The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 3.28: One Step Further

Book Three — The Stone in the Stream

NOTE: This chapter is available in audiobook format on the TLHOC Podcast.
Access previous chapters of the book on the Table of Contents page.

June 16, 1:20 pm

Justin hadn’t moved since Mattie left. And alone at the window, he felt as if the room he was in was becoming ever smaller; as if the pressure of the air itself on his skin was collapsing his body into something harder and more cruel.

He could feel the cold eyes of the dead couple in the bed behind him.

Before she departed, Mattie had insisted that Justin apologize to God for his sins. She stood glaring at him while he reached out his mind, and opened himself to whatever justice their Lord wanted to visit upon him. But to his surprise, God had not answered his call. It was as if the Lord could not be bothered with him at this moment, and had turned his back once and for all. Which suited Justin just fine.

But, for Mattie’s benefit alone, he had gone through the motions.

He pretended to speak to God while the little girl ghost listened. He poured out an apology that he hoped sounded genuine. He wept and he wailed and he fell to his knees, begging mercy and redemption. And Mattie appeared to believe it all.

But of course she did. For as fake as his apology was, the anguish behind it was real. He was not sorry for defying God’s will, or for refusing to answer his call to play his part in the destruction of this city. But that didn’t mean that his soul was not blackened and charred by his own doubts and fractured mind. It did not mean that he didn’t feel damned and empty and riven of all hope. It did not mean that he was any higher than the worm he pretended to tell God that he was.

When he had finished, Mattie kissed his head and left. Clearly, she had been distracted from God’s good work long enough, and wanted to get back to it. She left him alone, staring out the window and waiting.

And it was alone, some time later, that he watched the trio leave Richard’s house.

By the time the big man, the little piggy, and the ghost named Billy walked across the yard and stepped over the blood-filled gutter, Justin felt empty, purged, purified, and renewed. With eyes of steel he noted how the big man now carried the tire iron—the one that Howard had used to reset him, twice now. Watching Pil walk away from the house with the weapon chilled Justin, but he stopped to remind himself that it wasn’t the weapon itself that was a threat to him. It was Howard Gunderson’s defiance.

He watched as the trio turned at the intersection, and then headed east. But in truth, he paid them little mind. They no longer concerned him, and once they were gone, he forgot them completely.

Instead, his eyes focused on the two figures that remained on the covered porch, their faces obscured by shadows, but their forms as clear as crystal.

There was Richard Pratt. And he remembered well that at one time he had wanted nothing other than to see the man reduced to dust and madness, to see him suffer, and to watch as his soul sank into permanent darkness and despair. It wasn’t that Justin’s hatred had dissipated, exactly. But more that it had somehow been eclipsed, or put aside like a dessert, to be enjoyed only after the meal was complete.

The meal he longed for now was the living man who stood just behind Richard, barely visible. It was Justin’s obsession for Howard Gunderson that now ruled his mind and his thoughts, and that made him tremble in this small and fetid room full of death. His obsession had hammered him into a cruel blade that longed to slice into the tender flesh of Howard Gunderson.

The boy is mine, he thought, strangely calm. I will have him. Or I will cut him into pieces.

The thought was dark, but also full of yearning and need. Gone from his mind was any thought of God, gone was any thought of revenge. In its place was a gnawing and obsessive lust, dominating, rank, and desperate. The longing and the desire felt as if it might set his ghostly body aflame.

Mattie had said he was damned for denying God and refusing to do his work. But Justin knew the only damnation he feared was facing eternity without Howard Gunderson.

Mattie will never understand that hell isn’t something that comes from God. It is something that comes from failure to make yourself complete. Hell is failing to secure what destiny has asked of you.

Perhaps there was a part of his soul that had been left in Howard Gunderson. Or perhaps it had been there all along, since long before he had ever chosen the boy to be his tool. Either way, he was incomplete. He needed Howard to become whole.

I am a meteor that longs for the earth. I will come home, or I will burn in the attempt.

And now, only Richard Pratt stood in his way.

The Disruptor had somehow learned to possess on his own, without the Master’s instruction. He didn’t know how that could happen, and he didn’t care. But he knew it presented him with a problem. How could he take Howard and not risk being thrown out again by Richard Pratt?

I must wait until Howard is alone, no matter how difficult that will be. I will wait, and when Richard Pratt is gone, I’ll strike. I’ll move so fast that nothing Howard can do will stop me.

Justin groaned as the two figures on the porch returned to the house and closed the door.

The ache in him was everything now. Every moment that passed made that ache grow stronger. It was an overpowering need, a spiritual longing, a physical addiction that he could not control. He pictured the boy’s face, the boy’s eyes, the boy’s body, the exquisite joy of sliding into him, of feeling Howard’s resistance and will drain away as the boy was owned and controlled and dominated.

He remembered using the boy’s hands to touch his new body, to pleasure himself, and feel all those sensations course through him. But now he dreamed of going one step further. He longed to revel in the feeling of Howard… hurting himself. He wanted to feel Howard’s agony and know it as his own. He longed to hear Howard beg him for release. The joy he would feel as Howard’s soul trembled in gratitude when the pain ceased would be all the reward Justin would ever need. Until he chose to hurt him again…

The submission and the sadism of it thrilled him. It was everything he had lost, everything Richard had taken away. The thought of having it all again made him feel alive, and the hunger for it became ever more insatiable.

He watched and waited for the boy to appear. All his fear and doubt evaporated into the fetid air of the room. He left it there to caress the dead.

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. 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 https://wessmongojolley.com. If you are enjoying this story, please drop him a line, and consider supporting his work as a novelist at http://patreon.com/wessmongojolley. 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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