Digging to Hell

Digging to Hell

Students stare into hole to Hell.

Heaven and Hell. When I was younger, I believed.

I had a friend, Erica, raised on fire and brimstone. Erica would come to school with terrifying stories from Sunday school about deluges, eternal damnation, glowing castles in the clouds, and people with wings. We decided to go see these things.

After long discussions (including diagrams), we determined Heaven was out of the question. Being up in the sky, we would need stacks of ladders, tied together one atop another. Ladders weren’t practical to acquire or hide from the recess lady. But for down, all we’d need were a few sandbox shovels and pails. Hell it was.

Unable to convince the sandbox kids to give us their shovels and unwilling to explain to the teachers that we needed shovels because we were digging to Hell, we used sticks.

The site of our dig was behind the school lunchroom in a chain-link enclosed area where the grass never grew. Back in the corner, away from tree roots, we dug in peace.

Occasionally we’d measure our work. I’d lay down in the hole, and wiggle around a bit. Then Erica would lay in it and tried it on for size. Satisfied, we continued our frenzied digging. As we dug inches deeper and deeper, we discussed what we thought Hell looked like and what we’d do once we got there.

Once we got there, we needed special flame-retardant outfits to protect us from Hell’s fire. On rainy-day recess, we designed paperdolls to model our patchwork asbestos jumpsuits. We talked strategy for hiding from demons (the jumpsuits had chameleon powers). We made demon paperdolls for identification.

At first, our activities went unnoticed. We were happy, content, and staying out of trouble. Two little kids digging in the dirt, no big deal. Then one day Cindy with her blond pigtails and pink jumper showed up at our hole. “What are you playing? I want to play.”

We lied. “We’re digging for dinosaurs. Don’t need help. Go away.”

She tattled.

Erica and I received a stern lecture about sharing, having more than one friend, and playing nicely together. With the recess lady watching we let Cindy play with us as we pretended to dig for dinosaurs.

Cindy talked constantly about her dinosaur. “Look at mine! It’s the biggest one! Bigger than yours! It’s a new dinosaur. No one knows about. It’s purple. My dinosaur is the best dinosaur. Better than all the other dinosaurs. I’m going to be famous.”

That was it. This was our hole. Not hers. She didn’t get to be the best. So we told her the truth.

“We’re not digging for dinosaurs. We’re digging to hell. Yeah. HELL. And you’re helping. When we get to HELL, we go first because we know how to fight demons. We’ll try not to let them eat you, but they might. Your job is to close the hole behind us, so the demons, from HELL, don’t come through and EAT EVERYONE YOU LOVE!”

Cindy’s lips quivered. “Hell? Demons? Eat me?”

Cindy ran crying to the recess lady. “They’re digging to HELL and demons are going to eat everyone I love and Idon’twanttogeteaten!”

Suddenly, half a dozen teachers stood around the hole staring down at as.

This was a semi-Catholic Montessori school. They couldn’t have their kids digging to Hell! We could read about it in the Bible, learn about it in Sunday school, but we couldn’t actually try and /get/ there! They immediately stopped all excavation.

At least at school.

Hell Excavation Site #2 at my house was a great success. But after a couple months we realized Hell was a lot deeper down than four feet and neither one of us really wanted to dig that far. So we filled the hole with water and played in the mud instead.

The House of Shattered Wings: Hark! The Fallen Angels Sing

Title: The House of Shattered Wings

Author: Aliette de Bodard

Elevator pitch: A mysterious young man of unknown magical origin, stranded in Paris and captured by the most powerful fallen angel faction, is forced to hunt a supernatural killer.

Why did I pick this book up? Typically, I don’t read angel books. But I was willing to give fallen angels in an alternate reality 1930s Paris a chance.

Main Characters: Philippe is foreigner stranded in Paris trying to survive without calling too much attention to himself. Then he gets caught trying to mainline fallen angel blood, a highly addictive a powerful magic-inducing drug.

Isabelle has the most recent, but fading, connection to Heaven. She is the newest fallen angel who hits the pavement in the first chapter and nearly becomes savaged for her potent blood.

Selene inherited a broken faction when their great leader went for a walk and never came back. She is in over her head and is desperately trying to hold her faction together.

Madeline is the most capable alchemist in the city, but also a tormented angel-drug addict trying to forget the horrible things that have happened to her during her service to angels.

Thoughts and Musings
Have you ever watched a movie where the two hours leading up to the ending credits feel like prologue, and you think “This is where the movie should have started. Right here. This would be really interesting to see what happens next.” This story begins after The End.

The House of Shattered Wings is an aftermath story. It’s set in an alternate Paris during the 1930s where the fallen angels of Heaven have set up an empire, nearly destroyed themselves and everyone else in a civil war between factions, and their greatest leader has disappeared. The main events leading up to the story have already happened, and now the characters are dealing with the fallout. It’s like reading about Rome in the immediate years after its collapse.

Starting here is a big risk for the author to take. Whatever comes next has to be at least as compelling as all the backstory. I think against the odds, it works.

At its core, The House of Shattered Wings is simple who-done-it mystery. Someone/something is killing people and the characters have to find and stop the killer. Compared to the backstory, this doesn’t sound nearly as interesting. However, Bodard surrounds the mystery with layers on layers of complicated politics, questions of faith, conflicting relationships, and intersecting world mythologies. And as the mystery begins to unravel, it intersects with several pre-novel plotlines. This intersection helps keep the main storyline as compelling as the pre-book storyline.

House of Shattered wings is the first in a series, but it works as a solo novel. The ending has a satisfactory conclusion. When the next book comes out, I’ll pick it up.

Do these 3 things to rebalance your mind

I have a theory.
The holidays at end of the year are like the universe washing a cosmic load of laundry.
Projects that stalled, ideas never executed, stories unfinished, high emotion encounters.
Everything becomes an immediate priority simultaneously. You didn’t think you were going to have to deal with it, but here it is in your face, and it needs your attention right now.
This is a good thing.
It’s the opportunity to resolve the year and start fresh in January. All this dirty chaos laundry will finish its washing, but right now it may feel like you’re caught in the spin cycle.

How do you rebalance when the universe is trying to spin you senseless?

One: Quiet your immediate space
Sit in your quiet place.
If you don’t have a quiet place, find one.
Your quiet place should be someplace comfortable where no one will bother you for 2-3 minutes.
Close your office door. Sit in your car in the driveway. Step into the nearest closet.
Maybe your life is so crazy right now that the only place you can escape is the bathroom.
Whatever your quiet place is, go there.

Two: Close your eyes and breathe
Close your eyes.
Now breathe.
Inhale through your nose to the count of six.
Exhale out your mouth to the count of six.
Do this ten times. Breathing is good.

Three: Open your eyes and look at a kitten picture
Open your eyes.
Look at the kitten picture below.
Say to yourself, out loud five times, “This kitten is okay, and so am I.”


Leave your quiet place. Go back into the world. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

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