When Marcus Glenfield committed suicide, he took his place among the Legions of Hell as the Demon of Regret. When he learns that the Prince of Wickedness, Belial, is planning to take his former fiancé, Brenda, as his consort, Marcus’s newfound belief in a second chance is quickly shattered in a fit of all too human rage. Incensed by the new demon’s disrespectful hostility, Belial plunges Marcus into the deepest pits of Hell.
But Lucifer has other plans for Marcus. For in the tormented lands of Purgatory, a strange and powerful uprising has gathered to form a new plane of existence—one that would break the ancient caste system of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Limbo and Earth, thwarting both God and Satan’s permanency within the universe. Not only have these brash metaphysical pirates kidnapped the powerful child born of Brenda and Belial’s union, they have also guided Marcus out of the prisons of Hell to their new realm.
When they promise Marcus freedom in return for his help, he realizes that he will have to choose a side. But can he find one that he can truly believe in?
“This clever and ambitious novel follows Marcus Glenfield who, after committing suicide, takes a grunt’s position in Hell, harvesting souls for Lucifer as the Demon of Regret. Driven by an intricate and political plot line involving Marcus, his ex-girlfriend and a demonic love triangle, this novel is not a terrifying read but an inebriating, descriptive journey into the nether regions of dark fantasy. Addictive as, er, hell.” — Rue Morgue Magazine
“Revenge is a truly epic adventure! Terrifying, enchanting and wholly gripping from beginning to end.” — Zak Bagans, Ghost Adventures
“Revenge is horror fantasy at its very best: magical, truly frightening, lyrical and sewn-through with a thread of hope. Gabrielle Faust & Solomon Schneider are two of the most exciting horror writers in the business.” — Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author Dust & Decay and Dead of Night
“Revenge is an epic tale of cosmic proportions. Faust and Schneider’s dark-yet-effervescent prose is a delightful commodity seldom seen in modern horror. Dark, imaginative, unrelenting and graceful, the writing will make you forget the passage of time. Revenge drips with intelligence and the prose is a unique blend of horror and beauty that will shake your psyche awake. The perfect mixture of horror and lyricism that Faust & Schneider bring to the table can not be found anywhere else in modern literature. Revenge is a spellbinding read that will ensnare you with its spiraling cyclones of horror and beauty and keep you turning the pages.” — The Austin Post
Marcus sat curled with his pale bony knees against his chest. For hours he had remained motionless in the same spot, in the worn leather armchair, the one he had scavenged from a neighbor’s garage sale earlier that summer, parked in the corner near the glass door to his balcony.
Brenda hated the chair. She always complained that it reeked of stale beer and old cigars, but her protests never lasted long enough to truly rustle Marcus’s irritation. He had developed a strange attachment to the chair over the past few months, physically craving its lumpy, leathery embrace late in the day. As the hands of the clock ticked past five p.m., Marcus would leap from his desk and race down the two flights of stairs (it was always faster than waiting for the ancient elevator) and out into the parking garage to his car. Only when he was at his front door and the familiar sound of the lock clicking open reached his ears did he truly exhale a long sigh of relief. After dropping his keys in the bowl on the table by the door, he went straight to the kitchen to pour himself a stiff, straight bourbon and then into the living room to his chair. His beloved chair.
He had tried to tell himself that it was merely the stress of his job which was making him so reliant on the creature comforts of their home, but the anxiety had turned into full-fledged panic attacks that often left him in tears if stuck on the freeway in traffic. He rarely ventured out at night anymore, leaving Brenda to attend the social functions of their small circle of friends. Marcus was absent from company events, even the ones firmly suggested by the higher-ups to those who interested in surviving the next inevitable layoff.
In his chair the world stood still, his mind could focus in a clarity he hadn’t experienced in years, and the incessant drone of the world that threatened him constantly, from all sides, seven days a week, dissolved amongst the creases and tears in the fabric.
Brenda had begged him to seek counseling. Growing up with a bipolar mother had made her astutely tuned into the signs of mental distress. She knew the darkness that could bubble up like crude oil if a disorder were left untreated, the manic highs and lows, the brooding, the silence; all of the very signs and symptoms that Marcus had begun to display. Because of this, she worried constantly about Marcus, and the wear on her nerves showed in the dark circles beneath her eyes and in the fine lines that had crept in between her brows. Marcus refused to go. It would have meant deviating from his routine, the one that returned him home each day at approximately five-thirty p.m. and into the arms of his new lover. Besides, no one would understand. Not about the chair. Not about the panic. Not about the dreams…
Marcus’s eyes roamed over the heavy shadows of the living room. The sun had retired hours ago, yet he had not moved to turn on a light. He realized then that he had grown used to Brenda doing such things for him. He had been lost in his own thoughts, and he suddenly wondered where she was. In the darkness, curled tightly within his chair, the imprint of his dreams seemed more vivid upon the backs of his retinas. The horrifically disturbing images blazed with a twisted life force independent of his will. Growing up, Marcus had never remembered his dreams upon waking. Whatever his subconscious had worked out the night before had always remained behind, leaving not even an impression upon him the day after.
