A little house sat on a wide, grassy knoll surrounded by trees. A boy stood on the front porch of the dirty old place, his eyes filled with boredom. The wind was crisp, weaving into his collared shirt, blowing his long black hair back with ease.
The grass swayed as the boy watched the sky above, gray splotched with black. It was supposed to be warm. It was supposed to be sunny. But the world is a cruel place, muddled with pollution and anger, unable to grant the wishes of a single boy approaching adolescence.
“Burns!” A hoarse voice called from inside. The boy turned, sighing, and entered through the rusty old door. A few steps in and he found the old man, sitting in his wooden rocking chair. The chair creaked back and forth rhythmically, swinging like a metronome.
“Burns. It’s getting chilly, why don’t you shut the windows? Might catch us a cold if we don’t,” chuckled the man, winking at the boy.
“Sure, Morrison,” he replied.
The boy had no clue who he was. He had no idea where he was from, why he was in the house, or why he couldn’t even remember his own damn name. All he knew was that he was almost 14 and the word “Burns.” The old man, Morrison, had found him in the woods, bruised and battered. His skin had been a deep shade of purple.
The old man was kind, in his late 70s, and seemingly alone. He wore a checkered cardigan with house shorts under his scarlet robe everyday and possessed an intense love for food. He cooked every night for himself and the boy, often putting together a pleasant stew of chicken and vegetables with a thick, soupy broth. He had a small garden in the back which he tended to often.
Standing before an open window in the living room, Burns sighed again. He closed it shut, cutting the air flow entering the room with a clunk. He then moved upstairs to the bedrooms, shutting the windows first in his and then the old man’s rooms.
He walked back into his own, sitting on the small bed. It groaned with his weight. Burns closed his eyes, trying to remember yet again what had happened three weeks ago.
It was all dark, a black miasma of broken puzzle pieces. It was all too confusing. Mostly blurred faces with no names.
“Having some trouble, Burns?” called Morrison from down the hall. He stood in the center of the doorway, smiling.
“N-nothing,” Burns stuttered, shocked at the sudden appearance of the old man. It was eerie how he had silently climbed the old wooden stairs, almost like he’d slithered up to the second floor.
“Well then. It’s getting quite late, so I must be heading out. Just wanted to let you know, Burns,” he said. With a wave, he walked down the steps, which creaked with the sudden weight.
Strange, Burns thought. He shook his head, disregarding the event as nothing.
With the man gone, Burns decided to sleep. It was a long day and he needed sleep. As he lay on the bed, he sighed, unsatisfied with his current circumstances.
He was dreaming. He stood in a sewage tunnel, surrounded by water. The only light that lit the place was a small torch on the wall. Burns stood in the murky depths, his eyes noticing a faint outline in the distance of the tunnel.
The thing began to get closer. Burns’s feet were trapped in place by the water. He yelled as the thing got closer, wincing at its fingers touching his skin…feeling…soft?
It was a person’s hand, warm with compassion. He faced a black-haired, pale girl who held his face in her hands, evidently crying.
“You need to run, Hillburn,” she said.
Burns woke, cold sweat dripping down his forehead. His breathing was irregular, his heart was thumping. He placed a hand on his chest, trying to calm down, but it wouldn’t stop. The image of the girl was ingrained in his memory, her eyes boring into his skull. As hard as he tried, her sorrowful gaze stayed in his mind, her touch still warm on his cheek. He felt the side of his head, hot and confused.
Hillburn. What was that, a name? It certainly had “Burn” in it. Burns shook his head and got up, immediately smelling something tasty in the air. It was salty, with a hint of meat, mixed in with fresh vegetables. He headed down to find Morrison in the kitchen, stirring an orange stew.
“Hello, Burns!” said the old man, waving as he cooked the ingredients in a pot. “You were asleep when I returned, so I thought to leave you to rest until you awoke. Have any dreams?”
Burns’s eyes drifted to the wooden floor nervously, answering, saying, “n-n-no.” He walked to the table and sat, resting his forearms on the smooth round top.
“Well, I hope you’re hungry!” Morrison exclaimed, transferring the large pot of stew over to the table. It was a mix of chopped cabbage, tomatoes, and beef all cooked up in a mysterious brown sauce, with steam rising from it. The old man placed a wooden ladle in, gesturing to Burns as if to say, “eat your fill.” Burns got up, grabbed a bowl from one of the cabinets nearby and began to dump large heaps of stew into it. Morrison watched, smiling.
The first bite was delicious. It was a mix of fresh, juicy produce, followed by the delicious sensation of meat. However, the chunks of protein weren’t beef, they were…venison? Burns hadn’t tasted this in a while.
“Where’d you find deer?” asked the boy as Morrison began to ladle stew into his own bowl. Morrison grinned, winking and licked his lips.
“You don’t need to know,” he replied, with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
After dinner, Burns retreated to his room. He didn’t have any specific reason for doing so, but his room was comfy, so there he was.
