Some ghost stories are more than just stories
|The Soldier of Dark Flames
Three men stand inside a small house, looking out the window. Eroll, one of the men in the house is significantly older than the other two. His hair is gray and he has a slight hump in his back, but there is a cold confidence in his eyes, a pridefulness that no amount of aging could ever extinguish. He was, as his closest friends called him, a crusty old son of a bitch. Jules is a much younger man. He has a certain whit and quickness to him, that gives him a sense of deep wisdom. The Third is tom, a middle-aged man who is the younger brother of Jules. Some sibling rivalry once existed between them. Tom has always been physically stronger than Jules, but always lacked Jules’ intelligence.
The sheriff and some of his deputies stand in the middle of the street looking down at a body. Inside the small house is a fire place that takes up an entire wall of the house, and inside it is a blazing fire. The light from the fire jumps around the room and dances on the walls, creating shadowy figures that take no particular form.
The three men whisper to each other as they look out the window and intently watch the scene in the middle of the street.
A man enters into the small house. Dave is the man entering the house. He is new to this little town, but is an old friend of the three inside the house. He is middle aged, and in his recent years has learned that the gift of hearing is much more useful than speech.
Dave as he enters : “Hey guys. What’s going on out there?”
Tom : It’s killed old man Thompson. It stabbed him to death.
Jules : you don’t know that.
Dave : Wait…what killed him?”
Eroll : It’s bad luck to ask questions at a time like this.
Tom : Don’t listen to him. It was the-
Eroll : It’s bad luck to say its name at a time like this.
Jules : You know that’s not true, besides its not even it’s name. No one knows its real name.
Dave : I don't understand.
Eroll : I say it’s bad luck to talk about it!
Jules : It's called the Contrador. See those mountains up there. There’s a volcano in the mountains and it’s got a bunch of intertwining caves, that’s where it lives.
Dave : Wait, are you saying that some kind of monster killed Mr. Thompson?
Jules : Not a monster, a servant to Lucifer.
Just as he mentioned the name Lucifer, the flames jumped, sending sparks flying out of the fire place, spooking the four men.
Eroll whispering : there be spirits among us, don’t you go conjuring more with your stories.
Jules : Do you want to hear the story?
Eroll : No, no, it’s bad luck, I tell you.
Dave : Sure.
Jules takes a long look into the bright flames as a smile creeps over his face : Long ago, the volcano was active and very dangerous. There was a man-
Eroll : Don’t say its name!
Jules : Fine, there was a man…who shall remain nameless…who was given the power of the volcano.
The other three men look into the flames as Jules speaks. But it was not by his own choosing. He got too close one day and fell in. However, he grabbed onto the side of the volcano. It was so hot inside there that his skin began to burn and his clothes caught fire. He was being burned alive and the pain became too much to bear. But he refused to let go and fall in the lava. The fire in the volcano jumped up, trying to grab him and pull him in. He heard voices coming form the flames and faces appeared in the fire beneath him. The flames screamed and tried to grab him. He could see the faces smiling as they tried to kill him. He cried out for help, but no one answered. He screamed again and again. It seemed hopeless. But then a young man named Balboa appeared at the mouth of the volcano and lowered a rope. The man in the volcano grabbed onto the rope, but as soon as he did, Balboa lowered it. The man cried out what are you doing and Balboa said, what will you give me if I save you. But the man was just a poor servant, he had nothing, so Balboa let go of the rope. Balboa summoned the flames to rise and they consumed the man. But as his body burned and the pain became unbearable, the man with his last breath cried out, I’ll give my soul. Now, Balboa felt some pity for the man because he was a servant too, just like the man who fell in the volcano, so he took the deal. He raised the man from the volcano and as he gave him life, he took his soul. But Balboa’s master did not approve of this. His master only wanted pure souls, and there was nothing special about this man, so he punished both Balboa and the man. He sent Balboa to forever live in the volcano, and he made it so that the man would live forever. But there was a catch; he would have to stay in the volcano whenever the sun was out. The man, or the Contrador, as he is now known, leaves the volcano every night and kills. He is filled with hatred and kills without mercy. As he said this his eyes lit up just like the flames and his lip began to quiver, showing that he truly meant what he said. They say if you look into the volcano you can see his face in the flames and hear his cries for help, but only if you listen real hard. He turns away from the flames and looks at his listeners. Beware of the flames, for when a fire is near, the Contrador is watching.
