Short Story: Smoke on the Water

Writing prompt: It has been discovered that some people don’t get sick with the virus. Instead, it enhances them somehow. Is it a superpower? Will it last? No idea, anything goes. You are one of these people (e.g. Laura Derpson, lawyer, 37) and you describe what happened / is happening to you. 500 words or less.

James Hirschbaum, 54, accountant from Jefferson Park, PA

When my fitness band melted, I thought it was a bit weird. Then I went to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water. As I walked back to the couch, I thought I saw steam rising from the surface. I did not really pay much attention; I drank it and it seemed cold to me. The rest of the day was a blur, I assume it was ordinary. When I woke up the next morning I felt great, but everything around me was on fire. “This is fine,” I thought as I jumped through the window. Actually, jump is not the right word. I flew.

As I saw my flaming house from above, somehow this seemed natural. Soaring around the neibghborhood with a smokey trail behind me was as exciting as filing form 475B – State of Pennsylvania Exemption for Nonoperational Urinal. My mind was occupied with the more important fact: the virus set me on fire, and fire killed it!

It did not take me long to find a few other Fire People. I did some math and estimated that there must be hundreds of thousands of us in the world. Our tribe crossed thirty today. We are starting to figure out an organizational structure. We are too small for taxation, but for now my role is clear: I am the record keeper. If it turns out that the virus adapts to fire and gets us in the end, our story will not be lost. I burn letters into wood with my pinky every night, as the others cook our food by hand (literally).

Last month we went out and performed a service for the Old Society, just because it seemed right. There was a pile of thousands of Normal bodies left outside of Pittsburgh, and we cremated them. It felt very sobering and proper, as if we were paying our share. I estimate that we need to do this at least once every three months, and I have established a cremation goal for every member of the tribe based on their respective contributions to the group. Old accountant habits die hard.

It turns out we, the Fire People, are not a special case. Yesterday we finally saw the first patrol of Water Elementals, so we know that we do not have a lot of time until the first battle. The element of surprise is key: they can extinguish us, or we can vaporize them. Who will prevail, I have no idea. However, no matter the outcome, it still will be better than the fate of the Normals. As I write this, we unite in our battle chant. “LIKE DEATH AND TAXES WE SHALL NEVER EXPIRE, WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF THE FIRE!”