Fire Gods
by James E. Gurley
forum: Fire Gods
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..


Fire Gods


           The Holes appeared randomly and suddenly and disappeared just as quickly. No one knew why they first appeared or where the Holes led, if anywhere, but to Frederick Lang, their pull was almost magnetic.

           They were fiery rainbows curved back upon themselves, Moebius circles of pulsing light, beckoning, and hypnotic, irresistible. Dozens of people, if not scores, had answered their silent siren call and passed through the shimmering veils. None had returned.

           Frederick longed for the opportunity to see one close up, to stand beside it and see if he could resist its blazing, seductive appeal. Witnessing one blocks away brought a thrill almost as good as sex but he had yet to have a close encounter with one.

           “My God, why do you want to see one?” Susan, his wife of ten years asked as he sat glued to the TV, watching the news. “They’re disgusting! They’re dangerous!”

           “No one knows that,” he countered without looking up. “It’s just idle speculation. Look at them. They’re beautiful!”

           “Fire is beautiful until it burns you. They’re like fire.”

           “You don’t understand,” he replied. “They’re like tiny, flickering pieces of God.”

           She sighed. “No, I don’t understand, Fred. I don’t understand your obscene fascination with them. You sit here and watch them for hours or you ride around hoping for God knows what. What would you do if you came upon one, walk through?”

           “I … I don’t know.”

           “Oh, for God’s sake, Fred, grow up! You have a wife and a child. You’re much too old to play with fire.”

           Fire, he thought. Yes, the colors were like fire but cold and alluring, not hot and demanding. He knew the sensuousness of fire, the way it danced and seduced, calling him closer until his skin seared and the tiny hairs on his arms singed. Fire was alive, a creature freed from its ethereal chains and unleashed into a world of combustibles. Maybe these Holes were just that, another kind of fire from another kind of place.

           Now, he wanted to touch one more than ever.

           He and fire were old friends, almost lovers. At ten, Frederick had almost burned down his parents’ house playing with matches. The flames had fascinated him, dancing hypnotically on the head of the match, leaping for the sky as if trying to fly away on tiny blue and yellow wings. They smiled at him as he touched the match to the living room curtains.

           At sixteen, he torched his first abandoned building, a run down warehouse near the riverfront. He could still remember masturbating frantically as the glorious flames leapt higher and higher, softly licking the glowing underbelly of the clouds. The colors, the heat, the elemental fierceness of it had flowed through his veins like liquid flame.

           Each summer backyard barbeque, every winter evening fire in the fireplace, was an offering to the elementals, his flame muses. They were just miniature altars to the Fire God.

           Susan put her hands on her hips and turned away, a sign the conversation was over. Then, she turned back and looked at him, her eyes silently pleading. “Don’t think I don’t know about your unholy fascination with fire. I’ve seen your face as you watch a house burn on television or when you’re barbequing. I've seen the way you almost caress the flames. It’s … it’s obscene. It’s sick!” She stalked off.

           “You don’t understand,” he said, quietly, more for his benefit than hers. No one understood. The flame chose its disciples, not the other way around. One did not simply choose to become a firebug or even a latent firebug. First, you had to hear the call of the flame; then you had to submit to the will of the Fire God.

           “No one understands,” he repeated as he got up and went to the garage. He decided to take a drive. Maybe this time, he would get lucky.

           Caliente, Nevada, was small town, the only town in the whole world affected by these strange phenomena, it seemed. Everyone was positive but no one could prove that the Holes were a result of secret government testing at Groom Lake Base, otherwise known as the infamous Area 51, just a few miles west of the city.

           So far, the military had shown almost no interest in the Holes, which was odd enough in itself. It was as if they were afraid to acknowledge their existence. A dozen news crews roamed the small town searching for answers but so far, they had uncovered only more questions.

           Frederick saw one news van driving slowly down a county dirt road just a few miles from his house. On an impulse, he decided to follow it. He had driven only a few minutes when it appeared, a Hole, shimmering just a few inches above the road’s surface like a traffic light to … where, Heaven or hell. The van’s driver saw the Hole just about the same time Frederick did.

           The van’s driver slammed on his brakes and skidded sideways in the road. Frederick almost rear-ended the van, so intent he was on the Hole. He got out and walked up beside the van. The newscaster in the passenger seat was frantic, motioning to the cameraman in the van’s rear, trying to get him out of the van.

           “Hurry up, John!” he yelled. “It might disappear.”

           Climbing out of the van, his eyes never leaving the Hole, the cameraman shouldered his camera and signaled thumbs up to the newscaster. The newscaster swiped his hand through his immaculate hair and smiled.

           “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sal Wiesenthal of KBRT 6 News. A Hole has just appeared a few yards in front of us. I don’t know of anyone who has gotten closer than this.”

           Except for the people who walked into one, Frederick wanted to yell at him. Frederick ignored the reporter. The Hole was talking to him, not in words that he could understand, but in flashes and pulses of light that burned into his soul, Morse code for the acolyte of the flame. Listening closely, he could hear the quiet whisper of wind as it flowed from the Hole. He walked closer. The newscaster was still rambling.

