Bernie awakens to darkness and thinks he's dead. There's no other explanation. He can't move or see; he's surrounded by nothingness. He's dead, right? Yet as he reflects on his life, there's a rather gaping empty space where his death should be. He can't remember the circumstances of his untimely demise, which is when he realizes he's not dead at all.
He's in a state of coma, but he can hear voices around him. He's alive, but he can't make contact with the living world. Only then does he again begin to reflect on his life-not life but lives. His current existence, his current body, is one of many, beginning in the Spanish Inquisition when Bernie was executed for witchcraft.
The touch of magic has followed him throughout his remaining lives. Loved ones are found and lost again, over decades and then centuries. Bernie's consistent rebirth is due to his use of witchcraft to mess with preordained destiny. He's utterly defenseless in his current state, but he must find a way to fight those who mean him harm. Otherwise, this will be his last incarnation, and it will not end well.