Pain. It consumes me. Blinding light. Intense heat. All I see are the flames around me. Muffled whispers encircle me, emitting from the flames. Muffled whispers, yet those indistinguishable voices echo loudly in my head.
That voice... where is it coming from? It sounds familiar somehow. I try calling out for help but my lungs are filled with asphyxiating smoke. My choked scream is no louder than a whisper. I don't know where I am. Before this... but there is no before this. I can't remember. The pain is... overwhelming. It is as if I was born into flame, only to die soon after.
My skin blisters from the heat. As I gasp for air that just won't come, I tell the voice that I can't. The pain is unbearable; I can hardly move.
Remember what? Whatever I'm supposed to remember is long gone. This pain . . . it's all I know, all I am capable of remembering. A warm sticky substance runs down my head. I blink, shaking it away as the red liquid mixes with the tears in my eyes.
The voice is insistent. It won't let up. I am torn. I want to listen to the voice and do what it says. But the pain . . . it's unbearable . . . to give up and die, to lie there until the pain goes away would be so much easier. What is it I'm supposed to remember? How am I supposed to survive?
There are shapes in the smoke that can't be there, can't possibly be real. No, there's no one there. My mind is playing tricks on me. More and more of them surround me, laughing at me. I squeeze my eyes shut to rid myself of the nightmare. Are these smokey apparitions the last things I'll ever see?
It's no use. I lack the strength to lift my head. The pain . . . is excruciating. The voice is fading away as the flames close in on me. The voice is gone. I hear myself screaming in agony. The fire is very close now, boiling my skin. I try to push myself up off the ground but I don't have the strength to support myself.
I hear a loud snap. I fall to the ground as I feel a spike of pain rip through my arm. My vision blurs, graying at the edges, as I try to stay awake. I think my arm is broken. I scream out again. The graying vision is threatening to go black. It's only a matter of time before I pass out. It's almost over. The fire has reached my feet. Soon, very soon, the flames will consume me.
Pain. It's all I feel now as the flames skip across my legs. My body has given out on me. I can't escape the flames.
I try shouting back at the voice, but my voice is gone. I cannot speak. And then I see it: a small piece of metal connected to a chain lying in front of me. I reach for it and wrap my hand around it pulling it towards me. It's a locket, half melted by the heat. The images flicker through my mind. A woman's voice, her gentle laugh, soft and familiar. I see her form but I can't see her face. Every time I try to see who she is her image becomes unfocused and she fades from sight. I try to open the locket, but it's no use; the two sides are welded shut. I can't get to the image inside.
Fight what? The shapes in the smoke are back, mocking me. The image is blurred and faded but I remember it now: Feet running and arms swinging into view. A voice, I think it was my voice. I'm rushing towards a man, then something heavy smashes into the back of my head, and the ground is rushing towards my face. I hear footsteps approaching as a pair of boots come into view. He squats down in front of me saying something. My blurred vision is now coated in red. The man reaches forward, and yanks my head up. I see his swept back blonde hair, and eyes as blue as ice, but I can't focus on his face. I reach towards him, and he stomps on my arm with a heavy boot and shoves my face back into the ground. The sound of my shattered arm, and nose crunching as it slams against the concrete, echoes horribly in my head.
Do you remember now?
Another pair of feet circles in front of me. He's holding a red canister, pouring an amber colored liquid around me, pouring it everywhere. On the floor, the walls, everywhere. The last image I recall is of them walking away as everything around me went black.
Pain is weakness.
I still can't remember who I am or how I got here but I understand its message. I won't let the flames consume me. I use my good arm to push myself to my knees as my body screams in agony. I start coughing blood as I gasp for air. As I struggle to put out the flames pouring over me I realize my time is running out. If I don't get out of here soon I'm finished.
As I rise to my feet, my vision blurs further, blackness pressing in on me. I fight with everything I have to stay on my feet but I don't know if it'll be enough. My body shakes as I put out the last of the flames on my clothes. My world spins as I hear a distant cracking sound reverberating through my skull.
I take a step, my legs protesting as if I've never used them before. Impossible as that first step seems I manage a second step. I hear a cracking sound again, this time it's louder.
I propel myself forward. Every muscle, every fiber of my being begs me to stop as I force myself to press on. The cracking grows louder with each step. As remembered images flash through my mind, I understand the source of that sound. The smoky apparitions follow me, laughing. What are they? I try to ignore them and the obstacle of debris standing in my way. The laughter grows louder, threatening to shatter my mind. Squeezing my eyes shut, I continue on. Silence . . . all is quiet. I open my eyes and discover I have breached the wall of smoke and flames. As I look at my blackened hands I think it's too late. My knees give out and I fall. It's over.
What are you doing?
I am done, I can go no further.
Let me die in peace.
You're not done yet!
I feel anger overcome me as the voice screams for me to get up. It screams at me to keep going. Anger, frustration, and just wanting the voice to shut up gives me the strength to push myself back onto my feet as I cough up more blood. My vision is almost gone now. The laughter is gone, but the cracking noises are louder than ever. My ears feel like they're going to explode.
Just a little further!
The voice is shouting desperately now to keep me moving. I walk with no end in sight; for what seems like an eternity. Red and blue lights flash in the distance. The voice is quiet now. I walk toward the lights, not knowing what it is, not knowing where else to go. It doesn't matter; my bodiless companion isn't pushing anymore. Maybe it's finally given up on me.
A blurred figure runs towards me, my steps faltering as it grabs hold of me. I can't see anything anymore. I hear the sound of shattered glass, the sound of my mind folding in on itself. I feel myself slipping away as my knees buckle. I am placed on top of a flat surface, and I feel myself being lifted. I hear doors slamming shut by my feet, and sirens fill the air. I know that I must survive this night. I must discover who the woman in the locket is and who the men were who tried to kill me. As I feel myself slipping into the void of unconsciousness the voice speaks one last time. It seems almost at peace.
You can rest now.