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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29. Raised

The gravedigger should be the only man on duty, Jack thought as he peered through the glass window of a shack tucked away in a corner of the cemetery. Inside, seated at a small table reading a newspaper in the glow of a gas lantern, was his target—an elderly gentleman with a long silvery beard and a lazy eye. A cup of steaming tea rested next to him. Jack licked his lips, imagining the scent of the beverage, his favorite. He paced back behind a tree, picked up a small rock the size of a penny, and threw it at the shack’s window. It was not strong enough to shatter the glass but did make a distinctive pinging sound.

A moment later the door to the shack opened, and the old man whispered. “Anyone there?” Lantern in hand, he stepped out onto the door landing.

The man’s patrol—a clockwise pace around the shack—seemed obvious to Jack from the moment he stepped out the door. Jack waited until the man, whose right leg was seemingly unable to bend at the knee, hobbled past his hiding spot. Then, with chloroform-soaked cloth in hand, Jack took two quick strides out from the darkness, clamped his hand around the old man’s mouth and nose, and hooked his other arm around the man’s chest. The old man struggled, thrashing about like a fly in a spider’s web, but his strength was no match for Jack. An easy takedown—easier in fact than many of the nightwalking dames he took down. As the man drifted into unconsciousness, Jack lowered him to a sitting position against the back wall of the shack. He took the man’s lantern and went in the shack. Inside, he slipped into the chair, picked up the cup of tea and waved it just under his nose, breathing in the fresh scent before touching the cup to his lips. The warm minty liquid washed over his tongue. He closed his eyes, savoring the taste. Several minutes passed as he took his time consuming the tea, knowing he had a large job ahead of him. My time to rest, he thought. Before leaving, he fetched the gravedigger’s shovel.

Shovel in hand, Jack paced through Kensal Green Cemetery under the night sky. The moon peeked between clouds occasionally providing glimmers of ambient light. Jack, however, preferred the moon to stay hidden, making his stealthy task easier. Within minutes, he arrived back to where he secured his horse earlier in the night. He laid the shovel on the ground and untied a rolled-up rug from the side of his horse. He unrolled the old straw-matted rug next to the grave and picked up his shovel. With a downward thrust, he plunged the spade into the freshly-placed soil. The steel blade descended a few inches. Using his foot, and positioning his weight, he forced the blade down the rest of its extent. His back already ached just a little, and he knew it would be no easy task to move the six feet of dirt covering the coffin containing the corpse Mephis instructed him to retrieve. “No more than a week dead,” Mephis had said. “That is the age of the cadaver I require.”

After several minutes of digging, Jack leant on his shovel to catch his breath. He listened to the night, still but for the occasional “who-o-o who-o-o” of an owl. A night ideally suited to his task so long as the rain stayed away. He wiped sweat from his brow to prevent the salty fluid from stinging his tired eyes.

Two hours later, the shovel’s blade struck the hard wooden surface of a coffin. A little more and I’m done, he thought. A few minutes later, he pried opened the lid of the casket. Immediately, he covered his nose to prevent any more of the foul concentrated smell tainting his senses. The foul stench aggrieved his eyes, causing them to well with cleansing tears. He leapt from the six-foot hole, keeled over, and gagged, dry heaving. Then, another forceful retch, this one relieving him of the remnants of his supper. After gaining his composure, he returned to the hole.

The trapped stench had dissipated somewhat into the night air. He took his first look at the corpse. A woman. Decomposition had begun, and maggots were busy feeding on the side of her neck. Her face was gray and emaciated. Dark voids either side of her nose stared outwards from where her eyes used to be. He wondered if they had gone as part of her death or if insects had already made a meal of them, or perhaps some perverse mortuary attendant had wanted a souvenir. Strangely, he found the corpse beautiful in a way. The woman’s long blond hair flowed down over her shoulders and splayed by her sides. Her figure still had an appealing allure. Even though her arms and legs had the same gray emaciated look as her face. Maybe the attraction was the long red tight fitting dress she wore. He was not sure.

