I was just stressed. She believed me.

    When my daughter was six, she went to a playdate.  I was in charge of picking her up afterwards.  There was a girl.  She had blonde pigtails and striped socks.  She was just sitting there, in the middle of the road, with chalk in her hands.  I was in a pickup truck.  I could have stopped.  But I knew her.  I was terrified; I froze.  I knew her.  I had never seen her before; yet, I knew her.  With an extra fee provided, the car wash asked no questions.  I arrived to pick up my daughter only fifteen minutes late.  That night I didn’t have a nightmare.

    Harriet was a psychologist.  She knew something had changed in me.  I was losing grip of who I was.  We agreed it was best if she and our daughter went back to her hometown.  I didn’t care that they left.  I was already empty inside.

    Three years later, on a Saturday night, I started thinking about my daughter.  I don’t know why I did, I barely had for the past few years.  That night was… Odd.  She was the child in my dream.  I called Harriet and asked to visit her.  She agreed, but only for our daughter’s sake.  When I visited, Harriet suggested I play with her in her bedroom.  Inside, the walls were covered with crayon drawings.  Harriet explained that she had our daughter draw all of her imaginary friends.  I thought it was weird, but I dared not question the psychologist.

    There was one drawing that caught my eye.


“Who’s this?” I asked our daughter.


“That’s not my friend.” She responded plainly.


 Harriet quickly chimed in. “Oh, Ember is afraid of the dark.  She said she saw a scary monster the other night.  I gave her a flashlight, though, and it seems to have gone away.”


“I turned on my lights to make it go away. Next time I’m gonna shine my flashie right in its face!” our daughter added.


    I remembered the drawing on my way home.  It was a silhouette of a man.  Creepy.  The worse part was that it had a devilish grin.  I wouldn’t want that hanging on my wall.

    The next ten years were a blur.  Work and nightmares; nightmares and work.  On some rare nights I wouldn’t have nightmares, but usually only after a tragic day.

    I have had the same nightmare for 47 years.  But last night was the worse I have ever had.  It started the same. A fire. A body. A boy.  He cried and cried and hid under his blanket.  I couldn’t get him out of it.  He was going to die.  I needed something to calm him, a toy.  His room was empty.  There was a closet.  I ran to open the closet and came face to face with an awful painting.  It was the same figure that my daughter had drawn.  I fell backwards in shock when I realized the awful truth:  It was a mirror.



© 2017 Selena Elleen



Author's Note

Selena Elleen
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Featured Review

Quite simply, I enjoyed this story. Your style is good and easy to understand. The story is expressed well and directly, which simply makes it enjoyable, with no spiky business or complications, and it there's a subtle bit of the macabre, which I certainly liked.

The only criticisms I would offer are: First, the length of the story. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more of this, and how everything comes together; how the nightmares relate to the man's figure/reflection, perhaps a bit more insight into his character or thoughts, etc. However, I feel that it works without development quite well, it is only my opinion that the story would be improved if lengthened.

Second, I would comment on the formatting of the text. The conversations feel a bit breezy and blurry when stuck in the middle of paragraphs, so they might be better understood if placed into their own lines, for example:

Instead of: "There was one drawing that caught my eye. “Who’s this?” I asked our daughter. “That’s not my friend.” She responded plainly."

Try:
There was one drawing that caught my eye.

“Who’s this?” I asked our daughter.

“That’s not my friend.” She responded plainly.

It feels more like a conversation and adds weight to what is said.

I hope my review helps. I apologise if it sounds rigid or forceful, that was not my intention. With that said, I do hope I can read something like this again. Good luck onward!

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Quite simply, I enjoyed this story. Your style is good and easy to understand. The story is expressed well and directly, which simply makes it enjoyable, with no spiky business or complications, and it there's a subtle bit of the macabre, which I certainly liked.

The only criticisms I would offer are: First, the length of the story. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more of this, and how everything comes together; how the nightmares relate to the man's figure/reflection, perhaps a bit more insight into his character or thoughts, etc. However, I feel that it works without development quite well, it is only my opinion that the story would be improved if lengthened.

Second, I would comment on the formatting of the text. The conversations feel a bit breezy and blurry when stuck in the middle of paragraphs, so they might be better understood if placed into their own lines, for example:

Instead of: "There was one drawing that caught my eye. “Who’s this?” I asked our daughter. “That’s not my friend.” She responded plainly."

Try:
There was one drawing that caught my eye.

“Who’s this?” I asked our daughter.

“That’s not my friend.” She responded plainly.

It feels more like a conversation and adds weight to what is said.

I hope my review helps. I apologise if it sounds rigid or forceful, that was not my intention. With that said, I do hope I can read something like this again. Good luck onward!

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on July 5, 2017
Last Updated on July 30, 2017
Tags: fantasy, fiction, experience, finished story, cool story, story, science fiction, unique, horror, scary, weird, nightmare, creepy

Author

Selena Elleen
Selena Elleen

Oak Hall, VA



About
I am a young, aspiring writer who just wants to share her works with the world. more..

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