When They Cry

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Trial and Terror

Some fires can't be extinguished.

This is my entry for Obscure's Obscure Horror Contest. My word was 'Arson'.

Stumbling into the now half-destroyed house, two police officers discovered many dead, dismembered bodies lining the disintegrated carpet of the living room. Behind them, a small piece of rubble fell from the upper floor, signaling to them that there wasn’t much time before the entire building would collapse. The taller, more muscular police officer noticed a piece of paper on the ground next to the central body, somehow intact despite the previous fire, and hurriedly began to read.


My name is Roy. I’m 15. I’m in high school. I will probably be dead tomorrow.

My thoughts have been running tonight. They’ve been contemplating some things that they have before, and I think they’ve reached a final decision. Ever since I was a child, matches interested me. I liked lighting them, I liked playing with them, I even sometimes enjoyed lighting my sister’s hair on fire with them. I was always punished. I never cared. The threat of oncoming harm never bothered me because I’ve always enjoyed times of pain.

I’ve done research on my thoughts. Key words that have come up like arsonist, arson, and death have haunted me for quite a while. They’re scary to imagine. They’ve invaded my dreams. It’s frightening to think that they could be describing me soon. I know they will. I can feel it in my bones that tonight is the night of rebirth.

Tonight is when he will come. He won’t be gentle when he chooses me. I can tell.

I’ve held it in for so long that the urge to light matches has become brutally extreme. I can’t hold it in much longer. I can tell I’m what he desires. I know he wants me, what I have inside me, but I don’t want him to get it. What am I supposed to do? Run? Hide? He’ll come anyway.

If these are the last words anybody reads of mine, know that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for what I’ve done.

I’m sorry I had no control.

I’m sorry that you’re probably dead alongside me.

Best regards,


The police took a final look at the note left by the apparent burn victim in the middle of the room and put it in a sealed evidence bag for later inspection. Later on, forces discovered that the letter was not in the handwriting that Roy Lodger had used previously, as confirmed by both parents and his friends.

After that, the case was closed after no new leads were found.


There comes a time, in the dead of the night, when a fire rises in the mind of one called the Flame Harbinger.

Harbingers are the bringers of news, telling those around them of either the dastardly deeds of one or the positive, happily influential possibilities of another. When the moon rises and the only illumination onto the buildings and sidewalks are the rays of the sun that have yet to shine, the Harbingers come.

There are Harbingers of dreams. Some good, some bad. If you dream of a magnificent flight, of a tropical island, of a long-lost love story, you know you’ve been blessed with a good Harbinger. If your dreams are nightmares, consisting of falling instead of flight, isolation on an island that isn’t so tropical or crying and cutting because of a love that just wasn’t meant to be, a bad Harbinger is near. These Harbingers control all aspects of our lives. They pull the strings that move our limbs, stuff their hands into the pockets of our mouths to propel us into speech, and set up the puppet show that we consider fate. When the show begins, we lose control. We become only an audience to the stories of our lives, unable to make them what we want them to be.

The Flame Harbinger is a sacred soulless monster held in the hearts of few. While not many know of him and even fewer praise him, any vision of his appearance that flashes across one’s mind or any inclination of his whereabouts puts one into a state of desperate panic that can only be settled by a cleansing, one that usually is meant to put out a fire. His steps leave trails of flame only seen by those now deceased. His eyes spark notions of suicide and depression when one meets the tragic fate of looking into them. Claws connect his knuckles to shattered bones, cuts scatter his face, and he lacks any inkling of sight in his left eye, burnt permanently to blindness. He dresses in all black, lurking in the shadows unless the flaming shackles binding his charred wrists are lit once again by his anger over a passing human with fiery interests.

Those who can see the Flame Harbinger have established special traits within them; they are arsonists, those who like to see the world burn. They set fire to the mortal world while the Harbinger dictates their actions. Arsonists controlled by the Harbinger are often killed in their own crimes, found later by police forces and firefighters in a state of mutilation and clear tearing and boiling of the skin. The cause of death becomes obvious to humans, despite their ignorance of the truth of the supernatural matter. The arsonists manipulated by the Harbinger are consumed by their own flame, meeting a clear death to what they originally created. The Flame Harbinger takes care of the souls he steals in the flames he creates in his victims.

The food chain is like this: the Harbinger needs a victim, the Harbinger controls a victim, the victim sets fire to a building, the victim sets fire to himself, and then the Harbinger takes the soul of the now deceased arsonist. The food chain then repeats in an endless fashion. The hunger of the Harbinger for new souls is never cured. It is persistent and poignant.

At the start of the night, when most of the town is resting, the Harbinger begins his destruction. He invades the restless minds of the arsonists and awakens them from their slumber, figuratively and physically.

The fire within them starts to burn.

The arsonist clambers out of bed and makes his way to the construction that holds his victims.

The flame begins to burn brighter.

A single match is all it takes. A flick of the wrist and a throw of the lit match sets fire to the walls encompassing children and parents, students and teachers, and the holy and the sinful. No matter the cause, the fire must burn. 

The wick is almost blinding within the soul of the arsonist.

The wallpaper peels. The sofa singes. The television sparks and dies out. The rug catches the orange flame surrounding the arsonist. 

The fire is now deafening, shrieking in the ears of the unsuspecting people that are about to feel what the Harbinger wants them to feel.

The fire reaches it’s peak when the arsonist slowly steps into the flame. At this same moment, the arsonist is given his body and mind back and dissolves into a position of utter panic. He shakes, regurgitates, and then shrivels to the floor without motion. 

