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 Alex Chase’s contribution Whispers.
Alex Chase is a university student who has had short fiction accepted for publication with Siren’s Call Publication, Pink Pepper Press and Angelic Knight Press in genres including horror, romance and everything in between. When not doing school work, writing and exploring the depths of the human condition, he enjoys tutoring, working on his student paper, and running. You can find Alex on Facebook, Twitter and his blog.
Whispers: The Inspiration
I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been attracted to the idea of mental illness. I can’t help but wonder what it is about the human brain that allows such disorders to come about. Why are some people hardwired to hear voices in their head? Why is it that sexual abuse in childhood results in dissociative personality disorder? Are the recurrences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder meant to help us, forcing us to think about what we went through so that we confront and work through our problems? If I didn’t love writing as much as I do, I would have majored in psychology.
I, of course, have no answers – only theories. I firmly believe that mental illnesses not caused by genetics have meaning. That something in us, some latent thought, some repressed memory, is responsible for the hallucinations, delusions and other symptoms we experience. Everything we see – whether real or not – has its significance.
I believe, in some strange way, that some mentally ill people have to be straddling the line of “too ill to function” and “not ill enough to need treatment”. That maybe, just maybe, what society deems as mentally ill is just an unusual coping mechanism. After all, it’s not unusual for people to suppress bad memories or become feral when stranded in the wilderness, and many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder report that their alternates actually help, rather than hinder, the way they function in society. Is it so impossible for some to create a “real” imaginary friend? One who can actually talk and give you advice?
I don’t think so.
I may not be a professional, but doesn’t the old adage go, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
That’s when I got to thinking – what if somebody wasn’t too far gone, but wound up being broken by the psychiatric system? Frankenstein created his monster. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that we can create our own too.
That was the idea behind “Doug”. A man who couldn’t handle what life threw at him, so he began hearing voices, coaxing his fragile mind to a comforted state, pulling him further and further into the depths of his own madness. On one hand, these voices help him. One makes him strong, the other safe. One is concerned with keeping him alive, the other happy. The reader is told he’s killed, but where’s the proof? A bad reputation can go a long way when it comes to staying safe. Doug may even really believe he’s killed, though I don’t actually confirm if he has (and no, I won’t now – it’s for you to decide if he entered the asylum as a murderer).
Think of it this way – let’s say you’re the ill one. The doctor says that you’re suffering from hallucinations. You need to avoid bright sunlight, and your family, and any food you didn’t make yourself, because they could cause stress and lead to worsening symptoms… but that doesn’t make sense. Because I’m your doctor, and I also don’t exist. Now here you are, reading this, wondering, “Wait, if he doesn’t exist, how did he write this?”
Can you prove that this actually exists? How do you know that the words you’re reading, right now, aren’t a hallucination? One complex mind fuck that you created to escape into a realm of literature that no one else will ever be able to read?
You could ask your friends… but maybe they’re hallucinations too. You really have no proof, no way to establish that anything is real, because every piece of confirmation could just be another figment of imagination. So, what is morality when there is no reality? What does it matter if you turn a sanctuary into a slaughterhouse? The blood on the floor, the ink on the page, the words on your lips… all of this might be one massive delusion. And there’s only one way to fix that, really:
Enter the Asylum.
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 Alex Chase’s Whispers…
“Please, tell me it won’t hurt, doctor,” Douglass looked at Doctor Harris with tear-filled eyes. Douglass was sitting in a plastic chair in a viewing room of the Eastburn Psychiatric Rehabilitation Facility. Doctor Harris was sitting across from him, separated by little more than empty air and a few feet of space.
The facility itself was fairly isolated. Set a few miles out from the nearest town, the location was far enough away that any escaped patient could easily be caught before reaching civilization. At the very least, those towns would be notified in time. A series of metal security gates, along with thick concrete walls, limited movement within and blocked cell phone communication entirely.
Doctor Harris was a plump man who was old enough for people to probe him about retirement plans, but not so old that they’d express surprise upon finding out that he was still employed. The pepper in his salt-and-pepper beard was the only thing protecting him from ‘Santa Claus’ jokes.
The doctor fought to appear objective; it wouldn’t do any good to become emotional. It would be unprofessional and could result in the patient developing an unhealthy attachment to him. He forced himself to focus on the bland walls, the shining linoleum floors and the grate-covered windows as he launched into the same speech he’d given so many others in the past.
“Douglass, it won’t hurt at all. You see, we give you a powerful anesthetic before the procedure. That way, you’ll be unconscious. You’ll lie there, sleeping peacefully while we use a controlled electrical…”
“I know what you’ll do; I want to know that it won’t hurt!” Douglass snapped. He doubled over, groaning and clutching at his head. “They’re so loud,” he whispered. “So loud, so angry. Voices like knives, like darkness, cutting at my soul.”
Doctor Harris grimaced. This particular patient was afflicted with one of the most severe cases he had worked with. He was rarely violent, but there were four orderlies- two at each end of the room- just in case. The few times he’d physically reacted to something, it had proven nearly impossible to restrain him.
Douglass was a poor soul who was lost in a psychological void; he was too ill to live a normal life, but not ill enough to be blissfully mad. He’d heard about the Eastburn facility on the radio and wandered from town to town until he’d arrived at their doors, covered in rags, dirt and blood.
He was too detached from reality to give them a family history, though later discussions led Doctor Harris to believe his family was deceased. He didn’t remember his own name (“Douglass” was a pseudonym) so they could not search for a social security number. His finger prints didn’t turn up any records and his face was not matched to any existing driver’s license. He could’ve been a ghost for all anyone knew about him. They’d taken him in out of pity, diverting finances from other departments to cover the cost of his stay.
Since being committed, he’d hesitantly admitted to being coerced into criminal activities by the ‘black voice’ and that the ‘twisted one’ convinced him that he wasn’t wrong in doing so. During moments of clarity, he realized that what he’d done was unacceptable and attempted to resist the influence of the voices in his head…
Join us tomorrow to learn the inspiration behind Megan Dorei’s story Visiting Hours!