Vincent Stain was a byproduct of the pop-culture maelstrom that Eddie Inferno had created. The blowback for a decade of decadence that saw every convention challenged and humanity’s understanding of the universe thrust into disarray. He spent the “Decade of Fire” (the term dubbed by unoriginal journalists for the Eddie Inferno era) as a disenfranchised dropout, desperate to find a place in a rapidly changing world, coming to terms with the concept that gods walked among men. Vincent never saw Eddie as a god, but another distraction for people without purpose.
His early years were spent in relative obscurity, operating within the periphery of society. Vincent struggled with many of the basic components of humanity. At 9 years old, Vincent had a personal epiphany that the world was total bullshit, and everything being taught to him by parents, teachers and authority figures were nothing more than abstract methods of control. His anti-establishmentarian philosophies were not widely accepted by his fellow grade-schoolers who taunted him mercilessly. The more aggressive children bullied young Vincent, while less aggressive children quietly cheered them on.
It was in the accepting arms of the disenfranchised that Vincent found some level of solace. The counterculture serving as a petri dish for the human fungi unable to take root in the real world. While the “cool kids” were rocking out to the Absent-Minded Gentlemen, Vincent was seeking out less polished and refined bands that spoke to his growing disdain for the world—useless sacks of fat and bone that waddled through their meaningless lives, blissfully ignoring pain and suffering happening around them.
For Vincent, Eddie Inferno was the poster-boy of compromise: “a prophet wasted on profit” he would one day say. At the time, no one cared about the opinions of a socially awkward, perpetually angry teenager without a major media platform showcasing his depressive inner thoughts. Even when he had something worth saying, there was no one who cared to listen. Vincent was familiar with rejection at a molecular level. He always felt as though he was society’s little bitch boy.
His troubled mind took him to disturbing places. He admitted, at his lowest point, he considered truly horrible acts to gain notoriety: lighting himself on fire during the Winter Olympics or becoming a food blogger. After realizing he lacked the skill set or the nerve to accomplish either goal, Vincent finally conceded this world would be better off without his presence. He had doubts he would be missed.
Vincent prepared for his final act, spending four days on a self-indulgent suicide note that would one day lay the groundwork for something substantial. For now it was a poorly constructed, grammatically conflicted statement, containing an indoctrination of a world gone mad. As a final act of defiance, he signed the letter in his own blood. His dead body was discovered by the school janitor, in a space next to the dumpsters where, as he stated in his letter, “seemed fitting since all I’ve ever been is trash.”
His funeral was poorly attended, though his parents had sent a lovely wreath. Even in death, it seemed like precious few were interested in hanging out with Vincent Stain. His corpse was sent to the crematorium and plunged into scorching fires, to be reduced to a vase full of ashes that no one would ever claim. But that was not the end of Vincent Stain.
* * * * *
The following is an account of Vincent Stain’s fiery rebirth as told by an employee of the Eustis Family Mortuary, Ronald Eustis who runs the crematorium.
“Ronald Eustis: I got to work, had my coffee and spent about 30 minutes talking to the landscaper about the renovation of the Memorial Garden before heading into the crematorium for my morning incineration and personal reflection time.
“Reporter: How many incinerations do you normally perform in a day?
“Ronald Eustis: Six—maybe eight on a busy day, like for a bus crash or a particularly harsh winter when suicide rates spike.
“Reporter: So tell us more about the morning you encountered Vincent.
“Ronald Eustis: Well, as I said, I started my morning routine. Primed up the gas lines, started warming up the furnace and got my first casket on the conveyor belt. That’s when I heard it.
“Reporter: Heard what?
“Ronald Eustis: The screams.
“Reporter: Blood-curdling screams?
“Ronald Eustis: Yes.
“Reporter: Had this ever happened before?
“Ronald Eustis: No—never. The body makes some interesting sounds when it’s burning. It’s not strange to hear a crackle or a pop or a sizzling sound like a piece of meat on a grill. But screaming? No, I’d never heard that before.
“Reporter: Walk us through what happened next.
“Ronald Eustis: The doors of the furnace flung open and out crawled a man, his skin ashen black, with flecks of red glowing underneath like a charcoal briquette. I’ve sent thousands of bodies into the furnace—never saw one come back out.
“Reporter: And what did you do next?
“Ronald Eustis: I grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed him down. He stood up and walked out of the cloud of smoke. Then he looked at me and said, ‘Even hell doesn’t want me.’ Then he walked out the door and left.”
* * * * *
The next reported sighting of “The Burning Man” came from a small diner outside of Topeka, KS. Local authorities were alerted to a man on fire at a popular greasy spoon, trying to order hash-brown casserole much to the dismay of the patrons and staff at The Pie Hole Eatery. After being denied service and politely asked to leave, the man walked over to a table and began picking up and eating French fries off a patron’s plate. This appalling act prompted a call to the sheriff’s office and a standoff which lasted nearly 18 minutes.
Once it had been concluded “The Burning Man” had no intention of chipping in for the French fries he had eaten, Sheriff Richard Barely decided the use of force was the only inevitable solution. After giving the order to open fire, 85 bullets were discharged. While 83 of them struck the intended target, none did any damage. To Vincent’s surprise, not only had he survived a trip to the afterlife, but he had come back with abilities beyond those of mortal men.
Anghus is encore’s 2020 fact or fiction writer, featuring the serialized piece, “Burning Sensation.” Read the prologue and previous chapters here.