The stars are beautiful tonight.
A heavy haze had kept them hidden from him behind a blanket of gloom as he lay on his back, eyes cast skywards. When the gloom faded away and the pitch black void of the night came into view with a thousand pinpricks of light swirling in an eternal sea as old as time, he could truly feel the scale of the galaxy. He had never seen stars this vibrant. Not even when he was travelling among them, sailing on solar winds to far off worlds of great beauty and even greater danger, had he stopped to appreciate the wonders of the void.
Colonel Julius Sigurd had been amongst the stars for most of his adult life, but he had never paid them any mind. They were merely backdrops to the story of his life that were of no consequence to a guardsman whose very tomorrow was not guaranteed. There was always somewhere to go, something to do, but never time to just sit and take in the sea of lights beyond the portholes of the hulking ships he called home.
But now he had all the time in the world. Time to lay on his back and gaze at distant worlds for as long as he liked. Nowhere to go and only his own thoughts and the starry sky to keep him company. Reminders that each light represented a world where the men and women of the Imperium fought the good fight for the name of the Imperial Truth. They were the eyes of the Emperor looking down on him from on high to guide the people of the Imperium through their journeys in life.
How he had grown to hate them.
The stars had been mocking him ever since he had dug his way out of that trench all those weeks ago. They smirked down at him from the safety of a lifetime’s worth of distance that day. Safe and warm while he scrounged for scraps in the pockets of the dead. He remembered pulling himself from the earth and gasping for air, digging through loose dirt like a hellbent revenant. When he broke the surface he found himself in a silence more deafening than any tomb, the thick miasma of an abattoir choking him as he gasped for air.
He coughed dirt from his abused lungs as they slowly filled with the cool night air. Great gobs of muddy spittle ran down his chin as he struggled to his feet. It was a struggle to breathe, it was even a struggle to think as he looked up and down the trench line. Sigurd had to find the others. The Guard were millions strong, his own deployment a small city’s worth of men and women. They had to be somewhere, there was no way that he was alone on this rock. It took every ounce of energy he had, but he pushed himself along the earthen wall and began his search.
Every ounce of his training protested as he yelled into the still night. There had to be someone left on this planet, someone other than himself had to be alive. He could not be the only living soul left, there had to be someone, anyone. Soon he was sprinting down the trench, leaping over corpses and tumbling amidst broken weaponry. He ran until exhaustion set in, where he collapsed and sat with his head in his hands for a long time.
Finally he just collapsed to his back and let the starlight of the void wash over him. Here he would lay for all time, lost to the galaxy as just another statistic on an Emperor forsaken world that he did not even know the name of. He laughed to himself. A grim gallows guffaw that sounded more like choking than any expression of mirth. He thought of the Emperor. What good had he been to them? All around him lay the fruits of His labours. Good men turned into fuel for the Imperial war machine with blood soaked cogs spinning on as they lay face down in the muck.
The thoughts had him laughing for some unexplained reason. Grinning like a madman as he lay sinking in the mud until a cold sensation went down his spine. This was not the way to think about it. He was not pious by any stretch of the imagination, but he could not bring himself to continue this train of thought. Perhaps that had even been his problem, had he been a more pious person he might not be walking through this hellscape now. Maybe he just needed to trust in the Emperor and all would be well. That was the answer. Faith would get him through this trial. He just had to get back on his feet and keep moving.
Something squelched underhand as he pushed himself upright. He recoiled at the sensation, scrambling awkwardly to his feet. As his adrenaline drained from his body he noticed something he had completely overlooked before.
Slumped against the earthen wall of the trench was a man in once-white robes with a formerly brilliant golden aquila on his chest. A priest of the Ecclesiarchy lay before him, a gaping hole in his chest. Sigurd felt his resolve leave him just as quickly as the adrenaline as he slumped back down into the mud.
He now lay on his back as he had been for the past hour, or it could have been a day, he could not tell anymore. The night he found the dead holy man seemed like a lifetime ago. Now the stars winked down at him as the chill of the ground seeped into his bones. His mind drifted as he thought how somewhere out there amongst those millions of points of light, the Emperor lived on his golden throne on the holiest planet in the solar system. One thing was for certain: he sure as hell did not live here anymore.
About the Author
Jeff Blakeney, aka ‘Funkshire’, is here to see if his storytelling ability translates to the written word or if he’s doomed to forever be the weirdo keeping you awake around campfires with tales of doom, gloom, and a god that seems to enjoy watching him be awkward.