*Bam* Jacob jolted awake from the sudden pain blossoming in his temple.
"What? Where am I?" he groggily muttered rubbing the sore spot on his head. Turning his attention to his surroundings he found himself sitting on a bench like padded seat, in a vehicle with two rows of the same type of seating. Apart from a single man at the wheel he was alone. Outside the window was an unfamiliar scenery leisurely streaming by. "…A bus?"
"Are ya awake son?" the man at the front asked over his shoulder, barely turning his head. The man was thin in both body and presence, as soon as the eyes left him fine details were immediately forgotten; leaving only a vague impression of a tall lanky figure. "Sorry if my stories are a bit boring."
"No no, it's not that, I was just tired from driving all day." He waved his hands as if to blow any possible insult. "It's just that the convention took place pretty far from my house. You see the it took place in… uh…"
"Yeah, that's it. Thank you," Jacob gave him an embarrassed smiled, "Wait did I already tell you this?"
"No, just a lucky guess." The man kept his eyes on the road as a meaningful grin stretched across his face, one whose meaning escaped Jacob. "So, this convention was it a comic book convention, I hear those are getting more popular nowadays?"
"Yeah… it was… no wait, it wasn't… it was business related…" puzzled Jacob trailed off, wracking his brain for the reason he was out there. Grasping at straws until the answer finally came to him. "It was an insurance convention my company held to discuss… something…"
"I see." The man commented when Jacob remained silent for a while. The silence stretched out between them as Jacob became loss in his thoughts. During this time the bus slowly came to a halt; the man stood up and faced Jacob finally giving him a full view of the stranger's face. "Alright this is your stop, don't forget all of your belongings."
"My belongings…?" Jacob took a look around taking inventory of what could possibly be his. In the seat next to him was a suit jacket that matched the gray pants he was wearing. A photo of a mother and her child. The silver, analog watch on his wrist was definitely his, unless he stole it. But he still had a vague feeling that something was missing. No wallet? Where did it go? There was something else besides his wallet something just as important… Jumping up alarmed Jacob swung his gaze left and right frantically searching for the missing bit of luggage. "My briefcase… where did it go?!"
"Something wrong?" the other man watched Jacob crouch down to his hands and knees searching under the seats nearby.
"My briefcase, it's missing! I had it right here in the seat next to me. My laptop was in there." Jacob's panic grew exponentially by the second. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and began retracing his steps, but the longer he tried the harder it became. "I had it this morning… and put in the front seat of my car before setting off…"
"Then that's where it is," the bus driver simply shrugged and stated, "Ya must have left it with your car."
"Yeah, I must have…" Jacob sat down again confused, "But where is my car? I don't remember what happened to it…"
As he concentrated attempting to recall the mornings events, pain once again blossomed in his skull. Groaning he sat back from the sudden burst of vertigo.
"Maybe ya should lay down. Ya did hit your pretty hard; ya might've given yourself a concussion." The bus driver commented with wry smile, chuckling to himself from what was apparently a joke. "Go on ahead I already contacted The Hotel and explained everything."
"Contacted who? What hotel?" Raising his head from his hands Jacob looked towards where the bus driver was pointing. A wide six story building stood in all of its grandeur at the end of a spacious drive. Much of the property was hidden behind the villa styled hotel. Off to the right of the building there appeared to be a large irregular shaped pool; while to the left appeared to have various sports field and other recreational facilities. With the white stucco and cobble stone walls along with its long sweeping low angled rooves; the hotel gave off a five-star luxury the Jacob knew was well out of his price range.
"Ya should get going." The bus driver ushered the still muddled Jacob out setting him along the path to the front doors, fading from conscious thought along the way.
Entering through the open double doors Jacob is greeted by the sight of an expansive lobby. Situated between two curved staircases is the front desk, currently manned by one person, to his right was pair of closed double doors, while to his left the matching set of doors were open revealing a dining area occupied by a few people catching a late lunch or early dinner.
"Welcome, are you Jacob?" The man at the front desk beckoned Jacob closer. Upon first glance, the man appeared to be ripped from the pages of a travel magazine; with his bronze tan, perfect straight, white teeth, and a single lock of his short, dark hair twisted into a small curl on his forehead. He wore what appeared to be the male uniform of the hotel: a red and black waistcoat, black dress pants, and a white button up with a black tie.
