My eyes remained fixed on the fire. Its flames were beautiful. To me, their every move was a work of art. I remember how much I enjoyed just looking at them, at the fire as if it were a beautiful force of nature. I don’t think I can ever see fire as I did then, it means something different to me now. But then, then it was all I could give attention to and how could you blame me? They’re the only that had an appeal to me that night.
I couldn’t seem to give my newly acquired college friends the same attention. Don’t get me wrong, we were all having a good time, out in the wilderness, under the stars. It’s just not my cup of tea to be around a bunch of slobbering, drunk fellow 18 and 19-year-olds when I haven’t had a single drop of alcohol myself.
I don’t have anything against drinking, I just choose not to do it myself, for reasons I’m not going to get into. And, even though I made this know to the group I was camping with this night, they never seemed to get the message. I was constantly bombarded with offers of shots of vodka and seltzers or beer. Some of them kept asking me to try their special little concoctions of which I had absolutely zero interest in trying.
Truth be told, I’m not one for parties. I prefer my solitude. My idea of a fun Friday night is being alone, playing video games, and watching youtube. That was a far cry from this little getaway camping trip. I had sort of forced myself to make more friends when I got to my university, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I decided it couldn’t be too bad to join them on this trip, it sounded like fun anyway. I didn’t know how many other people they were bringing along and it certainly came as a surprise when I found out there would be more than a dozen of us. After meeting all of them, remembering none of their names, and then making the trip out there and getting everything for the camp set up, my social battery had run dead.
I kept myself tending to the fire. Now and again, I would get up and go find some leaves to make it flare up and burn bright once again. It was October, so I had plenty of fuel around to entertain me. The other thirteen were behind me, an even mix of male and female, set up in their lawn chairs and mixing each other drinks while they blasted music from their portable speaker.
An hour or so of this went by before I saw one of the guys, Nathan, walk over to his car that was parked close by. He opened the front passenger side door and it looked like he was searching for something. He was rummaging around for a while before he emerged, holding a single sheet of paper.
I didn’t think anything of it at first, but I kept a curious eye on him as he sat on the log next to mine. Despite how blasted he must have been at this time in the night, he was able to concentrate deeply on whatever it was his little sheet of paper had on it. After a couple of minutes, he got up and ventured back to his car again, leaving the sheet of paper pinned down by a little rock.
My curiosity got the better of me and I walked over when I saw him get up. I lifted the sheet to see it was some sort of instruction manual. I had trouble reading it, so I angled the paper enough to catch the lighting provided by the fire. I don’t remember them word for word but they went something like this:
- Prepare a fire pit. This fire has to be started on the ground. Using a pit that is elevated above the ground or not touching the ground will result in failure. Additionally, covering the fire with anything, such as a cage will also result in a failure.
- Safety precautions are required before starting the fire. Clear any brush, sticks, leaves, or dry material that can catch on fire. Remove loose clothing, tie up long hair, and keep it away from the fire. It can not be stressed enough how important it is to keep the fire contained in its pit.
- Have a fire extinguisher or some other means of putting out the fire quickly ready at any moment. Things can get out of hand fast and it’s good to have a backup plan. Escaping the fire once its pit is impossible. Running is futile once he is free.
I couldn’t finish reading the instructions before Nathan snatched the paper from my hands.
I asked with a hint of frustration at him taking the instructions from me.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m trying to do this weird ritual thing I found on the internet. It’s supposed to summon some dude from the fire, I don’t know man”
Though I didn’t get the opportunity to read much of the instructions and as bizarre as they were, I was intrigued. On top of that, his defensive reaction and mention of summoning something interested me even more. I’ve always been into superstitious things like that and the idea excited me. This was certainly the most exciting thing I could have imagined happening on this night.
“Well, what are we summoning then?”
Nathan ignored me, still reading from his list. It was then that I noticed what he brought back from his car. On the log, next to us, sat a ziplock bag with some sort of white powder-looking substance inside. As I said, I don’t have a problem with alcohol but if they were about to get into something like cocaine or worse, I didn’t plan on being any part of it.