Then one morning, he had awoken with a gasp, the image of himself and others traipsing over an island made of skeletons burned permanently upon his mind’s eye. He had staggered to the bathroom as the dream had replayed itself over and over again in his mind; the sound of bones crunching beneath his feet, the smell of fog thick with sea salt in his nose, the arguing with the others that they were not supposed to be there…
“Here! This is it!” A male figure stooped before Marcus to the island of skeletons and ripped a jawbone from a protruding skull. “This is what we came for!”
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” Marcus said quietly as the man, whose face was obscured in the fog, features seeming smudged and flowing as it rolled silently past, handed him the bone. Marcus looked down at the bleached curve of jaw and teeth. He wanted to hurl it out into the sea, to be rid of it forever. He could feel a low, cold resonance within the bone; a darkness that seeped through the marrow like oil, clinging to his skin, but for some reason Marcus could not let go.
The man said nothing and they turned as a group and began to head back to wherever they had come from. The chill invaded Marcus’s clothing, molesting his skin with clammy, cold fingers. A sharp pain seared through his teeth and he reached up to cover his mouth with his free hand. Wetness. Marcus pulled his hand away and through the whiteness of the enveloping ground cloud he could see his hand was covered in red. He ran his tongue over his teeth and tasted blood; his gums were bleeding profusely.
“Damn it!” he yelled through his fingers as he dropped the jawbone and covered his mouth with both hands. “I told you this wasn’t a good idea! I told you we weren’t supposed to be there!”
It was then that he had awoken in a cold sweat. Since that night three months before, Marcus’s dreams had grown progressively more perverse; filled with bizarre and demented scenes of bones and blood and gore he dared not try to decipher. The night before he had been forced to witness a cannibal slaughter a human being as if they were a sacrificial cow, skin the corpse, clean it like a fish and then roast it on a spit over an open fire. The smell of singed hair and bubbling fat was still heavy in his nose as the images flashed across his mind. Marcus did not know if he could face another night of dreams, especially knowing that Brenda was not there to comfort him when he woke up screaming.
His eyes drifted to the coffee table where he had tossed his keys and cell phone. The three feet separating him from the table seemed like the Grand Canyon. He took a deep breath and slowly uncurled himself, feeling the blood return to the cramped muscles of his legs in an explosion of tiny dancing needles. Gingerly, he picked up the phone, reaching out to flick on the overhead light switch near the door as he moved. He flipped the phone open. A text from Brenda lit the tiny screen.
Staying with Carol tonight. Need some girl-time.
Be back tomorrow. XOXO
Marcus stared at the words for a long silent moment before deleting the text and flipping the phone closed. He knew what “girl-time” meant. It meant she needed to vent to Carol about him. He wanted to be angry with her, but damn, how could he be? If he could vent about himself, he would.
A strange sensation prickled the base of his skull, a heaviness settling in his chest as if he were being watched. He slowly turned around and stared at his chair. In the stark overhead light from the ceiling fan’s four angled bulbs, the chair appeared even more dilapidated; each frayed patch of fabric, each mottled dark stain accentuated with a nauseatingly harsh clarity. Marcus let his eyes explore the chair for a long while, like an addict seeing the ugliness of their addiction for the first time. Beneath the lumpy seat cushion Marcus noticed the edge of what appeared to be a large dark stain that seeped just over the front and down into the crevice of the arm. He had never noticed the stain before, perhaps because they rarely used the overhead lights and the ambient glow of the floor and table lamps cast too many forgiving shadows.
He approached the chair with cautious, slow steps as if it had suddenly become animate. He squatted down and lifted the cushion up. Beneath it, the reddish brown stain was nearly as large as the seat itself, set deep and permanent into the faded tan fabric lining below. Marcus frowned, his face contorting in a grimace of disgust. To think he had been sitting on whatever it was for months was vaguely nauseating. Curious, he briefly sniffed the area, trying to figure out what it had been that had created the stain. There was no aroma, except the smell of aged, dusty fabric.
