Dreamers in Hell

Dreamers in Hell

Seven million years on the New Hell Sinday Times bestseller list… The damned are revolting The underworld explodes with excitement as Satan himself rebels against forces from on high. Or does he? Dreams are dashed and strongholds topple as the greatest shared universe of all times convulses with mystery and mayhem. Shakespeare and Marlowe begin a new play to please the Devil…. Satan and Samael plot to expose the unrepentant damned… Before Napoleons eyes, Caesars villa explodes in chaos… Goethe finds out that hell is all around him… Isadora Duncan forgets that dreams can be hell… Hells librarian throws a bash and the damned party down… and down… and down… All over the netherworlds, worse comes to worst as Hells Most Unwanted try assaulting heavens gates and raise more hell than they bargained for….

Fools in Hell – Chris Morris

Alms For Oblivion – Janet Morris and Chris Morris

The Unholy Hole – Nancy Asire

Essence Helliance – Yelle Hughes

Barefoot, On Brimstone – Sara M. Harvey

Ophie and the Undertaker – Shebat Legion

Just Dessert – John Manning

Hell, I Must Be Going – Michael A. Ventrella

Head Games – Bill Snider

Blood and Ash – Tom Barczak

Hellexandria the Great – Sarah Hulcy

The Knife-Edged Bridge – David L. Burkhead

The Wager – Deborah Koren

More Light! – Bettina S. Meister

In the Shadow of Paradise – Jason Cordova

 Zero Sum Game – Richard Groller

And the Truth Shall Set You Free – Jack William Finley

The ITTT – Michael H. Hanson

Siegfried’s Blade – Petra E. Jorns

Stairway to Heaven – Edward McKeown

Knocking on Heaven’s Gates – Larry Atchley, Jr.

Hell Bent – Janet Morris

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About the Book
[excerpt from Dreamers in Hell]

Fools in Hell

by Chris Morris


Now will I show myself to have more of the serpent

than the dove; that is, more knave than fool.

– Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta


“I still say ‘they that love not tobacco and boys are fools,’” Christopher Marlowe told William Shakespeare as they slid into their seats in New Hell’s Old Rogue Theatre. The auditorium smelled of rancid butter, stale popcorn, and sweat. Lights were low, the production’s rehearsal about to start.

Sometimes they played this quote game too long, too hard, Marlowe knew.

“‘Love me little, love me long,’ you also gave us in The Jew of Malta, Kit,” Shakespeare quoted his friend, leaning back in his sticky seat: “But unlike your Malta play, boys in hell are few and vicious, and tobacco tainted. And I’m loving you as little as I can manage, now that I’ve seen the Devil in his true glory. ‘It lies not in our power to love, or hate/For will in us is over-rul’d by fate,’ you said in Hero and Lean- der. So since you well know it, forgive me now. I must find Satan and feel those creamy wings against my burning skin.”

Will Shakespeare was Kit Marlowe’s greatest sin: beloved beyond measure, tender-hearted and in constant need of Kit’s protection – an obsessive distraction. Kit rejoined, “‘So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,/Will sate itself in a celestial bed/And prey on garbage’? Am I garbage to thy love-besotted eye?”

“No, but these here are, Kit: Machiavelli directs this travesty of Hamlet to get back at you through me. ‘Damnedlet’: even the name of my tragedy this Italian cannot leave alone.”

“You’ll hate it. I told you. They’ve women playing women; all the electronic paraphernalia of hell is in this production – and most lines are bowdlerized.”

“So we’re here why, then? Poor plays in hell are nothing new. As for basing all on me – or you – theft is a hellish excellence.”

“We’re here, Will, because Satan plans a great festival, lasting weeks, to celebrate the reopening of the Hellexandria Library. Entertainment will include some production of a play of yours, and one of mine, staged with great fanfare. So we must see what’s on offer. And then you can try rubbing against the legs of your fair-fledged fiend, and make a plea for which renditions of our plays should be allowed, and which not.”

“Satan thinks naught of me.” Shakespeare sighed, so deep ensorcelled by the Devil that he’d missed Kit’s point.

“Think you so?” said a voice like a viper as someone moved to take a seat behind them and the house lights dimmed still more. Marlowe could smell the femaleness of this speaker before he turned: pungent, musky, and ancient.

