The Firefly by Neil Thomas (Nora Roberts Young Writers Institute)

Burning was the pleasure I was given at the start. The burning of this…this sadness was needed for the world I live in. Honestly people need to learn that family and friends are needed, but they never do so, they end up in the furnace. Sometimes when I kill and burn, nothing happens, no happiness, but when it’s a young child a tear rolls down my cheek.

My name is Clarence Cannister, my occupation is a Firefly. Basically a Firefly is a murderous pyromaniac. Why? For so long widowers, loners, homeless, and the sick have plagued our glorious country like a viral disease. And we, the Fireflies, were created to cure it but for some reason this job has gotten harder and harder to do. Days pass before I ever close my eyes to fall asleep. Honestly sleep isn’t the only thing that’s been messed with.

Nights seem endless when looking for “firewood” for the furnace. Sometimes when I try to pick up victims my shoulders feel like rubber, my feet are weaker than a newborn baby, and my stomach is filled with butterflies. Sometimes I tell myself I’m too old for this job and don’t turn in anything. Joseph, my manager, just sometimes gives me a cold hard glare on those nights. Who is Joseph the manager and why do I need one? Every Firefly is given a manager who gives them money for the bodies they turn in. They’re only there so we don’t burn the whole city down.

See there’s more to this job than killing and burning. The other way this job is important is because our furnace’s fuel the heat for all the houses in the city. Quite ironic isn’t it? We take dead people to feed the furnaces to warm the homes of the living. Sorry but death just doesn’t concern me anymore. I mean the big guys upstairs could get rid of me right now. Death is inevitable, never will there ever be a change. Heck I had to fry my predecessor in order to secure my place in this job.

“Clarence report to Officer Johnson’s office immediately” the overhead speaker said.

“Great” I said knowing this was another lecture on how I wasn’t doing well enough and that the city needs me to do my job right.

Honestly I couldn’t think right now even if I wanted to, I am tired and lonely, oh so lonely. You’d think a 45 year old man who’s been lonely all his life could withstand the solitude, but I just can’t. Nothing can or could probably help this but I just have to move on…I have to.

“Sit down Clarence I have something to tell you” my boss started, trying to sound comforting to ease my suspicions that I was about to lose my job. “Now Joseph has been telling me that you have been bringing nothing for the furnace to burn,” Johnson paused for a moment looking at the desk that sat between us as though he would rather pick it up and throw it at me than talk to me right now. “And so for the final time you are fired” Johnson concluded then looked me directly in the eyes for a half second before looking back down at the desk with the set and determined scowl.

“You’re joking aren’t you Johnson, now come on really can I get back to work” I knew he had to be joking.

“No Clarence, you know that this is over. You had a good run. I congratulate you on how long you made it, most Firefly’s don’t make it this long.”

“Johnson don’t do this, I can do it! I can keep going, please don’t fire me, I’m just tired.”

“No Clarence I can’t. You’ve messed up too many times, and honestly in your condition it would seem in your best interest to leave or get burned.”

“Oh…ok please I want to live. I’ll leave, go to a different city so I won’t bother you guys anymore.”

“Ok Clarence I’ll give you one day to get to wherever you are going. That’s all you get, but if they find you…” he finished his sentence with the flick of his lighter.

Johnson was just touching the flame to the tip of his fresh cigar as I quickly turned and left his office. My mind was racing, insane with fear and simply so much shit I can’t understand. Why am I surprised at any of this, I knew this was happening, I knew I would get fired, which really means killed and put in the furnace like all of the other Fireflies before me that couldn’t do their job anymore. I didn’t have much time, maybe 5 hours before I get caught and sentenced to the fate that I have carried out on so many others. I have no place to live, no place to go.

In the morning two collectors picked up a body that wasn’t recognized but was found in a puddle of sweat, rain, or maybe even…tears. But for whatever reason no one could figure out why he was out in the open, no one even knew the man’s name, occupation, or age nothing but the mark of a lightning bug on his right shoulder was the only thing that was different…the bug was called the Firefly.



Neil Thomas was/has attending Nora Young Roberts Writers Institute. Neil has honors for some of his stories. Neil goes to Boiling Springs High School in Carlisle, PA. Neil has also attended other writing panels/conferences. Neil has tried on many attempts to create and share video games.