It’s been years since my life-changing event occurred. I decided that now was as good a time as any to finally write down on paper what it was that happened to me back then.

It all began when I was a freshman in high school. My dad was always a nice guy, trying to be interested in whatever I was interested in at the time. I always felt like I was disappointing him though. I didn’t excel in school, I wasn’t incredibly athletic, and I had no real particular talent in anything. He’d always have me trying different things because he was sure that somehow, I had some gift deep inside of me. I went through almost every instrument I can name, tried painting, writing, and all sorts of artistic endeavors, and attempted trying to just make friends, but that went even worse than all else.

God, that brings back bad memories. Of all the things I was terrible at doing, the winner was hands down just talking to other people. I just would freeze up and if I made any noise at all, it would just be a little mumbling. This fact was made worse by the fact that I just looked unappealing too. I wasn’t fat, but I certainly wasn’t thin. My face and body were both chubby and I just looked like I was mentally disabled, if that makes any sense. I mean no offense to people with mental disabilities; these were just the things I heard people say about me.

Anyway, back to my Dad. I know it always broke his heart to know that I had no friends. I wasn’t unhappy, but knowing that I wasn’t able to be who he wanted to be made me upset, so I guess in an indirect way, making friends would have made me happy.

One day, he had an idea. He figured that it would be easiest for me to make friends if I was as comfortable as I could be. In my entire life, I only really had one interest and that interest was camping. I don’t know what it was about it; it was just so peaceful. Hiking through the woods, fishing with my Dad, and falling asleep to the sound of the fire were all such fun things to me. During that time, I talked with my Dad much more than I ever did. So it made sense for him to think that I might actually be able to make friends while doing what I loved. There was only one problem; some people I didn’t talk to just because I didn’t like them.

My Dad had a friend named Tom, and Tom had these two devil children named Phil and Adam. Phil was a sophomore at my school, and the Adam was in eighth grade. Phil was the reason that I hated getting up in the morning. He physically couldn’t stop himself from berating me and harassing me every time he saw me in the hall. Every once in a while, when his friends were around, he’d punch me until I fell over crying. He made my life a living hell.

Now, the smug folk out there who have already cracked the code on life are probably asking something. Why didn’t I just tell somebody about him? Well, if you really have to ask that, I refer you to the beginning of this story where I explain how talking isn’t really my thing. I did, though, try telling my Dad about him, but seeing how close he and Tom were, the point was really not up for discussion, and it’s not like I could bring myself to push it very far. Some kids tried to tell teachers about him, but he was just so smooth with adults, and he and his friends had everyone who witnessed the worst of it struck with fear.

I really loved my Dad though. If he thought that I could make friends with those two, then I decided that I would. So we took off for the woods at about four o’clock on a Friday, and we would be there until early morning on Sunday. On the hike to the site, things were surprisingly pleasant. Phil wasn’t acting like an asshole and we were actually talking. He was talking to me about the teachers that I had this year that he had last year, and we were making jokes about some of the other kids that we both knew. Even Adam was acting nice to me. He said he never went fishing before and I promised that I’d show him how to do it.

On the way there, we met a guy who was looking around on the trail. He took his son here the other weekend and his son lost his glasses somewhere on the trail. He had been looking for an hour and was about to give up, but told us to keep an eye out for them too. After we set up at the campsite, we started the fire; the sun was just about down when Tom found something on the ground. It was a glasses case, with of course, the kid’s glasses in it. It was under a bush, and he only discovered it because he was gathering kindling under it. My Dad and Tom decided that they might be able to catch the guy before he left.

At that point, Phil and Adam stopped talking to me. I tried starting conversations with both of them, but they would just ignore me. I guessed that I should just consider myself lucky. They were only nice to me because my Dad was around, and I should be thankful that they didn’t start harassing me the second he left. I thought I had got off lucky.

I was staring at the river nearby in awe. Just admiring it and thinking about all the great fishing I could do tomorrow. Then I heard some rustling. I turned my head and narrowly dodged a rock that was hurled at my face. Phil was staring at me with an unnerving smile. He picked up another rock and threw it at me; this one hit me in the stomach. I was on the ground. Adam came up to me and started stepping on my chest and bashing me in the face. I heard them berating me.

