Gabriel Born

Gabriel Born

by Muriel Stockdale

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504370615
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 12/06/2016
Pages: 266
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Muriel was born and raised in England and moved to Long Island, NY.

She was educated until age 13 in the United Kingdom went to High School in Huntington Long Island. She graduated in 1979, Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Vermont with a BS in Nutrition then earned her MFA in 1982 from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Design Department.

She began early in entertainment as a stage manager for theater. In the 1970's she received a federal grant, with friends, to form a theater company in rural Vermont. Over the last 40 years, while maintaining a successful professional career in costume and scenic design, she has directed shows in NYC and in New England, performed onstage, crewed backstage, managed costume shops, designed and painted scenery, and taught aspiring designers. She is a Reiki healer, a writer, a media consultant and artist.

Throughout, Muriel has extensively studied the cultures and religions of the world by reading many of the classic texts and through various classes, workshops, seminars, retreats and much travel. Her quest to understand human culture and ideas introduced her to a myriad of body, soul and spirit traditions and the many beautiful ways we humans have of expressing our sacred and sanctified existence. All of this informs her work whether it is in the fields of art, writing or entertainment.

Read an Excerpt

Gabriel Born


By Muriel Stockdale

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2016 Muriel Stockdale
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-7061-5



CHAPTER 1

HUMANIMAL


Sheila Jensen's heart jumps when the gavel is struck, and it feels as if the solid ground beneath her has suddenly fallen away. She is thirty-three and stunning in her pale-gray business suit and slick, blonde ponytail. Sitting amid an impressive rank of lawyers with equally impressive peers from her elite research unit behind her, she looks invincible. But the sink of her shoulders, like a slowly deflating balloon, indicates otherwise. The imposing female judge with a grating voice that irritates Sheila departs abruptly, and suddenly everyone around Sheila is getting up. She briskly wipes a tear from her right eye. Sheila never cries. She is a scientist who is brilliant, practical, and rational. Crying is not part of her tool kit, and the lone tear that has snuck by her emotional guard profoundly embarrasses her. One of her lawyers clumsily grabs her arm in a consoling gesture. Startled, Sheila winces and pulls away. Touching is another unnatural thing for her, and right now she feels particularly raw. She looks at the lawyer and tries to force a thin smile; then she stands up with difficulty.

Sheila can't wait to get out of this building. Even though she is tired and struggles to move gracefully with her delicate cane, she possesses a vital energy. She is swept along in a crowd of winners and losers still arguing bitterly for both sides of the issue. Her work put her here right in the center of the fray. She need say nothing. She has nothing to say. She said it all inside, and clearly the ears of the court are deaf. Sheila gasps as she squeezes through the angry press of people and out onto the sunlit platform above the steps of the federal courthouse. She stumbles at the precipice of the steeply descending stairs, and someone grabs her arm. It's Dr. Philip Ohl, her boss, who is only a few years older than her and is a great administrator as well as a scientist. He looks handsome in his steel-colored suit — much better than the lab coat and jeans she is used to seeing him in. Her heart pounds. Hurt and betrayal well up and almost swallow her whole being. She is terrified that he will see her cry. She shakes him off, determined to retain her dignity and sovereignty if she can, and tries to steady herself on her slender cane.

"That's her!" someone shouts.

A crowd rushes up the imposing steps toward her, and Sheila teeters back and falls unwillingly into Philip's arms. Police wearing imposing riot gear swarm out of the courthouse behind them. They jostle Sheila and Philip on their way past and clear a path through the riotous crowd down the steps of the court.

Sheila notices a man with absurd donkey ears brandishing a banner that reads, "humanimal." A red circle with a slash through it is superimposed over the word. He pushes against the protective police wall and screams unintelligible slurs at her. Farther down, a woman made up to look like a cat waves a sign that says, "NO GENE HUMANipulation."

The tall, official buildings surrounding the square that Sheila looks out on create an echo chamber. The noise escalates as more and more people enter from the five streets converging here and flock toward them at the main courthouse steps. Sheila's heart pounds in her chest. No one has ever seen anything like this, and she is the target of the anger.

Philip whispers in her ear, "Look forward. Don't listen to them. We know they've got it all wrong."

Sheila takes a last look out at the whole mad scene and quakes at the thought of walking down into it. So she breathes in deeply and wills herself to dispel the feeling of shock; then she steels herself and steps down the first step.

