His joints resisted, popping audibly, as he pulled himself out of that burning ditch. The going was slow and agonizing. No matter how he tried his body moved like like an centenarian’s riddled with arthritis. And his flesh: it didn’t seem to blister or burn– just hurt as fire crawled up his arms and chest. He tried to scream, but someone stolen his voice. No sound came. Someone had stolen his scream.
He managed to roll his way out of the ditch and flap the fire from his body. His body smoked and the smell of burning hair and flesh invaded his nose. His flesh and hair. He would’ve been sick if not for the surge of adrenaline. Then the pain. He writhed on the ground as his body re-lived the agony of burning.
A laugh floated from a few feet away. “Well, look who it is.” A voice said to his left. “Welcome back Jon. It’s been a while.”
The burned man heard but could only convulse. Somewhere in the recess of his mind the name Jon clicked. Just the first piece of the puzzle.
“Oh, stop it Jon!” The voice grunted. “This isn’t the first time and will not be the last.” The voice chuckled. “No definitely not the last. There’s always work to do.” The voice grew louder and loomed over Jon’s body. “Okay, I said that’s enough.” A sharp toe bit into Jon’s back below the ribs. “Get up.”
Jon coughed, and arched his shoulders back. The kick sent a stab of pain through his body, like a dinner fork hooked up to a thousand volts. Jon screamed. This time he could hear his own voice. Jon rolled over onto all fours and looked around. He let drool run from his mouth and swayed from side to side. He was nearing unconsciousness, but something would not let him. To the right smoked the ditch he climbed out of. To the left, a picture-perfect field of poppies and marigolds extended into the sharp blue horizon line. Jon looked up ahead and saw that he was in the middle of a dirt road. A man dressed in blue jeans, white t shirt and work boots was walking away from him, kicking up dust as he went.
Jon tried to call after. Talking felt like someone rubbing sandpaper against the back of his throat. “Wait. Wait. WAIT!” The figure turned and smiled. He turned and walked back towards Jon.
“Well, well. How does your throat feel?” He asked, reaching into his back pocket.
Jon shook his head back and forth. “Like… hell.”
“Heh, yeah. Sounds about right.” He said. He lifted a silver flask to eye level, smirked, and tossed it to Jon. “Have a bit of that.”
It smelled of Licorice and went down easy. In a gulp, Jon’s throat cooled. “Thanks stranger.” He gasped handing the flask back.
“Stranger? Huh, I guess you’re not ready to remember.” He raised an eyebrow. “In time.” He decided, closing his eyes and nodding. “For now, call me Cain.”