We knew it was coming.
Even if you hadn’t heard it from a colleague at the fabrica, or caught a whisper of it on the public riser-cars, or seen graffiti daubed on some hab stairwell being burned-off by the Vigiles, you knew it was coming. You know something was coming.
The holo-networks had been different for weeks, Ecclesiarchy programs ran from power-up to power-down on some channels. Others just ran war-vids, real or fictional, a endless low-res procession of Imperial victories and crushing might. The Arbites were everywhere, stopping crawl-cabs and kicking down doors, demanding names and serial numbers, stopping and searching.
All this might have been overlooked, I suppose; it had been no different the time the old Lord Governor had died, and the Public Mourning Decrees were in full swing. The Arbites were everywhere for months that time, and they were everywhere this time, too. Like I say, no different. But the Navy never turned up when the Governor died, did they? Well, they did this time. Just kind of arrived, with no announcements or ceremony or visits or marches. Just sat there, in high orbit, everyone pretending they weren’t there, weren’t watching us. Word was they had brought other ships with them. Dark ships, if you know what I mean. You knew something was coming, alright.
“Don’t look,” they said. “Just don’t look, and it will be ok.” But we had to look. And we knew it wouldn’t be ok. It would never be ok again. Everyone knew that, but no-one would say it.
So the day approached, and somehow you knew what day it was going to be, despite no-one ever actually telling you. Somehow, the date just kind of got around, like the flu, passed from person to person without anyone really doing anything. Maybe we just didn’t mention the date at all, and that was how we knew. It was the date no-one would talk about. It was the date no-one would schedule anything for, or meet anyone on. It was the date people wanted to forget before it had even happened.
And so the holo-networks kept up their diet of plastic happiness and military awe and iron faith in the Emperor, and then the day came.
I went to work as usual. I remember thinking it was funny; no-one stayed away from the fabrica that day, not one person. Even Tarn Coilette, the guy with the dodgy sus-heart, came in, and just sat at his bench wheezing. No-one wanted to be remembered as having stayed at home that day, as having stayed away from their fellow men. Why did you stay at home? What did you do? Did anyone else join you there? Give us their names? Sign this confession. We all knew that, if the crackdown had been bad before that day, it was going to be ten times worse after, and the people up in those ships I mentioned, they wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. They were famous for it.
So the fabrica was full, and everyone was working away, and the Supervisors were shouting and joking like it was any other day, although the shouting was a bit quieter and the jokes a bit louder, just like they were doing across the whole city, I guess. And then it happened.
We were indoors, but even so, we felt it. We all did. I know you did, despite what you say. It was like that feeling you get when you wake up in the middle of the night, and it’s dark and quiet and you’re warm and comfortable and you’re falling back asleep, and then you hear the sound that woke you up in the first place. You hear it properly this time. And you’re not warm or tired any more. And your heart is thumping, even though it’s just a sound, and it probably doesn’t mean anything. It’s probably just the pipes, and the kids are safe in bed. But your heart is still hammering a different beat. That feeling, and we all got it at once, as if we had all been asleep, and we’d all just got a knock on the door at three am.
We all stopped working, and we went to the tall windows. Not a view I’ll forget. Usually we can just see other fabrica towers crowded around, big, solid, and featureless. Faceless. But not that day. Every window in every one of them was filled with people, workers standing there, just like all of us. Looking at each other, but mostly looking up.
Light travels slowly in a galaxy this big. Light dawdles, while the ships of the fleets dance from star to star, winking here and there like flashbugs in the night. So we knew what was coming, long before the light got here. Thousands of years before the light got here, if truth be told. And it was a day for telling truth. Cold, horrible truths we’d rather not be told.
We looked up and saw it in the gloom of the evening sky, almost invisible at first, slowly forming, but getting brighter and brighter, and also somehow darker and darker. A stain, seeping out into the night, one that could never be removed. Seeping into the night? Worse. Seeping into us, too. That feeling? That feeling never went away after that day, it’s still with us all now, an ashen cloak of dread no-one can take off. Even in the brightest daylight we can feel it there, above our heads, watching us. Ever since that day the slow light of an historic horror finally reached our home world.
The day we saw the Eye of Terror open.
And that was the ultimate test. When we saw the very sky torn apart we all knew it was now. But I knew what I had to do. It was duty. We all stood and watched but we knew it was our duty not to fall down and cry. It was our duty to our families, to the God-Emperor and to ourselves. That is what duty is. But what choice did we have. For we were being watched by the darkest men of the Imperium. They were ready to bring hell to any who forgot his duty.
1039 excluding title.
Last edited by Romero's Own; 07-10-12 at 03:22 PM.