Each time that Sirens Call Publications releases an anthology, we like to reach into the recesses of the author’s minds and learn about the inspiration behind their stories. Mental Ward: Stories from the Asylum was recently released, and today we’re going to feature the inspiration behind A.A. Garrison’s contribution Windows to the Soul.
A.A. Garrison is a twenty-nine-year-old man living in the mountains of North Carolina. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of zines and anthologies, as well as the Pseudopod webcast. His horror novel, The End of Jack Cruz, is available from Montag Press. He blogs at synchroshock.blogspot.com. You can connect with A.A. on social media on Facebook and Twitter.
The Inspiration Behind Windows to the Soul
My story, Windows to the Soul, was born of a simple, yet significant, observation: that present-day humanity is largely bankrupt of empathy, that magical ability which allows us to see through others’ eyes.
Oh, what a conundrum. So entrenched are we in our own lives and struggles, it seems, we fail to remember that other people share this condition — as above, so below. Not only does this rob us of perspective on other human beings (rendering them mysterious, unknowable Others), but we lose perspective on ourselves, often translating to an undue inflation of heads, egos, and self-importance. What happens when this extends to our decision-making and behavior? The bail-bondsmen will make some money, at least.
Without empathy, it is all too easy to see things as we’d like them to be, in a way which serves us and our choices, rather than how things actually are. How uncomplicated life becomes when we see only what we want! In the end, our narrow perspective becomes a defense for self-interest. After all, what if we saw through the eyes of our competitors in daily life? How might we react to seeing them not as mindless drones, but people, real people much as ourselves, with similar needs, motivations, shortcomings, and overdue bills — and, perhaps, the exact same lack of empathy which cripples perception so adeptly? Then, how might we see the person contending for our job? Or, that who takes the last parking space in a lot, or the last loaf of bread from a shelf? Instead of the undeserving villains our self-interest has painted them as, perhaps we would see others as tragic companions, stuck in this same crazy, needful mess that we all are. Never forget: to someone else, you are the mysterious Other.
However, here is where our messiah makes an appearance: mental repression, that caped superhero come to save the day. With a memory-wipe here and some willful ignorance there, repression rescues us from a confusing, unproductive reality and defends our self-interest, all while denying that any such thing is taking place. Finally, right at the buzzer, our illusions are preserved, freeing us to justify and rationalize to our heart’s content, until we can point the finger with utter confidence.
“Because I deserve it more, that’s why,” we say as we lunge for that last loaf of bread.
But, what if someone had no such repression mechanism? Worse, what if this rare individual had an unyielding sense of empathy in repression’s place, as to constantly show them the flip-side of their actions?
This was the premise of Windows to the Soul, in which our empathetic anti-hero, Barnaby Rick, explores this very fate.
This is a collection of stories of bedlam taking place within the padded walls of an institution. Stories of experiments gone wrong, patients revolting against the staff, or even the deranged doings of those charged with giving care. They are sick, depraved, and atrocious – the type of stories that rarely reach the light of day.
Are you brave enough to crawl inside the minds of the thirteen authors who wrote these tales… Or are you afraid you’ll be locked up for peeking?
Featuring the talents of:
Delphine Boswell, Alex Chase, Sean Conway, Megan Dorei, A.A. Garrison, Tom Howard, Russell Linton, Suzie Lockhart and Bruce Lockhart 2nd, Jennifer Loring, Sergio Palumbo, Joseph A. Pinto, and D.M. Smith
Now let’s take a moment to read a little excerpt of Windows to the Soul by A.A. Garrison…
Why’d I kill them folk? Well, that there’s a big hairy question, son, and I just might answer it. But let’s first get something straight. You ain’t here for why nothing. You come to hear old Barnaby Rick say a bunch of crazy shit for your paper. And that’s okay, we all gotta eat. I’m gonna have to disappoint, though, because this boy ain’t crazy, straitjacket or not.
Okay. Yeah. Why the killing.
My first was this whore in the town I’s born, on account of her hurting me in a bad way. A hateful bitch, of the likes they warned you of in the Bible. I saw it in her eyes, right off the bat. Made me sick. I tried and help her, and she hurt me for it, so I killed her. Simple. Probably better off, but that’s neither here nor there.
How’d I know her trade? Told you, was in the eyes. Windows to the soul? For me, that’s literal – or was, I guess. Heh. See, back then, I could look in a body’s eyes and something would click, in my head like, and I’d know that person, could be them, about. Had it all my life, long’s I can remember. Thought everyone was like that, until I’s about sixteen or so. Now, it wasn’t nothing psychic or supernatural or what have you – uncommon, maybe, but that’s it. I couldn’t see specifics, like what you had for lunch, but I could sure tell if it was sitting wrong with you. I’m just sensitive, is all. I just see what is, I suppose.
And I don’t need to see your eyes to know what you’re thinking, that old Barnaby Rick’s crazy as they come. Don’t be afraid and say it, son, you ain’t alone. I don’t spite you, just like I don’t spite these head-shrink fellers in here. They got all kinds of lingo for my sensitivity: delusional and schizoid, and big-ass words I can’t even say – probably even got some made special, just for me. But that’s okay. It’s their way. Got to label everything, so’s they can belittle it and cram it in a box and shelf it away. And that goes double for folk like me, those that leave them scratching they heads. Got to make sure there’s some five-dollar ‘disorder’ to slap me with. Funny who says what’s right and proper, and what ain’t. If the world shit in diapers, they’d have continence a disorder. Outlaw the commodes!
But yeah, that whore, she had it coming. That make it right? Hell no, and I’ll be the first to tell you. I’ll bet you think you know how it went down – business transaction, right? Wrong.
Listen up, son.
She was hitching, is how it come to pass, hitching down a lonely road in the middle of the night – – a cold night. Can get right cold in them mountains, colder than you know. I’s in my truck and heading home from work when I seen her along the curb, with ass-hugging jeans and a halter top and tits here to Tuesday – suicide blonde too, gave definition to it. At first I just went on – don’t borrow trouble, yeah? But then my conscience got hold of me, so I doubled back and picked her up – and that’s when I got a look in them eyes. They plumb whacked me in the face, right there alongside the road – because that’s how it happens, that click I told you about. Them eyes said she was a user, a people-user – someone who’d been used and let it sour her – let it become her, so’s she passed it on to others. Share the love. Wasn’t whoring for the money, no, was so she could spray that hurt around, maybe with some critters and a disease in the bargain. It was… vampiric, that’s the word. Except, she was a vampire you bit first…
Join us tomorrow for Alex Chase’s inspiration behind Whispers!