Chapter 2.35: Night Terrors
Book Two — Gifts Both Light and Dark
NOTE: This chapter is available in audiobook format on the TLHOC Podcast.
Access previous chapters of the book on the Table of Contents page.
June 14, 1:03 am
Howard did not bother to pray that Justin wouldn’t return and assault him again. He knew that his coming was inevitable. So instead, he’d prayed that when the boy appeared he would be alert and awake enough to fight him. He prayed the bastard would come in the light of day, not in the dark like some vandal. But as midnight and then 1:00 am passed, he knew he had asked too much of God.
The lights in the cell block were kept too low at night to allow the prisoners to do anything but sleep—but high enough to allow the guards to look into each cell as they did their hourly rounds. Howard’s cell was murky with a pale yellow glow from the weak lights in the hallway’s ceiling, which cut through the bars of the cell and left thin black striations across the floor and the cot upon which he lay. The effect was gloomy and depressing, and he kept thinking he saw movement in every inky shadow.
He tried to sleep, but how could he when he knew that at any moment Justin could appear, eager to have him? He stared at the bars, watching for movement, and strained his ears, trying to catch any sound out of the ordinary.
And that was when he heard the shuffling sound of feet in the hall.
The quality of it was somehow different from that of the guards, and the sound ran through him like an electric shock. Although he couldn’t remember seeing the ghost’s feet, he knew he was hearing Justin’s red high-topped Converse sneakers against the concrete floor.
And then Justin was at the bars, staring in at Howard in the gloom. He didn’t know if the ghost could tell that he was awake. But he could see the thing’s eyes clearly, and the malevolent hatred and lust in them made him shiver in his cot. Still, he forced himself to look. He made himself study it. This was his first opportunity to actually see the thing’s face, and it surprised him just how young it was. No, how young he was. Justin must have been only a year or two younger than himself.
At least, he was when he died. But how long ago was that?
He could see the Levi jacket in the dim yellow light, as well as Justin’s dark brown hair, which was a bit shaggy and looked almost black in this light. His eyes burned in his head like two red coals. And now, as he watched, the ghost was melting through the bars. Howard thought of that scene in Terminator 2, where the silver terminator, disguised as the policeman, just pressed his face through the bars as if they were hot knives and his body was made of butter.
Without a word, Justin crossed to the boy’s bunk.
When Howard sat up and his face came into the light, Justin jumped back as if he was the one that had seen a ghost.
“Hello Justin,” Howard said. “And fuck you, Justin. Get out. You’re done with me.”
Howard was surprised to find that he was still capable of delight, even through his terror. He knew the look on Justin’s face would be one he would long treasure. For that moment, at least, he had the upper hand with this thing.
Justin’s jaw worked for a moment, as if he was trying to remember how to speak. Finally, he tipped his head to one side in a gesture that seemed almost canine. And then he said something that Howard did not understand. He knew he should remember it, because it must be important.
“So the Fifth Gift is real!” Justin said, his expression hovering somewhere between shock and fear. “You can actually see me! This must be why God didn’t want me to have you more than once. I guess I’ve made you a medium!”
So I’m not supposed to be able to see him? Any of them? Howard thought. Why is it that I can?
“I’m not afraid of you any more, you psychotic son of a bitch,” Howard said, trying to keep his fear from showing on his face. “Maybe it’s you that needs to be afraid of me now.”
To his surprise, Justin just laughed. The laugh was genuine, not some kind of act intended to intimidate his prey. It wasn’t even cruel. He truly looked amused by Howard’s defiance. And the more Justin laughed at him, the more certain Howard was that his newfound status as a “medium,” as Justin called it, would matter little in the end.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Justin muttered, looking at the boy as if he was studying a strange insect. “When God told me it was forbidden, I didn’t really understand what it would mean.”
“What does it mean?” Howard asked and immediately regretted the question. Justin would clearly interpret any uncertainty he displayed now as weakness.
“I don’t know, Howard. I’ve never possessed someone who had the Fifth Gift. Something tells me it will be… delicious.” The ghost took a step forward, and Howard rocketed to his feet.
