The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 3.46: A Ship on the Sea of Madness

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, 4:15 pm

Nothing she had seen over the last horrific day had prepared Morgan for the living nightmare that unfolded in the studios of KUTV.

The past few minutes had been like something out of Dante, and the screaming, the terror, and the blood that had been shed in the short time it took her to escape from the twenty-first floor would stain her memories forever.

That is, if I survive at all, she thought, trying to catch her breath on the rooftop.

Less than twenty minutes earlier, blocked from the stairwell door by the violence that erupted in the studio lobby, she had been forced to flee deeper into the offices. She quickly found what felt like safety when she barricaded herself into the room with the dead body of her cameraman, Stan. For a precious few minutes, she had felt safe there from the horror outside.

But, as she was beginning to understand, the evil that was stalking this city would not be kept out by high floors, or by locked doors.

She’d forgotten about Phil King, the detained anchorman, who was also locked in the office, and when she burst in he’d been staring out the window, as if in a trance. Even before Morgan had fully regained her breath and calmed her pounding heart, Phil’s head swiveled unnaturally toward her. The grin on his face looked like something out of a comic book, or some creepy movie effect. And as he had done in the studio, the anchorman screeched in a high-pitched voice. He smashed a fist through the glass of the high rise window, and in a flash the smoke that was curling outside was sucked into the room, and the hot air of the city blasted Morgan back against the door. Phil ripped a jagged shard of glass from the window, slicing his hand to the bone in the process. But he didn’t seem to notice the blood spraying across the desk and walls as he brandished his new weapon and advanced upon her.

Morgan barely remembered doing it, but she’d somehow picked up Larry’s heavy, green glass desk lamp, and smashed Phil across the face with it—once, and then again, barely avoiding the bloody shard of glass he was swiping madly back and forth. Her attack had been puny, but it had been enough to knock the anchorman off balance, and he fell back into the broken window. A spine of glass pierced him under the right arm, emerging like a dagger near his neck.

Despite all the howls and all the blood, it wasn’t enough to keep him at bay. But it was enough to give Morgan a chance to bolt out of the room and into the hall. Phil was on her tail in seconds, but was quickly distracted by Martha Gillespie, who was mutely and strangely standing in the hall, listening to her colleagues being slaughtered back in the reception area.

Phil had lost his glass knife, but he’d picked up the green lamp. He plowed into Martha, and both of them crashed so hard into the wall of the corridor that the drywall buckled. Morgan only stayed long enough to see Phil wrapping the cord around the woman’s neck and brutally smashing her head into the broken wall. Morgan didn’t know if the strangulation or the head injury would kill her friend, but she knew that there was nothing she could do. Martha was dead.

On auto-pilot now, Morgan bolted for the rear stairwell. It was on the far side of the building, and when she got there she was surprised to find the door hanging open. This stairwell was as black as the other, but fearing that Phil was close on her heels, she didn’t hesitate. She plunged into the stairwell and surprised herself by heading up, rather than down.

Where do I think I’m going? she wondered, in a panic.

Within seconds, she knew she’d made the right choice. There was a noise rising through the stairwell that sounded like the souls of the damned suffering in the pits of hell. Perhaps she’d heard the sound subconsciously, even before entering the stairwell, and that was why she was dashing upward, toward light and salvation. What awaited her on the roof could not be as horrific as what was happening on the lower floors.

Morgan stumbled as she ran, smashing into walls as the landings veered right and left, and once very nearly plunging over the railing and down the twenty-three floors to the parking level.

Two floors up, she ran face first into the closed door of the roof access, bloodying her nose. She pounded against it with her hands in panic before it registered that there was a crash bar at her waist, and that all she needed to do to escape the building was push against it.

Falling hard onto the roof, she was instantly blinded by the afternoon sunlight, and had to grope behind her in order to slam the door secure. She leaned back against it heavily for a few moments, trying to catch her breath, but already, her adjusting eyes were searching the roof for something she could use to block the door.

Fortunately, she saw what looked like a pallet of old roofing supplies ten feet away, and she frantically began to unload buckets of sealant and heavy rolls of tar paper. It took her only a few minutes to get the door blocked sufficiently that when the screeching bodies crashed against it from the other side, it opened no more than an inch. There were screaming faces now, visible in the slight crack of the door, and bloody fingers reaching through, but Morgan couldn’t tell if they were the screams of the hunters, or the hunted. And to be honest, at that moment, she really didn’t care.

