Sanguis dei, p.1
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       Sanguis Dei, p.1
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           Kristie Kiessling
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Sanguis Dei


  Kristie Kiessling


  Sanguis Dei

  Copyright © 2011 by Kristie Kiessling

  Cover Art: Copyright © 2011 by Robin Lythgoe


  Sanguis Dei


  Part One

  His mother called him Yodhi. That wasn't his name or even a name at all, just a twist on a letter of an ancient language his mother's mother spoke. Yodh was a very small letter, but important. His mother called him that because he, too, fit that description: tiny, but important. His hands could barely hold anything of significance, but when they did manage to grasp something, he held on tightly. It was difficult to control his limbs, to direct his strength. There were many people around him and voices that, out of courtesy, spoke in muted tones or even whispers. For all their quietness, they were firm about what they did to him. They poked him and prodded him. They took blood samples, urine samples, stool samples; searching for something. It all hurt so much. They didn't mean to hurt him, not yet. He understood that. He also knew something they didn't. He knew that he was here for that very reason: to hurt. It was in his blood.

  He would have liked to tell them, but he was -after all- a baby. Only his thoughts would have made sense to them, not his gurgles and too-tight tugs. Those they understood in merely the most basic of ways. It would be a couple of years at least before he could speak and even then, they wouldn't understand. He thrashed his tiny arms. The mass of hair on his head was dark and curly and whenever they touched it, he sighed as if it were the most wonderful thing in the world.

  He tossed off the warm blanket with a kick of his feet. The conditioned air drifted over his bare arms and legs. The bright lights suddenly switched off and he blinked, jumped a little even, in reaction. His lower lip came, but he didn't cry. He blinked a great deal, looking this way and that. Things were still fuzzy to him, though his eyes had gone from baby-born-blue to brown. The sounds of the hospital were sporadic and often loud, but he had been there so long, that with the lights off, those sounds lulled him into slumber. His long-lashed lids closed, he breathed in and out, slowly, sweet, and over and over. His eyes moved in dreams he would not recall.

  Yodhi woke to the familiar tones and rumbling inflections of voices he knew. Eyes still closed, he listened to what they had to say.

  "We've checked his blood over and over, Mr. Carpenter. There's very little we can do about his ..."

  "Dear God," a woman murmured. Yodhi wiggled his arms, but his mother didn't see him do it.

  "... complex," his doctor, Dr. Weis finished.

  "Very little meaning nothing," the distressed voice of Yodhi's step-father said, "or very little meaning something?"

  "Joe, please..." his mother whispered.

  "I want to know, Amara." Anger invaded his step-father's words, and Yodhi wanted to feel Joe's strong heartbeat close against his tiny body, but no one was holding him. His step-father loved him so; so much more than the man had thought was possible.

  "We could try a transfusion. Compatible blood - yours, Mrs. Carpenter - might just work. If that doesn't, we can call in a specialist. I have someone in mind."

  The silence that followed caused him to open his brown eyes. He saw the indistinct forms of his family. "Look! He's awake." Fingers touched him, warm, gentle, even on the sore spots. Arms lifted him and held him tenderly. The heartbeat of his mother, he knew her scent, soothed him and he didn't cry at all. Her murmur of his name and the little endearment she always put before it, Yodhi, made him smile. He knew that it wasn't exactly right, but it was beautiful.

  "I'll do it." She was resolute.

  "Amara, no. I'll do it."

  "I'm sorry, Mr. Carpenter," the doctor interjected. "I'm sorry. You aren't his biological father. You can't be the donor."

  "I said I'll do it, Dr. Weis." His mother's voice was firm and Yodhi's little heart swelled with love.

  "Honey, should you? I mean..." Joe's hesitation was born of his frustration and showed how very much he loved her, too.

  "What would you do, Joe?" Her tone said she knew already and when her husband didn't respond, except with silence, she told the doctor to arrange it. The doctor left them alone, but they were never really alone. The electronic devices attached to the baby, to the walls, to the bed, recorded and monitored every sound, every word, and every motion.