As they descend, Sheila loses sight of the TV support crews and high-tech media vans that surround the five-sided plaza. Every national channel is represented and even several foreign outlets. This is big news. The myriad of smartly dressed correspondents form a stark contrast to the unruly and angry crowd. She saw eager TV crews push toward them, grabbing startling footage and provoking protesters to further outrage. Soon enough, she will be trying to navigate through them.

"What do you think the verdict should be?" a crisp-looking reporter on the step nearby asks.

"She's a witch!" a man yells. "She should be burned like in the old days."

Sheila flinches, suddenly looking worn out. Philip is still holding her elbow. She and Philip, surrounded by their entourage of lawyers and other handlers, are swept farther down the vast, imposing stairs.

Blazing ahead of them both, wearing anger on his sleeve, is Dr. Gerald Spiner, a wiry man in his sixties. He exudes the energy of a bureaucratic boss and waves his fleet of lawyers onward. He practically spits at a grasping TV correspondent, shoving him out of the way.

Sheila looks around. "Cynthia? Where is she?"

Philip doesn't respond but forcefully guides Sheila down, clearing her path as they go. Somewhere behind them in the midst of the throng still struggling to get out of the courthouse is Sheila's younger sister, Cynthia Clark. Cynthia is a softer, rounder version of her sister. She moves with a happier bounce and a sparkle in her eye.

"Sheila, wait for me!" Cynthia yells, but her voice is lost in the tumult.

A young male reporter slips through the handlers and practically punches Philip with his mic. "Dr. Ohl, you must have known about the experiments!"

"Will you fire Ms. Jensen?" another reporter yells from farther down.

Philip scowls at the second reporter. "That's Doctor Jensen!"

Loraine Hampshire, PR director of the research facility, pulls Philip away and whispers in his ear. She's a smart African-American woman with a neat, retro Afro. She stands out in her bright suit with its pencil skirt. She steps efficiently between Philip and the reporter. "Dr. Ohl has no comment."

Sheila tries to keep her head high and exude confidence, but the stress she feels shows in her tight, quivering lips.

They are near the bottom of the stairs, and the police phalanx has spread thin trying to contain the raucous crowd. The crowd surges again, and Sheila, flanked by her coworkers and their vast legal team, retreats back up a couple of steps. Philip steadies her when she wavers on her cane as a woman in a furry hat spits on Sheila's lapel.

"Only God creates!"

Before Sheila can turn fully to see her attacker, the woman is gone.

A man in a devil costume steps in and pushes Sheila roughly. "Go to hell, Dr. Frankenstein!"

He viciously kicks her cane out from under her. Too late, Philip reaches for her as she trips down the last few steps and lands on her knees in the plaza.

Sheila looks up a bit stunned. The crowd backs up. Bizarre faces leer at her and shout, but she can't hear what they say. The throng shifts and spooks a flock of pigeons that flap en masse into the air, creating a murmur of wings.

From Sheila's humiliating position splayed on the plaza, it seems as if time has stopped. She spaces out. The racket whirls around her, and she just wistfully watches the birds. How great it would be to fly away.

A shaft of blinding sunshine bursts through the high buildings lining the city streets, carving deep, black shadows below. The silhouetted birds flicker light and dark, one moment sparkling and another invisible as their wings turn toward and away from the sharp light. Sheila's brain clicks into work mode, watching in an imagined construct the mysterious phenomenon of DNA clicking on and off like a binary computer code. She's so close to answers that she can taste the victory of discovery, but she can't quite see the actual shape that it takes or how to get there. But here she is, derailed from her projects, shamed, trapped, and crippled, unable even to stand up without help.

Suddenly, Cynthia is bending over her. She lifts her sister up. Philip, who has been distracted by a particularly aggressive and vociferous protestor, extricates himself and closes in on the other side, taking Sheila's elbow.

"Sheila, I'm so sorry," he says as he leans in. He feels like he's losing her. This might be his last chance to try to mitigate the damage of this groundbreaking legal ruling that affects them both but is worse for Sheila. "I had to, or we would both be out. I promise we'll get through this."

"We? We? You blamed me and saved your career," Sheila says through clenched teeth. It is getting harder for her to keep her cool. "We did this together, for good, for all kinds of good. For ..." She stands up and faces him.

"To cure disease. I know," he says softly.

Tears well in her eyes. "You knew my work was my last hope."

Cynthia tugs at Sheila's other arm. "Come on. Let's get out of here. It doesn't feel safe."

