The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 2.54 The Realm of Pale Faces

Book Two — Gifts Both Light and Dark

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June 14, 11:30 pm

As midnight approached in downtown Salt Lake City, the streets were quiet. Even for a Sunday night, the stillness that had settled over the city felt almost supernatural. The sidewalks and streets, still wet from the rain, were almost empty. From time to time a stray car would ease slowly through the deserted intersections, as if it was ashamed of the sound its tires made on the glistening pavement. The car would hurry along, and soon the streets were deserted once again, and only the sound of the rain still dripping from the trees and off the lampposts broke the stillness.

Near where the massacre by car 4057 had happened earlier in the day, police tape still blocked off the major streets. The café where so many had died was closed now, and the street washed clean of the blood. The entrance to the City Creek mall was blocked with orange police sawhorses and barricades. There were still squad cars stationed at the sites where the worst of the carnage had occurred, but even those cars were silent—the figures of the officers inside dim and indistinct in the faint glow from the street.

A stray dog emerged from an alleyway off South Temple, just a few blocks from Temple Square. The dog looked nervously in both directions, as if it was being hunted, or as if it was terrified of something in the shadows. Quickly and silently it slid between two parked cars, and sped through the circle of illumination in the middle of the street. It slipped away into the darkness of the Avenues and was gone.

Earlier in the day, an unusual number of people had decided that today was a good day to go on vacation. They had piled themselves and their families into their cars or motor homes and fled, pretending that they were just leaving on a lark, not because of some lurking, subconscious terror. Those few would be the lucky ones. Although they did not know what had compelled them to leave, other than a sense of dread that gnawed in their bellies, only when they were gone did their hearts stop pounding in their ears.

But among the millions of souls that lived in the Hereafter, they were relatively few.

Now, in houses across the Avenues, and in apartments throughout the center of the city, lights glowed. Darkness had fallen, and it was as if no one wanted to venture from their homes. But neither could they sleep, because of fear that bad dreams were waiting for them there. So the people of Salt Lake City huddled, anxious in their homes, the volume on their TVs very low. Couples moved instinctively closer. Lights flickered behind drawn curtains as children crawled into their parents’ beds.

It was as if the entire city had taken a breath, and was holding it—fearing that once they let it out, the destruction would be released.

What they could not see was that every ghost that had been causing havoc across the city had now turned their focus away from the violence. They were all moving inexorably toward a single point.

As Mattie made her way down South Temple, with Justin and Bradley following behind her like dutiful servants, she watched other ghosts appear from the streets they passed. In ones and twos they joined the trio, until their walk became more like a solemn, silent procession.

It amazed her how many of them there were.

She knew God had been building an army of his angels, but until now, they had all worked alone—like silent warriors or saboteurs behind enemy lines—sneaking about, causing destruction, and then moving on.

How strange, she thought, to be part of something so huge. So important. Something so much bigger than myself.

By the time they were two blocks from Temple Square, the trio were surrounded on all sides by the dead. Some seemed calm and still. Others radiated a glorious and terrifying instability. But to Mattie, they were all beautiful. They were all the angels of God.

“Look, Justin,” she said, pointing at the growing crowd. “There are so many of us! Isn’t it beautiful?”

Justin didn’t seem to hear her. He was looking at the parade of the dead with wonder in his eyes, and a nervous shudder in his shoulders. It appeared to Mattie that the boy was suffering from some kind of withdrawal. Like he was desperate for his next fix.

It’s that boy, she thought. The one he turned into a medium. He thinks that he’s in love with him. Oh well. No matter. Soon, nothing at all will matter…

Reaching State Street, the group had swollen to more than fifty ghosts. They passed Eagle Gate on their right, while streaming in from their left were more of God’s angels. Mattie thrilled at the sight of them, scattered down the street as far as the eye could see. And like her little band, these new ghosts were heading for the same destination. The stream from State Street joined them, and they all continued to the west.

They passed the Lion House, built by Brigham Young in 1856, and then, just before the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, they took a sharp right. The ghosts streamed along the paths like rats scurrying through the belly of a ship. Before them loomed the giant phallic tower of the LDS Church Office Building. And sprawled out before it, was their destination.

Emerging into the gardens, Mattie turned and saw the majestic and iconic triple towers of the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints. It was behind a ten-foot wall that enclosed the entire block on which it sat, but the building itself was magnificent, towering over the gardens in which they stood the way that Oz towered over the fields of poppies. In the winter these gardens were filled with a million glittering lights, turning the entire scene into a wonderland that drew tourists by the thousands. But on this June night, it was dark and deserted. It was not a realm of glittering lights, but of the pale faces and the sad eyes of the dead. Even the brilliant colors of the flowers themselves seemed muted in the strange glow of the city at night, as if dangerous creatures could be lurking behind each bush and deadly insects hiding inside each blossom.

They were arriving by the dozens now, coming in from every street. Mattie looked across the sea of hundreds upon hundreds of hungry, angry, desperate faces, and in each of them she saw the glory of God. She saw their salvation. She saw the cleansing of this city, and their journey together afterward into the light—into the Ocean of God.

Into rest and joy and glory.

Every eye in the courtyard turned and stared at the glowing edifice of the Temple. They stared, and they wondered. And they waited.

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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