For a time, the Wanderer forgot his destiny.
To the doctors who helped little Sutton Deary recover in that Bountiful hospital, “George Drouillard” was just a name that the critically injured child muttered in his sleep. But even to the Wanderer himself, by the time he regained consciousness and became aware of his surroundings, the name of Drouillard seemed more like a dream than reality.
In those first weeks—with the nurses and doctors calling him Sutton, and calling him a miracle, and catering to his every whim—the century the Wanderer had spent as a ghost in the Salt Lake Valley felt like some strange artifact, or a fever dream that lingered in his rattled brain. His memory was full of confused images: trudging through dark and snowy forests behind a man in a three-cornered hat; a friend name Choteau, gutted with his blood thick as syrup in the snow; a dark and beautiful young woman; a strange tribe in the desert; and some horrible massacre that he had somehow survived. It was all painful and confusing, and the details scampered away from his mind each time he tried to bring them into focus.
So instead he retreated from that pain and focused on the agony of his shattered body, the antiseptic white walls, and the smiling but concerned nurses who hovered over him constantly.
But Sutton Deary was young, and his broken body recovered quickly. So quickly, in fact, that his case would have made it into the medical journals, if only his doctors had any idea how to describe such a miraculous recovery.
Less than a month after the accident, the boy was released and sent to live with his aunt and uncle back in Salt Lake City. By then, the strange memories of another life were easy to dismiss as products of his injuries and the drugs that had flooded his body during recovery.
His aunt and uncle raised Sutton as their own, and came to love the boy dearly. To them, he was a living tribute to his dead parents, and a miraculously preserved artifact of a family that had otherwise been cruelly stolen from the world in a heartbeat. There was more love in the home of his new parents than any boy could ever need. Even his older sister and younger brother quickly forgot that he had ever been anything but a member of their own family.
And yet, his aunt and uncle constantly remarked how different Sutton was from the boy that they had known before the accident. He had been such a happy, loving, carefree child. And now he was just so… strange.
But how could he not be? they asked themselves. After all he has been through, what child wouldn’t change? Perhaps the mood swings and the depression and fits of anger were just part of what he had to process in order to heal from the trauma.
But George Drouillard’s memories of his almost two hundred years, as a man and as a ghost, could not be suppressed completely, or forever.
As he grew, rumbling recollections of who and what he had been lingered in his subconscious, writhing like twisted snakes, and erupting in strange flights of fancy, and uncontrolled bursts of anger and depression. As a teenager, for a time, Sutton became convinced that he was reincarnated, and that all those now jumbled memories were from previous lives. But as he grew older, he discarded such childish fantasies and came to think of all those images as nothing more than the products of an overactive childhood imagination.
After all, wasn’t the first and most irrational fear of his youth that he couldn’t leave Salt Lake City? That, at least, he remembered clearly, including the fit he had thrown in the car the day his parents had died. At the time, it had all seemed so real, and so terrifying.
Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that George Drouillard’s bloody past would eventually find a way to express itself. Throughout his teens, Sutton nurtured a seething hatred of everything that surrounded him. It was a hatred that he didn’t understand, and yet one that he never questioned. A hatred that he nurtured and fed like a shameful pet. A hatred that he kept mostly to himself.
It wasn’t until he was seventeen that he saw his first ghost, and everything changed.
He was a senior in high school, and he was working on a calculus problem in the library study hall, when he saw her. She came in through the glass wall of the library and stood staring at the clock on the wall, oblivious to everyone and everything else in the room. She was a stooped and crippled old Black woman in a blue nightgown and pink slippers with dirty tassels. Her face was drawn, and her jaw slack, as she stared without moving at the clock above the librarian’s desk.
Sutton should have been terrified at the apparition, but he was not. He was, instead, strangely fascinated and drawn to her, as if the sight of the dead woman promised answers to questions he did not even know how to ask. Watching her made his skin grow cold, and perspiration break out on his brow. And as he stared at the silent creature throughout the rest of his study hour, much that he had forgotten came flooding back to him.
Much, but not all.
There in the library he was struck dumb by the memory of his body reforming in the desert after a horrible massacre. He was overcome by the feeling of harsh sun on his face, and he remembered scattered and rotting bodies at his feet. Somehow, he knew these were not strangers. These had all been people he had loved. He felt once more all the hatred that had flowed through him on that day, and the ache of revenge that once gnawed at his belly.
The vision faded, and once again he was staring at the old ghost in the pink slippers.
I know you, he thought in wonder. I remember…
A strange vision played through his mind. It was vague and unclear, but he had the definite sense of plucking this old woman out of a river. She had been flowing in an inky stream—a bodiless soul, flowing toward some distant ocean. It was no normal stream. It was a stream of death—a black stream of corpses that parted thickly on either side of the stone on which he stood. And somehow he had reached into those dark waters, and plucked the Black woman’s soul out like a piece of driftwood. He had not only plucked her out, but he had flung her back into the land of the living.
I gave her life! he thought, shooting to his feet and drawing stares from all the other students around him. Suddenly he knew why the name “Sutton Deary” only seemed like a mask he wore, in a world that was not truly his own.
In that hour, George Drouillard, who became the Wanderer, who became Sutton Deary, fully realized all that he was.
I am God, he thought, and the power in that realization made every cell in his body feel electric.
As the old Black woman wandered away through the wall of the library, Sutton Deary felt himself fill to bursting with his purpose. The contours of it were not yet clear, but he knew it was a violent destiny. A terrible destiny.
I have to find the Stone in the Stream. And whatever it takes, I must finish what I started. The demands on God are great. I must be strong. And above all, I must be patient…
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.
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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.