"Ah yes, I am," Jacob hurried his pace over to the front desk, "sorry to trouble you, but I appear to be lost. Do you know how I can get back to… um…?"
"The interstate?" the man provided.
"Yes… thank you…" Jacob rubbed the back of his neck, "Yeah, I need to get to the interstate, …I-5…I think. Do you have a map?"
"Of course, we have maps for travelers, is what I would have said a few years ago, we did have maps it's just with the popularity of smart phones we no longer bother stocking physical maps anymore and I'm afraid I don't know the way personally." He gave an apologetic shrug.
Jacob pulled out his phone from his pocket only to find he didn't have service. "Um… there's no service."
"Yes, we are in something of a dead zone here." The other man replied and before Jacob could say anything added, "We also don't have a free wifi service either. Our guests never had an urgent enough need for it, so we never bothered with it."
"Okay, so you don't have a map, or wifi, and you're situated in the middle of a dead zone." Jacob frowned and fought to keep his voice professional and friendly, "How can I get back?"
"I'm afraid I can't answer that," the man sympathetically shook his head, "I can however, considering your circumstances, offer to let you stay here in my Hotel for a few days; free of charge. Until you can get your affairs sorted out."
"That's very kind of you, but I just need to get back to my car and get home. So, thank you for your offer but I can't stay for very long Mr…" Jacob trailed off realizing he had not asked for the man's name nor was given any.
"My name is Havard, and welcome to my humble business." Havard offered out his hand, which Jacob grasped after a moment of hesitation. He found the hotel owner's hand to be remarkably warm, almost feverish. Havard's business smile never dropped nor once disappeared through the entire conversation.
"Like the college?" Jacob scrunched his eyebrows. Trying to place where that name was from.
"No, Harvard has an extra r, it is similar but not the same." Havard spoke with a well-rehearsed tone suggesting that was the first question he hears immediately after giving his name each time. "But, I'm afraid you don't have much of a choice in this matter. As Mr. Landon has informed me your car, a blue Ford Explorer if I'm not wrong, has suffered a terrible wreck as will not be drivable for some time."
"Wait who is 'Mr. Landon' and what do you mean I was in a wreck?" Jacob could feel his pulse quicken, and dull throb build up inside his head.
"Mr. Landon is the bus driver who picked you up and transported you here to my establishment; he also took the time to inform us of your arrival." A concerned look replaced the smile, "Are felling okay? You appear to be rather pale, would you like to see our residential medical staff?"
"No …I'm fine; just do you know what happened to my car?" Jacob began massaging his temple in an attempt to relieve the growing ache.
"I did not see it personally, but according to Mr. Landon your car will not be safe to drive until a mechanic has repaired the damage done to the engine." Havard leaned down and pulled a large book from beneath the desk, with the words "Guest Registry" printed on the front. The large leather-bound book appeared to be very old judging from the ribbing on the spine, and the yellowed pages. Opening the registry to a page bookmarked by and equally ancient quill, Havard placed the old tome before Jacob before continuing, "As I said before, I would gladly allow you to stay for as long as you need."
Jacob frowned the offer was tempting, however; something important was nagging at the back of his mind. Something of great personal importance, something that meant the world to him. His… His… "My family… I need to get back as soon as possible. I can't stay! If I stay any longer they might think something happened to me."
Havard's brow half furled for a moment, taking a breath the hotel's owner offered a compromise. "Okay, I will send a letter to your family explaining what has happened, but in the mean time I must insist you stay here for at least tonight. The woods around here are very dangerous and there are no available transit services here that will take you further than the nearby town."
Jacob's lips pursed for a breath as he relented, "Alright I will stay tonight. Can I have the number of the mechanic you sent my car to?"
"Of course, while I get the number please sign the registry. I will also need your address for the letter. When I get back I will give you a tour of the facilities." Havard pushed the old book closer to Jacob as he turned and left through a door behind the desk.
"What's going on? How could I forget about them?" Jacob muttered while signing his name on the registry. Pulling out his phone he opened the camera app revealing a photo of him and his wife holding his daughter. A happy moment that should have immediately brought back the memories associated with that snippet of time. All it did was bring up a new bout of pain. Leaning against the desk Jacob clutched his temple, his fingertips turning white. When the pain finally passed, he came face to face with a worried looking Havard.
