Abigail ran, stalks of yellow corn stood in rows front of her, swaying. She knelt, hiding amongst them, clutching a small ruby pyramid in her left hand. There were foot prints in the soil, she held her breath. The sound of her own heart beating pounded in her ears. She started praying, “our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be ….” then someone grabbed her from behind, she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. She was going to die, Abigail drew in a deep breath, but she would die fighting. Large hands pinned her down and smothered her with an empty sack of flour. White powder covered her face and she sneezed. She tugged at the bag with her free hand. The man held her by the wrists. Abigail scrunched her knees up into her chest gathering her strength before thrusting her legs out in front of her and kicking her attacker in the stomach. He fell backwards, the sack fell off, it was dark, a waning silver white moon hung above them. Abigail couldn’t see his face.
“Quiet!” He slammed his heavy palm over her mouth and thrust a knife into her ribs. Abigail bit his hand, her fists pounding on his chest and face, she scrambled backwards, still holding the pyramid. She had lured him away from the house, from her family.
“Just hand it over.” The man said, “this doesn’t have to be hard.” He held the knife to her throat, but Abigail was not afraid, she took his hand digging her nails into his forearm and turning the knife back toward him. He cut her neck.
“No! No!” Abigail screamed, grabbing handfuls of his shoulder length hair, there was someone else, a shadow crept from behind, then something hit her head, and everything went black.
* * *
Outside rain pounded. The scent of wet earth permeated the little house. It was still winter in Philadelphia, but everywhere new life had begun to sprout. New shoots of grass replaced dried brush, ever so delicate and fragile. Life emerged, and the Earth was renewed, everywhere, except the little house on Chestnut, located between Front and 2nd Street.
Emma lowered her head. She stared at the fresh little white flowers she had picked from the garden that morning and placed in a vase on her mother’s night table.
It was dark in the small brick house. The sun was beginning to fade behind a solid wall of gray clouds. Emma fought back tears.
Abigail Franklin was dying. Abigail was Emma’s world, her teacher, friend, and mother. She could not imagine life without her. Emma stared blankly into the kitchen. Victoria, her father’s sister was starting a fire in the hearth. She shivered. Spring still carried winter’s chill.
Emma sighed, Victoria had come to help around the house when she heard about Abigail’s injury. But she was no help, seemed untouched by her mother’s state, Emma lifted her gaze to look at her, Victoria’s gray eyes were dull with indifference. Emma wondered where here humanness had gone. She wanted to say something, strike up some sort of conversation, but thought better of it, she would only end up angry and frustrated, or worse let her know what she really thought of her.
Victoria pulled a child by the wrist, Emma’s youngest cousin Laura May. Emma followed Victoria’s scrawny figure with her gaze, studied her dreary gray suit and dingy pair of boots as they disappeared behind the parlor doors. Emma listened until she couldn’t hear her Aunt’s heels clanking on the floor anymore. Until Laura May’s wails were so far off, she could barely make out the sound.
Emma was a young woman almost seventeen, ready to enter a new phase in her life, ripe for marriage, healthy enough to start a family of her own. She should be able to console herself with that. That is what Victoria told her. Aunt Victoria was a harsh woman, molded out of adversity and sorrow. Emma did not like her, although sometimes she felt sorry for the woman. Victoria had five little ones to contend with alone. She had lost her husband in a raid. Uncle Charles traded furs with the Natives. He had left New England on an expedition to explore the territory west of the Mississippi. He had died defending the Shoshone tribe against American raiders. Emma sighed, wishing she had met him. She would have liked him, she thought. She would have gone with him to chart the new territory.
“Emma!” Mr. Franklin called, pulling his daughter out of her reverie. Emma could hear the wood floor groan beneath his heavy steps as he neared. “I have the artifact!” His tired face hinted at a smile.
Emma rose. She had been sitting on a small wooden chair outside her mother’s bedroom. “What artifact, Father?” Mr. Franklin and Abigail had unearthed thousands of items during their excavations. Extracted pieces of ancient civilizations and pieced together entire histories. But nothing out of the ordinary, they had never mentioned any artifact worth protecting. At least not to Emma.
Mr. Franklin opened his hand to reveal a small ruby pyramid. “This one,” he said, holding it up against the candle light. Emma’s eyes widened. She had never seen anything like it before. Her mother had been mumbling something about an artifact earlier that morning. At the time Emma thought it was just nonsense, caused by the fever.
Abigail Franklin was an archeologist, in a world where men still ruled. She and Mr. Franklin had recently stumbled on unusual finds and thus found themselves on the run. The Smithsonian and American government had discredited their find, along with several countries across the known world. Its reemergence would disrupt the human perception of realty, it was too dangerous to acknowledge, its existence and discovery would be put down. He cupped his hand over the artifact, hiding it quickly. His thoughts turned elsewhere, and the sudden madness left his eyes.