           “No one knows the origin of these mysterious … hey … what are you doing?” he yelled at Frederick.

           Frederick ignored the newscaster’s calls.

           “Hey you? Mister!” he stopped talking to Frederick and returned to his unseen audience.

           “Ladies and gentlemen, something is happening here. It looks as if this man is going to walk into a Hole. No camera has ever witnessed this kind of thing before. Hey mister, why do you want to walk through?” he yelled at Frederick.

           He realized the newscaster was talking to him but the man’s voice just interfered with the voice from the Hole. Impatiently, he waved a hand at the newscaster to silence him but the man persisted.

           “Is it a death wish? Do you want to die? Is it making you? Does it have control of your mind?”

           Frederick smiled and looked into the camera. “We have control of the horizontal. We have control of your vertical. We have control of your TV,” he whispered and laughed. It was a line from the old Outer Limits episodes.

           “The man seems demented, folks. Maybe the Hole is controlling him. This could be serious.”

           Frederick laughed again. The reporter thought the Hole was controlling him but was making no attempt to stop him. Anything for ratings, it seemed. The sound was the persistent, high-pitched sigh of a leaking tire, but this was not what was calling him. It was the Light.

           From cherry-fire red rushing outwards through shades of orange, yellow and green, from cold blue flames to indigo and violet, the pulsing circle of light called him as if he were an old friend. It spoke to him in images only he could understand – him and perhaps those few that had already walked through. It spoke of memories he had tried to bury but could not. It spoke of ecstasy and pleasure that only the fire could provide, only flames could understand.

           The center of the Hole was lost in a shimmering heat haze, a doorway that beckoned him like a crooked finger on a seductress. He could feel the rise in temperature from where he stood, rising as he ambled closer.

           “Ladies and gentlemen, I can’t believe it. The man in front of me is walking directly into the Hole, live on TV.”

           Frederick walked closer and stopped an arm’s length from the Hole. He could feel the air pushing against him as it exited the Hole from the other side. The heat was intense but somehow soothing. He could feel it gently caressing his arm like a lover, drawing him closer.
He knew what the Holes were. He, of all people, should know their purpose. They came for him. He stepped forward.

           “… don’t know if the man has a family, but whatever has driven him to this end surely must be extreme. If aliens are not involved then our own government surely …”

           Family­­­. He stopped. What about his wife, his child? Was learning the answer more important than they were? The hairs on his arm began to singe. He could smell them as they burned. The skin off his cheeks were red and stinging, would probably blister tomorrow.
With the willpower of an addict ripping off the tourniquet and tossing aside the needle even as it touched his arm, Frederick took one step backwards, then another.

           Almost immediately, the Hole began to dance and quiver, the rainbow colors circling faster and faster. It vibrated like a struck drum; then vanished, making a popping sound as it disappeared.

           He stood there, empty, broken, drained of purpose. He had lost a friend, a lover. The newscaster rushed up to him, thrust a microphone in his face.

           “What happened? Why didn’t you go through?” He asked breathlessly, eager for his story.

           Frederick looked into the camera and shook his head. “I’ll be home soon, Susan. You don’t have to worry anymore.”

           Ignoring the man’s frantic barrage of questions, he walked back to his car. He knew, or at least suspected, there would be no more Holes, at least not in Caliente. He knew now what they were, where they had come from. The Holes were simply invitations from the other side, another dimension, a dimension where fire ruled. They were the reflection of the rainbow of a lit match, a burning building, a projection onto our world.

           Most of all, they were postcards from another place – Wish you were here. They were the answer to a pyromaniac’s life – sacrificial altars to the Fire Gods. He knew now why the flames danced. He imagined the others stepping through the Holes, people like him, people that had his problem, or at least, the problem he used to have. Their dance, their primitive obeisance to their God was the dance of the flames.

           Frederick knew he was cured, now. The call of the flame, the lure of the Fire Gods would not take him down that dark path again. The Holes had come to claim their own; sacrifices to the Fire Gods. In the end, they had deemed him not worthy.

           He had called the Holes into being, he and others like him. Their sick lust of the flames had created living entities out of their obscene desires. The others had succumbed to the call. He had not and would never again.

           As he drove home, he reached into his shirt pocket and removed the ever-present pack of paper matches.

           “No more,” he said and tossed them out the window, unopened.

           He wondered what Susan had cooking for dinner. He didn’t think he would be barbequing any more, not for a long time.


copyright 2005 James E. Gurley.

James E. Gurley:
I am a fifty-one year old retired Atlanta chef now living in the wilds of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I have had stories published in Simulacrum, Nocturnal Ooze, Alien Skin, Dawnsky, Blood Cookies, Forever Underground, Aiofe's Kiss, Fifth Dimension, etc. I have a novel due out very soon, God Seed, from Publish America.

My website is