I wrote my first novel, Song of the Angels, shortly after the 2015 terrorist attack on Paris.
Our apartment was right above a construction site that has been going on for years, and the constant bangs and the smashes forced themselves into my window. Every night, I curled up with my doll horse (whose name now belongs to my past), and imagined missiles shooting across the sky.
I would become the bomb. I would go where the bomb went, explode where it landed. I would feel the gush of wind at night as the missiles sailed with the starlight, a curved projectile towards our building. I would feel my flesh melt away with the heat. Our building would topple and collapse inwards.
My godmother lives in Paris, she is still alive, but some weren’t that fortunate.
For a week, I thought my city was going to next. I didn’t feel safe in my own home. On one night when I exploded again, I silently got out of bed and I went to my parent’s bedroom and sat on the floor beside dad. He slept for a few more minutes before waking up.
That night I confessed that I was afraid of dying. That I always had been. A little girl afraid of the inevitable.
Dad didn’t say anything profound like one would expect from a father. He didn’t wave away my fears or tell me stories of an afterlife. He told me that everyone was afraid of death. Even him. But he is less afraid than he used to be. And I will too.
I knew he was right, humans had dealt with death ever since humanity began. Life and death had to be connected in some way. There must be something to help humans cope with the fear of death.
If one spends every day of his life dreading the inevitable, he might as well have been dead all long.
One day, a voice spoke in my mind. And she told me she could hear the angels sing.
The image of a little brown-headed girl crouching beneath her parents’ messy bed would appear every night before I went to sleep. I cried with her for a couple of nights, alone, watching the streets blazing with fire outside her window. Then, on the fifth night, another woman appeared beside her holding her by her arms.
I stopped being the bombs and started becoming the girl.
One night, the little girl was alone, her mother had left her, but she wasn’t crying.
She was hearing a distant echo that was getting louder every second. Singing. She looked up and saw nothing except the dull gray of the ceiling. The singing grew louder. It was indescribable and indecipherable. There were no words to the song. It was sad. It was beautiful. It sounded hopeful. Everything in the world. It gave her memories of her life before the war, of her family together, of her friends. Yet at the same time, she saw buildings collapse, children starving, bodies lying on the floor. Gunshots. Missiles. Bombs.
The next day I woke up with a sense of calmness. I knew what I needed to do.
In a two week sprint, missing three days of class and everyday spent at the family computer, I had finished my first novel with a grand total of 36,000 words. I haven’t touched it since then.
My second and current novel came about more or less the same way. A sudden burst of emotion left my fingers running over the keyboard like how pianists run theirs over the piano.
For a lot of people, including me, writing (and reading) has been an escape from everything that’s going on in their lives. When an overwhelming amount of things just pile upon one another, and all the pieces of happiness you’ve so carefully collected suddenly turns into liquid and slips through your fingertips, you turn to writing. Because in your own version of the world, there is hope in life, dreams do come true, and sometimes we start to believe it and we have the courage to face the real world again.
I am still figuring the world out, I still don’t know where I belong in my little community, but I am finding out slowly. And writing has helped me discover a part of myself that I never knew. Someone who is brave and strong and kind.
Writing has made me a better person.