The Silence & The Howl | Part 17

§.17


They descended the stairs as thunder ranged beyond the ambit of the creaking tumbledown. Lyla wanted to watch a movie. Inquiries concerning the cinematic acumen of all present were made, with Andy judged most-knowledgeable, they settled into the massive, tattered and musty couch as their host plopped in a old VHS titled ‘Fractured Mirror.’ The story revolved around a down-on-his luck writer, well past his prime, whose wife had cheated on him with his publicist. The film charted his slow and painful mental deterioration and eventual self-reformation through murderer. Purity through violence.

As the writer bludgeoned his former lover to death with a shovel, Bluebird recoil and buried her head in Harmon’s chest.

“Too much for you?”

“Its my head. You know how sensitive I am with this kind of stuff.”

Lyla was prone to headaches and enjoyed playing up the fact. Harmon had long-induced she thought it cute and quirky. It proved, more often than not, merely affected and annoying.

He said nothing.

“Damn.” Muttered Marla, here eyes wide, fixed to the screen.

Andy chortled and downed some of his beer. After the murder scene the protagonist looked directly into the camera as an eerie cue played. Cut to black. Credits.

“Whadidya think?” Andy inquired, lighting up a cigarette.

“I thought it was really good.” Marla affirmed with a smile, stroking Andy’s arm and squeaking a, “You’ve such good taste in movies, babe.”

Andy smiled and turned to his others guests expectantly.

“Well whats the verdict?”

“I didn’t really care for it. I didn’t think it was going to be so violent.”

Andy rolled his eyes then looked to Harmon whose faraway eyes were fixed upon a small insect on the ceiling.

“She got what she deserved.”

“But they were in love!” Lyla protested.

“‘Were’ is the operative word.”

She looked up into his face and was greeted only with impassivity and resolve. She slowly shifted off of him and asked Andy if he would mind sparing one of his tall boys. He happily obliged and shortly the two trekked off to acquired some beers from the old, magenta fridge, leaving Marla and Harmon to their own devices.

Marla played with her softly jangling bracelets a moment an then leaned towards Harmon inquisitively.

“How long you two been together?”

“Since high school.”

“Oh! That’s wonderful. I didn’t take relationships seriously then.”

“Few do.”

“Yeah. Hey, I’m sorry I yelled at you earlier. Was having a bad day.”

“Its no trouble at all.”

She smiled, “Were you serious?”

“About?”

“About the movie. I mean, you think she deserved what she got?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah. I don’t disagree. I used to date this guy named Tanner. Hot, wealthy – comparatively speaking – nice car. Seemed perfect.”

“But there was a snag.”

“Yeah.”

“He cheated on you.”

“Yup. He said he was sorry. That he was drunk, that he didn’t know what he was doing. He was a terrible liar. But even still I forgave him. Not two months later he’d left his phone lying on the counter of my kitchen – it rings and I check the messages. Some bitch asking what she should wear for him tonight.”

She shook her head and took a swig of beer and tapped out her half smoked menthol in the peach can Andy used as a makeshift ashtray.

“That’s unfortunate. What’d you do?”

“I told him to explain. I was ready to forgive him again. If he was honest.”

“Given you’re here, with Andy, I’m assuming he wasn’t.”

“Nope. Told me – get this – she was a ‘business associate’ and that’s why she was asking him what to wear. I told him business associates don’t tend to refer to each other as ‘babe’ and ‘darling’ – he didn’t have anything to say to that so I told him to leave. And that was that.”

“But now you’ve met Andy.”

“But now I’ve met Andy.”

She smiled widely and leaned back in her chair and took a puff of her cigarette. Shortly thereafter, Andy and Lyla returned from the kitchen bearing a six pack and a bag of off-brand nachos. They watched another film about a evil AI in a far-flung future where everyone used floppy disks and then decided to hit the sack. Andy implored Lyla to stay the night and then headed upstairs with Marla. When they were completely out of earshot, Lyla turned to Harmon dourly.

“Did you mean what you said?”

“Bout?”

“Bout her ‘getting what she deserves.’

“Yeah.”

“How can you say that?”

“Can say it because I believe it.”

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 16

§.16


The moon ghosted above the ancient coal breaker. Odd figures walked the streets, surreptitiously passing small plastic bags to each other just beyond the illumination of the streetlamps and the lights of Andy’s house.

Bluebird did not call before she arrived. She parked her car in the front of the drive and clattered down the way to the door in dark purple yoga pants, faux-designer boots and a short-sleeved T and a windbreaker. She knocked on the door and waited trepidatiously as a mexican eyed her up from the leftern lot. Momentarily, Andy opened the door.

