Drama Fiction Teens & Young Adult

My family burns things.

I used to be afraid of fire. I used to huddle in the corner of my room when my parents told me it was time to go. I would shriek and grasp at doorknobs as they carried me out, sobbing. I would cover my eyes and cower away from the flames, cling to my sister Jessie’s legs as she watched our mother and father go door to door. Recruit people to join them, or else die.

They always burned, in the end.

My parents worked for the Emperor. Was he real? I couldn’t have told you. He was from a different planet, supposedly, and had heaps of benefits at his disposal to give to our family if we only did his will. We were to travel our entire world, speak to every person, tell them how good and lovely it would be if they joined him. All it was was a quick hop across the galaxy, and then they got to join his army that was conquering the universe! Didn’t that sound fun?

No? Well, here’s his business card; give us a call if you change your mind.

Then we’d sneak around the back, pour gasoline over their roof, drop just a few matches and a bomb from our flying vehicle as we ascended, made our way to the next person.

They learned pretty quickly.

It didn’t matter if they joined us or not. The Emperor didn’t want an army. He didn’t want anyone; that was the point. Humanity is so terribly bothersome, don’t you think?

If the subject in question consented to come with us, they were burned alive the second the door to their private chamber closed. Sometimes I heard their screams but usually, I didn’t.

As I matured, I learned that it was all part of the job. It was easy. It was quick. And it paid well, very well. My older sister took over for my dad when he got too old. And then my mom asked me to do the same.

We didn’t live in a house; our home was a spaceship of sorts, though as of yet it had only traveled across Earth. I was sitting at the kitchen counter drinking water, doing nothing, staring at the wall, when Mom came up behind me. “Hey, Voss,” she said, sliding into a bar stool next to me.

I choked. Mom patted my back uncomfortably as I swallowed the spittle in my mouth, then as soon as I stopped gasping, asked, “How would you feel about taking my part in the family business?”

I considered choking again, but decided against it. “Is there something prohibiting you?” I mumbled, my teeth awkwardly grasping the lip of my glass. “Is there a reason you can’t continue doing it? Why am I any better?”

I could sense the offendedness radiating off of her. If so, in fact, have a mother, you’ll know what I’m talking about. “Well, it’s just that I’ve been doing it for nine years,” she said in a dangerous tone, “and I think, after all I’ve done for you, a little break would be nice, since no one seems to be able to do anything around here, and your father’s already retired, and I just thought…”

If you’re wondering, becoming a human-burning psychopath didn’t change my mother one bit.

Just as Mom was beginning her “I’m the best person in the world and why can’t anyone seem to realize that,” lament, my sister Jessie walked in. “Hey,” she said casually, opening the fridge and taking a swig of orange juice from the plastic carton. “What’s up?”

I tapped my fingernails against the glass. “Um, maybe...?” I began. “Maybe is it okay if I… not?”

I dared a glance at Mom’s eyes. They blazed.

“I’m just, it’s not really something I see myself doing, and I’m not the hugest fan of the Emperor, and, um…” I cleared my throat. “I like drawing better.”

Mom slapped my face.

I instinctively reached up to touch my cheek, feeling the stinging skin. “Is it that big of a--”

“Yes, it is!” Mom spat.

Jessie shut the fridge door and leaned back against it, watching us argue. Mom was standing now, shouting. “You don’t care! You don’t care about any of us! You’re just being selfish and I can’t believe you’d do such a thing! It’s like when you were five; are you still five? Are you still in preschool? Are you still scared?”

“It’s not that I’m afraid of fire,” I responded quietly. “It’s just that there’s nothing left to burn.”

Almost before the words were out of my mouth, I recalled a sketch I’d made some months earlier. It was a match, held by two fingers with bitten nails, right in the middle of being struck against a matchbox. Below the hand pooled oily patches of gasoline, and at the top of the paper it read:

I’m not afraid of fire. 

There’s nothing left to burn.

It was true, really. I wasn’t frightened. I just wanted to be free. Free to do what I liked, and not work on some dead-end business for a man I’d never met, doing something that led nowhere. Nowhere I wanted.

I didn’t want to burn people anymore.

I just wanted to draw.

I stood up and threw my cup on the kitchen counter. It shattered; glass flew everywhere. Jessie watched in shock as my mother and I stood face-to-face.

I shook my head at her. “No. I’m not going to. I will not continue doing your work for you. Find someone else. I quit.” I stormed off to my room. 

Once inside, I locked the door, sat down on my bed, and screamed into a pillow. When I took my face out of it, I noticed something.

Gas was collecting on the floor, seeping in through the crack under my door and the air vent in the ceiling, dripping down the walls.

I looked around. There was a lighter on my desk. I lit it.

November 28, 2020 01:38

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Hope Reynolds
22:22 Dec 02, 2020

Woah, so much creativity. It was brief, but very vivid. For me anyway/in my opinion, anyway. I was going to say to remove the word "heaps," but then I read more and realized it fits the tone you set. Other than that, I would probably just say punctuation, a typo, and one instance of wording. The typo I saw was this line: "if so, in fact, have a mother..." Did you mean to say something like, "If you have a mother, then you will know what I am talking about ?" I have had this same problem: "All it was was a quick hop across the galaxy."...


16:38 Dec 04, 2020

thank you so much! i'm just now seeing this and my story was already approved so i can't change anything but i totally agree! thanks again!


Hope Reynolds
16:48 Dec 04, 2020

Sure! :)


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Annette Lovewind
04:37 Nov 28, 2020

It was a creative turn to the prompt and it sure was interesting. It did feel a bit rushed but you did write this in 27 minutes so I won't judge. So overall it wasn't half-bad and it was decent.


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01:40 Nov 28, 2020

ok so this is v v v vvvvv bad i wrote it in 27 minutes on friday when i realized, oh, crap, i haven't summitted anything for this contest yet. please don't like this story because i know your judgement isn't impaired, use your brain, this is trash. read something else instead lol. k that's it, peace


12:51 Jan 20, 2021

Haha, if this is the worst you can do you've got heights to soar to, girl. XD <3


18:41 Jan 20, 2021

lol thanks love :)


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Salom :)
05:37 Dec 01, 2020

This was an interesting story, very interesting how it ended as well. Well done, especially for being done in 27 minutes!


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WOW!!! this is a great story! I love the sense of independence your main character has in the end. Great job!


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