Valley of Shadows (Novel)
Chapter 57: Past Echoes

Chapter 57: Past Echoes

Richard awoke and lay still, cautiously sifting through his dim recollections of the previous day. The loss of his mother was still razor sharp. Everything else was disjointed and distorted by a haze of migraine pain. He recalled the shock of a stranger looking out at him through Harriet’s eyes and realized that he had seen that strange look in her eyes before. At the time, he hadn’t understood what it meant. Richard still was not certain. What he did know was that shift in her seemed to make the pain in his head worse.

By the time they had made it back from the nursing home, the unrelenting pain had rendered him insensible. He had no recollection of going up to his room and lying down. At some point, he had stumbled downstairs for a glass of water. Richard could not recall what happened next or how he wound up back in bed. He awakened a short time later in darkness, to find his sister sitting by his bed with Joshua standing over her. They were whispering. Richard detected tension in the harshness of the whispers. Their silhouettes were dimly visible in the moonlight streaming in through his open window. Joshua grabbed her arm and she yanked it out of his grasp. Confused, Richard had struggled to sit up and focus his bleary eyes.

“What’s going on? Why are you two fighting,” he asked

The other woman spoke with Harriet’s voice blurting, “now look at what you did Joshua. You woke him up.”

They offered hasty reassurances, urging him to lay back down. Joshua allowed himself to be shooed out of the room. But Richard was wide awake.

“So, my brother knows about you too? How long has he known?”

“I just found out that he was aware of my presence, so I can’t really say,” Samentha murmured.

“Who are you?”

“Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answers?”

It was strange hearing his sister speak in accented English. It sounded African to him, though he had no clue from which region. Richard couldn’t get over the fact that the harsh, husky quality of the stranger’s voice was completely contrary to Harriet’s soft halting tones. In place of his sister’s timid stoop shouldered posture was erect posture with a proud lift of the chin. The effect was remarkable. In the dim light, Richard felt as though a complete stranger was sitting beside him. He was at a loss for words, but felt compelled try and figure out what exactly was going on with his sister. Was she just pretending to be someone else? Was Harriet having some sort of nervous breakdown and didn’t know who she was…what did they call it…a fugue? Maybe, if he said her name, he could bring her out of it.

“Look Harriet, I don’t really know anything about your life, before you came to live here and mother adopted you. I’ve heard that trauma can cause people to develop split personalities,” Richard murmured.

“You don’t know or you don’t remember,” queried Samentha.

“Huh? Mother never told me anything about your past. What are you trying to say?”

“Let me put it this way, what can you tell me about your life before you were adopted?”

“I was in foster care…”

“Before that Richard, where did you come from? Who were your parents,” she prodded.

Richard attempted to cast his mind back before his time in foster care and discovered that he could not remember anything. He attempted to push past the mental blockage and it made him feel anxious. The woman sounded scornful.

“That’s what I thought. You’ve got a lot of nerve trying to psychoanalyze me, when you don’t even have the balls to face up to your past and where you came from. People around here look to you as some sort of savior. What would they think, if they knew how big of a coward you are?”

“Look at whose talking! You’re afraid to tell me who you are.”

“You know who I am Reshard!”

Richard felt a sudden stab of pain between his eyes. “If you’re going to call me out, at least have the decency to pronounce my name correctly,” he snapped.

“I am pronouncing it correctly Reshard,” shouted Samentha.

The name struck his stunned ears again, sending shockwaves through his mind. Richard sat bolt upright with his fingertips at his temples, in a futile attempt to halt the agonizing bombination by applying pressure. A sudden flood of repressed memories exploded into his conscious mind. He tried and failed to make sense of the many disjointed sounds and chaotic torrents of images. The onslaught continued until Richard blacked out, his already overwrought nerves short circuited by the traumatic mental and physical pain.

Awake hours later, Richard was confused. How long had he been unconscious? A few minutes or a few hours? It was dark outside. Was it a new day or the same night? Had it all been a dream? He turned his head and was relieved to find himself alone. But a chair was beside his bed. So, Harriet or…or someone had actually sat with him.

Richard felt a stab of anxiety with the realization that leaving his room meant that sooner or later, he would see his sister again and be forced to deal with everything. In that moment, Richard wanted nothing more than to talk to his mother about it. She could tell him where he had come from and help him put things into proper perspective. He did not always like what his mother had to say, but she always said what he needed to hear. What was he going to do without her wise counsel?

As he fretted over his problems, growing fear and anxiety spurred his heartbeat into a gallop. Richard felt himself struggling to catch his breath. In a few moments, he would start to hyperventilate, if he didn’t get his breathing under control. Richard forced himself to take deep breaths, in order to stave off a panic attack.

He had not experienced one of those since…since the dark days after his wife had tried and almost succeeded in killing him. Richard hurriedly conjured up a more pleasant memory. He was giving serious thought to just staying in bed, when a soft knock sounded at his bedroom door. Without waiting for permission, Joshua opened it and stuck in his head inside the room.

“Oh good, you’re finally awake. You were in such a bad way last night, we let you sleep in today. I hope you’re feeling better, because there’s something you need to know.”

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