In the belly of the clouds

I woke up determined for it to be a gorgeous day. It wasn’t. Heavy clouds covered the sky, trapping every shred of bright or blue. I told them to push aside! and they pushed. A little. The sun lanced through for a moment, and patches of sky opened up.

I went out into the recalcitrant day. From the inside, the house looked simple and familiar. From outside, it had a grand and foreign air, augmented by a posh triple decker bus waiting in the wraparound driveway.

Robby and I boarded the bus, exclaiming over the pale blue velvet upholstered seats and the ornate detailing around the bars and banisters. A grumpy businessman passed and I wished him a good day. He didn’t seem to think there was any chance it would pan out that way – but he didn’t know I could bend the whole world to my wishes! From a window, I noticed the clouds had rolled back over the sky and told them again to go away.

The bus began to move as we climbed to the roof deck. Some of the roof was partitioned for seating but a narrow aisle ran along the right side. I followed it around to the front feeling positively giddy and looked out over the city streets below.

Nineteenth-century style brick buildings crowded close on both sides, sketched stark by yellow light. The bus jostled along rude brick streets lined with rustic shops and taverns. It was beautiful in its own way… But still stubbornly cloudy. I tried for a third time to clear the sky, again to no avail. Why could I control everything but the sky?

A little man appeared on the rail around the roof deck. “Because this is hell!” he explained with a gleeful grin. “You’re in hell!” Suddenly it all made sense. I couldn’t make the sun come out because there is no sun in hell. The devil changed forms and disappeared into the city of Hell.

It sure didn’t look like hell or feel like it. There was no fire or brimstone to be seen, no torment or misery – unless the businessman from earlier represented the overall mood of the place. Maybe it ground you down slowly. But people sure seemed comfortable there, with their shops and foot traffic and pretty buildings – so comfortable it might have been just another old city someplace on earth.

The people had forgotten where they were and why they were there. Worst of all, they had forgotten what they were missing. They didn’t remember sun. They didn’t remember God. They knew only the city of brick and the half-lives they lived under the belly of the clouds.


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