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Juan Pedro Delgado, winner of the 19th edition of the Literary Excellence program, shares with us a dark and disturbing story. What terrifying consequences can be caused by an element as primitive as fire?

"The fire demon"; that's how Lorenzo Rossi was known, an arsonist who idolized fire. Flames were a magnet for him, who was convinced that being burned to death was the best way to die. At summary, he was a very dangerous killer. There was no person in Italy who did not have the face of that madman imprinted on his retina. He tended to murder, under the cover of night, lonely passers-by, whose bodies were found burned in places with little traffic. With the charcoal of the corpses, "The demon of fire" always left written a phrase: "Fire is the beginning and the end; we are only ashes".

An only child, Lorenzo had a difficult childhood: his parents, who argued and fought with each other incessantly, hardly paid any attention to him. When he was eight years old, one afternoon when he returned from high school , he found his neighbors around his house. Many were carrying empty buckets. It smelled of burning, wet wood, like a winter night when his parents first lit the fireplace and the three of them huddled by the fire for warmth. That was one of the few times he sensed a bit of affection. 

-Circle," a policeman ordered him.

-I live here," he justified as he stepped through the security tape that separated onlookers from the house.

In a momentary daze, he wished that the fireplace was lit and his parents would come to greet him and invite him to rest with them in front of the flames. At that moment the firemen appeared among the rubble, carrying a stretcher on which they were carrying what was left of two bodies as dark as coal, which remained in each other's arms. Then he thought he received a message: "Fire is the core topic of the love I long for".

After the fire he went to live with his grandparents, who did not pay much attention to him either. At that time, Lorenzo developed a fascination for fire, with which he tried to fill his inner emptiness. He used to sit and contemplate an illustrated book with photos of the remains of the Pompeii disaster. There was an image that portrayed a scene similar to the one his parents suffered: the embrace of the bodies of a man and a woman burned by lava.

At the age of twelve, the writings of Heraclitus pushed him to become a servant of fire. He intended to enforce the transforming mission statement hidden in the flames. Gradually he became convinced that setting fire to whatever was at hand was the right thing to do, but he realized that people did not see things the way he did. Humanity did not understand the advantages of dying at the stake. 

One night, as he wandered through the city, he discovered a child crouched in the shadows on a street corner. He sat down beside him and heard the little boy sobbing. Lorenzo went back twenty years on his report; he went back to those early mornings when he would cower in the corner of his room and cry, longing for comfort. He felt sorry for the child, but no words came to him. He had not communicated with anyone for a long time. 

The little boy raised his head and looked at Lorenzo with surprise.

-Are you alone too? 

The fire demon's heart skipped a beat. He began to choke; he was short of breath. The question had been harmful to his fragile emotional stability. Like the sparks from a bonfire, unpleasant passages from his childhood flashed through his head. 

-Today is my birthday and no one has congratulated me. The boy's high-pitched voice brought him out of his thoughts.

Lorenzo took a lighter out of his pocket and lit it. The flame was enough to illuminate both of their faces. Lorenzo's eyes, grayish as ash, looked into the boy's eyes, blue and shining with tears. 

-Happy birthday," he said hesitantly as he held the lighter to her mouth.

The boy turned his head away to escape the heat.

-Blow," he ordered.

The little boy smiled and extinguished the flame with his breath, but it did not disappear, it had moved to the hearts of both of them, who for the first time felt the warm sensation of being loved. And yet, a poisoned ember began to redden Lorenzo's insides.

-Fire is the beginning and the end; we are only ashes.

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