"Are you all right, sir? Maybe we should postpone the tour and take you straight to our residential medical specialist?" Havard came around the desk placing a worried hand on his shoulder guiding Jacob by the arm through the right-side doors that were previously closed.
When the doors were opened the two of them walked through a rather open hallway. On their left was a large room with small round tables, a long bar stretching across the room, and a stage with a single microphone stand. Bypassing the room and turning the corner they walked past a row of glass doors leading to the outside pool area, and on the left were a couple elevators. Rounding one more corner Havard lead Jacob to the only room at the end of the hallway. Two large white doors with a red cross painted on them, listening closely Jacob could here a strange heavy breathing sound coming from the room.
A total of five white cots lined both the walls of the room, immediately to the left of the entrance sat a desk with medicine cabinet that stretched from floor to ceiling. Lounging back in an office chair to the point of falling back was the source of the strange noise. A woman, skinny to the point you would start worrying about her health, was fast asleep with her head tossed back and her mouth wide open. She let out something that was halfway between a snore and a wheeze every few breaths. Dressed in a lab coat over her wrinkled t-shirt and jeans Jacob assumed that she was the doctor, but her overall slovenly demeaner made him question her reliability as a doctor.
"One second," Havard whispered to Jacob with an embarrassed smile. Quickly stepping over to the sleeping doctor he shook her shoulder and spoke into her ear. "Florence, wake up you have a patient. …Florence!"
Shooting up and almost falling over the woman, apparently named Florence, leaning forward she grasped at her throat, coughing and hacking on something choking her. With her eyes bulging out from her ordeal, she started pounding on her chest; until finally a chew up piece of white gum shot out her mouth and landed at Jacob's feet. Turning her head to shoot Havard a death glare, and hissed through her teeth, "What?!"
"Florence, I would like you to take a look at our guest here, Jacob." Havard gestured toward Jacob, trying his best to be patient.
"What's wrong with him?" The doctor regarded Havard with a flat stare while absentmindedly reaching for a new piece of anti-smoking gum on her desk.
"That is what we wanted to know, he appears to be suffering from memory loss, and headaches. Oh and…" Jacob couldn't hear the last part. The owner leaned in and whispered something into Florence's ear, turning his head away so Jacob couldn't see his lips.
The doctor merely nodded in response before turning her attention to her newest patient. Fixing Jacob with an unsettlingly intense stare, made all the more disconcerting by the deep dark circles under her eyes. "So how much memory loss are we talking about here?"
"I'll give you two some time alone, I need to go and prepare your room for later, Jacob come find me at the front desk when you finish your exam." Havard began making his way to the door before turning around and adding, "You're in good hands with Florence her medical knowledge is second to none, but her bedside manner could use some work. Those eyes could scare the Devil himself."
"Fuck off already!" Florence crumpled up a random paper and threw it at Havard just as he closed the door, before turning back to Jacob and with a snort resumed her interigation, "So about your memory?"
"Well, I'm having trouble remembering what happened before I arrived here." Jacob's gaze grew unfocused as he turned his mind back to before arriving on the bus. Only for another spike of pain to shoot through his head. "And I have pain whenever I try to think about that."
"Hmm, are you completely unable to remember anything before the incident?" She rested her chin on one hand without breaking eye contact for even a second.
"No, I'm able to remember stuff before like where I was and my family back home, just that it gets hard to concentrate sometimes." Jacob fidgeted under Florence's stare.
"Alright I'll just check one more thing," The doctor finally broke eye contact to search through her desk fishing out a penlight. Clicking the light on she flashed it in Jacob's eyes checking his eye's reaction. While the left eye responded normally his right eye had no reaction. "Well, I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"
"I think we should do the bad news first, get it out of the way. It's always good leave with something positive."
"An optimist, huh?" she commented, leaning back she placed her heels on the desk. "Alright. Well, you most likely have a concussion and possibly some form of brain damage, but I won't know for sure until I do some more tests."
"For today I want you to just rest and relax. That means no strenuous task, nor anything that requires you to concentrate. Especially driving." Standing up Florence pulled out a set of keys from her pocket and turned around unlocking the medicine cabinet. Rummaging through the cabinet she pulled out a plain glass bottle filled with white tablets. "This is acetaminophen, take two when ever you get a headache, …and avoid ibuprofen or you will die."