“Hi there. You’re Lyla, right?”

“That’s me. And you’re Andy, we’ve met once before.”

“Yeah, you stopped by work to give Harmon a sandwich or something.”

“Speaking of – is he here?”

“Yeah. Come in. Let me take your coat.”

“Thanks.”

She slipped out of her puffy, oversized windbreaker and held it under her right arm as she stepped inside to behold a small little living room covered over with stained leaf colored shag and unadorned walls of pale beige. To the immediate left of the door, a old television sat pressed against the wall, blaring a sitcom, before it a ratty couch upon which lounged a middle aged woman who was dressed as someone fifteen years her junior.

“This is Marla. Marla, this is Lyla.”

“Hi.” Marla intoned without much interest as she fished out a gummie bear from a crinkling plastic bag upon her lap, eyes fixed on the flashing box before her. The box squawked, ”

Andy turned away from the couch-bound woman and pointed to the stairs which let up to the right.

“He’s upstairs. Door to the right.”

“Thanks.”

When she reached the upper floor landing she paused and listened for him. She knew his footfalls well. He was pacing restlessly. She entered and found him languidly smoking by the window, gazing out towards the coal breaker.

He turned slowly. The light of welcome absent from his keen green eyes.

“Hello, Bluebird.”

“Hey.”

She moved forth and slowly draped her arms against his immobile form. He reciprocated the gesture and then offered her a cigarette which she swiftly accepted. They stood smoking menthols, looking out the window at the gang members hocking opioids on the corner.

“So whats new?”

“Oh, not much. You know how it is.”

“I do indeed.”

“So what happened? With Richard?”

“He called me a liar and I told him I wasn’t and he threw me out.”

“What? Really? That’s what you two are fighting about?”

“No. I’m not fighting anything. Ain’t worth fighting with people that don’t care about you.”

“That wasn’t directed at me was it?”

“Why would you assume it was?”

“I know I haven’t been around much,” she took a long drag and shook her head as she exhaled into the pane, “But I’ve been busy.”

“What with?”

“Prepping for the gala – the next one, that is.”

“Next one?”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?”

“Nope.”

“Oh, sorry. Yeah, I um, I – the last one was really successful.”

“I know. I was there.”

“Are you mad?”

“Yeah. But not with you.”

“Richard?”

“I kept thinking. Bout hurting him. Over and over again. Stomping down on his shiny little head until it popped like an overfilled water balloon.”

“I don’t think that would be the best way to handle it.”

“No. But it’d be a way.”

 

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 14

§.14


“I thought that… maybe I could come over.”

“You can’t come to the house.”

“Why not?”

“Because Rich kicked me out.”

“What? Why?”

“It doesn’t matter, he’s made up his mind. Its good to hear from you, Bluebird,” he replied flatly, unsure if he even believed his own words.

“Wait, what happened? Are you OK?”

“I am doing the same as I always am.”

“Where are you?”

“Andy’s place. For now.”

“Andy? Isn’t he that guy from work, the bald one?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s a junkie.”

“Used to be. He’s a good man.”

“Aren’t you worried?”

“No.”

“What happened, Harmon, why would he do this.”

“I wouldn’t give him a cigarette because he wanted me to admit that everyone was a liar. But I’m not. He didn’t believe me. Became prickly about it. So did I. That’s it.”

“But you were going to start a band and…”

“Nothing I can do. I tried talking to him. No use. Some people, no matter what’s done for them, will never reciprocate, will never take the full measure of their relationships until long after they’ve turned to dust.”

He was talking about her as much as Sprawls but he restrained himself from making the fact explicit. She might not come over then.

After a beat the woman responded, her voice shaking a little.

“I think you’re right about that.”

“You know where Andy lives?”

“No.”

He gave her the directions and they set a time and then she said she had to go but would call later, when she was on her way. He hung up and wondered what he would say to her. What could he say, knowing of her perfidy?

There had been too many words already.

The time had come for acts.

The Journal of Wayer Farley | Part 6

(continued from part 5)


“She was convinced that this… thing, was real. She was obsessed with it. In her last days, she spoke of nothing else.”

“Poor woman. How was it she… ah, forgive me. I shouldn’t pry.”

