The Last Handful of Clover

Chapter 3.52: Angel’s Landing

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, 7:16 pm

Bradley had flown combat missions over Afghanistan and he had seen his share of death and destruction from the air. But he had never seen anything like this.

The largely intact infrastructure of Salt Lake City made the devastation even more striking, and even more chilling. Row after row of perfectly tended homes were arrayed in the suburbs, and mostly, those neighborhoods looked untouched. The only clue that God’s army had been through were the strangely empty streets, or the still and silent cars bunched up around the intersections.

And of course, the bodies.

They looked like marionettes with their strings cut, sprawled in every unnatural position in which a human body could be bent. Many of them were not even recognizable as bodies, even as Bradley brought the chopper in low over the neighborhoods. Often, they looked like trash—piles of rags, perhaps, or the contents of an overturned garbage can. But each of them was defined by a differently shaped spray of blood, or a pool, or a trickle that ran toward the gutter in unique meandering lines. Each as unique as a fingerprint.

As the helicopter worked its way in to the center of the city, Bradley saw several blocks that were burned, but most of those fires were out now. Only a dozen still blazed brightly, and just three were in the downtown core. The Grand America Hotel, which had been torched early in the crisis, was now a mostly empty wreck that still smoldered and kindled when the wind hit the embers right. But even the larger fires were slowly burning themselves out.

The city was eerily still. The riots that had been scattered around the city had dispersed, as if the living who remained were, like cockroaches, fleeing into their burrows before they could be caught out in the coming dark.

Only to the east of the city could Bradley see activity.

Two helicopters were lifting off from the foothills—what looked like the university, or perhaps the hospital. And already, in the fading evening light, he could see enormous banks of floodlights blazing there. In the heavily slanted rays of the sun, the brilliant silver beacons stood out, since the rest of the city was still without power. It was clear that this was where the outside world was trying to gain a foothold—a tentative breach into the Hereafter.

If only they understood, Bradley mused. This is like no war zone they are prepared to face.

The trees shimmered in the wash of the rotors as the helicopter sped overhead, and then settled back into stillness when it had gone.

This was indeed a war zone. But perhaps a better analogy would be the killing fields of Cambodia, or the genocides of the Jews or the American Indians. The term “war” suggested that there were two sides fighting against each other, no matter how badly mismatched. But no war in history had been fought against an invisible enemy, or against one that turned friends and family into assassins at random.

For just a moment, the ghost who had been Bradley Seward found the whole idea distasteful. All the death, and all the destruction, seemed strange and unreal, as if it there were memories deep in his consciousness that should make him appalled, or even ashamed. But that feeling only lasted for a moment, and fled when he glanced down at the two black cases on the passenger side of the helicopter. Those strange feelings were like discordant notes in a finely tuned symphony, and he banished them quickly and completely.

All I want is to hear God’s music, as conducted by God himself, he thought. God’s orchestra was full of exquisite instruments, working together, and striving for a goal that was both noble and necessary. God’s will could tolerate no doubts and no hesitations. And the ghost of Bradley Seward could afford none, either.

Three minutes later, the helicopter found the landing site that the Lord had described. It was the roof of the Wells Fargo Building, directly in the center of Salt Lake’s small downtown core. It was easy to spot because it was the tallest building in the town. Salt Lake had never had the tall skyscrapers of cities like New York, but building to such heights had never been necessary. The early Mormon settlers had nothing but room in which to expand in those first decades, and only the sacred buildings (such as the Temple itself) strived toward Heaven. But that had meant that Salt Lake City had grown outward, like mold on fetid old bread, constantly spreading out its contagion and sickness in every direction.

As he guided his helicopter toward one of the two landing pads on the Wells Fargo rooftop, Bradley allowed himself to muse on exactly how apt his analogy was. This valley had been invaded by a contagion, and now it needed to be sterilized. God was reaching down with his cosmic hand, wiping away the corruption, and leaving only the bright and pristine desert upon which the Mormon settlers had worked their defilement. It would take time, but once this ground was sterilized, the stains the contagion left behind would fade and disappear. The buildings would fall to dust. The rains would wash away the last of the filth, and only the pristine grasses and sands would remain.

“Where the wild horses can run free,” Bradley murmured, as the wheels of the helicopter touched down lightly on the rooftop, and he shut down the engines.

Already his silent companion was out of the chopper and unstrapping the two cases to his right. The tall scientist carried them to the edge of the rooftop, and looked west, to where the sun was sinking quickly toward the horizon.

As the rotor blades slowed to a stop, and silence once again settled over Salt Lake City, Bradley joined him there. And the two stood in the strange stillness of the devastated city, gazing blankly out over the buildings of downtown, feeling the golden light on their faces, as it shifted ever more toward the red end of the spectrum. Their shadows, already long behind them, crept almost entirely across the rooftop. At their backs the majesty of the Wasatch loomed over the city, glowing like the judgment of God himself.

They wouldn’t have to wait long. Their instructions were clear. They would begin as soon as the last ray of sun winked out over the Oquirrh mountains. They would then open a half dozen of the Novichok nozzles here on the rooftop, so they would carry their cleansing agents across the city. They would also throw a few of the Anthrax grenades off of each side of the building. They would burst in the air, and the white powder they contained would drift south in the gentle breeze that even now ruffled their shirt sleeves. Those canisters and grenades alone would cut a line of devastation from here to Provo.

When that was done, they would lift off in the helicopter, using the wash of the rotors to further distribute their clouds of death. And then they would tour the rest of the northern edge of the city, flying low and releasing more of the Novichok, until the wave of death that cascaded to the south had no gaps, provided no escape.

They would then ice this deadly cake with all the anthrax bombs, distributed far and wide. And then when all their lethal agents were delivered, they would crash the helicopter into the roof of the Temple itself. Not because it would harm the huge granite edifice, but just as a final fuck you to the people that God hated.

By that time, of course, their own bodies would be failing from their lethal exposure, and the city would be well on its way to being cleansed. After their resets, God would transport them to the Stone in the Stream, where they would be joined by hundreds of their fellow angels. God would wrap his ethereal arms around them all, and they would pass together through the veil, and on to God’s warm ocean. It would be bliss, and it would be peace.

That is what God promised.

Bradley and the Dark Ghost waited.

The possessed bodies of Susan Jarvis and of the tall scientist stood on the edge of the roof, looking to the west.

Bradley imagined that from below, the two of them looked like avenging beings, looking out over the city. Or perhaps, like gargoyles. Angels of glory, or angels of destruction. Or both.

For several minutes, Bradley’s mind wandered, remembering the strange path that had brought him to this moment.  He remembered waking up in the theater, and that sound of the little girl singing. It was a song which had almost reminded him of a life long gone.  A song that had called him forth from the despair that had wanted to claim him.

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lulled by the moonlight have all passed away…

The song was still echoing in his mind, when he heard a voice behind him.

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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