Sheila turns to look at Cynthia and notices another face in the crowd — an overly made-up TV reporter framed in artificial light chattering into a camera. Cynthia ushers Sheila past the reporter and almost forces her into a nearby limousine. She slams the door and then works her way through the irate, pressing crowd to the other side of the car.

Inside the limo, Sheila fidgets behind the tinted glass. Her eyes wander to the TV monitor inside the car, and there she is, that same TV reporter already meting out her judgment. Everyone's judgment.

"Dr. Sheila Jensen received judgment today in the most critical trial of the millennium. The Harold Bowman Research Facility of New Empire University's La Salle Medical Center received no more than a slap on the wrist. However, they must pay fines of up to seventy million dollars for supporting Dr. Jensen's illegal genome experiments, and Dr. Jensen is no longer permitted to run any such experiments involving human DNA again."

Cynthia opens the back door on the driver's side and starts to climb in, but suddenly Philip is there. He gives her an appealing look. She backs off to give him space, and he jumps in beside Sheila. He taps on the glass divider to indicate that the driver should get going and then leans in to take Sheila's hand. She pulls away

"Don't. In fact, here." She rips his engagement ring off her finger and stuffs it into his jacket breast pocket.

"Sheila ..."

His eyes beg her to listen, but she turns away. They drive off in silence.


* * *

Only a year earlier, they were excited and in love, on the verge of an amazing new discovery. Then on one romantic, candlelit night, Sheila's life went from bliss to hell.

She tries to push the memory out of her mind, but all she can do is mourn for how light, joyous, and hopeful she had been only a year earlier when Phillip had proposed. She can still see him lit by an aura of candlelight. They were in their favorite pizza parlor, and she had wondered why the place was lit like a shrine, with multiple candles on every surface, when they entered. Vinny, the owner, had mumbled something about a power outage, but the rest of the street looked fine.

When Phillip knelt down, she started laughing so hysterically that he caught the buzz too and couldn't quite find the words he wanted to say. Pretty soon the entire place was laughing and cheering him on. Other patrons started feeding him lines, like "Darling, please marry me. You know how much I love you" or "Come on, sweetie pie, let's get hitched." Finally, Vinny brought over a bottle of bubbly. It was certainly not on the menu in a place where the typical fizzy beverage is soda. Then Phillip simply pushed the ring onto her finger and kissed her.

Living and working together had never worked as well for any other couple as it had for Phillip and Sheila. She is innovative, thorough, and very, very smart. He is charming and a great salesman. He embodies confidence and a practical kind of hope that inspires investors and the research division board to trust him. It's no surprise that he emerged from this charade unscathed; it happened without his engineering it.


* * *

In the back of the limo, Sheila turns to Philip. "I'm not going home. That's why Cynthia was getting into the car."

"Oh, sorry," Philip responds. "I hope she has a way to get home."

"She'll manage," Sheila replies, refusing to look at him. "Anyway, shall I drop you at the hospital or home?"

Philip turns to her; his face is so sad and beseeching. She turns away; she can't bear to look at him. "Sheila, let's just go back to the house together. We really should talk, sort this out, and figure out how to move forward." He pauses. She's looking out the window; he's looking at the back of her head. "Please."

"No," she says without turning to look at him. "I think I'll move out. That's the only way I can move forward."

He sucks in a breath. He had been holding it, hoping she would come with him. He sits back, resolved. "Okay. You don't have to move out. It was your house anyway. I'll be gone tomorrow. You can come ... go home whenever you want."

CHAPTER 2

UNSAFE SANCTUARY


That night at Cynthia's house, Sheila hardly says a word. She feels like she is moving through a dream. Her sense of direction has gone askew. She's cut adrift and seems to float through dinner. Cynthia's husband, big and burly Mike, who has always been a great friend to her, tries to cheer her up with a few jokes. Cynthia's kids are four and two, so the place is a bit raucous, and she can't think. Michele is the oldest. They call her Mikey, after her dad. Danny is the baby, but he's walking around now and getting into everything. Sheila grabs him and plops him on her lap in a determined effort to try to engage. It feels forced, and the child can tell and squirms away.

Dinner is a haphazard affair. Cynthia is mostly running around taking care of the kids, leaving Mike and Sheila to fend for themselves. When Cynthia finally bundles the kids off upstairs to bathe them and put them to bed, Mike gets down to the business of asking Sheila how her case went.

