13

You were the only one who saw them. The Four Horsemen arrived early in the morning, as you were walking towards the Library. You had expected them to ride in unison, all together, but the reality was different. They were not very well coordinated, and they seemed to be having an argument. Death and War were riding in front, Death trying to reason with War, who seemed quite angry – probably because it had lost the presidential primary, but War always looks angry, so you never know -, while Famine followed right behind them. Pestilence didn’t seem to be able to catch up.

They stopped next to you, not because they had acknowledged your presence, just because it was more convenient for an argument. It soon started to rain blood from the skies. Animal corpses started to fly down from the sky. You managed to cover yourself with some magic. Pestilence was the only one that saw you.

“Hey…” it greeted.

“Hello?” you answered, quite unsure of what to do. “Hrm… may… may I help you?”

“Is this Fiery Creek?” it asked.

“Yes, sir, this is Fiery Creek”.

“Thank you, but, actually, don’t call me sir. None of us have a gender. I mean, I know, right? The word says ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. But we are supernatural creatures. We have no gender, so, please, don’t assume that we are men”.

“Sorry…?”

“It’s OK, I wasn’t trying to guilt-trip you. It’s been quite a bad ride. War said it knew the way and got lost. Of course, Death and War are in good shape, and Famine is still quite OK, so it was not a big deal for them. But the detour was quite bad for me. I’m not in shape anymore, those antibiotics have had quite a bad effect… I mean, I can still hold onto things like HIV… And Mycobacterium tuberculosis, my baby… Tuberculosis has never failed me, either…” it explained.

“That’s grim” you stated, in a very matter-of-fact way.

“Well, it’s my lifestyle, OK? I need to live somehow, and my experience in disease seems to be quite irrelevant for an accounting job!” tears started to roll down its eyes.

“I’m so sorry. What happened?” you asked, as you brought out a tissue from your backpack.

It used the tissue to bring out a disgusting dark goo from its nostrils. Was that supposed to be snot? You preferred not to look at it. When it gave the tissue back, you just burnt it. He started to talk. “So, a few years ago I saw that the time had come for a change of jobs. HIV had been my last success, and in the last 20 years nothing had panned out. It was time to transition into a normal job. I was thinking about my future, and I realized that I was decidedly good at crunching numbers, so I wanted to go for an accounting job. But I do not have any relevant qualifications, never went to college, and apparently being the Horseman of Pestilence for hundreds of thousands of years does not count as relevant experience. They all dismissed me, and the only ones who thought about having me just wanted me for my title of Horseman of Pestilence, not my abilities… I feel so… Objectified…”

You sighed. You had had similar experiences. “I understand. It’s very hard”.

“No, don’t give me that. You think you can understand, but…”

“Well, I’m a woman” you interrupted. “So, yes, I’ve had it quite hard, too”.

“Oh. Sorry”.

“It’s OK. Anyway, what business brings you here?” you changed the topic.

“Apocalypse. It’s scheduled for October this year, but the Town Council of this town would like us to put it back to November, because of some literary event that is happening in October”.

“I think I’ve heard something, yes”.

PESTILENCE!” War shouted.

“Ah!” Pestilence screamed. “Sorry, I need to go!”

You saw them. War was bossing Pestilence around, bitching about everything that Pestilence did, guilt-tripping Pestilence for its mistakes. Famine seemed relieved that it was not the one receiving that treatment, and Death did not seem to like the situation, but it said nothing. In fact, at one point, a couple of German children approached, and Death left with them, claiming that it had to tend to its babies. When Death was not around, War became even more aggressive with Pestilence. You couldn’t stand that situation.

“War, leave Pestilence be!” you shouted.

War completely ignored you. You tried calling his attention through several methods, even getting in the way between War and Pestilence. War just shoved you aside and continued belittling Pestilence. You looked at War’s horse.

“Are you even a real horse?”

“No, this is just a construct built for the human mind to understand this form better. I am just part of War” the horse answered in a monotonous, machine-like voice.

“Oh, OK then”.

You brought out your own machete and spoke a few spells. You then cut through the horse’s neck, sending the head flying a few metres back.

“I suppose this was to be expected” the horse’s head said, lying in the bloody mud – remember, it was still raining blood.

War looked at you. “Who dares…?”

“Anne Black” you responded, bravely.

“Sun Burn? What kind of name is that?” he scorned.

“Are you deaf? I’ve said Anne Black!” you yelled.

“I think she means San Barn” Famine tried to clarify.

“No! You’ve also got it wrong! Why can’t anybody remember my name properly?”

War interrupted. “Well, I don’t care about whatever nonsense name you have. I suggest you have a good explanation for what you’ve just done to my horse!”

War had a very imposing figure up on his horse. It was using that vantage point to scare you, and you knew. You went to him and grabbed him down to the floor. “What a bitch!” it shouted. “You dare throw me from my own horse!”

It didn’t look all that powerful now. War was, in fact, shorter than you were, and you stood 5 centimetres taller than it in your 170cm. War also seemed to notice the height difference, and seemed a bit taken aback. It tried to mount its horse again, but you stopped it before it could go up. You got serious.

“Look, I don’t like how you treat Pestilence. You are constantly asserting your dominance by being aggressive and picking on him. But you and I both know why you do that. You want to hide your insecurities. That’s why you are always mounted on your horse, isn’t it? Because when you unmount, you are absolutely nothing. Nobody is afraid a midget like you. Of course, this would lead you to go to an election to assert your ‘power and virility‘, but you lost the primaries against a dipshit that terrorizes humans in their dreams. What a humiliation. That’s the reason why you treat everyone like shit. Because you are the one who is actually shit”.

By the time you had finished your speech, War was crying. Death came back and was confused to see the whole situation. “What’s…?”

“You shut up! You let War behave like an asshole! You should be ashamed!”

“I don’t know who you are, but you shouldn’t speak to us like that” Death spoke softly, bringing out a scythe, menacingly.

You looked at it. You didn’t need a spell. Death looked at its scythe, and then back at you. It understood. “I think I know who you are now…” it said, hiding the weapon. “You have a gift to escape me. Doris Waters’ house, the Registry of Lost and Found, the Library City, the Farmer’s Market last week, and now this… I don’t know why, but I have the feeling that we will see each other soon” Death said, in a calm tone that denoted a lot more than it was actually saying. “Come on, let’s go” it ordered the other Horsemen.

While the others saddled up, Pestilence approached you. “You are so courageous, thank you for your help. Here, take this as a token of thanks”. It gave you a small blue orb.

“What is it?” you asked.

“A super-deadly virus that I have engineered. It’s not very effective as a pandemic, because it kills its host too quickly, but it’s good to provoke some insta-kill if you are in a pinch”.

“Oh, thank you” you said, holding the orb carefully. You were afraid of breaking it.

“Now I guess we have to negotiate with the Council. Take care, Anne” it said, as it saddled up.

“You too, take care” you answered, as you saw them ride.

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