Eroll turns away form the fire and mutters two words to himself.
Tom : you forgot half the story you miserable fool.
Jules : I didn’t forget anything.
Tom : I’ll finish it. I always clean up your messes.
Jules : You do not.
Tom : Just shut your mouth and let me speak. The Contrador had more of a punishment than to stay in the volcano at daytime. Balboa granted the Contrador power over the volcano. The Contrador could now control the flames, bend them to his will. But this was not without a price; his body would forever be enflamed. Whatever flames he controlled would also burn him, but his body would never turn to ash, it would always burn and always be revived. He would live in agony, for all eternity. And the agony would be so great that he would make these haunting screams and cries. You can still hear him in that old volcano…in the wind…through the trees, you can even feel him in the ground…he’s everywhere. That volcano is haunted now. If you get too close, then the Contrador will appear, surrounded by flames, and he will drag you, screaming and crying down into the flames. Now Balboa gave the Contrador a weapon, two to be exact. He gave him two swords of the exact shape and size and told him to kill. Balboa said if the Contrador took ten thousand souls, then Balboa would grant him his life back. So, every night the Contrador emerges from the fire and kills the innocent and swallows their souls. Now Jules was close on what he said about the Contrador seeing you through open flames, but he was wrong. This is the truth. Now you be careful because it’s true. If you look into open flames, be careful, because you just might see his face, his burnt, contorted, twisted mess of a face. And his crimson red eyes will look into yours and you’ll be marked. He’ll come to you the next night, and just like old man Thompson, he’ll kill you. He’ll stab those fiery swords into you, and as the flames wash over you, the last thing you’ll see is the Contrador swallowing your soul.
The four stare in silence into the leaping flames. They watch intently as the serpentine flames begin to form shapes. The wind howls and the flames move sporadically. A figure appears in the flames. And they continue to watch as the figure begins to look human. Arms appear, and then a head and just as the figure looks like it might walk out of the flames there is a quick knock at the door and all four men jump up.
Eroll holding his chest : I damn near had a heart attack.
Jules : You are old enough.
Tom : Relax, it’s just a story.
Eroll yells to the person at the door : What do you want!
Sheriff : this is the sheriff, I’m looking for witnesses. Did you see anything?
Tom unlocks the door and the sheriff enters. As soon as the sheriff enters, he is taken back by the immense flames in the fireplace.
Sheriff : Don’t you think you ought to kill some of those flames, maybe bring it down a bit.
Eroll : It’s bad luck to mess with the fire, especially at a time like this.
Sheriff : Look all I want to do is ask some questions. Do you think you could come outside?
Eroll : Ain’t no way I’m going outside, can’t go outside on a night like this, it’s bad-
Tom : Would you stop saying that! It’s enough to drive a man mad.
Eroll : Bad luck, bad luck, bad luck!
Jules : Don’t you think it’s bad luck to say that so much?
Eroll stays quiet and contemplates this.
Jules : What happened, sheriff?
Sheriff : Someone killed old man Thompson.
Jules : We didn’t hear any gunshots.
Sheriff : Wasn’t a gun, it was a sword.
Tom : See Jules, I told you he was stabbed.
Dave whispering : The Contrador…it’s him.
Sheriff : Now don’t you go speaking of ghosts. Besides, call it by its real name, the soldier of dark flames.
Tom explaining to Dave : It’s got a few different names.
Eroll hysterically : I saw it! I saw the Contrador in the flames!
Jules : No you didn’t you old fool.
Eroll : I did, I did. I told you it’s bad luck to talk about him, especially near a fire! Now all your stories has got him haunting me.
