An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Benjamin Joseph
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The ship’s sirens wail – and the cycle begins again. In the galley, Dana and her daughter stare up at the flashing red lights, eyes wide. Dana picks Sara up and they begin to run. The sirens ring out like trumpets through the crew quarters. Her daughter sobs into her shoulder.
‘It’s okay. It’s okay, baby.’
Dana’s voice is shaking. Ahead, through the red glow of the alarms, figures move. They glow faintly like the silver sparks of a welding iron.
‘Help! We need help!’
There is something about the way they move which sends shivers down her neck. It’s as if they are moving backwards, like a vid-tape played in reverse.
Dana blinks and they are gone.
There’s a pit in her stomach now. She’s lived her entire life in the void – she knows what those alarm bells mean. The Gellar Field, that impossible barrier which protects their ship as it traverses the unreal, is failing. She has heard the stories. She knows what is out there. Nightmares and monsters outside of time. Dana runs faster, as the shadows grow.
The silver figures return as she runs. They aren’t distant now. They emerge from the walls, glowing bright with witchlight.
‘Don’t look,’ she cries out to Sara, but the only way through is past the glowing figures. She can see their faces now. Old friends. Dead workmates. Impossible faces from her past. Her mother and sister. The father she barely knew. She sees herself there too, as young as Sara is now, playing with her mother’s tools. Then Dana’s blood runs cold. She sees herself, old and frail. She sees Sara, grown and strong, with her long dark hair and her father’s eyes. The past is pushed aside and her future crawls from the walls.
Dana’s foot catches on the floor. Her knees hit the cold iron grate of the floor with a crash.
Dana pushes her daughter behind herself as she scrambles upright. Her gaze is fixed on the silvery forms that still crawl from the walls. They move erratically, backwards and forwards, gross imitations of life. She gestures to Sara behind her back.
‘Stay behind me.’
The figures are all around them now. Dana flails blindly for her daughter’s hand, eyes never leaving the ghosts that hang before her.
Her hand finds only air.
Dana spins sharply, eyes wide. Sara is no longer behind her.
The air freezes in her lungs. Her chest contracts. She cannot even scream. Behind her, where her daughter should be, is a door. A door she knows well. A door that should not be here, in this corridor. A door that leads to the infernal machinery which caused it all. The Gellar Room itself.
The figures behind are getting closer. She can feel them on the back of her neck, sense their touch, ice cold on her skin. They want her. They want her daughter. Dana hits the access button and chases after her daughter.
Her voice echoes through the void. The room inside is strangely silent. This place should be a whirlwind of activity. Yet hers are the only feet which pound the metal gantries.
Between the tangles of pipes and silent mechanisms, she catches a glimpse of her daughter. Yet beside her is someone else. Someone tall and strong limbed, with dark hair that cascades down her back. Someone who glows, soft and silver in the darkness. Dana calls out but they do not stop. They do not even look back. Sara stares adoringly up at the figure as Dana rushes after them, deeper into the maze of machinery. Yet each time they are gone before she reaches them.
She chases them onwards, deeper and deeper into the chamber, until finally she reaches the heart of the chamber and stares at the impossible. Before her sits the heart of the Gellar Field Generator itself. Massive, incomprehensible – and undamaged.
No. That cannot be.
The Field failed. She felt it fail, she heard the sirens. The Field has fallen and the nightmares have come. One of them has taken her daughter.
Yet the generator remains. It glows, soft and silver like the ghosts, and Dana’s mind recoils. Is this the past? Or the future? She has yet to realise that such distinctions have no meaning. This is simply the time that I reveal myself.
I step out from behind the generator at the end of the room. I hold Sara’s hand tight, but I smile at Dana. I know how this feels. I know the fear, the loss. I try to make it easy, but I will not let my daughter go. Not this time. Her time will come.
Dana stares at me open-mouthed – just as I did when I stood in her place. Then I pick up our daughter and, before she can move, I step back through a doorway. The lock clicks shut behind us.
She will know what she has to do. We always do. Her daughter has been taken, stolen away by a woman who wears her own face. A silver ghost of her older self. The realisation will come slowly, but it will come. She stands before the Gellar Field. The brutal machine that forces order upon chaos, that generates causality where none should exist. Without the Gellar Field, time has no meaning. Everything that was, will be again.
Dana will pick up the wrench from the floor by her feet. She will attack that which keeps her from her daughter. She will tear apart the machinery of the real, she will release the grasp of entropy on the ship. And then she will sit and wait for her daughter to return to her. Just as I did. As we always have done and always will do.
My daughter squeezes my hand and smiles up at me as we step through the cracks of time and space. Behind us, the sirens start to wail. The cycle begins anew.
About the Author
A 40k fan, and writer, based in Dubai and trying to find the Grimdark in eternal sunshine.