Friday, 7 August 2015

This could be Heaven, or this could be Hell… - Guest post by Francis H Powell

The most leading question most people ask themselves on a daily basis must be…what happens to us after we die? Many religions lead people to think, if they lead a good life, they will go “to Heaven” or if they lead a bad life…they will end up in Hell. Hell is perhaps a good way to keep people on the right road, and a good stick to beat them with, should they go astray.
With my story “Cast from Hell” the last story in my book of short stories “Flight of Destiny” I written a tongue in cheek story about somebody who is rejected by Hell for being too good…they die a middle aged man but are sent back in the body of a woman, in her twenties, replacing the soul of a woman in a coma.
At the start of my story, I envisage what Hell is like and what the devil’s modern day preoccupations are. The Devil’s heyday was the middle ages, a time when superstition reigned and the church had a vicelike grip on the population. My vision of what Hell is like in the modern day era is far from being like Dante’s inferno…This is my description of hell…To my surprise, there was no evidence in Hell of people being grievously punished. The slothful were not being goaded with burning coals. The gluttons were not being tormented with thirst and hunger. There were no hedonists being bathed in burning pitch and stinking brimstone, or envious individuals howling with grief over that which they could never possess. The proud were not being brought down. The covetous were not being denied. In fact, the damned seemed to be living in a modicum of comfort. I never detected any weeping, wailing or gnashing of teeth. The place, called by some gehenna, the bottomless pit, was admittedly no holiday camp, but things there had grown shoddy and dysfunctional.
My description of the “devil” is one worn out over a period of time, a devil that has become “insipid” and unimaginative and I make the point that the world's leaders have usurped the devil’s job with their ineptness, lies and monetarily-advantageous wars. Watch the news and we can see Hell is clearly on earth, for many wretched souls.

In my story I take a quick glance at what Heaven might be like…in comparison to Hell…I took a last look survey of Hell. It looked like a vast airport terminal: vacuous, tedious, and hum-drum. By now I couldn't wait to leave. By contrast, I have often tried to imagine Heaven. To me it would be one long party in a great vivant night club, not unlike this second life to which I was now looking forward to I closed my inner eye as instructed and waited while Charon transported me to earth's dimension. Apart from the cliché images of Heaven, those pearly gates, streets of gold, winged angels and the Righteous, with their bodies made perfect and immortal, singing the praises of God forever, what are people’s visions of what Heaven is like? Also what kind of existence would this constant praising of God be like anyway?
One of the plus points of Heaven would be according to many the fact that witnessing the torment of the damned will be one of the joys of paradise. This seems a strange notion.

Peter Bell the Third by Percy Bysshe Shelley
"Hell is a city much like London – / A populous and a smoky city; / There are all sorts of people undone, / And there is little or no fun done; / Small justice shown, and still less pity." Shelley's Hell bears a close similarity to Regency London. "All are damned – they breathe an air, / Thick, infected, joy-dispelling".

Huis Clos/No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
"L'enfer, c'est les autres." A valet leads three characters to a windowless room, which is Hell. To what torment are they condemned? Each other's company. In the course of the play, the characters probe each other's sins and bring alive their guilty memories. "There's no need for red-hot pokers."

About the Author
What better way to put all my angst into short stories. Born in a commuter belt city called Reading and like many a middle or upper class child of such times I was shunted off to an all-male boarding school aged eight, away from my parents for periods of up to twelve weeks at a time, until I was 17. While at my first Art college through a friend I met a writer called Rupert Thomson, who was at the time in the process of writing his first book “Dreams of leaving”. He was a bit older than myself, me being fresh out of school, but his personality and wit resonated, despite losing contact with him. I had a stint living in Austria, where I began writing. It wasn’t until I moved to Paris, that my writing began to truly evolve. I discovered a magazine called Rat Mort (dead rat) I sent off a short story, in the hope it would match the seemingly dark world the magazine seemed to embroiled in. I got no answer. Not put off I sent two more stories. Finally I got an answer. It seemed the magazine editor was a busy man, a man prone to travelling. It seemed my first story really hit the right note with him. His name was Alan Clark. I began writing more and more short stories, some published on the internet. A bit later my anthology Flight of Destiny slowly evolved, published April 2015, by Savant publishing.