Flash Fiction Challenge: The Torch

This is a story I wrote in response to a fiction challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s blog : terribleminds

Said challenge, write 1000 words about this photo.

There might be is some cursing and naughty language. And other kick ass stuff like that.

Torch Arm

When the man’s arm exploded into fire my first reaction was an understandable, Holy shit what the fuck is that?

Then he started pointing at people. A fat bald man, wearing a University of Nebraska cap, detonated into a corn ethanol fueled fireball. Somewhere in the back of my lizard brain I knew humans didn’t react quite so violently to a flame engulfing. Not to say that I had any first hand experience prior to this moment, nor did any of the other diners on the beach with me.

The man with the fire arm seemed excessively happy to educate us on the physics of involuntary human combustion. An older woman a few tables away from me lit up in a slower, more rational way. I learned something about the difference between the sounds of pain and fear in the human scream. An odd thought went through my brain. A surprising amount of actresses in horror movies failed to nail the nuance. For obvious reasons, but still, you’d think at least one or two could make it convincing.

The cheap plastic furniture hampered my ability to flee the madman behind me. I tripped in the loose sand of the beach. Only half an hour ago I was commenting to my friends on how beautifully the setting sun reflected off the pristine white grains. They called me a pretentious cunt and threw used lemon wedges at my face. We had been drinking since the previous dawn.

Another blast sailed over my head as I fell to the ground. It ignited one of my frat brother’s hair as he failed to duck sufficiently. He leaped to his feet before sprinting in the general direction of the surf. The man with the fire caught him in the back using a between-the-legs shot. For a homicidal maniac he was a bit of a show-off as well.

The beach suffered from a shortage of other easy targets so the crazy man turned towards me. I was having trouble getting my limbs to cooperate with my brain and get all of us far away from this guy. He pointed his arm at me, the one with all the fire, and smiled. I shut my eyes. I heard a blast followed by loud shouting and cursing. I opened my eyes and witnessed the fire guy in a headlock with an ice guy.

I mean, this guy had an arm made of solid ice. The type of perfect ice you get in a glass of whisky at a bar with a dress code. The fire guy had his dangerous limb covered in melting ice crystals. They were yelling at each other but I couldn’t understand. I don’t speak Thai. Watching them struggle I remembered reading something about this in the guidebook I picked up at the airport. Listed under the Dangers section right next to the part on pickpockets.

The fire guy got his arm free of the ice and gave the other man a check to the gut. The ice guy flew back several yards before stopping in mid air. He shot straight up into the clouds. The fire guy followed and they both disappeared. Only the occasional flash of light in the sky and the heavy stench of charred flesh were the only signs it had happened at all. And the scorched remains, can’t forget about them.

I lay on my back and lit a cigarette. I watched the flashes of light for a good while. Sometimes one of them would fly out of the cloud cover shooting at their counterpart as they chased each other about. They seemed pretty evenly matched. About the time I started to get bored of the battle, one of the hotel staff jabbed me with a broom. I sat up and looked around. Waiters and busboys were busy cleaning up the wreckage from the fire guy’s appearance. The staff member who poked me, handed me a coupon for a free shrimp cocktail. No substitutions.

Free shrimp is free shrimp I guess.

I had to argue with the bartender to get him to honor the coupon. Something about needing undeniable proof of an attack. The two guys had moved their fight further down the beach. I couldn’t see flashes in the sky anymore at least. I had to grab the original waiter who provided the discount to vouch for me. Even so, the shrimp possessed a faint smell that said they were close to turning. I ate it anyway.

My friends wandered back to the bar after some time. They asked how I survived. We all had a very stiff drink. Followed by several shots of tequila. Soon we were laughing and boasting about how we’d fuck that fire guy up if we ever met him again. One of my friends said something similar had happened to him in Europe the previous summer except it was some guy with lightning or poison gas powers. He couldn’t remember which. We had a few more drinks.

We stumbled out of the place a few hours later hungry. Our dinner had been interrupted, so we weaved our way down the beach. A place we knew had pretty good hamburgers. We were still talking about how much of a pussy that dude with the fire arm would be if only we weren’t taken by surprise or something. Of course, karma is a bitch. It surprised none of us when we entered the burger joint and fire guy was there at a table near the door.

What did surprise us was his crying into a beer. Ice guy sat next to him with his hand on fire guy’s shoulder giving a super-powered version of a bro-chat. We tried to act casual and grabbed a seat at the far end of the room. We ordered our food and kept our eyes locked on our plates. Ice guy ordered another beer and fire guy kept sobbing until we finished our meals and left.






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4 responses to “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Torch”

  1. Darlene Underdahl says :

    And they said there was no entertainment…

  2. yojimbojapan says :

    Are you not entertained? 😉

  3. Jo Eberhardt says :

    Nice story. And I’d like to read that guidebook, too. 🙂

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