Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Man Made of Fire

Curtis Pike once led an ordinary life. That is to say he was not always made of fire. But the circumstances that saw this glorious transformation occur are beyond the purposes of this tale. Suffice it to say, but something of a miracle happened, and from that day forward, Curtis was the Man Made of Fire.

He found it impossible to maintain his privacy. Wherever he went, if he had not been followed, then he quickly drew the attention of those near him, even if it was in a very remote part of the world. Where there is fire, there is also smoke, and even if he were as careful as possible, some evidence would reveal itself, and someone would come to investigate. That was how it was in the beginning, when he tried to hide from those awful, glorious circumstances that had transformed him.

Even later, when he thought he could leave the whole world behind, he found himself dogged by reporters, who told him that angry protesters believed he was destroying the delicate balance of the environment, trying to hide in snow. How could he expect the cold to reverse what was irreversible? Cold did not affect this heat. he just kept burning. If he had been given a chance, he would have tried to defend himself. He never meant to melt an iceberg, for instance. Once he left, the same conditions that had existed before his arrival would resume, as if he were never there.

But more reporters came, and told him scientists had concluded his presence produced irreversible results, that he was unquestionably altering the world around him, just by his very nature, or whatever might be said to be natural about him. Many times he was blamed for being the Man Made of Fire, and many times, until he could no longer stand it, he had tried to say he could not help it. It was simply who and what he was. Even the suggestions of death meant nothing to him. Who was to say he would stop burning even then? He couldn't explain why he burned while he lived. There was simply no guarantee about anything anymore.

So Curtis kept burning, and he gradually grew insensitive to the reactions of others, and he kept moving about, if not to escape, then simply to try and find a place where he might feel comfortable, if there might exist someplace in the world that explained his condition, that might feel like home. He considered a volcano, he considered the desert, he even considered living in the middle of the ocean, where new water always came. It would not help him feel better, but at least his burning would not hurt his surrounding anymore.

One day Curtis was visited by a brave man, a shaman, someone representing some native tribe, from where Curtis could not say. He had forgotten much of what he had known when he was simply a man. The shaman offered solice, and did not promise anything, but instead told Curtis that he understood him, that Curtis reminded him of ancient myths, of what the world was like many years ago, of what beings once walked the earth, just as Curtis did now. He could not stay very long, and that was all he could do, but to Curtis, that was enough. He had never considered that there had ever been others like him. From that time on, it was a favorite preoccupation, thinking about those people.

Eventually, more scientists came to him, and told him that they had developed a rocket with which they hoped to send him to the Sun, the only other place anyone knew where everything was constantly burning. Curtis agreed, not out of remorse or resentment, but because he saw nothing wrong with the idea. He had learned that, aside from the shaman, he really didn't need other people anymore, and the Sun would either welcome him as a brother, or consume him, at last, whole. The day came when he was told to board the rocket, and soon he watched as the world drifted away into nothingness, a speck that the Sun would never have noticed in a thousand revolutions. The Sun grew larger, until it was all he could see. Soon it was so bright that Curtis could no longer even see the rocket that surrounded him. It might as well have not even been there. He felt the Sun, like a brother, long before he reached it.

And Curtis Pike smiled.

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