The State of Hell

I'm writing about hell right now. I know. That's a rather harsh lead in, isn't it. It's true though. I just sent a character, a fallen angel named Rue, to hell. I want it noted that I came up with his name long before I ever read the Hunger Games, by the way. It comes from Ruvan, the name of one of the angel judges. I made him an angel judge at hell's gate who'd lost his compassion. He's booted down to earth as a human to rediscover his compassion, and of course, the devil has his own plots and plans.

So, now Rue's gone to hell. He's actually there to rescue a soul that the demon Asmoday tricked into going with him. I was a little stuck, though. Hell's a huge concept--what do I want it to look like? That's a bit of a brain bender. How do you describe hell? Do you stick with the Judeo-Christian concepts? Do you spiral down into Dante's concentric circles? What about the Greco-Roman underworld with its Fields of Punishment and Sysiphus and his boulder? What about Amnet the Destroyer of the Egyptian mythos?

So many choices and I couldn't decide! So, what if hell were all of those things? What if hell is shaped by humanity's beliefs? It's around to offer humanity punishment and penance and as humanity has changed, perhaps hell has changed with us? Though, there will always be souls in those hells, those who were doomed and damned during the Greco-Roman era who toil in the Fields of Punishment or languish in the Fields of Asphodel. Humanity can only see the section of hell that they believe, but wouldn't Rue, my angelic visitor to hell, be able to see all of hell's myriad layers?

And what about new construction? As humanity's ideas change, hell would always have to change to keep up. I think hell's adding on as we speak--a new chamber, looking suspiciously like the hallowed halls of Congress!


  1. Hell is other people. From the play No Exit by Sartre. That one always struck me the most powerfully -- especially as an introvert. Eternally stuck in that room in that endless love triangle with no peace. You really do feel it is so by the end of that play.

  2. ... and at times it seems she's so introverted she doesn't even want to be around her own family. But at least I know how she really feels now. *cough*

    On a separate tangent, some doctrines say hell is nothing more than the absence of God, or rather being removed or separated from Him, not a specific place with a specific configuration.

    If I were to follow your thinking, I wouldn't expect a human to only see their version of hell, possibly quite the opposite. If you're looking to torture someone you want them to feel they're being treated worse than anyone else, so it feels as unfair as possible. So let them see everyone else's hell so they can see how easy everyone else has it in their own private hell.

    Ever watch "What Dreams May Come"?

  3. While I have some issues with the theology of the movie, Dogma gives one of my favorite descriptions of Hell: how hell began as nothing. It was only the coldest, loneliest, furthest point from God. (Like Charles said.) But humans came and that wasn't bad enough. So humans need for punishment added the flames, the taskmasters, and the uncountable tortures.

    Is this a short story or novel?

  4. Never seen "Dogma." However, this started out as a short story and it just got away from me. It's one of those rare circumstances where the story just takes over. It was supposed to be a short story, then a novella and now it looks as though it's moving its way into the novel range. Should make editing and interesting process.


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