*Who are/were you? Tell us about your life before you came here, and after.
A: I am Orpheus, son of the Thracian king Oeagros or perhaps even of Apollo, but most certainly sprung from the belly of the Muse Calliope, forever to hear the strains of her harmonies in all things. The strings of the lyre thrill to my touch as I to them and men and birds and fishes to the tides of all that is.
* Why do YOU think you’re in Hell?
A: I am in hell, as in life, to be taken amiss in perpetuity, to poetize, sing and play upon my instruments in accord with each unfolding moment and sway all souls about me to respond according to their nature and be reviled for doing so, for their differences cast them at odds.
Who are your friends/allies here?
A: Friends? Jason, for one, who steers our ship away from shoals and plies roiling seas. Atalanta is a friend as well and longs to chase my demons from me. Allies to me are forever the octaves of eternity, knowable to myself alone and mystery to all others.
Do you have any enemies here?
A: “Here” is mine enemy and daily do I war with him; I turn his rage to song and he doth rage the more. Shh…I take some small pleasure in that.
How do you define ‘piracy’?
A: All is stolen which has no owner; piracy is an illusion promising possession.
Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership?
A: All things have a head and a tail; guide, yet follow. He must be for the Grand Punishment Continuum to exist; He is not to be envied or feared, though He must be more than those few things: He is a verse, then a chorus, then a coda; like us, He knows not his beginning, no more than I.
What is the WORST thing about being here?
A: The food.
What are your best tips for surviving in Hell?
A: Feel the rhythm; take your next breath fully; stand straight; drop your shoulders; raise your chest; sing to glory!
Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock!
A: I had been to Hades’ to retrieve my sweet Eurydice and returned, almost, so I knew this place before and now again. Have you seen her; sometimes she slips from view?
Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here?
A: Inquisitor, know ye not that there can be no such thing as time?
What do you miss most about your old. . .life?
*Name and bio.
A: Chris Morris
* Tell us about your story for this edition.
A: Evil Angel is a collaboration with my partner in prose, Janet Morris, my personal Beatrice, guide and companion through the literary depths of Hell. It posits a vengeful Medea, about trapping her mythic nemesis, Jason and his celebrity pirate crew in snares fabricated by no less than the Fates themselves—before whom even Satan pauses. Any Hell story fascinates because if written to form, death has no motive force and the storyteller must dig a little deeper to find the hinges of drama and portray rewards of victories which are pyrrhic at best. Does she still yearn for him? Is she exquisitely a victim of her darkest design?
What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen?
A: I wished to look through Orpheus’ eyes, hear though his ears, and for a fleeting moment field his musical magic midst Medea’s stark malignity.
How did you become involved with this project?
A: I was present at the inception.
Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge?
A: Janet Morris and I write stories to “bookend” the collection and impart a sense of proximity to the usually very different themes and perspectives our contributors bring. More than that, our faves, Kit and Will, are writers too and impart a writerly camaraderie that extends beyond their episodes to color the character of the series.
Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options?
A: Who wouldn’t want to find out how it feels to munched by a frosty leviathan?
What are you currently working on?
A: Still struggling to get the backlist up in trade, Kindle, e- and audio versions. We’re about halfway. Over the past year I learned enough InDesign to be a little bit dangerous and I love to get lost in producing stuff that with any luck will outlive us.
Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them.
A: Brideshead Revisited and Tempus Unbound. Waugh is the consummate stylist, able to twist, turn on a dime, fly high above yet touch down instantly in the mind, not just through the speech of his characters. Tempus Unbound is a rarest of rare birds, a late-coming foundational work for Janet’s archetypal sage and his counterpart, Cime.
What are your views on authors offering free books?
A: “Offering” in exchange for…?
*If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?
A: “Now I could drink hot blood and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look upon.” —Hamlet
If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and any when who would invite and what would you eat?
EXCERPT from “Pirates in Hell.
“Evil Angel” (Goat-Beard Part 2)
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Up the steep the crew of the Argo must climb to attend her parley. Any who faltered would freeze solid on the slope, languish ice-bound for a hundred years — time aplenty to think things over.
“Come ye, bloody Argonauts, and meet your fated punishment,” she whispered, as if Jason’s shipmates could hear her.
Come one, come all, and let demons devour the hindmost.
Medea set the scene about her with a Colchian standard flapping on a pole, a rallying point fit for such a parley, a solemn conference to discuss terms for the Argo’s surrender. Beneath her fleecy mantle she invoked a robe of snowflakes; on her head she made a three-spoked crown. That done, with her fingertip she kindled a fire on her peaty peak, then summoned a brace of gray and stinking fiends and gave them orders.
As the crew of the Argo ascended and the fiends descended to devour any laggards, Medea spotted her quarry: Iolcian Jason still looked twenty; hell so far had been easy on this son of Alcimede. But not much longer would it be so . . .
Screams of the hindmost, being torn asunder by fiends, sounded a welcome fanfare in her ears. In response, the landing party’s rear-guard turned back to help their brethren, while those in the forefront quickened their ascent.