“Did you seriously bring drugs out here too? I can’t-”
Nathan then interrupted sharply
“No! I told you, calm down. It’s not drugs. It’s this like…spirit salt or something, dude. It’s something we need to summon this guy supposedly”.
“Who are you summoning? And where did you get those instructions from? I don’t think we should be calling some demon to our little camp out here. It’s creepy enough as it is”
“Bro, I told you, I don’t know. I got the instructions from a weird place on the deep web. One of those cult websites where they tell you about their weird beliefs and rituals and stuff. They said he’s not a demon”.
I was skeptical of course. Not just of the merit of this little ritual, I’m sure most people would be, but also of this cultist group Nathan got these instructions from and whatever their intentions were. I’ve not always been the most religious person but I didn’t have the greatest feeling about summoning some spirit. Nathan’s uncertainty about everything he was trying to do didn’t help. But, like I said, this sort of thing interested me and I wanted to see where it was going or what would happen. I tried to figure out more.
“Nathan, let me see those instructions again”.
“No! You’re just gonna fuck it up. I got this, I promise. Just chill out”.
I returned to the log I was sitting on before. I sat, looking back and forth between the fire and Nathan. I recalled the part of the instructions I had been able to read and pondered them in my mind.
The fire must be built on the ground and uncovered.
Well, ours fit both of those stipulations.
Containing it is most important. Anything that can catch fire should be cleared away.
I looked around the ground near the fire. I had already thrown most of the leaves that were there but I cleaned up what twigs and leaves were left and tossed them into the fire. I sat back down.
Running is futile once he is free.
Who is he?
A couple of minutes went by before Freddy, one of Nathan’s close friends and a guy I was getting along with quite well came over and sat on the log next to me with a bottle of beer in hand. He’s more outgoing and outspoken than I am so it was no surprise to me that, when after he took a peak around me to get a look at Nathan, he had something to ask.
“What the fuck is Nathan up to?”
I simply shrugged, still wondering that myself. After a couple of minutes of chilling with me by the fire, Freddy got back up and returned to the others behind us. Nathan walked up to the fire with his little zip-lock bag and opened it. He slowly poured his powder, or salt, or whatever the hell it was along the ground about a foot or two away from the fire, making a ring around it. He proceeded to take a small stick and etch something into the ground, all along the outside of the ring he just made.
I got up to have an inspection. He was carving some sort of symbols or letters in the dirt. It looked like maybe an old language, but I had no clue what one it could be. I figured he still wasn’t going to tell me what was up. I wanted to get a look at that weird instruction manual he had again but I couldn’t because he was holding it.
I watch as he finished going around the circle, making all of his little symbols in the dirt before he made another ring with salt around them. He looked at each symbol and double-checked them, reading off of his instruction sheet for a minute before I saw him nod to himself and turn towards the group.
“Guys! Get over here I gotta show you something. Shut that music off too, this has to be quiet”.
All but a few of them walked over after a few minutes of bickering back and forth. Freddy sat down next to me again. It seems a number of them didn’t want to be interrupted and refused to be brought over to see what Nathan had planned. The guy who owned the speaker, and whose name I can’t remember for the life of me, put up a fit over having to turn off the music. Nevertheless, Most of them made their way to the fire and were sitting around it, waiting for Nathan to go on with his plans. He gave a little speech first.
“Nobody goes near the fire, throws anything at the fire, or steps on the salt. Just sit down and watch, alright? Oh, and if you see the fire spreading anywhere, let me know right away, alright?”
“Sure, whatever. Just get it over with”
The speaker guy said, clearly annoyed.
Nothing happened for a couple of minutes as Nathan kept looking at his instruction sheet. People around the fire started their own side conversations until Nathan started speaking in some sort of weird language, reciting something from the instructions sheet. It sounded old. I assumed it was the same language as whatever he made the marks in the ground with. The group quieted and most of them grew confused expressions on their faces, some of them looked at each other and let out a quiet laugh with their hands over their mouths.
After about two minutes of this recital, Nathan approached the fire, being sure not to step in the salt on the ground before tossing what he had left in the bag into the fire while he continued to read. It was obvious that most of the group was becoming exponentially bored the longer this went on but I think we still wanted to see what would happen.
