Rookie authors write prescriptions for perdition, while veteran hellions diagnose the damned: Deborah Koren, Andrew P. Weston, Janet Morris, Joe Bonadonna, Matthew Kirshenblatt, Chris Morris, Michael H. Hanson, Rob Hinkle, Jack William Finley, Bill Snider, Richard Groller, Paul Freeman, Nancy Asire.
Victor Frankenstein and Quasimodo develop a vaccine -- with diabolical results...
Satan looses Daemon Grim, the Devil's personal hit man, and damned souls cower...
Bat Masterson finds himself caught between plague victims and Wyatt Earp...
Judas learns you can't teach an old dog new sins...
Calamity Jane and her Sinchester carbine defend hell's last uninfected outpost...
Nietzsche and Lilith, Adam's first wife, face the Beast and come to fiendish accord...
Doc Holliday tries one last gambit, and unleashes all hell's fury...
And there's worse to come, even an excerpt from bestselling author Andrew P. Weston's forthcoming Heroes in Hell novel! If you think life is tough, try the afterlife, where the doctor is always wrong, sinners never win, misery runs amok, and all hell's damned get their just deserts -- eternally.
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Doctors in Hell
Heroes in Hell: The Greatest Shared Universe of All
By Janet Morris, Chris Morris
Perseid PressCopyright © 2015 Janet Morris
All rights reserved.
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
"Let's make us med'cines of our great revenge, To cure this deadly grief."
— Shakespeare, Macbeth
The armchair generals of the 20 and 21 centuries were mustering their troops on the plain below. To the left of each battalion, a long white tent with blood-red crosses gleamed balefully in the sanguine light of Paradise, its doctors ready to tend the casualties.
As Altos, hell's only volunteer angel, watched from a lofty precipice, fools in bright uniforms gathered, parade-ready; flaccid souls who dreamt dreams of unlimited power strutted like peacocks, each dressed in the manner of a real soldier he'd idolized in life.
If there was a sadder spectacle in hell than these flabby souls, their arrogance and pride worn like medals of honor, Altos had never seen it. He swung his sandaled feet slowly, back and forth, back and forth, and stared down on all these who embraced war as a test of manhood, a solution for disagreement, a way to distinguish oneself in bravery, to impose one's superior view of the world upon lesser fellows.
Beside Altos sat Satan himself. The conjunction of these two above the battle plain on the jutting spur of rock they shared was in itself a singular event, their meeting an indication that more than a battle between weekend warriors and sky-diving wannabes would soon be joined here.
For the devil and the angel had made a wager, and the heart of the wager was this: The devil insisted that modern souls in hell — the New Dead, as they are called — were so vicious, self-centered, hubristic and morally bankrupt that they would punish themselves, if given a chance, more horribly and thoroughly than hell's bureaucracy could contrive to do.
Altos had leapt at the chance to prove the New Dead worthy of salvation — or at least deserving of leniency, to show themselves no worse than their predecessors or successors. So the angel invited the devil to set the terms of the wager.
The devil had stared at Altos from glowing, slitted eyes and said, "This, then, if you agree: the militarists of the 20 and 21 centuries will combat one another in battles fought exclusively by volunteers: armies manned by voyeurs of violence who find vicarious thrills reading of heroes who never were, fighting villains who never could be. If we hold this war and nobody comes, or the doctors of the damned heal the wounded and save the plague-ridden, then, Altos, you will win, and I shall soften my heart unto the New Dead and forestall the purge you know I am readying."
Despite the risk of death, maiming, dismemberment and disease, many, many had come, wearing white masks on their noses and second-hand uniforms, as if they were dressed for a costume contest. Since death in hell is fleeting and torment eternal, Altos had counted on the fear of purge and plague to keep most damned away. It hadn't.
Plagues brought to hell on the wings of Erra, the Babylonian plague god, now visited all the hells with pestilential misery. This mysterious new purge of Satan's promised further torture, which Altos hoped to help the teeming damned avoid. Hell is hell, and the damned must suffer, but the devil was furious about Erra and his auditors sent from heaven to prove hell insufficiently hellish.
Altos was not privy to the specifics of Satan's threatened purge — and did not want to be. The angel longed to save the doomed of perdition, forfend more horrendous torment of crippled souls too foul to find within themselves one bit of grace.
