The Tinder Box Man

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 21, 2017

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Submitted: August 21, 2017

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The sun was beginning to set as Jane stood quietly with her parents at the bottom of the imported marble steps leading to the Addington Manor, a tall, gray, Victorian mansion that stood as the focal point of her family’s property. She was dressed in a silk wedding gown of the style that was popular in London at the time, and her red hair was pinned up except for one strand that fell gently on her pale face. But there were no wedding guests, no flowers, and no ceremony. Her father, a short and portly man in a dark blue waistcoat, trousers, and fine leather shoes, checked his pocket watch while her mother, a gaunt and perpetually sick woman dressed in a prude, black dress, looked outward across their expansive lawn. This was not the marriage that Jane had dreamt of time and time again throughout her childhood and into her young adulthood. But fate had other plans for her, and the Tinder Box Man had picked her out of all other girls in the province. Maybe if she had not spent so much time in town he would not have noticed her. But that was a silly thought, the Tinder Box Man never went to town.

Slowly the sound of hooves came within earshot. Her father nervously checked his watch again despite having done so moments before and her mother somehow managed to look even sicklier than usual. A carriage appeared at the property gate and made its way up the drive. It was the kind of carriage used by rich landowners or even nobles but pure black and pulled by even two even blacker horses. The driver was dressed in a long dark gray overcoat and long-brimmed hat placed in such a manner that his face was almost completely obscured. The driver steered the team to the front of the steps and slowed to a stop. Mr. Addington stepped forward. “Welcome to Addington Manor.” He said nervously. But the driver ignored him and turned to Jane. “Jane Addington?” he whispered harshly in a clearly English accent but not one from anywhere near the manor. Jane nodded, unable to speak. The driver got down from his seat, his motions uncomfortably fluid like those of a serpent, and opened the carriage door. The black curtains were drawn and no lantern was present inside but she could vaguely make out the shape of a man sitting motionless in the corner. Jane stood perfectly still and stared into the carriage until the driver, with a touch that felt more like lifeless cloth than human skin, guided her by the arm into the carriage. As he shut the door behind her Jane caught a final glimpse of her parents, their eyes were full of tears. Once the door had closed the carriage interior was completely dark but, although she could not see him, she could feel the man’s stare on her. With a small jolt, the carriage started and they began their journey in silence.

After a time, Jane’s eyes began to adjust to the darkness. The man in the corner opposite of her sat motionless, with his face clearly pointed towards her, although she still could not make out any of his features. “H-hello?” she asked timidly. There was an uncomfortably long pause. “Hello, Jane.” The figured replied in a gruff but quite tone. His accent seemed to be Irish but a much older, much more primitive dialect. “You know my name?” asked Jane. “Silly me. Of course you do. You picked me.” She laughed nervously. Once again there was a long silence. Then the man began chuckle quietly. There was no joy or humor behind his laugh. It was cold and empty, almost as if he were simply attempting to imitate her own laugh. Just as suddenly as he had started he fell silent once again. Although thoroughly unnerved, Jane continued to attempt a conversation. “Are you the Tinder Box Man?” Jane asked nervously. This time the pause was shorter and his voice had a hint of irritation to it. “I have been called as such, although that is not my name.” “Then what is your name?” Jane inquired. “You ask too many questions, girl.” The Tinder Box Man replied dismissively. From that point on the journey continued without conversation.

They might’ve been travelling minutes or for hours, but eventually the carriage began to slow and eventually stop. She heard the driver get down from his seat and walk to the carriage door, opening it and revealing that they were halted in a thick forest. The driver, with his still lifeless feeling skin, helped her out of the carriage and the man exited behind her, letting Jane get her first good look at the Tinder Box Man. He was dressed in clothes not dissimilar to her father’s but much darker and fitted to the Tinder Box Man’s awkwardly tall and wiry frame. His limbs seemed uncomfortably long and ever so crooked and his thin torso seemed to cave in at the stomach as if he had not eaten in months. But it was not his scarecrow-like physicality that struck Jane the most. Over his face the Tinder Box Man wore a loose mask of white cloth with only holes for his eyes cut out and when Jane looked into those infinitely black eyes they seemed to pierce her very soul with their intensity.

After taking in the Tinder Box Man’s odd appearance Jane did the same for her surroundings. The trees were immensely tall and the canopy was so thick that only small slivers of moonlight were able to bleed through. The vines and brush seemed almost like flames frozen in time, rising and wrapping thickly around the trees and even spilling out onto the small dirt road they had been travelling on. The only other path visible branched off from the main one and was too small for the carriage to travel on. The Tinder Box Man gestured for her to follow him down the path and she followed fearfully with the driver silently bringing up the rear. “Where are we going?” she asked, but neither of them responded. As they walked tears began to well up in Jane’s eyes. She knew the stories about the Tinder Box Man and they filled her with terror and hopelessness.

After walking a short distance, the trio reached a round clearing and her blood ran cold. Within the clearing stood a circle of large stones and in the center was a large mound of wood, twigs, and dry brush with a tall wooden pole thrusting upward from it. Jane began weeping quietly. She hadn’t wanted to believe the stories but now she knew what was about to happen and her stomach began to churn at the horrible prospect. She turned to run but the driver grabbed her and dragged her towards the woodpile. Although it was only the driver it seemed as though many pairs of hands were grabbing and pulling her and she could do nothing to resist the intention of their pulling. He dragged her atop the pile, produced a rope from his long coat, and tied her to the pole as the Tinder Box Man stood and watched, contemplating the struggle with his dark, uncaring eyes.

Once she was secured the driver stepped down and stood beside his master. Without even turning his head the Tinder Box Man nonchalantly pointed at the driver and suddenly the driver’s body seemed to collapse in on himself and his hat and long coat feel the ground as if there was no one inside of them. Jane’s panic was too intense for her to wonder about the driver and she struggled in vain with the ropes. The Tinder Box Man reached inside his breast pocket and produced a small box, a tinder box. Jane began thrashing harder as he removed a flint and tinder, placed the box back in his pocket, and began striking his tools together. He struck it once, twice, three times as Jane went limp in despair and let her body be held up by the pole. On the fourth strike the pile caught and the fire spread quickly across the dry wood. Within moments the pyre was roaring. Jane didn’t scream as the flames began to lick her legs. She didn’t scream as her flesh began to bubble and burn. It wasn’t until the Tinder Box Man stepped closer to the raging inferno and lifted his cloth mask, revealing to Jane through the flames what was beneath it, did she scream. She screamed and screamed until her throat burned with the same intensity as the flames consuming her flesh. She didn’t stop screaming until the fire had finished eating every part of her. Her scream fell into a rattling groan and finally died into nothing. Only the crackle of flames cut through the silence of the forest.


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