Eternal Flame

📅 Published on May 20, 2021

“Eternal Flame”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 6 minutes

Rating: 9.20/10. From 5 votes.
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I was seven years old when my brother Frank died in a fire. He was nineteen and a fireman and everything I ever wanted to be in the world. My parents told me that he’d died a hero, that he’d been inside a house saving a family and that they had all gotten out. I cried because it was unfair that they were all okay, but I’d never see my brother again. I knew Frank wouldn’t want me to think that way, but that only made me cry harder.

I remember standing at his coffin at the funeral. I put my hands on the smooth, cold casket and made a promise, to Frank and to myself. I promised never to forget him. I promised to follow in his footsteps. I would become a fireman just like he’d been. I would take up his work.

My parents tried to subtly discourage me, to nudge me away from it. They never explicitly told me not to become a fireman, but they never once bought me anything related to it, either. When the topic came up at family gatherings, they would change the subject. Everyone let them. They knew why my parents were reluctant to have me pursue my brother’s path. But I didn’t need any external encouragement. I had made a promise.

At eighteen, I joined the fire department. I watched some of the other candidates puzzle over the answers on the written test, struggle through the exertions demanded by the CPAT. I won’t claim it was a breeze. The tests were mentally and physically demanding, as they were intended to be. But I went in with complete assurance that I would pass. I had been training for over a decade. I would carry on Frank’s memory.

They hired me, of course. I brought the news home to my parents, and to their credit, they celebrated with me, even threw me a party. And if their smiles were a bit forced and their attitudes a bit subdued, it was nothing I hadn’t grown used to. Frank had always been the golden child. I would have been living in his shadow no matter what I had chosen to do.

The fire department was everything I had ever imagined it would be. The camaraderie made all of the long hours and high stress worth it. These were my family, my brothers, and I loved them as fiercely as I had loved Frank. I would have done anything for them. I would have walked through fire for them, even without my protective gear.

We were on a call one night, a suburban house fire. It was a bad blaze. There was clearly going to be no saving the house. We were focused on keeping it contained, preventing it from spreading to the next houses over. The family was all accounted for, but the daughter was crying because her dog was still inside. The mother was soothing her, telling her that the dog had been out back, that he’d been scared by the fire and had run away, that they’d find him later. I looked over at the inferno and hoped she wasn’t lying, because if the dog was inside there was no way to get him out.

Then through the smoke I saw a firefighter disappearing into the house. I looked around, trying to figure out who it was. Amid the fire and lights and chaos, I had no idea. I’d just gotten a glimpse of him from the back, and with all of the gear on there was no way to identify him.

A minute passed, then another. We battled against the fire, and it raged back. A large section of the roof collapsed. There was no sign of whoever had gone inside.

Suddenly, a basement window broke and a singed, whimpering dog wriggled its way out. It was burned, blistered and limping, but it looked better than anything coming out of that hellscape had a right to look.

Of the firefighter, there was still no sign. I stared into the window that the dog had emerged from, but I couldn’t see anything inside but more fire. I started for the house.

One of my crew, Sean, grabbed my arm. “You can’t go in there!”

I tried to shake him off. “I have to! One of ours is in there!”

“We’re all here, man. Look! We’re all here.”

I looked around. I couldn’t find anyone missing. “I saw someone go in! I don’t know who it was, but I saw them!”

“Everyone’s out here. You can’t go in there!”

With a roar, the second story of the house collapsed into the first. I punched Sean in the chest, hard.

“I don’t know who it was, but someone was in there. I could have gotten to him!”

Sean rubbed his chest. “You could’ve gotten killed, is all. Go check and see. We’ve got everyone.”

He was absolutely right. I checked through the list as we slowly fought the fire down to wet ashes, and we had everyone we’d brought.

“I saw a guy go in,” I told Sean later at the station. “I’m positive. Clear as day. Clear as you sitting here.”

Sean sighed and looked around to see who else was listening. “Okay, look. This doesn’t get talked about a lot. Not everyone believes it, and I’ve seen some guys get violent about it on both sides when there’s a disagreement. So you keep your mouth shut about this. You can believe me or not. That’s on you. I’m just telling you what I know.

