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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

This is just a little short story I wrote about the horrors of war. Not 40K related, so apologies if I'm not meant to post non-40K/warhammer stuff here. It is pretty grim though...

Dead Light

Night five in the halls of the museum. Smashed exhibits litter the floor, bullet riddled tapestries hang crookedly from the walls. The acres of glass roofing blown in by shells, the winds howling through the corridors. Everywhere you move, the ground crunches beneath you. Yesterday the enemy brought up heavy guns, tracked artillery to blast the museum into ruins. But the walls are too thick and ancient for that. So they blast the doors apart and squeeze their armoured decimators into the halls themselves.

Every hour we get pushed back further, out of the wings and outbuildings, retreating towards the centre, further back into history. The shattered frames of the tapestries lie about us, we use holy relics and grand marbles for barricades. Five days ago we were a battalion, now we are less than a company. All the officers are dead, most at their own hand, unable to bear the burden of command any longer. Broadcasts from home tell us we are doing heroes work. We tie up enemy resources, allowing our armies to fall back to more easily defensible positions. Already, we bear the highest honours our land has to offer. Meaningless medals from a land scarred by war, from the relentless bombing, from artillery and mortar.

We huddle behind our barricades, under the dead light of the flares, every man seeming like a pallid creature of the darkness, with lidless eyes and fixed stare. None of us know each others names, the forbidden topic. We are numbers, nothing more. The rigid rule of the army, never reveal your name, never get close to your comrades, never feel. I am 629011. I have no friends, none of us have friends here. Friendship is forbidden, punishable by death. The air is filled with the heavy drone of engines. At the other end of the vast hall, enemy troops form up behind their assault gun. Clad in dull grey, the light of the flares gives them the appearance of actors in a moving picture. Colour floods the landscape as weapons open fire, screaming death at us. We have no anti-tank ammunition left, nothing to stop their tracked boxes. The enemy does not yet realise this, they are cautious, believing our forces stronger than we truly are.

Night seven. We have been pushed back through halls, galleries and courtyards, ever retreating into the past. Some men take spears, swords, shields, arming themselves like warriors of old. I have had to shoot 562085. He was only a boy, probably no more than sixteen. Every man has his breaking point, he lasted much longer than anyone would have thought. It is probably better this way, not for him to be bayoneted by the advancing enemy or captured and beaten, raped, forced into labour. A quick death, the better for us all. We caught a sniper last night. We shot him down from the high vaulting, watched him fall to the marble floor, scattering broken glass and crumbled masonry with his impact. To the delight of my comrades, he survived the fall. In the hours before the attack, they tortured him mercilessly, stuffing his mouth with used bandages so his screams could not be heard. Should I have stopped them? Who is to say how many men he killed in his lonely profession. I did feel sympathy for him, no fighting man should die like that. 362198 and 674017 propped his body up on our barricade, taunting the enemy.

We are barely a platoon now, our ninth night in this sepulchre. Radio announcements said we would be rescued, that a massive armoured force was heading our way, crashing across the land to rescue the heroes who held the museum. Held? We retreat back, ever back. We have barely a few rounds of ammunition left, the men look like barbarians from our far past, wielding swords and shields, re-learning the lost arts of archery. 362198 and 674017 died screaming a short while ago as an incendiary bomb roasted them alive. Perhaps there is divine justice for the crimes we commit, perhaps it is just the harsh randomness of the battlefield. The men turn to me, as if I should lead them. I do not wish to lead. I have no desire to lead. They expect a miracle and I have nothing to offer. Even in my glory days, I was never a great commander. A murderer, a despoiler, a destroyer. I did not command, I steered a band of thugs and mercenaries across the land. How fitting that my days should end in this place devoted to war and killing. The irony too obvious, too neat. Maybe those above had a hand in things, fixing situations that I should end up here.

The enemy taunts us. They yell from their positions “Come! Come! We have hot soup! Come, we mean you no harm! We have blankets!”. The men reply with insults and spittle. The wind blows the smells of food through the halls, our parched mouths salivating, our empty stomachs clenching at the thought. Any food we hoarded is gone and we are faced with harsh choices. We can starve or we can step back into savagery. Men contemplate silently, sure of their death, but unwilling to die from starvation. The decision is made. We eat our dead.

The darkness of the tenth night, broken by the white radiance of the hanging parachute flares. None of the men look at each other now, we are spectres, ghouls, feasting on the bodies of the fallen. Each man takes his portion away, eating alone. What thoughts go through their minds? The meat is grey under the flarelight. A grey slab, inoffensive, innocent. The enemy sends a messenger, flying the red pennant of peace. Healthy, well fed, clean uniform, smelling of tea, ham and smoke. The men hack him apart with axes and scythes, provoking strangled yells and a barrage of fire from the enemy lines. For men who have descended as far as us, there are no more rules to be broken.

We are in our final redoubt now. A last cellar. Slit windows, bereft of glass look out over a vast courtyard of atomised brick. Dust swirls, paper flutters, the flares fall constantly now. Every five minutes their mortars fire another round. None of us have slept for days, we can no longer even bear to eat our dead. 668956 whimpers in the corner, his face a pulverised ruin. Sounds bubble up from what was his mouth. None of us have the energy to put him out of his misery, yet the smell from his festering wounds drives us to distraction. The green and blue flag of the enemy now flies over the museum. From our cellar, we can see it fluttering over the shattered spars of the museum dome. We can hear the booming of explosives as troops draw nearer, blowing up rooms as they pass. An end to this battle must come soon.

668956 died in the night, a blackened husk, no longer recognisable as a man. I cease to have any interest in time, I no longer remember how long we have struggled here. 301275 and 164120 stabbed each other at dawn, mutual suicide, the final solution. Only 995387 and I are left and the enemy is closing in. From our windows, we can see a ragged line of troops advancing across the brick dust, armoured shapes lurking behind them.

“Why do we persist?” The voice startled me more than any shellburst. Hollow, quiet. 995387 levered himself up and extended his hand towards me. I stared down at it, callused and covered with dust. “Why do we persist with charade? We are men, not automatons. If we are to die, let us die as brothers, not as soulless shells.” He extended his hand still further, “Merrick.” He said. His young face, almost pleading, emaciated and lined, impregnated with dust, a shade of a once great army. I clasped his hand. “Strecker.” In the end, I could hardly say my own name, so inured was I with the discipline and law of the army.

We stood like this for many moments, as the orders of the troops outside filtered down into our little space. Our guns were long gone, our uniforms in tatters, our strength sapped. We took up clubs of splintered wood and went out to meet the barbarians.
 

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Wow that story was amazing. Very well written, especially in the way that it captures the hopelessness of the situation, absolutley incredible work.
 

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Very, very well done. That was a brilliant story are you writing any more?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the positive feedback.

I just write stuff for my own amusement, so I've got a few bits and pieces hanging around, but I'm not sure if any of them are in a fit state for public consumption!

Must get round to finishing them off.

Cheers
Malc
 

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I'm the same, I have a story in the works but it's progressing slowly. Self criticism can be an ugly thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yep. Your harshest critic is yourself. I always tend to get two thirds of the way through a story and lose momentum slightly, even with a fairly tightly defined plotline. I really will need to get round to finishing stuff like 'Last Train To Rockaway Beach', 'The Not Invented Here Syndrome', 'The October Revolution As A Four Day Train Journey' and other pieces of tosh!

Cheers
Malc
 

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If i lose steam i stop and do something else until a new idea comes to mind then i write it down. Then when it's finished i read it about 6 times to make sure it all makes sense then i post it and watch the criticism roll in :p
 
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