He was asleep in the motel room when the coldness washed over him.
Like a fog on the sea, its icy tendrils rolled in under the crack of the door and slithered up the yellowed mattress, binding him in its frigid embrace.
Before long, the familiar smell of burnt flesh singed his nostrils, and his eyes…his eyes fluttered open in a terror.
It was the same always; a rocky shoreline, punctuated by steep, purple cliffs in the dead of the night. Twin blood moons hung overhead like the last coals of a fire, accompanied by a sea of twinkling black stars.
The wind shear cut him like a samurai’s sword, so icy, so unforgiving as it wailed, low and slow at first, always building to a howling screech eventually. Oh, it had such a horrible shriek, that wind. As if a thousand souls were crying out in anguish, begging for mercy.
He was always naked…never clothed. As he had come into his world; bare-bottomed and afraid…but there was no light to venture after in this realm. Only cold, cruel shadows in the unseen kingdom.
And that terrible witch; that she-bitch, that Hellbender.
She stood in the screaming gales, trench coat flapping, her eyes dead as a cemetery, her wide-brimmed hat engulfing her pale face in darkness.
“The Unsssseen Kingdom calls for itssss ssssssteeed,” she hissed, her ruby lips never parting.
He hugged his barrel chest, shivering, collapsing to his knees. A giant of a man in his world, in this one he was just another shadow. He quivered and shook, trying to cover his extremities. Beyond the dead waters of the lake, the silhouettes of dark towers whispered at him.
“Goooo dark horsssssee,” the blonde woman hissed, expressionless, her mouth never moving. “Let usssss tasssste the ssssweeet nectar of mortality. You mussssst go to the wasssssteland…to the lightssss in the dessssssert.”
He flinched and ticked, the sharpness of the chill bringing tears to the corners of his eyes. Oh God, what had he done? Oh lord, what deal had he made?
“Please, no!” he cried, his voice drowned out by the whispering wind. “PLEASE, GOD, NO! I don’t wanna do this anymore!!!! PLEEEASSSE!”
The bitch actually smiled at him…a rare occasion of expression for her. And a bone-chilling revelation for him.
The cackle in his head was even worse.
When he awoke, he found himself drenched in sweat, the sheets of the bed torn off and balled in his fists. The red glare of a motel alarm clock read 3:30 AM; the witching hour.
He wouldn’t sleep again the rest of the night.
Instead he packed his leather bag in a hurry, turned his motel key in at the front desk, and started his van up in the dead of the night, pulling back onto the highway.
The desert felt so vast and empty in the blackness of the morning.
In the distance, Las Vegas twinkled in the void, a kingdom in the wasteland.