As Nathan tossed another pinch of salt into the fire, it burst upwards in an explosion. Ashes filled the air above the pit and came raining down on us. He fell on his back, surprised, dropping his bag and sheet before frantically crawling away. Everyone else in the group expressed their surprise as well, including me, who jumped to my feet. A few girls and a few guys screamed when this happened as well.
The flames from the pit calmed but as they did so, the symbols Nathan had carved into the dirt lit up on their own. I watched Nathan the whole time he made those symbols. He never put anything inside them that would make them light up like that, that could make them burn. I could tell by the expressions on all of their faces, that everyone was in awe and caught by surprise, as was I. No one was ready for what followed.
I noticed a shape taking form in the fire. A single flame reached up and out before it split at the end, into four, then five individual flames. It was a hand. The fire had grown an arm and a hand with fingers. Another sprouted from the opposite side before the arms reached back down, pushing against the ground.
Rising fast from the flames was the head, followed by the shoulders and the torso. It rose to about 7 feet tall before it stopped. It was very clearly the shape of a man, I could even make out the legs that stood, rooted in the fire. One thing it didn’t have was a face. It had no eyes, mouth, or any other details. Its head was just a blank canvas of nothing but fire.
Some of us just stared, and others began to cry and scream in fear of what they were witnessing. Nathan was back on his feet, standing next to me and Freddy. I could see the disbelief in his eyes as he looked at the figure formed by the flames. He tried to explain the situation to us, fumbling through it.
“Don’t worry, he…he can’t leave his pit as long as the fire doesn’t spread or… or that’s at least what the instructions say…I…I didn’t think this would really happen”
One of the guys got up, looking like he was ready to book it out of there. Nathan noticed.
“Don’t run! It can’t get you and you can’t outrun it f it could anyway”.
“What the fuck do you mean?”
The guy yelled back in a shaken voice. Nathan finally confessed to the group.
“Look, I got these instructions off of this shady place on the deep web. They said if you follow the steps you can summon this…this thing but I didn’t think it would work, I just thought it would be fun and a little scary, I was just trying to entertain everyone, I don’t know how this is even possible”.
“Well, how do we get rid of it?!”
A girl on the log across from me asked, demanding to know.
Nathan picked his instructions off the floor. They were wrinkled from when he fell. As soon as he did so, a gust of wind blew it from his hands and towards the fire. The figure reached out to grab it before the paper crumbled in flames, turning to ash. Everyone stared blankly, not knowing what to say or do at the moment. Whatever instructions Nathan had to get rid of it were long gone, destroyed by the very thing they instructed on summoning.
“Do you guys hear that?”
A voice asked from across the pit from us. It was one of the girls. Everyone looked over at her for a moment. I don’t think anyone else could hear what she was hearing.
“You guys…you don’t hear that voice?”
No one responded. We all remained silent, waiting to hear something, anything. None of us could. At least, none of us spoke up about it. The girl covered her ears with her hands and started to scream in agony. Her friends helped her get up and move away from the fire. I had a sneaking suspicion that this thing in the fire had something to do with it. It was somehow talking to just her.
Her screams were loud enough to finally alert the other few who hadn’t come over to the fire when Nathan asked. One, an extremely drunk guy, seemed to be oblivious to it all. He didn’t notice the figure standing in our fire. That was until he got close, very close. He walked right past us and almost into the first ring of salt before he noticed the flaming symbols on the ground. Before anyone could react and get him away, he looked up to come face-to-face with the figure in our fire. Like anyone would react, he jerked away from the fire in shock. Unfortunately, the cup he held in his hand spilled, right into the fire.
His drink must have been a strong one because even though the fiery figure stood a good 7 feet above the ground already, the alcohol made it rise even higher. As its growth was bolstered for a short second, the figure reached an arm above its head and touched a branch that hung over it. In an instant, the branch lit up in flames and turned to ash, ash that rained upon the now vacant fire pit and unlit symbols on the ground.
It was now totally dark. Everyone had shut everything off to look at the fire, now we were scrambling to find a flashlight or a phone, anything that we could use to see. Everyone was screaming, some were still crying and it was obvious that we were in disarray from the shock and panic induced not only by what we just saw but also by the fact that it had all disappeared in an instant, all so suddenly.
