Aaron White

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by Aaron White


Drawing by Aaron White

The clouds rolled in around twilight—vast bloated things the color of an old bruise, all putrid yellows and violet. People slowed their cars or stopped on sidewalks to watch the clouds gather over the small town of Maynett, which seemed to amass unnaturally over Blackhorne Manor.

Layers of thunderheads churned and roiled around the old stone building, and while they seemed pregnant with a torrential downpour, not a drop fell to the ground. Instead, lightning zig-zagged from cloud to cloud before repeatedly striking the earth.

An unlikely percentage of lightning struck the towers and chimneys of the mansion again and again. Thunder boomed with enough ferocity to shake virtually every window pane across town. An unseasonably cold wind whipped suddenly across the landscape, and what little light left in the sky was soon swallowed by the storm. 

The citizens, fearing the worst, fled inside and bolted both door and window alike before the wild winds tore them from their hinges. When the power went out, they lit candles and listened to the violence of the storm overhead, feeling afraid.

Perhaps it was the intensity of the tempest that muffled the explosion that tore Blackhorne Manor apart. The stone walls that had previously survived for a century exploded outward as a scarlet ball of fire erupted from the bowels of the building. On the outskirts of town, the noise was dismissed as mere thunder, but those that lived close to the Manor felt the walls of their homes shake the moment the old mansion detonated.

Some ran to their windows and saw the unearthly crimson blaze still smoldering in the crumpled shell of the Manor, where it was busy consuming the few bits of furniture left there. The explosion and the fire it brought with it had already destroyed the strange altar and the horrible things that were left upon it as well as several ancient tomes of almost indecipherable texts. The flames scorched the walls enough to blot out the bizarre symbols and crude figures drawn in a black oily substance. Gone were the diagrams, the hidden cabinets and the frightful trinkets they contained. Any trace of the paranormal obsession that had claimed its wealthy inhabitants had been wiped away by the fires.

Those near the center of town heard the sirens screaming through the streets as a half dozen emergency personnel rushed to the remains of Blackhorne Manor, carefully maneuvering their vehicles around chunks of stone that were still smoking. The police barricaded the roads around the lengthy driveway so that the firemen could do their jobs unhindered. They trained their hoses on the ruins as the foundation belched out black smoke and soot.


Surveying the scene, Lieutenant James Freidmann noted a small patch of burnt grass near the remains of the house, followed by another section of scorched earth. He went to investigate, and saw that a trail had been seared into the lawn, one that led away from the ruins.

He followed it with his eyes and saw that it led into a small forest that bordered the landscaped lawns of the Manor. A piece of the building must have been hurled across the lawn and into the woods, he thought, still hot enough to ignite the vegetation.

Already he could see that something had caught fire several feet from the tree line. He stepped closer to take a better look. The last thing the team wanted was the fire to spread. He was about to call over to one of the firefighters when a sudden movement caught his eye.

He shifted his position so that he could see beyond the first few trees, and saw something else engulfed in flames. For a moment he thought it was a burning statue of some sort, but then the thing raised an arm and touched the bark of the tree in front of it.

Freidmann’s heart hammered in his chest. The person was still alive. How someone could withstand such agony in silence unsettled him, and he found his hand hovering around his holstered gun.

“Just… just stay where you are…” he began. The words were not coming easily, and he knew that he was talking nonsense. How was this person still alive? He forced himself to step forward, all the while fighting the urge to turn tail and run as fast as he could. “Help will… will…”

The thing turned. Its head swiveled on its ropy neck, and while James knew that its eyes were long gone, he could tell it was looking at him. Its arm moved away from the tree—which was now rapidly catching fire—and towards its face, bringing an index finger up to its charred lips. It was silencing him, asking him to keep a secret, and as it conveyed the message it brought the other hand to another tree. The bark ignited almost instantly.