  "I want to take him home," Amara insisted.

  "We can't be sure yet, Amara."

  "Just look at him, Joe. He's fine, just fine. He eats well, he sleeps, everything that's supposed to go in, goes in and stays in. Everything that's meant to come out, comes out." Her husband couldn’t help a little laugh as he touched Yodhi's head. "Don't laugh."

  "It was funny."

  "I'm serious! He isn't colicky or fussy. He is every mother's dream baby. I want to take him home." As she and his father talked, she rocked Yodhi to sleep. He drifted off grasping the ringlets of her hair.


  The OR was bright too, so bright his big eyes closed and he breathed deep. Though they slipped the funny-smelling mask over his face, he inhaled the anesthesia as his mother had and wasn't afraid. The doctor talked while the air that would make Yodhi sleep filled his lungs. His eyes grew heavy. He fought to keep them open.

  "His blood is special," Dr. Weis stroked Yodhi's curly hair as he spoke to the technician. "Different."

  "It frightens you, doesn't it, doctor?" the tech asked, tending to his work.

  "No," he denied at first, smiling down just a little at the big eyes that searched his face. Then he sighed. "Yes. His parents wouldn't understand. But it is frightening to contemplate what could happen if he is allowed to leave here. We need to study him, to figure this out, to control what his blood can do so that he can live a normal life- so that we all can."

  The nurse stepped into the baby's field of view. She had pretty green eyes and she caressed his cheek as his eyes slipped closed. "Will it cause him serious complications as he grows?"

  "It might. We can't be sure without more testing."

  They continued to talk and their voices became a buzz to Yodhi. He heard distinct words and phrases. They hadn't told his parents. He drifted in and out, his body fighting the gas meant to make him sleep. There was something fantastically frightening to the doctor about the molecular composition of his blood …

  "…cells don't break down once removed from the body. Introduced to the wound of another, it overwhelms it, takes control …"

  The nurse asked, "What if the transfusion doesn't work?"

  "I'm not sure what we'll do. We can’t let him go home, either way. I'm thinking of calling in Dr. King."

  The technician made an appreciative sound. "Dr. Harold King, the specialist?"

  "The very same," Dr. Weis nodded. "Do you know him?"

  "Yes, oh, yes," the tech answered. "If he can't figure it out, no one can."

  "It's just so odd, Doctor," the nurse said. "Normally, he would have gone home the second day."

  "Ah, but for the tests and what they show… His blood could save so many."

  "That has to be up to his parents, doesn't it?" the kind voice of the nurse insisted. "We have to send him home, Doctor, he's perfectly healthy. Perfectly. We can’t keep him here!"

  He slept a while and there were soft voices in his head that he knew were not the voices of the nurse or the technician or the doctor. They sang to him and tended him. Though there was pain as the anesthesia wore off, again, he did not mind so much. There was more pain as the tubes were removed, the needle withdrawn … then bandages and wraps and caution.

  "Doctor King will agree with me. We can't let them take him home. No, no. No more protests. Take him to the nursery."

  The nu
rse lifted the baby, held him close and whispered as she hurried down the brightly lit hallway, "You belong with your parents."

  He sighed into sleep again.


  When he woke up, his mother was sobbing softly nearby. He listened, waved his feet and hands. He felt good, but different. He was a little sore, a lot sleepy.

  "We'll have to keep him a while longer yet..."

  "But you said it worked!" He heard the strong voice of his father, angry, upset.

  "It did. Then the marrow in his body began working overtime to ... take over …" Dr. Weis said it as if there was something dangerous about it. "These cells he produced, more quickly than any normal child could, replaced the cells your wife gave him. His complex is progressive. I don't think we can eliminate it."

  "He looks fine!" Amara cried and snatched the baby up from the hospital crib. "He isn’t in pain, he’s normal!"

  Jolted, Yodhi blinked and stuffed a fist in his mouth.

  "I assure you, he isn't. But he will be. We won't stop until we find a solution, Mrs. Carpenter. Meanwhile, you should go home, rest. We have experienced staff around him day and night."

