The Northern Club - Las Vegas, 1938
“No! Please! Somebody help!”
I wake from disturbing dreams to the sound of some dame screaming. Rolling off of the stiff mattress, I grab my firearm off the nightstand and dash to the door. She sounds like she’s right outside my room, in the hotel’s only hallway. I yank the door open and explode into the narrow corridor.
“Here! Take it back! I was just joshin’, mister!”
A young hooker, maybe eighteen or nineteen, has her back against the hallway’s far wall. Her face is frozen in fear, contorted into an expression of pure terror, and she’s holding out a hand full of stolen twenty-dollar bills as if it’ll buy her life back.
A colossal brute of a man fills up the hallway between her and me. He’s an unnatural giant wearing only a pair of slacks and a white undershirt without sleeves. His arms ripple with muscles I didn’t know the human body had and he’s got a knife in his right hand—as if this colossus needs a blade against the petite pretty he’s got pinned to the wall.
“There a problem here?” I ask. Not that I want to. This guy could tear me in half. The dead weight of my gun feels awfully good.
The monster turns slightly to look back over his shoulder at me. His hair is a mess and his teeth are barred like a glowering gorilla. But the creepiest part, the part that sends a chill up my spine, is that his eyes are pure midnight—no whites, just black and smoldering pupils. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I know this guy. This guy’s a buddy of mine—the guy that I just rode into town with yesterday. Only now he looks like he’s possessed by the devil himself.
Something in my voice doesn’t want to believe it. I mean, the guy has grown a full foot in height, not to mention adding a hundred pounds of pure muscle. It’s crazy. I suddenly wonder if I’m still dreaming.
He takes one step forward and roars as he slices the knife through the air at my head. I duck, but I can feel the blade slide within inches of my cranium. The knife’s blade punches right through the wall and sticks. Clift bellows out in anger and swipes his left arm at me in a sweeping backhand blow. It catapults me into the air and sends me reeling. The wall comes at me like a freight train. I grunt as the wind gets knocked out of me. That’s when I feel my fingers lose their grip on the pistol.
I scramble back out of the way as he grabs the knife and yanks it out of the wall. He doesn’t recognize me. If it’s even him. I’m beginning to think someone or something has taken over his body.
“Clift! It’s me, Sam! What the–”
He hurls the knife at me. I expect my life to flash before my eyes, but I doesn’t. Instead, the world starts to slow down. The knife twirls through the air, coming at me in slow motion. I have enough time to frown and tilt my head to the side as it flies past. That’s when the ‘I’m still dreaming’ explanation starts to feel a lot more comforting. But I don’t have time to pinch myself yet. Time jumps back to normal pace as the knife clatters across the floor somewhere behind me.
Clift charges. As he gets closer it happens again. Time slows to a crawl. I duck under his haymaker punch and slide past him. That’s when I realize that it’s not time that has slowed down, it’s me. I’ve sped up.
I scramble back down the hallway toward the girl as Clift’s grotesque growl gets guttural. We both lock our eyes on my pistol. It’s halfway between the both of us. His lip snarls. His eyes are pure hate. If he gets his hands on me he’ll tear me limb from limb.
He takes a lumbering lunge forward. I use my newly acquired speed to dart for the gun. I slide underneath his diving tackle and snatch the pistol off the wood floorboards. He sails over me and slams into the ground. The hallway quivers as if an earthquake hit.
Scrambling to my feet, I lift my pistol and aim. But Clift’s back to normal size, the way he was yesterday when I saw him last. He’s on his back groaning. I take a few hesitant steps toward him as the young woman flies past me in a flurry of motion and darts downstairs.
He blinks. I can see his eyes now. They’re normal, like a human being’s eyes should be. Pupils. Whites. The whole shebang.
“What the–” he says. “How’d I–”
“It’s just a dream,” I say, even though I’m beginning not to believe it myself. I pinch my arm to be sure. I don’t wake up. “N-nothing to, ah, nothing to worry about.”
“What’s going on up here?” asks Patrick Sullivan, the local mob leader. He appears at the top of the stairs with Glenn, the third member of our little gang. Sullivan looks pissed. “Sonofa- what are you doing?”
The dreams I had last night start coming back to me. This is just the beginning. I need to get on that train. I need to meet the Prophet.