The Anglic Gene

An orphan girl unsure of who she is or why a man wants her dead carries a secret. She will experience humanity.

Are you ready?

Join Sophia in a heart thumping adventure across England set in the 1870’s, exploring faith, doubt, love and fear. A story, quoted by the editor as “really something special”, you’ll continue to contemplate long after the journey unfolds

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1. Beginnings

London, 1862

Rain drenched, in the middle of the night, a handsome solitary man in his mid-thirties burst through the weary large oak doors of the bleak St Thomas Hospital cradling an unconscious pregnant woman in his arms. He staggered forward, each determined step more trudging than the last, leaving a trail of blood on the floor behind him, until at last he collapsed onto his strained knees. Two nurses—one senior nurse, one younger—ran towards the defeated man as he shouted, “Help, you have to save her! The future depends on her survival!”

The sodden man carefully placed the motionless woman on the well-trodden white tile floor and then collapsed onto his side, revealing the bejeweled hilt of a dagger protruding from his back.

The senior nurse, Angela, crouched beside the pregnant woman, placed two fingers on the smooth white skin of her neck, and pressed lightly. The younger nurse checked the man’s wrist for a pulse to confirm what his open yet vacant eyes told them. “He’s dead,” she said.

Angela nodded. Under her aging fingers, every second grasping for life, Angela felt a faint arterial rise. “This one is alive, but her pulse is very weak.”

A third nurse rushed a stretcher down the corridor to them. The three nurses acting as one carefully placed the pregnant woman onto the portable bed. They carried her into a nearby examination room—sterile and claustrophobic—and transferred her onto the hard wooden surface of an operating table.

“Right,” Angela said, “the doctor will be here soon.” She turned her attention to an orderly. “Peter, call the police and put up some screens around the dead man in the foyer.”

“I’m on it,” Peter replied.

Minutes later, middle-aged Dr. Gregory rushed in clad in his full-length white coat. “What do we have here, Angela?”

“A young woman, quite pregnant, who was brought in by a man who subsequently died. She appears to be in a bad way herself.” Angela nodded toward the woman on the table. “Her pulse is weak.”

“Grab some smelling salts,” Dr. Gregory said as he approached the woman and began a visual scan for any wounds. “Let’s try to wake her up.” The youngest of the three nurses scuttled out of the room.

The woman, who appeared to be in her early thirties, was quite beautiful. Her closed eyes were in perfect balance with her rather petite nose and slender mouth. She looked like a sleeping princess awaiting a kiss from a handsome prince. Her raven black hair was fine as spun silk and draped around her shoulders and down the sides of the operating table. Her long white cotton dress was marred with a chaotic pattern of blood splatter.

“Not her blood,” Dr. Gregory muttered, without looking up from examining her.

“I would say,” Angela said, calculating the degree of her baby bump, “that she is likely around eight months pregnant, possibly more.”

Dr. Gregory shrugged. “Likely. So, how did the man who brought her in die?”

“Most probably by the dagger in his back,” Angela said. “The Bobbies, I should say police, are on the way to investigate.”

The doctor pushed back her eyelid and was surprised such that his eyebrows raised by the striking emerald-green color of her eye. Even in an unconscious state, her eye seemed like a doorway into a secret luscious green garden bustling with mystery. The room’s bright light reflected in her fully dilated pupil. As if frightened, the dark black disc of her pupil constricted. He began feeling around her ribs, abdomen, and upper thighs searching for any sign of physical trauma. “No wound on her person,” he said. “Physically she seems fine.” He continued the examination, ran his hands along the sides and top of her head. “No swelling, no apparent bruising.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Does she have a name?”

“I’m sure she must,” Angela said, “but not one that we know.”

“I say,” Dr. Gregory said, eyebrow still raised.

Angela blushed at her sarcasm but stood staring at the motionless woman’s face, lost in admiring her beauty.

A younger nurse named Eleanor added, “She is wearing a gold bracelet. The top is inscribed with ‘Sophia.’ That might be her name.”

“Hmm,” Dr. Gregory mumbled, nodding. The nurse who had left the room returned with a small ceramic vial of white crystals. She held the bottle under the unconscious woman’s nose. After a few seconds, the woman’s face contorted and her eyes opened. She raised her arm, pushing away the hand holding the vial under her nose. Then, at once, she let out a deafening cry of pain and clutched her belly.

“She is in advanced labor,” Dr. Gregory shouted. “Quick, prepare for a birth.”

Eleanor fetched a steel bowl, filled it with warm water, and gathered several rags.

The woman’s breath was frantic and ragged between cries of pain as her contractions increased. “Breathe steadily,” Angela said as she gripped the woman’s hand to try to comfort her.

A stream of blood began to flow from between the woman’s legs and down the side of the table. “She is hemorrhaging,” Dr. Gregory shouted, fumbling for some cloths.

Angela winced as the woman squeezed hard on her hand. She thought about pulling her hand away, but seeing simultaneous terror and distress in the woman’s eyes she decided to grit her teeth and bear the discomfort. It’s the least I can do, she thought. From past cases, she knew well that women who hemorrhage during childbirth rarely survived.

Another contraction, and the woman heaved and let out a loud glass-vibrating screech that tensed the eardrums of everyone in the room. The pores of her sweltering forehead released additional moisture, forming beads of sweat that soon joined to create little rivulets of distress.

Eleanor dabbed the woman’s forehead with a damp cool cloth. Blood began seeping from the woman’s nostrils and ran around the corners of her anguished lips. The nurse wiped the initial trails away. Within moments, the creeks of blood turned into steady rivers that turned the whites of the cloth crimson. She gestured for Dr. Gregory to look.

He replied, his brow slumping, “Do your best to take care of it.”

The woman’s strained eyes cut to the red soaked rag as she experienced another contraction. Once the contraction passed, she seized the nurse’s wrist, glared at her with conviction, as if reconciled to her own fate. “Leave it!” Then her voice softened as she said, “Save the baby.”

“Crowning. I can see the head,” Dr. Gregory announced. “One more push should do.” 

The woman gasped for air, but her lungs, drowning in her own blood, found no oxygen. All color washed from her cheeks, leaving behind skin pale as a snow-peaked mountain. Summoning all her might, she tried to push. With stubborn abandonment, her body did not respond. She mumbled, “No. Not like this,” as her eyelids drew down.

“Stay with me,” Angela urged, sensing the woman’s hand go limp in her grasp. “The baby is nearly here.” No response. The room was then quiet as a graveyard as Angela checked the woman’s pulse. She closed her eyes, shook her head. “She is gone, doctor.”

“Right, then let’s do our best to save the baby,” he replied.

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