Fire breeds life. It fertilises the land with the ashes of former existence. But it has no control over what escapes the flames. Or what may spring forth.
Jason held the scanner to his eyes and turned full circle. The landscape was still desolate some two hundred years on from the great burning, but there were human life signs hiding in the rubble and they had to be removed.
‘I see you,’ shouted Jason at the pile of charcoal before him. ‘Come out into the open. I won’t hurt you.’ The lies came easier the longer you had been doing the job, but you couldn’t get blasé. Jason’s hand brushed across the gun beneath the outer skin of his body suit.
Cronen looked out from his hiding place. The brittle carbon around him rattled a little with his heightened breathing, but not enough to worry about. He knew the man before him, or at least his ancestors. He also knew their mission and he was ready. Cronen lifted his hands in submission high above him. They were as black as everything around him. The man waved his gun, signalling at Cronen to stand. Cronen gently placed his hands to push himself up. He could feel the pulse course through his body.
‘Why are you here?’ said Cronen, purposefully drawing out the length of their interaction.
‘I need your help,’ said Jason. He edged forward, the carbon beneath his feet crunched like a thousand bones breaking.
Cronen didn’t move a step.
‘My help?’ he said, glancing down at the advancing menace. ‘Really?’ I thought you might want to kill me.’ He hoped the wobble in his voice hadn’t been noticed.
Jason flinched. What felt like a bite at his heel made him kick out behind. ‘Kill you?’ He kicked again. ‘Whatever made you think that?’ Jason wanted to look down, but he didn’t dare take his eyes off the blackened face before him.
‘Your gun,’ said Cronen. He paused. He smiled. ‘They’re like piranhas, you know,’ he said, nodding towards the ground. ‘They couldn’t kill you on their own, but a pack, defending their brethren.’
Jason gasped for air as the teeth began to make their way up his legs, rivers of blood flowing from him.
‘Oh, and a word of advice,’ said Cronen, ‘always look where you’re putting your feet.’
Cronen turned and walked away, taking the path vacated by the army now devouring its prey.
© Juliet Boyd
Juliet has been writing short stories since the beginning of 2009. She was one of the winners of the 2010 Micro Horror competition and has had a story published on the Ether App as well as several websites online. She has a classic Doctor Who story coming out on audio CD in the Doctor Who Short Trips series by Big Finish Productions on 31 May 2011. She blogs at http://www.juliet-boyd.blogspot.com/.