The fire in the soul of the Harbinger’s victim has been silenced.

People begin to crowd on the outside of the houses and the buildings of the victims. They cry and lean on the families of the dead, holding hope upon hope that their own beloved has not perished. The Flame Harbinger, however, does not leave survivors. He leaves false hope in those who deserve some reconciliation for their deeds. He leads those who need their family members alive into the white light for a reunion.

When the Harbinger steps out of the shadows and into the now populated streets, he takes on a human form. With police sirens and shouting voices raging closer to his location in the city, he steps out into the open space, leaving charred footprints in the pavement. He now conceals his face with a dark hood, does not mention the claws he previously honed and never speaks. The Flame Harbinger does not desire conversation with the living. He only thinks of their souls and how strong their desire is for the planet to shrivel and die.

As he makes his way past the people, the crowds stop crying. They stare in his direction, gasp at him in awe, and are so terrified that they turn into the stone at the bottom of the ocean. They feel cold in the earth-shattering heat. They smell nothing when the blood begins to coagulate. They sense no harm when a true abundance is present. Even amidst the peril, the crackle of the ongoing fire drowns out the sirens. Their eyes begin to burn when there is nothing in them.

Just as the police arrive to inspect the body, The Flame Harbinger is gone, and so are the people who have seen him, with just a burning building and a trail of charred footprints left to signify that he was there.

Maybe the world deserves to burn. Maybe the Flame Harbinger has always had a clear, educated motive for his deeds, and maybe we’re all just delaying the inevitable. Maybe one day we’ll create a road that connects the entirety of the world. Maybe he’ll walk that road. Maybe he’ll turn us all into killers and awaken that part of our souls that wishes for everything to melt in a blaze as one.

Maybe we aren’t meant to think about it. At the same time, maybe we are.

Maybe it’s possible to change fate, but at the same time…


Nobody’s ever been alive long enough to try.

Submitted: May 15, 2016

© Copyright 2021 H. Adams. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Chris Green

Experimental, original and brilliant story, hanorbi. A really first class piece of writing. I wish more writers would be daring enough to try something new. Nice job!

Sun, May 15th, 2016 6:12am


I do too! That's partially what I'm trying to promote by writing stories like this. I want to see people branching out, just to see if they can do something they wouldn't normally feel comfortable doing. I want Booksie to be a community of freedom, not of restriction. Thanks, Chris!

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:27am

Oleg Roschin

Imaginative, thought-provoking, and magically terrifying. Your short stories often work like glimpses into another world, as if the reader were compelled to look at familiar things through a special "Hanorbi lens". I admire your ability to create a rich, mythology-oriented story filled with deep questions out of a seemingly very ordinary and mundane concept.

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:00am


Thank you, Oleg. My brain is always in my own world, never in the real one. I can never think practically - that's where I falter. I appreciate the brilliant comment that I've come to expect from you :)

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:31am

Ever A. Darling

This was so freaking good. I think this Harbinger thing needs some serious help, though. No remorse for all the pain that he has caused. He's truly an evil being who leaves innocent people dead within his path. Just the thought of it is so gripping. This entire story was written in so much detail, and the way you described the Harbinger, and the way these creatures - or whatever you want to call them - find their victims is insane. Brings a whole new insight onto the story, and helped me, as a reader, understand the Harbinger, and his thoughts, and motives. Such a tragedy, really. Amazing job, darling. As always!

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:53am


I could write a novel about Harbingers. There are all kinds that cause us to do horrible things like murder, burglaries, breakups, suicidal actions; they envelop our lives (or, at least, in my mind they do). This is for a contest, so I wanted to amp up the detail as much as possible to get the best score. Thank you for reading, love :)

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:36am


Fantastic story and that road around the world is a scary prospect.

Sun, May 15th, 2016 2:40pm


The Harbingers could destroy the world if we gave them the opportunity to. Thank you, Hully.

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:39am

B Douglas Slack

A thoroughly amazing story, Hanorbi. I never thought of a driving force behind any aberrant behavior other than some internal mindforce. That something external, such as you postulate, seems surreal - but highly possible. Harbingers do exist, I am certain. I've just never met one and am not sure I'd like to.


Sun, May 15th, 2016 3:52pm


I'm constantly looking for reasons as to why we do things. I think that, in part, comes from my love of psychology and the human mind. That coincides very well with writing, as it allows me to explore unconventional ideas that are foreign to most mainstream authors. Hopefully, if I ever publish, it'll give me some kind of upper hand against competitors. Thank you, Tom!

Sun, May 15th, 2016 10:41am

Keke Serene

This is quite an original and unsettling story about the power of some demon-like presence that has quite the sadistic It makes me think about how cleansing fire is in nature but how very destructive is in in society....That's so strange to me! Well, it makes sense but idk. D:

Fri, May 20th, 2016 3:32pm


I think your comment cut off a little, no biggie though, I get what you're saying. I think it's not a choice for them to be evil, it's how they were born, or however they came to exist. Maybe god put them here to balance out all the good, because too much of a good thing (especially the concept of "goodness" itself) can become a very, very bad thing. Thanks for your comment Keeks, really insightful :)

Thu, May 26th, 2016 9:21pm

Jeff Bezaire

The backstory on the Harbingers was quite interesting - I enjoyed that. A lot of vivid details create strong images, making it easy to mentally recreate the story.

Wed, June 15th, 2016 4:03am


perhaps i focused too much on the harbingers, that's one critique i have for my own work. i didnt take enough time to carve out everything else. thank you, jeff. :)

Thu, June 16th, 2016 11:21pm

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