What Lies Below?
One of the first, maybe even the very first, work of subterranean horror I ever read was in a high school literature course, with the assignment of Dante’s Inferno. In this 14th Century epic poem, Dante journeys through the nine circles of Hell lying at the center of Earth. Dante’s depictions of Minos and Cerberus, the deprivations and tortures and violence of the sinners lost within proved to be a lasting influence.
Even before then, though, at a much younger age, I was fascinated with the world beneath our feet. I’d dig around in my mother’s rosebush garden to pull up worms and hunt for roly-polies, snails, and slugs, marveling at the abundance of life just scant inches below the topsoil. Although I never had one, ant farms and the prospect of their underground colonies got my childish imagination going. The idea of so much life, and so many different kinds of critters, living under our feet was (and, I must admit, still is!) awe-inspiring.
As I got older, though, I began to wonder about the darker side of things. I am a horror writer, after all. Worms and slugs are neat, but what else could be down there? Life is so myriad and complex it seems quite likely we have only begun to scratch the surface of discovery, and every day we find new species and organisms alive and thriving in environments we previously had deemed uninhabitable. What else is down below, deep underground, living in the dark? More pointedly, what potential evils lurk beneath us, what secrets are buried and exist below the surface? And, in the case of Broken Shells, to what lengths will people go to protect such a secret once discovered?
Plenty of myths have sought to explore similar questions throughout all of human history. Subterranean horrors have long been the source of many legends and fairy tales, and one such myth, in particular, played a significant role in shaping the plot of Broken Shells. I won’t spoil the fun here, though. You’re going to have to read the book to find out that story!
Although the inspiration for Broken Shells came with the mail delivery of a Money Carlo flyer, quite like the one Antoine receives, I knew right away it was going to be a work of subterranean horror. I also knew that, much like in Dante’s Inferno, Antoine would be taking a quick descent into the pits of hell (or, at least, a hell; not necessarily the Hell). I knew it was going to build on ancient myths and legends, and that poor Antoine, a down on his luck fellow who discovers things can certainly always get worse, was going to learn a secret he was far better off not knowing. Not that he had much say in the matter, really…
ABOUT MICHAEL PATRICK HICKS
Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of a number of speculative fiction titles. His debut novel, Convergence, was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. His latest release is the subterranean horror novella, Broken Shells.
He has written for the Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter websites, in addition to working as a freelance journalist and news photographer.
In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.