Sometimes, I go out on idea mining expeditions. I hunt for images – little pictures to put into words and save for a rainy day. I might go to a book store and look through an art book or maybe take a peek at the strange and freaky action figures you can find at Spencer’s and Hot Topics. Then I take out my handy journal. Maybe I describe the image. Maybe I add something else to it or just take one element from it or maybe it gives me a totally divergent idea.

A few days ago I did some image mining (or grave-digging or whatever euphemism you’d like) for my epic, Souls Unsure. The underworld that will be therein explored (Sheol) is a shadowy and strange place…it gives me a lot of room to fool around with imagery, both narrative and surreal (and even surreally narrative). So here are some of the captured images, the writer’s equivalent to sketches. Some might go in the book…some might drift to other places entirely

Four pretty angels sit in a row – pretty plumes perfectly groomed. The holy quartet, all identical down to the pretty white dresses, all intently study identical books. Pages turn in unison by identical hands. The fourth face looks up at your approach, flashing a demonic grin…

Leviathan coils under the city. She coils and twists beneath the Plutonian streets of Sheol. She grows and expands, more coils and scales, growing since stars were infants. Now every tunnel, every sewer, every underworld chasm, every toilet in Sheol is crammed with those coils. She hasn’t seen her entire body since before that Flood.

A child approaches under the spectral street lamp. You see no face in the Ignis Fatuus glow. No face at all. Writhing insects form the facial features, each undulation an expression. His voice buzzes to you before you can tell yourself to wake up…

The freak legion writhed through the allies, away from the other shades. Lost souls amongst lost souls. Dirty bandages, crusted and soaked in old humors, covered their faces and hands, trailed like regrets from their feet. The cloth fetters surely hid things grotesque. Moans and cries off the walls. I ran up to one, tore away the clotted cloth. I freed her face, exposed it to the dying light no one had remembered to rage against. Beautiful…a statuesque face. “Grotesque!” she growled. “Hideous,” she hissed. She clutched the tattered bandages to her perfect face and caught up to her fellows, all gorgeous I surmise. Souls who sought perfection. Self hate is a wicked thing, in this place…where the mind’s eye is more powerful than Medusa’s gaze; where similes can cut and metaphors can kill.

The Babylon-like sky scrapper pierces Sheol’s cloud cover like a contaminated syringe. And then it broke off, in half. Denied. Even up there you can’t see the stars.

The childling shades flutter about with the moths in the dark. They ask for bedtime stories, always ask for bedtime stories, flutter and float for time eternal. They’ve heard all the once-upon-a-time’s, but can’t find any happily-ever-after’s.

The marble bust stares at you, in front of the ancient doors. One is older than the other, but you can’t recall. At every approach, it puts a finger to its marble lips. Shhhhhhh. Do you open the door.

The priest shade stands at the decaying cathedral, constantly looking for an opening in the sky. Shadow spawned tentacles ensnare every wraithling child who passes by. He adds them to his chthonic chorus, adds them to the mournful, melodious, keening, cry. Each note must be perfect and he spurs them on with whips from his tendrils. The choir keens in a collective voice the sound of moonlight striking a gem. “It has to be perfect,” the priest mutters to himself, “Must be perfect…Heaven will open the door…must be perfect…Heaven will call…must be perfect…”

The headless statue perched on the woman’s shoulders, covering her eyes with its hands. No eyes between the two of them, they stumbled through the streets of Sheol…

An angel, all pallid and wan – its emaciated body strapped to a stone pillar, cracked and stained dark. Her feathers, as dry as parchment inscribed with now illegible secrets, is sparse and falling out. Once upon a time, she glowed. Before the once divine creature, stands a lithe and graceful form, hair long and red, back to you. Dark. Draped in a luxuriant, sable coat of fur, it squeezes a rose in one hand and holds various sharp implements betwixt its fingers in the other. Both hands drip blood. And the lithe shadow deftly goes to work. Hands fly with the careful, loving motion of a painter. The angel screams. You rush forward, shouting. The shadow turns, giving you one gleaming eye over the shoulder. But in the next breath, in the land with no breath, it disperses into a dozen gore spattered doves, in all directions. Gone. The angel is only a husk. They can scream for eons after they die.

Her lips, covered in too much lipstick, trembled enticingly/repellently. The parts of many dolls littered her shelves – hands and arms and torsos and shark dead glass eyes gazing. Round her neck entwined an open locket, each half containing two letters, spelling FA-LL. The twin serpents, crawling out of her eye sockets stretched their coils, begging me to come closer…

Beneath your feet hops a fat frog, green slime and gleaming grime. It’s not a dragon fly. It’s not a horse fly. No. The delicate leg and crystalline wing of a pixy juts out from gelatinous lips of the thing, twitching.