June 13, 3:25 pm
Even though Howard had not been surprised when he saw Richard Pratt and the strange boy that stood at his side, the fact that these ghosts could speak—and that he could hear them—surprised him utterly. He had only heard Justin speak from within the confines of his own skull. These two looked and sounded so much like living people he had to keep reminding himself that they weren’t. And that one, in fact, was the man that he had killed.
As he lay on the bed, working very hard to keep his breathing slow and steady, he listened to the words of the two ghosts with desperate attention. They spoke so clearly and loudly, it was almost as if they thought Howard wasn’t even there. But no, that wasn’t it. It was as if they believed he couldn’t hear them! They were conversing as if he was no more than a piece of the furniture in the room. It was more than just thinking that he was asleep—although, for the time being, he thought it best that they continue to think that. He let his body relax and tried very hard to regulate his breathing. And as he did so, the two ghosts stood over him and talked. He could sense the ghost of Richard Pratt pacing his cell, as if he was the one that was locked away.
“…and what do we do if Justin does show up?” Pratt was saying.
“Well, Richard, I’m afraid I can’t tell you that either. I guess I’d suggest you try to talk to him. Win his trust.” the boy replied. He had a soft voice, and sounded far older than his years.
The older ghost laughed. “Win his trust? Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. ‘Gee Justin, I’m sorry I fucked you over so bad. And I’m sorry you thought it was necessary to shoot me in the fucking head. But hey, all is forgiven, right? Now how about you help me kill your God’”?
Howard’s mind reeled. In that short snatch of conversation he had learned so much!
Richard Pratt knows Justin! And he knows I wasn’t the one that shot him! That Justin used my body to do it! My god, he knows everything! They both do!
The thought sent a wave of relief through him. Howard hadn’t realized that he needed absolution from the victim of his crime until that moment. He wanted to roll over and announce himself to the two ghosts, and let them know he could see them, and talk to them. But he was suddenly afraid that if he did so, they might disappear. Or worse, he may find that they weren’t there at all. That they had only been figments of his imagination.
I’ve got to be patient! If I’ve learned this much from just listening, maybe I can learn more…
He waited, feigning sleep. But unfortunately, the two had fallen silent. He felt the minutes tick by and was almost convinced they had gone, when he heard one of them stir and then shuffle across the cell. He could sense that it was Richard Pratt, and that he was leaning down now, his face inches from his own cheek. It sent a chill through him he fought to suppress. He didn’t feel any touch, but he had the unmistakable sense that the ghost was about ready to put a hand on him—perhaps touch his hair or his face. He knew if he felt such a touch, he’d leap from the bed and throw himself against the bars.
But where could I go? he thought. He felt despair creeping back into him, like ice water in his veins.
“This is where your famous Fourth Gift would come in handy,” the ghost said, just inches from his ear. “If Justin’s been playing around in there, maybe just two or three minutes in this boy’s head might tell us a lot of what we need to know.”
The Fourth Gift? Is he talking about violating me? Is he talking about using me the way that Justin did? Howard froze with fear and waited for the invasion. He would rather this specter ripped his face off than violate him the way Justin had. But the violation never came. He could hear the other ghost now. The boy was telling Pratt that he couldn’t do that. That he shouldn’t even think of doing it. There was genuine power and authority in the boy’s voice, and Howard was immediately grateful.
Slowly, he felt Richard Pratt move away, and his panic subsided.
“What is this Possession like, anyway?” Pratt asked.
Yes, possession! That’s exactly what it felt like! Justin had possessed him—had possessed him mind and soul, and used his body the way you might make a puppet dance a jig. Or perhaps more accurately, the way someone might use a sex doll.
A wave of emotion rolled through Howard that was so strong he lost track of the conversation between the two ghosts. He tried to pay attention, but it was all strange now. They appeared to be looking for Justin and talking about how Richard had been in love with him. And then both went silent for a very long time…
Howard just laid still and waited. And to his surprise, he actually felt himself drifting toward sleep. His exhausted mind and body, letting loose at last.
As he drifted off, he kept hearing a name in his mind. The two ghosts were talking about someone else. They weren’t really looking for Justin. They were looking for someone else. Or maybe, some thing else.
Something they just called the “Wanderer.”
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.