Warm. The very word is associated with many pleasant things. A warm hug, perhaps held just a little longer than usual. A warm cup of hot chocolate, sipped while seated across the table from the one you love. A warm meal, home-cooked, too large to eat it all.
And yet, warm can be unpleasant too. Warm was the first sensation he could feel take over as his eyes separated to reveal a blinding flash. Pinched shut again, the bright light illuminated the blood in his lids, casting an orange-red hue over his mind. The warmth beating down upon his face felt almost heavy. Almost alive. He knew the flash, the warmth, the heavy feeling, it was all from the sun. And the sun was in full force today.
Blinking against the ball of fire hovering just overhead, he slowly regained composure. The second sensation he could feel: dizzy. The third: dusty. Rolling to his side, he realized immediately where the dusty feeling came from. He was in the desert. He stared at the familiar caked-hard sand below him. His own sweat dripping off his forehead and leaving tiny dots on the dry surface. The only moisture for miles. He felt the crusty ground press itself against his hands.
Well, one of his hands anyway. The other felt covered, blanketed. He could feel something semi-cold, steel, pressed into his palm. He struggled against the heat-cast haze and discovered a substantial amount of duct tape on his hand. And a gun. Confusion folded itself into shock, and then back into confusion.
He began tugging viciously at the tape, biting and clawing at it like an animal trying to free it’s limb from a trap. Desperate to get the alien object freed from it’s prison, fashioned of his own flesh and adhesive. A few more tears, and the struggle was over. Pushing himself back with his heels, he scooted away and stared at where the unforgiving hazard landed, a looming shadow cast over it by a small cactus nearby.
The tension, mixed with the feelings of thirst that were almost overwhelming, caused him to begin coughing. He put his now-open hand over his mouth, and after the fit was through, pulled it away to reveal a dark red on his hands. Blood. His tongue rolled itself around the surface of his mouth, which he now realized was doing it’s best impersonation of his surroundings. Dry, desolate, depleted of life-restoring moisture. He was going to die of dehydration if he didn’t get up now. With one last glance at the gun on the ground, he had no trouble getting up despite his weary muscles and tender head.
A few stumbling steps later, he was able to shake off a little of the daze, and with a quick spiraling glance, he assessed the situation. He was pretty far out in the desert, but hovering on the far-distant horizon, he could see the blips and dots of civilization. He was close enough to walk.
To make sure he could, he stared down at his feet. Barefoot and bloody, dusted heavily with sand, his eyes widened as he noticed something strange. An arrow. Pressed, almost carved, into the ground. Moving his gaze in the direction it was pointing, he found yet another, a few yards away. Tripping over his own painful limbs, he made his way to the next arrow. Sure enough, it led to another. And another. And yet another.
He saw they were leading in the direction of a large rock, jutting out of the ground like the solitary tooth of some giant, long-since decayed monster’s corpse. The closer he got, the more it became clear why he was being led to it. Writing. A few more paces and he could make out what it said:
“Life. Fragile and finite. With these first steps, you have begun your true life. Only you can choose how to end it.”
A light gasp collapsed over the edge of his film-coated lips. He let his feet carry him a few steps back, as if he could walk away from the words, not just in the physical sense, but in his mind as well. As if a few steps in the right direction could carry the memory of reading them away as well.
Shaking his head again, letting the beads of sweat fly off like a sputtering sprinkler, he tried to gather his thoughts. Everything was unclear, like static on a television. The memories were there, but they were barely distinguishable against the heavy fog. Who was he? How did he get here? Why did he have a gun taped to his hand?
He began to search the pockets of his dirty, warn blue jeans. Nothing in the front pockets but a key, clasped tightly by a metal ring that found itself home to a flat, dark-green, octagon-shaped piece of rubber with the words New Oasis Motel. And a large, gold-printed number 9. In the back, a small brown leather wallet. He thumbed through it quickly, finding nothing but a few dollars of cash and a state of Nevada ID card. At least that would tell him who he was.
Jason Raymond Oake. Date Of Birth: October. 23rd, 1978. Hair color: Brown. Eye Color: Hazel-Green. Height: 5’9” Weight: 172lbs.
He, Jason, pushed the wallet and key back into his pocket and spun around where he stood. Staring aimlessly up at the blue sky, punctuated by puffy white clouds. He spun a few times until the sensation of falling forced him to stop in place. He stared at the horizon in the distance, and was barely able to make out a shape. A sign. An octagon. The same octagon with New Oasis Motel printed on it that resided in his pocket.
He didn’t know what was in room nine, but it was a start.