June 15, 12:45 pm
If there was anywhere that the madness rapidly engulfing Salt Lake City could not intrude, it was in the peaceful confines of the Tabernacle.
By early afternoon, the growing violence in and and around Temple Square led LDS authorities to expel all the tourists, and shut the gates. The Church had their own security force, and they were almost instantly equipped and deployed to guard the holy site of their religion against the violence that was engulfing the city.
The church’s immediate response was to seal off the temple grounds, and although that decision would quickly become problematic for the security force, it also had the immediate effect of ensuring a quiet place for Richard and Tuilla to work.
But of course, Richard Pratt was aware of none of this.
As he dove back into this mind, at Tuilla’s direction, he quickly lost track of not only all stimuli from the outside world, but also the passage of time.
The world in which Richard found himself was a strange one.
His mind, which he had simplistically envisioned as a sponge, had grown in complexity and depth until such a weak analogy no longer held any meaning for him. But what remained was an intricate labyrinth, full of images and memories from his past. He did his best to ignore them in favor of his now obsessive goal, which was finding his way through to some kind of mystical center. Tuilla had told him to think of his search as one for the soul itself, or perhaps, for the tiny sliver of space and time where the mind of the individual intersected with the universal mind—the over-soul, or the ultimate truth. She had called it “the divine,” but his experience of God recently—at least the God of the angels—had not been a good one. He still clung to his refusal to fall on his knees in front of anything.
Fortunately, he had very little time for any complex theological musings. His mind was focused like a laser on his one and only goal, which was threading through the twisting corridors and shining pathways that stretched out to infinity in and around him. His frustration grew, as again and again, he reach dead ends in his search, and had to backtrack. But he could feel that he was growing closer, and each time he became so frustrated that he wanted to give up, he remembered Tuilla’s words. It made that tiny glimmer of hope reassert itself. And he continued on.
Follow your compassion, Tuilla had told him. And she had told him to love and forgive and understand. This, she had said, was the path of empathy. And although Richard did not feel that empathy had ever been one of his strengths, he sensed the rightness of her words. So at each junction, he sought out the path of warmth, of light, of love. Usually that path was clear, but sometimes he faced choices that seemed equally right, or equally wrong, and had to make his decisions by instinct.
Several times, as he worked, he felt he could hear a voice calling his name. It sounded as if it could be his own voice, and it reeked of fear and desperation, and was an unwelcome distraction. And so he ignored it.
Just concentrate on the path of light, he thought. Trust the old woman. Concentrate on using the Fourth Gift through understanding and compassion. Shut out everything else…
In the end, he felt he was so close to his goal that he could almost reach out and touch it. The twists and turns in his mind had become sharper, as if he was literally nearing the center of a vast and universal maze. The thoughts he passed were somehow more pure, or more refined, or more primal. And yet, there was still a dense wall standing between him and his goal, and he came very close to giving in to his own frustration and clawing at it.
It was at one of these moments that the voice that had been calling his name, the voice he had come to think of as the voice of doubt, suddenly became audible and clear. To his surprise, what had sounded like his own voice was now suddenly not his voice at all. And he recognized it.
It was Tuilla.
And she sounded terrified.
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.