Mary sipped at her coffee, enjoying the sun through the window. The news blared from the television, covering a tragic event from the previous day. Mary envisioned her husband staring at the screen, sucking in the dribble as if there would be a test on it later. Mary hated the news, nothing but pain and sorrow. Today however, Mark exclaimed she needed to come watch. “Come here Mary, you have to see what’s happening!” as he pointed to the television. Overwhelmed with joy, Mark jumped around, proclaiming “This is why we built this place, insanity!”
The screen showed a news anchor standing in front of a hospital as he talked, “Accounts of the virus have been growing. Please do all you can to keep away from the infected. It seems to be quite contagious.” It cut to an image of a burned gurney where an unfortunate soul had been lost. A doctor appeared on screen and continued “The virus seems to cause a person’s inner fire to heat up past our body’s tolerance. Autopsies are showing deterioration of the FRx gene. Those who do not know, the FRx gene makes our bodies immune to said fire. While some of us can even spit little pelts of fire, most are dormant flame, giving us energy. This virus is hitting us hard and it is devastating.” Mary looked ghastly staring at the screen, Mark putting a hand on her shoulder. They built this house 12 years ago. Mark worked as a nurse for a local hospital and had heard rumors of some mass virus that would ruin the world. It would consume Earth in our own flames and his conspiracy and took it all in. Now the world was aligning with his insanity.
The house was identical to the others on the block, but nothing was further from the truth. A white wooden house with 2 stories and a nice white front door. The interior matched with white stucco walls and modern furnishings, but the secret was under the skin. Walls and flooring made from concrete and covered with fake wooden panels or covered with stucco and every door made of masonite and framed into the foundation created a fortress against the outside. All the windows had metal shades that would finish sealing the house from the outside. If a firestorm were right out their door, they would never know. Mark envisioned fields of flame if the gossip ever came to fruition. Mary was an elementary school teacher who also loved a conspiracy. Her students would call her Stary since she had a vast knowledge of aliens she would give out tidbits whenever she could. When Mark became consumed with the firelands, Mary also dove right in, and this house may now serve its original intent. In the backyard was a garden, a well, and in the far corner a closed off area for compost and waste. The garage held 2 giant freezers stuffed with meat and a pantry filled with different cans. Mary and Mark were not violent people, but just in case they had a few pistols of varying calibers and a 12 gauge shotgun.
They locked the place up and continued watching as society vanished. When the sun set, Mary freed her mind from the outside troubles by cooking dinner and Mark hid his study to read. The world around them was ending, but they were unmoved. At the dinner table, Mary went on about how hard it was to make a tasty meal with the canned goods, but she was already thinking up new ideas. Mark talked politics and how the government was shitting itself as all of humanity collapsed. Every so often they would hear screams, but a moment later it faded off. A few times someone would knock on the door, pleading for safety. Mary and Hank kept quiet and would wait for the visitor to leave.
A few days into Armageddon, Channel 4 was the sole station to reach the couple. Mary placed a plate of canned corned beef hash in front of Hank on the coffee table and sat next to him on the couch. Hank shoved a fork full of meat in his mouth as the news anchor, John Dumphries with that high pitched and over exuberant voice, spoke of the flames. “Please be careful who you let in. The virus seems to be contagious through touch or being near the ashes of the recently deceased. Few reports have arisen of people controlling the flame while others are claiming the flames themselves are alive. This is highly doubtful, please continue to stay safe whoever this is still reaching” John continued, but Hank turned to Mary and stopped listening. She looked back with a smile, they both were doing all they could for each other. John’s shrieking voice caught their attention “Get out! God Beth, did you know?! Doesn’t matter, everyone OUT!”. Some people ran across the screen, one person shouldered the camera and it twisted violently. The angle settled on a woman trying to bust down the doors of the studio. “LET ME OUT, SOMEONE HE…” her voice extinguished by screams and flames. First the fire burst from her mouth, nostrils and lower orifices. The screaming lasted until her chest erupted, her lungs and internal organs combusting. She kept hold of the door but collapsed slowly to the floor in her own inferno. Under a minute, she transformed from a human to a pile of flame and ash. Mary had a tear rolling down her face “What a poor girl. Wish she had known like us. She may have made it.” Hank wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.
