(continued from part 2)
Weeping. Faint and feminine and coming from the immediate upper floor. From Ward M-B. I thought at first that it might be a television one of the orderlies or guards had left on. Some of them carried small portable TV sets around for viewing during their lunch-break. I paused near the stairwell at the northern most end of the corridor of Ward M-A and listened. Nothing. I was sure it was the TV. What else could it be? But then I heard it again. Clear as crystal. A woman’s cry. I had been on Ward M-B many times but never had I heard such a sound, it chilling the blood in my veins and sending my hair to straights. So Derren was right! But how? Why? Why was a woman in the male ward? Thoughts of criminal behavior, seedy, lewd and beastly ran through my mind – was foul play afoot? No. No, hardly possible, I reasoned. I knew every member of the institute, good and kindly souls all. Men and women of science. Hardworking. Trust worthy. And yet… In the struggle, curiosity won out over fear and I flew to the source of the ferine cries. Footfalls rattling in the dim.
When I reached the upper landing the weeping was louder still. It sounded like the disinterred wailing of a thousand lifetimes of suffering and I froze with the force of it and steeled myself against all better judgment. I had to know what was going on… if one of the clinicians had forgotten a patient… The sound was coming from the end of the hall. In the failing light the checkered floors seemed to blend and melt together, no longer black and white but one fluid continuum of intermingling and extradimensional masonry. Sweat trickled on my brow and my breath came uneasy. What was the matter with me? What fell power had gripped me? I felt as if I were at any moment about to collapse and the closer to the door which masked the wailing woman the more intense the disquieting feeling grew until I had to stop and lean against the wall whereupon a voice came form the dark as a lantern lit up the gloam, revealing a stern, bearded face.
“Dr. Wayer? What are you doing up here?”
“Director Merric. The sound-”
“Sound, man? What sound? Goodness, you’re covered in sweat. Were you doing laps up and down the stairs?”
What could I say. The sound had stopped. Dr. Merric would think me mad if I were to state my intention, yet would think me a sneak if I did not. I could not win and so choose what I perceived the lesser of two ills. Honesty.
“I heard a sound. This will sound strange but… it sounded like a woman crying.”
Dr. Merric raised the lantern and narrowed his eyes, taking in my measure. I knew he wouldn’t believe me, but it couldn’t be helped. At length he pursed his lips and removed a key ring from his left coat waist-pocket and deftly fingered through the ring until he found the appropriate instrument. He unlocked the door and pushed it open.
The room was empty.