The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 1.30: You’re DEAD!

Book One — The Hereafter

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June 6, 12:10 pm

Watching the children in the playground, Richard finally felt his racing mind calm. He’d never had much patience for children, who had seemed mostly to be a source of noise and chaos in a life that he liked to keep neat and orderly. But now, he found some warmth in their laughter and frenetic activity.

Among almost two dozen others, there were a pair of what looked like twin boys on a teeter-totter, laughing as they tried to launch each other higher and higher into the air. A little girl with a doll was stacking blocks by herself under the tricky bars, and two boys were wrestling over a toy truck in the sandbox. But perhaps it was because the little girl on the swing was so silent and still amongst all that activity, that Richard’s gaze kept being drawn back to her. Unlike the other handful of kids on the swings, she was almost motionless. She just sat there watching the two boys with their toy truck.

As Richard and the little girl both watched, one boy wrestled the toy truck from the other, and they ran screaming and chasing each other around the swings, before settling back into plowing pathways in the sand. The girl watched them with a strange expression.

Something about the little girl seemed odd to Richard. Was it the pinched and almost angry look on her face? Or was it just the anachronism of the old-fashioned dress that she wore? It truly looked like a relic from a museum. It was not only ankle length but also had long sleeves, all the way to her wrists. There was lace at the collar, with a pattern of red woven into it.

Richard squinted.

No, that isn’t a pattern. That looks like a spray of blood—as if she’d had a nose bleed earlier in the day. How strange that her parents didn’t change her dress before sending her out to play…

Based on the dress, she was likely the child of a fundamentalist couple, but even that seemed odd. Fundamentalist parents would seldom send their little girl out to play with other children in the park. Richard scanned the parents, looking to see a mother with a similar long, plain dress, or a man in a rough cotton tunic, but could see none.

The little girl watched the boys with the truck digging together in the sandbox. She watched them with that same sad expression, but now tinged with what looked like anger or disgust.

That little girl… What is it about her? Why can’t I take my eyes off her?

Suddenly, she looked up. And for a moment Richard thought perhaps she actually saw him. But no, it was only her eyes roaming the park, as if she was searching for something, or someone, that she’d lost. And as her eyes roved the playground, she leaned back in the seat, and swung her legs.

At first Richard wasn’t sure what he was seeing, but then it hit him. The girl was leaning forward and back in the rubber seat, the way children do to start swinging. She was using her arms and legs the way he remembered from his own childhood. It was an action that was as natural as breathing, and one that was built into the body memory of any child who had ever sat in a swing.

But after four attempts, the girl stopped leaning back. She stopped pumping her legs.

Because the swing hadn’t moved. Not an inch. It didn’t respond to her in the slightest, and neither did it move as she pushed herself free of the seat and hopped to the ground. The chain of the swing might just as well have been welded into a single link. The seat might just as well have been made of iron, not rubber.

For a moment the girl turned her back to Richard and stared into the trees to the north of the playground. When she turned back, Richard thought he saw a smile on her face. He tore his eyes from her for a moment, hoping to see what she had focused on in the trees. But that part of the park was in deep shadow, and he could see nothing there that would have drawn her attention.

Suddenly, Richard heard a wail, and his attention darted back to the playground. The little girl was gone and the two boys who had been wrestling each other for the toy truck were both screaming. Sand was flying into the air where they were wrestling.

No, not wrestling. This was not boys playing… There was a violence to this fight that he had never seen with children.

And Richard realized that only one boy was screaming. The other was strangely silent, but he was brutally pummeling his friend with his fists, while the boy below cowered and tried to fend off the blows. Suddenly, the silent boy had the toy truck in his hands, and he was smashing it into the other boy’s face. Even from the hillside, Richard could see the blood pour out of the cowering boy’s nose in a spray across the sand. He could see the metal truck slice open the boy’s skull, and the thick red blossoming into his brown hair.

Richard stood, rooted to his place, unable to move.

Shocked parents rushed in and one grabbed the aggressive boy by the arm, and with a sudden jerk, pulled him away.

What Richard saw made him fall to his knees.

It was as if the boy was a suit of clothes being pulled out of the space he was in… And standing there in the exact same pose, fist raised in the act of hitting the boy on the ground, stood the little girl in the white dress.

The toy truck clattered to the ground, as the screaming in the playground ramped up to a fever pitch.

The sight of the little girl appearing in the space where the boy had been standing seconds before froze Richard’s blood. He couldn’t shake the impression the little girl had been wearing the boy like a suit, inhabiting him, and making his body do her will. And then her temporary suit of flesh had been ripped away, leaving her standing alone in her brilliant white dress.

Both boys were crying now, and the injured boy was being cradled in the sand by his mother, who was screaming accusations at the other boy, and calling for help on her phone. The attacker’s mother, who had pulled her son away from the confrontation, was shaking her son, and with true terror in her voice, she was yelling, “Donnie, why did you do that? Why did you DO that?”

The little girl dropped her upraised arm and stared at the boy on the ground with a frightening intensity. His face was bloody and getting more so by the second, as he wailed wordlessly against his mother. Other parents were coming out of the woodwork now, rushing to the playground.

The little girl smiled, looking for all the world like any sweet, happy, young girl who had just been given an ice cream cone.

Richard finally broke his paralysis and began running toward the playground. He was shouting something, but he couldn’t understand the words that he was saying. The little girl turned toward him, and he swore for a moment that her eyes were blazing red, like coals of fire were embedded in her skull. She saw Richard running toward her. Richard only stopped when her eyes met his and he saw such hatred, such malice there, that it took his breath away.

He was standing just inches in front of her now, with the screaming parents all around them. He reached out one hand… and it passed through the little girl as if she was no more substantial than smoke.

Time stood still. Richard and the little girl’s eyes locked together. Then she actually hissed at him, as if she was a snake. He took a step back, and then she was running. He stood, frozen, on the edge of the playground.

He watched her run, and it stunned him to see that she was running faster than any little girl… hell, she was moving faster than anybody at all, should be able to run. She was already halfway up the grassy hillside before he could shake himself free of his shock.

Now he could finally hear what he had been screaming, over and over…

“You’re DEAD! You’re DEAD! YOU’RE DEAD!!!”

The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.

For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.

To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.

If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.

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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.

Wess Mongo Jolley

Wess Mongo Jolley is Utah native, who is now an expatriate American novelist, editor, poet and poetry promoter, living in Montreal. He is Founder and Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project, and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast for more than ten years. As a poet, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, and Danse Macabre; and in collections such as the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America. He enjoys hearing from readers, and can be contacted through his website, at https://wessmongojolley.com. If you are enjoying this story, please drop me a line, and consider supporting my work as a novelist at http://patreon.com/wessmongojolley. More than half of the the trilogy's over 200 chapters are already available there for subscribers.

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