He lifted the window up, allowing a cool breeze to flutter into the space. The small gust played with his hair like a baby would. Gazing out of the house, he observed the dark blue sky. The moonlight filtered through the masses of gray clouds, lighting up the grassy knoll with a pale glow.
He heard the stairs groan behind him. He looked up to see Burns standing in the doorway – wait, how’d he get there so fast? Wasn’t he just on the stairs? The old man had his usual smile on, his eyes covered by a dark brown fedora.
“Heading out now,” he spoke in a significantly lower voice. Morrison turned slowly, before heading back down the steps. Burns could swear there was something ominous in his eyes. It was just for a second, but as he turned to walk down the stairs, Burns could see some sort of excitement in them, some sort of sadistic light shimmering from beneath the hat’s shadow.
Burns crept down to the first floor, making sure his footsteps were light against the old, dilapidated wooden steps. He came in just in time to see Morrison close the door shut with a bony, pale hand. When’d he lose weight? He was normally plump, but under that robe, something was different.
Something was amiss.
The trees swayed in the wind, the breeze snaking through the leaves. Morrison walked through, his feet soft on the dirt. He seemed off. His body was oddly shaped – his hands irregularly thin, veins pulsing eerily.
Suddenly, he began to transform. His arms lengthened into willowy sticks, his fingers extending like branches on a brisk night. A feral sort of grumbling came from his lips as his entire torso began to enlarge, fattening into a shape like that of a potato sack. His neck stretched out like a grotesque palm-tree trunk. His clothes ripped apart, revealing a wrinkly sort of mess dotted with black spots with veins popping here and there. Morrison’s head grew long locks of rattish hair. And his teeth grew sharp, like cool steel.
The lumbering thing that was Burns’s friend limped forward, the boy silently following him. It shook entire trees, crushing them with his legs, now jelly-ish flabs of fat. Burns followed close behind as the monster entered a broken old shed with barely any paint on it.
Inside it was humid and dark. It was crammed with metal cages of all sizes, filled with unidentifiable things. It smelled of flesh and dried blood, curling his nostrils.
“Better turn the lights n’,” muttered the thing. It pulled a thin cord with a giant, meaty hand.
The single bulb of light lit the entire room, allowing Burns to see the contents of each and every cage.
Children of all sizes and shapes, mangled in all forms, were kept in every single box. Blood dripped down their bodies, their eyes still white with stalled fear. Their mouths gaped open, flies diving in and out of the murky depths of some, as maggots swarmed their skin, entering any little crevice in the soft tissue that they could find. Some were still alive. Some were still alive. Burns, crouching behind one cage, watched as Morrison dragged one body out.
It was a small girl with two, curly pigtails, akin to the horns of a deer. She wriggled, a large, crimson gash across her calf. Her shin bone could be seen inside, with black flies scattered all over. As Morrison swayed her softly like a giant in fairy tails would, she moaned in agony.
“G-gyaaah…!” She screamed, tears trickling down her face. The monster held her and watched as she shook back and forth like a pendulum, her visible bones cracking.
“Please help me,” she whimpered, as Morrison petted her upside-down head with care. He then tilted, opening wide and revealing a massive array of teeth.
The girl gasped for a split second before her entire upper half was engulfed by the large, gaping maw of the monster, closing in on her with a quick crunch. Her bones snapped as the carnivorous being that was once the innocent Morrison ripped apart the body, clutching the severed hips from the carcass in his mouth. Her legs twitched like a bug, once, twice, then came to halt as the remaining nerves were cut by the monster’s sharp teeth.
It licked its large lips with a slimy pink tongue, enjoying the taste of blood. It then tossed the remains of the girl into its mouth, the bones breaking within. The thing made loud, chewing noises as the flesh and tissue collided with the dagger-like teeth, being broken and devoured into tiny little pieces. The remains slid down the long neck slowly, falling into the stomach with an audible splursh.
Morrison’s body then began to shake, trembling like a leaf as it gasped and burped, plaguing the surrounding air. Burns covered his nose at the stench, using almost all his will to prevent himself from vomiting out his guts right there on the shed floor. As he struggled, he observed as large, black amounts of churned, smelly mush fell out of Morrison’s body. The stuff pulsed like a sentient being, steam emanating from it.
It didn’t come from any actual place. It simply slid out of the monster’s body all at once, forming itself into a massive mound of disgusting feces.
This was enough for Burns to get up slowly and sneak out the shed. Mid-run, he stepped on a small branch just as Morrison opened another cage, bringing out a much larger child, a boy twisted in all sorts of ways.
“Mmmm…Burns,” it growled. It sniffed the air, letting the body in its hands fall to the floor, limp. It stepped over the feces of its food, stomping out the shed and yelling, “You can’t hide, boy!”