He sat back on his heels. He thought to himself. Could be paint? Or coffee?
But he knew instinctively that the substance was nothing so innocuous. Marcus removed the cushion from the chair and placed it on the carpet. The stain had spread over most of the bottom of the cushion, dark and mottled. He stood and stared at the chair for a long moment. The bourbon he had drunk earlier had made the world warm and fuzzy, his reactions a bit dulled, so he hesitated to make any instantaneous assumptions. His first instinct was to haul the chair down to the dumpsters, but the idea of parting with it caused his stomach to sink and his skin to grow cold and clammy, and his throat tightened with panic. For a moment he felt as if he had stopped breathing, the world standing still in a claustrophobic fog of anxiety and fear and… rage. Inhaling sharply and holding the breath in his lungs, he rubbed his eyes. The last wave of emotion left him shaken, crashing down over him with a tidal force. Just as quickly as it had arrived, it rolled away from him with the echo of deep thunder, cold and timed as the call of the sea. He squeezed his eyes shut, terrified of his own capability for such emotion.
What was he so angry about? The chair? The idea of it being damaged? The prospect of having to dispose of it? Ridiculous! It was a piece of furniture…
Marcus nervously stretched his arms over his head to crack his neck. As the crystals in his shoulder muscles crackled and dissipated, he rested his hands, fingers interlaced, on top of his head. The world settled back into place with a heavy, hard rationality that was indisputable. He knew he could salvage the chair. He had to. There was no other option.
He went to the kitchen and retrieved a can of foaming upholstery cleaner and a sponge from beneath the sink. Returning to the living room, he popped the lid off the can and sprayed a thick layer of cleaner on the seat lining and arm of the chair, as well as the cushion itself. He placed the plastic lid back on the can and set it on the coffee table behind him. Picking up his half-empty glass of bourbon from the end table beside the chair, he stood with the dry sponge in his other hand and stared down at the chair, contemplating his cleaning strategy. It might take a few passes before such an old stain could be removed. He would have to have patience.
After several bourbons and a can-and-a-half of cleaner, the sponge had begun to dissolve and his hands to crack from the chemical cleaner. Even after several hours of scrubbing, he was still convinced that he could salvage his beloved friend, but exhaustion and drunkenness had finally won. Marcus had finally given up on removing the stain from his beloved chair and staggered to bed.
Marcus awoke at 6:00 A.M. the next morning. Like a semi crashing through his bedroom wall, the alarm sounded from Marcus’s bedside table. After only three hours of sleep, which, again, had been invaded by twisted nightmarish landscapes, the idea of waking so soon nearly caused him to scream. His heart thundering in his chest, his face still buried in the pillow, he slung his left arm out of the covers, striking out at his arch nemesis. After several fumbling attempts, he managed to slam his palm onto the snooze button and silence the sound of the Eagles’s Hotel California. With an exhausted groan he let his arm slip off the night stand to the floor beside the bed and lapsed instantly back into unconsciousness. He felt his body slide into the quicksand of sleep. He sighed, praying that the next nine minutes would be peaceful.
# # #
Silence washed over him and the world of alarm clocks and day jobs dissolved into an empty city street. For a moment he stood there, on the sidewalk, studying the landscape around him, vaguely aware that he still wore only his T-shirt and boxer shorts. From the soft blue light and chill breeze he judged the time to be somewhere around dawn, though he could not be certain from the overcast sky. He shivered, staring up at the rows of empty black eyes lining the sides of the towering skyscrapers around him.
Why can’t I ever just end up on a beach somewhere? he thought. Or in a threesome with two Playmates, like normal guys?
The wind picked up, pushing him from behind. He staggered forward a pace, regaining his balance, and turned to look over his shoulder down the avenue.
He whirled around. The voice had seeped from the open doorway of an office building to his left. His stomach soured with dread. He sighed heavily and shivered knowing all too well that his dream-self would follow the sound of his voice being whispered. With slow, careful steps he walked towards the black rectangle in the building face, his bare feet aching from the city street debris beneath them. For a moment he lingered in the doorway, hoping that his mind had played tricks on him. He poked his head into the building and scanned the room. It appeared to have once been an old tavern of sorts, a neighborhood dive with oiled wood walls covered in cheaply framed black and white headshots. In the back of the room, Marcus could barely make out the outline of a pool table beneath a low-hanging stained glass lamp. The place appeared to be empty, so Marcus took a few tentative steps inside.
