Born into an idyllic North Carolina, Ken had a splendid childhood hunting and fishing.
His mother proved adept with a camera, and Ken, ensconced in canoe, was a regular feature in Boy's Life.
After his fourteenth birthday, Ken oscillated between elation and lethargy - his boy's life was over.
The first week of Burden, Ken strapped a ten-pound salmon to his back, which, after a few days, began to reek. Fortunately for Ken, he was working outdoor construction; otherwise, he would have lost his job.
For the most part, the stench was too off-putting for Ken's co-workers to say much to him other than yell a few obscenities in his direction.
"You smell worse than rotting afterbirth breeding flies, you shithead" was a fairly mild deprecation.
Ken got the job of running the tar machine, and the tar machine, with its own heavy odor, kept the smell of the rotting fish out of his nose - well, it kept him from gagging.
Spreading hot tar, however, was exhausting work, especially when the temperature and humidity stayed high.
Ken lost twenty pounds, not counting the fish, by the end of the week.
As a Burden initiate, Ken was not allowed to bathe, and he worried about the possible fly problem. Unbeknownst to him, his sister, knowing he would have to wear the same clothes all week, had doused them in repellent.
By midweek, Ken wanted to scratch his own flesh off his body One night he had a dream and felt his back growing scales. Another night, that he was no more than ooze.
Ken had taken to pissing in his hand to wash out his nasty crotch.
On the way to his Burden meeting, the meeting where he would be welcomed into the Burden community, the netting holding the dicey remains itself gave way to rot. The head of the fish fell off, and in a manner most common to fallen-off fishheads, a German shepherd ran off with it as though it were a mask.
This event was a bad sign, and Ken began to weep.
Certainly, Ken had suffered. At home, his bed was putrid with stench, and he would have to discard it. The clothes he wore were ruined. His girlfriend, gone.
When it came time for him to return his fish and tell his story, Ken had little joy left. He went before the Burden community unsure of what his suffering meant. He did not know what to say; he cut the fish free.
The initiate before Ken told of digging up his own mother, charred and mutilated in a car wreck, and wearing her on his back. His family had kicked him out of the house, and he had slept against an ant-infested tree in the cemetery next to the rendering plant. His ant bites exuded pus; his head was thick with lice. He had born his burden.
Ken realized that he was happy and, leaving the community, said, "I am free of my burden."