“You fucking fatass. Were you really stupid enough to think that we liked you?”

“Your Daddy’s going to be pretty upset when he finds out his little princess jumped into the river.”

“You like camping, huh? Let’s see how much you like the campfire.”

At that point, they started dragging me over to the fire. For the first time in my life I was screaming. It wasn’t very loud, but I think my Dad might have been close enough to hear it. Phil held my mouth shut, while Adam brought over a rock. He smashed my mouth with the rock, knocking out nearly all of my teeth. My gums were cut and bruising and at that point in time, my physical ability to speak finally represented my actual ability to speak.

I was still struggling as they got me close to the fire, and just as they were about to throw me in, I got an arm free. I grabbed a log from the fire and swung it at Phil’s leg. He jumped back. Then I threw it at Adam and he freaked out and lost his grip. I panicked to my feet and grabbed another log from the fire. Holding it in my hand, I felt different. I had always loved the fire and felt safe when I was close to it, but now I literally felt like superman wielding it.

Phil went to pick up some rocks but Adam told him to stop.

“Come on, Phil. Just because this bitch has some fire doesn’t mean it has the balls to use it.”

He picked up a dry log from the pile and ran to try and swing at me. I ducked down and grabbed his arm. In an act of sheer reflex, I shoved the flaming log into his stomach and held them both there. His shirt caught on fire and he was screaming. Phil ran towards us screaming. Right before he could hit me, I let go of Adam and smacked him with the wood. It busted into pieces and he fell to the ground, panicking trying to keep the embers off of him. Adam’s entire upper body was on fire at that point and he was trying to roll on the ground. I picked up the axe that my Dad always brings when we go camping.

I didn’t swing it at him. Looking back on it, he probably wishes that I did. I used the top of it and pressed it against his chest, so that he couldn’t move around. His arms were flailing and it was almost arousing to me. No, that’s underselling it. I was fully aroused. I finally became the artist that I wanted to be and this was my work; I had every right to be proud of it. His screams were little songs that I composed and played for my own entertainment. It was my own wonderful magic show, and he was my lovely assistant, who wished that he could get cut in half.

My show was fantastic, but it was interrupted. Tom and my Dad came back running and screaming. Tom got there first and I jumped off of Adam and backed up. He was frantically trying to put his son out, and I briefly considered killing him for trying to damage my work, but then I looked at my Dad. He was mortified. The look on his face made Phil’s entire book of insults feel like nothing. He really thought I was a monster, and maybe he was right. I couldn’t bear to find out. I slid down the hill and into the river, and tried to get as far away as I possibly could.

I didn’t sleep that night. In the early morning, I found a shed outside what looked like an abandoned house. I rested there for a few hours. When I was ready to move again, I looked around the shed. I found a box in the corner that seemed odd. I opened it up and found an old US Army uniform, some medals, and some other war related gear. Most of it was boring and uninteresting, but I did find something interesting at the bottom. It was a gas-mask. I didn’t plan on showing my face to anyone ever again, and I could use the protection until it healed. I decided to wear it. I went out and looked at myself in the water. For once, I thought I actually looked good.

The only thing I was thinking about at the time though was how I needed to do it again. I needed to feel that divine rush of life in me. I needed to watch something burn again. I returned to the shed and found some matches. I lit a new branch, but the same passion was not there. I set fire to the shed, and while it was fun to watch, it wasn’t the same feeling. It would have to do though.

From then on, I slept in the forests and only traveled around at night. I got some of my food by fishing and eating what I could find, but eventually to stay alive, I had to resort to stealing. One day, in one of my raids, I came into a house that I thought might have food. The house was completely abandoned, and after a bit of poking around, I realized that this house was for sale and no one lived here. I realized that meant that I probably wouldn’t be able to find any food.

At the same time, something else entered my mind. There wouldn’t be anyone to stop me from indulging in a little pleasure. The shed was too small to give me the satisfaction that I needed, but this could be much different. I pulled out a lighter, and began to set parts of the house on fire. It was more thrilling than the shed, but there was still the absence of something. I also despised the fact that I had to leave so early before the show could even start to come to a close, but my body was just unable to handle it.

