This is a short piece that I wrote about ten years ago. I did a little bit of editing to it and tweaked the ending just a bit, but overall it’s as it was when originally written. The original genesis of the idea came about by trying to put a spin on the same old same old vampire story. Also at the time there was an arsonist in the city I lived in setting fires to abandoned houses/industrial buildings. The outcome was this bit of flash fiction.
I post it here for your amusement, I still like the story although its a little rough around the edges from a ‘writerly’ point of view.
Be forewarned there are certain elements that some may find offensive …
SCARLET SCREAMS THE PHOENIX
BY KEVIN HURTACK
With the subtle flick of her wrist the match head came to life with a delectable hiss and a heady aroma.
Celia placed the flickering flame between her bone thin thumb and forefinger letting it burn until it caressed her flesh.
Celia felt nothing.
She let the charred corpse of the match stick descend like Lucifer. It smoldered on a floor covered with crumpled fetish magazines and empty cans of lighter fluid. Celia pulled another match out and lit it while she walked over to a thread bare couch Old VHS tapes and dog-eared paperbacks laid haphazardly on a milk crate that served as her coffee table.
Celia studied the back cover of the movie, The Hunger for a moment before tossing it over shoulder. The movie was useless, it held none of the advice she sought for her condition. Although Celia found David Bowie insanely hot, his character in the movie seemed just as confused and misdirected as her. But then again she shouldn’t have expected to find salvation from a rock star.
What had happened to her was nothing like the Stephen King, Anne Rice, or Richard Mathewson novels, either. No seduction followed by a blood letting. Not a charming man, or affable woman. There was no primal beast like Max Ernst in Nosferatu.
All Celia could remember, when she tried hard, is the fire. All about her. Suffocating, and embracing. Smoke thicker than the night. The anguished screams. The gut-wrenching stench of burnt hair and broiling flesh. The charred bodies surrounding her. Men crying like little boys. Old women begging for a miracle escape. Hysterical mothers clutching the unnervingly still bundles of their babies.
Then she saw It. It came through the wall of flames cloaked in ash and fire. All Celia remembered was the embrace of an unearthly flame.
Since that fateful night her skin has been one immense burn scar. Cracked and wrinkled like old leather instead of the fair complexion of her former teen age self. Celia found out soon that the sunlight burned horrendously, forcing her to dwell in the night.
She knew she wasn’t dead, she still breathed and pissed. Although she could eat food, something in the bowls of her soul yearned for something more. It sang in her ear, lingered inher memories like echoes in a deep canyon. Celia spent endless nights writhing in agony as It sang to her. Her feverish head filled with heinous images of charred flesh and hot blood. Flesh ripped from a man’s femur. The visceral onslaught made her wretch, but something deep down inside her grew agitated like a chained dog outside a butcher’s shop.
One night when Celia woke she found a box of matches and a can of lighter fluid beside her. A note was scrawled on a pack of cigarettes ‘Scarlet Screams the Phoenix’. She didn’t know why, but it seemed familiar to her.
Celia took the stuff outside, intending toss it in the dumpster. She didn’t know where to go, or who would help her but she couldn’t live like this any more. Before she got a few yards from her door, the deep down writhing sensation hit her like a sledge hammer. She doubled over and fell to her knees.
She sucked air through her clenched teeth as sweat dripped from her furrowed brow. She wondered if this was what death felt like. Perhaps her injuries from the fire had finally caught up to her. Yet something urged her to her stumbling feet. Each foot fall felt forced, as she were a marionette controlled by some ambiguous puppeteer.
Celia staggered across the street to the local seminary school. She watched as her charred hands curled into fists and busted out a back window. She watched in stupefied horror as her body doused the room with lighter fluid. Even more disturbing was the way the stench of the fluid aroused her. A warmth grew between her legs and rushed up her withered body. Her head spun and a soft moan escaped her broiled lips.
Her hips writhed as she flicked her wrist and lit the match. A wave of ecstasy rushed over her, consuming every inch of her scorched body. A primal groan rattled out of her ruined throat as she staggered backward. She leaned against the wall and gasped for breath as the flames danced across the floor and lapped at the walls as teasingly as a lover’s tongue. The fire washed over her, she was no longer dead flesh and bone. She was purified by its pain. Cleansed by its carnage.
As the flames consumed the building, she consumed the dieing. Mortal blood flowing down her parched throat was immaculate.
When she woke up the following afternoon, guilt caught up with Celia. She forced herself to puke up the blood and flesh of the dead until her stomach felt like it had been turned inside out. Yet she knew her resistance wouldn’t stay this strong for much longer. She would be a slave to a diabolical master.
The dark hunger came back that night and it was worse than before. The taste of the dead the other night seemed to intensify its power. Celia attempted to fight it, and tried to keep herself from committing more heinous acts. In the end it grew too strong, and Celia gave into it completely. So much easier to give in. All the pain went away. There was only sheer pleasure, no need for troublesome thoughts or feelings. It put her in such a daze that she barely remembered sneaking into the orphanage where she was raised. The squealing of the children before the smoke snuffed out the air in their lungs was a sadist’s symphony.
The years, decades, and centuries swirled by quickly in a haze of fire, blood and ecstasy. She burned down crack houses and fed on the numb blood of the dead junkies. Brothels were the scenes of firery orgies.
But her frail body could no longer contain the dark hunger that fueled it. It began to crumble into ash and charred chunks. The slightest of touch blew her flesh away like soot. Then she found him, young and strong, laying under the covers of his bed. Safe and secure. Something rose up inside her, spilling out of every crack and hole in her decrepit body. Tendrils of flames surrounded the boy like serpents. Blankets erupted into turbulent waves of fire. His body convulsed and his screams pierced like arrows until the smoke filled his lungs.
As his flesh boiled, the dark hunger slipped away from Celia, lingering for a moment like a departing lover, before she crumbled into a pile of ash.