June 15, 3:00 pm
Justin Kimball sat atop the dome of the Utah State Capitol building and watched God’s Cleansing engulf the city.
The emotions that had raged through him since the gathering had left him emotionally battered. But as the hours had ticked away, his anger and helplessness had been replaced by something that now felt so cold, steely, and calculating, that it could almost be described as peace…
When the gathering had ended, just after midnight, he knew he had to get away—from God, from Mattie, and even from the other angels. The sense that he no longer wanted to be one of God’s chosen had been growing in him ever since his last possession of Howard. And even before the old man had appeared in the plaza, Justin had known that his mission and God’s mission had diverged. The two would never again be the same.
He was unsure how the rupture had happened, and how it had been so complete. But not only was he no longer God’s angel—but it was also clear that he was no longer Mattie’s either. The strange pilot with the bloody uniform had replaced Justin in his mistress’ favor. The realization had left him feeling bereft and alone, but also, curiously liberated.
And then, just as the gathering was ending, a strange thing had happened—one that Justin still didn’t understand.
As all the surrounding angels were enraptured by the figure at the edge of the fountain—wailing their love and holding their hands up as if they expected the night sky to open up in glory—two silent figures had slid through the crowd like wolves weaving through a dark forest. The pair instantly filled Justin with revulsion, and as they got closer, that revulsion turned to terror. They seemed to be coming toward him as steadily as those same wolves would approach their disabled prey.
In a panic, he had turned toward Mattie. But like all the other angels around them, she was so enraptured that she didn’t see the dark figures approaching. Justin almost cried out, and now he wondered what would have happened if he had. He could see that one of the dark shadows was tall, with an unkempt beard and what looked like a shotgun slung over his shoulder. The other was an old man with a silver knife in his hand. And both had red eyes that cut through the night like flames. The last thing he saw were the two dark figures stretching out their bony fingers. Justin whimpered and put his face into his hands, and waited for their icy touch…
Which never came.
Seconds later, as he felt the crowd’s energy falling away, he dared to peek through his fingers.
The dark shadows of the two menacing angels were gone. And so was the figure of God, standing on the edge of the fountain. Mattie was still swaying back and forth like a religious devotee, touched by the hand of God. Justin stood behind Mattie—alone amid the crowd that was already scattering.
But Bradley Seward was gone.
Somehow, Justin had known that this was the right moment to leave—before Mattie turned and realized that Bradley had been taken, and began asking questions. Before she demanded answers he could not give. Before he could betray the new certainty that was in his heart, that he was no longer an angel of God. And no longer hers.
Justin slipped away into the departing crowd of ghosts. And he ran.
Perhaps, he had thought, in a rush of self-pity as he fled the plaza, she will even be glad to be rid of me.
As the angels dispersed, Justin had dashed north, covering the short blocks up the hill to the Utah State Capitol Building in less than two minutes. He had made his way through the walls of the stately old building and up the stairways, not stopping until he stood outside, on the edge of the domed roof. And it was there that he had remained, through the dark hours of the night, and through the sunrise, counting the hours and then the minutes until the Cleansing would begin.
For the last three hours he had watched it all, feeling strangely detached and melancholy, knowing that he was not to be part of it. As the violence bloomed across the city at his feet, Justin waited anxiously for God’s insistent presence in his mind. And when it came, his resolve never wavered. God’s probing and knocking at his thoughts became ever more insistent, but Justin just clenched his teeth and pressed the palms of his hands harder against the sides of his head. And he denied God entrance. His defiance gave him strength, and the thrill of disobedience was intoxicating. God wanted him, and he—insignificant, submissive, Justin Kimball—was telling God to fuck off.
It’s not that I don’t want to kill, Justin thought, his lips peeling back from his teeth in an audacious grin. It’s just that I don’t want to kill for you.
To his relief, God did not linger. He had hundreds of other angels to activate, all of whom were eagerly awaiting his voice in their heads. He couldn’t waste time with the one ghost that refused his overtures. Soon, he moved on, and all was silent again. Silent, except for the growing sounds of destruction and death wafting up from the city below him.
He watched the fires break out, like angry roses in the bright sunshine. He watched the two planes go down and felt the rumbles pass through the valley with a quiet amusement. He heard the sound of gunfire, of sirens, and the delicious sounds of human screams, which cut through the brilliant and clear afternoon air like cracking whips.
But even though all the violence thrilled him, he now knew his destiny lay elsewhere.
God wants destruction. God wants the death of the Salt Lake Valley. But that isn’t what I want. I want the destruction of Richard Pratt and everyone he loves. And I want Howard Gunderson.
Ironically, seeing God in front of his angels had shown Justin this path. God had left behind the cursed existence of a ghost and once again become living flesh. And if that was good enough for God, it was good enough for Justin Kimball.
Howard Gunderson was out there, somewhere, in this dying city. He was young, and he was strong, and he was beautiful. And there was a soul in Howard’s body that would become Justin’s as well. A soul that he could love, and a mind that he could torture. He would make Howard worship him, from the depths of his own despair, like a tiny dog, whimpering for the attention of his master. Howard would long for his own flesh, and Justin would lie and promise him he would one day have it, even though he knew it would never be. Howard’s flesh would be his forevermore.
Everything he had lost would be restored to him the moment he stepped back into that vessel of flesh, and the longing for it burned in him like a tiny sun.
He imagined feeling his feet (real feet!) running on the pavement, and feeling real air in his real lungs. He imagined eating again, and the pleasure of pizza and beer and a good hit of weed. But most of all, he imagined once again feeling his own hands on his own naked and living skin—exploring, stroking, making both pleasure and pain bloom across animate flesh.
And more: He imagined feeling the ecstasy of other flesh against his own. Flesh of men, flesh of women; the strong and the vulnerable, the very old and the very young. He wanted to possess them all. He wanted to feel himself on and in all that yielding flesh. To caress those bodies. To hurt those bodies! He wanted to see skin break like wet tissue, to feel blood flow across his fingers, and taste it on his tongue. He wanted to hear agonized screams—both his and that of his victims.
There is some secret to it, Justin thought. Some way for me to take Howard and never leave him. God found that secret, and he used it to become human, so I can too! I will wrestle Howard’s thrashing soul into submission and keep him captive in his own mind for eternity. I am going to find a way!
But there was something he had to do before that ultimate reward could be his.
First, I must find and destroy the piggy boy, he thought. And after I watch Richard’s mind snap, and feel the joy of seeing him descend into madness, only then will I find Howard Gunderson.
Yes, the decision felt right. Howard would be his reward for destroying Richard’s soul, once and for all.
As the sun slanted toward the horizon, and as the destruction below him continued to escalate, Justin felt it was time. He would go to Keith Woo. He would possess whoever he could (the big man, if he was still there), and he would choke the life out of the chubby little whore. Richard would watch his fuck toy die. Then Justin would slip out of the big man, just long enough to see the last of Richard’s mind unravel at his feet.
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.
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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.