by: Daniel I. Saum
1864-United States, Battle of Walkerton
He laid on the hard ground and had a pain in his stomach. He slowly reached his hand down, and touched where his stomach hurt. Wincing, he felt a tear in his skin, “a bullet finally got me,” he thought to himself. He had been through the entire war without an incident, yet as it drew to a close he found himself laying in a field dying.
Then, looking to the sky, he saw black smoke rising into the air. He could smell the burning wheat from around him. Finally, he saw the flicker of flames close by. He closed his eyes, and waited for his end to come. Laying on the ground, he felt the warmth of the flames come over him, and then he felt the fire burning within his body. It went on, and on, and on. Realizing that he wasn’t in pain, he decided to open up his eyes.
That’s when he noticed that the fire had come and gone, leaving him untouched. Doing a physical check to make sure that everything was okay, he noticed that the sun was starting to break through the clouds above. The warmth felt good on his face as the sun beat down onto him, and he felt empowered by the sun’s rays. Then, a shadow covered him and the feeling slowly disappeared.
Looking up to see what was blocking him from the sun, he saw a large bird flying in the sky. Then, the bird moved and started descending towards him. As it got closer, he realized it looked like a man. But, the man had wings like a bird. “A flying man?” He thought to himself, puzzled.
The flying man landed on the ground in front of him. Wings beating powerfully, the flying man walked a little around the field and then pulled his wings into his back making them disappear altogether. With his wings gone, he looked like an ordinary man.
“Are you John Williams?” The flying man asked.
“Depends, who’s asking?” the man in the field replied.
“An agent of God.” The winged man replied.
“So, you’re…you’re an Angel?”
“What else would I be John?” the Angel replied, looking down at him.
“Good point,” John said starting to get up.
“Please, stay seated.” The Angel said, pushing John to the ground.
“What the Hell?! I thought you were a good guy, not an asshole!” John yelled.
“I am a good guy, I’m trying to make sure that the whole of humanity is protected.” The Angel said, walking around John.
“Listen, what do you want from me?” John asked, laying on his back staring up at the Angel.
“I want to know if you’re the Fire.” The Angel replied, his dark eyes staring into John’s soul.
“Fire?” John asked, trying to understand and trying to find his advantage in the upcoming fight.
“The Element of Fire,” The Angel said and then he opened his mouth and released a bellow of fire from his core.
John reached up with both of his hands to cover his face from the flames. He felt the heat of the fire spread all over his arms and body. It continued and then it slowly faded away. John opened his eyes to see that his clothes had burned off of his body and his skin was glowing a bright red color. He looked at his hand and arms, and then looked up to the Angel.
“What in the name of Hades happened to me?” John asked him.
“You’re the Fire.” The Angel replied, as he reached behind his back and pulled out a sword.
“Listen, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done.” John started, trying to push himself away from the Angel. “There’s no need to kill me.”
“I’m sorry John, but you’re the Fire and you must die. It is the only way to protect the world and my race.” The Angel said, as his sword burst into flames.
“If I’m Fire, then how do you plan to kill me with a flaming sword?” John asked, trying to keep the Angel busy as he tried make plan.
“The best way to fight Fire, is with fire.” The Angel said, as he swung his sword at John.
John jumped back, and then started crawling away from the Angel. Thrusting the sword, the Angel jabbed the ground. Facing the Angel, John reached out with his hand instinctively and grabbed the flaming sword in mid-air. Looking at the Angel, and then to the sword, John started grinning. With a look of terror on his face, the Angel jerked back. John stood up, and looked the Angel square in the eye.
“I don’t think I’ll be dying today.” John said.
The Angel turned and spread his white wings. John reached out and grabbed ahold of the Angel by the wings before he, the Angel, could take off in flight. Giving a mighty groan, John’s hands burst into flames. In turn, the Angel’s white feathers caught on fire and within a few seconds the Angel was engulfed in flames and burning alive. Then, the Angel turned to ash that fell to the ground along with his, the Angel’s, sword.
“That’ll probably get me sent to hell,” John said aloud to himself as he picked up the sword and started walking out of the field.
150 Years Later
He moved down the hallway, looking into room after room. He felt people pushing past him, and he pushed back. He stood in the middle of the hall and looked around, trying to get his bearing. All he saw were doctors and nurses moving around, along with medical machines sitting along the walls. Then, past all of the people, he saw a nurse’s station.
“Excuse me,” he said to the nurse behind the counter. “Excuse me,” He said again when she ignored him.
“Can I help you?” The woman asked, as if he was bothering her work.
“I’m looking for my grandfather’s room.” He told her.
“Name?” She asked, turning to her computer.
“John Williams, possibly John Williams I.” He replied.
“Seems here he’s in room 415. That’s odd,” She continued, as she pressed a few buttons on her keyboard.