“You were going to ask how she died? Its alright. Its seldom I get to speak of these things to anyone, the old family isn’t particularly keen to come down here anymore, especially not Varney.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Not as sorry as I am. Well, anyways, to the heart of it. You can see from the book – though you had doubtless already heard – Ms. Montefremont was most fond of drawing. She sketched ceaselessly, from sun up to nightfall, everyday, without exception. After her first… suicide attempt, I had her pencils confiscated. Too dangerous. After the third, I forbade staff from providing her access to any pointed objects with which she might be able to harm herself or another member of the staff. Only soft charcoal was permitted. Foolishly one of the orderlies forgot to check the package one after noon — god, I still remember it, as if it had but happened yesterday — and… inside that charcoal packet was a small art scalpel, for sharpening the stick to requisite length and width. She… she cut her wrists. It was… I found her. Soaking in a pool of her own blood and there upon the wall, scrawled in her own wet red were the words: ‘metal talon’d and malcontent | smoked in ire til all bloods spent | til the last seeds of time expire | whence fades all the vaunted fires | to the deep and soundless place | I cast myself into your embrace.’ Below the bloody scrawl was a picture… of that… thing, from the book. The thing from the ‘deep and soundless place.'”

I could see that the recollection had greatly affected the director, so much so that it was clear he was fighting back tears. I had never seen him so upset before.

“That’s truly dreadful. I don’t know what to say.”

“You need say nothing.” He turned and looked out the window where the moonlight crystallized over the treetops like an eldritch mist.

“Getting late.”

I agreed and thanked him for the drink and the conversation, shook his hand and left him to his leathery, half-smoked cigar and bourbon and headed to my chambers down the hall.

I dreamt that night. Of Clarisa, though I had never met her. She sat playing a piano in the main lobby of the asylum, smiling as I approached. The tune she played was foreign to my ears, dissonate and unnerving, yet, simultaneously enthralling as her mundane beauty. We sat playing together until my hands tired and I, quite accidentally, hit out of key, whereupon Clarisa look shrunk from me muttering strange words as the piano strings clanged and transformed into massive centipedeal beasts that slithered across the ground and up the wall as a thrumming noise, or something like a noise, filled up the ambit of my consciousness. Words began to form from the overwhelming sibilation, spoke as if by many voices in semi-unison, and all of a different tone and tenor.

“-down the spiral inside the blooded womb right triangle awry structures distended still standing neath their angular shade pulsing flesh howls like rabid dogs skin tearing off the vegetal mold mocked by lichen licked by stone inside a cage ribcage necrophage scratching branches reaching vainly to welkin-sparks gray snail’d as depraved scales hanging heavy-lidded over fat and bulging eyes spellbound by heaving breasts and seamen spurts hips like lances minds like glue sticky weak and loose cleared by wreakful return and the chittering call the furnace strikes and piston shrieks and machinic talons razor gleaming steam screaming clanging hanging metal-cleaver-sharp the red-iron-brand smoked with rhea’s black blood-”

I realized with shock and horror that it was my mouth that was moving, my tongue that spake forth those strange and insane lines. “Clarisa!” I howled, turning to where she had been and finding nothing but her clothes, covered over in chitinous scales. Upon closer inspection, they were not her clothes at all, but mine.

The Journal of Wayer Farley | Part 5

(continued from part 4)


He smiled ever so slightly, as if the act were difficult for him and then removed two cheap shot glasses from the same desk drawer which had previously held the ambered and aromatic liquid and filled them halfway full and slid one across the table to me. I picked up the cup and swirled it around, not because it needed stirring but because I’d seen a man do as much in a motion picture. It was what classy folk did. Or so I believed. I didn’t wish my superior to think me simple, to think me some over-educated country bumpkin, especially when I already believed that he believed I was half mad. My ostentatious display attracted no attention; Merric ignored the ritual entirely and lifted his glass straight to his lips and took a sip, closing his eyes and bobbing his head slightly, affirmatively. We talked shop for a while, the details of that conversation I shall not bore you with. However, near the end of our conversation my mind wheeled back to Derren and the sound of the weeping woman. Derren had heard it too – it couldn’t haven been a trick of the mind. No, this was no mere imagining; it was real. And then another entered my head. I put down my glass and cautiously and politely inquired if Merric knew what had happened with the Montfremonts. He signed and rose and checked the door and then sat back down and lit up a cigarette, despite the face that smoking, like as drinking, was also strictly forbidden on estate grounds.

“I figured you’d ask about that, sooner or later. Was only a matter of time.”

“I understand it is indelicate. Its just that I’d heard the stories…”

“That’s the trouble with the thing, everyone has heard ‘the stories’ but which ones? There are so many now that I find it impossible to keep track.”

“You were here, when it happened – is that correct?”

“Who told you that?” He was getting buzzed. This was my chance to gather information, unfettered by the stale formalities of my station.

“No one told me that. Your records are public, same as mine.”

