You get a certain amount of crisis training in the military. Emergency medical training, what to do if you're being shot at, stuff you can expect you might have to deal with. Nothing to specifically prepare you for this scenario, but I guess it did improve my "handling random mysterious bullshit" skills, because I'm not freaking out as much as you might expect. Whatever happened to me, I'm alive and well and it appears I am free to leave the Inn at whatever point I want, but I'm not up to that yet. There was plenty of investigating to do.
First there was all that luggage left in the closet, neatly packed and waiting for me. The clothes I was wearing, the pajamas of a 6' tall, 200-lb 30-year-old man were not the most practical gear for whatever I now am. I've played enough video games to know if someone has left you something, you probably need it.
There was a lot to sort through. One bag for shoes, three for other clothes. It seemed unlikely that all of these were just for me. I grabbed a few pairs of jeans and held them to my new legs. The first ones I tried fell past the floor. I tried another bag.
In the front pocket, obviously meant to be found, was a bunch of folded up paper. I tossed it on the bed, to be read as soon as I had finished the "dressing myself" project. Tearing through the suitcase I found two sundresses, some shorts, at least one two-piece swimsuit, underwear, a pair of jeans and some yoga pants, as well as various tops. I've known girls who basically lived in yoga pants on their days off, so they seemed like a natural comfortable, all-terrain choice as it were. Not as girly as some of the other options. I pulled them on over my now impractically loose boxers - I knew that would have to change but I wasn't up for it.
Next: the letter. I hoped it would provide some sanity, some sense of what had happened to me and help dispel this feeling of helplessness. Learning the facts only made me feel a little more dire.
I found out about this Inn's secret curse that turns anyone who stays here into the previous occupant, which is... just super considering the previous occupant of this room was a 17-year-old girl named Lauren Sherman. Being that I'm now wearing her face, and she's off wearing someone else's, and someone will soon be wearing mine, I'm expected to go live her life. No way around it: for the time being I AM Lauren Sherman.
This ain't exactly something that fills me with joy.
Not like I've got a choice. If anyone out there has noticed she's missing, they're going to find me. Whatever obligations she has in her life, it falls to me to fulfill them: wherever she is right now, she has pressing matters of her own.
Call me selfish, I just hate being forced to do things. It's why I quit the military.
Just as I'm taking all this information in, I hear a car pull up in the parking lot. My heart stops. Someone's coming. I can't let them see me.
I listen for the sound of the front door opening. Timid, careful footsteps down the hall lead right up to my door. I stand with my back against it.
There's a knock, and a voice: "Tyler? Tyler, are you in there?"
I don't know whether to answer. The only person who knows I'm here is Meghan, and she can't see me like this. The wheels in my head start spinning, but I figure if I feed her some story about Tyler leaving early, the Inn's magic, and the fact that I don't look like myself will force her to believe it. And then I can knock over a table in frustration.
I take a deep breath and open the door.
Before I can get any words out, I realize I'm looking at a woman I've never seen before.
I described Meg as being petite and cute, with short brown hair, a light complexion and glasses. She had a "real woman's" figure, I guess, with round hips and thighs and a very modest, um, upper body. This woman had long blonde hair, model-caliber looks, tanned skin, and a statuesque physique, with long legs running up to a narrow waist that was exposed by wearing a shirt that was considerably too small for her, puffed out by what appeared to be substantial breasts. From a distance she appeared to be about a head taller than I am now. I'm not sure what that makes her. Bigger than me, is all.
After everything that's happened today, I find this woman's appearance downright frightening. The part of me that knows she's sexy is confused and a little angry.
I stammered "I... uh..."
"Who are you? What are you doing in this room?"
Before I could stammer out some phony story about being Lauren Sherman, she said "My name is Meghan Reis. I'm looking for a man named Tyler Blake."
I didn't know whether to shit or wind my watch, as they say.
"Meg, it's me. It happened to you too? It's Tyler. I'm Tyler." I just kept babbling, hoping she would believe me.
Her jaw dropped. She stepped into the room and wrapped her arms around me. I felt so small and helpless for a moment, I think I even quivered a bit, but I regained my composure and told her everything I figured out, figuring that it started while she was here: that queasiness we felt the night before was the beginning.
She said she wasn't able to sleep through it: that she felt the whole thing, felt her body getting taller, her hair growing longer and turning blonde. The panic caused her to run, leave her hotel room and spend the night in an all-night diner. She came here on a hunch that I'd be able to help her. I guess that proved correct. We got her changed into some appropriate clothes - Lauren had been traveling with her step-sister Tasha, which is who Meg became. That's who the other suitcases were for, the clothes that were much too large for my new body. I referred her to the letter addressed to Tasha for more details.
I told her we would have to go back to her room to get her stuff and set things up: somebody staying at this Inn was going to get her body, and it would be preferable if her "identity" was all in one place.
She said they had dinner plans tonight. Our plan was to say she was spending the evening with me again and then while they were out, we would sneak in and take all of Meghan's belongings. Then she would text that she wasn't feeling well and went back to Vermont and hopefully before anyone was the wiser there would be a new Meghan.
"God," she said in astonishment, "You've really got this all figured out, don't you?"
"We kind of have to. There will be plenty of time to freak out later."
"Speaking of which," she said, biting her lip "Have you thought much about what you look like right now?"
"I've glanced," I said, nodding soberly. "Haven't taken in the whole... terrain yet."
"It must be weird, isn't it?"
I turn away from her. I can see the outline of my reflection in the window. "You have no idea."