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McKenzie's Beetle PDF Print E-mail
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Written by TheAdmiral   
Thursday, 01 January 2009

 McKenzie's Beetle

 

I look at all the lonely people, walking through the half-melted snow, trying to hide from the cold winter wind. If there is anything I want to tell you, it is that Altdorf is not a warm, happy place. It is cold, the weather is cold, but the people are colder. True, for the few wealthy people, merchants, generals, noblemen, it is good enough, but for us, for me, it is a place of sorrow. In these dirty streets, where only the beggars and grunts come, there has never been much hope or happiness, but in these months, there's none at all.

 

 

A man walks up to me, dressed in black robes with a brass twin-tailed comet hanging on a chain from his neck. His name is Father McKenzie. His face is a grimace of misery, he has carried the dead from their cold beds to their colder graves. Many souls are lost under Ulric's reign. Winter kills, and nowhere as much as in the dirty, left-behind alleys of Altdorf.

 

"Eleanor Rigby," He said, his eyes fixed on me, "I need your help at the chapel. There's been a wedding, I need you to clean up the mess they have left behind." He softened his voice, but there his undertone was depraved and by Sigmar, I know why. "It's dry in the chapel. Cold, but dry, you should be glad."

 

"Ofcourse Father." I said quietly as I tried to get up to my feet. I couldn't, I was shivering all over, my bones were aching, my muscles bloodless. He quickly helped my up. I mumbled a vague 'thank you', but I doubt he heard. I was unable to walk, but he grabbed my wrist and lugged me over the street. No one came near. Few people walked on the street, alley, at this hour and those who did minded their own business. I wish they didn't. The chapel was not far away. When I was a child, when my mother was still alive, I used to go to the place often. Indeed I still went their often, but now I abhorred the place. It had been a place of virtue and faith, but now it was a place of evil, if only for me.

 

Father McKenzie fastened his pace, I was dragged along with him. I stumbled and fell. I looked to the frozen sand pavement. Blood dripped down from my nose, forming a small pool, before the Father's hand grabbed my neck and pulled me up. A small beetle landed in the pool of blood and dirt, it was hungry. In that little beetle, the whole spirit of Altdorf was captured. A scavenger, thirsty for blood, but ultimately puny in the greater schemes of the world. No one else noticed, but I saw it and strange as it may seem, it lightened my heart. The Father forced me to walk on.

 

"Walk, whore." He hissed, his grip around my wrist tightening. I had trouble keeping up, but I couldn't escape. There would be no use anyway, I had nowhere to go. My father didn't know me, my mother was dead. If I had any brothers or sisters, they'd be dead by now. Of the rest of my family, I don't know. When I was young, I was happy. At least I think I was, I would be if I had lived through everything that has happened since my mother died. I don't remember a lot from my youth. We had a home, small, but a home nonetheless. Four walls, a bed and a stool. I had to sleep in my mother's bed, but it was big enough for the both of us. I do think I was happy. She worked, I never knew where, but she returned with some money every morning. Only later, when she had already been passed on to Mórr, did I realise what she had done for a living. Only then, too, did I realise why I did not have a father. From that point on, happiness turned into indifference, indifference turned into sorrow and sorrow turned into suffering. Father McKenzie dragged me along, there was little I could do.

 

We came to the gate of the small field in which the chapel laid. A large iron fence had been erected around the field, which had once been a field of green grass, but which was now no more than a field of dirt, frozen by Ulric's cold hammer. There were patches of grass, but they were like the palaces in Altdorf, beautiful but insignificant compared to the vast grey-brown masses of poverty. Gravestones had been placed all over the place, seemingly at random. Who knows who were buried underneath? The sad truth was no one did. These were the nameless dead, ones without relatives or friends. Without anyone who cared. All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? Too many were young women, but no one cared, few people even noticed. In truth, even I am no longer bothered by it. It has happened, and whatever happened to them, it will happen to me too. When I grow too old. Life's the only thing I have to lose, but if it isn't worth living, do I have anything to lose at all? This was not something to worry about, it would come sometime, such is Fate.

 

To my surprise, a man was standing in the graveyard, looking at one of the stones. It seemed impossible to me that anyone could know any of the dead here, but apparently he did. However, it was something else that caught my attention, he was wearing a uniform. This man was one of the State Troopers, rarely seen in this area of Altdorf. Furiously, McKenzie walked towards the man, pulling me along.

 

"What is this?! Get away from here! Do not dishonour Sigmar with your presence!" He shouted, spittle flying from his mouth, his face turning a cardinal shade of red. He took a small hammer, crafted in the image of holy Ghal-Maraz, from under his gown and waved it at the soldier, wielding it like a weapon. "Do not tread upon his holy ground, unless you come to bring an offer to him!"

 

The man looked surprised, shocked even, at the ferocity of the priest. His face showed many scars from battle, he'd have seen things more frightening than McKenzie, probably killed things stronger than him too. Oh, I wished he could see what suffering he had brought upon me, but he couldn't. No one ever saw. I was no more than a woman from the street to them, alone and drowning in poverty.