Walking over to the bar, he realized that the place could not have been deserted all that long ago as half-empty mugs of beer still sat on their coasters upon the bar’s copper top. Behind the counter, dishes sat in a sink filled with water and the greenish digital numbers on the cash register still glowed brightly against the gloom. Suddenly, footsteps echoed from the back of the room, near where the pool table stood. Marcus’s head snapped up, his heart thundering in his chest.
“Hello?” he said quietly, not really desiring an answer. Behind him, outside, it had begun to rain heavily. Marcus wondered if perhaps the sound of the water striking the asphalt street had made him misinterpret another sound. He took a step forward. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
Moments ticked by to the sound of water pouring from the awning over the front door to the sidewalk.
“You’re the boy who found my chair,” a deep, gravely male voice slithered through the darkness.
“Excuse me?” Marcus was caught off guard. “Your chair?” His curiosity overcame his fear and he walked towards pool table.
At first he saw nothing as he scanned the pitch-black shadows surrounding the table. He reached up and scratched the side of his head, confused and suddenly wanting his alarm clock to rescue him with another bad song. He sighed and turned to go, but the sound of a match striking the side of a matchbox snared his attention. He spun back around.
In the far corner, off to his left, a strange misshapen thing sat huddled in what appeared to be his treasured armchair. Marcus could not suppress a grimace of shock and disgust. Perhaps once this thing had been a man, but now its limbs had taken on the gnarled texture and grayish pigment of a dying tree. What served as skin was mottled gray and black, slick as if from rain or sweat and cracking open in places in long jagged lines of red, like lava breaking through a landscape of soot and obsidian glass. The thing hunched forward, its stomach so sunken that Marcus could see its backbone through its belly, the deformed lines of its ribs straining obscenely against the layer of broken skin containing them. It raised its head, which looked like a gourd that had begun to collapse from mold and rot, and watched Marcus with eyes of scarlet made milky by thick cataracts. Its right hand extended to light a red candle suspended in midair beside the chair and then returned to its lap, the match mysteriously having vanished.
Marcus’s mind was blank with panic. He stared, mute, both horrified and fascinated by the creature. The thing tilted its head inquisitively, blinking several times as if to try to clear the fog from its sight, though somehow Marcus knew it could see far better than even he.
Finally, Marcus found his voice. “Wha… who are you?”
The creature tried to smile, but the act was grotesque as what was left of its lips curled back over the rotten stumps of its front teeth. In place of incisors jutted large white fangs, the only two teeth not touched by rot.
“I am known by your people as Desiderium.” It sat back a little in the chair, its skin creaking with the movement as new fissures split, red and hateful.
Marcus shook his head slowly and said, “I’m sorry. I’ve never heard of you.”
“Hmm…” Desiderium murmured. “Humanity is so very peculiar to me. You take the time to label what you cannot truly comprehend and then, a mere few centuries later, you have completely forgotten your own lore. I find it rather amusing, don’t you?” Its voice was harsh, like the hissing of two pieces of sandpaper drawn slowly together, forever.
“Are you a demon?” Marcus was unsure why he asked the question, but in his dream it seemed logical.
Desiderium laughed a little under his breath, then said, “Another label. Hmm… yes, I am a demon, though that word irritates me as most mortal words irritate me. They are so… limiting. I am the Demon of Hatred, to be exact.”
Marcus frowned as he thought. The creature before him, to Marcus, appeared more wretched and pitiful than the ferocity that would come with such a title. Hatred brought to mind bloodlust and violence, fire and brutality. If the creature truly is a demon, he could be lying, Marcus reassured his dream-self.
“I never lie,” Desiderium spat. “I have no need to lie, especially to something like you.” Marcus was stunned. He took a step backwards.
The creature leaned forward, folding its long, twisted fingers over its bent knee. “Where are you going?”
“I… I have to go… to work,” Marcus sputtered. Distantly, down through the darkness of the bar, he could hear the faint melody of a song whistling in from the vacant street outside.
The creature smiled, its fangs glistening in the candlelight. “You hate work, don’t you? You hate your life.”
Marcus was backing up faster now, past the pool table. He bumped into a chair, knocking it over and nearly falling. “No… not exactly. It’s fine… ”
In his dream he felt the need to pick the chair up. He stooped over, fumbling to right the overturned piece of furniture, and in doing so began to turn his back on the creature in the corner. The world slowed. Marcus watched his hands reaching for the chair while his mind screamed at him of the foolishness of his actions. He felt heat on his back, the roaring of flames in his ears.
“You will…” Desiderium’s sandpaper voice hissed through his mind, sharp as a razorblade against his consciousness.
Marcus turned and screamed as a ball of flame engulfed him.