"What?!" Jacob pulled back his hand, snapping his attention back to Florence's face. "I'll die?! What are you talking about?!"
"Ibuprofen increases the risk of bleeding, and if your brain is bleeding we don't want too much blood building up in there. Of course, that is the worst-case scenario. Not likely to happen, …but still possible." Florence shrugged; jamming her hands into the lab coat before slumping back into her chair. "Just take that medicine and rest in your room until tomorrow, and you'll be fine… probably."
Recovering from the shock Jacob let out a breath deflating a little, before picking up the medication and leaving the room with a weak "thank you." Florence simply waived while stifling a yawn.
Traversing his way through the open, yet strangely quiet hallway Jacob's pace slowed considerably; to the point of stopping. Looking around it felt oddly empty, almost devoid of life. Few if any sounds existed there, even his own footsteps were hard to hear. Was it quiet because it was the slow part of the travel season he wondered but knew that to be wrong there should be at least one or two staff should be around. He could count on one hand the number of people he has seen in such a large hotel. Wondering over to the large glass doors leading to the outside world Jacob shivered as a chill ran up his spine.
Something was watching him, a buzzing feeling in the back of his mind told him so.
Something inhuman, not quite bestial, yet still predatorial, and hungry.
Something deep in the darkness of the forest drew his gaze in. He was fearful yet still needed to know what it was. Was it dangerous or just an illusion?
Just as he reached the glass the sensation disappeared and the weight in his chest left. Confused he pulled himself away from the glass and resumed his path to the front desk. Turning a corner Jacob spotted Havard speaking on a cellphone. Walking up to him Jacob overheard something about the forest. Upon seeing Jacob, Havard quickly turned around, whispered something and shut the phone off.
"I see you're done with your examination already. What good timing, I just finished on my end as well." Havard spoke with a friendly smile and guided the shorter Jacob by a hand on his shoulder. "Now let's get you to your room to rest."
"I thought you said phones don't work out here?" Jacob questioned, taking a step back to face the other man.
"Pardon?" Havard's smile dropped from his face, replaced by quizzical look, because of the non sequitur question.
"Your phone," Jacob gestured at the other man's pocket, "I thought you said this was a dead spot?"
"Oh, you mean this." Havard pulled out the phone to show Jacob. Its general shape was the same as a phone, but it was from a brand that he had never heard of. "This thing is less a phone, and more of a… really convenient intercom. It only works here on The Hotel grounds."
Placing a hand on Jacob's shoulder again he began guiding Jacob to his room, talking along the way. "As brief as it maybe, I do hope you will enjoy your stay here at my Hotel. We offer all sorts of amenities, from dining services to various health and wellness facilities, even multiple recreation activities. The Hotel is a rather large place so if you ever become lost please just ask myself or one of the employees here for directions."
Getting on what seemed to be the main elevators, Jacob stopped and turned to Havard with a questioning stare as the doors closed behind them taking the duo up to the third floor. "How many other employees do you have here?"
"Oh, um I'm a bit ashamed to admit this but we are a bit understaffed at the moment." Havard gave an embarrassed smile while scratching the back of his head. "But there are enough to guarantee a pleasant stay. Now, please follow me to your room."
After receiving the key to his room and entering, Jacob found the room to be of a decent size for his needs, not too large but also not cramped. A small bathroom to his right, a desk in the corner between the bed and a window, and a closet to his left. Opening the closet, he found the jacket he left behind, and an open suitcase with spare clothes on the floor. On his desk was a briefcase.
"Is that…?" While approaching the formerly missing piece of luggage a dull throb pulsed in his temple. The briefcase had seen better days, its outer leather was ripped in places and huge dent caved in one of the hinges. Try as he might he could not open the thing, because of the damage done to both locks. "Damn it!"
Giving up for now he pulled out two tablets from the glass bottle and downed them before his headache got any worse. Exhausted from the days events he finally collapsed onto the bed. He fell into a deep slumber after muttering, "I need to get back home soon."
End of Chapter 1
Author Note: Hi everyone and thanks for taking the time to read my work. I hope you all enjoyed it. If you liked this then come check out .com you can find new chapters a week early and other stories I can't post here.