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


37. Storage

Jack experienced a sense of relief when Mephis said, “We’re here, Jack.” He wondered why Mephis wanted to come to this dense forest west of Amesbury, days away from Whitechapel. Two days to be exact, travelling by horseback from London through the towns of Slough, Reading, Newbury, Highclere, Ludgershall, and Tidworth.

“Bring our friend with you,” Mephis said, dismounting his horse.

Jack dismounted and transferred the rolled-up carpet containing the Shadow-inhabited corpse from his horse’s back to his own. He followed Mephis into the trees, moaning silently as his knees throbbed with each step from the additional weight of the corpse draped over his shoulder. “How far, Master?”

“Half a mile or so.”

I can make that, Jack thought, straining to keep his eyes open. As they had camped along the way, sleep eluded him. His thoughts tangled in disturbed dreams of the Underworld and Shadows. The comfort of an inn or one of the newer hotels might have made sleep easier to come by, but that was not an option for a pair carrying a reeking corpse on the back of the horse. He had become accustomed to the potent stench of rotting flesh after the first few hours of riding. It appeared the Shadow could not stop the natural decay after all. As a result, Mephis had devised a plan for building his legion of soldiers to defend the grand event—an army of the undead—a plan he was about to reveal.

About a half hour later, they stopped outside a stone corridor that led from a raised section of the earth underground into darkness. This looks familiar, Jack thought, remembering reading about ritual inhumation of the dead, which had taken place in British society between 4,000 and 2,400 BC. Long Barrows, tombs for the dead, were the final step in the process of storing the corpses. “Is this a Long Barrow, Master?”

“Yes,” Mephis replied, nodding. “A rather large one that will serve our purpose.”

A short way inside the entrance, Mephis removed from the wall a wooden torch, which caught ablaze the moment his hand enclosed its stem. The corridor led into a large hexagonal chamber. Passageways extended from each of six angled walls. Jack shivered. The temperature had dropped significantly during the short walk in. “It’s freezing in here, Master.”

“Why, yes, the cold is desirable for my purpose.”

Jack folded his arms across his chest, raised his shoulders a little, and hunched forward. “How can the temperature be so low?”

“Just know that I can do these things, Jack. You have no need to understand how.”

 “Yes, Master,” Jack replied, shaking his head. After all this time, he had hoped Mephis might start sharing some of his secrets with him. Freedom from servitude was a distant dream that would become a reality if he could only learn how Mephis healed him.

Mephis strode down the first corridor to the left. Jack set the corpse roll on the floor before following Mephis, warily. The short passage led into a square stonewalled room. On three walls were six recesses about a foot high and seven feet long, coffin size, spaced evenly from floor to ceiling. Some of the alcoves contained skulls and bone fragments. “I want you to clear out this chamber, Jack,” Mephis said, “and the other four, which are virtually the same.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Then I want you to fill each of these recesses with a fresh corpse. By fresh, I mean no more than a week old.”

Jack did the math: six per wall, three walls per room, five chambers. “Ninety corpses, Master. Where will I find so many?”

“That’s your problem, Jack. Dig them up, as you did with the last one. Steal them from the morgue in a hospital. That is none of my concern. Whatever. As long as they are not more than a week old,” Mephis said, eyes narrow, jaw tight. He seemed genuinely upset about the question. “Just don’t go on a killing spree. A murder here and there, as you do for our other needs, will be okay. But we don’t want to attract the attention of the Bobbies or—dare I be shrewd and utter, Heaven forbid—a higher power.”

Jack winced at the thought of a higher power, as his mind thought of Elidin’s gift of the Bible and that letter…. A moment later, he said, “That will take quite some time, Master.”

“Yes, Jack. No rush. You have a few years, possibly more,” Mephis replied. He faced Jack and, squinting, added, “But if you fail me, Jack, it’ll be the last mistake you ever make.”

“Right you are, Master,” Jack replied, believing every word of Mephis’ threat.

After they returned to the main chamber, Mephis said, “Let the corpse free.”

Jack unrolled the rug and within seconds the corpse stood up and stiffly paced around the room. The familiar cold chill ran down Jack’s spine. A walking corpse, even after viewing it several times, still disturbed him.

“Our friend here will defend this place, should anyone come venturing in,” Mephis said, followed by his signature evil laugh. “One less corpse you’ll have to find.”

Jack nodded, as nausea washed over not just his stomach but his whole body and … soul. He was unsure if the nausea was due to the walking undead, the stench of its rotting flesh, the idea of nearly a hundred of these things ambling about, or the prospect of the last judgement before a higher power.

“Oh, and Jack? Arm these corpses. Find swords, shields, medieval weapons. Our Shadow friends are trained to use them.”

“Where might I find such armaments?”

“You’re a clever lad, Jack. I’m sure you’ll scare something up.”

Perhaps. At least theft, Jack presumed, would be easier than killing. The warmth of his clothes finally succumbed to the freezing air outside. He rubbed his hands together as his teeth chattered away trying to warm his chilled body.

“Come, Jack. Let’s leave this place before I have to defrost you.”

Jack now understood the need to keep the tomb below zero—to prevent the corpses from rotting. How Mephis had created the arctic environment was beyond his understanding. Dark magic, he thought.

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