The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 2.56: Witching Hour

Book Two — Gifts Both Light and Dark

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June 14, 11:55 pm

The angels began to arrive in the empty plaza well before midnight. The first ghosts arrived in twos and threes, but just before midnight they were arriving in groups of a dozen. Soon, they were streaming in from the streets on every side of the plaza, like crowds arriving at a concert.

They came naked, and they came trailing their sheets and bedclothes. They came dressed in their finery, and in humble pajamas and nightclothes. They came carrying hats in their hands, or clutching at jewelry that hung around their throats like strings of broken teeth.

Most were solitary, but a few (like Mattie and her two angels) came with one or two companions. Most of them had not gained the First and Second Gifts, so they stood silently in the plaza, unaware of the crowds that surrounded them. And yet, through some kind of second sight, they did not crowd or walk through each other. They arranged themselves evenly throughout the plaza, like silent statues, all swaying in the night air, all staring and all waiting.

As she surveyed the ghastly horde, Mattie knew that many of these ghosts had already killed, and that all of them were capable, ready, and eager to do so. All of them knew how to possess. Some had learned quickly and easily, while others took more effort. She had watched the powers of many of them develop and had even assisted God in the training of a few. It had been a glorious project for her, and for God, for over forty years.

She surveyed the angels that surrounded her. One of them was a husband whose first murder was of his own widow, who he felt had never been faithful. He had since also possessed a young mother and caused her to drown her own child in their family pool. Another ghost Mattie had encountered was a homeless man who died of frostbite. Since he had obtained the Fourth Gift, he had been specializing in the old and the rich, hurrying them to their deaths through the slow squeezing of their hearts, or bursting blood vessels in their brains.

She didn’t recognize any of the others, but the size of the crowd astounded her. She knew her master had been building his army for years, but she did not know the number of soldiers he had amassed.

A few minutes before midnight, a living human entered the plaza.

Despite the hour, and despite the feeling of weighty emptiness that pervaded the wet streets of the city, this young woman appeared to be enjoying the night air. She walked slowly and obliviously through the plaza, as if she had done it a thousand times. Most of the ghosts ignored her, so intent they were on watching the Temple in front of them. But some, including Mattie, glared at the young woman as she trespassed among them. Every ghost instinctively moved out of her way, stepping away and then stepping back, in a gentle and graceful ballet. Finally, the woman found a spot on a bench, facing the temple. She stared for a moment at the glowing edifice, and especially focused on the golden statue of Moroni and his trumpet that adorned the central spire. Closing her eyes, she clasped her hands in prayer. Her lips moved silently as she beseeched God for the things she, in her young life, most desired.

Mattie looked at her, and the loathing in her heart was so great that she wanted to take the woman out, right there and then.

A quick possession, and then maybe a pen from her handbag, jammed into her throat, Mattie thought.But soon her revulsion cooled. No matter, she smiled. Soon, she too will be no more than rotting meat and fading memories.

She returned her attention to the Temple before her, and her waiting. There was complete silence now in the misty gardens, broken only by the barely audible whispers of the young woman’s prayers. The Temple shone brilliantly at the foot of the street, behind the wall that protected it from the raw and wretched world. A man in a rain slicker walked down the sidewalk in front of that wall, hurrying through the plaza on the way to who knew where. Perhaps he was lost and lonely. Perhaps he couldn’t sleep. Perhaps he was among those that sensed the doom that was rushing upon this valley. But he crossed the plaza quickly and was gone.

As midnight arrived, the plaza was thick with the dead. Mattie thrilled to see it, finally forgetting the annoyance of the woman praying to her left.

And then, from out of the shadows, stepped a man.

At first, Mattie thought he was just another of the night people, passing through the plaza. He did not truly draw her eye until the moment that he stopped on the sidewalk and turned to face the ghosts. He folded his hands behind his back and stepped up on the raised edge of the reflecting pool.

And then, Mattie knew…

He sees us, Mattie thought with a thrill. This is God!

She had never seen his physical form before. For nearly fifty years he had been only a voice in her mind. But now she saw him in his flesh, and she was enthralled.

The awareness rippled through the ghosts like a seismic wave, and every ghostly eye turned toward the figure standing calmly on the edge of the water, dwarfed by the edifice of the temple behind him.

God was not what Mattie expected. The man was of medium height, but quite thin, in his sixties, and dressed in a crisp and well-decorated military uniform and overcoat. His hair was gray and cropped close, but with signs of baldness on top. He had a neat, thick, carefully trimmed gray mustache, and his very stance carried an air of authority. His eyes were dark, hard and malevolent.

He’s like Jesus, Mattie thought. He’s taken on a human form that we can understand. He’s come to us in a body of flesh, to remind us of the bodies we have left behind.

What Mattie did not see, because she was so focused on the image of her savior, were two especially dark angels who stood in the inky shadows just off the plaza. These angels exuded more hatred and loathing than any of the other ghosts, by far. Of all God’s angels, these two were the darkest. So much so that their eyes pulsed with a chilling red sheen, and even the dead shied away—afraid that such madness and rage would draw them in and destroy them.

Both had died late in life. One had long and flowing gray hair and an unkempt beard. He looked far different than he did in life, but he still had a shotgun slung over one shoulder. The one he had carried in life, which he had asked to be brought to him on his deathbed.

The other toyed constantly with a six inch Bowie knife, which hardly ever returned to its sheath on his hip. On the handle of the blade was a silver filigree design that looked very much like a cottonwood tree.

This one’s eyes narrowed as he scanned the crowd, until he spotted Mattie and her two companions. Slowly, he raised the silver knife, and his companion followed the line of his gaze into the crowd. The knife was pointed toward the trio. But not at Mattie, and not at Justin.

It was pointed at Bradley Seward.

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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