Campfire Snuffer

by Michael Carter

In the tall hills in these parts, something moves from the trees and sweeps across the ground, finds warmth, extinguishes it, and with this action slowly kills its prey.

In town, it is just a legend. Folks speak of it as taking humanlike form, but with a narrow, elongated metal arm, and a cup on the end, perhaps bell-shaped, in place of a hand. It can move through the woods silently, effortlessly, like water meandering through a riverbed of stones.

“Snuffer” visits only in late fall and early spring, when the days are deceptively warm enough to attract overnight recreation in the woods, but with accompanying nighttime temperatures that dip to serve as its catalyst for death.

The last victims set up camp in the hills knowing the legend, undeterred and unafraid, thinking it hearsay or merely fable. A rescue team discovered them in their cold-weather sleeping bags—mummy bags—frozen.

But, this time, there was a survivor. After rescuers relocated him to shelter, removed his clothing, heated him with soup and compresses, and treated his black-fingered and black-nosed frostbite, he told of what he saw.


“I woke but could not feel my body. Gary’s buttpack faced me, and I could see his mini thermometer dangling off it from a carabiner. My vision was blurred, but it appeared to be below minus thirty. Our fire, which we keep stoked all night, was dwindling.”

“I’m not sure; I think I woke around midnight. I was on duty for the next stoking. I tried to get up to do it, but I couldn’t move.”

“No, I don’t think anyone else was awake. Did the rest make it?”

“I didn’t wake from the cold. I was too numb. I woke because I felt those eyes. They stared at me from the trees.”

“I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t yell, I couldn’t move. I think I was partially frozen already.”

“After the eyes, I sensed movement through the camp.”

“It could have been a person, but who would be out at night in that weather? And why would they come to our camp?”

“Then I saw a pole, or a rod, come from it, the person, whatever it was. There was a dome or bell on the end. It pressed down on the fire, putting it out. That’s the last thing I remember before drifting off again.”

“No, I wasn’t delirious. That’s what I saw.”

“They’re all dead, aren’t they? My friends froze when it killed our heat source, didn’t they?”

“Yes, I’ll have more soup. It’s thawing my insides, my brain, bringing clarity. It was those eyes, that metal arm with the bowl on the end of it, and its other arm was tucked behind its back . . .”


The eyes, devil-red and hot, looked down from the trees to a new campfire burning below. Even though only a season had passed since the last snuffing, many still camped in these parts, continuing to think of Snuffer as mere lore or that it migrated to other hills.

It was before dawn, before the birds could wake the campers. Two mummy bags pressed close to the fire, close enough to garner warmth, but not so close as to singe the nylon fabric. The fire crackled and blazed, perhaps with the assistance of a fire starter or Sterno can.

Snuffer slipped from the trees, floated to the ground, and snaked through the brush and saplings to the campsite.

One mummy bag was blue; the second pink, and more billowy. A couple, it thought. Maybe a husband and wife. Cute. Not a substantial snuffing, but one that would have meaning.

Snuffer approached the fire and stared into it. Fire and warmth, so beautiful, so necessary.

A pitch-filled log splintered and then whistled. The larger pink bag stirred in response.

It’s time to say goodnight, forever.

Snuffer raised its metal arm, extended its bell toward the flame, and leaned forward with its other arm behind its back. It clamped down, again and again, until the flame was no more and the coals suffocated to blackness and emitted cool white smoke. It held down the final clamping for a few moments to soak the remaining heat up its arm and into its form of life.

It turned back to the woods, its job done for the night, and moved toward the trees. But something stopped it.

A noise. It turned back to the campsite. The larger bag moved again.

A cry. Something else was in the pink bag.

The cry reported again, and this time it was certain: a human-baby cry.

Its eyes lit up, and strangely, for the first time, it felt a flare in its chest. It was warm in a manner it had not sensed before, in a way the snuffings never provided.

The cry sounded again.

Snuffer returned to the campfire ring, looked to the bags, then to the extinguished logs. Warmth surged inside its chest as it heard more cries.

Without thought, it moved its metal arm away, and brought forth its other arm, the one it kept behind its back during snuffings. This hand was red and hot, like its eyes, and now its chest.

It moved the end of its ember hand toward the remains of the cooling fire. It held it on the charred logs and bits of tinder until it saw a puff, and then another, and another.

Finally, a crackle, a flame, and then a blaze, bringing warmth back to the bags, and more movement from within.

Snuffer paused to soak in the heat. The last cry turned to a whimper of content, and then a giggle.

Snuffer turned and floated from the campsite, into the trees, into the night, never to be seen in the hills again, except only in nightmares . . . and pleasant dreams.

Michael Carter is a writer from the Western United States. He’s also a lifelong outdoorsman and wannabe full-time RVer. He can be found online at
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