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Abductions of children had been occurring randomly over the vast city of Chicago. There was no select age, appearance, race, or gender of youth who were missing. The police were baffled, and only six, soon to be seven, knew the truth and the story behind their torture and lives of fear.
On a night not much unlike others, smog filled and well lit from the active city, six children sit huddled on two gloomy couches, their upholstery torn to shreds, in a small living room by an even smaller window. Sitting there, they are waiting, waiting for their captor to return, full of dread.
Gliding over the streets of the Windy City, silent and ominous, was what appeared to be a middle aged man. His dark hair was slicked back and his suit was crease-free. A wary look cast shadows on his already pale face, and a scent of smoke followed him relentlessly. As he arrived at his destination, an average house in the suburbs of Chicago, only he could hear the muffled shouts rising into the air.
The shouting in the home came from a couple, married for years and parents of twelve year old twins Shamus and Stacy Boxwell. The couple is fighting, for the first time in a while, over money because the father got cut from his job at the factory. Frightened, the twins have hidden in Stacy’s bedroom when their dad had thrown a lamp at their mother.
The ghost, known as the Flame, attempted to pacify the couple to no avail. With a crack of his fingers, he set and electrical cord in the wall on fire. Determined, he swooped in to snatch the children from the peril of this house they called home. He found them sitting on the bed, surrounded by smoke.
Shamus saw the Flame before his sister, and rose protectively. With a smile, the ghost laughed, and sent his newly found children to their soon to be happy home. Reluctantly, he dialed a quick 911 call to forewarn them of the fire, and he took off to prevent the twins from panicking.
The house, as far as the five original children could tell, was invisible to the public, for no one outside that they had seen had displayed any curiosity. They hadn’t seen the home from the outside, so as far as they knew it mightn’t have even existed. The only thing certain for them was the perils that lay inside.
One of the children, a small girl named Aurora, shook out her frizzy black hair and unfurled from the couch like a tigress, her chocolate skin gleaming in the moonlight. Even at the meager age of eight, you could tell she was going to make something of her life, if she survived this.
Aurora motioned for one of the boys, Jamie, to join her at the window to see two dark clouds of dust spiraling towards the house. With a sigh, Aurora and Jamie went to the cabinet where the newcomers would arrive. Silently, three other children, Joan, Roland, and Marie, joined them. They clasped hands as the smell of damp ash filled the air and warmth of fire filled the children’s auras.
Coughing, Shamus and Stacy came flying through the cabinet doors. Bumbling around in the ash, Shamus called to Stacy to ensure he was at her side. Meanwhile, a dark figure had appeared on the other side of the room and the remaining children shrank away, frightened.
“Welcome home, Boxwell twins. Here you shall stay, unless you choose to attempt troubles. Then, only I know where you shall stay.” a deep, melancholy voice approached the twins form the Flame. Shamus scowled, but when he went to speak he found his tongue tied not of his own accord.
Crying out, Stacy sobbed and begged to go home. Suddenly Stacy saw the Flame raise his hand and snap, and she found herself in a dark forest, with the smell of rain in the air. Stacy wandered about and found a stream. Gazing into it at her tear streaked face, she was just beginning to feel at peace when “WHOOSH!” a hand reached out of the water and snatched her in.
Shamus was enraged, and frightful, but he knew that fighting would put him in the same position as his sister. After taking a deep breath, he asked where his sister had gone, and where he was.
“You sister whined, and I hate whining.” The Flame drawled innocently, while popping his knuckles. “As to where you are, you appear to be in a house with six, well, five children.” With a wide arch of his hand he motioned to the other children huddled in the corner, with the clear intent of Shamus introducing himself.
“Hello…...” Shamus spoke tentatively, “I’m Shamus.” Distraught, he mumbled to ask where he could find a bedroom; the he sobbed himself to sleep. Nightmares of forests and gleaming pools of water filled his dreams, plaguing him and worrying him about the whereabouts of his sister.