“How is she?” Mr. Franklin looked up at Emma, studying her face.
“Not good, Father.” Emma lowered her head, pushing back tears. “Doctor Monastersky is with her now. He doesn’t think she will make it through the night. He drained her blood.”
Mr. Franklin’s face turned white. “Savages!” He shouted. “Of course, she won’t … not with that sort of care.” Emma’s heart raced. She knew how her father felt about the practice. But Victoria had insisted. Emma steadied herself against the wall. She hated when Mr. Franklin started shouting. Abigail was not dying of disease, she had been fatally wounded while she and Mr. Franklin were on a dig. Her father hadn’t told Emma what had happened, only that her mother had been injured. Her wound had become infected and septic, and Abigail had gone into shock.
Emma peeled away from the wood-paneled wall. Trying to calm Mr. Franklin before he made an entrance. “Father, the doctor said mother would benefit from the bloodletting.”
“I don’t care what he said.” Emma bit her lower lip. Nothing she said was going to stop him from lashing out. Her Father was forward thinking, like her uncle Benjamin had been. He did not believe in bloodletting any more than he believed in Santa Claus.
“It will make her weaker. It will kill her!” Mr. Franklin squeezed his eyes shut. Emma stared at her father as he pounded on the little door, barely clinging to its frame. She didn’t want to believe him, but a sick feeling at the pit of her stomach told her he was right.
Finally, Mr. Franklin yanked the door open. Dr. Monastersky was closing his black leather bag, latching the old brass buckle on the front of it.
“Come in, Mr. Franklin.” Dr. Monastersky’s voice shook as he grabbed the bag by its handle.
“What gives you the right?” Mr. Franklin eyed him angrily.
“I did what every good doctor would have done, Mr. Franklin.” Dr. Monastersky tipped his hat. “I’ll be showing myself out. I’m sorry.”
Emma knew here was nothing more he could do. Everyone hated this part. The waiting, the silence, and the pain. Dr. Monastersky had done everything he could to prolong Abigail’s life, and yet her fate was never in his hands.
Emma peeked through the doorway afraid to follow her father inside. She took another step back and lingered behind the open door.
“Abigail, Darling?” Mr. Franklin’s voice was soft, almost a whisper. He knelt at the side of her bed. “Abigail?”
Abigail mustered up what little strength she had left and forced her eyes open. “Mr. Franklin?” She had always called her husband Mr. Franklin.
“I have it. They didn’t take it. Abigail, I have the artifact.” Mr. Franklin opened his hand, exposing the ruby-red pyramid.
Abigail smiled, grabbing his hand. Her breathing came in quick spurts and almost stopped, then quickened again. Mr. Franklin’s hand tightened over hers. Then her eyes rolled back, and the breath went out of her. She fell limply into the bed.
“Abigail!” Mr. Franklin hunched over her and shook her by the shoulders. “Abigail!” Mr. Franklin put his lips over hers and blew out two breaths, but her lungs were not filling. Abigail wasn’t breathing. He swallowed, cupping the small pyramid and lowering his hand into his pocket and wept. She had thought they had taken it, wasn’t strong enough to protect herself. Mr. Franklin closed his eyes, he had been too late, he could still see her plastered against the well, her gown drenched with blood. There had been at least two men, he had seen them running from the scene. Both of them dressed in black. Southern by the look of their seasoned attire. Mr. Franklin hung his head. President Zachary Taylor had no idea that men under his jurisdiction had discovered an alternate history, a secret history, of the American territories beyond the Mississippi. Mr. Franklin and Abigail had unearthed valuable relics, objects said to contain great power and these men had formed any army, men from lands yet uncharted, men that were promised great treasure but not told what it was. The Franklins had kept their discovery from Emma in order to protect her, had sent her off to England to study and live with Abigail’s family.
Days after the incident Mr. Franklin had found the relic in the dog’s bowl. Arizona had recovered it herself, unaware of its value. The dog could be frightening, she was a large Shepard mix, and when she bared her teeth she sent many a man running. She must have come out when she heard the men approaching. Arizona was with him now, sprawled at the foot of Abigail’s bed.
Mr. Franklin looked down at his wife. Abigail had been his only true love, in her he had met his match. No else had been brave enough to unearth the truth of humanity’s origins. No other archeologist had been as passionate or headstrong. No one else had dared to dive into the unknown the way she had.
“Mother!” Emma rushed in and crumpled to the floor next to the bed, her head pressed just below the worn mattress. She hated herself for leaving the Americas and not staying with her mother. If only she had known. Emma felt a lump form in her throat.