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 Joseph A. Pinto’s contribution Hierarchy.
Joseph A. Pinto is the horror author of two published books and numerous short stories; his most recent works can be found at Sirens Call Publications and Cruentus Libri Press. He is a member of the Horror Writers of America as well the founder of Pen of the Damned, a collective of angst and horror driven writers. Indulge in his unique voice on his personal blog josephpinto.wordpress.com and penofthedamned.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Joseph hails from New Jersey where he lives with his wife and young daughter.
The Inspiration Behind Hierarchy
When I came across the call for Sirens Call Publications’ Mental Ward: Stories from the Asylum anthology, I eagerly jumped on it. How could I not spin a tale about what goes on behind the walls of madness?
One thing I have learned about my own writing is that anything I may have planned might as well be tossed out the window. My stories take a life all of their own and often lead to a narration arc outside the box. It makes finding a home for them a study in supreme patience, but in the grand scheme of things, that is a good problem to have.
As I prepared my contribution to Mental Ward: Stories from the Asylum, one clear thought in my head emerged: my tale would revolve around an elderly patient named Gloria who had been trapped within an institution for longer than anyone could remember. Wouldn’t you know it, by the time I hit my stride in only the second paragraph, my brain sprinted off in a completely different direction.
I have to be honest, aside from my initial thoughts about a character named Gloria, I had no inspiration behind what would become my story Hierarchy. And that is the complete thrill as a writer — it is like stepping off a ledge to nowhere, only strangely enough, you are completely cognizant that you are heading somewhere.
Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the slightest bit about Hierarchy, other than to say it was a complete joy to step off that shadowy ledge while writing it. Divulging anything further would ruin your journey through what ultimately became my spiraling madness. It is narrated outside the box (would you expect anything less from me), and I have extreme confidence when I say that you, faithful reader, shall be thrilled to jump off the ledge alongside me while reading.
I am happy to report that I was not committed upon completion of my tale.
I hope you enjoy my story Hierarchy, as well as the other fine stories contained within the walls of Mental Ward: Stories from 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 Hierarchy by Joseph A, Pinto…
I have learned a great deal in my time trapped here. If only the others could say the same…
If only these walls could speak.
But Gloria does. Incessantly. And has not stopped since first admitted to this ward. Ward. I cannot help but snicker at my Freudian slip. The word, cold and unforgiving in its own right, nonetheless suggests the tiniest sliver of hope when spoken in my mind. But cold and unforgiving would be a welcome reprieve for the hell these husks of wasting flesh find themselves trapped within; nothing more than common livestock to be herded, slowly quartered. I will recognize it for what it truly is, then—an asylum, alive of its own accord, its sickened heart bloated with the poison coursing through this decrepit place.
Since first wheeled on the gurney through these doors, Gloria has not shut up.
Chattering to invisible entities —friends, family, perhaps? Always, no one is there; of this, I am quite sure. No soul, living or dead, aspires to linger within this rotted canyon of the lost. Gloria does not truly speak, however; she mouths unintelligible, disconnected exhalations that one would assume are sentences. In truth, they are nothing more than neurotic blatherings. I am sure Gloria did not ask for this. No sane person would. Still, she finds herself here, like so many of the others, the corners of her lips moist with drool, soiled rag of what passes as a nightgown hanging about her emaciated body. Aside from the haunts in her mind, she remains alone. Still, I possess no pity for her.
Not for any of them.
Today, Gloria sits before a crooked wooden desk, a tepid bowl of tomato soup atop its warped surface. She shoves a rusted spoon and a single piece of moldy white bread to the side. Into the coagulating surface of the soup she dips her hand, and then proceeds to greedily suck upon her slickened fingers. The sound simply unbearable, is still a welcome reprieve from her babbling. She slurps each finger down to the knuckle until the bowl is half consumed. Face and gown now a pink slathered mess, she slumps forward.
Then she talks to the walls.
She rambles, a mad incantation of mangled syllables, every so often chortling over her stream of nonsense. Every so often she nods, some sense of approval discovered within the conversation polluting her brain. Today, however, something is different. I have listened to her ravings with as much patience as one could expect, tirelessly enduring as the sun rises and falls beyond the bars of her grime-stained window. Now her endless torrent of gibberish ceases. Now something coherent comes forth from her lips. “I… hear…”
Anxiously I await more, but her focus shifts from the shadows of nether that only her cloudy eyes seem to pinpoint to the orderly that shuffles through the doorway.
A puzzled look upon his greasy face slowly fades as he scans her room for the sound. He has little to check over—sparse, generic furniture squats upon the squalid floors. Characterless, colorless. Lifeless, like so much here. He blows a disgusted sigh from his pudgy cheeks. “You’re a mess.”
Gloria reaches for her white bread. Nibbles disinterestedly on a broken corner of crust…
Come back tomorrow to learn the inspiration behind Suzie Lockhart & Bruce Lockhart 2nd’s Of Shadow & Substance!