behold, come the horsemen

perhaps, when all is said and done, you will still call us monsters. perhaps not. but seeing that i am the final calamity, how shall you survive long enough to condemn me? 

“come!”

the living creature whose unfortunate destiny and purpose it was to call upon me bellowed from its perch. you would think that unlike my siblings who had the pleasure of resting in the highest of places, i would be dredged from the abyss. but i was not. i sat, comfortable as any of them, in a room of light and splendor. i listened to the eons roll by, feeling the ebb and flow of life and faith and hope and sorrow and blood and joy… and death. ah yes, of late there had been much to hear of death. so it wasn’t surprising when paradise ripped open before me and ushered me into the corporeal realm.

as i rose from my all-too-brief respite from the world of men, i beheld there all my siblings assembled. they seemed larger than i remembered, gripping tight the reins of their steads. ah, that was it. i held out my hand and uttered the incantation that saw my own mount materialise from the swirls of light beneath me. as she took corporeal form she whinnied, both happy for the reunion and hungry for a stray soul or two. this, of course, was the unfortunate final act of service of the living creature that had summoned me. after sucking its soul in greedily she whinnied again happily.

to my left, my sister on her bright red horse laughed a disconcerting laugh. “you spoil her, you know.”

i frowned. “it shouldn’t have called so loudly.” she gave another laugh.

for as long as i could remember – and that was a very long time – my elder sister had always been easily amused. she didn’t take anything seriously at all. but when i considered the state my poor brother on his black horse was always in, perhaps that was for the best.

for his part, famine sat perfectly still on his perfectly still stead, and i imagined that not even the air around him dared to move lest it be accused of avarice and greed. yes, famine approached his work with that brand of righteous indignation expressed only by the most zealous of zealots. and he regarded our  flippant sister now with what would have been a dangerous eye had she only a care in the universe to give about it. as our eldest sibling would say, famine had bought the company line and was now fastidiously trying to sell it to everyone else.

as for our eldest sibling – the self-proclaimed “most pied of pipers” – he sat bobbing his head merrily on his brilliant white horse. his crown sat high on his head and his bow was slung across and around his shoulders. as if he had finally noticed that the rest of us existed, he smiled a simultaneously lecherous and gleaming smile.

“the band’s all here!” he boomed in his honeysuckle way. “the band’s all here and it’s time for us to play a merry, merry tune.” he always sounded so melodic. it made sense, nobody would listen if his voice were as choked and unpleasant as famine’s.

as if to demonstrate the contrast, our local zealot cleared his throat in preparation for a tirade. “you dare make jokes while the world falls into sin and folly!”

… why are all family reunions the same?

“who do you think pushed it off the cliff?” right on cue my sister joined the eldest in raucous laughter. they really were very close, those two. his litany of scriptures falling upon alternately deaf and disinterested ears, my serious sibling fell into a brooding silence.

after a while we all sat in silence, though a smile laced my sister’s lips (the same red as her incongruous horse) and the most pied of pipers’ head resumed its merry bobbing. of course, famine brooded still and i sat impassively as i always did. soon our orders would come, and one by one we’d ride into the world. there would be lies, then wars, then hunger and finally there would be me.

i don’t understand why my elder siblings revel in their work. they make a game of seeing who can cause more chaos and destruction. lies and war, they go hand-in-hand. i’ve long suspected they may in fact be twins. perhaps it is a curiosity of their birth. but then again, they have been around longer than me so it’s not inconceivable that they know some great joke, some twist in the plot that i do not.

then there is famine, always righteous and always the most fervent of us all. he would starve the whole world of everything to turn Man back to paradise. would but if he could. he chooses to wear the whole world on his shoulders. but then again, after he’s starved it half to oblivion i suppose it won’t weight much at all.

and there is me. when i came into consciousness my siblings were all stood about me, anxious to see the final member of their little family. i am the final calamity, dragging hades in my wake. and all i have ever done is collect the souls my siblings left behind.

you may be wondering why i’m telling you all this.

i guess i just want someone to know that we’re not hollow beings, figments of a vicious imagination conjured forth without thought or consciousness. we are not skeletons riding vile and unnatural beasts, nor are we monsters come to steal you from your beds. we are a family. Deceit. War. Famine. they are my dearest heart.

i wonder if one day i will come for them, as i will one day come for you? and if i do, who then shall come for me?

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