The Price of Being No One
An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Matthew Burgess
Reading Time: 5 minutes
It always starts and ends with pain. True pain.
A pain so vivid that your existence is torn inside out as cells contort, expand and then realign in a matter of moments.
Did I ask for this? Perhaps.
I implore to myself that physical torment has its boundaries but the mind does not. I feel that I am living proof of that truth, or at least a twisted mockery of it as I hide in the shame of others.
“Let the temple become your body” the others in the shadows would say to me like a dogged Imperial mantra.
Is there truth in a statement so simple? Possibly.
The pain and process of being another brings a disconnect I cannot explain and a loneliness that numbs like a star burning to nothing in a forgotten sector of space. Yet I still endure! I still persist.
A piece of filth from the Underhive, an Imperial dignitary from Barthos IV or even the cold void bravado of an Aedari prince – they all come and go like pawns in a fated game of Regicide. Yet I am still here.
But who am I? More importantly what am I? I ask these questions when I stare into the faces of my victims even for a split second as they leave this existence and their soul cries for the next. Does it even matter?
I know my purpose in this divided and unforgiving universe of death and agony despite feeling I am everyone and yet no one. I wear each mask, muscle and strand of hair like I was born in their shell and absorbing all their memories. It is just a single disguise that has brought me darkness, confusion and worst of all – doubt.
This period of weakness started on a vacuous backwater planet known as Sirriduar or the exquisitely named “Daemon’s Teardrop” by the local populace as a world so forgotten by the Imperium and lacking in purpose it did not even warrant existence. During my relatively short but defining time there I truly believe that even the creature-slaves of the Hive Mind would bypass it with little thought let alone the renegades of Chaos. That is apart from one individual – Alice De Vinnaar.
My target was an adolescent with suspected latent psychic powers so exorbitant and vulnerable to corruption that I was dispatched immediately despite my healing wounds from a prior task. This would appear to be a mistake on the part of my master when looking back with the callous grin of hindsight. Her father Ser Karlos De Vinnaar controlled a relatively vast expanse of the capital Kornus with delusions of grandeur, using it to traffic xenos to suit all clientele. My part in this tragic charade was that of a guardian – specifically to protect her against the would-be executioners of his rivals. Life can be so ironic.
I assumed the guise of a “Master Purkek”, a highly recommended bodyguard with credentials so unbounded that her father would clearly use my appointment as bragging rights to make his enemies falter but more importantly allow me to gain exclusive access to Alice.
It went so perfectly at first – my acute senses and analysis of surroundings allowed me to have complete control and dominance of her position and potential threats at all times. I would make idle chatter with their servants, share caffeine with the menial security staff and examine the records of previous attempts on her life.
When the time would come, the optimal time to execute my orders – I would be ready. But the plains of life and death can sometimes have their own divine decree for which even I cannot control. Too late.
I was too late. When I entered her study the familiar smell of blood and the unwelcome stench of failure entered my senses before the lifeless servitor bodies ever had a chance to. Karlos De Vinnaar stood over her jerking decapitated corpse with no remorse, only finality and ruin. I saw a father who would destroy rather than face the galaxy with a mutant heiress, an inheritor of his pathetic kingdom.
Despite my role, my true role, for the first time in my existence I was there not to eliminate – I was to reclaim her on behalf of the High Lords of Terra before the Ruinous Powers could trap that unparalleled potential tapping into the unending tsunami of the warp.
His eyes paired with mine and for a moment, I hesitated. Despite the annihilation of others being everything I know and exist for, this crippling pause came as I felt I was looking into a mirror of tragedy, the decider of permanence – a mirror of myself.
Yet as my blade crossed the various paths of existence the recognisable feeling of oblivion and detachment from humanity surged through me once more, my weapon bringing totality and demise. Before his meager body could stain the floor with crimson and shame…I was gone.
Some experiences cannot be forgotten as they are cauterised on your soul as you journey around the sphere of life. However being a thousand faces will never change one thing.
These hands…. my hands… are the destroyers of being, the eradicators of uncertainty. . I am death. I am Callidus.