Bangs on the front door woke the couple a few days later. Mary’s heart race, “What is that love, did someone find us?!”. Hank was pulling out weapons from the armory. As he threw Mary a 9mm pistol and jammed shells into their shotgun, he calmly spoke to her “It sounds like it. Let’s go check the front camera, see if they just run off”. More bangs echoed through the house, sending chills up Mary’s spine. Mark turned on the TV and flipped to their CCTV input. On the screen appeared the front door and a man in his late 30’s pounding at it. He wore a torn white t-shirt with beige cargo pants and panted, running from something. A voice spurt from the TV, screaming in terror, “Please let me in!! I am not infected! I will not hurt you, but those monsters! Those monsters are killing everyone! It’s like they lost their minds!! PLEASEE!”. The man backed away, picked up a large rock, and threw it at the house. A piece of stucco fell and revealed the concrete foundation. In pure panic the man yelled “Holy shit it’s a fucking bunker!! HELLO I know there’s someone there!! Is that why the door is metal? Please, I can help! PLEA…..”. He cried, looking out to the world. “Im going to die… they found me.” BANG BANG BANG “PLEASE HELP! I HAVE NOTHING ELS…” A flash of blue, red and yellow consumed the camera. When it refocused, a pile of ash lay on the porch and a skeletal flame moved into frame.
It stood on the porch, looking at the door with odd intensity. The torch looked like a burnt skeleton with the flames still emanating off of it. Suddenly it turned a bright blue and screamed like a banshee. A blue stream of flame erupted from its chest and lapped at the door. Hank held Mary, “It will be alright, we bought that door for thi.. Holy shit, NO!”.
Tentacles of fire lashed at the front doors edges, turning the door white hot. The paint boiled around the metal frame. Mary stared at the bizarre act on the screen, jaw agape at the berserker. Mark snapped her back to reality, and they ran to the front door. Both pointed their guns in anticipation. If that thing was coming in, he would have a warm welcome. The door creaked and bent, then popped loose from the doorframe. It fell inward and clanged on the floor. The flames died down, and the torch entered the home. Mark and Mary popped up but with insane speed the torch flung a jet of flame forward. The couple jumped in either direction, flames scorching Marks right shoulder.
As Mark screamed in pain across from her, Mary unloaded 3 rounds at the torch. It twisted and burst another jet toward her. She fell into a bedroom as the soles of her shoes melted. Mark yelled “Leave her alone! What the fuck are you?! What do you want?!” as he winced from the fresh sear. No reply. Mary stuck her head out and looked at Mark. Her expression told him she saw the wound but it could not be stopped now. Mary whispered “what do we do? That thing will engulf the house!” Mark knew she was right, and he got an idea. “We must disorient it. If it sees us it shoots at us, but what if we run from different directions? I don’t think it can focus on multiple targets, we might have a chance to shoot that fucker dead!” Mark exclaimed, adrenaline taking over. Mary was skeptical of this idea at first, but what else could they do? She hesitated, then said “Ok Mark. That’s the plan. You count to 3 and we will rush this thing. I love you so much Mark, goddamnit why can’t we have more time?” Mark replied “I love you too dear. I would have never gotten this far alone. I love you Mary! Alright.” He tightened his grip on the gun. They stared at each other for a moment, embracing souls. Then Mark counted “1…2…3!”
Mark came from the left, Mary from the right. with pure rage they rushed the torch. It burst out toward Mary who jumped forward. She rolled and hopped to a knee, taking aim. Mark screamed “Shoot it now!” and they unloaded both weapons. He cried in pain, falling back against the wall while Mary stared at the beast. Falling to the floor, Mark pushed out “I don’t understa…” His body became lifeless and Mary screamed, crumbling to the floor. She saw his shirt turn red from 3 locations. The bullets had passed right through the flame. She cupped her face in her hands but noticed she no longer had any. She screamed with a mix of dread and anger. Her body was now a flame, like the very beast in front of her. She shook with rage, turning white hot. A jet of pure white flame erupted from her chest and into the torch. The dark black skeleton broke apart and exploded, consuming the house and all inside.
The rubble stirred. A flame lifted out from the pile. It stood over the remains for quite a time before heading out into the fields of fire and chaos that was now the world.