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Fiction Science Fiction Fantasy

When I was a young boy, there was a creepy old mansion not too far from the school I attended that all the children were afraid of. It wasn't just creepy because it was old and abandoned, but because it was on fire, and had been for thirty years. The story goes that the fire brigade had spent weeks trying to put that fire out, but it just couldn't be distinguished. The fire never spread beyond that building, though, so it was decided that as long as it was contained it wasn't a threat. It didn't give off smoke either, so there were no inhalation concerns. The opinion of the fire brigade was that it looked like a fire, but by the laws of physics it just couldn't be one. No smoke, no heat. It would burn and burn, but never spread. It was a very bizarre case, and still is. There is just one more thing, though. Three weeks after that building caught ablaze, the flames turned green, and have been green ever since. It just makes no sense. Some wonder if it is all just an optical illusion, but nobody is brave enough to go and investigate. Well, almost nobody.

I fully intended to go in the house way back then. I was nine years old, and I was the school punching bag. I thought if I went to that house and other kids found out, they would see how brave I am and leave me be. Idolise me even. In hindsight, I don't think I'd enjoy that, but to an unpopular kid, that sounds amazing. When I got to the house, though, there was a man leaning on the gate. I'd never seen him before, but he knew me.

"She's beautiful, isn't she. Beautiful, but deadly. Emerald Green. What a sight she is. I wouldn't go in there if I were you, though. That house has been on fire for a long time. You ever saw a fire that was green before? No you haven't because they don't exist, but this one does, and that makes it a paradox. Something isn't quite right in there, and you're not ready for that just yet." I looked at him for a few moments. I wasn't quite sure what to say. There were a million questions I could have asked, but there was no need. I trusted him. What he said made perfect sense. Why it made sense is hard to put into words. I only knew that it felt right. For that reason I didn't enter the house, nor did I even go near that house for a long time, and I didn't see that man again for many years. 

When I was Forty-two I finally went inside. Why it occurred to me to do it on that day I'm not even sure. I just woke up thinking today's the day. The fire had been blazing green for over sixty years by this point, and the house was no more delapitated than it had always been. No increase in debris, and still no smoke or intense heat. I opened the gate. The very same gate I had seen the man lean on all those years ago, but no sign of him since, not up to then at least.

The Glass was smashed in every one of the windows and flames danced inside every one. The front door itself has no windows. It didn't have a door handle either, and as I looked at it, I realised it must be one of those doors that just opens when you unlock it. I hoped that it would be easy to break down because I certainly didn't have the key. That wasn't necessary though, because as I placed my hand on the door, I heard a click, and with only the slightest of pushes. The door opened. I had access. I could see green flames everywhere. It was the most vibrant green you could imagine. To tell you it was Emerald Green doesn't quite do it justice. It was far more vivacious. I entered the house and stood in the doorway. I had room to move around slightly without entering the flames. At one point, though, I was close enough that if it had been a regular fire, I would have been burning. This fire though did not offer any warning signs. I was starting to wonder about the optical illusion theory. It was then that an idea occurred to me. I had to step into the flames. Consequences be damned. I just simply had to. I had to know what was really at play there.

I stepped into the flames. Before I had a chance to react to the intense heat, somebody grabbed me. He threw a blanket over me and started hitting me, or so I thought. I was confused. Where had this man come from? Was I being attacked?

"Relax" He said. "You were on fire. I was putting you out. You want to live, do you not?"

"Yeah" I said. "Thanks."

I took a look into the flames. They were no longer green, but orange. The usual run-of-the-mill variety of flames. They were giving off smoke too, and a lot of it. I was obviously breathing it in, but I didn't seem any worse for it. The man looked as though he knew what was on my mind, and began to tell me the unbelievable truth.

"Keeper of the Emerald Flame. That's me, well it was me, now it's you". Only one man may live inside these walls. Any man that enters here will succumb to smoke inhalation and die. The keeper is safe in here. He's immune. He walks a different path, you might say. The flames dance within him. It's a symbiote kinda deal."

I opened my mouth to speak, but stopped myself. I was at a loss for words.

"So you're the keeper now, I passed it on to you. I knew you were the one. Something about you. I knew when you were a boy. Something in your eyes. I've had my time. I've been doing this since the flames first danced within me. It'll take an hour or so for the change to occur. You'll feel it, and so will I. Oh boy, will I feel it."

I took a deep breath. desperately needing to speak, to find the words from within.

"So..." I began. "You knew me as a boy?"

"Of course." He stated. "I remember you well."

"You're no older than I am." I argued.

"Much older, actually." He remarked. "While flames danced within me so did time, you see time and the Emerald Flame are one."

"Emerald Flame?" I questioned, perplexed. "What do you mean by that? What is going on?"

"You have noticed the flames glow green, have you not?" He asked me rhetorically.

"Well, I thought that was the case." I countered. "But now they glow orange, just like any old fire."

"Emerald Flame, it still is." He gestured towards the fire. He was right. It glowed green.

"When somebody walks into the Emerald Flame, they burn. Not like a fire burning, but the way time burns in the cosmos. You become one with the flame and vice versa. When I saved you from the Flame you were exhausted were you not?"

"Yes. Very much so. Like nothing, I've ever felt."

"It is the same for the flame. After the event, it too is exhausted and is robbed of all its energy. As a result, it reverts to its old form. A generic flame. Setting you on fire. Nobody ever burns as they step into the flame, but once they travel they always do."

"Travel? I enquired.

"I have already told you in a roundabout way. I have spoken of time, and it's relationship with the flame, and now with you. It is what the science fiction movies might call time travel."

"You really expect me to believe all this?"

"You must. This is your calling. When I spoke to you as a boy, I warned you from entering this place because I knew that if a child enters this house they cannot be saved. A child cannot be the keeper. I knew you were the one for the job, but it was too soon, so I warned you to stay away." He looked at me, and I at him. At that moment I remembered. I had forgotten for the longest time, but no longer. I remembered him outside this very house, warning me when I was only a boy. It was then that I started to buy into this whole time travel theory because as I looked at him, I realised that either my memory was wrong or that this man hadn't aged a day.

"Thirty-three years it must have been." I said. I looked up at him, and he smiled at me. He could see that I was on my way to accepting the truth.

"Thirty-three indeed since you saw me last, but only four months have passed since I last saw you." He looked at me in earnest. He spoke the truth. I knew it. There was no sense in it, but I trusted him. I trusted him for no reason other than that it felt right, just as I had when I was a boy. It wasn't much later when he started coughing, and choking. Then he set ablaze in green flames, and he was gone.

After that, I knew I only had the memories of our conversation to go on. I do wish I had asked him what caused the flames to turn green in the first place. I wondered why that place became the time portal that is. I know that I'll never know, and that's ok. Sometimes not knowing certain things is ok. Maybe that's how it was meant to be. He had spoken in detail about the role of the keeper and told me that the keeper can step outside the house, but cannot leave the grounds. Another thing he told me that the journey through the flame is a one way trip. To prove his point, he gave me the chance to step back through. I tried. Nothing happened. I have no doubt in my mind that if somebody else were to come into this house, and enter the flame, they would pass through and reenter the house in another period of time. He told me that it is my job to stop anyone from entering this house. From entering the flame. The only reason is that they will die if they do, unless I make the swap. There is no bigger risk. No conspiracy. The only reason is to save the lives of those who may be curious. I am no hero. I am just a man doing his job. Just as was always intended.

July 15, 2022 20:38

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