Freddy, even in his drunken state was coherent enough to remember and locate a flashlight he had earlier when he helped me set up the fire. He turned it on and shined it on everyone to make sure they were alright but he stopped when the light landed on Nathan who was, for some reason, standing as stiff as a board, looking at the fire. I thought he was in shock but it was like he turned to stone. I gave him a tap on the shoulder but he didn’t move.
“Nathan? What’s wrong man? Can you talk to me?”
I turned around.
“Freddy, he’s not moving. It’s like he’s frozen in a palace or something”
Freddy was giving him a good long look before he freaked out, yelling
“What the fuck?! What the fuck is that?” Oh my god”
When I snapped my head back around towards Nathan I could see flames emerging from his chest. It was an arm once again but it held something. It took me a couple of seconds before I realized it was his heart. He still stood rigidly, unmoving as we watched his heart cook in the hand of this arm coming out of his chest. Once again, screams emerged from everyone, all around the pit as the stench of burned flesh joined the chaos.
I think just about everyone ran but me and Freddy. We were mesmerized by what we were looking at. We probably should have run but instead, we stood there witnessing it take the place of his body. His eyes melted, replaced by raging flames before the rest of his body followed. In a matter of seconds, his flesh was gone, revealing his charred skeleton that fell to the ground and crumbled to ash on impact. The man made of fire stood in his place.
We got up and ran, but didn’t know where. As we turned, we saw everyone else gathering whatever they bothered to grab and piling into cars. Two vehicles started up and gunned it down the dirt road that led out of the camp, trying to reach the road. I guess they hadn’t the heart to wait for everyone else, or they didn’t care. Right before they met the road, they too were engulfed in waves of flames that swooped in from somewhere in the forest. The cars exploded and it didn’t take any closer inspection for all of us to realize whoever was in them was long gone.
Anyone who was jumping into a car quickly abandoned that idea. I followed Freddy as we, like everyone else still alive, ran into the woods. Freddy knew where the road was and that’s where I realized we were headed. As far as I knew, this wasn’t a bad idea. Everything around us was wood, and it was flammable. Getting away from that had to be a good idea.
I was pushed, but not knocked to the ground by someone running into me. I looked down to see one of the girls, who had fallen to the ground upon running into me. She looked up at me, right into my eyes as the flames took hold of her and she was eaten alive by them as I saw happen to Nathan. I didn’t stay long and kept running with Freddy but the guilt washed over me. What had I just done? I just got her killed and I saw it happen.
I have never been the greatest runner, especially long distance and neither was Freddy but we made a good distance in a short time and before we knew it, we were on the smooth, paved road. We stopped for a moment to catch our breath. I looked back to find that the flames hadn’t followed us. It seems that this thing was able to control them at will, it could choose to burn or not to burn whatever it wanted and it hadn’t chosen us, at least for the moment.
Down the road a ways behind us, closer to where our camp had been, we saw more of our group in the street. The only reason we could see them was because the woods near the road was being incinerated. The fire coming from our camp had chosen to follow them. They were running toward me and Freddy, at full speed. We waited for them to catch up before joining them in running away once again.
Everyone was able to keep up for about five minutes or so before one of the guys, the one with the speaker from earlier stopped and started coughing. It sounded like he got too much smoke in his lungs. Freddy urged him to keep moving.
“Come on, did you see how fast that thing was? We can’t stop”.
The speaker guy didn’t say anything and just kept coughing, it sounded like he was going to fall over and drop dead at any second. I think we all calmed down for a second because it didn’t seem like anything was following us anymore. The flames from the camp and near the street had all gone out. I think the only fires left were from the cars, still being cooked.
After the speaker guy stopped coughing after a couple of minutes, he started to sit back up, turning his head towards us who were all still concerned. When he did look up, his eyes went from a look of exhaustion to a look of dread and despair. In a shaky voice and looking past us he muttered frantically
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, no, no, no, no”.
I looked behind us, up at a tree on the side of the road. It was in the tree. It stood on a branch as if were weightless and though it didn’t have any eyes, I knew it was looking right at us. Before any of us could even start to run, it leaped from the tree and tackled the speaker guy with force, and knocked him off of the road, into the woods on the other side. I could hear his screams as we ran down the road once again but no one stuck around to see what happened to him. It doesn’t take much to imagine what did.
