Ronan slowly opened his eyes, trying to adjust to the burning light coming through the room's big window. His whole body ached and every movement felt like a struggle. He didn't know where he was or how he got there. The sophisticated equipment and clean environment suggested a medical unit of some sort. He surely would remember getting injured. Turning his head away from the window, he saw a masked man, holding something that looked like a notepad on his left hand.
"Wh…where am I?" he uttered in what was barely more than a whisper.
"Take it easy young man, you've been through a lot and it'll be a while before you fully recover. The most important thing for you now is to get some rest." said the man in a thick South American accent, which sounded faintly familiar.
"I demand to know where I am!" Ronan said, and through a great deal of effort, managed to lift himself up.
"All will be explained in due time. I assure you that there's no reason to be alarmed. Just lay back down and get back to sleep. You need to recover your strength" The man with the South American accent calmly said and made a hand gesture to someone behind Ronan.
Having somewhat adjusted to the light, Ronan took a closer look at the masked figure standing beside him. The man's skin color was that of someone who's lived under the sun all his life and his eyes were a very bright emerald green. Even though Ronan was sitting upright on his bed and was the tallest person in the room in most cases, the other man towered above him. As they locked eyes with each other, he felt the man's penetrating gaze pierce through him. Ronan tried to avert his eyes in order to escape the man's stare, but couldn't. Suddenly, a strong sense of tranquility spread through him and all he knew was that he was at peace and that everything would be alright. He slowly laid back down and drifted off into a long, dreamless sleep.
The days that followed were somewhat hazy. He repeatedly drifted in and out of consciousness, to the point that he had difficulty distinguishing his dreams from reality. Each time he woke up, he'd see the man with the mask standing by his bed. The man would ask Ronan how he felt, offer him a few reassuring words and would then stare intently at his notepad without saying a thing. Despite their repetitiveness, Ronan came to look forward to these moments as they were his only anchor to reality during those difficult days.
After what must've been weeks, the pain started to subside and his conscious spells became increasingly longer. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, two people wearing coats and masks walked into his room. The familiar tall masked man stood up, walked briskly towards them and they engaged in conversation. They must've been whispering because Ronan couldn't hear what they were discussing, so he assumed it was about him and his condition, whatever that was. They all were roughly the same height, which struck Ronan as odd, but he quickly dismissed the thought. After a few moments, all three of them turned towards him and walked right next to his bed.
"Mr. Waters, we're here to inform you that you've made a full recovery. After signing a few forms, you'll be free to return to your home. Your clothes and all your belongings are in the closet behind us. Our colleague Mr. Blaine will be waiting for you at the reception. He will take you home, help you get settled in and answer all your questions, of which we're sure there are a lot." The moment the person in the middle finished talking, they all turned and towards the door and left the room.
Despite being anxious to learn more about how he got there and what was going on, Ronan decided to follow their instructions so he let them go without objecting. He had, after all, spent weeks in this hospital without knowing much more than on that first day he woke up in pain. What harm would a few more minutes do?
He opened the closet and quickly wore the neatly ironed shirt and suit that was hanging there. His belongings consisted of his phone, keys and a wallet with only his driver's license and twenty dollars in it. He neatly placed them into various pockets and walked out of the room, feeling more than happy to leave this room once and for all.
Finding the reception appeared to be quite straightforward, all he had to do was follow the signs on the wall. During his brief walk towards it, he caught a few glimpses of other patients' rooms, all of which were as quiet as his was during his stay there. He saw the same sort of medical equipment that could be found in his room and a few doctors in masks inspecting their patients and jotting down on their notepads.
As he approached the reception, he saw a man in jeans and a leather jacket sitting on one of the chairs at the waiting area staring at him intently.
"You must be Mr. Waters" the man said in a matter-of-fact voice that implied he already knew that to be the case.
"You must be Mr. Blaine" Ronan said with a slight wariness to his voice. He was so close to getting some answers that it was hard to keep the tension he felt from showing.
"Jonathan Blaine, pleasure to meet you. Let's get your paperwork sorted first and get your release papers. Most of the fields are already filled in, all you have to do is sign and we'll be out of here and on our way home." Mr. Blaine calmly said and gave the receptionist a nod that prompted her to bring up a large blue envelope.
"Please sign here, here and here and you're free to go." She said with a smile that relieved most of Ronan's tension. He could finally go home.
"Oh, before I forget, the doctor would like to see you back next Sunday for a check-up, just to see how you're adjusting to daily life and to make sure that everything's alright." She hastily added.
After signing the papers and retrieving the release form, Jonathan led Ronan to a small blue car, started the engine and drove out of the large hospital gates. As they drove off, Ronan gave the hospital one last look and let out a big sigh of relief.
"Mr. Waters, what do you say we go grab a steak at the diner down the street? I'm sure you must be craving some real food. I know I'd be if all I had was sugary fluids and lousy hospital food for six months." Jonathan said in that matter-of-fact tone that seemed to define him.
"SIX MONTHS? What is going on here? I need some answers!" Ronan yelled, all his built-up frustration bubbling up to the surface.
"I understand your frustration and I promise you that you will get all your answers in a moment. We have a lot to talk about." Jonathan calmly stated as he brought the car to a halt in front of the diner.