I continued my day-to-day living, for what I think was years actually, occasionally burning a house down every once in a while. I’m certain that people began searching for me, and talking on the news about this mad arsonist that was setting fire to houses. How hypocritical. When a chef exploits slaughtered animals to make a meal and serves people food that will make them fat and unhealthy, he’s praised as an artist, but when I do something that absolutely harms no one I’m a psychopath.

In one of my food raids, I came across a slingshot. While I was holding it, I heard someone from the family come down the steps, so I fled out the window, and I guess it came with me. I suppose I was lucky for that because it managed to be one of my most helpful finds in all of my raids. I continued this rogue artist lifestyle for a while, but it did begin to bore me. In June a few years after the incident, things changed a bit. I came across a garage that was stocked full with fireworks, no doubt for the upcoming festivities in July. I extracted from them what I needed, cutting out the unnecessary flashy junk and using only what would cause real fire. I managed to make a few golf ball sized pellets. I altered my slingshot with some material so that it functioned as a sort of gun/crossbow hybrid. Basically, it would light and fire the pellets on its own.

I immediately craved that sensation that I had felt before and in haste, I couldn’t wait. I went to a nearby house by the woods. I poured some gasoline on parts of their roof. I stepped back and fired a shot and watched as it scorched their house. I watched for a minute from the front, but fled to the back when I could hear the smoke detectors go off. I climbed a tree to just watch the blaze continue. I saw the family of four fleeing to the front of their yard. They were hysterical and in tears; I felt as if they would have had more fun if they were still inside. Maybe I should have barred the doors shut.

A while later, I saw an incredibly disgraceful scene. Large red trucks came up to the house with hoses and began to try and destroy my work. I had completely forgotten about firemen, and I had half a mind to put a stop to it, until I saw one of them who was consulting with a woman rush into the house. The house had been on fire for a while, and certainly he was going in to embrace a fiery grave. However, in a few minutes, well after I thought he was gone. He emerged from the house with a small dog in his arms. He was able to view my work up close without getting burned, without having to leave. I was struck instantly with the realization that I needed the suits that they had.

I could have been a petty thief and tried and rob the fire station, but I was not a thief, I was an artist, and everything I did had to be in line with that now. I had a plan.

A few nights later, I broke into a house that I knew had a family sleeping in it. I found a boy, about nine years old, asleep in a room all alone. This was a vital part of the plan. I launched three pellets in different spots in the room, making sure to neither block the exits, or a path to the boy’s room. However, it should have been quite enough to stir the rest of the family into a panic. I entered the boy’s room again as the fire began to start. I locked the door and moved a dresser in front of it to keep anyone from entering for the time being. The smoke detectors went off and I could hear the family panicking amongst the sound of the fire to try and get everyone out of the house. The father came banging on the door, but was not able to break through. He yelled at the son, urging him to get out. The son awoke, and attempted to leave the bed, but I lightly pushed him back into bed.

I had never seen anyone trembling with such excitement. The look on his face clearly demonstrated that he knew what was happening and that he was ready for the fun that would ensue. I wanted to open the window to let some of the animals in, but I knew that they had to wait. The father had left, and I heard the sounds of sirens now. I removed the dresser from the door.

Shortly after this, the door was kicked down and a fireman entered. He had a mortified look upon his face; he was so frightened to see that he already missed part of the show, no doubt. I drew the axe and knocked him to the ground with it. He wanted me to do the trick where I separate his head from his body; I thought of telling him that I wasn’t a magician, but not to disappoint him anymore I proceeded. His joy came out in the form of red liquid.

I told the boy to go get his parents so they could see, but the only thing that came out of my mouth was: “Mmmph, mmmph mmmph”. I guess I forgot how to talk. So I just gestured for him to leave the room, and he skipped out. He must have been pretty happy, because he was skipping faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. The head of the fireman was smiling and he told me to take his clothes. I nodded my head and tried to thank him. The suit that he had was nice, and it let me get closer to the rainbows in the room. I opened the window to let the animals in and they danced around with the fireman. I wish I could have stayed, but I had to slide down the side of the house before it collapsed from all the fun.

I sprinted off into the woods. It was such a euphoric feeling to see everything around me so bright and beautiful, but after a few minutes, the colors started to fade, and I had returned to reality. Suddenly, I was trembling for real. What the hell was that? None of that could have really happened. I was trying to steal the suit off of a fireman by baiting him to rescue a kid. Where did the rainbows come from? I looked back, just barely seeing some embers in the distance. That was so bizarre. I entered some sort of weird hallucinogenic state from setting a house full of people on fire with me with it.

