‘Pressure, here, quickly!’
Yersin followed Surgeon Clepis’ orders, placing his hands in the guardsman’s sucking chest wound. Over the last week, the imperial lines had been pushed back, and the battlefront was now barely a kilometre away from their field hospital. The cramped surgical theatre shuddered with each explosion, and the medical instruments rattled on their trays incessantly.
The wounded guardsman moaned in pain, and Yersin felt a familiar plunge of dread at the thought of losing yet another patient. But then he felt something else.
+This one is strong. Take him for us.+
Yersin’s breath caught as he felt his gifts start to weep. Their sudden appearance several days ago had not been without consequence: he now had to wear his rebreather mask constantly to avoid discovery: a small price to pay to bear the mark of the chosen.
They managed to stabilise the patient, and Clepis pulled off his soiled gloves.
‘Right,’ he said, ‘close him up, get him to recovery.’ The exhausted surgeon left to hunt for caffeine and food, and Yersin sensed his chance. So did the whispers.
+Do your duty.+
He worked quickly with a steady, practised hand. Using a syringe, he took a sample of blood from his own arm. It was dark, with a sticky, tar-like consistency. He then injected this into the guardsman. The wounded man murmured groggily as the infection started to take hold.
‘Am I going to die?’ he slurred tearfully.
‘No,’ Yersin replied, gently stroking his brow, ‘you have been chosen for something far greater.’
He reached up and disengaged his rebreather, and the guardsman recoiled in disgust. Weeping, pulsing sores covered Yersin’s face, some green-yellow with pus, others shrivelled and blackened, his flesh rotted down to the bone.
+Let him ascend.+
The sweet stink of corruption suddenly filled the air, and Yersin felt spores of infection bloom within him. He leant down and breathed a miasma of pestilence into the soldier’s face. The guardsman tried to scream, but his tongue and lips were already rotting away. Yersin watched in awe as decay swept across the soldier’s body in an unstoppable tide. His eyes congealed into lumps of pale jelly, and his chest wound burst open with the rupturing of his organs. After less than a minute, the once-proud soldier of the imperium was little more than a bloated, putrid corpse.
+Bring him to us+
Fitting his mask back into place, Yersin covered the gurney and wheeled it out into the corridor. Exhausted medics and doctors were running in all directions, stumbling over soiled bandages and bloodied bedding. Yersin pressed through the crowd, barging others aside in his haste.
Clepis suddenly materialised in front of him, blocking his path.
‘I was just taking this one to the mortuary, doctor,’ Yersin said.
‘This man was alive a few minutes ago, Yersin, how can he be dead now?’ Clepis asked tersely.
‘He flatlined just after you left. Artery must have been nicked after all,’ Yersin replied, as innocently as he dared.
‘Let me see him.’ The surgeon reached out to uncover the corpse, but both men were suddenly thrown sideways as a massive blast rocked the hospital. The lights momentarily failed, and somewhere a fire alarm started blaring.
‘A little help here!’
A nearby nurse was fighting to restrain another wounded soldier, whose mangled fingers were clawing at the charred, bubbling skin that used to be his face. Clepis hurried to her aid, shouting hoarse instructions, and Yersin was left alone in the swirling chaos once more.
The whispers buzzed with impatience, and one of Yersin’s hidden sores burst painfully, reminding him of his mission.
In all the years since he’d taken his medicae oaths, he’d never seen so much death. Yersin had been drowning in guilt over the last few weeks, haunted by those he couldn’t save. In his dreams, he was surrounded by grasping hands and shrieking, begging faces. He had been ready to end his own life just to escape them, but then, in amongst the choking cries of the dead, he had heard the whispers of something else.
There is strength in suffering, wounds and woe. There is life, even in death. Together, we can save these poor souls! Let us teach you how.
Yersin navigated away from the main concourse, moving down a side corridor. He opened a door and slipped inside.
The stench inside was beyond description. It would have turned another man’s stomach, but Yersin disengaged his mask and breathed it in like it was fresh sea air. He uncovered the corpse and dragged it from the gurney, adding it to his great work.
The room had been a mortuary freezer, but the refrigeration units had mysteriously broken, and now it lay abandoned in the heart of the hospital. It was an ideal place for Yersin to create a sanctuary for his new master. Dripping tendrils of putrefaction spread out across the walls and floor in a great stain, leaching out from the abomination at their centre.
A huge mound of rotting corpses in the middle of the room, an unholy mass of stinking corruption. The whispers had guided Yersin, shown him what to do, and now, they were bringing his creation to life. Torsos and necks were melded together in unholy alchemy, and loops of slick intestines slithered and writhed as they squirmed from a dozen gaping wounds. Eyeless skulls turned to regard Yersin as he stood before them, heedless of the shells that had now begun to fall onto the hospital itself. Unnatural energies started to flicker across the mound as it seethed and roiled.
‘Strength in suffering,’ Yersin whispered. ‘Life even in death.’
Slack mouths vomited forth a great mass of flies, and Yersin heard the voice that spoke through their buzzing wings.
‘It is time, my child. Join us.’
Yersin’s forgotten rebreather clattered to the floor. He shed his clothes and walked forwards, into the welcoming embrace of his new god.
About the Author
Matt Tansini is a civil servant who lives in London with his partner. He has been writing for several years, focussing on sci-fi and horror short stories. Matt is a long-time fan of all things 40k, from the books and video games to the good old-fashioned miniatures. For the Emperor!