The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 2.55: Moths to a Street Lamp

Book Two — Gifts Both Light and Dark

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June 14, 11:35 pm

I can feel the dead converging…

As they walked slowly down State Street, Richard realized just what a massive change in his consciousness had occurred through Tuilla’s guidance earlier in the evening. It was almost as if he had a brand new set of senses upon which he could draw. Or as if he now carried a new device that he could glance at as easily as someone might glance at their phone while getting directions.

His awareness of the world of the Hereafter had become acute and persistent, creating a kind of overlay onto his regular mode of perception. The turquoise stars of the ghosts and the red stars of the Wanderer’s angels were like dots on a massive radar screen, and even as he and Tuilla walked down State street, he could feel those red dots moving. It was as if he was watching a bustling colony of ants from a great height.

“Richard, what do you see?” Tuilla asked, her voice soft. He perceived her as both the old woman he knew, and the brightest of the turquoise stars, hovering at his shoulder as they walked.

“The ghost are converging. At least, the red stars are. All the ghosts under Drouillard’s control. They’re all moving, like he’s suddenly activated them, or called them. Like moths to a street lamp.”

“Do you think they’re going to him?”

“I don’t know. I assume that none of the angels I perceive are him, since you say he’s taken a host. So I can’t be sure he’s among them.”

“What about the other ghosts?”

Richard tried to tune his consciousness to the turquoise stars. He had been ignoring them, because they didn’t seem to matter, but now he could sense not only movement, but agitation.

“They’re not moving toward him. But I feel them buzzing, as if they’re afraid. I don’t think they know what’s happening. But somehow, they sense… something.”

Suddenly there were a half dozen of the angels around them. Putting aside his new perception for a moment, Richard looked at them, as they walked silently next to him and Tuilla. None of them appeared to be aware of them, or even of each other. They walked slowly but steadily north on State Street, avoiding the rare cars that eased down the midnight thoroughfare.

“They don’t seem to see us,” Richard said.

“Most of George’s angels don’t even have the first two gifts yet,” Tuilla whispered. “They may not be aware of us, or of each other. The only voice they hear and the only allegiance they have is to George.”

More of the angels were joining them at each new intersection. Soon, they were walking in an increasingly thick sea of the dead, all swimming like salmon heading home. Richard looked in wonder at the array of souls around him. There was nothing in their appearance to distinguish them from all the other ghosts he had seen since his return. To his unaided perception, they looked like the same ghosts he had seen in the hospital and in the cemetery. Most of the ghosts were old, but a surprising number were young, including several children. Some appeared to have died violently in everyday clothes, but most were naked or in sheets and gowns that suggested they had died in a hospital. Only a very few showed blood on their clothing. One young woman was wearing what looked to be a ball gown, burned to little more than charred strips of magenta cloth. Beneath it, her skin seemed untouched and as white as milk. Two steps in front of her was a hulking teenage boy dressed all in hunting fatigues, with what looked like a shotgun blast to his lower back. His pale skin showed through the blast hole, clean and untouched.

But although they looked to the naked eye like all the other ghosts, to Richard’s enhanced perception, they filled him with terror and revulsion. He could sense the remnants of violence clinging to each of them like a sour smell. It was impossible to tell which had already committed violent acts, and which were still novices to the Wanderer’s dark schemes. But all radiated a longing for chaos and death that caused Richard to recoil.

Soon, he had to suppress his enhanced perception, just to keep his feet steady under him as they walked.

Tuilla just walked at his side, a half step behind him. It was even clearer now that she saw Richard as the savior that they had all been waiting for. He bristled at the deference she was showing him, but chose not to embarrass them both by making it an issue.

Soon the majestic arch of the Eagle Gate loomed before them, and to the right Richard could see another large group streaming down South Temple. The two groups merged at the gate and continued west. They were nearing the grounds of the Temple complex now, and Richard had always known that was where they would converge. He knew that the symbolism of initiating an attack on the city from the spiritual heart of the Mormon Church was far too tempting to Drouillard. But he had assumed that the gathering would be inside the walls of the Temple complex. It surprised him when the group they were following turned and flowed into the sprawling plaza and gardens that stood just to the east of the Temple itself.

There are too many, he thought. This group is too big to actually fit in the Temple grounds.

The thought gave him a chill. Billy and Tuilla had told him there would be a couple hundred angels, and he had been unable to easily count the red stars in his vision. But now, as they neared their destination, the size of the Wanderer’s army became clear.

Richard pulled Tuilla from the flow in front of the Lion House. “Justin is here,” he said. “So is Mattie. This is the gathering place, in the plaza just east of the temple.” He watched the continuing parade of souls march past them and tried to think what to do next. “I think we need to be cautious, and not let them see us. Justin and Mattie would recognize me, for sure. Here, I have an idea.”

He pulled Tuilla through the shuffling sea of ghosts, and through the ornate doors of the Joseph Smith Building. In no time, they found their way up the staircase until they were two stories above the street. They worked their way through the dark and deserted offices to the back of the building, and through a wall onto a low part of the roof that was sandwiched between the two towers on either side. Cautiously, they stepped up and crouched behind the low railing that overlooked the plaza below.

Tuilla gasped and then clasped her hand over her mouth. A whimper tried to escape through her fingers, and she barely silenced it.

Below them was a massive sea of the dead. All stood rooted to the ground, and stared to the west, at the cold stone edifice of the Temple itself. A few stragglers were still arriving, but it appeared that the army of the Wanderer was now complete, in formation, and ready for their God to appear.

“I didn’t know there would be so many,” Richard said in awe. “There could be almost a thousand here.” He looked at Tuilla, but she was turned away from the sight laid out before them. She suddenly looked every year of her advanced age, and as if she was ready to weep. Richard could not tell if it was from terror or from heartbreak.

“Oh, George,” he heard her mutter at last. “Oh, George, my love… What have you done? What are you going to do?”

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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