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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25. Powers

“I’m sorry, Master,” Jack said, on his knees in the basement of his Whitechapel home, awaiting the next strike. Apologizing was the best rebuttal he could conceive of. Not that Mephis comprehended the word sorry. Once again, Mephis informed him physically and verbally that he had failed his task to eliminate Sophia. He pondered how they could have escaped, but his mind failed to visualize any conceivable way.

Mephis wiped a spot of blood from the red ruby set in his golden ring. A moment before, in the course of smacking Jack’s left cheek with the back of his hand, the sharp-edged jewel sliced through Jack’s skin leaving behind a tattered red trail. “How hard can it possibly be to eliminate one girl?” Mephis said, circling around Jack. “I don’t ask for much, Jack, in exchange for your life, and yet you continually disappoint me.”

“To be fair, you tried to kill Sophia once yourself and failed,” Jack replied.

“Silence!” Mephis shouted, drawing back his hand as if to strike again.

Jack held up his hands, palms out, cowering, in front of his face anticipating another assault. He struggled with mixed feelings over the failure. Part of him felt somewhat relieved that Sophia and Anne had not died, especially directly or indirectly by his hands. The other part of him, which longed for healing to cheat death, regretted the situation. The pain from the several slaps across the face Mephis had administered was nothing compared to the jagged glass stabbing sensations he experienced every other minute from his gut. Each movement was like being forced to walk barefooted on a street laced with broken glass and gnarled metal, always wondering if the next shard would slash the tender flesh.

“You are lucky you are no good to me dead,” Mephis said as he placed his palm on Jack’s forehead. Red energy circled his hand building to a large sphere. Jack’s body convulsed, shaking back and forth, as two streaks of energy beamed from the ball of energy into his eyes.

Seconds later, Mephis raised his hand. Jack crumpled onto the ground. A sense of euphoria ran through Jack’s body as the internal pain dissipated. His tumors retreated, not gone but reduced in size. For now, forgetting the world around him, he curled up on the floor and enjoyed the moment of respite.

“See, Jack,” Mephis said. “I am a fair man.” He slipped into the chair behind his desk. “While you were gone, Jack, I discovered the location of an item that will help achieve my goals. We leave as soon as you manage to pick yourself up off the floor.”

* * *

Three hours later, they arrived by horse on the outer edge of West Norwood Cemetery. “Where now, Master?” Jack asked.

“The catacombs, Jack, the catacombs,” Mephis said, dismounting.

After a short walk, they came upon a weathered iron gate barring the entrance to a rectangular stone tomb. Behind the rusty bars, a set of stone stairs led underground. Mephis gave the gate a jerk and then a shove, which did little more than stir up some surrounding dust. He placed his index finger on the keyhole attached to the gate, and a moment later a bright red flash illuminated around the locking mechanism followed by a distinctive clunk. When he pushed the gate again, it opened, yelping like a dog after someone trod on its tail. “Come now, Jack, this should be fun.”

Jack trailed Mephis down the narrow stone steps into a square room below. The area had an altar in the middle and a door on the far side. Ceramic pots and jugs of various sizes were scattered throughout the space. Mephis raised his right palm into the air and shouted, “Adustrum.” A torch on the far wall began to burn providing much better light than the ambient light seeping down from the top of the stairs. “Grab the torch,” Mephis said.

“Yes, Master,” Jack replied. He scuttled over to the burning torch, which was resting in an iron holder allowing for easy removal or replacement with fresh torches. Taking it was a simple process.

“Open this door, Jack,” Mephis said.

“Why are you not opening it, Master?”

“In case it’s trapped,” he replied, shaking his head. “I’m no fool.”

A foot from the door, Jack performed a visual search for any sign of trip wires that may trigger some sort of booby trap. Everything appeared to be in order. He took a deep breath of air, held it, and pulled the door open. Surprisingly, the door opened with little effort. Dust appeared to be the only thing disturbed by it.

“On you go, Jack. I’ll follow right behind.”

The torch Jack held cast a yellow glow, vibrant and flickering, that cast long shadows that danced about the corridor. Along the walls in coffin-size recesses, like bunks, up to three high in some areas, lay human remains. Some were covered with rotting rags, some naked but for jewelry around their necks or rings on their skeletal fingers. The sounds of perpetual moans, some distant, others as close as the remains he passed, haunted him. He knew they must be in his head, his imagination, like the ringing in his ears he occasionally experienced—though in this case it wasn’t ringing but whimpers of the dead.

Jack’s foot sank an inch into the stone floor. A click sounded. A trap trigger, Jack thought. He attempted to retreat. Too late. Darts spat out of small holes in all four walls piercing his sides. Sharp, stinging pains, like wasp stings, radiated from each impact point but quickly faded. He pulled each thin wooden dart out of his flesh by its feathered tail. “You are lucky,” Mephis said, “the poison on those darts wore away a century ago. Not even my healing power would have saved you from that.”

Jack nodded, quelling a rising desire to retaliate. He hated Mephis and his smug attitude. At times, he wanted to knife him but knew that would be a death sentence for himself.

“Do be more careful,” Mephis added, giving Jack a slight push in the back to keep him moving. “Not all the traps will be as forgiving.”

A short time later, the corridor expanded into a square room, large enough to comfortably accommodate twenty people. The same coffin-like recesses were set in the left and right walls, stacking up to four high, most empty except for a few containing skeletal human remains. Some of the alcoves contained jars and pots. On the far wall, opposite the entry, a floor-to-ceiling mural lent an added depth to the space. Jack’s brow raised as he scanned the artwork. A man dressed in a shrouded maroon cloak stood under a starry full-moon sky at the center of a ring of stone archways. Like Stonehenge, he thought. Red beams of energy circled through the stones creating a crisscrossed pattern like flower petals. Surrounding the circle of arches an army had gathered. It was no regular army, but a battalion of the undead. On the frontline, naked skeletons carried nothing more than a sword and a shield, raised, as if they were cheering. Farther back, men and woman partly clothed with their flesh rotting, wielded rocks and sticks.

“Impressive, isn’t it, Jack?” Mephis said. “An army of undead. Corpses animated to life by souls of the Underworld.”

Thoughts of the painting The Last Judgment resurfaced in Jack’s consciousness roiling a queasy sensation in his stomach. The notion that one day his soul would rise into a rotting corpse turned his mouth dry with trepidation.

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