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Seeing Red

by Cholero 

Posted: 05 November 2009
Word Count: 509
Summary: Bonfire flash challenge

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Fireboy pushed up through the subsoil into the hot dry earth beneath the bonfire. With a thrust he emerged into its raging heart, sloughing earth and ashes from his fat little torso. He squatted cross-legged in the centre of the heat, mouth pressed into a line, looking this way and that.

‘How dare they,’ he growled.

Beyond curtains of flame he saw people gathered around, people smiling and laughing, people holding hands up to the heat, people poking sticks into his blazing domain. Everywhere children twirled sparklers in shapeless circles.

'How dare they play with fire.'

Fireboy spat a fat gobbet of sparks into the night. A man shied away, lifting aside his son, then laughed as the sparks showered into blackness. He took his place near the fire again, the boy tucking his head into his father's neck. Look at you, thought Fireboy. A stupid little boy. I could tell you a thing or two about fear. Try getting through this life without a father. Or a mother. Try that and see if it makes you cry.

The boy squinted into the fire; it seemed to Fireboy that he looked directly into his own fiery little eyes.

'You’ll see something soon enough,' he growled.

Fireboy had lately finished an apprenticeship in Australia. Now that was a place where you could have a fire. You could burn up whole communities there, destroy human hopes and dreams, take actual lives. Over there, if the mood took you, you could scorch the earth.

Not that he’d done much scorching. They'd never allowed him close to the action, always stuck him on a hill as look-out for the dousing helicopters. ‘When you grow up, Fireboy. You have to learn the when and the where even if you do know the how.’ That was the sort of thing the Firemeisters who owned him said. ‘You need to mature, Fireboy.’ Mature? He was mature. Mature enough to know that the most satisfying sight on this earth was a human torch.

And now this. His first solo responsibility. A bonfire party in England.

Not exactly 9/11.

‘It doesn’t matter what the job is,’ they'd said, ‘there’s always an opportunity.'

Fireboy laughed, and with it waves of red heat pressed out from his body into the fire. People shielded their faces, made remarks about the amazing fire, how it was all in the construction, how well ash trees burned. At that point the boy who had been frightened picked up a stone and threw it hard into the heart of the fire. It struck Fireboy on the head. He screamed. White flame streamed from the wound. He stood up, shook his arms, turned his face to the boy, hunched himself over and growled low and deep.

He called on forces deep beneath the crust of the earth.

The bonfire exploded into white.

The spectators cooked instantly, remaining upright. Heat pulsed for hundreds of miles, deep into the countryside. It took everything with it.

Except the little boy.

Who stood by his father’s corpse, untouched.

And alone.

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Comments by other Members

Bunbry at 12:38 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
Hi Pete, an interesting idea here! I'm ont sure if we are supposed to be on the side of the Fireboy or not (which is a problem I feel) but he cetainly loses all sympathy at the end.

Not really sure what effect you were after with this story, so I felt a bit ambivalent at the end.


Prospero at 14:23 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
This is excellent. Pete.

I really felt the power of the fantasy and the force of the petulance with which Fireboy destroyed the people. This is top writing.



jenzarina at 14:57 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
I do love a bit of modern mythology! The Fireboy character and all his petulence was well-drawn.

V`yonne at 14:59 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
I don't think it matters about being on a side when the writing is good and the story so memorable. Great fanasy character. Um - what are you on?

tusker at 15:08 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
This is good, Pete.

What a horrible, destructive creature Fireboy is but fascinating.

It's like a scary, fairy tale with no happy ending.

Hans Christian Anderson would turn in his grave.


choille at 18:23 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
Hi Pete - very nasty indeed.

Everything about Fireboy is repellent - from his fat little torso to him gobbing out sparks.

twirled sparklers in shapeless circles.
Is there such a thing as shapeless circles - although I know what you mean?

his father’s ashen corps
I again know what you mean, but by using 'ashen' one tends to think of the colour, or rather the lack of it, but not ash as such - maybe just me?

Great writing.

Great punch of an ending - nice restrained timing.
Enjoyed it very much.


Bunbry at 21:53 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
I don't think it matters about being on a side when the writing is good and the story so memorable.

Hi Oonah, I just wanted to clarify why I feel being 'on side'with a character is important.

I know you love Star Trek like me, but imagine how dull each episode would be (despite the vivid imagination of the writers, and glorious special effects)if you cared not a fig about the fate of the crew.

It is because we care, that we get involved in the plot.

I remember when they very cleverly made us care about the fate of the robot character Data. He was going to be dissasembled (for research purposes) but because the audience cared about the fate of him, it was one of the most riveting episodes ever.

Fire boy reminds me of the character Q, but he is interesting because we care passionately about Picard who he torments.

Sorry Pete, but in the above story I did not care about the fate of the boy (nor about the anquish of the Fireboy) which is why I felt the story didn't engage me.


Cholero at 22:06 on 05 November 2009  Report this post
Hi Nick

Maybe it's telling that my favourite book -Scarlet and Black- has a main character who is pretty much repellent at all but the most superficial levels and that I loathe and detest (I need both of those words) Star Trek (pace Oonah)for its tiresome and predictable assumptions about what a viewer will and will not find empathetic.

There I've said it.

Appreciate you having a look and taking the time.



Cholero at 22:08 on 05 November 2009  Report this post

Thanks for those comments, have amended ashen but left shapeless circles.

Glad you hated him!


Cholero at 22:08 on 05 November 2009  Report this post

That's vmuch appreciated!


Cholero at 22:09 on 05 November 2009  Report this post

i'm on parkin.


Cholero at 22:10 on 05 November 2009  Report this post

Thanks for taking a look.


Cholero at 22:10 on 05 November 2009  Report this post

Thanks, those are very encouraging words.


crowspark at 17:27 on 07 November 2009  Report this post
Hi Pete

Loved your Fireboy character. I would have liked to have heard a great deal more about him. I enjoyed your opener which introduced him so vividly.
Loved the ending although I might have prefered a stronger buildup and motivation
Excellent writing.


Laurence at 23:07 on 07 November 2009  Report this post
An interesting take Pete - loved the idea.


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