A second tangy distaff slid into a seat beside the first and said, “So you are the two, Marlowe and Shakespeare. Which is Shakespeare? – I’ve a bone to pick with thee.” Whisper as dangerous as rocks settling; fetid breath that made Marlowe gasp.

“And I,” said the first female, whose skin had a greenish glow against the shadowed dark.

Shakespeare turned and put both arms on his seatback, squinting in the dimness: “And you are? I’ve enemies in hell, but all males, I’d thought…”

“Sin, I am called,” said the first. “The selfsame snaky sorceress your time vilified – and this play’s executive producer.”

“I am Hecate,” said the second. “Up from Hades to make sure that if MacDeath, rather than this Damnedlet play is chosen, my name will be removed from it: ‘witch’? ‘weird sister’? How durst you scratch such denigrations upon a page? Now we’ll remove all that…”

“No, you won’t. Not even ‘when the hurly-burly’s done/ when the battle’s lost and won.’ Never shall my lines about the three witches be rewritten,” said Shakespeare. “Not ‘in thunder, lightning, or in rain.’ What are you, the vilest editor in hell? I’ve fought more battles on paper and onstage than you can dream of. And won.”

“Satan, Son of the Morning, Prince of Hell, is my father,” said Sin. “Surely you don’t think to prevail against my versions of your damned plays?”

“Or against me,” said Hecate, “a goddess, not some weirdy crone of a silly witch. You failed to do your homework, Shakey, when you took my name in vain.”

This is not good, my love: a spat to end in tears.

Kit Marlowe had a mission to accomplish here for interests among the Devil’s Children, an army of intriguers who worked infernity’s most secret designs: simply bring Machiavelli down a peg. Kit didn’t know or care why Machiavelli was his target; the Romans and the Italians and their antics held no fascination for him. In life, he’d taken on a raft of covert enterprises such as this and never needed, or wanted, explanations. It paid well. He’d kept at it till one had killed him. But this was hell itself: no feud here was ever over; every enemy you made drew a bead upon your very soul.

Now the stakes were getting too high. Bad enough that his Will was enthralled by Lucifer at his most beautiful. Now these two harpies – powers beyond Kit’s control – wanted a piece of the only soul in hell that Marlowe loved. “Sisters Sin and Hecate,” Marlowe soothed, “we had just been saying, if only we could see a clear blue sky, a sunny day, the stars at night – one time more – we could write a new play together for the Library’s reopening, glorifying all infernity. And you two could make that happen: give us a glimpse of Elysion, Hecate; fly us there, Sin, as only you may; you are easily among the most powerful forces in all the newer hells.”

“Too cute, Marlowe. I’ll fly you to deepest damnation first, where your breath will freeze your lungs,” Sin said dangerously. “My father Satan requires your presence at the Library as His plans for torments unfold.”

“Aye, and I’ll show you Tartaros, not Elysion,” added Hecate, “unless you two can write this play and finish it and prove it’s more suitable than Niccolo’s Damnedlet, better even than the original.”

Now a tumult broke out upon the stage, and Sin said, “Hush, look what we’ve made of your humanizing drivel.”

Next the curtain lifted and Niccolo Machiavelli, the very model for Kit’s Jew of Malta, strutted back and forth before the footlights, his face caked with powder; on his lips a parody of the opening lines from Hamlet.

Shakespeare shot upright before Marlowe could stop him: “No!”

Kit grabbed his friend by the arm lest Will cause a fuss that never could be expunged. And held him tight.

Sin giggled like dice in a cup.

“Call me a crone, will you, in your silly little play?” Hecate reached beside her and from under her skirts pulled a greasy bone that stank of garlic and dripped blood, chanting in Carian that sounded Greek: “Tell me what you want, Marley? Fly you where? Show you what? Take care what you wish for in hell, writer boys.”

“Damn,” Marlowe muttered, just before a whirlwind issuing from the greasy bone caught him and Shakespeare up and sucked them round and out of the theatre and away.

All Marlowe could remember was the wind whipping him and his cloak slapping him and wrapping up his head, and his hand digging into Shakespeare’s shoulder as they were buffeted and blown where witches go.