As we ran, I glanced behind us at the terrifying sight of the thing jumping from tree to tree as it followed. Each branch it left turned to ash and fell to the road, crumbling into nothing and spreading like dust. It was clear that it had no challenge in keeping up with us. It jumped into the woods again and I was reminded that watching it wasn’t going to be of any help. I turned forward and kept moving with the others.
A girl that had been running about ten feet in front of me took a glance back herself, not noticing the branch that had fallen on the road, sitting right in front of her. The moment her legs made contact and she tripped and fell, the branch lit up extraordinary bright and she was lit ablaze with it. Like the others, her flesh melted from her skeleton which fell to the road and shattered.
We kept up our pace like nothing had happened. I saw a streak of flame in the woods to my right. Once again, it kept pace with us. It jumped into the trees again, this time burning entire trees as it jumped back and forth. They fell behind us, barely missing when they hit the road. It moved so quickly above us that it eventually formed an arch of flame. This arch grew taller with each movement until a new torso and its whole body was recreated, taller than a house and it began to move. It was able to keep up by just walking.
It stopped for a moment and we took the opportunity to make some ground. I know it was stupid, but I couldn’t help but glance back again. It picked up a burning tree and swung it like a baseball bat, clearing everyone but me and Freddy off of the road in one powerful swing. It stopped on the side of the road to reach down and incinerate what was left of them.
Freddy and I were still running, probably just from instinct but I think we both knew there was no hope. Two streaks of flame zoomed past us in the woods, on both sides of the road, and met in the middle about a hundred feet in front of us. It formed itself once again, over the road. Reddy and I stopped and turned. We ran for only a few seconds before it caught up.
A powerful gust of warm wind knocked us off of our feet, making us roll on the ground. It didn’t grab us. It didn’t incinerate us instantly like it did the others. Instead, it leaned down, looking over us. I looked at Freddy and he looked back at me. I still believed we were about to die.
I heard laughing. It took me a moment but I recognized it as Nathan’s voice. It kept laughing, changing its voice about a dozen times, all different people but clearly they were people. I recognized a few of them. It was the voices of everyone it just killed. It leaned in further, I thought it was about to touch me. I closed my eyes but only for a second because the laughing ceased. I opened my eyes to see nothing hanging above me. There was no fire.
Freddy and I got to our feet and looked around. It was just darkness once again. The night was at peace.
“The freeway isn’t far”.
That was all Freddy said to me. I followed him and said nothing. We didn’t exchange words the rest of that night and come to think of it, I don’t think we have since. We found the ramp to the freeway and walked up it. We continued walking straight until we saw a car. We tried to get its attention and get them to stop. They didn’t stop but I think they called the police because a state trooper came down the road only ten minutes later and picked us up.
We didn’t say much to the officer who picked us up but when we were brought to a station, I was questioned and I told them everything I am telling you here, I told them exactly what happened and there’s no way in hell that they believed me.
I was told that they found our camp. They say everything in our camp was burned, all of our tents, bags, all of the cars. Somehow the trees around it remained untouched. Even the dead leaves on the ground remained. They never found any trees collapsed in the road, they didn’t find a fire of any kind, just the remnants of one from the pit. This makes sense to me now. I saw what it was capable of. I saw that it only burned what it saw necessary to burn.
Everyone in the group is still “missing” according to the authorities. I know it’s not true but there was nothing left for them to find. There are no clothes, no bodies, not even bones but they’ll never believe me. Somehow, I was let go but I suspect I won’t be free for long. If you would even call it free. I know that Freddy and I are their top suspects in whatever it is they think we’ve done.
I think we released something into our world that night. I don’t think it’s gone away and if it has, there are people out there who know about it, who know how to bring it back. Some people want that evil to walk the earth. I’ve been searching everywhere on the internet to find out what it was, where it came from but I’ve found nothing. I haven’t been able to find the deep web site he got those instructions from. For now, I’ll keep looking.
Don’t play with things you shouldn’t. You do not know the consequences.