Oh, hell. That darkest of dark places goes hand in hand with horror and dark fantasy. Clive Barker featured it recently in Mister B. Gone, that devil in novel form. (One of the most lovingly designed volumes I've seen in recent years. If you want to read it, do not buy the audio book version. Seriously, you need to hold it in your hands to fully enjoy it.)
Neil Gaiman did it in his short story "Other People." If you've got the time, here he is reading it:
Of course, earlier authors spent a lot of time in hell. Milton's Paradise Lost starts there, as does Dante's Divine Comedy. There is much to shrug your shoulders at in Dante, since he was taken up with writing social satire, and spends a lot of time putting real people of his day in the various circles of hell for kicks. He does, however, manage to slide some absolutely weird and enduring imagery into his Inferno. For my money, it doesn't get better than the Wood of the Self-Murderers, in the seventh circle. Here's a passage:
I heard wailings uttered on every side, and I saw no one who might make them, wherefore, I, all bewildered, stopped. I believe that he [Virgil, Dante's guide in hell] believed that I believed that all these voices issued amid those stumps from people who because of us had hidden themselves. Therefore said the Master, "If thou break off a twig from one of these plants, the thoughts thou hast will all be cut short."
Then I stretched my hand a little forward and plucked a branchlet from a great thorn bush, and its trunk cried out, "Why dost thou rend me?" When it had become dark with blood it began again to cry, "Why dost thou tear me? hast thou not any spirit of pity? Men we were, and now we are become stocks; truly thy hand ought to be more pitiful had we been the souls of serpents."
As from a green log that is burning at one of its ends, and from the other drips, and hisses with the air that is escaping so from that broken splinter came out words and blood together; whereon I let the tip fall, and stood like a man who is afraid.If you were writing hell, what would it be like?
|William Blake, The Wood of the Self-Murderers (1824-7)|