Sal of the Hive
An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Matthew Neil
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Do you remember the day we met?
I don’t suppose you do. Your lifeless stare betrays you. Who was I to you anyway? A tenant? An employee? A statistic? Was I like the others, a dime a dozen? Or was I the diamond in the rough? Tell me, now I have your undivided attention.
I was here, in this place the day you found me. Well, not exactly when you found me, but thereabouts. I had woken early, woken to the sound of those infernal gears. Down here in the Sector Mechanicus we live among the machines you take for granted: the water filters, the air scrubbers, the power generators. And if it’s not the grinding gears that wake us it’s an explosion. The archaic plumbing has a finite life, and Emperor protect the poor soul on the other side of the bulkhead when it goes off. I wonder if there were any such disasters while you had me in your high tower.
That day my father gave me the last of our protein sludge. He seemed pleased to have me wolf it down, despite his emaciation. Sector 15B was our work detail: sanitation. Ensuring your highborn faeces didn’t cause a blockage. I’d worked there so long I’d become nose-blind to the stench. Strange it didn’t faze you. That should have been the first alarm bell.
It was your Prefect who offered me the position in your house. You said nothing, merely banishing the darkness with the radiance of your jewellery, and the shine of your head. It fooled my father who begged me to go.
‘Escape this cesspit, Sal,’ he cried.
And so I went. Not for you, not for me, but that my father could die proud of his daughter.
Sprayed, cleansed, exfoliated, and dressed for service, your Prefect took me via elevator to your house. After he briefed me, I had time to get acquainted with the box room. My own room. I thanked the Emperor for His providence and I thanked Him for you, my angel of salvation. And I thanked Him for Thilda, my new friend. She had been liberated like I, but from one of the manufactorums. While the others mocked how I laid the table, she helped me, educated me in the etiquette of House Paison.
‘Never refuse the master’s bidding,’ she told me, ‘No matter what. That is the golden rule. After all, how blessed are we to be in his house.’
She was right. So I didn’t mind the waiting on, the laundry, the cleaning. Even the filthiest bedpan couldn’t compare to my prior work. I had my room, my sanctuary. I had two meals per day, and clean clothes. What then was trimming your toenails? What was a slap from the Prefect? What was it to lie on my back and take what I was given? At least there was no risk of explosion.
Lying with you became a regular duty, more so than the other duties. And I can’t say I relished it. Maybe it was the scouring of your beard on my skin. Word travelled and the other staff spoke to me less, especially Thilda. She disappeared a few days later, but not before she cut my heart with her words.
‘You are his favourite now. Then, what is the point of me?’
Yet I found favour in the eyes of Germaine, your heir. He had you fooled for a while, inventing tasks only I could do. They were but a pretence, as he walked me round the viewing gallery. Who knew that windows offered more than a view of the next room? His were a portal to another world, a vista of mountains rising through the polluted clouds. Here I joined the exclusive club of those who has glimpsed beyond the hive. We talked long into the night, of everything and nothing.
I planned to meet Germaine again, but you ordered me to serve at your party. Perhaps you knew of our meetings. Perhaps this was to punish me.
You often entertained the other lords where the wine flowed freely, and they ate until they vomited. I had served at many such receptions, but not like this. This was new. There was eating and drinking, but then followed chanting, and wailing and branding each other with an eight-pointed star. I pretended it wasn’t happening and stuck to my duties. But when I tried to leave you ordered me bound to a pole, and my clothes removed. How I longed for Sector 15B, for the protein paste, for the smell of excrement as every hand groped me. I would have preferred a brand over their tongues raking my skin. I can’t bear to recall further details, but you know them. Only a mind-picture of the Emperor sustained my sanity.
You left me there all night. And you thought me unconscious when you and the cult leader spoke. But I heard you agree to a price for me, that he could have me privately. But I heard the time you scheduled, and I made my plans.
Had hubris not blinded you, you might have checked for the knife, all too easy to smuggle from the kitchen. But I ensured you both saw it before I slit your throats. Shame you couldn’t see the moment I dismembered your bodies. Shame you couldn’t hear this monologue or see what I see: your pallid skin and vacant stare, the exact expression you wore as I killed you.
Which brings us back to Sector 15B. The Arbites are coming soon. They suspect the cult, but I’d hate them to find us. I thank Germaine for assisting me. And I will assist him as he spends his days scrubbing the foul taint of the cult from House Paison: his inheritance from you. I suppose we can start by disposing of you in sanitation: yours legs, arms and finally your head. After all, faeces are meant for flushing.
About the Author
Matthew’s students say his Chemistry lessons are interesting and amusing. When he’s not teaching, he’s painting 40k miniatures and posting photos of them on Instagram. He enjoys reading and writing fiction (particularly the dystopian genre) and playing board games and video games. He lives in Manchester, UK, with his wife and three kids. If any of them become vaguely interested in what he does, he will die happy.