Thomas awoke with a splitting headache and some lingering nausea. He blinked his eyes open and squinted against the bright sun overhead.
Okay, that was all sorts of strange, he realized sluggishly. For starters, he didn’t get sick. He shouldn’t have been feeling like he’d awoken with a hangover. And furthermore, the sun wasn’t supposed to be shining into his bedroom from overhead because he had a ceiling in his bedroom like a civilized person, to say nothing of the numerous other floors above him in his apartment building.
So this wasn’t his bedroom.
In fact, it was apparently the park. Well, a park. There were plenty of them, and this looked a bit like Goudy Square Park, or at least some little section of it. He couldn’t remember how he’d gotten there or what he had been doing immediately before he’d fallen asleep, and that was a little troubling. Maybe he’d texted someone.
He sat up slowly, groaning a bit miserably, and withdrew his phone and switched the display on. No signal. No signal? He was in the middle of a major metropolitan city!
“Great,” he grumbled. “That’s just typical. Knew I should’ve gone with Verizon.”
He sighed and shoved the phone back into his pants, then climbed to his feet, swallowing back the nausea. It ought to pass quickly, now that he was conscious again, but this was rather distressing. His mouth didn’t taste like liquor, and he didn’t exactly make a habit of passing out in public. He did have standards!
Okay, first step: figuring out where he’d parked his car. He headed in the direction of the nearest street, visible where the grass gave way to sidewalk, and glanced around. No sign of his car. A search of his pockets revealed an absence of keys, too, so perhaps he had walked. That was fine; this was the Gold Coast and his building wasn’t at all far.
Spotting an unfamiliar coffee shop on the other side of the street, he immediately veered for it the moment traffic paused enough to let him jog across. That would probably help the weird zombie-like feeling, and he hadn’t heard about any new coffee shops opening in his neighborhood. Maybe it would be good. He flashed the blushing barista a bright smile and placed his order when he was up, and she ran his card.
And then frowned down at her display and ran it again.
And once more for good measure.
Declined? Thomas just stared at the girl, barely processing her words. He shook his head.
“That’s impossible. Try it again.”
Nope, same result. Fantastic. Lara must have gotten pissed off about something and cut him off to teach him a lesson. So he was stuck without cell phone and money for a while. Well, he’d been through worse. At this point he just wanted to go home, and maybe he could check with Lara using his actual landline, so he left without ordering anything, not that he had any choice given that he wasn’t carrying cash on him anyway, and he didn’t think the barista would accept the inexplicable pack of Tic-Tacs or the small knife that a search of his pockets turned up, as currency.
He popped a Tic-Tac into his mouth as he made his way into his building. The doorman was absent, which was a bit odd, and was it just his imagination or had the lobby been remodeled? Curiouser and curiouser. He wasn’t even sure how much time he couldn’t remember. Maybe he could find a news stand somewhere to check the date since his phone wasn’t working right.
Or maybe not, because this wasn’t the 90s and news stands weren’t even a thing anymore.
The sixteenth floor looked a little different as well, but at this point he was beginning to think that maybe he’d just hit his head a bit too hard and was still out of it, so he just ignored all of the strangeness and reached into his pocket for his keys.
The keys that he didn’t have. Right. He stared blankly at the door, then just reached out to open it, but it was locked. He narrowed his eyes–and then narrowed them further still at the sound of people moving around within. That wasn’t right.
He drew the knife silently and concealed it in his palm, immediately tense and alert, and then he knocked at the door. It was answered by a gruff looking man of athletic build and an almost unreasonable quantity of body hair coating his exposed skin. He looked a bit nervous to be faced by an angry stranger at the door, particularly one who apparently thought he lived there, but it wasn’t long before nervousness shifted to anger. Apparently, being threatened by a knife-wielding man who was plainly crazy had that effect on people.
The apartment’s occupant, as it happened, wasn’t alone. He had a pair of what had to be relatives because they were just as hairy, and apparently quite eager to quite literally throw the deranged intruder out on his ass after a spirited scuffle that left bruises and bloodstains.
Thomas found himself outside of the building again, stains of
pale blood standing out starkly against his once mostly clean white t-shirt, and he was beginning to think that something might be wrong. None of this made any sense. Had he been in a coma and slept through the last hundred years or something? Everything was different, now that he looked more closely. None of the buildings or trees were exactly how he remembered them. Even the cars weren’t quite right, and his neighbors had mysteriously vanished, too.
So what now?
He could only think of one more place to check. It was a bit of a walk, but it wasn’t like he had anything better to do, so he slowly made his way across the city on foot, heading for Mac’s. Somebody there would be able to help him.
Only, Mac’s was bizarrely absent as well, a perfectly mundane bar in its place with a perfectly mundane setup.
And he didn’t even have any money to enable him to drink all of the confusion away.
He was pretty sure the day couldn’t possibly get any worse.