Steam issuing from his every orifice, the devil had told the angel: "If they want war, they will have it. Have it until the slaughtered make a stairway to heaven, until their viciousness becomes an object lesson of nightmare proportions, until their thirst for blood is quenched, until the Sea of Sighs rises to a floodtide swollen with their corpses. I will even restrict their access to the Mortuary. Their resurrection by the Undertaker will be slow and painful, and the hell they find upon their return to afterlife will be one devoid of comfort."
The angel did not doubt that Satan could do all he said. Between now and final judgment stretched time enough for Satan to remake all the hells of latterday humanity into whatever shape he chose.
Altos had been in hell since infernity began. He'd volunteered when all the hells first formed from every nightmare dreamed by every primitive culture Earth had ever spawned; when monsters had roamed its dusty streets and half-human creatures tortured quivering wrecks of humanity without a moment's respite. He'd been here when the Judges and the Lords of Hell were chosen; and when Satan and his fallen angels, numbering a third of the stars in the sky, fell into the Deep to languish in the dark, in the cold.
Over eons, the hells had multiplied, and changed, and changed again, until the netherworlds numbered as many as mankind's sins. Part of hell's nature ensured that it metamorphosed to suit those it incarcerated.
All societies created the hell they deserved, if left to their own devices. And the devil moderated the creation of the New Dead's societies, so that no one group took power, intent on preserving the balance that made the underverse an equally uneasy resting place for history's manifold modern damned.
In all of time, Altos had never seen Satan so outraged. Even today, when the devil had come to the precipice to view the sporting event upon which they two had wagered, his fury was palpable: his body odor pungent, sulphurous; his breath so vile it caught you by the throat.
For Satan had taken on human aspect today. No longer did his wings glow white or black; no longer strode he beauteous or baleful across the underbelly of creation. Now he waddled, short-legged, paunchy, pimply, pale, and goateed. His soft rosebud mouth pursed in a perpetual sneer. His pasty hands twisted in his pillowy lap. He sat a long time in silence beside Altos as the ranks of New Dead combatants trudged onto the battleplain.
And they were a multitude.
Their bayonets shone. Their helmets gleamed. Their battle standards waved high. Their aircraft buzzed the field, spewing colored smoke, piloted by souls who'd never before piloted more than a computer simulation.
Beyond the armies lining up to face each other across a steaming chasm that would return the slain to the Mortuary, bands played a discordant cacophony of marching songs. To Altos' right, where the Sea of Sighs met the plain, huge battleships test-fired tracer rounds, the HSMS Perdition among them.
Between the seashore and the armies, infernity's press corps gathered amid doctors and nurses under awnings outside the red-crossed triage tents where white flags flew high.
Altos wanted to weep. To forestall the devil's vengeance, he had agreed to this test of New Dead souls and now regretted it.
He should have told the devil that so many novices would skew the result, but he had not. He should have demanded that, to be valid, such war must be waged by a preponderance of combat veterans. He had done neither of those.
Satan had cowed him, intimidated him. On the devil's turf, no emissary from on high enjoyed immunity to schemes concocted by the Father of Lies.
The devil never would have agreed to fairer terms; even Altos knew that war was waged as much by men like those anxiously gathering on the plain, laughing and boasting, as by men who should know better.
Altos had already lost. Worse, the New Dead had lost. With the first shot fired, more than the battle for the Plain of Just Deserts would commence: When the bugles sounded, the devil would begin a war against the denizens of New Hell which could have but one winner: Satan.
To avoid catastrophe, Altos knew, was impossible: it was too late. Yet he must salvage something. So he said to the devil, "Satan, let me go down among the soldiers and make sure the damned know what they are about to do here. Let me go among the doctors and find the unselfish who minister to the dying. Surely putting up posters, offering 'Spoils of War to the Victors' isn't quite fair. Surely I deserve an equal chance, if not equal time, to remind these doomed play-actors they are about to slaughter the souls of their own allies."
"Go ahead, Altos," grinned the devil. "Go ahead. Go among the troops. Go among the physicians. Speak your mind. It won't change anything. These are not the fighters; these are the proselytizers of war and peace, the enfamers, the moral cowards, the holier-than-thou: these are the writers of war novels, movies, TV shows, and commercials. These are the 'Physicians without Borders,' sure that their moral rectitude will protect them. These are the would-be martyrs. These are the lame and halt who couldn't make it through basic training. These are the privileged and the spoiled and the willfully under-informed. Among them, you will find xenophobes and racists of all sorts, those who do not like others whose eyes or skins are a different color, or whose ideology or religion or even sect is different from their own. These are not fighting over matters of import. These are fighting for bragging rights or because they think war in hell will be like watching a war movie, not like being in a war. These are those who wish to force others to their will for the sheer power it gives them, who mistake power for morality or moral authority; might for right — who come here because war is sexy. What you see before you, Altos, is the pornography of violence."