“What?” He asked, getting worried.
“There must be a glitch in the system, according to this your grandfather is a 174 years old.” The nurse replied.
“I’m sure it is.” He said, as he moved away from the nurse’s station and towards room 415.
Getting to his grandfather’s room, John Williams III grabbed ahold of the door handle. Pressing it down, the metal inside the handle creaked as it gave way to John’s command. Pushing on the door, it silently glided open and John poked his head in to see if his grandfather was asleep.
“Well, are you going to hang outside that door all day? Or are you here to watch an old man die.” John Williams I grumbled.
“Sorry grandpa, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t disturb you.”
“Of course you’re disturbing me, you and all these damn doctors and nurses. Back in my day, the dying were left in peace!” the old man shouted, trying to get a doctor passing in the hallway to hear him.
“I can come back later, maybe when you’re napping and more pleasant?”
“Next nap I’m going to take is a dirt one, boy. Now get in here and shut that door, before another nurse tries to get in here.”
Stepping into the room, and shutting the door behind him, John walked over to his grandfather’s bedside. Pulling up a chair, John sat down and simply stared at his grandfather, trying to figure the old man out.
“Is there something that you wanna ask me kid?”
“How does a grumpy ass man like you live for over a hundred and seventy years?”
“It’s a secret, one that you wouldn’t believe.” His grandfather said.
“Try me old man.”
“Okay, fine.” His grandfather said, rolling over to better face his grandson.
“Do you remember those stories I used to tell you?”
“Of course grandpa, the ones about the man who could control fire.” John said, with a little chuckle as he remember the hours he spent listening to his grandfather’s tales.
“Yeah, those ones. Well kiddo, they’re not stories.”
“Stories are as real as you need them to be.” John said, trying to console his grandfather.
“Don’t patronize me boy! I know the difference between a tale and real life. I was that man, I could control fire.”
“Okay, if that’s true then you wouldn’t have any trouble proving it to me.” John said, a smirk coming over his face as he thought he was making the old man face his own lie.
“You want me to show you, okay then.”
His grandfather then lifted his napkin up and threw it in the air. Stretching his hand out towards the napkin, the old man closed his eyes and concentrated. John moved his eyes away from his grandfather, and over to the napkin. As he did, John noticed that a corner of the napkin was starting to get a slight red glow to it. Almost like a nearly burnt out ember. Then, the napkin fell to the old man’s feet. Nothing happened.
“See grandpa, you can’t control fire.” John said, as he picked up the napkin and placed it back on his grandfather’s food tray.
“I can damn it.” The old man said. “It’s just because I’m so weak right now.”
“Yeah, that makes sense.” John said, trying to be more sincere. Not wanting his grandfather to die feeling like a fool in front of his only family.
“You don’t believe me, just like the rest of the family.”
“Grandpa, let’s not go into that now.”
“Fine.” The old man said, and the two sat in silence for a few minutes.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the old man began to breathe harder and harder. It was as if breathing was a chore. Or, a game of trying to get the air into his lungs faster than it left. A game that the old man was losing quickly.
“Someone get in here!” John shouted.
The machines all around the old man were chiming and chirping, trying to tell someone that the old man was dying. Then the old man started seizing, his body jerking and twisting in all sorts of odd ways. A group of nurses along with a doctor came running into the room, pushing John back away from his grandfather.
Leaning against the wall on the far side of the room, John covered his mouth as tears rolled down the bridge of his nose and dripped onto the cold, concrete floor. The nurses were grabbing ahold of his grandfather, trying to steady him as the doctor injected some medicine into the old man’s arm. John just sat back silently, watching the professionals do their jobs.
After a few minutes, his grandfather was still again. Laying back in the hospital bed, his grandfather looked at peace. His chest rose and fell as the old man gave weezing breathes. Then, his grandfather’s eyes flashed open. Beckoning his grandson to come closer, the old man sat up in his bed. John walked closer to his grandfather, and without saying a word he wrapped his arms around the old man.
Grabbing his grandson’s arms, the old man pushed John off of him. Then, he reached out with his right hand and placed his palm on John’s left cheek. John reached up and touched his grandfather’s arm, as tears rolled down his face. Then, the old man grabbed ahold of John’s left cheek with more force, digging his fingers into the side of John’s face.
Before John could say anything, images began flashing through his mind. He saw his grandfather’s life, but as if it was his own. John felt a pain in his mind, like his brain was about to explode. Then a fire burned through him, it felt like his skin was going to melt off. Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, and hours to days as the two men stayed attached.
Then, everything stopped, John heard the gravelly voice of his grandfather in his head. “Find the others, rebuild the Council.” His grandfather said, and then everything went black for John. The old man let go of John’s face, and then they both fell back. John laid slumped on the cold floor, while the old man laid back on the bed as the machines flat lined. The transfer had been complete.