The mud was eight inches thick and Archibald Colton sank into it, gasping, his left hand caught on the razor wire, preventing his head from sinking all the way into the mud. A bullet tore through his exposed hand and he screamed. There were drums in the distance, and the smell of sulphur hung in the air.
The hail of bullets slowed, then paused. There was chatter in the trenches. Colton breathed in ragged gulps.
"Help me," he whispered, barely able to speak.
The flesh of his hand slowly gave way, ripping a red line up to his knuckles. Colton absorbed the pain and closed his eyes.
A decade earlier, Colton walked into the town of Benton, which was comprised of dots of closely placed small houses, seated around a curve in a river unimaginatively named Bend. The residents of Benton eyed him with suspicion as he inquired around for lodging. He was a tall, young man, thin, and obviously not a farmer. He was in the middle of a conversation with the proprietress of a vegetable stand when he blacked out.
When he came to, he was encircled by twenty or so of the townsfolk. The whispered quietly to one another until he opened his eyes. No one offered to help him up.
"I'm alive," he said, with his back firmly on the ground. "Who are you?" he asked the circle at large.
"Who are you?" asked the butcher.
Colton blinked three times then furrowed his brow.
"Who are you?" repeated the butcher.
"He had a seizure," said a woman.
"No, I haven't but...this is very strange. I remember you all."
Colton sat up and rubbed his forehead. He looked around the group, and they eyed him back with frowns.
"We haven't seen you before."
"No, you wouldn't have..." Colton held his arms out before him. He examined his left hand. "Amazing..."
"What?" asked the butcher.
"I'm more alive than I was then...or will be. Wow." Colton stood and grinned broadly. "I remember when...oh, the colors, so vivid. I can hear the birds singing, the crickets. I can see the pollen floating in the air. It's beautiful." He looked back down at his hand and a tear rolled down his face. "How did I miss all this before?"
"I don't understand. Who exactly are you?" asked the butcher.
"Archibald Colton. And I'm not going to live my life the same way twice."
He slapped the butcher on the back and promptly turned around and left the town, heading towards the border. He whistled while he walked.