June 7, 1:05 am
They could turn out the lights, but they couldn’t make him sleep.
Every night in the Detention Center, at 10:00 pm, the overhead lights in the cells were switched off. This left only the dim glow of the lights in the corridor outside, which filtered through the bars of the cell, projecting an eerie film noir latticework onto the figure in the bunk.
Howard had lain awake in the dark for a good three hours. Of course, he had no watch to know exactly what time it was, but he could mark the hours in a general way by counting the times the guard passed the doors of the sleeping cell block. Officer Delgado made his rounds once every thirty minutes, so each time he walked by, Howard folded the edge of his blanket over one more time. The insomnia, and the folding, were his only companions.
That, and the fear that Justin would return.
After Detective Grayson had left, and after the lights went out in his cell, panic hit Howard so hard that he could barely breathe. For the next two hours he fought to control the terror, the sweat running down his face as each sound that ticked or hummed in the cell convinced him that Justin was back and ready to assault him anew.
But Justin did not return. And finally, as the night wore on, the weariness in his mind and in his body won out over the anxiety that fought to keep him awake. And with the blanket folded six times under his grasping hand, he felt himself edge toward sleep.
The feeling of slipping away was disconcerting and yet welcome. And with it, the panic ebbed and his head felt clearer.
The experience of the early afternoon played in his drifting mind, but not as if he was reliving it. It was more like he was watching it play out on a screen, or perhaps on a stage. Howard could see himself, and he could feel, if not picture, the presence of Justin as he had his way with his mind and body. And as the scene unspooled, he could listen again to Justin’s words. Really listen this time, not just to what he said, but to how he said it.
What was it about Justin’s mind that seemed wrong? Howard wondered. What was it that seemed oddly out of character?
It wasn’t anything Justin said. He had actually said very little. But there was a feeling that Howard got by being in such intimate proximity to a mind other than his own. He tried to put a name to that feeling.
Yes, you were enjoying everything that you were doing to me. But there was something else. What was it? Fear? Trepidation? Nervousness?
No, that wasn’t it. But it was close.
Yes, that was it! That was it exactly.
Justin was enjoying his abuse of Howard, but he was also afraid that he would be caught. He was desperate to keep what he was doing a secret.
“But secret from whom?” Howard whispered, dreamily.
“I think…” Howard began, but then paused so his muddled thoughts could clear. “I think what you were doing was… forbidden. Somehow. I don’t know how, or by who, but what you were doing to me was something you were ashamed of. And something you worried you’d get caught doing.”
Howard remembered that feeling well. It was the feeling that had overcome him when he had locked himself in the bathroom years ago, so he could jerk off over the ladies in his mom’s fashion magazines. The feeling had been thrilling and terrifying, and at least a little delicious. He remembered how he would stifle his rasping breath and cries of delight that could alert his mother on the other side of the door.
So, Justin… he wondered, his mind drifting further toward sleep. Who is it exactly that is listening at your bathroom door?
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.
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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.