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


4. Runaways

Several Weeks Later

The ocean seemed restless, irritated by an uneasy wind whipping in ever-increasing gusts. Sister Mary, standing on the shore in bare feet, allowed the granules of the warm sand to squirm between her toes as she watched the unsettled waves crashing against shore. Somehow something was not right on this day, however, for the peaceful place she came to in her mind during her afternoon nap was troubled.

Another gust of aggressive wind immersed her. She clutched her veil to prevent it from being swept away. “Mary,” a powerful and sincere male voice sounded from behind her. Startled, she spun around and found standing behind her a handsome man, perhaps in his late thirties, dressed in a dazzling white suit. His appearance and demeanor were amiable appearance, and charisma radiated from his warming smile and his deep ink-blue eyes. The sensation of being close to him, even in a dream, seemed familiar to Mary, like being close to Sophia. In the shadow of his broad-rimmed white hat, his hypnotizing stare captivated her. She blushed and made to turn her eyes away, but couldn’t. She wondered why the unruly wind had not claimed his dignified hat as she fought to cling to her veil. I’m dreaming, she thought. Anything is possible.

“Who are you?” she asked, eyes narrowed.

“Diniel,” he replied, with a single nod. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sister Mary. Your work protecting the infants does not go unnoticed.”

“Unnoticed by whom?

Diniel looked towards the darkening sky and made another single nod. “Mary, there isn’t much time. They have located Sophia. You need to help her flee.”

Mary shook her head, pondered why this mysterious man was giving her orders. Her brows lowered. “Who? Why?”

“The storm is coming. Here, take this.” Diniel held out his steady palm on which rested a silver crucifix glowing with a faint white aura. It was attached to a loop weaved of snowy cotton thread. “Give this to Sophia.”

Mary reached out and took the necklace. “How? This is a dream. When I wake up it will be gone.”

“I must go,” he said. “Do as I say. The future depends on her survival.”

“Wait,” she said, her tone a little impatient. “What is going on?” The squalls increased. Mary’s feet began slipping in the soft sand. She leaned into the cold harsh gusty wind to help steady herself. Diniel once again gazed upwards. Black charcoal-colored clouds filled the intimidating sky. A single bolt of intense lightning forked from the darkness, momentarily blinding Mary. The strike connected with Diniel, consuming him in a radiant white explosion of energy: he vanished.

After her sight restored, Mary cut her eyes across the beach searching for Diniel. Unable to find him, pressing her knuckle against her lips, she returned her concerned gaze to the ocean. Volatile waves, triple their normal size, crashed threateningly into the beach. Every second surge travelled far enough up the sands to soak her ankles. As the cold foamy water retreated, the shrewd rip of the sea around her feet tried to drag her into the enraged ocean.

Distant screams mingled with the sound of booming thunder twisted through the wind. The cries for help grew louder as the rumbling in the clouds softened and her surroundings began to fade. Mary began to rock, very methodically, back and forth. She opened her eyes to find Anne pulling at her shoulders, tears welling in her eyes, shouting desperately, “Wake up.”

“Steady down, Anne,” Sister Mary said, taking Anne’s hands from her shoulders. “What on earth is the matter?”

Anne pulled at her hands. “Come quickly! He has Sister Catherine.”

As Sister Mary rose from her favorite napping chair, a silver cross necklace fell to the floor. She reached down and picked it up. “This can’t be,” she muttered.

“What?” asked Anne, tugging at her arm. “You need to come quickly.”

“Okay, Anne, I’m coming.” Sister Mary followed Anne out of the sitting room and to the top of the stairs. The sight below turned her stomach. Sister Catherine was kneeling before a man whose face was concealed by a long red cloak trimmed in gold. Surrounded by a faint red mist, his hand gripped Catherine’s forehead. Her mouth was open at a peculiar angle and appeared paralyzed as the man shouted in a menacing yet measured tone, “I’ll not ask you again, where is Sophia?”

“Come quickly,” Sister Mary whispered, dragging Anne out of sight of the man below. “Where is Sophia?”

“She is in our room under her bed, hiding from the man.”

“And the other children?”

“They’re with Sister Margaret. They went to the park. Me and Sophia didn’t want to go.”

“Sophia and I,” Sister Mary corrected, trying with fierce intent to stay strong. She fought the tremors of fear that threatened to shake her, knowing that for the children’s sake she had to keep her composure. “Quiet now, let’s make our way to Sophia.” Together they hurried to Sophia’s bedroom as a shriek of agony echoed up the stairwell behind them.

“Will Sister Catherine be okay?” Anne asked.

Sister Mary knelt on one knee in front of Anne. Trying hard to keep the desperation in her heart from showing on her face, she said, “Yes. Whatever happens, God will look after her. You needn’t worry.” She told herself to do likewise, although she struggled to trust her own words as Sister Catherine’s screams hampered her thoughts.

* * *

On seeing the feet of Sister Mary and Anne enter the room, Sophia slid out from under the bed. She ran directly to Sister Mary and hugged her tightly. Mary held the silver necklace up, said, “Sophia, take this. It will help protect you.” Then she placed the necklace over Sophia’s head so that the crucifix dangled over her chest. “Now Sophia, you need to go, leave this place, and don’t return.”

Sophia bit down on her lip to calm its quivering. Tears welled in her eyes and, though she tried to hold them in, they broke free. “Why? Have I done something wrong?”