Tom : The Contr-
Eroll : Don’t you go sayin’ that name! I told you again and again it’s bad luck!
Tom : But you just said it.
Eroll : Don’t you go questioning your elders, it’s bad-
Sheriff : Quiet! Could you all be quiet for just a second…now I need to ask some questions.
Eroll : I’m not answering any questions. We’d all be better off if we just went home and went to bed.
Jules : All you do is sleep.
Sheriff : Please, would someone cooperate with me? I have a murder case I need to solve.
Eroll : Get your men off the streets, it be bad luck to stay out on a night when the Contrador’s out.
Sheriff : I’m going to go next door. Tell me if you think of anything.
The sheriff leaves, and the four look back into the flames. There is a silence, that consumes them.
Tom : I wonder…if the Contrador really does exist, or if we’re just telling ghost stories.
Jules : I don’t know, maybe the Contrador really
is only a story.
Eroll : If you two keep sayin’ that name your bound to find out real soon. Now stop talkin’ about that.
Dave jumps up, surprising the others : Let’s go up there!
Eroll : Damn foreigners don’t know when to quit.
Dave : Come on let’s go. And I’m native born.
Eroll : Well you might as well be a foreigner with all your stupid ideas! You’ll kill us all, you know that?
Jules : Ok.
Dave : So, you’ll go?
Jules : Yea, I’ve always wanted to go up there.
Tom : I don’t know.
Eroll : No way, no how am I goin’ up there.
Jules loudly whispering to Dave : Eroll’s always been terrified of the Contrador.
Eroll : You’re damn right, and with good reason too. First of all, it’s bad luck to go messin’ with ghosts and walkin’ all over their place of haunting. Second of all, that thing will kill us if we go up there. I don’t want to die.
Jules : You’re already dead in the brain, besides a few little pricks of a sword won’t do much worse.
Eroll : Oh, Eroll’s words are all a real hoot, until someone gets their head chopped off!
Jules : You know, it’s not too far, why, we could make it up there in only a few hours.
Eroll : I ain’t goin’...
Jules : Ok.
Eroll : I mean it this time, I ain’t goin’!
Tom : I’ll get the lantern.
Dave : You have a musket, right, Eroll?
Eroll : Nobody’s takin’ my musket. Why, it’s bad luck to use another man’s musket.
Jules : It’s in the closet.
Dave : Thanks.
Tom : Hey, don’t worry, we’ll bring you a
Tom, Dave, and Jules leave, and Eroll is now alone with the giant flames. He tries to avoid looking at the fire, but his gaze is slowly drawn to it.
Eroll beginning to get nervous : Damn it!
He quickly walks out of his house with one last nervous glance at the fire. He chases after the other three.
The four of them walk up a steep hill with Eroll trailing behind. The entire side of the mountain is forest. It is thick with large trees, and there is no sign of civilization anywhere nearby.
Dave : Why do I have to walk in front? You didn’t even give me the lantern…or the musket. I have nothing.
Jules holding the lantern up to his face : It was your idea.
Dave : yea, but-
Jules : Don’t worry, Tom’s got a good shot with the musket, he’ll save you.
Tom : Well, I haven’t shot one for a little over a year now.
Jules : But you did take third place in that shooting contest.
Tom : That was archery.
Dave : You’re not helping things any! You’re really not!
Jules : Well, they’re the same thing. Besides if all else fails, we’ve got Eroll. I’m sure he’s good for something. Where is the old man anyway?
Tom looking back the way they came : He’s back there.
Dave : Maybe we should wait for him.
Jules : We might as well, I’m a little tired myself.
A few minutes later, Eroll catches up with the other three. Jules sets the lantern down, and they gather around it .
Tom : I’m starting to get that feeling, like we shouldn’t be here.
Jules : I know. But it’ll all be worth it in the end, trust me.
Eroll : The woods is no place to be at night, especially with a flame.
Dave : I’m not so sure about this either.
Jules : We’ve come this far already, it would be such a shame to turn back now. Besides, don’t you want to know…don’t you want to see if he really exists, to see if the contra-
Eroll : Damn it! Can’t you talk about something else?