 

"I am sorry, father. Naturally I will bring an offer to our lord and protector. My name is Sergeant Pepper." He said, as he took a silver coin from his pouch. "Here, give this to poor, to the lonely hearts of Altdorf. Sigmar be with you." To my amazement, he bowed for McKenzie and turned around. He walked away hurriedly. I assume he suspected something, but no one ever helped. I glanced at the gravestone.

 

Jenne Rommenahl

 

2489 - 2515

 

I would have sighed, but McKenzie pulled me inside the chapel. It was small, there were only two rooms, a small one and a larger one. The small one was McKenzie's private quarters. The larger one was supposed to be open to the public for prayer, but few people ever came and those that did were treated with no more respect than the Sergeant. We went to his own room. Well, he went there and I was dragged along. Long ago I gave up resisting. It was no use. He threw me against the table, face down. He took a chandelier and hit me, hit me numb, helpless. What happened then was merely routine. He had done it many times. At first, I had screamed, screamed for help even though I knew it wouldn't come. It hurt, it hurt so much, but even that faded. The only thing that still hurt was that it had been no different twenty-five years ago, when my mother, Mórr protect her, had done the same thing. Time on time again. It hurt to know that she knew what it was like, it hurt to know that she would be crying should she know what was happening to her daughter. Long, long ago I gave up faith in the gods and never did I feel there was anyone who still put trust in them, in him, Holy Sigmar. I cried. A single, lukewarm tear rolled down my cheek. The blood in my mouth turned salt. There was a single, small window in the room, and I looked outside. There were people walking, stumbling outside through the gently falling snow. All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? A little beetle flew through the window and was never seen again.

 

***

 

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name

Nobody came

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave

No one was saved.

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 12 January 2009 )
 
Discuss (8 posts)
McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 06 2009 17:11
This thread discusses the Content article: McKenzie's Beetle

I wrote this piece for the Old World Chronicles Christmas Fluff-a-thon in a sudden burst of inspiration. It came third in that competition (just after winner Avaris and runner-up Schmeag), but nonetheless I like it.

Comments and Criticisms (especially the latter ) very welcome indeed. Enjoy!
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 11 2009 08:52
I can't say I liked the story, though that probably had little to do with the skill of the author. I would say though that they constant (though amusing) Beatles references jarred sharply with the otherwise harsh and souless story.

-Silent Requiem
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 11 2009 11:12
It reminded me of a grim version of 'The Little Match Girl' of Hans Christian Andersen. You've succeeded well in creating a dark and helpless atmosphere which is unsettling in a whole.
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 11 2009 14:25
Silent Requiem wrote:
I would say though that they constant (though amusing) Beatles references jarred sharply with the otherwise harsh and souless story.

Hmm, I wonder why you thought of the Beatles references as amusing. I don't think the song Eleanor Rigby was very amusing either, so I don't really see how it jarred sharply with the otherwise harsh and soulless story.

And yeah, liking is definitly a matter of taste, especially with stories like this. Surely not entertaining, but that was not what I was aiming for.

@Gisoreux,
Thanks for the comment and praise, both appreciated very much. Anything (paragraphs, phrases, words, anything) you didn't like though?
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 11 2009 15:59
I suppose I found them amusing because I thought them quite witty; the way that you wove a story from a very different context into a plausable WHFB story was clever.

Or perhaps because this is the same group that sang Yellow Submarine, and frankly, looked funny (as in, amusing). People of my generation generally don't take the Beatles very seriously, or find them to be a serious subject (any more than the Back Street Boys, or any other boy-band).

Regardless, witty seemed to clash with cringe-worthy desolation. Perhaps because humour is the antidote to hopelessness.

-Silent Requiem
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 11 2009 17:03
Sometimes your framing of words make clogged sentences (apparantely that's a fault of mine too).

Eg: True, for the few wealthy people, merchants, generals, noblemen, it is good enough, but for us, for me, it is a place of sorrow.

A huge density of commas.

Several typing mistakes:

who did minded
Ofcourse Father

But in general I don't have major problems with your text: it is short, to the point, just as a heavy story like these ought to be. It's nice capture of today's society set in a depraved part of a fantasy setting. You have a nice way of invoking empathy in the reader.
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Feb 12 2009 15:29
@Silent Requiem,
I wouldn't really have thought of the Beatles as "funny". I suppose it would be odd when you have such an image of them in your head.

@Gisoreux,
Agree on the commas and naturally on the typing mistakes. I should have paid a little more attention when it comes to the latter.
Re:McKenzie\'s Beetle Mar 07 2009 02:05
Hello good knights and damsels!

I gave this story a 4.5. On the one hand the obvious references to the Beatles songs and characters stopped me from fully immersing into the renaissance time and setting of the story. Yet, at the same time, they work very well to help me immediately identify with the characters due to having heard the songs before. This is a kind of fanfiction, isn't it?

I enjoyed the non-combat, 'everyday life in hell' theme of the story. We all game the battles and the wars, it's wonderful to have writers to show us visions of the rest of the Warhammer worlds, old and new. Reading 'McKenzie's Beetle' made the Warhammer world seem bigger, vaster, and more real. Every day millions of people live, suffer, and die without ever picking up a sword or casting a spell. Thanks to these tales, their stories are with us as well

----Sweet Saint Repanse smile on you!
---Gerard the Easterner


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