The fire had erased its gender and identity, leaving behind only cracked, blackened skin that clung to the blistered muscle beneath. Here and there, skin and fat alike had been burned down to the bone, which too had been reduced to charcoal. The eyes were empty sockets lined with charred skin, and yet the thing seemed to stare at him relentlessly. Any clothing had been burned away or fused to the scorched anatomy. The only things that were not withered by the fire were its teeth, which could be seen moving as the thing tried to communicate.

Lieutenant Freidmann couldn’t believe his eyes. He took a step back, and before he knew it, his hand was fumbling with the holster. The walking pyre took a step towards Freidman, and while its movements were slow and deliberate, it was on him in an instant, grabbing the officer by the arms and pulling him into the flames.

He shrieked as he tried to pull away from the wraith’s vice-like grip, but its strength was unnatural. The fingers burned through the sleeves of his uniform, and when he felt them close around his wrists, James was reminded of metal in a forge. The fingers sank into his flesh and began to burn through sinew and muscle. He tried to scream again, but when he inhaled, his lungs filled with fire. As his vision darkened, he saw for a moment a strange and terrible place—a city made of ash under a burning sky. He heard a hissing noise and knew that somehow the thing was still trying to speak to him. Freidmann felt the heat intensify as he was pulled closer still.

He was dying. He knew this, and he knew that something else was happening to him— something he wasn’t prepared for, something his mundane mind couldn’t fathom. If only he could hear what the thing was telling him…


A thing that had assumed the shape of a man watched from atop a small hill. The shape that was made manifest; it looked more or less human, but there were hints of its truer nature in the anatomy. The flesh from his left lower jaw to his ear was waxy and misshapen, as if having been badly burned a long time ago. The same could be said about his right hand and a portion of his chest. His eyes were no discernable color, but seemed to waver between grey and yellow. The rest of his features were rather elegant, making his age hard to place. His dark clothing was neither old-fashioned nor modern, but some odd combination of the two, so much so that they scarcely attracted attention.

The ageless thing that was sometimes called Urobach saw his disciples transformed, and he saw them crawl their way out from beneath the rubble of the place they had once inhabited. Some took to the woods, others found roads to travel. Wherever they went, whatever they touched would burn, and those that opposed them would burn and become like them: his children. And his children will never stop until the world was but ash and dust.

Jack Buccelli took shelter from the storm in his living room, where he found some small comfort in the dark and whatever reruns were airing on the same old television he had for the past twenty-five years. He also found comfort in the cheap bourbon he drank every night—a habit he knew was killing him, but the concern was far behind him now.

Too many long years of manual labor had ruined his body. When the hip surgery he needed didn’t work the way it should’ve and the pain still persisted, drinking was the only thing that let him sleep for more than four hours at a time. He was tired of life, tired of the disappointments and the pain and the loneliness. He took a swig from the bottle and wondered for a moment if he was watching the news or some infomercial selling some useless gadget. Maybe the two were one and the same. He took another swig, belched, and settled further into the tattered armchair that was as old as the TV, if not older.

He was listening to the man on the television ramble about something when an orange light came in through the window behind him. It flickered like a bonfire would…only it moved slightly.

He wondered, quite dimly, what was causing it, and then almost immediately decided that it wasn’t his concern. Maybe it was a tow truck or some construction lights. He took another sip and heard the sudden screeching of car tires on pavement. By now the lights were a bit brighter, and they lit up the living room in a most irritating way. Grumbling to himself, he began to get out of the chair, which was always a process for him, especially when drinking. Muttering a string of curses to himself, he turned to the window to see what kind of nonsense was happening outside at such an hour.

There was a man on fire in the middle of the road, but he wasn’t writhing on the ground in agony. Nothing—human or otherwise—so consumed by fire should be able to stand upright, let alone maintain any movement. Yet the thing in the street walked almost casually towards the car that was idling diagonally in the road. The light was too dim for Jack to see inside the car, but he wondered what the driver was doing, what kept them from getting out or throwing the car in reverse.