Tom : Why are you so scared of some ghost story?
Eroll : I ain’t scared of a ghost story, I’m scared of the ghost. I got the best reason to be scared. Why, I’m the only one out of all of you that’s actually seen the ghost.
Jules : No you didn’t. tauntingly Maybe you were a little tipsy when you saw it…
Eroll : I wasn’t drunk! I saw it on this mountain, not far from this very spot.
Jules : No you-
Eroll : You’ll be quiet when I’m talkin’. Now listen good. I was walkin’ up here to get a good look at the stars. About fifty years ago, there was supposed to be a meteor shower and I wanted a good view. I was a young man then, a better man than any of you.
Jules : Now just hold on-
Eroll : My story, be quiet. Now I climbed up the mountain and leaned against a tree so I could watch the meteors. Well, the meteor shower started, and it was real nice. Bright streaks of light came across the sky. It was like God was up there drawin’ yellow lines across the sky. The meteor shower was over the volcano, so it kinda looked like the lines in the sky were comin’ from the volcano. It was like fire in the sky. But then I saw it. Fire actually came out of the volcano. It moved like a snake, slitherin’ down the mountainside, comin’ for me. It was like a river of fire. Then as it moved downhill, it started doin’ something. It started to look human. I mean it kinda stood up, and sprouted arms. Now I was real scared, here was this ball of fire that looked like a person, and it was comin’ right for me. Then what really scared me was when I saw that it held two swords, two flaming swords. Now, I didn’t stay a second more. I ran down the other side of the mountain, back toward town, but all of a sudden, these flames popped up out of nowhere, and they blocked my path. And the flames, they looked like people, they were screaming and reaching out to me. Some were on their hands and knees and others were howling and waving their arms about and others were clawing at themselves. So, I ran into the woods, and the Contrador, I mean the ghost, you ain’t supposed to say its name. The ghost followed me, setting fire to everything it touched. And no matter where I went, this bright flame followed me. I knew I couldn’t outrun it; the damn thing was too fast. So, I ran through the woods, back up to the top. The whole time I ran, I could see it behind me. My plan was to run to the top, and go down the other side of the mountain. But when I got there, fire came out of the volcano, and again, it moved like a river of fire, and it blocked my path. I looked all around for an exit, and then I saw the ghost on the dirt path, walking real slow toward me. And as it got closer, the flames around me began hollering and screaming even louder, like they was afraid. They sounded like the souls of the damned with all their screeching. Then finally, it got right up close to me. I could see its blood red eyes, and I tried to look away, but they looked into mine, and I was frozen, I couldn’t move. All I could do was watch the ghost as it got closer and closer and closer, until it was right up in front of my face. And when it got so close that I could touch it, it pulled back its swords, ready to stab me, and the flames on the swords were just inches from me. I looked all around me for any chance of escape, but I was trapped. The flames began to close in one me from all sides. Finally, I did the only thing I could do; I got down on my knees and prayed. I closed my eyes and I prayed. And as I knelt there in darkness, I heard the most horrific things I have ever head. I heard the screams of a thousand suffering people, all crying in agony. Then through all the panicked cries, I saw this image in my eyes, this image that was implanted in my head. It was the ghost, surrounded by fire, and I saw his two red eyes. And in the darkness, he came for me, running with his hellish swords held up high. And when he was about to stab me and take my soul, I opened my eyes, and it was all gone.
Eroll looks at the other three men, and smiles as he sees them hugging each other with frightened faces. : A little scared, boys?
They all separate from each other and put on brave faces.
Eroll : That’s why I’m scared of the ghost.
Jules : Wait, I thought you didn’t believe in God.
Eroll : Oh I believed in Him a little. But it wasn’t ‘til your father died that I lost my faith.
Tom : Is it just me, or does it seem like coming up here was a really stupid idea?
Eroll : Now that’s the first good idea I heard all day. Of course, it is bad luck to call it an idea stupid.
Jules : Come on, we can do this. Look at how close we are.
