LIMBO, Prologue - The Accident

Ethan Malone awoke with a sharp pain in his chest. He felt grass underneath him, but couldn't recall what had transpired only minutes ago. The sound of something burning was distant at first, but grew louder with each passing moment. Flat on his back and gasping for air, the pain in his chest intensified and all he could do was cough. A familiar smell came to him, as he lie there catching his breath; it was the smell of gas. With great difficulty, he was able to turn his head to the side and beheld what was once a mint-condition mustang; cherry red.


The front was completely smashed-in with the windshield resembling a spider’s web. The only life left in the vehicle was the faint hissing sound, which Ethan quickly attributed the gas. Just then, Ethan heard the sound of someone’s voice. Raspy and weak, it sounded like they were struggle. Ethan turned his head to face away from the mustang to discover the source.


It was a white car, overturned with smoke seeping from every crack. Squinting, Ethan was able to make out a familiar shape; a man in a suit struggling to get out. The man didn’t seem to notice Ethan, or if he did, he had more pressing matters on his mind than striking up a conversation. Ethan attempted to call out to him, but all that came out was a dry cough. As the smoke continued to billow from the wreck, the man’s movements became lethargic until finally, he was motionless.


The smoke intensified until small flames began to slowly rise from the bottom of the car. Ethan made another attempt to call out to him, but his voice was more of a growl this time. Now retaining more movement in his neck, Ethan lifted his head as high as he could and looked around. Frantically searching for anyone nearby, there was no one. The interstate was abnormally empty and it was only noon. Ethan looked back at the man, now resembling more of a corpse.


Something stirred within Ethan and he was suddenly under the control of pure instinct. He knew that he had to do something before it was too late. However, what Ethan forgot to take into account was his own physical state. Just as quickly as he sat up, he winced and fell back down; it was his chest. Ethan cautiously felt around under his blazer and tie and felt a strange depression where one of his ribs should have been. In actuality, Ethan was in full possession of his body parts, just not all of them were now in one piece. Taking another look at the man in the suit, Ethan drew a deep breath and gritted his teeth.


After a few moments, Ethan finally rose to his feet; staggering at first. Beads of sweat formed along his forehead, doubled over and breathing heavily. As Ethan surveyed the area around him, he felt lightheaded. In Ethan’s eyes, everything was moving in slow motion. He didn’t notice the seemingly docile mustang behind him as a few flames began to poke out from under the hood…


The mustang exploded so close to Ethan that all he could hear now was a faint ringing. Almost indifferently, he turned to face the burning wreck, his mannerisms slow and without thought. He was numb and completely unable to process was what happening at that moment. After staring at the billowing smoke for what seemed like forever, Ethan managed to tear himself away and clumsily walked towards the white car.


He called out to the man in the suit, relieved to find his voice. Receiving no response, Ethan grabbed the man under his arms and started to pull him from the wreck. This seemed to stir him, and he quickly looked around frantically before looking up and meeting Ethan’s gaze. Ethan wasn’t expecting a proclamation of repayment or even a hero’s reception; it was hardly appropriate in that given instance. However, what he heard next was far from what he was anticipating. The man’s face twisted into an angry scowl as he began to struggle, refusing Ethan's help.


“You should have died!”


Ethan was awestruck and nearly dropped the man. The man repeated it once more, this time slightly weaker than the last before passing out.


The blaze intensified, as if reminding Ethan that he was on the clock. Without delay, Ethan resumed his task. The flames grew bigger and Ethan began to feel his heart race. Finally, the man was pulled free and Ethan dragged him away as quickly as he could. The car erupted in flames before exploding and if Ethan had been just a few minutes later, they would have been done for. As it was, he still wasn’t spared from the aftermath and the force of the explosion set him flying back.


The pain, now worse than before, was the only reminder to Ethan that he was still alive. He glanced over at the motionless body of the man in the suit, but something else grabbed his attention. Just past the man, in the background, on what remained of the passenger-side door; was a strange black emblem. Before he could think to do anything else, he was overtaken by darkness.




The distant sound of sirens stirred Ethan and he looked up at a pair of tired blue eyes looking right back at him. Those eyes belonged to a man that could have easily been Ethan's father, he was certainly old enough.


“Ethan! Ethan, are you all right?”


The dizzying sensation Ethan felt was enough to make him believe anything, but he was almost positive he had never met this man before in his life. An EMT pushed past the older man and Ethan noticed a brass sheriff star on his outfit. As the technician rummaged in his bag for tools to treat the injuries, Ethan noticed something out of the corner of his eye.


It was a city limits sign and on it, in big letters, was written: Welcome to Purgatory!

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Novel / Novella
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Ethan Malone awakens after a car accident, but he can't remember the details or how it happened.
A Word from the Writer
The first chapter in what will be an ongoing series about a man who is truly out-of-place.