The words cut the atmosphere, sending a shockwave of fear throughout the forest. Burns began to fully run, back towards the house, knees outstretched, tearing his muscles apart. But if he didn’t hurry, there would be no tomorrow. So, with the prospect of a painful death in his sights, Burns began to run.
The thing that was once his friend lumbered close by, pushing tall and impeding trees out of the way. It sent them down like they were twigs, the trunks crackling like popcorn in the microwave. It grumbled in frustration at its size, often useful except for situations such as this.
“You aren’t safe yet! Better keep those little legs of yours going,” Morrison chuckled. Burns wouldn’t be able to escape. Not even if he tried.
As he ran towards the house, Burns began to feel a little strange. It was a warm feeling, coursing through his body, starting with his head. It was hot. It was extremely hot in his brain.
“Grrk!” he clenched his teeth at the pain, at the sudden influx of memories… the puzzle pieces all fitting together, making one large picture of…his friends. His family. His father’s cooking. His mother’s smile. The intense brain activity from the past few hours seemed to open his mind. He felt the shift in personality, reaching the end of the dark corridor in his dreams and opening that door wide…into the light of his past life. But it wasn’t time to dwell on the past, he needed to focus on the present.
Burns reached the front door, his eyes searching each and every crack in the hall for a weapon. Something that could stab. Something that could kill.
A knife. He hurried to the kitchen, opened one of the drawers and pulled out a shiny knife. He grasped the smooth, wooden handle, eyeing the Japanese type on the side that read something he couldn’t decipher. He needed something a little more, something that could burn…he opened another drawer, pocketing a small box of matches.
“Having a little treasure hunt, aren’t we?” called out a feminine voice. Burns turned, face to face with the creature disguised as a girl with long black hair and pale eyes. Her gaze was intense. He chuckled. This was his friend, Autumn. Autumn. The memories of his past flooded in, feeding the flames that were his anger.
“What are you?” he replied, shakily. The imposter stepped into the kitchen and Burns held the knife menacingly.
“I am multiple things,” it said. “I can be your friend or your enemy. I can feed into your innermost desires or I can end it all with one bite. I’m sure you’ve seen how. I am infinite. I am everything.”
Burns dashed forward with all his strength.
It swatted at his knife, sending it clattering across the kitchen countertop. The metal collided with the sink, a shrill noise which caused the imposter to yelp. The thing clutched its ears, curling into a small ball on the floor.
Now! A small voice screamed inside Burns, moving his body quicker than before. He clutched the handle of the knife, plunging the sharp weapon in the monster’s chest. It screamed a beastly sound, breaking the windows in the house, transforming once again into the abomination it was. It grabbed Burns with an intense grip, crushing his body. He yelped in pain as he felt his bones fracture, a small space in the claw for the thing’s other hand to pierce his stomach. It sprayed all over the monster’s hand, covering it in a deep red.
Matches. With the little space he had, Burns swiftly dug a dry match that had been resting in his pants, igniting it. He threw the match where the sunken knife lay, igniting the monster’s skin in mere seconds.
“Grrraaaaaaaaaagh!” it yelped, letting go of Burns’s body. Burns fell onto the floor, feeling the wrath of the hard wooden surface against his ribs. He crawled backwards as the thing tried to dig out the knife, ablaze with heat, from its body, instead pushing it in deeper, sending tremors of pain throughout its entirety.
The thick, wrinkly layers of skin began to melt, dripping onto the floor in patches like goo. Its sharpened claws scratched and scratched at itself, blood pouring from its self-inflicted wounds. Large intestines fell out like massive sausages, organs sliding out like jelly beans in a bag.
The flames now began to move within the monster’s body, igniting its liver, its bones crumbling to a black crisp. The thing screamed and roared as it slowly burnt to a pile of smoking fat.
Aware of his bleeding, Burns stepped out of the house and onto the soft grass as the sun began to rise. He watched as the warm ball of glowing gas rose into the clear sky, much unlike the previous day filled with gray and black. He smiled at its beauty, shading his eyes with his palm as he felt the rays of heat shower upon his tired soul, slowing his breathing to a few gulps of air per minute.
Strength left him, causing him to collapse, his skin touching the silky grass. As he breathed in, tears fell from his eyes, finally remembering his own name – Hillburn Sunblight.
He remembered his parents. Hillburn smiled at the thought of them. He missed the seconds shared, the happy moments when they laughed or cried together, all that mushy goo which made his heart flutter.
He remembered his friends, longing to reconnect with them once more. He missed the jokes shared, the love between them all – the tears were flowing freely from his ducts like rivers, soaking the grass with warm water.
He forced a smile, a wide toothy grin as he lifted his head to look at the sun one last time, hopeful that everything would turn out bright in the end.
It’ll all be over soon, he thought as he closed his eyes with the feeling of a warm embrace enveloping his bleeding body, soaking him with a comforting sensation.
It then all went black.