  "He needs to be home with his family."

  "You can discharge him, of course, if you like... but we can't be held responsible for the consequences of such actions." The doctor's voice dripped with portent.

  "For now, then. Just for now."

  "For now," his mother, subdued, agreed with Joe. "We'll be back to see him tomorrow."

  "Give us a day or so, please?"

  "We can't come back?" She was heartbroken by that. Aching. Yodhi gripped her hair tight, felt his father's hand on his small back.

  "You're damn right we'll come back," Joe's oath was irresistible.

  "You can, of course, of course. I didn't mean to imply..."

  "Let me just take him..." the kind voice of the nurse told his mother.


  "Don't worry." There were hands all over him now, his mother's, the nurse's, his father's…


  "C'mon, Amara. We'll be back tomorrow."

  "Oh, Joe," she sobbed, seeing her child in the hands of the nurse.


  A man with curly red hair held Yodhi close and talked gibberish to him. Nevertheless, he watched the man as closely as his blurred baby vision would allow. "I think you're absolutely right, Doctor," the man said. "The test results clearly show that his blood is special. Don’t they? Yes, they sure do, they do." The man's focus was on him again. He didn't smile, just watched, even though his lip was fbbbipptt'd by the red-haired man's finger.

  "That's … good to know," Dr. Weis said, a vague look of worry on his face.

  "It is indeed," the other agreed. "Vast opportunities await us, if we do this well."

  "Dr. King, don’t you think we should send him home? There's nothing wrong with him. This complex we've told the parents about - it isn't dangerous to the baby!"

  "Really," Dr. King turned his gaze to the pretty nurse. He saw how they were cold eyes, calculating eyes and he pouted just a little to be held in such unloving arms.

  "Really. He is perfectly fine. Why don't you give him back to me, so I can take him back to the nursery? His parents are here to see him."

  "Oh, are they? Excellent. I want to discuss a few things with them…"

  The way the man voiced his eagerness made the baby squirm. He did not cry, but he wriggled to be let go and when the nurse came into his range of view, he held out his tiny arm to her.

  "Bring them to my office as soon as you've taken the baby back to the nursery."

  He found comfort in the arms of the nurse as she took him away from Dr. King.


  His parents were not in the room. They had not been in the room for a long time. Sometimes, the ones he loved when he slept would sing to him and tell him that a great deal of time had passed. He told them not to worry. In his thoughts, he had a strong voice, a man's voice, but of course he could not use it yet.

  He couldn't see or smell his parents, or feel their comforting touches. He wriggled in the clear plastic bin they called a crib and waved his arms. The places they'd poked him over and over, taking samples of his blood, hurt. He was hungry and his stomach rumbled. He wondered if they would poke him again before his mother came to take him home.

  He heard footsteps and shortly the pretty nurse came into view. She lifted him up and put a bottle to his lips. He watched her face as he drank. Her eyes were red-rimmed, as his mother's had been. He reached his arm up and waved it unsteadily in the air until she gave him her finger; then he held on tight.

  "You are such a beautiful baby. Dr. King wants more of your blood. I'm supposed to get you ready for them to collect it, but this time… this time he wants so much! I'm not going to let him do this to you," she whispered. Cradling him close, she promised, "It will be all right. Your mother is coming. I called her today."

  He smiled at her and milk whitened his lips.

  She went on, whispering, "Dr. King thinks the hospital can take your blood and sell it. He thinks you're the cure for everything that's wrong with people. You're just a baby! Maybe your blood is the cure for the world's ills, but you should make that choice, not him."

  He wished he could tell her how he already had …

  The door opened to the nursery with a loud bang and babies around him started to cry. The nurse clutched him tightly.

  Dr. King's voice came first. "Did you call them? Did you call the Carpenters when I expressly forbade it? They're here and they're demanding to take him home!"

  "Yes, I did! I'm not going to let you hurt him anymore!" The nurse put distance and other beds between them and Dr. King.

