Cleansing. Short Story.

Fire. It was the only way.

Matt splashed some gasoline around the sitting room, being careful not to get any on himself. He poured some over the couch and around the floor. Already the room stank, he needed to work quickly. He moved around the couch and out into the hall, the next step was the kitchen, he doused the counters liberally, making sure the curtains got a little extra, he didn’t want anyone to escape through the windows. After the kitchen he went to the office, trailing a line of gasoline behind him. He poured some onto the desk and around the windows, he was almost done. He didn’t care about the things in the house, not the TV, the computer, none of it. It was all just meaningless stuff and if he was to succeed it needed to be destroyed. The entire house would be cleansed, purified by the holy flames. Everyone knew that fire was a powerful force but few seemed to understand that it was God’s own will that controlled fire. It filled the pits of hell to punish and to burn away the sins of the soul. Matt paused at the bottom of the stairs, then he poured out some gasoline onto the fifth step, it was carpet so he hoped it would catch quickly. He wanted to go upstairs, to douse the hall and doors up there but it wasn’t safe. Already the smell was starting to become overwhelming, it was only a matter of time before someone was woken by the stench. He left the house, leaving the front door open, and carefully poured a trail. When he was done he walked back to the door and after a few seconds consideration, he entered and left the canister on the stairs. Then he left.

Matt stood over the puddle of gasoline, praying. Once he had said his prayer he lit a match and, standing back, he dropped it into the puddle. His hissed in frustration. The match had blown out before it hit the ground. He knelt and lit another match, then he carefully touched it off the gas. Instantly it was lit and the fire started to spread rapidly. Matt stepped back from the flames and sat down on a lawn chair he had dragged from the back. He had to watch and make sure. Already plumes of black smoke started to billow from the door, the fire wasn’t loud yet, there was a loud bang inside and a spear of flame erupted from the front door before dying down a little. Matt looked around at the other houses, no lights came on. Good, it needed to be thorough. If fire-fighters arrived too soon the job wouldn’t be completed. He watched, waiting. Upstairs his family slept, though he guessed that they were awake by now. The fire was getting louder now, hotter too. He moved back from the house and the heat, listening over the roar, he thought he could hear faint screams. He smiled, it was working.

Matt had no other choice. His family were not his family. They had been replaced, demons had infested their bodies and souls and the only way to get rid of them was to burn them out, like rats from a nest. Only then could his family be returned to him. He noticed it two weeks before, the way they looked at him, made sly jabs and subtly grinned to one another. He had suspected something was off, but then it was proven to him tonight. He had seen the evil in their eyes, the glow of Satan. He had no choice, but he was not sad for he knew he was freeing his family, rescuing them from evil. A loud banging caused him to look up, there at the window, Penny. Only ten years old and she had been corrupted. Matt smiled at her and waved. He ignored the banging, the faint yells and screams, he knew the demons inside them would use any sort of trickery they could to escape and he was not going to fall for it. He would not be tricked.

He was still standing there when emergency services arrived, neighbours had come out of their houses by this point, watching in horror as the fire continued to burn, the heat forcing most of them to stand on the other side of the road. They didn’t speak, for they could hardly hear one another over the roar of the fire and no words needed to be said. They had known the Smiths for years, they were always there at the Christmas party, laughing and joking. One or two tried to move Matt further from the house, but he refused, shaking off their hands and ignoring their words. They let him be, obviously he was overwhelmed with grief. There were no signs of the rest of the family and any questions he was asked about them was met with an answer of “they were in there.”

He stood, watching as the flames were finally conquered, he refused to leave until the fire was completely out, he wanted to be there, to see his family emerge from the ashes. The flames had been too intense for fire-fighters to enter. Police tried to talk to them but he brushed them off, telling them he needed to see, his family were going to be saved. He was still repeating it as they arrested him. As they drove him away he craned his neck to see the house, but there was still no sign of them.

It took him three days. Three days of insisting his family were fine, that they had been saved before the reality of it all came crashing down. He started screaming, some was gibberish, some was not. He repeated phrases over and over again, “What did I do?” and “He told me” were used most often. They tried to figure out who “He” was, but Matt wouldn’t answer questions and as the days passed he became more and more incoherent. By all accounts he had been normal in the weeks leading up to the fire, no one noticed anything suspicious about him, a few people noted that he had been acting a little oddly in the two weeks leading up to it, but they had chalked it up to simple work stress. He had been in a meeting with a client and then refused to see anyone else for the rest of the day, which wasn’t unusual for some of the more intense clients. After that day he was back to normal.

A week after the fire Matt was dead. He had hung himself in his cell. On his last day he did not speak, nor did he look anyone in the eye. He knew what a monster he had become, he knew that he could never take back what he did. The last thing he thought of before he died was not his family, it was those eyes, those strange, glowing eyes.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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