I had to do this one more time. What happened in that house was true art, I had found the missing ingredient that separated all of the house burnings from the campfire incident, and now I had to perfect it. I stumbled around for a few days trying to find the perfect spot. One night I was going by a supermarket, and there was a guy outside trying to fit one last propane tank into the cases outside the store. I approached him. When he saw me, he dropped the keys and ran off. I grabbed a tank and weighed it to make sure it had enough fun inside. I found a house with a shed and entered the shed. There were a lot of good tools and parts in the shed so that I managed to equip the tank to something that could light and spray the fire. I would say it was my masterpiece, but the true art comes not in the equipment, but in the way it’s used.

I went into the house and started using it. It was really a fine tool and everything burned perfectly with it. A man came running out to see what was going on, and I ran at him and turned on the flamethrower, and luckily just in time, I guess I had run out of propane and it now switched into rainbow fuel. The man fell to the ground in joy and started dancing and rolling around on the floor. A boy, who had been watching from the hall, went long into the living room. I used my gun to launch a baseball at him and he caught it perfectly in his hand. Then he started waving to all of the animals around him. He was really swinging his arm hard waving at all of them. The woman still in bed was on her phone and tightly clutching a pillow. I pulled out my pillow to have a pillow fight with her, but when I hit her in the face. She started laughing hysterically and falling to the ground; I think she even started crying tears of joy. I spread some more color around the house. I heard the loud music outside, and I knew that it was time for the next guys to come in and party, so being polite, I left through the backdoor.

I ran behind the houses and was headed for the street that exited the small neighborhood. All of the families were coming out to watch the show I had left for them. I was about to skip my way out, when suddenly I was immediately ripped from my trance. Someone had shot the heel of my foot. It wasn’t bad but it stung. I turned around to see a man in a suit walk out from behind a tree.

This man was dressed in a red suit, red tie, and red ski mask. He held a small pistol in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. He smiled at me, as if he was taunting me to attack him. I ran at him with the flamethrower, and it looked like he was going to jump out of the way, but I was too quick. He was lit on fire and shortly fell to the ground. I noticed that the fire seemed to go out, rather than actually consume him. I examined his body, and realized that it wasn’t a body. Somehow he managed to drop a fake corpse in his place.

Before I could react, he charged at me from behind, knocking the flamethrower out of my hands and pushing me against a car. I felt a knife on my back for a second and knew that he drew it back in an attempt to stab me, but I elbowed him and drew my axe. I took three failed swings at him. He managed to dodge them. We were in a standoff. He couldn’t get close enough to me to harm me, but I also couldn’t hit him.

He withdrew his knife, and fixed his tie. He spoke in a heavy French accent.

“You’re truly one of the greatest opponents I’ve ever had the honor of facing, Pyromaniac. Your reputation is actually lacking in truly representing your talent. I work for an organization, a team of eight mercenaries that could use a ninth. Every day we spend in brutal combat with a team much like ourselves, and the struggle never seems to end. A killing machine like you might come to enjoy this kind of work. You’d be paid well, and more importantly, we’d give you the best equipment that money can buy. You could master fire like never before. Are you interested?”

I nodded my head.

“Excellent. Come with me. I will take you to our employer… Out of curiosity, what is your actual name?”

“Mmmph mmmph” I said, oblivious to the fact I had no way to speak.

“Not one for words, I see. No matter, I’m sure that we all would just call you Pyro regardless.”

We then departed and I joined his team of mercenaries. There was a Scout, a Soldier, a Heavy Weapons guy, a Demolitions man, an Engineer, a Medic, and a Sniper. We all called each other by our job in combat. The man who recruited me was the Spy, and I was known as Pyro. They offered me new weapons but I was more interested in just getting perfected versions of my old ones. That’s the story of how I became the Pyro. Every now and then on the battlefield, my comrades say that I lose control and take things too far. Sometimes though, I just can’t help but slip back into my own world Pyro-land, where everything is colorful, and everyone looks like Phil.

I guess we’re finally friends now.

-Dan D.

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