“Not today, you bastard!” he yelled. “In fact, never again. I’ll die before I let you do that to me again.”
“Oh, really? What will you do?” Justin asked, taking another step forward.
“How about if I rat you out? How about if I tell God what you’ve done?”
He had blurted out the words without thinking. Somewhere in the earlier part of the conversation he had registered the fact that what Justin had done to him, in possessing him more than once, was forbidden. Clearly the ghost believed God had commanded him not to do this, and he had done it, anyway. Perhaps he could work that to his advantage. And the doubt that swept through Justin’s face at that moment was all the proof Howard needed to know that he had hit upon something critically important.
“Yeah, I’ll tell God,” Howard went on, more confident now. “I’ll tell him you’ve been a bad boy, and he’ll… he’ll punish you!”
“You can’t talk to God!” Justin spat out, as if the words were loathsome in his mouth. “You’re not one of his angels! You’re just a tool! You’ll never talk to God!”
“What if I die fighting you? You bet I’ll tell him then. I’ll tell him what a little shit you’ve been.”
As Howard watched Justin, he realized that there was a war going on in him, and that, in fact, the boy might be on the verge of losing his grip, if not his sanity altogether. He was doing something that “God” had forbidden him to do, and yet, he was overwhelmed by a ravenous, almost wolf-like hunger that kept driving him forward, despite his guilt. Howard watched as Justin stretched a hand toward him, now curled into a grasping claw that looked painful.
“Why are you defying God?” Howard asked, taking a step back. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be damned?”
“He won’t leave me behind,” the boy said, but his voice was less steady now. Less certain. “He’s promised me.”
“He’ll leave you behind if you defy him, you fuck. And you know he’ll find out. He’s fucking God!”
“Shut up! You don’t know! I have to… I’m not done yet. I still have… work to do!”
“Richard Pratt and his little piggy whore. I still have… I still have work!”
Howard could see that Justin was motivated by such rage and desire for revenge that it was threatening to overcome his very obedience to God. The power of such rage terrified him.
“That’s over. God has told you to stop that too.” Howard was guessing now, but it seemed like a good one. But Justin didn’t even seem to hear him.
“And you. You’re mine now. You’ll be mine forever. We’ll take care of the boy-whore. We’ll watch Richard Pratt lose his mind, and then you and I will be together. Forever.”
Howard realized in that moment that it would be impossible to talk his way out of this. The little shreds of reason he thought he saw in the ghost’s eyes were gone. All that remained was lust and a burning need for violence and revenge. All Howard had left to him was defiance, and he turned his anger loose.
“I’m telling you no! I’m telling you to get the fuck out! I’m telling you you’re done with me, and I’ll die before I let you take me again!”
Justin was on him in a flash. Howard couldn’t believe the boy could move that fast, even if he was a ghost. He was standing in front of him one second, and in the next Justin had a grip on his wrist that froze him solid. He knew the ghost couldn’t really touch him, but somehow fear itself had made his body go rigid. He was held more firmly in place than he would have been if Justin’s hand had been made of flesh and blood.
The boy was stroking the back of his hand, and Howard’s throat was trying to convulse into a scream, but failing. The ghost’s face was inches from his own, and he could imagine the warm breath now, even though he could feel nothing. This was unlike the last possessions. This time, it wasn’t just his mind but his body that was being assaulted. Justin’s soul was screaming and tearing at him, looking for a way in. He tried to flail at the ghost, but it was no use—he was still frozen in a terror that was mounting every second. He knew he was going to lose this battle. Justin could struggle with him forever, but Howard’s ability to resist was already crumbling. The ghost had gained a foothold.
Howard let out a strangled moan, trying to speak. But the ghost’s hands were around his throat now, and very little sound came out. He felt his body sink to the floor, and the tray on which they had served his dinner clattered off the foot of the bed.
Vaguely, through the pain and the panic that was overwhelming him, he heard the guard at the night desk down the hall.
“Whichever of you bastards is making noise, don’t make me come down there!”