As Shamus slept, the other children fretted, for they had never seen the Flame address any children with more than a grunt or a curt nod. They whispered frantically of running away, and they could feel the power, new power, flitting through the air maniacally. They knew the more time spent there, the less human they were becoming, so escape was dire.
The next morning, six children ambled downstairs, rubbing their eyes and yawning. Silently, they pulled down boxes of cereal and bowls from the cupboard, for they knew better than to speak with the Flame lurking in the house. After breakfast, Aurora and the girls went in search of a board game, and the boys took Shamus to find something to amuse themselves.
Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the Flame left the house and Shamus broke the silence. “What are we doing here?” he asked, his eyes searching for someone to target. “Why don’t we just leave?”
The other children were shocked at Shamus’s boldness and didn’t know how to respond to this bold, outspoken boy. Aurora, the obvious leader, rose reluctantly and gave him her spot on the couch. With a very quiet, childish voice she began speaking, in almost a whisper.
“Our captor, known as the Flame, told me his story when I first arrived here. I had been with my older brother, but I suppose he wasn’t enough for the Flame and he was dealt with the same as you twin sister. While I was weeping, the Flame calmly spoke to me when I asked how he was so cruel.
“A long time ago, in a regular house, the Flame had a name, and he was a little boy hiding from his arguing parents. He just wanted his parents to notice him, so he lit a match and dropped it on the floor. Within seconds, that small match had engulfed the entire room in licking, damaging fire and he raced downstairs to warn his parents.
“When he got downstairs he saw his father beating h is mother, and tried to warn them of the fire. His dad, in a drunken stupor, turned his attention to the boy and attacked him, screaming all the while about how stupid he was. They were all three still fighting when the fire reached the gasoline heater and the entire house was engulfed in flames.
“All three of them died in that fire, and when the little boy rose from the dead, thirty-five years—“
She was cut off by a ghoulish figure and the aroma of forest fire from the corner of the room. Instant terror filled Aurora’s face, and within a moment the Flame had snapped and she had vanished. “Anyone else?” the Flame asked menacingly. “Do any of you have something you wish to add?”
Whimpering, the girls wandered upstairs alone, and the boys were numb with shock when Jaimie cried out. Grinning, the Flame snapped his fingers with a swift CRACK and Jaimie was gone. The boy found himself on what seemed to be a raft that was surrounded by water. Farther on the horizon, he could see what appeared to be a deflated raft, and he called out for Aurora. Jaimie was worried, but he didn’t see the sharks circling.
Back at the house that evening, the remaining children, Shamus, Roland, Joan, and Mary, were consumed by fear. They had begun writing notes to communicate past the ghost’s knowledge. Plots to escape were circling through the four youth’s minds, but it remained unknown as to how.
One day Joan and Roland had been passing notes about their flighty escape plan. They were discussing different ideas and about how to include Shamus and Mary. Suddenly, the scent of newly formed fire filled the air and the children scrambled frantically to burn the notes. Too soon, the ghoul appeared and frowned. He collected the notes from them, scowling as he read them, and a dark black flame flickered beneath his eyes.
The Flame’s head snapped up and the two children whimpered as he snapped his fingers and they found themselves lost in a darkened desert, without any supplies. Crying, Joan fainted and Roland tried to comfort her, but his attempts were lost.
Immediately after he had taken care of the traitors, the Flame stormed around searching for Mary and Shamus. The duo had heard their friends cry and had hidden themselves, frightened. After searching for what seemed to be forever, the Flame discovered Mary in the bathroom cupboard and Shamus behind the shower curtain. Enraged, he took on the form of a great fire, while the smell of burning oak diffused in the small enclosed area.
Shamus, ever the creative one, knew he had to take action fast. A filament of hope arose in his twelve-year-old mind as he reached around above his head and pointed the shower spout at the inferno. With a grin, he turned on the spray, and steam swiftly filled the air. A wretched, strangled cry, like that of a wounded animal, filled the air and for a moment Shamus thought himself doomed. Suddenly, he looked down to see the charred remains of a small boy, all that was left of the Flame.
Shamus and Mary were about to cry out in relief when the mangled being raised its hand, snapped, and the children vanished.