The Consuming Gaze
An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Jenny Strath
Reading Time: 6 minutes
+++++ Adepta Sororita Sacramentum Contrition Confessional Recording – Serial-XCVIII-LXXVIII-V Sister Benzuki +++++
The eyes follow me. They watch me. They are watching you too. They see you sitting in your chair. They feel the twinge in your lower back. They see you straighten as you feel it too. Do not look over your shoulder. You will not see them.
Know I did what I must.
There had been disappearances. Serfs were refusing to work in the mines below the foundry. Those that returned, babbled of eyes in the dark. First they were warned, then they were whipped. Even after discipline was delivered to some with a laspistol, they would not return.
The Hive Quadrant’s Governor could not have the foundry cease production. Faith, he said, was the cure for this fear. Sister Superior Meabh, Sister Vernda and I were called upon; we would shine the Emperor’s Light into the darkness and cleanse the minds of the stricken. Our task was to enter through the foundry into the mines, find the lost serfs and prove this foundry no different to the other dozen in the district.
The foundry was hot. The clanking of machines and hiss of molten metal created an industrial harmony. Red shadows danced on the factory walls, lumens too weak to interrupt the waltz. “Tri-Force pattern gamma.” Meabh ordered, as we approached the elevator.
“Aye Ma’am” I responded,
“Ready to fire at any upstart shadows, Ma’am” replied Vernda.
Once inside, Sister Meabh tapped the command rune for the lowest level.
“After this waste of our and the Emperor’s time, care for a round in the training cages, Zuki? Or are you suffering mortal papercut wounds from wrestling too many books?” Vernda shouted over the shuddering lift.
“Sister Ctahlia’s five volume treaty on siege warfare is more humorous than your knifework”. I replied.
“Silence” ordered the Sister Superior.
The lift docked roughly on the cavern floor. “Do not fear the dark, sisters. The Emperor’s light destroys all shadows. And we are His lantern.” Sister Meabh’s stern voice echoed in the cavern too long, her words twisting as they bounced off stalactites and dormant Rockgrinders.
Weak lumens were strung down into the first vaulted mine chamber, running into narrow corridors. There was a whirring hum from a running fragdrill left to drill air over an empty pit.
We continued deeper into the mines, sweeping the chambers for the lost workers. Sister Meabh checked her wrist-cogitater at every turn. I sensed growing frustration in her manner. “Sister Superior?” I ventured. “Is everything all right?”
“Of course,” she snapped. “Just a problem with navigation protocols”.
“So we’re lost?” Said Vernda, earning a vicious glare from the Sister Superior.
“That must have been what happened to all those foolish foundrymen. We’ll find them around some corner, eating their boots,” Vernda concluded.
Finally we came to a chamber much like the others. However in the centre was a large, black stone, approximately the size of an Exorcist class tank, hauled up from the pit beneath it.
I heard a soft cry. I rushed over and saw a man hanging from the edge of the pit.
He was large and heavy, my power armour gave a soft groan as I lifted him. As I helped him to his feet, my sisters raised their pistols at the serf. “I’m innocent!” He began.
“Sister, fall in!” Meabh ordered.
“Zuki, get away from him!” Vernda warned.
“Don’t listen to those hags!” He spat, seizing my arm painfully. I turned towards him and saw for the first time the yellow eyes blazing from his sockets, leering hungrily at me. Flesh slipped on his skull, like an ill-fitting coat. I wrenched my arm free and slammed my palm into his too-soft face, knocking him back.
The man-creature stumbled towards us in an awkward gait, knees bent in the wrong directions and arms flapping out of time.
“I absolve you. I, Sister Benzuki am The Emperor’s blade ” I said, aiming my bolt pistol.
It gurgled, a laugh I think. “You have no name. You are meat. You belong to us. This world did once, and shall again. And we will defile it, and you, as we wish.” I fired until its cranium scattered like broken pottery.
More workers clambered out from the pit. Some dragged themselves on all fours, or struggled on one arm and leg; none seemed to know what human bodies should move like. And all with yellow, unblinking eyes.
We opened fire, the roar of bolter shots mingling with wet slurping sounds as skin fell from the creatures, revealing the horrors beneath. Shifting and changing, blood-slicked fleshy bodies with hands that became feet that became mouths that laughed. And everywhere, eyes.
Several grabbed Sister Superior Meabh, smothering her with their combined gelatinous bulk. She screamed as she sunk into the quivering mass, yellow eyes blooming on her skin. I blessed her forehead with a round from my bolter before she was absorbed completely.
“Retreat!” Vernda cried.
We ran through twisted corridors, past piles of wet bones and eldritch alters. Eyes peered from every shadow.
I heard the familiar hum – the abandoned fragdrill. “This way!” I yelled.
She told me to run ahead and clear the exit, while she covered the rear.
I reached the elevator and fired several rounds into the elevator’s external control panel, in case the horrors were clever enough to use it.
I waited inside the elevator. It had gone quiet. There was only the hum of the drill. I slid closed the door grate.
Vernda burst from the corridor, running ahead of a pack of horrors. She reached the door of the elevator, spattered with blood.
“Let me in,” she pounded on the door. She called my name.
I looked into her eyes. They were wrong.
That is why I left her there. It wasn’t her. I know it.
When I reached the foundry, I knew what I must do.
With every swing of my chainsword, every shot from my bolter, every cut with my knife, I shut their eyes. For each of the foundry serfs I cleansed, from the overseers I liberated to the guards who tried to halt my work, I did the Emperor’s work.
I granted each of them the Emperor’s mercy, but they were not grateful. Surely they were changed.
I plucked the eyes from their skulls to be sure.
When the Emperor’s grace is given unto me by my beloved Sisters at dawn, surely the eyes will leave me be.
They watch me still. They watch us now.