An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by George Vine
Reading Time: 6 minutes
I am living a nightmare.
The Gamma in the next cell won’t stop crying. Not silent tears like my own, but great wracking sobs. It has been at it for hours. Worse, it’s an Electrokine. With each anguished sob the lights in my cell dim to almost nothing, only to burn searing bright with its every shuddering gasp for air. I shouldn’t even be on this ship. They made a mistake. I’m not a Psyker.
I wince. The Gamma just screamed an earsplitting cry of agony and every tortured bulb in my section of cells blew out in a shower of heat and glass. I can feel wetness on my face. Am I bleeding, or is it just tears? Everywhere is darkness now. I stumble forwards, away from the septic reek of the back of my cell, arms outstretched, hoping to find the door and to reassure myself of where I stand. My hands brush cold metal, but it gives way before me and I fall forwards into the corridor beyond.
Throne, the noise! It hits me like a wave as I struggle to my knees. I could always hear them, but with my cell door open the sound of the ship’s cargo of suffering pushes against my ears and skin like a gale. Low groans. Sobs. Slow, deranged chanting and meaningless muttering. Screams. The collective sound of a thousand souls, broken and tortured and being carried to some fresh Hell. I cry out, and my voice joins the cacophony and is lost.
In the cell next to mine the Gamma has stopped crying. It, for it impossible to render male from female in the starved and crusted wreck on the floor, is lying still. The only things moving in its cell are two trails of smoke from the blackened pits of its eyes.
I make it to standing, but my legs are weak and unsteady and the sharp grilled steel floor hurts my bare feet. Something urges me to move. To leave this darkness and the smell of burning hair.
The cell to my right is closed, but something is inside. I have trouble creating an image of its occupant from the noises and motion alone, but the brief imagining my mind offers is one of filleted meat. Of white bone gleaming inside wet red motion. Of a laughing face, all delirium and protruding tongue, stretched and lashing to taste me. I release an involuntary gag of horror and the thrashing within becomes more urgent. I kick the door, perhaps to dissuade its exit, then flee towards the only light I can see.
It pours from a large window set into the wall ahead. Trying to walk quietly, I creep up to the nearest edge and peer inside. When I see figures within, by heart gives a nonsensical leap of hope. Since my awakening on board, I hadn’t seen another living soul.
The first figure is the God Emperor’s will made flesh. Over six feet tall, clad in glossy black ceramite. The holy icons, the tightly scribed gilded scripture, the beads of devotion – all these things should have sent me running to her for protection, for sanctuary.
She is a Sister Militant. Her face, pale white and hard, is framed by a severe bob of jet black hair. Her lips are pressed into a thin line, her eyes unblinking. A thin sheen of perspiration coats a brow furrowed in concentration. All her focus is on two things. The restrained human on the chair beside her and the heavy oiled Boltgun pressed against its head.
The second is a doctor, or is at least dressed like one. A third arm, metallic and skeletal, rises from its shoulders, its digits split into multiple manipulators. It’s horrible, like some deep sea worm. A white mask, stained with blood and spit, covers the doctor’s face. Its eyes are wide and panicked, as if he were disarming a bomb.
With two shaking flesh hands and one steady metal one, the doctor is inserting a too-long spike of technology into an open borehole in the head of the figure on the chair. He’s a big man, muscled and tattooed with images of pickaxes, skulls and daggers. His eyes are already gone – stitched closed and weeping. Pipes jut from holes in his arms and skull. He turns his head in my direction and in the moment before the Sister forces it back with her gun barrel, his sightless eyes look into me and plead for salvation.
I stagger onwards, helpless. My foot catches on an empty brass cylinder and it tumbles across the floor with a pitiful tinkling and is lost in the darkness. I feel pain now. Wounds have opened in my arms and scalp; psycho-stigmatic bleeding. My insides hurt and blood dribbles softly down my legs. Something urges me onwards, towards a circular bulkhead door. It opens easily as I push on it with bloody hands.
Inside is a mausoleum. A shrine dedicated to the coffin at its center. Heavy piping and power cables snake across the floor and more drape from the ceiling. The air is freezing and stinks of Psyk. Two Tech Priests, swathed in scarlet robes grubby with oil stains, stare into dirty green cogitator screens. Neither notice me as I enter the chamber, cross the icy floor and stare into the coffin.
The creature within is a ruin. Wasted to skeletal ribs and a bulging malnourished belly. Eye sockets house two of the snaking cables. Its arms are pierced with IV needles speckled with rust. Hard rubber tubes violate. Only her blonde hair, frayed and greasy, betray her identity.
It’s me. Throne…it’s me….
Adept Six-Omega looked at the wavering line on the display of the Geller field generator.
‘Slight deviation in the beta-line Supervisor, is it mechanical failure?’
‘No Adept’, replied the other, ‘It is simply dreaming. That is what It does.’
Six-Omega looked back at the cold steel coffin. ‘Then I hope it’s dreaming of someplace far from here.’