With little effort, he lifted the thirty-pound corpse from the coffin and placed it on the rug. He rolled the rug around the corpse as if rolling tobacco in paper. Once secure, he tied a short piece of rope around the center and then slung his improvised body bag over the back of his horse. “Back to shoveling,” he mumbled. Filling the grave took half the time and effort as the digging. His crime concealed, he led his horse the short walk back to the shack. After returning the shovel, he mounted his steed and commenced the one-hour journey to his Whitechapel home. Light rain had begun to fall, but he didn’t mind it. The fresh droplets cooled and refreshed him. Helped lessen the tainted stench clinging to his clothes.

With the makeshift body bag over his shoulder, Jack plodded down the stairs into the basement. “Nearly there,” he mumbled.

“You’re back,” Mephis said. “And you have the corpse.”

“Yes, Master,” Jack replied, unrolling the rug on the floor to reveal the cadaver.

Mephis held his newly acquired staff in one hand and the Book Of The Dead in the other and began chanting, “Excito mortuus.” The sphere on the top of the staff filled with a red mist and began spinning madly like a mini tornado. In a louder voice, Mephis shouted some additional words he read from the Book Of The Dead, in a dialect Jack did not understand. The room started to shake as a vertical red crack formed, like a lightning bolt, and floated above the body.

The split grew in width. Then a black hand appeared at the edge of the crack, as if someone were reaching through from somewhere on the other side. The hand was no ordinary hand but appeared rather as a black shadow, with no depth, like a translucent phantom. A moment later, a head appeared, also as a shadow, followed by a complete body wafting through the crack. A shadow of a man now stood before Jack. It was no mere reflection; it was standing in the room, an entity like a black ghost.

“What is it, Master?” Jack asked.

“Oddly enough, they are called Shadows. Souls condemned to the Underworld. Some people refer to them as demons or evil spirits.”

“But I thought you were raising the dead?”

“No, Jack,” Mephis corrected, shaking his head. “I am creating a rift between our dimension and the Underworld to enable Shadows to come forth. With no physical form, however, Shadows cannot interact in our dimension, our world, the world they once lived in as humans before death.”

The red energized crack vanished leaving the Shadow bobbing a bit, peering around the room. A cold chill, familiar to Jack, ran down his spine, only this one was somewhat colder than normal, almost freezing and causing his body to shudder involuntarily. He had experienced some creepy things, but this somehow bothered him more. The idea that souls exist in the Underworld, or what he presumed was Hell, made the Last Judgement and his eternal destination all that more real. If demons and a devil exist, then so must….

After pacing up and down the room, the Shadow floated into the corpse and vanished. Mephis began to chant additional words he read from the Book Of The Dead. A short time later, the eye sockets of the corpse glowed a deep blood red as the body wriggled slightly. Mephis stopped chanting. “See, Jack, there is a place for necromancy. Not only can it allow rifts, gateways, to form between the Underworld and Earth, but it also enables a Shadow to animate a corpse.”

Jack took a few steps backwards, away from the body. No wonder John Dee wanted to hide that book, he thought. He jolted as the corpse sprang into a sitting position. Then the body’s head turned side to side making the horrible creaking sound of bone rubbing on bone.

“What do we call it, Master?” Jack asked.

Mephis rubbed his chin. “Interesting question. I haven’t thought of a name.”

The corpse’s mouth opened as if it were trying to speak, but no sound came out. A moment later, it rose from the floor, stumbling forward at first, before balancing itself into a stiff walk.

“How long will it last, Master? Will not the body rot?”

“The Shadow inside will slow the decay. But, yes, the vessel is temporary.”

“What is the point then, Master?”

“A temporary army is better than no army, Jack.”

“Will the Shadow return to the Underworld?”

“Ultimately, when the vessel becomes uninhabitable the Shadow will return to the Underworld or slip into the Spiritual Realm.”

 “Spiritual Realm, Master?”

“Yes. It is a place where Shadows in various forms feed off the negative energy created in our realm, Jack. Much easier for them to move into from the Underworld. To come here they need the assistance of someone like myself.”

“I see, Master.” Jack paused for a moment, before asking, “Will I end up in the Underworld, as a Shadow, when I die?”

“That’s not going to be up to me, Jack,” Mephis said, before vomiting forth an evil laugh.

“Who, then?” Jack asked.

“Your creator, Jack, who else?”

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