“Well, yes. Yes I was.”

“If you don’t want to talk about it…”

“No, no its fine. I don’t mind. Its just, you know how it is with the new students around here.”

“A little cat-curious, yes.”

“Indeed! Only instead of winding up dead they’re winding me up into a fit. Questions, questions, questions! Every other day. Ghost stories and tawdry gossip. Its most unfortunate. All these rumors. They besmirch the name of a good family. Well, anyways, yes I was here when… it happened. When Clarisa… well, you know the story.”

“What was it that caused her such distress?”

He gave me a grave look and then removed a sketch-book from the middle of his desk and slid it across the table to me.

“This.”

I set down my glass and opened the book. Inside were a considerable number of notes, occupying the first page, they became increasingly erratic until, by the third page, they were completely unreadable. Upon the fourth page I paused, my mouth falling slightly agape, for there, sketched in charcoal was a hideous monstrosity the likes of which I had never before seen. It had the form of a reptilian centipede and was long and thick and coated in sharp chitinous scales, with innumerable legs and dozens of eyes, most gruesome of all was that this creature was emerging from the stomach of a young woman whose likeness I knew well. Clarisa. From her sundered womb a torrid abyss opened up, as if the fearsome entity pulled some distant reach of the far-off galaxy along its wake. I flipped the page and was greeted by a sight yet more horrid; the creature, having now emerged, gorging on the dessicated husk of the woman, whose flesh rippled and boiled and seethed as seafoam. I shut the book, grimacing.

“Good God…”

The Journal of Wayer Farley | Part 4

(continued from part 3)


“How extraordinary.” I muttered dejectedly, mouth falling open slight. Merric raised a brow and laid a firm, finely manicured hand upon my shoulder.

“Are you feeling quite alright?”

“I… no. I don’t know what came over me. Its like… damn it. I can’t explain. It were as a fit of… of-”

“You’re overworked and underpaid. I’ve seen it before. The stress. Being around this madness. The darkness. Strange noises in the night. You start jumping at shadows.”

I nearly laughed, for I had just said as much to Derren. I stifled my black humor and nodded gravely instead as Merric continued.

“Imagination runs wild you never know what you’ll see and hear. Ghosts, hobgobs and lights in the sky…”

“Yes. You’re quite right. Creativity is a peerless weapon. Irksome when it turns against its wielder.”

“I think I know your problem, Wayer.”

“What is that sir?”

“All that poetry. Literary sensibilities. You’ve the training of a medical man but the soul of an artist. Minds such as yours are, in their essence, more susceptible to fancy such as those on which you fly tonight.”

“Yes, yes I think you’re quite right. I’m sorry to have troubled you, sir.”

The older man clicked his tongued and smiled faintly.

“I’m but ten years your senior, hardly enough for ‘sir,’ at any rate, no trouble at all. Why don’t you come for a drink.”

I knew that drinking on-premise was strictly forbidden, but Merric, as Psychiatric Director, sat upon the top of the active asylum hierarchy – how could I refuse, especially when he had been so accommodating, so measured in his visement? I acquiesced and followed the man down to the main floor, to the southern-most corridor of Ward M-A and sat down in his office as he set himself gently down into his large leather chair and produced a bottle of bourbon from a drawer in his large brentwood file desk.

“You like bourbon?”

“Much as anyone.”

The Journal of Wayer Farley | Part 3

(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?”

“I… I…”

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.

The Journal of Wayer Farley | Part 2

(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.

The Journal of Wayer Farley | Part 1

I know not how to begin nor how much time I have left to scrawl down the memories that squirm so uneasy in my thrumming skull. How does one describe such a thing? “Thing,” that is the only word for it. For it was no man. Though doubtless fantastical my tale will seem, I feel compelled to recount the episode, to lay out everything in the greatest possible detail, not for mere posterity, but for the safeguarding of all who read hereafter…

I am a clinical psychiatrist. In 2015, I was offered a job by the board of the Montfremont Mental Institute of Cleveland working the male ward. They needed new blood given that the previous clinical psychiatrist who had worked the male ward had died several weeks prior under most mysterious circumstances. This grim information naturally raised my hackles, however, the pay was good and my mind was restless. I had dedicated my life to interrogating mental illness, spurred on as I was by the memory of my deteriorating grandmother, babbling half-nothings to the bluebirds on her lawn feeder and confusing me for her late husband, Edumund, or as I knew him, Grandad Eddy. Such memories steeled my heart with purpose. Thus, I accepted the offer and made way to Montfremont Institute and there arrived on the first of February. Whilst the institute was deemed a part of the city-proper in truth it sat far outside of it, beyond the heated concrete hum, in a high, twisted wood, upon a incline that was rumored to have been a ancient burial ground, though, no one really believed it. The institute had previously experienced trouble with harum scarums of all sorts, journalists who’d crept round to find out if the relatives of the city’s elite where there confined, young punks who’d graffitti the walls and thieves and darker sorts who fancied that mental wards, being designed to stay internal egress, were lax as to external incursion. Personally, I induced that the burial mound story had been invented by one of the board-members to deter unwanted company.