Dave : I’m having my doubts now, too. I mean, so what if it exists or not, is it really worth putting our lives in danger to find out?
Jules : Look, we can do this. Please don’t go.
Dave : Why do you want to see this thing so badly?
Jules : Just think of how great it would be to see it, to know if it really exists. I just want to go for the thrill, the curiosity of it all.
Eroll : I don’t like this. Stories from olden times say that the ghost’s presence can sometimes blind and confuse men. The stories say that sometimes men go mad when near the Contrador. Now I ain’t sayin’ you’re mad Jules, just that you might be a little confused.
Jules : I’m not stopping, I’m going to the top. Now are you coming or not?
The three men stare blankly at Jules as questions fill their head as to why he is doing this.
Tom : I don’t think it’s safe up there. You know the sheriff doesn’t like people going there, he said that there are some weak spots in the ground. What if you walk over one of the spots and fall through? It’s just not safe, Jules.
Jules : Look, either I go with you guys or without you, but I am going, there’s no question about that.
Tom : Come on Jules, look it was a stupid idea, it’s dangerous, it’s dark…
Jules : I’m going, I’m no coward.
Eroll : You’re a damn fool, that’s what you are.
Jules turns and continues walking up the mountain : I’ll see you back at Eroll’s house. Don’t wait up for me.
The other three follow him, trying to convince him to go back.
Tom : You need to go back right now.
Dave : I’m sorry I ever said that stupid idea to come up here. Now it was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to go, we really need to go.
Jules : How far would you say we are, maybe three quarters the way?
Tom : Don’t do this.
Jules : I’m sure I could make it up and back down before sunrise.
Dave : Stop playing, it’s not funny.
Jules : I’m not playing! You can’t stop me, you can’t convince me otherwise, you can’t make me do anything! Now get the hell out of here, I’m going to see the Contrador!
Tom : Do you want to die? Are you suicidal!
Jules walks in silence.
They are now close enough to see a glow at the top of the mountain.
Jules : We’re here.
They walk the last few hundred yards in silence. Just before the very top, the opening of the volcano, there is a door sized entrance. Beyond it is a thin bridge made of rock that leads over a glowing pit of lava. The heat is extreme, and there is so much ash that it resembles snow fall. Inside the volcano, the lava is constantly moving, and there is a constant eruption of flames making a loud rumbling sound. Eroll and Dave stop walking, and only Tom walks with Jules to the entrance. Just as Jules is about to enter, Tom grabs his arm. They must now yell over the sound of the volcano to hear each other.
Tom, yelling over the loud rumbling : you don’t have to do it! You don’t have to go in there!
Jules: Yes I do, I have to go!
Tom : But you’re my big brother, I can’t lose you!
Jules : Do you remember how dad died?
Tom : Is that what this is all about?
Jules : Do you remember!
Tom : Yea, of course, he was shot by an Indian.
Jules : I made that up, it’s a lie. He was stabbed, Tom, he was stabbed with a sword. The wound…it…the sword burned him. Don’t you get it, he was stabbed by a flaming sword. Now, I have to know… I have to know if it was the Contrador, I have to!
Tom stays silent and looks down at the ground. A few seconds pass, and he looks up at Jules
Tom : it’s not worth your life, it’s not.
Jules : I have to go.
There is a loud explosion inside the volcano, and flames encompass the small rock bridge leading into the volcano, then fade away.
Tom : You can’t go in there, you’ll die.
Jules : I’m going.
Jules runs into the entrance, as flames leap behind him.
Tom holds the musket tightly and run in after him. Jules runs without knowing where he is goingpaying no attention to any path. He runs without care through what seems to be an endless tunnel, until finally, he comes to a dead end, and Tom soon comes up behind him.
Tom : Are you happy now, there is no Contrador, it’s a story.
Just as that is said, flames emerge all around the room, surrounding them. The flames slowly move toward them. Both men begin to sweat, either from fear or from the intense heat of the flames. The flames begin form shapes, human shapes. As Tom and Jules look with terrified faces at the flames, they see stretched, serpentine faces looking back at them. They see wide eyes and gaping mouths staring back at them. In the winds, they hear screams, and in the fire they see thousands of tormented people. Jules holds out his hand to the flames, signifying for them to stop.
