Valley of Shadows-Chapter Forty-One

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Harriet waited for what felt like an eternity, while her call went through to the psychiatrist’s office. The receptionist was cheerful but brisk, cutting off Harriet’s explanation of why she needed to see her psychiatrist right away.  The earliest available appointment was two weeks away. Harriet’s demands to speak directly to the psychiatrist went nowhere.

“She is in with a patient. I am the one who schedules her appointments and I told you when the soonest appointment is. Do you want it or not?”

“Please, ma’am it’s an emergency I’m afraid…”

“Are you having suicidal or homicidal ideations?”

“I…no, not exactly.”

“Then I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. Tell you what, take the appointment and if there’s a cancellation, then I’ll call you. Maybe you can get in sooner. Please try to understand. If we make an exception for you, then we’d have to do that for anyone. If you start feeling suicidal or homicidal, then go to your nearest emergency room. Do you want the appointment or not?”

“I…I guess so.”

The call ended so abruptly that the dial tone sounded in Harriet’s ear, before she realized that it was over. Frustrated tears welled up in her eyes. She had never felt more alone. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness threatened to overwhelm her. Harriet was suddenly starving. She realized that going down to the kitchen in her current state of mind was dangerous, with rehearsals beginning for her ballet troupe in a matter of weeks. The last thing she needed to do was try to sooth herself with food.  Nevertheless, Harriet got up and put on some clothes with that intention.  She was feeling reckless.

She stepped into the hall and passed Joshua’s room. The door was cracked open. His back was to the doorway, but she saw the defeated sag of his shoulders and guilt made her turn back. Harriet stood in her brother’s doorway.

“Hey Josh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things. I’ll go and see mom today alright? Are those her things in that box? I’ll take them to her.”

Harriet walked across the room and retrieved the box from his bed. She stood waiting for some reaction or response from her brother.  He continued to sit in stony silence.

“C’mon Josh, I said I was sorry. We both said things that we should have kept to ourselves. Talk to me.”

“Fuck off!”

Harriet felt a wave of dizziness and pressure inside her head. She could feel Samentha pushing her to respond in kind to Joshua’s angry retort. Harriet quickly scooped up the box and backed out of the room, pulling the door shut behind her. The effort to regain her composure was making her feel light-headed. She dropped the box on her bed and decided to duck into the bathroom, to splash cold water on her face. Harriet closed her eyes against the sensation of vertigo, sliding her left hand along the wall to navigate her way into the bathroom. She nearly collided with Rachel.

“Watch where you’re going,” barked Rachel.

Harriet opened her eyes, ready to respond with irritation. The sight of the spreading ruin on her sister’s face stopped her cold. This time, the shift inside her head was so abrupt that Harriet was momentarily shut out. Samentha spoke.

“I see somebody put a hex on you.”

“Get out of…what did you say?”

“I see somebody put a hex on you.”

“What makes you say that? How do you know it’s not just a bad breakout?”

“I’ve seen things like that before and so have you.”

“No, I’ve never seen anything this horrible…oh, you mean mama!”

“That’s right.  What are the odds that two people would suffer the same type of misfortune? Nicole stuck you both with needles.”

“So what do we do?  How do we remove the curse or reverse it?”

“You cannot reverse it.  Blood magic is some of the most powerful magic there is.”

“Please don’t tell me I have to spend the rest of my life looking like this, because I couldn’t handle it.”

“It’s not permanent.  Eventually, it will wear off.”

“So, how much longer do I have to walk around looking like a freak?”

“I don’t know.  It depends on how much blood she used, what the incantation was, and how powerful a practitioner of magic she is.”

“I’m gonna kill that…”

“The last thing you should do is confront her.”

“Why not?  I’m not gonna roll over and let her do me like this!”

“First of all, how much blood did she take from you?  It only takes a drop or two to work a spell.  If she has more of your blood, then she can cast another spell, one far worse than this one.”

“I never thought about that…so, that must be what she meant.”

“What?”

“She called and said she wanted me to keep tabs on Richard for her, in exchange for removing the hex.  If I don’t do what she says, then she’s gonna make things much worse for me.  She’s gonna be able to hold this over my head and force me to do things for the rest of my life!”

“No, that’s not true.  Blood actually begins to degrade from the moment it is drawn.  If she has adequately sealed and refrigerated it, then it will be viable for about forty-two days.  How long ago did she draw your blood.”

“A couple of weeks ago.  She’s waiting for an answer from me.  I don’t want to betray Richard, but I also don’t want to be scarred for life or…worse. What the hell am I gonna do Harriet?”

“I’ll think of something.”

Rachel was so relieved that someone seemed to have some answers and was willing to help, that she failed to notice the change in her sister’s voice or the accent that had crept into it.  She didn’t question how her sister knew so much about magic. Harriet suddenly swayed unsteadily. Rachel walked Harriet back to her room and urged her to lie down. Rachel went and ran a washcloth under cold water. Applying it to Harriet’s forehead seemed to revive her. She opened her eyes and assured Rachel that she was fine.

“Sorry about that Rachel. I don’t know what came over me. I hope I didn’t say anything to upset you.”

“Upset me? Are you kidding, you may have saved my life…well, my face anyway.  Get some rest and we’ll talk later.”

Harriet nodded, unsure of what her sister was talking about.  Rachel let herself out of the room. Harriet puzzled over what Samentha could have said, until her eyes felt heavy.  Harriet fell into a deep exhausted sleep and dreamt of being chased by a shadow.  It pursued her through the house and out into darkened streets.  The sound of their echoing footsteps and Harriet’s heavy breathing was ominous.  Eventually cornering her in an alley.

Harriet recoiled with fear, believing the being meant her harm. Wordlessly, it drew near and launched itself into her. She realized that it was Samentha taking possession of her body.  For the duration of the dream, she systematically hunted down and executed Stryker’s inner circle until the man was isolated. He was begging for his life, when Samentha slit his throat, laughing maniacally. Harriet awoke with a start drenched with sweat and realized that she was the one laughing.

She lay on the damp sheets and waited for her galloping heartbeat to slow down. Harriet wasn’t sure which she found more disturbing; the violence that Samentha unleashed or the almost orgasmic sense of relief she felt to be out from under Stryker’s thumb after all those years. It was only a dream, but it had felt very real.

“There has to be another way.”

Harriet said the words aloud, to herself and Samentha. She recalled her psychologist saying that Samentha was a part of her. During a session, she had explained that Samentha existed to do all the things that Harriet found too difficult or painful to deal with. Harriet was against murder, but Stryker’s relentless demands were pushing her to the edge of her endurance. He had made it clear to her that he would not hesitate to snuff out her life, if she failed him.

He had ordered the deaths of many men, some for minor offenses.  Looking it from that perspective, murdering him would actually be doing the world a favor.  For a moment, Harriet indulged in a fantasy of relinquishing control to Samentha. She could plead insanity, if she got caught. Harriet shook her head, rejecting the idea, and focused on more immediate concerns.