Alongside Jason hurried Argos, shipwright of the Argo; behind him, Meleagros and his beloved Atalanta, a sometime lioness and fleet-footed virgin huntress whom Medea once healed.
Despite the rear-guard’s swords and spears and best efforts, ravenous fiends grabbed stragglers in their jaws.
The luckless begged the icy wind for help or speedy death. But fiends always take their time, torturing their prey before tearing it limb from limb and sitting down to feast.
The sailors in the lead scrambled faster.
Of all those come ashore, nearly a third would never crest the ridge. The remainder plowed on grimly, taking no backward looks.
Many of these heroes Medea knew. Hadn’t she sailed with them to the Colchian grove to steal the fleece of the golden ram, the very mantle she now wore? She thought she spied Zeus’ son Herakles and man-slaughtering Peleus, climbing to either side of Theseus, founder of Athens. Her eyes lingered on Orpheus, Thracian poet, prophet, and father of songs. But those voyages, those feats, belonged to another time — to life, not afterlife. She banished any thought of glad reunion.
Were it not for Jason and his crew and this damnable fleece forever wrapping her shoulders, she might have spent her afterlife in Erebos, officiating as a priestess of Hekate, sending sinners to Tartaros and innocents to the Elysian Fields. Jason! Every wrong, every ill, every misery, every blot began with Jason. Jason it was who’d ruined Medea in life . . . and haunted her ever since. Mad with love of him she’d been, that fateful day she killed their children.
Vengeance, love’s antidote, always comes hard. And costly.
Watching the Argonauts climb, she recalled that few had treated her as equal. But then, she wasn’t equal: she was superior. If among this damned crew a few were female, a few unknown, then hell maketh bedfellows undreamt in life. She had punishments aplenty to dole out to those who’d top the ridge, fit for one and all.
Dark and frowning, Jason gained the summit first and paused, breathing hard, followed closely by four souls new to her.
Who are these?
One was slight-bearded, auburn-haired and tender-mouthed, sloe-eyed and lithe in a leather jerkin, breeches and hose. By his side came a goat-bearded fellow with fleshy cheeks, one sparkly earring, sloping shoulders and puffy pants. In their wake followed a woman lit with a loveliness otherworldly, which swaddled her better than her simple shift and somehow kept away the cold. This woman got help to top the final rise from a big soul robed in brown, stalwart, hirsute and resolute, who used a knotty staff.
Not one of the four had the seafarer’s eye, the windburned lips, the leathern skin earned by facing hellish weather. Nor were they flowing-haired Greeks or tattooed barbarians.
Medea waved a hand at her fire-pit of peat, and it roared high; in the light from its flames she could see the strangers better. “Pirates, are ye? Come to parley for passage out of the Abyss? No intruders do I welcome here.” Before the strangers could respond, she whipped her gaze across them, to her erstwhile lover: “Jason, whom have you brought me? And why?”
“You! You called us here?” Jason rummaged through her soul with wide, reproving eyes. “Pirates, are we, Mother?” He sighed. “Heroes, while we lived. You know the truth, helped make us what you see. In those days, what we took by force and guile we won honorably, not by theft or piracy, but by deeds done to please our gods. And you know it. As for whom we brought — we brought those we need.”
“You’re pirates all, you and yours, Jason: robbers on sea or shore — of goods and hearts and souls.” In that distending moment, Medea wrestled her fatal flaw: she yet found Jason fetching; as much as once she’d loved him, she loved him still: an infuriating weakness, a wound within her riven breast that would not heal. In hell’s own time, that love would turn to hate. Must. For his fate — and his crew’s — she had predestined.
Behind, a shuffle in the crowd of sailors begat Orpheus, elbowing his way to the fore as the sloe-eyed creature by Jason stared hard at her and asked, “And now? Pirates still? Or is it something else? I’ve often said, ‘Where both deliberate, the love is slight.’”
The goat-bearded soul with him added: “And I, that ‘the lunatic, the lover, and the poet/ Are of imagination all compact.’ Pirate once is pirate forever, good for our purpose and for the lords of hell. Orpheus, what say you?”
Medea blinked, dumbstruck by these brazen strangers, so full of themselves and obscure pontifications.
Orpheus, red-haired master of music and poetry, wizardry and augury, unslung a lyre from across his back, then glanced from Jason to Medea to the strangers, and said:
“You ask what I say? I say, beware this sorceress, her caustic hate. One who tears her family to shreds cannot be trusted.” Curling around his lyre, Orpheus plucked one string, one chord, and strummed another. “Set your terms for this parley, old shipmate. Say what you want.”
From the lyre of Orpheus, a theme surrounded the Argonauts. Tones to make Sirens coo, teach trees to dance and rocks to sing, set about seducing Medea’s heart.
“Stop that music, Orpheus! Put by thine instrument of fell design. I know your fey tricks of old. Stay your hands. Part from that lyre. There’ll be no sorcery here but mine.”
The lyrist palmed his strings. Music died a death too curt.
[End of Excerpt]