Upon the end of my first month working inpatient clinical services at that cold and eerie manse, a most singular event occurred which in equal measure shocked, perplexed and horrified all who beheld it.

But first, to render the instance sensible to the uninitiated, I must note that Montfremont Institute had been the last great work of the late industrialist, Charles W. Montfremont, whose young daughter, Clarisa Montfremont had, upon her twenty seventh birthday, been stricken with a terrible and inexplicable bout of madness and had subsequently fallen into a catatonic stupor. The event so moved Mr. Montfremont that he transformed his subtantial estate into a make-shift psychiatric hospital so as to provide the very best care to his troubled daughter whose condition only continued to deteriorate. He not only renovated the interior but also hired a part-time staff of professionals, physicians and psychiatrists. So grief-stricken was Montfremont by his dearest’s plight that five months after his daughter’s fall from reason, he took his own life by way of cyanide-laced tea. The papers put the death down to a heart attack though few believed the story and poor Clarisa fell out of reality completely. It was reported by certain looselipped servants of the family that she began to paint the walls with her own blood, chanting strange words to herself as she did so in a tongue none could understand. Naturally, this horrified the medical community as well as the surviving members of her family but so absorbed were they in settling the late Charles’ affairs that prolonged and direct intervention was rendered impossible and so she was confined to her room and assigned a personal caretaker to ensure her safety. Shortly thereafter, it came to light that Charles had left everything to his daughter which caused quite a scandal. Due Clarisa’s condition, the ownership of the estate was transferred to Varney Montefremont, the elder Montefremont’s youngish cousin, a incorrigble social climber. Varney, a energetic philanthropist, took the venture public and turned the estate into a full-fledged, non-profit clinical institute which greatly added to his popularity. This popularity was dented, however, when Clarisa, in a fit of utter madness, took her life. Details at the time of the incident were scarce but the papers blamed the staff. Negligence. In response to this tragedy, Varney pledged to completely transform the institute, to modernize it and implement a complete staff overhaul. Whilst a dark cloud still hung over the Montefremont name, Varney’s campaign was largely successful and shortly, the entire event passed from all minds and was forgotten; just another curious tale to divulge around the watercooler.

Having thus divulged in brief fashion the history of the institute I can now relay the bizarre adventure to which I had earlier referred. Montfremont is divided into two wings, male to the west, female to the east. My duties frequently took me to both wings but, given my sex, I found myself in the former with greater frequency than the latter. One evening, towards the end of February I was making the rounds on the ground floor of the male wing, tending to my patients, physical examination, psychophysiological diagnostics, comforting them where able, noting suggestions for future dosage adjustments and filling up my leatherbound notebook with personal remarks. I had just arrived at the room of a one Dale D. Darren. He was schizophrenic, plagued by delusory fits of sounds and noises that bore no earthly source, yet, he was both kindly and pliant and on my word was kept from being moved up a floor to Ward M-B where high-risk patients were kept. He sat upon the edge of his cot in the spacious makeshift bedroom, rubbing his knees as if removing some stain which only he could see. He said nothing as I entered the room and only spoke when I addressed him directly.

“How are you feeling today, Mr. Derren?”

“I can’t get it off.”

“You still see the scales.”

“I know… they’re not really they’re. I know that. I just can’t stop seeing it.”

He looked up at me, his long, thin face filled with pleading.

“It doesn’t sound it, but this is good. That’s the first time you’ve admitted it.”

“I didn’t want to think I was mad.”

“You’re not mad. You simply have a chemical imbalance.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

I placed my hand upon his shoulder and smiled broadly. He plucked up.

“You’re not mad, Derren.”

“Yeah.”

“The mad do not know that they are mad.”

“Yeah. Yeah. You’re not going to hook me up to that machine again are you?”

“No. Not today. I just came by to see how you were doing.”

He closed his hands over his knees and nodded firmly.

“I’m doing… good. Its the girl I worry about.”

“Girl?”

“Yeah.” He nodded once more, starring intensely at the floor as if it might, at any moment, divulge some momentous secret unto him.

“This is the male ward. There are no girls.”