No Hope

“Hey, did anyone hear back about Xaphan the Faceless?”

There was a long pause in the Shoutbox. Shadowhawk asked why.

I pointed out that the cover art for Treacheries of the Space Marines used the same art that was mentioned during the re-opened submission window. And the book was due in a mere four months, suggesting they likely found someone with promise. I knew it couldn’t be me, so I hoped it was at least one of us.

Then Narry dropped the bomb. There were no guarantees that they picked anyone from their submissions. One of the reasons they’re called submission windows and not competitions is because there are no guaranteed winners.

In the grim future, not everyone survives.

I decided, after hearing this, to go ahead and restart my final Black Library submission. I dug up an old interview with Laurie Goulding and read it over a few times. 500 to 1000 words. Forget plot, just prose. My current piece was plot oriented. But guys like Goulding wanted to see if I really got the Imperium.

I’m sighing as I type and think about this. How many times have I really ever taken the submission window very seriously? Once or twice perhaps. First, there was my one and only novel submission. Then there was the Xaphan story. And I took both fairly seriously. I edited, I thought it out. I tried plots that were stronger than I was used to writing.

Leaving a few extra hours for the time zone difference, I have two days.

It sucks, because everytime I sit down to write, I get stuck. This never happens with my original fiction, during which time I’m already charged and ready to go and just hit the page typing. And it’s not writer’s block. I can see the goddamn image in my mind.

I see the worlds of the Imperium. With their vast structures and arches that reach for the skies. The double headed eagle flutters on flags and banners that hang from every parapet. Carvings of skulls embedded in nooks along the walls, each etched with names of hundreds of menials who had somehow distinguished themselves, followed by the old axioms of Imperial truth. Mere hundreds, out ofbillionswho had given their lives away to be cogs of flesh, powering the grand war engine.

The tired masses, willfully slaving away at the assembly belts, as servitors march up and down the ranks to collect the occasional dud bolter round in a protective bin. Vox caster servo-skulls hover and bob in the air, broadcasting the occasional reminder that every menial owes not only their life to the Emperor, but their death as well.

A woman pauses to rub the sweat from her brow with fatless, boney fingers. The sweat stings her eyes horribly as it mingles with the light chemical clouds that permeate the air. There are no vents in the room, while the worst of the toxins are belched from towering stacks, dumped upon the atmosphere of a dying world overrun by humanity.

All of this. All of this to feed the war machine. The machine that powers the Eternal War. To turn every battle into a charnel house. To manufacture death for the sake of this shadow of life. Not one individual, not even billions, mean anything before the needs of the Imperium.

To save humanity, our humanity must be denied.

Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is a virtue. To know this life and no other. To not dream beyond one’s station. To know this cruelty and misery is the greatest achievement of these toiling masses who are ground to the bone.

“Forward!” Their masters scream. They must give everything they have. If they have children, they must be marshalled and marched, gun in hand, to die so that the Imperium can go on for just one more day. A precious few shall even become Space Marines, and masters of death they shall be.

And when they are spent, when they have nothing, when they are nothing, they can still pay back their endless blood debt to Him on Terra with the coin of their death.

But somehow, just sit down to write that idea out and… the hammer goes click instead of bang.

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