Brian didn’t even think. With a surge of strength, he threw his end of the cooler at the fire. Without watching it land, he ran across the clearing to where Jordan stood, swatting at the flame creature. Her sticks were blackened and burning, no longer an effective weapon.
Avoiding the fiery grasp, Brian leaped toward the water faucet and grabbed. The rusty metal scraped and cut his fingers, but he wrestled it into the on position. Jordan grabbed the hose, aiming it at the fire creature. Brian turned the faucet full on.
“Put your finger over it,” he called to Jordan.
She did as the said, decreasing the size of the hole to increase the range and pressure. The cold water splashed into the fire creature, knocking it back a step. Its feet advanced haltingly. The ember trail behind it flickered and went out.
By this time, Chase and his father had added their cooler to the flames. The fire ducked and shivered, but still hadn’t gone out. There was a third cooler and Heath already had it halfway to the fire. Chase and his father joined him. They hauled it to the edge of the fire pit, dumping it into the center of the fire.
The creature stumbled, fell and turned black. It crumbled when it hit the ground, like so much charcoal. Brian grabbed the hose from Jordan, turning it on the fire. He walked boldly toward it, as far as the hose would reach.
Chase and his father used shovels to cover the flames as Brian continued to soak them. Heath kicked dirt into the fire pit. Finally, only a thin wisp of smoke remained. They stood around the pit, gasping and shaking.
“Someone want to tell me what that was?” Mr. Finley asked. His hands shook as he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.
“I don’t know,” Heath replied. “But I hope to God I never see another.”
“That wasn’t my imagination, was it?” Chase asked Brian.
“Not if we all saw it,” Brian told his friend. “Jordan, you okay?”
“It tried to get me,” she gasped. “It was after me!”
Brian took a step toward her and she hurled herself into his arms.
“It wanted me! Why?”
“I don’t know. Shh. It’s okay now. It’s okay. Let’s go home.”
“We’d better go check on the others,” Mr. Finley said calmly. “Heath?”
“Yeah. You kids okay?”
They nodded, mumbling in unison. Heath joined Mr. Finley and the two men walked up to the house. The teenagers followed more slowly. Jordan clung to Brian, shivering uncontrollably.
“You’ve seen stuff before, haven’t you?” Chase asked them. “Cause you didn’t act like that was the weirdest thing you ever saw. You didn’t run away.”
“Yeah, I notice you didn’t run either,” Brian said quietly. “What have you seen, Chase?”
“You’ll think I’m crazy.”
Brian chuckled, hugging his friend with his free arm. “Chase, we just fought a fire elemental together. Do you think I’m gonna find anything else you have to say any crazier than that?”
Chase burst out laughing. “No, I guess not.” He shook his head, walking slowly by Jordan’s other side. “Living out here in the swamps, you see a lot of strange stuff. Mom says it’s swamp gas. Dad says it’s ghosts—but he’s a superstitious Cajun. Here lately, every time I go out by myself, I have this feeling like I’m being watched. And sometimes, I see things moving in the trees that can’t possibly be there, but they are. One time, it looked like the trees were walking toward me. I screamed like a little girl and ran to find my mama!” He laughed nervously. “I never had anything appear in the fire before. That was beyond freaky.”
“How long has this been going on?” Brian asked him.
“Few months, since my birthday in March. It was like, I turned fifteen and I start seeing all this weird shit that wasn’t there before.”
“Or it was there and you couldn’t see it,” Brian corrected.
Chase shuddered. “Oh, man. You had to say that. I’m half superstitious Cajun, you know. My granny has visions. She reads palms and does the tarot. She says big change is coming. But she never said a thing about flames walking out of the fire!”
They got to the house to find most of the guests gone. Heath was on the phone to Jacqueline, assuring her that they were fine. Chase’s mother was hysterical. Mr. Finley did his best to calm her, but she was wild eyed and incoherent. Jordan walked up to her and her husband, who looked near panic himself. Standing in front of the frightened woman, she planted her feet, hands on her hips. She might be smaller than Mrs. Finley, but she was still intimidating.
“Hey,” she said loudly.
Mrs. Finley stopped babbling and looked at Jordan.
© 2016 Dellani Oakes