"Surely they were lured here under false pretenses," Altos argued. "Placards saying 'Real heroes fight for their rights' weren't any part of our agreement."
"Our agreement — our wager — said nothing about means. And no poster makes fools of souls already damned. It is in them. These are the filth of modern times. These are those who have never truly suffered enough. They are proof that I must tighten my grasp here, else you would have won, because no soul with the wisdom of a 'dumb' animal lines up to risk being slaughtered for the mere chance of doing murder and mayhem upon his fellows — or exhorts his peers to do likewise. Admit it, you have already lost: by their gaiety, by their posturing, by their eagerness for the battles to be joined, they prove themselves unfit for mercy."
The angel hung his head and a tear welled in one golden eye. He blinked it back. "I will go among them. I will talk to the generals and tell them what is at stake. I will talk to the medics and warn them that hubris is a sin, that souls who play god impress no one but themselves. Otherwise, our wager is only a wager — it proves nothing. These souls don't realize that the future of all hell is at stake here."
The devil stuck out his neck and made a face, aping Altos' obvious concern. "You are stupid. You depress me. You should learn a lesson here, Angel. All humanity is not worth saving. Some, perhaps. But the filth? These?" He spread his pasty hands. "Go on, they won't listen. All these souls want is the thud of their hearts beating fast, the excitement of battle, and to be able to curl up afterwards with a beer and tell exaggerated stories of their prowess to men who don't tell such stories because they have real prowess. Remember, these are the unbloodied, the untested and the rear-echelon warriors, nonentities compared to the fabled heroes they hope to emulate. For every one of these, transient death and rebirth on the Undertaker's slab seems worth risking in exchange for a taste of glory." The devil smirked, showing perfect teeth.
"Then," said the angel morosely, "with your leave, I'm on my way." Before the devil could respond, Altos rose, unfurled his wings, and pushed off into the sky over the battlefield.
That battlespace echoed with martial strains, and above the noise Altos heard the devil call out: "Just hurry, if you don't want to miss the opening salvos! You have less than an hour before the battle cry sounds and the carnage begins." The devil was absolutely chortling.
Over the massing ranks flew Altos, until the wind had dried his tears. There was no arguing with Satan's evil, honed through millennia of congress with humanity's worst souls. But the angel yet had a chance, if a slim one, of persuading those assembled below not to make war on one another. He must try.
Although his first priority was the devil's own rehabilitation, Altos could work as he willed among the damned. The Almighty had decreed that infernity always offer hope.
Altos would make the most of the time he had left before the battle joined. He circled over the ranks of World War I and II armies, their horses and jeeps and lorries, and found himself repelled by the blood-thirsty legions he encountered there.
So he flew farther, while men looked up and some took potshots at the high flying dot that he was. He flew until he reached the ranks of the latter twentieth century. There, some who had not fought in Korea or Vietnam or Beirut or Afghanistan or Africa or Bosnia or Kuwait or Somalia were calibrating electronic warfare gear in their helicopters, booting hand-held computers, and shrugging into Alice packs. Others taped banana clips together and checked their phosphorous and fragmentation grenades.
Down among these troops, many of whom were still reading inch-thick manuals and trying to accustom themselves to the complexities of their tanks and personnel carriers and drones and electronic counter-countermeasures, the angel descended until he reached command headquarters, far to the rear of the incipient fighting.
Here Altos learned the awful truth of Satan's clever plan and bold prognostication. The New Dead's rear echelon was composed of damned souls such as never had risked their persons in the field: movie producers and video stars; comic book artists and book publishers; toy makers and news directors; "veterans" of wars who had never been incountry but fought from their hometown desks — all dogged by reporters never embedded with a forward unit, busy scribbling down notes for hell's posterity.