He tried again to scream, to at least call the guard to his cell door, so he could witness what was happening to him. But it was already too late. The last of his resistance faded away, and he felt Justin’s presence invade his mind and body, like a stream of sewage forced down his throat. It was an assault far worse than the last one. This time, it wasn’t just an invasion, but also a defeat.
Now he heard the voice of Justin in his head. But it wasn’t only in his head. It was coming out of his own mouth as well. It was his own voice, saying things that appalled him.
“You pathetic little fuck,” Justin said with a laugh. “Don’t you know the Cleansing is coming? Don’t you know you can’t do anything to stop it? Don’t you know that without me, you’ll end up smeared into the dirt of this valley like all the other bugs?”
Just a passenger now, Howard felt his body fall back onto the bed. And most horribly, his hand was already clawing at his pants. As if he was feverish with desire for his own body, he felt his fingers fumbling at the drawstring. He felt his own rough hands rip the orange shirt from his shoulders, and force his pants down to his ankles, exposing himself to the cell. He felt his own hungry eyes look down at his cock, already stiffening in the thick mat of pubic hair. In the dim and striated light of the cell, it was easy to imagine that the cock he was looking at was not his own.
That is, until he felt his left hand cup his balls and begin to squeeze.
Howard had to scream, and tried to. He wanted to flail, but his body refused all of his commands. The pain flooded him until his field of vision narrowed. But what came out of his mouth was only a low moan of pleasure. The one who owned his body was clearly reveling in the pain. One hand continued to squeeze while the other stroked his cock, which to Howard’s dismay was as rigid as he could ever remember it being.
“You disgusting pig,” the thing said in his voice. “I know the nasty things you’ve thought. I’m in your head, and I see it all. I know the way you’ve lusted after those bitches. You’ve even lusted after that Detective Grayson. You’ve even wanted to fuck your own mother!”
No! Howard thought, but it felt like there was almost nothing left of him to protest.
“The only time you’ve felt powerful is when you’ve given yourself over to me. And I know as much as you fight me, part of you wants this!”
Howard struggled to resist the creature that had him in its thrall, and to his surprise, he felt his mind make a resurgence. It was as if the thing was letting him come within inches of the surface. Teasing him with freedom. Taunting him with his own life and his own body, but always keeping it just out of his reach.
“That’s right. Struggle! I like it when you fight me. It makes me hornier to feel you in there, trying to get out. It makes me want to blow my cum all over this cell.”
Both Howard and Justin were startled by a loud clanging on the cell door. Through his eyes, Howard saw the guard standing outside the cell, looking in at the exposed boy with the hard cock with a combination of horror and disgust. He could only imagine how revolting this scene must be to the officer. But no matter how it looked, it could not be as horrifying as it felt to experience it.
Officer Delgado! Howard cried in his own mind. Help me!
The deputy banged his nightstick on the cell door again. “Stop that, you little shit!” he screamed. Howard felt Justin laugh, and then he heard his own voice.
“Don’t worry officer, I’m saving my load for you. How about getting in here and getting on your knees for me?” I could put a little whitewash in the back of your throat!”
“Open cell six!” the deputy screamed to the desk down the hall, and instantly, the cell door buzzed. Howard watched in combined horror and relief as the guard crossed the cell, lifting his baton.
“How about you drop your pants, officer? How about you let me ram this hard cock up your ass, you ugly, lazy, hairy son of a bitch?”
Howard stood now, beside the bed, his pants around just one ankle, his hard cock in one hand and his balls squeezed in a tight grip in the other. And he heard Justin laugh again. The ghost seemed unafraid of the baton or the guard. Howard somehow knew that a broken arm or a shattered skull would only add to Justin’s delight. He thought the boy ghost would probably shoot his load on the officer’s pants the second the baton came down.
Howard tried to hold his breath, as he waited for the guard to strike…
What happened next astounded both Howard and Justin, in equal measure.
The cop stopped, his baton frozen in midair above the boy’s head. He looked confused, and perhaps dizzy for a moment, and then started rubbing his right hand with the dull edge of the nightstick. He whirled around once, as if confused, a look of panic on his face. But then he stopped, and there was a strange shimmer in his eyes. He straightened his back, and the hand with the baton fell to his side.