“Sometimes at a fire, there’ll be an extra guy there. Always in the thick of things, always all geared up so you can’t tell who it is. Sometimes he’ll seem familiar, sometimes not. But he’s there where you need him most, hauling people out of danger, putting himself in harm’s way.

“When you look for him afterward, he’s gone. Sometimes he goes into the building and doesn’t come back out. Sometimes he just disappears when no one’s looking. Either way, when he’s not needed anymore, he’s gone.”

“This is what, some kind of spirit fireman?”

“I mean, maybe.” Sean hesitated. “I’ve seen him a bunch of times, and I don’t think it’s the same guy. I think it’s a whole brigade. The souls of fallen firefighters, come back to protect their brothers.”

Sean looked at me like he was waiting for me to laugh, but I just nodded slowly. It felt right. Frank wouldn’t have let something as simple as death stop him from doing his job. No true fireman would.

After watching my face carefully for a moment, Sean nodded back. We moved on to other topics. We weren’t avoiding anything. There just wasn’t anything more to be said on the subject. Like he’d said, you either believed or you didn’t. I absolutely believed.

I believed one thing more, too. I believed that Frank was in this eternal brigade. That even now, he was watching out for his brothers. That he was watching out for me.

If I’d left it like this, as just a nice idea, then things might have been okay. But at fire after fire, I found myself watching for the extra man. I started going in further, taking bigger risks, putting myself in dangerous situations. I told myself that I was just committing fully to the job like Frank always had, but the truth was that I was convinced that when I was truly in danger, Frank would be there for me. I’d maybe catch a glimpse of him through the facemask, see him smile, know that I was doing a good job.

I saw the spectral fireman several more times, but always at a distance, never close enough to know. I knew Frank was among them. He had to be. But not seeing his face, not knowing for sure—it was starting to make me desperate.

I started to watch my phone impatiently, waiting for the next fire to break out so I’d have another chance to spot him. And when the alerts came too infrequently to satisfy me, I took the next logical step.

I began to set my own fires.

They were minor at first, remote and not too hard to control. But when there wasn’t imminent danger, the phantom firefighters rarely appeared. So I began to set larger fires, more dangerous ones. I burned farmland, woods, abandoned buildings.

Abandoned was key. I never knowingly endangered anyone—other than my fellow firefighters, my brothers, who put their lives on the line to unknowingly satisfy my grotesque obsession. But the thing about abandoned buildings is that sometimes, they’re only officially empty.

I always took a look around first. I wasn’t reckless. But the squatters had hidden well, and I was only doing a cursory inspection. They were shouting from an attic window by the time the fire truck arrived, but by that point the flames had entirely engulfed the first floor and were licking up the sides of the house.

We raced to get a ladder to them, but as we were maneuvering it into place a fireball blossomed in the room behind them. It splashed out the open window into tongues of flame, and when those subsided the squatters were gone. I stood there staring, aghast at what I’d done, when I felt a heavy, gloved hand on my shoulder.

I turned, expecting a look of comfort or compassion. What I saw instead, through that soot-smeared facemask, was the face of a corpse, staring at me with infinitely ancient eyes. The phantom firefighter’s eyes had seen pain and horrors untold, yet they looked at me with regret as he reached out an accusing finger and pressed it slowly into my chest.

His finger passed through my protective layers, my clothes and my flesh with equal ease. I felt its burning pain as it pierced my heart, but I could not make a sound nor even avert my eyes from the awful, sad gaze of the creature before me.

He withdrew his hand as slowly as it had advanced. The pain subsided, but it left a dull ache in my heart and a terrible knowledge in my mind. These specters were indeed the souls of dead firefighters, but not those who had fallen in the line of duty. Their ranks were filled with the derelicts, the cowards and the failures. They had neglected their sworn task in life, and so they were cursed in death to uphold it, forever fighting in a vain attempt to absolve themselves of their mistakes.

Frank was never among their number. But one day, I now would be.

Rating: 9.20/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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