Worlds Within Worlds
For those of you who have managed to read Hell Gate, I’m sure a couple of the places I describe within the book bring certain vistas to mind. That’s the wonderful thing about reading; your imagination fills in details that add substance to a story, bringing it to life.
I certainly felt that way as the story evolved, especially when it came to the Gulf of Tears and the Hall of Shattered Dreams. But how did I come up with such places, and what planted the seeds in my mind?
Well, it’s twofold really – three if you include the fact I read . . . a lot! Reading encourages creativity because, although you’re involving yourself with someone else’s words, the pictures they paint come to life in YOUR mind. It helps you become familiar with the idea of constructing scenes and living them out.
The more you do it, the more swiftly you can devise a place, person, thing or object and flesh them out.
That being said, I was then inspired by what my research had hinted at.
Let’s start with Haawiyâh (The Abyss)
In Hell Gate, Daemon grim has to journey to various places to unlock clues as to his destiny, or help in his investigation. While I conducted the research aspect of my preparation, it struck me how hostile to life Hataamah must be. Remember what the Arabic version of hell entails:
“. . .references are filled with indications of torture, fire and flames that crackle and roar, with fierce boiling waters, scorching wind and black smoke. Endless planes stretch on forever, scoured barren by heat and gales, Hadean in scope…”
That got me thinking. Haawiyâh is also known as The Abyss. Instead of incorporating a simple “hellish, Dantean pit aspect” into my planning, I wanted something more, something like a gorge or a chasm that ate its way through the strata as it constantly wandered along. But this wouldn’t be any old chasm; it would be a yawning great cleft that would make the Grand Canyon look tiny in comparison.
With that in mind, I started scouring the internet for fantasy based examples of the headwaters of an abyss that would feel right at home in a Daemon Grim adventure. Look what I found:
Can you see why I came up with the name – Gulf of Tears?
Just looking on that picture; pondering on it; immersing myself into its make-believe history and back-story helped me devise a wondrous place that you’ll read about in detail in Hell Gate.
And the fun doesn’t stop there.
Do you remember some of the other examples Jahannam had to offer?
Sá-eer (The Blaze)
Haawiyâh (The Abyss)
Hatamâh (That which breaks to pieces)
Jaheêm (Blazing Fire)
Well, the blazing fire aspect was a common denominator throughout Jahannam, and something I would obviously incorporate into my fictional rendering. After all, I was making this realm the home of the Jinn (genies) – or Al-Jinn – albeit my versions would be a very formal, militarized, honor bound society.
That’s probably why Hatamâh drew me so much. Imagine a circle of hell that was so anti-life – even as a place of damnation – that it chewed normal concepts up whole and spit them out in pieces. Jumbled pieces.
Once the sorting hat of my imagination clicked onto this idea, I started perusing the internet for examples of the weird and wonderful; of places that simply didn’t fit; of stunning vistas where alien and everyday objects had been transposed into an alternate reality in a way that stuck out like a sore thumb.
One of those images was this:
When Grim first arrives in Hatamâh, he describes the entrance as follows:
*** A subliminal snap released all the pent-up kinetic energy at once, throwing us high into the air. Recovering quickly, I regained control, reached out to my companions and managed our descent with ease. Even so, the environment in which we landed was starkly different to what we had left behind.
The distant hills were still the same, but everything else appeared as disproportionate as they were familiar. By my reckoning, it looked as if a number of different locales down through the ages had been snatched away from London, topside, and dumped here for my benefit.
To the west, the spire of Big Ben sprouted from wave battered cliffs. Seagulls nestled among the crenels of its lofty crown and squabbled for space along the length of its black iron hands, currently showing the time as three forty-five. Eastward, the MI6 building had been deposited on its side, right next to the dilapidated remains of the original Tower Bridge. Constructed centuries apart, both looked similarly weather-beaten and were covered in all manner of creeping vines and other invasive vegetation.
A pristine twentieth century “London Underground” sign canted precariously to one side, bowing in homage to the smattering of barnacle scarred, seaweed clad boulders, scattered like green-bearded islands in front of me. Slick with slime, every one of them had been stained brown by the murky, reed infested broth lapping gently at their roots.
It was an eerie sight, for the rocks formed a ravaged boulevard leading toward the ruins of somewhere I knew well: the Victorian version of Paddington Tube Station.
Topside, latticed metal girders graced the curved roof of the Brunel-inspired edifice with a shining framework for allover glazing. Here, only rusted shattered fragments of steel and glass remained, jutting upward like rigid fingers, forever locked in arthritic display.
Below them, fractured masonry and collapsed walls formed an assault course of sharp edges and treacherous cracks we would need to negotiate, if we wished to proceed further without risking the temperament of the crocodilian fiends peeping from beneath the surface of the swamp in all too many places at once.
By all that is cursed, what a marvelous place. This is exactly what London could have looked like if it had been blitzkrieged into submission during World War Two. Sadly, our cockney friends were made of sterner stuff…I studied the scene before me for a second time. As am I. But where to go from here?
My gaze came to rest of the immaculate subway sign again. To my mind, it seemed starkly out of place among such devastation. Or is that the way it’s supposed to look? I began to laugh. Could Jahannam be giving me a clue? ***
It certainly was giving a clue. One I picked up from the image above.
Some of you might recognize that picture as I use it on Daemon Grim’s Facebook page. It depicts exactly the kind of thing I look for in the jumbled hotchpotch that is hell. Bits of what we know warped out of the framework of normalcy and served up with relish. You can relate to a place like this. You’re drawn to it. It’s familiar . . . while being totally alien.
And talking of alien. . .
That’s how the Hall of Shattered Dreams was born. A repository of ancient, long-forgotten knowledge, clinging to existence in the middle of a topsy-turvy world that played out nightmare-fairytale-imaginary-historical events all at the same time while jumbling them together into one long stream of head-banging, dribbling insanity.
I loved it! And I look forward to seeing how you, the reader, react to the discovery of a place that would make Alice and the Hatter feel right at home.
So, there you have it. A little dip into the building blocks of Hell Gate, and the workings of the gyroscope that represents my mental instability.
But don’t forget, Hell Gate is only a small part world in a large and ever expanding universe. Why don’t you check out more about Heroes in Hell…
You’ll be glad you did.