It Could Be Worse

By Cameron Flynn

The pandemic had dragged on for a weeks.

I didn’t know how many weeks it had been since I stepped out of my high school for the last time, or how long I have been keeping up with my classes through Discord and Zoom. My internal clock was completely shattered by this point, broken in ways still not completely fixed to this day. The death toll grew day after day, the world ground to a halt in every aspect, and all I could do was watch from the prison complex that had until recently been simply my home. On top of that, I was struck with a different malaise than the one that was blighting the planet, one that threatened to strike me down and break my spirit in ways I had never known were possible. Boredom. I needed to do something, but I had nowhere to go. I needed to read something, but I had burned through every book that adorned my bookshelf. I needed to watch something, and in my darkest hour, a memory resurfaced that would soon lead to my salvation.

A few months prior to lockdown, I was scrolling through YouTube when I had an idea. I had always heard the name Warhammer 40k but had no idea what it was. After looking at some pictures online and seeing the absolutely ostentatious artwork, I figured that this franchise must have lore. What I was met with was a primer video that was over an hour and a half long, and while I was impressed by the scale of this setting, I knew that I simply would not have the time to sink into this during my final year of high school. Well, a few months had passed, and I had all the time in the world. What struck me from the beginning about this franchise was that, quite frankly, everyone in this setting was way worse off than I was. Humanity had given into its worst base impulses and was constantly warring with a galaxy that wanted nothing more than to destroy everything and everyone that inhabited it. It was a world that was dark, depressing, cold, uncaring, and thrived off of the hopelessness felt in all the characters to varying degrees.

In short, it was absolutely perfect, and I fell in love instantly.

Ironically, the perfect escape from watching everything fall apart was learning about a setting where far worse had happened on a galactic scale. Reading about genetically modified super soldiers fighting the forces of space hell, or seeing how multiple star-faring civilizations actually have no idea how their technology works, or bureaucratic errors accidently causing planets to be destroyed form orbit by the forces that should be protecting them, everything was so over the top and insanely destructive that I couldn’t help but see my situation as not being so bad by comparison. Eventually, lockdown restrictions were slowly loosened, yet the universe of Warhammer 40k somehow only got worse with each new plot development.

It’s strange how escapism works in times of chaos. Ironically, I was saved from the darkest period I have ever known by stories from a far-off future that was infinitely worse. I guess it helps to know that no matter how bad things are in their lives, we can take solace in the fact that it could always be worse.