“No, not at all, you beautiful child,” Sister Mary said. She placed her hands on the sides of Sophia’s head and wiped her tears away with her thumbs. She bent down and kissed Sophia on the head. “Come now, Sophia, you must go.” Sister Mary then walked over and unlatched the bi-fold bedroom window and pushed it ajar. The gap between the two windowpanes was just wide enough to provide a passage out onto the shingled roof of the kitchen below.

Sophia stammered. “But, I, I d-don’t w-want to go!”

“You have to, Sophia. Danger is present, and we have to keep you safe.”

“Where should I go?”

“Seek shelter in the forest. Wait there a day or so, and then return, and we will find a better place for you.”

Sophia was torn. She didn’t want to leave the Sisters, the orphanage, her adopted siblings, and especially Anne. This was her home. Yet the anguish in Sister Mary’s eyes helped Sophia make a decision. “Okay,” she said.

Anne pulled on Sister Mary’s robe. “What about me?” Anne said, apprehensive.

“Come with me, Anne,” Sophia said. The statement came from her instinct to protect her best friend. “We’ll be fine. Nothing will separate us.”

Anne scrambled over to Sophia’s side and looked at Sister Mary. “Please, please can I go with Sophia?”

Sister Mary seemed to weigh the request for a moment before saying, “Yes, it’s probably for the best. Hurry now.” She gently pushed them towards the window. “Be careful. May God’s angels watch over you.”

Sophia stepped through the window and onto the gently pitched roof. Once she got a stable footing, she reached back inside the window and helped Anne through. Together, taking care to be silent, they crawled towards the roof’s end. Sophia glanced over the edge and calculated the drop to be nearly twice her height. She swung her legs over the side, put them together, and allowed herself to drop feet-first, bending her knees to absorb the impact. She hit the ground, fell forwards onto her hands, stood up, dusted off her palms, and gazed up to see Anne, peering rather sheepishly over the edge of the roof.

“I can’t make that drop, Sophia,” Anne whispered, chewing at her thumbnail.

“Hang on a second.” Sophia surveyed her surroundings. After finding nothing suitable to help or serve as a ladder, she looked up at Anne and shook her head, whispered, “Lower yourself over the edge.” After hesitating for a moment, Anne lowered herself over the side of the roof. Sophia grabbed her around the knees. “It’s okay, I’ve got you. You can let go.” Anne released her white-knuckled fingers. Anne’s weight took Sophia by surprise and propelled her stumbling backwards. She tried to regain her footing but failed and fell onto her back with Anne crashing on top of her. Stuck under the weight of Anne sitting on her chest, Sophia gave her a gentle nudge and strained to say, “You can get off me now.”

After gathering her thoughts—no doubt relieved that she had survived the fall—Anne hopped off Sophia’s chest and stood up. “Sorry, Sophia.” She reached out and helped Sophia to her feet.

“It’s okay, Anne,” Sophia said, smiling gently, “at least you had a softer landing.” Deep down, Sophia was quite proud of Anne’s bravery.

Holding hands, they made haste into the sheltering forest.

* * *

Sister Catherine, steeling herself against the physical pain racking her body, remained faithful as the shrouded man shouted, “I will not ask you again! Tell me where the girl is, and you can all go!” She shook her head defiantly. A tear rolled around the corner of her contorted mouth. She clutched the wooden crucifix hanging from her neck in her right hand. She felt the tips of his fingers tightening against her temples as the red energy circling his palm grew brighter, more intense. After several seconds, the red glow dimmed and he removed his hand and shouted, “Die then.”

Her muscles slackened, and she collapsed to the floor, overcome with pain, barely conscious. The man raised his hands and roared. The sounds of doors and windows slamming shut echoed throughout the orphanage followed by a few seconds of eerie quiet. Utter silence created an illusion of time stopping. Through her blurred vision, in what looked like slow motion, flames erupted from the base of the walls. Then time appeared to resume as the smell and sound of burning wood filled her senses. In a moment, the walls were ablaze in raging fires. The man faced the orphanage entrance, paced to the burning door, and then, as if the wood was made of liquid, passed through.

Moments later, Sister Mary came charging down the stairs and crouched beside Sister Catherine. “Can you rise?”

“I think so,” Sister Catherine murmured, even though her muscles screamed no. She took hold of Sister Mary’s hand and used the little strength she had remaining to rise to her feet. She leaned into Mary’s hug and together they lumbered into the lounge room in search of a way out through the fire. It was no use. There was no breach for escape in the intense fire covering the walls. Navigating became increasingly difficult as smoke permeated the remaining oxygen and limited visibility. In the middle of the lounge, the two Sisters collapsed to their knees. With imminent death approaching, they closed their eyes, clutched their rosary, and began to pray. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.”

As life began slipping away, Sister Catherine noticed the appearing of a pearly glow, bright as the sun, which turned into a white shimmering oval-shaped portal. A man stepped forth from the radiant light.

“Diniel?” Sister Mary said.

“Yes, Mary, I’m here. Do not be afraid.” He crouched in front of Sister Mary and Sister Catherine, took one of their hands in each of his, and prayed with them. A sense of peace flowed through Sister Catherine. All the fear she harbored vanished. Mary collapsed, conquered by the toxic smoke, and within seconds Catherine followed.


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