"I'm screwed," she says bluntly.

Mike may look like a truck driver but he is a lawyer. This isn't his area of expertise, but he is concerned for her and wants to make sure she isn't being taken advantage of in some way. He tries to tease a bit of information out of her. "Who else was involved in the project and possibly culpable?"

It's really too late, and Sheila isn't interested in talking about it at all. That's normal for Sheila, though; she's usually uncommunicative and awkward in conversation, even with family. Cynthia returns from kid duty, and she and Mike exchange concerned and helpless looks behind Sheila's back. Finally, Sheila apologizes and excuses herself, promising to wash the dishes in the morning. Right now, all she can think of is going to lie down.

Cynthia shrugs after her sister leaves. was quite a blow." 'I'll keep an eye on her. This


* * *

The next day, Sheila limps through her lab, her cane almost too feeble under the immense weight she now bears. The place is a super high-tech space with all of the best equipment for the genetic-modification work they do. The surgery is enclosed in glass and surrounded by a lab with huge, interactive smart boards that link up to every piece of diagnostic equipment, everyone's computer, and the web. Attached to the lab is a room where animals are held. They call it "the sanctuary." It occurs to her for the first time to wonder if someone called it that as a joke. Most of the animals live in separate cages, but there are a couple of glass-enclosed areas where individual animals or groups of animals are allowed to run around periodically with a bit more space.

Sheila likes to enter the lab by way of the sanctuary so that she can take a quick look at all of the subjects and see how they are doing. Her office intersects with both the lab and the sanctuary. Whimpers, squawks, and the wild sounds of a farmyard contrast with the clinically bleached and fluorescent lab.

A white rat blinks askance at Sheila. His perfectly formed miniature hands, complete with opposable thumbs, peel away at the skin of a grape. Above him, a large rabbit with a set of human-shaped ears on its back chews quietly. On a tall perch to the side stands an eagle that looks perfectly normal. He stares at her with what looks like enmity. More preternatural creatures occupy the cages above and below the ones into which she has just peeked. The twenty or so cages are each inhabited by something. A monkey, a mouse, a dog, a cat, and a ferret snuggle to the backs of some upper cages. Below are pigs, dogs, goats, and even a small pony. None are normal by any means. All exhibit unusual colors and strange appendages or seem to be strange mixes of two animals, like one creature that must be part goat and part sheep. These are the cleanest pens anyone has ever seen.

Sheila fumbles with the key to her office door. The door swings open, and she stops short. Spiner is at her desk. With irritation, he summons her inside. He doesn't rise from her chair to help when he sees her struggle to manage her cane and take off her coat and bag. She hangs them on the back of the door with her lab coat. Her office is cluttered. Files heaped on the couch have displaced its cushions to the floor. The walls are covered artistically with photos of the creatures they have worked on over the last nine years. Her personal items are squashed to the edge of the desk and even stacked on top of each other or almost falling into the wastebasket. It's a busy place — a place of ideas, innovations, and many long hours. It's also Sheila's entire life. She bristles at Spiner's proprietary presence. This is her place, or at least it was.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Gabriel Born by Muriel Stockdale. Copyright © 2016 Muriel Stockdale. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

1. Humanimal, 1,
2. Unsafe Sanctuary, 7,
3. Hail Mary, 13,
4. Precarious Origin, 18,
5. Marked Birth, 26,
6. A Fruitless Experiment?, 36,
7. Gabriel, 42,
8. Play with Me, 47,
9. Luminous Prodigy, 55,
10. Bill, 58,
11. Winging It, 68,
12. Paralyzed, 79,
13. Big Secrets, 93,
14. Scooped, 99,
15. A Necessary Exodus, 109,
16. Healing Flight, 117,
17. The Chase Begins, 120,
18. Spoiled Sanctuary, 122,
19. DNA Proof, 128,
20. Another Run, 131,
21. Frank's Place, 137,
22. Real Sanctuary?, 145,
23. Devotee Crush, 151,
24. Escape, 161,
25. There's No Escape, 166,
26. Bereft, 174,
27. Reunited, 184,
28. Anger Flares Up, 186,
29. Shut Out Again, 194,
30. A Public Fiasco, 203,
31. Fallout, 220,
32. Clipped, 226,
33. Secret Visits, 230,
34. Desperate Decisions, 237,
35. Truth-Teller, 247,
36. Humangel, 248,
About the Author, 255,
Acknowledgements, 257,

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