The big cop suddenly let out a high-pitched, girlish giggle. And then did a little twirl, as if he was a ballerina. When he stopped, he put his hands on his hips and tipped his head to one side. He looked at Howard, with his cock still in his hand, and his orange pants around one ankle.
“Put your wee-wee back in your pants, you dirty, disgusting boy,” the cop said.
Howard listened to the conversation that followed, but he felt like he was watching it all unfold from the bottom of a well.
To his great relief, Justin released his iron grip on his balls, and he felt his cock softening almost instantly. He could feel the strange mixture of panic and adoration that ran through Justin as he spoke to the officer, and he knew instantly that what they were looking at was not Delgado.
Stumbling into his pants and pulling them up to his waist, Howard’s body nearly tumbled to the floor. But once his cock was tucked away, his body fell to its knees at the feet of the guard.
“Mattie!” he said, in awe, as he bowed his head
Now Howard felt the guard’s rough hand, as it petted him gently, like a kitten. Justin kept his head down, and Howard felt an unmistakable wave roll through the ghost. It was fear, but it was also adoration and supplication. He felt, rather than saw, the cop bend down and put a hand under his chin. The rough hand wrenched his head up suddenly and violently, and he stared into the man’s face, but it was a face contorted with rage.
“I told you to call me Princess!” the man roared.
“I’m sorry… Princess,” Justin stammered. The wave in him was pure fear now. Like a dog that had been whipped so many times that it could do nothing but cower when it’s master entered the room. “What I meant was… thank you, Princess. Thank you for coming.”
The cop’s face softened, and Howard felt like he could almost see the ghost inside the cop. It had to be a little girl. He didn’t know how old, but judging by the voice and the mannerisms, she had to be very little indeed. Very little, and very evil.
“I’ve missed you,” she said, stroking Howard’s cheek. “I’ve missed my angel.”
“I’ve missed you too, Princess,” Justin stammered. “But… But why are you here? Did God send you?”
“No, God didn’t send me, you ninny. I came because I had something to show you. You can’t see him, because you’re in this filthy boy. But you have a brother now. His name is Bradley. I left him right there,” the possessed man said, pointing a hairy finger toward the corridor.
“I… I can’t see him,” Justin stammered.
“No, of course you can’t, you stupid thing. Not while you’re in there.” The cop tapped a finger on Howard’s forehead. Then he looked serious. “Why are you in there, anyway?”
Howard could tell that Justin was struggling to find the right thing to say. And he could tell that when he spoke, it would be a lie.
“God… sent me here. He wanted me to use this boy. To break him out of here and then use him to… do his will.”
“Ohhhh… Did he want you to kill some guards?”
“Yes… Yes, Princess.”
“I’m glad God is finding you of use. I haven’t liked having you so far away from me. But God needs you for the Cleansing.” She sighed and looked around the cell. “I can introduce you to your brother later. But for now… If God told you that you have work to do… Then I imagine you want out of this dreary place, don’t you?”
“Yes, Princess. I have to… finish what I started.”
“Is that what God told you to do?”
“Yes,” Justin stammered. And Howard could feel the lie in it with every bit of his soul.
He’s lying to you! Why can’t you see that? Howard tried to scream.
“Well, then let’s get out of here.” She ran her hands over the guard’s big chest, and then looked at the taser on his hip and the nightstick in his hand. “I think I could have some fun with this one too.”
“I’ve missed you, Princess.”
“I’ve missed you too, my angel.” The officer-thing smiled warmly and affectionately, touching Howard’s cheek with his thick, calloused fingers. “I can’t wait to introduce you to Bradley. I hope you two will be friends. I want you to be friends. We have so much of God’s work to do…”
“Then we can be together. Forever,” Justin said.
She kissed the top of his head. “Silly boy, you’ve never left me. And you never can. Now take this and let’s go for a little walk.”
She handed him the Deputy’s taser.
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.
Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.