Reeling, she took two steps back and stood transfixed by the wailing in pain and terror on the other side of the door. The fingers wedging through the tiny opening looked like the hands of drowning men and women, desperately reaching for air. For a moment, she considered taking down her barricade and letting them through, and was just about to begin when a hand grabbed her shoulder from behind. She nearly jumped out of her skin.

“No! Don’t! Leave it!” a voice said. Morgan whirled around, ready to fight, and already scanning the rooftop for a weapon.

The voice belonged to Rhonda Ferguson.

Her producer must have come through the door just moments before, and had retreated when Morgan burst through, unsure whether Morgan was herself, or one of the mad creatures that was tearing through the newsroom three floors below.

“Rhonda, thank God! Are you okay?”

The woman didn’t answer.

“Morgan, help me put the rest of this junk in front of the door!” The sound coming from the other side was truly terrifying now, and some voices were unmistakably voices of pleading and desperation. Voices that she recognized.

“But we can’t! Those are our friends! They’re being murdered in there!”

“But we’re not being murdered up here!” Rhonda cried. “Not yet, anyway! Help me!”

And Morgan did. Trying desperately to ignore the screams and the cries of her friends and colleagues from behind the door, the two women stacked more buckets and rolls, as well as some boxes of roofing nails, until the barricade against the door was more than waist high. Within two minutes, she knew that nobody would come through that way, without a battering ram or a cannon.

Slowly, the sound of the voices on the other side of the door diminished, and the bloody, questing fingers disappeared. It was impossible to tell if they had fled to floors further down, or whether they were all now simply dead, and piled against the door like driftwood. But the silence that engulfed the rooftop was eerie.

Morgan allowed herself to back away from the door and look around. Her knees were weak, and she became aware that Rhonda had her elbow and was leading her toward a low railing at the long edge of the rooftop.

The Wells Fargo Center was roughly triangular, with the sharp points all truncated. The long end of the triangle faced Main Street, over twenty floors below. Along the wings of the building were two helicopter pads, both empty. Between the two was a raised walkway, and at the center was the door through which Rhonda and Morgan had emerged. As far as they could tell, nobody else had made it to the rooftop, and it appeared that the other stairwell did not lead all the way up. It must have ended at the observation deck, a floor below. Morgan was clear-headed enough to be thankful she had not tried to escape that way.

As she looked around and tried to regain her breath, Morgan couldn’t help but feel that she was on a ship, floating in a sea of madness. She couldn’t get close enough to the edge of the roof to look down, so she couldn’t see what was happening immediately below where they stood. But the view she had across the city was unrestricted. The Wells Fargo was the tallest building in downtown.

But Morgan’s anxiety was fueled more by what she sensed than what she saw. She was overwhelmed by a pervasive sense of despair, as if the city was about to draw its last breath. The sun was sinking toward the horizon, and somehow she knew that once the sun went down, whatever was left of this city would be doomed. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t survive another night like last night. It was something much deeper that clawed at her soul. Something much more pervasive—and much more evil.

“My god, we’re alone up here,” Rhonda said.

Until she spoke, Morgan had almost forgotten that her friend and colleague was there with her. And strangely, at that moment, her first thought was that she should grab the woman and throw her bodily from the rooftop. After what she had seen in the newsroom, she knew that nobody was immune, and everyone was a potential assassin. Until she was totally alone, she wouldn’t be safe.

And neither will Rhonda, she thought. Maybe I should just hurl myself over the railing. Why do I deserve to live, and not her?

Slowly, her desire to commit murder or suicide passed, and she looked at Rhonda sheepishly, wondering if the woman knew the dark thoughts that had passed through her mind. Or if the same thoughts had passed through hers as well. She thought it best not to ask.

Rhonda smiled, but it seemed forced and mistrustful, and it was obvious she was trying her best not to look away from Morgan’s face. “I think we’re safer here. As long as nobody else gets through that door.”

The two women sat, shoulder to shoulder, looking at the bright sun that was already descending toward the Oquirrh mountains. Several minutes passed before either of them spoke again.

“So, what do we do now?” Rhonda asked.

“I think we just wait,” Morgan replied.

Ten minutes later, Rhonda said, “What are we waiting for. Exactly?”

Morgan didn’t look at her as she replied.

“I guess we’re waiting for the end. Whatever that is.”

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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