The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 3.12: Pilgrims

Book Three — The Stone in the Stream

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June 16, 7:06 am

As he walked, he remembered he once had a wife and two daughters.

He remembered being in the Army, and he thought he remembered flying a helicopter. He remembered the desert, the sun on his face, and the smell of the sagebrush. And he remembered blood. So much blood, like a brilliant red exclamation point at the end of the long sentence of his life.

He remembered these things, but the images were shattered. They were like pictures from an album that had been torn to pieces and thrown into a pile, with all the stories and context ripped away. He was unsure how he felt about them, or what they meant.

Two of the fragmented images kept returning, trying to dominate the slide show that played itself over and over in his mind.

The first was a pretty young face, reflected in a pool of blood.

Her name is Princess, he thought, the name coming to him as if it was a leaf, blown upon the warm wind that rustled the sagebrush. Her name is Princess, and she is the one that pulled me from that pool before I could sink and drown in all the blood.

When he pictured her, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of love and gratitude that was strangely unique in the vast expanse of his empty history. And because of that, he held all the more desperately to that image of her childish face.

The other persistent image was of the darkness and terror that marked the end of his suffering. He remembered a vast and terrifying presence, like a beached creature from the ocean depths. The beast was lying splayed upon a rock, surrounded by a stream of black water, with hundreds of writhing tentacles reaching in all directions. One of those tentacles reached out and touched him in the dark, and it took away all of his anguish. It pierced his soul and emptied him so thoroughly that he could only recognize the shape of himself by the space that he once occupied in the universe.

That tentacle was the finger of God, he thought. The tentacle set me on this path. It reached out, and it chose me. It plucked my soul from that dark theater, had its way with me, and then dropped what was left of me back into the world.

What remained of Bradley Seward was walking now, through the desert.

He was walking for Princess.

He was walking for God.

But he was not walking alone.

Bradley understood enough to know that he was dead, and that he was a ghost. And he sensed, in the two beings that walked at his shoulders, that they too were of the dead. He could feel them, but he scarcely dared to turn his face to either side. They were cold and malevolent pockets of darkness that flanked him like gargoyles. One seemed tall, with a beard that grew from a face of infinite hatred. The other was shorter, and hunched like an old man, but carried a shining knife in his hand that glinted in the sun and threatened to pull Bradley’s gaze with every swing of the thing’s shimmering and translucent arm. But Bradley resisted and kept his eyes on the sand as it passed under his feet.

If I look upon them directly, they may eat my soul, he thought. Ravage it between them like two wolves fighting over carrion.

If he strayed to the left or right, the Dark Ghosts eased him back upon his path, like he was a sheep and they were guiding him toward the slaughterhouse. They were firm, they were cold, and they were relentless.

And they were terrifying.

Somewhere, out in this desert, God was waiting for him. And he mustn’t be late. These shadows of the damned were escorting him to his destiny.

Bradley and his dark companions had walked together all through the night—away from the sirens, the smell of smoke, and the screams of the damned. They had walked west through the desert, paralleling the soldiers that were streaming into the city on the interstate highway. They had still been walking west when those same soldiers streamed out again, hours later. They walked through their blockade as it was being set up on the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake, and then they walked through the silent and empty desert beyond, leaving the dying city far behind.

Now, with the morning light, Bradley knew they were almost at their destination, and the peaceful desert sky filled him with a sense of renewed hope. The sun at his back was a warm reminder that God was waiting for him.

This is a holy pilgrimage, he thought. It is a sacred journey. One that is in preparation for the work that God is about to demand of me.

He didn’t know what that work would be. But he knew it would be blessed, and righteous, and just. And he loved God enough not to question. He loved God enough to simply obey and do his will.

They were moving quicker now, stepping briskly over sagebrush and the burrows of unknown rodents. And then they were on a roadway, deserted in the morning light. Vaguely, he recognized it. There was a sign showing it to be the junction of State Routes 36 and 199. Seeing the sign brought more pieces together in his memory. This place was about forty miles from the desert base where he had served. The base, he recalled, was named Dugway. The Dugway Proving Grounds. And something called “The Ditto.”

The Dark Ghosts increased Bradley’s pace yet again, until they were jogging, as if they were driven by hunger or lust. Bradley rushed to keep up. Full of anticipation, he knew he would be with God by the time the sun was over his head.

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.

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. His poems and short stories have appeared or journals such as Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, and Danse Macabre, Apparition Literary Journal, Grain, and in collections such as the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America. He loves hearing from readers, and can be contacted through his website, at If you are enjoying this story, please drop him a line, and consider supporting his work as a novelist at All of the trilogy's over 207 chapters are available there for subscribers, and new poems, short stories, and other content is posted there every Friday.

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