(continued from part I)
He looked up then, panic clouding his sallow, shunken-eyed visage. I could tell I had disturbed him.
“But I hear her at night. You said I wasn’t mad!”
“Calm yourself, sir. The mind plays tricks. Tree branches scratching the windows. Animals calling.”
He cut me off, speaking up quite stridently, his whole body going tense.
“I heard her. She weeps.”
I decided to change the subject and asked him what music had been listening to, after several minutes of listening to him digress upon Wagner and Bach he calmed, his mind absorbed in a contemplation of fine art, but shortly he stated that there was another composer whose work delighted him but whose name he couldn’t remember. Being somewhat muscially astute myself, I inquired as to the style of the piece, thinking I could perhaps pick up where his memory failed. He paused and then rose, furrowing his crinkled brows and shaking his head.
“I can’t… remember. It was… strange. Strange. Chittering. Like insects.”
Concern and dejection clouded my mind. He had been improving so swiftly and yet now he seemed worse than when he had first been admitted; worse than I had ever seen him. Crying girls in the male ward. Insectal noises. It was nonsense. He was, of course, mad, but I could not tell him as much, despite the overwhelming impulse I felt to do so. I began to believe that I was long overdue a break. A vacation. Fat chance! I shook myself from reverie and told him I would keep my ear primed of the piece to which he referred, though I knew it did not exist, and bid him a goodday and moved on to the rest of my patients. Midday progressed to evening without incident until the moon peeked over its shroud of roiling clouds that mushroomed ominously over the tops of the gnarled claws of the trees that reached out towards the sky as if in desperate pleading.
It was then I heard it.