Prologue: Sweet Raptured Light
I broke the surface of consciousness like a drowning man. Gasping thin breaths, I strained for air against the angry band of pain that crushed my throat to the width of a narrow reed. My fingers felt as thick as sausages as I dug them into the rope. A weak, phlegmy cough rasped air painfully past my throat, dragging me back towards unconsciousness as the pain threatened to spill over.
Im dying, screamed the wild part of my brain. Im dying Im dying Im dying Im dying!
Darkness blurred the corners of my eyes; coughs wracked my body, doubled me over on the floorboards. My pale, snatched breaths werent enough to save me; they just prolonged the inevitable, kept me conscious as I scrabbled about my neck, tugging desperately at the rope that cut into me like fire. A heavy knot was tied at the base of my skull. With my last reserves of