Jules, screaming as loud as he can: You will not come any closer, you will leave us unharmed.
But the flames continue to move toward them. The faces in the flames screech and howl, and desperately moving hands in the flames reach out, trying to grab the two brothers.
Jules : You will not come any closer, you will not!
Tom falls to his knees, hands together, about to pray, when he notices that the ground beneath him begins to crack. Jules falls to his knees, about to pray as well, when the ground beneath them breaks, and they fall through. They fall into a area below them, it is a large room, which is dark for the most part, except for a single flame. It appears to be a tunnel. Tom looks back, and sees the exit.
Tom : Look, the way out, we’re free.
But Jules looks the opposite way, toward the single flame.
Tom : No, we’re going.
The flame burns silently. There is no sound except for the occasional crackling of burning wood. It is frightening how calming it is. The wild flames are hypnotic to Jules, the way they move, the way they dance.
Tom : I won’t let you go, I won’t let you do it.
Jules slowly walks toward the great flame. He is now dripping with sweat. He continues walking toward the flames, until he is right beside them. Tom can only watch as Jules reaches his hand out to the flames, as if to touch them. The flames singe and burn his hand a little, but he does not pull it back. His eyes are glazed over and the flames are captured within them. He is about to reach both hands into the flames, when a loud gunshot rings out. Half stunned, Jules falls to his knees, clenching his leg. He then falls to the ground and watches as Tom, with a smoking musket drags him away from the flame. Tom drags Jules who is now calm toward the exit. Then Tom, with one last quick glance, looks to the giant fire, and sees an enflamed man, with gleaming red eyes and a sword in each hand.
There are now five men back at Eroll’s house, one of them is a doctor, who is examining Jules’s injured leg.
Doctor : Quite a shot you got there, either lucky or really good. You missed every major artery in his leg. He’ll be up and about in less than a month.
Jules looks silently at the flames.
Tom : I’m sorry I shot you.
Eroll : You must have lost your mind, Jules.
Jules : I’m fine now. I’m sorry for what I did too. I guess it really doesn’t exist.
Dave : Just because you didn’t see the Contrador-
Eroll : Hey, watch it...
Dave : I mean, just because you didn’t see the ghost, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to those stories. Maybe there is no ghost, but maybe there is something else. I mean every time I look at a flame, it’s kind of like I’m looking back at me, like my soul is out in the open and I’m looking straight into it. I guess it’s a little stupid, but that’s just what I see.
Suddenly the sheriff bursts into the room.
Sheriff : Good news boys, you’re no longer suspects.
Jules : You found the murderer?
Sheriff with a slight chuckle : There was no murderer, there was no murder. It turns out that Mr. Thompson stabbed himself. You see he’s been drinking all night, and he accidentally stabbed himself with a knife. Well, in a nervous wreck he comes running out of his house trying to find me. So, he trips and falls, not dead, but unconscious, and stays that way for hours. The old man had us all scared.
Doctor : It’s true, I examined him myself. The sheriff proclaimed it as a murder before I was able to check him. Maybe next time he'll wait for me to arrive at the scene before calling it a murder.
Jules : You mean you didn't check Thompson for a pulse or to see if he was breathing?
Eroll : What the hell kind of sheriff are you?
Sheriff : looking around for a chance to change the subject Well, we’ve all had a pretty rough night, I think we should all get a little shut eye.
Jules : Yea, I’ll be leaving in just a few minutes, it's not safe around here...
Doctor : Me too, I have to go check on the wife.
The sheriff and the doctor leave, and the four remaining men look into the flames.
Tom : Hey, did you ever hear about the time I saw a ghost at sea.
Jules : No.
Tom : Well it’s a true story, a good one too.
The lights fade as they continue to speak in muffled voices, and soon only the flame is visible. That too fades away, and the curtain falls.