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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