And then the street brightened, and there were more of them. Some came from behind the first, but others came out from behind the trees that bordered the road, setting fire to the branches and leaves. From his vantage point Jack saw the driver door finally open, but by then the things were already at the car, peering into the windows and pressing their wasted hands against the glass. Some of them began to clamber onto the hood of the car, and their touch made the paint catch fire.

Jack knew that he should be doing something, but the alcohol made his thoughts sluggish, and the terrible sight outside had a hypnotic effect, fixing him in place. A part of him wanted the driver to escape, but a sick part of him wanted to see the nightmare play out, to see destruction and pain. The intense heat caused the windows to shatter abruptly, and there was a scream then, though Jack couldn’t make out the gender.

He pressed his fat face against dirty glass for a closer look. A figure darted out of the car, narrowly escaping the grasps of the things surrounding the front of the vehicle. The driver nearly tripped over something in the road, but then they righted their footing so as to not take a potentially deadly fall to the asphalt.

The things continued their search of the car. Some of them crawled into the interior, melting the vinyl and plastic while they explored. Soon the entire car was engulfed in flame, and before Jack could prepare himself there was a deep boom as the vehicle exploded. Shrapnel pelted the windows of his house. Caught off guard, Jack tripped over his own feet and landed hard on his tailbone. Cursing his own weight and lethargy, he tried to roll onto his side. He felt suddenly concerned about what the things outside were now doing and how close they were to the house. Already the living room was brightening by the moment. Eventually the fires would be upon him.

Grunting, he managed to get onto his side before flopping onto his round, bulbous stomach. The plan was to crawl into the kitchen, and from there arm himself with a weapon or escape via the back door. The effort, however, was already bringing a sheen of sweat to his forehead. He wheezed as he padded and pulled himself across the floor, and he felt a sudden sharp pain beneath his lower jaw. A similar pain shot down his left arm.

I’m having a heart attack, he thought to himself, and was surprised to hear how calm his voice sounded in his head. Better to go out naturally than to be a victim to one of those things out there. But as comforting as that thought was, he knew it would not come to fruition.

The fires outside the house blazed with enough brilliance to make it seem like the sun had risen prematurely. He turned his head and saw their silhouettes at the windows, and when they placed their hands against the glass it shattered. Jack tried to right himself, but he felt dizzy and weak – the most he could manage was to edge himself towards the door on his hands and knees, and even that was becoming tiresome. His palms were slick with sweat and they often slid on the hardwood floor. Fumbling for purchase, he then realized that, on top of his other symptoms, he was now short of breath. A fear was beginning to well up inside of him as the air in the living room became hotter and hotter. Each breath he dragged into his lungs seemed to sear the inside of his throat.

There was the sudden sensation of a dozen branding irons on his legs as the things grabbed hold of him. He tried to scream, but not much came out. He didn’t have enough air to make a proper sound, just a barely audible croaking noise. The sickening stench of burning meat suddenly filled the room. Fat oozed between their black fingers as they clambered over his body, dragging him backwards towards the others that were now crawling through the windows.

Fire leapt off the walls and struck the ceiling, creating whirls of dark smudges where it touched. Jack was being hauled into the inferno behind him. The last coherent thoughts he had as himself were of the last lonely years of his life, and how miserable he’s been. And then his thoughts faded away as another consciousness took root, and it was a mind filled with a terrible hunger.

The fire and the things born of it ravaged his body, peeling back the skin so as to melt what lay underneath. His anatomy withered and blackened, and just when it seemed like there would be nothing left but charcoal and bone, the remains moved. The thing that was once Jack Buccelli raised itself out of the pool of molten fat and burning tissue, and took its place with the others while the house burned down around them.


There were still a few stragglers left inside Christie’s Pub, and so Christie herself kept the bar open despite the rising panic she felt inside her. Her bar was located on the outskirts of Maynett, away from most of the civilization, but she knew that something wasn’t right. Earlier there were patrons talking about raging fires downtown set by arsonists, their identity changing with each retelling of the story. Sometimes they were young punks causing trouble, or radical protesters wishing to destroy corporate property, or rival gang members, or escaped lunatics. And then the stories stopped, as well as the traffic through the front door. For a while she was alone with her thoughts, and sometimes that was the worst. But then a few strays wandered into her bar, and they proved to be a decent distraction. For a while, at least.

