Daniley crashes, still half-awake, out of the service corridor with the hundred filthy folk that he berths with. Ship lights that had dimmed for the sleep cycle now blaze the red of His Rage. It is blasphemy to not rush to one’s post, especially when the lights signal the Rage. Blasphemy against Him is nothing to be trifled with. The hooded men with whips are waiting for them, like always, as they pile out, their eyes only show in the cut holes of their cowls when the light flickers over them. The stragglers’ skin will be split by that whip.
His eyes sting as he emerges onto the great expanse of Gundec’. Holy smoke already sanctifies them as they rush toward their appointed posts, stinging their skin for the impurity of their lives. He sprints but as more berths and more folk join he is jostled, then carried, by the human tide – all of them heading to the chains.
He looks up as they pass the first yellow priest, their vestments turned orange by the wrathful light. The priest stands high above the throng on scaffold pulpits welded from the debris of great catastrophes long ago. They are wailing something but the clarions of the angels sing louder from the heavens above, leaving mouths mute.
The ground shakes hard and God groans above them. A vast clump of the men and women around Daniley all fall to the iron deck. The screams of those crushed between the deck and the top of the pile can be heard even over the choir of angels. Limbs pop from joints and bones crunch as Daniley scrambles to his feet over those too stunned to move. Their skin is slippery from blessed machine oils, causing each step he takes to slide at right angles to his destination.
His heel crushes something wet and sharp beneath him and he jerks his foot out. He stumbles forward, carried again by the living wall of human flesh that pushes toward the chains. They rise high into the heavens, which are always hidden behind the great smog clouds of the promethium generators. But just below the smog layer he can see it: God’s Mouth. The living embodiment of His Will.
It reaches down on an arm of metal wider than twenty men from the smog layer. The blessed chains hang the rest of the way, allowing those lucky enough to reach the chains in time to be connected with Him on High. Each time they do, some of the sin in their souls is burned away. Each time they fail, their perdition grows.
So despite the pain in his foot, he pushes and slams his way forward. The cacophony around him grows. Priests dressed in the red of Mars stride the catwalk, leading the choirs of metal men in their salutation to His Mouth. Though they give it another, foreign name, in their warbling cant.
Daniley slams hard into the suddenly static group of folk before him. They have reached a chain. His Mercy has found them. One by one, the hands of the folk find purchase on its holy links and lift.
‘Bless the Holy O’rs. Make ready ‘mergn sea locks.’ The chant begins and Daniley joins it as his own hands take their place on the links. The freezing metal immediately begins to stick to his skin. Tears begin to run from his eyes. The stinging holy smoke, the pain, the joy. All of it wells out of him as he braces to bring his weight to bear.
But the chain is sluggish in his hands. He turns back to see who is taking up the chain, but there are only two people behind him. Back the way he came is a red, twitching mass of bodies on the floor of the Gundec’. The fools! So many of them had fallen that their chain was short of folk needed to lift it. They would pull regardless, but the whips of the hooded men would scourge them for being too few.
He looks right and sees others from a different gang struggling to find a place around their chain. He does not know them. They are not kin or berth mates. But he needs them and they need him. He wrenches his hand from the chain. Peeling it away and leaving skin and blood behind as his penance. He waves and screams to the folk with their backs to him, ‘Here! Pull here!’
The hooded men draw closer and he screams again, ‘Here! Come to the chain!’ Two look back and see him. They see the dead weight of chain behind him, free of competing hands. They skip crews in a heartbeat, joined quickly by other disaffected folk. They take up the chain and its chant behind him. All the folk know the chant, bequeathed by the angelic voice of the Cap’n generations before during the Great Crash.
Now the voice of the Angel returns again, echoing through the Gundec’ fighting with the apocalyptic clarions, ‘…hands: Brace for broadsi…’
Daniley throws his whole weight into the pull, they all do, dragging God’s Mouth backward to where the Red Priests wait above. Links and metal groan. Folk wail and chant. Hundreds of feet hit the deck together as they step, all the folk, back and back until God’s Mouth connects with the great machine that hangs high above Daniley’s sleeping berth. Daniley does not watch but knows what happens next. The Red Priests bless the Holy Shell and release it unto God. The great clang rings through the Gundec’, through Daniley and all the folk. People cry, they blubber thanks, they wail to Priests Red and Yellow, and to the hooded men who are still whipping the sinful stragglers and fallen.
Daniley lets the chain go with the others, his flesh tearing again. He is numb and blissful as God’s Mouth swings forward back to its resting position. The wave of pressure and heat knocks him down. Then Daniley’s world goes dark as God speaks His Wrath.
About the Author
Josh is writer and blogger at marriedwithgoblins.wordpress.com who balances arguing about Star Trek on the internet with making sure he is cooking enough over-elaborate snacks for table top gaming sessions. He is married with a baker’s dozen of plushies.