An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by James Mills
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The voices that define this universe, those that speak the language of power, are never heard.
They are whispers on quantum foam. They are flickers in time with distant constellations. They emerge from the random rancour of a riot. What orders a flock of birds to take flight, all at once? What prompts the sudden hush of a crowded room? What delivers realisation in the silence beyond a lie? White noise. Radio static. Messages. Ripples. The universe bowing before a greater power.
Once, that power was you.
You lived beneath the skin of stars. You fed. You grew. You roamed as you pleased. The span of years was nothing to you, nor were the eyeblink lives of other species. They were beneath your notice.
But you were not above theirs.
Do you remember the first tentative touching of minds? How the syllables of your speech haemorrhaged their eyes and ears? Your language undid them. They shattered with the sound of your voice, and you sang with such fierce pride. Let the moth burn itself upon the candle of your glory. You cared not.
Then the Deceiver came amongst you. So well named. He of poisoned promises. He of broken oaths. Look below, he said. See the ziggurats and idols they raise in your names. See the priest-kings and philosophers who proclaim you the height of wisdom and power.
Such worship in their hymns! So mightily do they strive to add chorus to your cadenza, to sing with but a sliver of your ability. They would give up their very souls.
And look: they, your loyal servants, these faithful creatures, have made for you a chariot. A body of exotic metal, so that you may experience all the pleasures and delights of the material universe. So that you may sup on the banquet of life itself, the very energy of being. They ask for so little in return! Simple freedoms. Protection from another brief species. Trivial things.
You accept the compact. You assume the loving form they have fashioned, one of their long-lost pantheon. Yes. It is right that they venerate you. You are a god, are you not? So you speak. You command. You send out your new vassals, once creatures of frail flesh, now forged in immortal silver. The feasting is glorious.
Yet, bite by bite, you are bound.
You experience the joys of this new realm. The thrill of battle. The glutting of souls. The anger of betrayal. You crush the crude races. You snarl at the desperate psionics who seek a shadow of your rightful divinity. Your appetites expand to include your brethren. Soon your followers clash with worshippers of rival gods as often as they do with Aeldari or Krork. The galaxy is a maelstrom of bloodshed, and you revel in it.
One by one, your brothers fall – to each other, to the lesser beings, to deception and betrayal. Your voice, your song, roars with wrath and hunger. You descend on the weakest and gorge yourself. You flee from the strongest and find refuge among the faithful.
Beneath godly feet, the servant races are trampled. The compact groans beneath this weight. It baulks. It fractures.
After a brutalising defeat, you flee, battered and torn. You howl your pain to the void. You swear revenge. You curse your body. Once, you would have spread your titan wings and soared to find another star. Now you must drag this swollen shell of necrodermis wherever you go.
With the coalition broken, you have only your worshippers to turn to. Wounded, bleeding light, you thrash and shiver as they fight tirelessly to protect you, to hide you. Their knowledge of the sub-realms is vast, and you are not what once you were. There are places you may pause to rest, where they may tend your broken wings, without fear of discovery. You will be mighty again. You remind yourself of this, over and over, until it becomes an unceasing mantra. A hum of self-affirmation.
You are a god. You must only speak for it to be so.
The faithful respond in kind. A delegation arrives. They have a ritual, they say, that will empower them. That will enable them to defeat the foes that hunt for them, that bind them, that would feed upon them. Their words are graceful, measured, humble. They warn you that it will hurt. But you are, after all, a god. What harm could a mortal do to you? You laugh as you ascend the altar, thinking already of the triumphant future. You swell with assurance. You are great, mighty, strong.
But the knives. Oh, the knives. Black and stone, their wicked edges burn like the deepest, coldest, unlit void. They cut away your shining flesh, your stolen aspect, your bright and beautiful body. They pin the very essence of you before it can flee to the distant nebulae. It is an eternity of reduction. You can feel yourself vanish, cut by terrible cut. The butchery is methodical and complete.
When they are done, little of you remains. The offal of your soul.
You cannot see. You cannot form true thoughts. You have no sense of time. There is only pain, and loss and just enough awareness to know that you are trapped. Unable to die. Unable to exist. Your aetherial body exposed for all to see. Like a trophy, you are set between two stones and placed atop a dais. The flayed corpse of a god.
You scream. It is all you can do, now. You beg. You cry. The growing, gibbering madness only the once-free can feel.
Aeons pass. Millions of years. You fill them with your tortured voice.
Not once does your captor speak.
There is only the recursive, mocking echo of your insanity in this kingdom of silence.