A young couple came into the bar talking about an orange sky in the distance. Christie wondered why the fires weren’t put out yet, and then wondered why there were no sirens wailing past her pub.

As she was dialing the number to the local police station a cab driver from the next town over came in, and she was forced to abandon the call. He mumbled something about having to turn around because of the heavy smoke in the air, and then proceeded to order a few drinks in a row. From a few bar stools over, the couple audibly complained about the sudden lack of cell phone reception.

As they were hurrying to finish their drinks, another patron pushed the front door open and walked into the bar.

His outfit was monochromatic and the color of soot. He approached the bar with an air of confidence that spoke of royalty, and when he sat down he brought with him the pungent odor of a crematorium. He had been handsome once, but he’d suffered some horrible accident that left parts of his face heavily scarred.

Christie knew she should have been unnerved by his presence—perhaps to the point of forcing him out of the bar or fleeing themselves—but instead she looked upon him expectantly, as if in awe. He reached gracefully into his coat pocket and produced a cigarette, and by some sleight of hand the cigarette was already lit as he brought it to his mouth. He inhaled deeply and blew out a thick cloud of smoke vaguely shaped like some abysmal thing, though no one present could accurately describe the form. Smoking in the bar had been outlawed several years ago, yet Christie couldn’t find her voice to protest. She only watched the stranger in a strange kind of wonder that she knew deep down wasn’t normal. The man took another deep drag and exhaled through clenched teeth. This time the smoke was serpentine. Finally he spoke.

“Drinks for the witnesses, in a time of such beauty,” he said with a musical voice.

“What will it be?” Christie found herself asking, having no intention to ask in the first place, as if the words were shaped by something that moved her lips for her.

“Your very best whisky, straight up. Please include yourself as well,” he answered.

Christie watched herself fetch five shot glasses, and then she watched herself pour the spirit into each glass. The patrons, not knowing what else to do, not being able to do anything else, took a glass and raided it to their lips. Before they sipped, the stranger spoke again:

“But first, a toast,” the stranger said, and then dramatically cleared his throat. “Day of wrath, O day of mourning. See fulfilled the prophet’s warning, Heaven and earth in ashes burning,” he intoned, and then brought the glass to his lips and downed the liquid in one fluid gulp. The rest did the same, though the young couple couldn’t help but cough as the alcohol burned their throats. The stranger smiled.

No one besides the man in the dark grey clothing were aware of the flickering lights congregating outside of the pub, nor were they aware of their growing numbers until the lights were too close and it was too late.

Christie looked up and couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing. She saw at least a dozen people on fire standing outside of her establishment, and beyond them the world was too bright an orange for this time of night. Somehow they all took a step in unison towards the bar, and she wondered for a moment how that was possible for things in such condition. Their fingers were like charred sticks pressed against the windows, and suddenly the walls burst into flames, and everything was smoke and fire. No one in the bar had time to move before the conflagration and the things it brought with it closed upon them and ushered them dreadfully into a new state of being.

Soon they joined the multitude of others that drifted through the changing landscape with terrible intent, bent upon erasing the world with fire and building in its place cities of ash.


Aaron White started drawing monsters when he was four years old, which proved to be a catalyst for his active imagination. Throughout grade and middle school he drew various ghoulish creatures while pouring through books by author such as John Bellairs, C. S. Lewis, and even Stephen King. Aaron went on to major in Illustration at Massachusetts College of Art, but still dabbled with creative writing here and there. Eventually he decided to focus his imagination on writing, and has since completed several short stories in the horror and sci-fi genres. He’s also working on a full-length fantasy novel for young adults. Aaron currently resides in central Massachusetts.

You can find Aaron at www.aaronmwhite.com.