Then the whirlwind died.

They fell. They fell together. They fell grabbing onto one another; embracing one another. They fell a thousand years. They fell through wars and pestilences and flights of angels falling faster.

And landed hard, on a heath more blasted than Marlowe could have imagined. Yet he still held Shakespeare fast.

“Will, get up. Are you hurt?”

“Deeply – in my pride,” said Shakespeare, ogling the ruddy vault above. “Is that New Hell in the far distance?”

Marlowe tried his limbs and looked where Shakespeare pointed: at the black and belching smoke, the low brown clouds of filthy fog, the spires pointing to a Paradise that none could reach. “I think it is. Or is today.”

Marlowe was helping the bard to his feet when a small and winged and furred and bright-clawed beast came yowling at them, its black tail lashing.

It pounced on something among the rocks, not an arm’s length away: a snake, five feet long or more. The bat/cat shook the serpent in powerful jaws until the snake hung limp and lifeless.

If the snake ever had ‘life’ to lose in hell.

The victor (part bat, part cat, part worse) spat out the snake and growled at them, its tail bushing wide. Then it reached between its leathery black wings and pulled out two rolls of parchment, two feathery quills, and a pair of inkwells with a very red liquid visible in each one.

These it laid before them. Then i t howled, “ Nnnnaaaoooww,” and turned, and bounded off.

“Are we to write? Is that what it wants? Here? Now? Or perhaps to follow it?” Shakespeare guessed as he picked up the parchment rolls, the quills, and the jars of blood-red ink. “That’s Satan’s very own familiar, is it not: the famous ‘Michael?’”

“Write as we go, I’d say, Will,” Marlowe answered. “It’s a long walk back, but the route to New Hell is difficult to mistake.”

And, of course, it was. Kit Marlowe had made his own deal with Satan, and that deal had no escape clause: Marlowe could shelter Shakespeare, to a point, if Kit would serve the fallen angels, spy upon the damned as he’d once spied upon the living. If he did his job well, in the view of those who ruled the hells, he’d not lose his friend to the Undertaker’s table.

Kit eyed Will, still far too tender a soul after centuries in perdition, and racked his brain for a bracing quote or two, to start the play’s dialogue and ease their trek across this lifeless landscape beneath the brooding vault: some words, some inspiration to begin this play, which he’d promised the hags they’d write together. But no clever turn of phrase or shrewd observation came immediately to mind. At last Kit sighed. “‘Honor is purchased by the deeds we do,’” he reminded Will. His had been bought and paid for long ago.

Shakespeare looked at him puffy-faced and said, “I know. ‘Where hell is must we ever be.’ But we have a new patron, now… the Devil himself. And a new play to write: that’s the thing.”

And it was, for Will.

Shakespeare did not, would not understand that rending such a fragile soul as his was mere amusement for the Father of Lies. But Kit Marlowe understood, and wondered how in all infernity he could free his beloved from Satan’s black intentions now that Will was in the Devil’s thrall so completely – ambition, pride and all.

Marlowe replied to his friend, “From Faustus: ‘Fools that will laugh on earth, most weep in hell.’”

As if to prove that nothing would avail, Shakespeare took Marlowe by the arm, then hugged him tight. Will kept one arm around him as the two of them followed the Devil’s furry familiar toward their well-earned fates, Satan’s hot embrace, and a new play to bring to light: a tale to tell writ in the bowels of hell.

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About the Author
Janet Morris

Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. She wrote the bestselling Silistra Quartet in the 1970s, including High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne. This quartet had more than four million copies in Bantam print alone, and was translated into German, French, Italian, Russian and other languages. In the 1980s, Baen Books released a second edition of this landmark series. The third edition is the Author's Cut edition, newly revised by the author for Perseid Press. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Janet says: 'People often ask what book to read first. I recommend "I, the Sun" if you like ancient history; "The Sacred Band," a novel, if you like heroic fantasy; "Lawyers in Hell" if you like historical fantasy set in hell; "Outpassage" if you like hard science fiction; "High Couch of Silistra" if you like far-future dystopian or philosophical novels. I am most enthusiastic about the definitive Perseid Press Author's Cut editions, which I revised and expanded.'

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."