I love the kind of horror that takes you behind the veil, to where monsters actually come from. Most horror involves the monster coming here to wreak havoc: the disruptor. The rustler of jimmies. It’s used so frequently because it works.
But what about the places from which monsters are birthed? What about Hell, or just Hell’s outskirts? The other planes of existence? What might they look like?
In The Blessed Man and the Witch, I took the reader to what occultists call The Lower Planes, and what one character referred to as “Hell’s suburbs”. As a long-time fan of fantasy literature, I wanted to create a fantasy world no one would live in, but was nevertheless important on a fundamental level: one of the building blocks of a universe that has Heaven, Hell, and magic. In Kabbalism, there’s a kind of map of the celestial realms called The Tree of Life, and it looks a little bit like a ladder reaching toward Heaven. It also has a flip-side reaching down to Hell, and these lower planes are called the Qlippoth. The following excerpt describes part of a journey into the Qlippoth, where a group of modern occultists using astral projection undertake a quest to save imprisoned Watcher angels (also called Grigori).
“You dither and hesitate, always,” Gilhedu said with some asperity. “Rouse yourself and act.”
Screw you, sister, Siobhan told her silently, walked away, and aimed her astral body up, into the tear.
Unexpectedly, there was no sensation of crossing a barrier: no tingling across her body or feeling of resistance. One moment she was here, and the next she was there.
She stood shin-deep in a vast expanse of snow, marred by jagged chunks of ice scattered across the plain as far as the eye could see. The sky had taken on a mottled gray-brown color, and in place of the sun hung a dirty smear of dull crimson, as though a gigantic thumb had spread a clot of blood across the heavens. She felt cold, but not terribly so. Not as cold as it should have been. I guess that’s a benefit of being here astrally—
Oh, my God.
Two gigantic towers of glass and steel and concrete loomed above, reaching thousands of feet into the gloomy sky. Both were frozen in the act of breaking in half, the tops slanting at 66 degree angles. The broken ends did not fall, but at the points of fracture enormous plumes of blood and paper spewed, staining the snow crimson.
Most of the magicians had gathered in a rough oval, staring at the halved towers. Siobhan trudged through the snow to join them. Is this a metaphorical representation of the 9/11 attacks, or something else? Is this where it happened spiritually, somehow? Do we have to go into that?
“So, where do we go next?” a man in middle age asked. The mark he bore was Zegrahem’s, and he wore all black, sporting silver rings on every finger.
Hovering just above the snow, Azazel shrugged her thin shoulders. “Dunno. Nobody knew what to expect once we opened the door. The Watchers couldn’t get real specific.”
As she looked for Gilhedu in the crowd, Siobhan noticed that the silver cords once connecting the magicians to their physical bodies had vanished, including her own. I hope we can find a way to get back, because I don’t see a doorway on this side. Where did she—ah. Gilhedu stood apart from the others, gazing across the frozen snowscape. What’s she up to?
“We should probably go to the towers,” Armaros suggested.
A skinny, redheaded woman floating near Ezeqeel shook her head. “We should scout the area first. We can still fly here, so it shouldn’t take too long.”
“Zhehaja, why else’ve these towers been put here? I bet that’s the blood of the angels spurting out right now,” said a huge, hulking man with a mohawk and rings piercing his eyebrows, nose, and lips.
“I can read names too, Berezadel,” Zhehaja said, smirking. “And I—” A look of horror crossed her face and she screamed, falling to the snowy ground. Thrashing, shrieking, and convulsing, she arched her back as her abdomen burst open and loops of intestine sprang out, spraying blood and viscera across the snow. The nearest magicians shouted in alarm and backed away in a broad circle. Flailing, feet drumming on the ground, she uttered a final scream and launched into the sky as if pulled on a string, disappearing in seconds.
Wiping his face and looking at his bloodstained hands, Berezadel said, “Holy fuck, what just happened?”
“I have seen this before,” Gilhedu replied, approaching the crowd of horrified magicians. “Her physical shell was murdered by a servant of Hell. She is no more, body or soul.”
Armaros asked, “Why would that happen to her? Why would she be, um, murdered by a servant of Hell?”
Berezadel moved away from the bloody, churned snow where Zhehaja used to be and said, “Who gives a fuck? Let’s just find the Grigori and free ‘em before we go out like she did!” He lifted himself off the ground and flew toward the towers.
“The Pit always seeks to annihilate all magick that does not spring from suffering and despair,” Gilhedu told Armaros. “Its servants cannot work miracles that invoke the name of God or His angels.”
Not everyone succeeds, and success isn’t what you think it’s going to be in the end. To get the full story, check out The Blessed Man and the Witch.