The smell that he knew so well woke him. The smell of sulfur, the devil’s breath. He groaned and rolled out of bed.
Ronnie Kirtley had written hundreds of stories over the years. He was one of the most prolific writers in history. He outsold every contemporary writer and remained as a best-seller for more than thirty years. Thirty-two best selling novels and two dozen short story collections made him millions of dollars over the years. He wished that he was the genius behind them all, but he was a fraud.
He shuffled down the hallway towards the coffee maker. He stopped at the dining room table and opened his laptop to allow it to warm up.
He flicked on the coffee maker, but nothing happened. The power was out. Great, he thought. His eyes rolled to the kitchen window.
He could see their dancing impish shadows through the mini blinds. Countless creatures entered his house to provide him his muse over the years.
Ronnie slapped the mug onto the counter and grumbled back to his laptop. He pulled up the word processor, stretched his fingers and cracked his knuckles.
The battery only had a few remaining minutes before it died. They were going to have to be quick if they intended to get a story out.
As if on cue, the whispers began. The room flooded with prickly shadows and the smell of brimstone. The air conditioner kicked on from the heat they generated. Hushed whispers caressed his ears and Ronnie’s fingers began writing feverishly, as always.
The stories Ronnie wrote were purely fiction as far as anyone knew. But in reality, what he wrote was more of a script of things to come. He wrote of terrible creatures tearing innocent people limb from limb, and it would come to fruition.
He would write tales about natural disasters, mining accidents, ancient malevolent spirits - anything and everything destructive or evil. And they always came true.
He was nothing more than a wand for the demons that surrounded him, just a conduit for their destructive energy. He knew that one day it would be over and they would move on to another poor sap, but for now, he was their man.
Ronnie tried not to reflect on the stories he had written for them, but often his mind would wander and remember. There were so many innocents that were blindsided by their despicable tales. One that always bothered him was that poor nameless lady in the wheelchair that was eaten alive by a swarm of harpies. He could practically see her face masked in terror. He shuttered.
Finally a blank page was formatted and their whispers intensified. He lamented over what evil he was about to spread into the world.
His fingers flicked the keyboard furiously. The End of Ronnie Kirtley, he wrote. A bead of sweat ran down his forehead. He feared what he was about to write.
He spaced down to the second page. His fingers blazed across the keys again. The writer for the ages began to sweat as he felt the heat of his demons creep up behind him. The end would be swift, yet painful. Spontaneous combustion always is, after all.
Ronnie leapt from his chair, but it was too late. They were finished with him. He had served his purpose. It was time to discard him and start fresh elsewhere. He heard their hollow laughter. The walls flickered to life with their shadows.He felt the intense heat building in his chest. It spread throughout his body. Before he could mutter a sound, he burst into flames.
The newspapers and magazines were flooded by rumors of what happened to Ronnie Kirtley that night. Only remnants of his scorched flesh were left behind.
News stations attempted intense investigations. Everyone wanted to crack the case first. Church congregations grew. People burned his books. Nobody wanted to take any chances. Something was odd about the circumstances.
Scientists argued that the explanation was purely scientific. “Spontaneous combustion is such a bizarre phenomenon,” they’d say, “There have been numerous documented cases.”
The argument raged on, yet nobody had a solid answer, save for one person. Only he knows what happened for certain. His name is Landon Ray, an up and coming painter. He is about to unveil his first masterpiece. He titled it The Death of a Legend and it depicts the late Ronnie Kirtley bursting into flames amid his final story.
"We All Have Our Demons"Brian Barnett lives with his wife, Stephanie, and son, Michael, in Frankfort, Kentucky.To date, he has published over forty-five stories since he began publishing in November 2008.
Copyright: © 2009 Brian Barnett
Copyright: © 2009 Brian Barnett
He has been published by MicroHorror.com, Flashes in the Dark, Static Movement, The New Flesh Blogzine, Midnight Screaming Magazine, The Monsters Next Door, Sonar4 Ezine, Blood Moon Rising, Flashshot, Black Lantern Blogzine, Dark Fire Fiction, Burst Fiction, The Daily Tourniquet, Yellow Mama, The Lesser Flamingo, and The Short Humour Site.
He was co-editor the anthology “Toe Tags: 21 Spine-Tingling Tales from the Best New Authors of Horror” with William Pauley III.
"We All Have Our Demons" - Originally published by Flashes in the Dark - 4/28/09