The vox recorder had taken a beating over the years, but so had Inquisitor Corrodus. He had to bang the thing against the side table to get its internals to sputter to life. ‘Speak into the device as best you can.’
The unsteady figure before him tried to rise from the bed. Struggled. Fell back. Ragged thick slow breaths.
‘We named her… Mika. After the… Mika Blossom.’ He spoke unbearably slow.
‘The Mournful. Focus your attention there.’
The shipman rambled, lost in his fading memories. Almost always finding some story about his daughter and the life he’d hoped to provide. Keeping him on track was difficult for an Inquisitor used to commanding attention.
‘The bunks smelled of rot and mildew. No matter how hard we scrubbed the stench remained.’ He coughed, lungs sloshing with fluid. Based on the speckles on his nightgown, it was blood. ‘We were understaffed. The ship was a carcass… our Navigator was decrepit, pushing four hundred. Age diminished him but he refused to retire… Cap’n got him dirt cheap.’
The man drifted off. The flowers. His daughter. The death of his wife. Corrodus let his own attention wane. Thoughts of his own distant family invaded. He’d noticed as he’d grown older, he would focus on what he’d lost, what he’d chosen to lose. It was unsettling.
Corrodus snapped back when he realized the man had found a useful topic again.
‘…Warp, it gives the air a taste of salt n’ rotten eggs. Could feel my insides buzz. Ship went dark. I stumbled to the bridge. The engineer was at his station… He said everything was stable but a moment later the gravity gave and we were slammed into the ceiling, then back to the deck. I woke to the garbled moans of the engineer.
Something that- it resembled an eel, crawling out his mouth. I never… I don’t have the words for what it was doing to him.
Writhing under his uniform. Under his skin. It was in him, part o’ him. His eyes screamed in the way his mouth couldn’t. The cap’n emptied his snub pistol in him, he collapsed, dead and thankful. The thing continued to rip an’ rend itself free… I bludgeoned it to death with my boot heel. Its skin was soft and weak like a newborn’s.’
Corrodus knew The Warp well. The death that lived within. He’d spent his life, maybe poorly spent, documenting it.
‘Our gellar field had just… wobbled… for an instant. The worst part? We had three months of travel left. I don’t think I can describe the terror of traveling that long, knowing at any moment your field can collapse.’
‘Why not just drop into real space?’
‘Lost in the void, starvation, cannibalism… Maybe it would have been better… When we came into orbit it took almost a full day for the defense hierarchy to find mention o’ The Mournful. We’d been buried deep in the cogitator files. Listed as a lost ship… five thousand years prior… When our gellar field collapsed we were pushed… spat out half a millennia too far. I thought of Mika. We named her after the Mika Blossom. Did I already say that?’
‘Ya ever seen one?’
‘No I haven’t.’
‘Now ya can’t. They’re extinct on this rockcrete thing that used to be my home.’
A man, five thousand years out of time. Corrudus couldn’t help but feel a little envy, not for the shipman specifically, but he did wish he could hop and skip over the centuries. If you could harness what the Mournful did by mistake, you could enact plans on a truly universal scale. Set a scheme in action and jump ten, twenty years down the road to see it completed. Train an army and travel to a time when all your recruits are veterans. Limitless possibilities.
And if you could move the other direction? Corrudus thought. If you could travel backwards… turn it all down. Stay with her and– Oh. The old man was still talking.
‘We were so happy to get out o’ that fucking monster. We weren’t more than ten feet down the ramp when the Navigator gargled. His third eye, that navigator eye of his, was bleeding, I watched it pop like a lanced boil. His skin blackened, bubbled, split. Blood, pus and- he vomited a mass of something. Died right there on the gangway.’
Others followed. One deckhand’s bones became so brittle his legs snapped in half while walking. Another gnarled with arthritis, threw himself from a window to escape the pain. One by one. Seizures, tumors, deaths. Until only this man remained.
The man’s face was wet. Tears. ‘I’m older than my grandfather when he died. I can hardly breathe. I’m wasting away. My vision is nearly gone. Every time I fall asleep I assume it’s my end. And I’m only eighteen… I’m only eighteen.’
Corrudus gathered his tools. He had what he needed. It wasn’t a new phenomenon, rare but not unique. Until now no one had survived long enough to record the violent decompression when the aether of two timelines collapsed into one another. His notes on the gellar field wobble are most useful. Corrudus reached for his vox recorder.
‘I have more to say.’
The old Inquisitor wasn’t sure why, but he nodded for the shipman to continue.
‘The universe blinked. I lost a lifetime. Mika, even- even the flower she’s named after is dead and gone. Now the only place she’ll exist is here. On this recording. Please. Just remember her. We named her Mika. After the Mika Blossom.’
Corrudus felt for him, but he knew no one would ever listen to this again.
The Apothecary would later deliver the man to the Emperor’s embrace. His body was rendered down to fat and added to the hive city’s food stores.
About the Author
Noah Miller is a writer/director/animator from Los Angeles, CA. You can see more of work, on www.theopposition.party including the short film, Alien: Alone from the 40th Anniversary Alien Celebration.