None of the damned whom Altos saw were familiar to him. Here were none who'd earned commendations carrying their fellows out of fire zones; here were no souls whom Altos had been told to watch because they had done nearly as much good in their lives as evil. In fact, here crowded only weaklings who misremembered the wars they'd fought from behind the lines, and adolescent souls who'd never fought any wars they couldn't end with a keystroke or the push of a button, or abandon by sliding into their vehicles and returning home.
Here stood no damned who had ever distinguished themselves in any mortal combat. Here were those who were sure they knew exactly how the war — and this infernity they now inhabited — should be run and were busy telling everyone else about it. Here were pundits who spoke in capital letters about Honor, Bravery, Duty, and Righteousness.
Not one soul here behind the lines, so far from harm, felt concern that this enemy was not unlike himself. And that, to Altos, was the saddest thing of all. The devil knew his damned. These New Dead were willing to slaughter their fellows, remotely, in a multitude — were looking forward to it, in truth, back here where it was doubtful that harm could reach.
But Altos knew that harm would reach here: that this was what the Perdition and her sister ships were here for. Their shells would fall short of their purported targets, inaccurate as ever, and land upon these fools so puffed up with the excitement of their picnic-table war.
Thus it was to the picnic table before him that the angel strode, as angry as an angel can get, and pounded his fist upon it. Three men looked up, each paler and softer and rosier-cheeked and more artfully quaffed of head and facial hair than the last.
Altos said, "Who's in charge here? There's still time to stop this."
"I am," said the first, in a German accent . "I am Moe Annenberg. In life I published the Daily Racing Form. If you want to bet on a winner, you still have time."
"I am," said the second, a wild-bearded Hungarian. "I'm Doctor Edward Teller, from Livermore. Wait until you see the lethality we shall deliver to this battlefield today. It'll be hell on earth ... er, hell!"
Before Altos could respond, a third roly-poly fellow got up from his folding chair — a soul who looked remarkably like the devil Altos had left on the precipice, and this one stomped over to Altos and looked him in the eye.
"I am the commanding general here." The man pointed to his chest, glittering with ribbons bought in New Hell's pawn shops. "I'm in charge of all the others." On his shoulders, rusty stars gleamed. "What can I do for you, lady?"
Altos was shocked. His hair hung long, but he looked nothing, to his mind, like a woman — or even like a doomed soul. Of course he was wearing a long, flowing, white robe. "I'm an angel, not a woman or a man or the soul of either," he said.
"Of course you are, honey," said the general. "And I'm a famous book publisher." He gave his name, which Altos did not recognize, and continued: "But there's no room for women around here. Not yet." He leered suggestively. "When we've kicked the shit out of those low-tech grunts over there, there'll be plenty we men can do for you ladies. So go wait in my trailer, why don't you?"
The general summoned his aides with a snap of his fingers.
Altos looked at the two big, blank-faced souls who didn't know enough to be worried. Each had an earbud in his left ear and wore mirrored sunglasses.
The angel said, "Generals, sirs. I've come to warn you: do not engage this enemy. If you do, the result will resound throughout the underworlds. Satan has decreed that, if this battle takes place, all in hell will suffer more than they've ever suffered before."
"You don't know what you're talking about," said the commanding general.
"Please," said the angel, becoming desperate and rushing on as he realized the other generals were listening. "What is the reason that you fight your fellows? Why, in hell, must you war upon your brothers — on the New Dead, so many of them your countrymen?"
"Why?" echoed the commanding general, his face turning red. "Because it's got to be settled, that's why."
"What?" Altos demanded, "What has to be settled?"
"Whether the armies of Woo Woo Two can kick our butts for us, that's what. Whether the modern fighting man has any balls, that's what."
Excerpted from Doctors in Hell by Janet Morris, Chris Morris. Copyright © 2015 Janet Morris. Excerpted by permission of Perseid Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Wager Janet Morris and Chris Morris,
The Cure Chris Morris,
Grim Andrew P Weston,
The Right Man for the Job Deborah Koren,
Memory Nancy Asire,
What Price Oblivion? R.E. Hinkle,
In The Shadowlands Richard Groller,
Let Us Kill the Spirit of Gravity Matthew Kirshenblatt,
Pavlovian Slip Bill Snider,
Hell on a Technicality Joe Bonadonna,
Convalescence Michael H. Hanson,
Hell Noon Paul Freeman,
The Judas Book Jack William Finley,
Writer's Block Janet Morris and Chris Morris,
A Moment of Clarity Andrew P. Weston,