  Yodhi turned his head, the nipple of the bottle popping out of his mouth, milk running across his cheek. He watched this Dr. King - nothing like a king at all - shove his way through the cribs. The other babies began to wail. Other nurses came into the room and Doctor Weis, who had called King in on the case, joined them.

  "We have to let them take him, Dr. King," Dr. Weis insisted. "They are his parents. I was wrong to suggest otherwise. Besides, the hospital can't afford a lawsuit…"

  "To blazes with a lawsuit! I will not let this child leave!" King bellowed.

  The nurse backed further away until she was up against the emergency exit from the nursery.

  "Give me that baby," King insisted. "Don't you understand? His blood can cure cancer, AIDS, even the common cold. He is the answer to eternal life for all of us!"

  "He is just a child!"

  "He's our cure, our salvation! Give me that baby!"

  "I won't!" She pushed through the exit and the alarm tripped. A klaxon began to wail. Babies too were wailing, and King was moving after them, red in the face and furious.

  The nurse pulled the door shut. With Yodhi tucked closer against her shoulder, she ran down the corridor and through a stair-well door. Terrified, she ran down two flights. She had to stop for her breath on a landing that had a big black mark next to the door.

  "First floor," she panted, then fell silent, looking up at the ceiling. No other alarm had sounded and there were no voices over the loud-speakers alerting security to look for her. She didn't hear any footfalls on the stairs. The surprise in her pretty eyes turned to grim determination. "He can't tell security to stop me," she told the bundle in her arms. He looked at her with big, curious eyes. "Not over the PA anyway. Your parents would know and other patients would get upset. We might have a chance to sneak by."

  She pulled out her cell phone and the bright lights on it made the baby blink. She pushed some buttons and then she was speaking again. "Mrs. Carpenter? This is Nurse Daily. I am bringing your son to the front of the hospital. I know … We were going to meet in the nursery. Don't go to the nursery! Dr. King is not going to let you take him home!"

  Yodhi could just hear his mother's voice from the speaker as she answered the nurse, sounding so very far away.

bsp; "No, Dr. Weis can't help us. Listen! I'm bringing him downstairs. Meet me in the Emergency Room. Have your husband waiting there with his car." The nurse closed the phone and stuffed it way. "I'll get you back to them, don't you worry." Then, she was hurrying along again, down to the ground floor.

  He was jostled and bumped a great deal. Nurse Daily took him through long corridors and back hallways. They even went through the cafeteria to avoid some men dressed in gray uniforms. He dozed a little and when someone brushed his face with several butterfly soft kisses, he opened his eyes to see his mother, Amara. He smiled.

  "You have to hurry. There are no discharge papers to sign, just get him out of here before they find us."

  "They wouldn't dare keep him here--!"

  "Trust me, Mrs. Carpenter," Nurse Daily hissed. "Dr. King is a very powerful man. You shouldn't take the baby home. You and your husband should take him out of the state. Out of the country if you can."

  "This is madness," his mother said.

  "I know. I'm so sorry. I'll do what I can to stop him."

  The two women hugged and squished Yodhi a little in between them. He didn't mind at all.

  "Thank you," his mother breathed, crying. Nurse Daily was crying too. "Thank you so much."

  "Just hurry up and go!" Pretty Nurse Daily disappeared and his mother took him out into the bright daylight.

  His father was waiting in the parking lot. "What did she say?" Together, his parents tucked the baby into a car carrier in the back seat.

  "She said get out of the country." Doors slammed and he jumped, but didn't cry. The engine was already humming a lovely little lullaby.

  "Out of the country? Is this guy King that powerful?"

  "That's what she says. C'mon, Joe, drive!"

  The car pulled out of the hospital lot and soon they were in traffic. He watched the sky and the high-tension wires and the birds as the family raced away from danger.

  "Where are we supposed to go, Amara?" The words were clipped as Joe wrenched the wheel to make a turn, forcing his wife to grab the dashboard. "I have work - there's that Eastern order to fill, all those cabinets to build for the museum…"

  "Joe, this is our son's life! His blood. They want his blood!"

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