My head is ringing, and when I put a hand to it I feel fresh blood flowing from somewhere. The curtains are glowing pale yellow with early morning light, barely enough to let me see that I'm alone in some sort of hotel room - hotel sheets, hotel paintings, hotel furniture. I stand, leaning against the bed, and as I rise there's something tugging at my skull. A cord. I follow it back to a small device of some sort, a white rectangular screen with a single sentence displayed: "SYNCH ERROR, RETRIEVAL FAILED".
I feel around the base of the cord and there doesn't seem to be a release, so I just pull gently until the plug pops free from my brain. As I tilt my head blood runs stinging into my right eye and beyond, dripping off of my cheekbone to land on the disgusting hotel carpet. I make my way to the bathroom and clean up as best I can, leaving the white counter pink with diluted blood. The cut isn't bad as it turns out, but there's a scar all the way around like the top of my head has been removed - should that leave a scar? Can't they prevent that sort of thing? "They". Hmm. I guess I'm not a doctor.
I look at the rest of myself and it all feels right, familiar. I'm a little cold in only boxer shorts so I press a washcloth against the cut just in case and start looking through drawers. There are some clothes, but I can't really tell much by them. I put some on, a pair of jeans and a plain shirt. I don't see any dirty laundry, and there's no wallet or keys in the nightstand. I wonder if they have a laundry service but from the appearance of the rest of this dump I would doubt it. I turn on the television that's bolted to the dresser, and some woman appears talking about Wall Street. It all sounds like Greek to me; probably not an investor or anything.
The device with the cord still isn't ringing any bells. Something to do with my memory, I'm sure, though I don't know what. There are sirens outside, Doppler effect warping the sound as the cruisers speed by. I'm most likely in a bad part of town. I take a closer look at my clothes to see if they're expensive but I can't really say. There's no way I can call anyone for help until I know more. Something about this whole thing feels unsafe, maybe illegal. The financial news is over now and they've moved on to local stuff. It sounds like I'm in Chicago. Too well known of a city for it to make me remember anything.
I'm pacing, and something catches my attention. A name, but it's already gone. I look at the screen and it's a story about someone they've just found murdered with his brain pulled out. One of the talking heads says something about a possible serial killer and the other counters with a comment about corporate espionage. The dead guy is someone important, the head of a big company. Did they say that or did I know it? Do I work for that company? Or am I a reporter? The device might be part of a hidden camera system, to record what I see for exposes. There's a shot on the screen of crime scene tape, with someone wearing a bulletproof vest and holding a RNZ-6 Gauss rifle - the European model with the folding stock and extended... Oh. Maybe I'm in the military? Or could I be SWAT or something?
I march into the bathroom to wash my face. The cold water is refreshing, and I look myself in the eyes. I'm not involved with that thing on the television. I'll remember any second. There's a smudge of something on my cheek but no soap, so I pull the shower curtain aside to check in there. I find the bar of soap, along with my dirty laundry. It's soaked in blood that I feel certain isn't mine. So I'm guessing not law enforcement then.