June 8, 11:15 pm
“Wait… What do you mean, you ‘blinked out of existence’?”
Despite himself, Richard had become enraptured by Billy’s story. As if he had been reading one of his Zane Grey westerns, he found himself rooting for the boy, who was so close to killing the man who had murdered the woman he loved.
“How could you just disappear?”
Billy just smiled. “Think about it, Richard. You know what happened.”
Richard leaned back in his chair and looked at the boy quizzically. Finally, he said, “It sounds almost like what happened to me when the truck hit. One minute I was there, and the next I was gone.”
“Yes. And where did you go?”
“Well, I was back in my house. Back where I died.” Then he held up his hands, as if to slow Billy down. “But wait. That doesn’t make sense. I got sent back because something happened to me. It was because of the truck. You said that you weren’t doing anything. Just standing in the desert.”
“I was doing one important thing. I was moving south.”
Richard looked confused, and then just stared at the boy.
“It’s called being reset. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve come to call it.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s what you yelled at me, right before it happened. It’s the first thing I heard you say.”
“That’s right. And when you are reset, you end up back where you died.”
“So you ended up back in Emigration Canyon? In that spot overlooking the city?”
“But that still doesn’t make sense. You weren’t injured. I thought that happened when you got hurt really badly.”
“You’re right, Richard. But that explanation is incomplete. Ghosts can be reset in two circumstances. The first is exactly what you described. Any injury our ghost bodies endure that would have been serious enough to kill us if we were alive, that sends us back to our death sites. But there is one other time it can happen as well.”
“When you’re ‘moving south’?”
“Close. It happens if we try to leave the Hereafter.”
Richard blinked. “Uh, okay. That’s new. What in the fuck is ‘the Hereafter’?”
Billy spread his hands and looked all around him, in every direction.
“This, Richard, is the Hereafter.”
“Valley Fair Mall?”
“No, think bigger. The first thing you need to understand is this: What is happening here, what is happening to us… It isn’t global. I believe it is only happening here, in the Salt Lake Valley. Although I can’t prove it, I don’t believe that it is something that is happening all over the world. I also don’t think it’s something that has always happened, even here.”
“And why is it called the Hereafter?”
The boy actually laughed. “Well, I call it the Hereafter, mostly because it’s kind of a joke. One day, I realized that we were still here, even after we died. Still here, even after we shouldn’t be. After we should be long gone. So ‘the Hereafter’ seemed like a good description. But it’s just a name I made up.” Billy sighed, and leaned forward, his elbows on the table, and his eyes locked on Richard. He chose his words very carefully now.
“Richard, this is what I believe: I believe that there is just one Hereafter, and it exists only in the Salt Lake Valley. I believe that something horrible happened here, a long time ago. And it’s resulted in a kind of… bubble over this valley. It’s cursed, if you will.” He paused, and Richard thought he looked exhausted. “I don’t know when it started, but it couldn’t have been much before 1857. That’s the year that I died, and I haven’t met many ghosts older than me. And even after I got the sight, for decades after, I could go years at a time without seeing another one of us. Gradually, our numbers increased, and I encountered more. But they are almost always younger ghosts than me. By that I mean, they almost always died after 1857. So I’ve come to believe that I was one of the first.“
“Do you think you were the very first?”
“No. I know one who is older.”
Richard noted that, but decided not to pursue it right now. He was more interested in what happened next in Billy’s story.
“So what happened after that? After you found yourself back in Salt Lake City?”
“I think that may be the hardest part of my story,” Billy said.
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.