Alton's chest rose with an audible intake of breath.
Where was he? He had been so comfortable. So safe. No worries. Somewhere else. It was fading so fast, like a dream. Where was he?
He opened his eyes. Whiteness. Bright. Blinding. Too bright. More pain.
He blinked a few times. Whiteness resolved into a room. There was a man in a white coat sitting in a chair across the room. He was older, maybe in his forties or fifties. He had fallen asleep, slumped in the chair. Alton was in a bed. He was breathing. Why was that strange?
Then he remembered.
Because he was supposed to be dead. That was why. He was dead. Had been dead. He died. How long ago? It felt like life was a long time ago.
He sat up. More pain. Beyond stiffness. Like he had been sleeping for years. He tried to speak, but only a strange croaking sound emerged and devolved into coughing. It was enough to wake the man in the chair.
"Ah," he said. "You're back with us. Good. Try to take it easy. You're going to need to get used to your new condition."
Alton's coughing finally subsided and he found his voice. It was scratchy from disuse. "Why? How?"
The man smiled sadly. "I'm afraid you're not ready for the how just yet. But I will tell you why. You're going to save the world, Alton. And I'm afraid you're going to have to die several more times doing it."