Fire Devils

Fire Devils

Let it be cleansed, let it be reborn anew. 
                    Let creation come from destruction,
                    as all life must come from death.
                                       Let it burn.

 
Still from Chris Tangey’s footage of a “fire devil” in the Australian Outback
“Fire Devils,” a short story from my new collection  The Knife and the Wound It Deals,
was inspired by a friend of mine who was in an accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. When a person loses something so monumental, a dangerous question whispers out of the abyss—how far would you be willing to go to get that something back? Would you trade our soul? Your integrity—or perhaps something even worse?
Zach, the story’s protagonist, is a paraplegic fire watcher in the Arizona desert (this is an actual job whereby people sit in fire stations and scan the desert for signs of wildfires). The devils that spark to life within fire’s blazing whirl have been whispering the Phoenix-tale of rising up from the ashes of one’s own immolation…but Zach must be careful about what else may burn down in the process…
“Zach watched the first embers form in the dense brush, and each one was like a little glowing eye looking directly at him. Each flickering voice seemed to whisper straight into his brain. It was as if Zach could somehow feel what the fire felt. He knew what it was like to be contained; he knew all about not being able to go the places you wanted to go, not being able to do the things you wanted to do. He thought about the shed he and his brother had turned into an inferno of flames. He remembered how good it had felt to let it burn.
“What about all those houses? Those people?” Zach whispered back to the flames. 
Let their world burn, the voices told him. Let us create a new one.
Let us burn.
In a college philosophy class, Zach had once learned about Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in order to transcend the body and achieve enlightenment. Passing a bottle of vodka back and forth later on in the dorm room, one of his more esoteric friends had gotten stuck on the subject.
“What if we are trapping ourselves down here on earth, in these imperfect, fragile bodies?” she had asked no one in particular. “What if we have to destroy them in order to get free of them?”
At the time Zach had pegged her as either drunk or crazy or both, but now he thought about those monks dousing themselves in gasoline and calmly lighting the match. What if fire had known the answer all along?
Let the world be reborn anew. Let creation come from destruction. All began with fire, so must all return. Let it burn.
One of Zach’s oldest childhood friends had started using drugs during a stint playing drums in a rockabilly punk band. He had skipped the coke-and-weed road stops and checked straight into Heroin Hotel, and in less than three years he’d lost his girlfriend, his gig, his money, and over a quarter of his lean muscle mass. From the looks of things, his teeth were ready to check out next. Eventually he’d gone into rehab and begun the slow process of stitching his life back together one thread at a time. When Zach had last seen him, he’d been clean for almost two years and had started playing drums again.
“Do you ever still think about using?” Zach had asked him.
“Every single second of every single day,” his friend said.
Zach had never understood how a person could be obsessed with the very thing guaranteed to destroy him—until he heard the fire voices. Now he knew what it was to need something all the time, to have it so thoroughly take hold of every fiber of his body, every cell of his being that eventually nothing else mattered. Fire was all Zach thought about; fire was all that mattered. And more than anything else, Zach wanted to see it unleashed, finally set free from its boundaries.
For three months he had been fighting the voices. But there comes a time when even the most determined person gets tired of fighting.”
Zach finally does come face to face with a fire devil—and his own darkest, most unimaginable desires–to read “Fire Devils” and twelve other Gothic tales of fantastic happenings and uncanny occurrences, click here to purchase The Knife and the Wound It Deals in e-book or paperback version.