The Horsemen

There was a brief moment of awkward silence and a third voice, feminine, murmured “You idiot…” and trailed off mumbling to herself.
”Car crashes!” exclaimed a large man with a joyful gleam in his eyes. They were brown, almost reddish, in color and seemed to sparkle all on their own. “Car crashes? How do you figure…?” responded a thin and quite feline man. “Well… In the current sociopolitical climate the horrors of industrial scale war is unlikely, and you did say in this part of the world. And even with the advent of several safety gadgets… ” the last word was sneered at “human readily place themselves in harm’s way by driving around in heavy SUVs and riding motorbikes.”
“What?!” said the large man.
With a little more heat than necessary the feminine voice responded: “You are an idiot for thinking that. Car crashes are pointless bashing of metals and plastics, but it’s hardly malignant in nature. Not only are they the safest form of transportation. It completely lacks the scale and carnage of total War, even during its peak it would mean nothing. Famine is an ever present and gnawing pain to the population. Conquest implies the greed and need for power at all costs. Are you a complete…” but she was cut off by the thin man bursting out: “World of Warcraft!”
After a brief moment he corrected himself with “No wait… The internet!” and beamed at her, his colorless eyes slightly unfocused. Her face was contorted is disbelief. With almost palpable distaste she responded “World of Warcraft?”. Anyone listening in would have been impressed by the amount of sheer venom that coated every syllable. It could have left drip marks. Or, more likely, splashes.
“Yes. Hunger on a historical scale is unlikely in the western world. So I thought about what a more indirect, even unseen, harbinger could be. It should spread indifference, waste time and waste resources, just to mention some relevant criteria”. He sipped from his teacup looking expectantly at the other two and was rewarded with a look of amusement from the big man and a huff of annoyance from the woman. She had shining green eyes.
“Initially I thought obesity, but it didn’t really seem to have the scale to me. I mean sure… many people would disagree with me”, the woman snorted at him but did not interrupt, “but the scale of it is limited and people are aware of it. Even if they don’t do anything to actively stop it. But the Internet traps people with inane conversations, empty gaming experiences, lolcats and loads of absurd and ridicules video clips. Although I’m not entirely certain what a lolcat is…”. He looked briefly confused, and then rallied quickly: “Thousands of hours of work are lost every day and mankind remains thoroughly distracted from the world. Just look at the effects of Farmville…” The incomplete sentence seemed to hang there, begging for attention.
For a second nobody spoke. Only the tumble and racket of urban living was audible. Then the big man slapped the thin man on his shoulder and laughed with a deep basso voice and said “Good one thin man!”. The thin man winced, yet smiled broadly.
“I see your point. And it makes me cringe!” responded the woman sipping at her Chai tea. She preferred wine, but it was early in the day and she wanted to be clear headed. After all, there was no need to be completely hammered on the last day of everything. There was professional pride after all, even in this day and age.
While all this was going on a fourth person was sitting, listening to the debate, occasionally nodding or shaking its head to each of their points. The fourth had heard them before, only the titles and arguments had been adjusted to whatever period, region and time they had been in. There was a gesture and a waiter appeared at the fourth side. There was a whisper of something into the young man’s ear. He disappeared for a minute and came back with a tray of glasses with ice cubes, a pitcher of lemonade and some biscuits. He disappeared back into the café.
The fourth surveyed the scene. It was early in the day, hot and sunny and noisy. Madrid was like that.  The leftovers from breakfast still littered the small café table. Most plates were empty, except the one by the thin man. It looked as if he had used his food as Legos. A small house made of waffles, toothpicks and cutlery had been constructed there. He rarely seemed to touch his food. Not that he needed it really. None of them did.
They looked… good. Or at least they choose to look good. How long had it been? Not that it made any sense to contemplate it. Time after all didn’t mean anything to them. It couldn’t. He appeared to be a thin young man with very light, if somewhat sunken, skin. He had dreadlocks and wore dark baggy jeans with a dark loose t-shirt with a quote An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching stitched across his chest. Very much the American college student look.
To his left sat the big man. He was big, muscled and had a furrow of shoulder length brown hair. The word big didn’t really convey his actual size. His passport listed him as being 5 foot 11 inches tall, which is taller than the average European. But to people around him, he was always perceived as taller. Even 7 foot tall basketball players seemed to be looking at his chest when meeting him. He wore a red linen shirt with the top and bottom buttons open and white linen pants and open toe sandals. Printed on the upper left side of the shirt was a quote. It read: When will mankind be convinced and agree to settle their difficulties by arbitration? His entire look read health obsessed hippy, perhaps if he hadn’t been so big it would have made more sense.
Opposite of him sat the woman looking annoyed, her green eyes narrowed at the thin man. She was pretty, not gorgeous but definitely worth an extra look. Mid forties and dressed in her white business suit, high heels and with a briefcase leaning towards the table. On her shirt collar she wore a broche of matted silver with the words Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from mealong the edge and a picture of young women in the center. She had the air of a business executive and practically oozed CEO to the world.
On the fourth chair sat the final member. Observing quietly. He glanced to the left into the window of the bistro. It noted …. other things. The person in the reflection looked odd. It´s clothes are simple enough to describe. A meticulously tailored pale suit adorned the body, a cane made from some kind of exotic light wood with a silver knob leaned to the side of the chair and clear brilliant blue eyes were looking back. On the right hand was a silver bracelet with a small delicate plate reading “There is no Justice, just me”. It was its favorite quote. Everything else, gender, facial features, build, hair color, etc were inaccessible. Invisible to everyone, except the people sitting at the table.
After a minute or so the fourth said “Its time. Let’s get on with it” and the four people paid for their breakfast and began walking towards the riverside. Just as they rounded a corner the woman commented “Obesity! It’s potentially a far greater killer by scale than car crashes or the internet…”. The voice trailed off just as thunder began to rumble in the distance.
A few minutes passed quietly as the sky darkened and rain started pattering the ground.
Quietly the young waiter came out and collected the plates and glasses, wiped down the table and arranged the chairs neatly and picked up the cash left for him. An embossed business card lay between the notes. He hurried out of the rain, went inside and retreated to the back room to study the card. It was white, thick and read “Endings, Inc” and flaunted a similarly phrased web address underneath. Flipping it over, he found a handwritten note. It had just two words. “It’s time”. He blinked a few times, read it again, sniffed and then tucked it into his back pocket, took off his apron and went out the back. Outside he sniffed the air and a small smile curved his lips. The surprise vanished from his features. It really was time. The last rider could finally come forth.
At last; Chaos would ride!
The End
Authors note:
Hey lucky (or unlucky) reader. I hope you enjoyed the story. This short story is based on a conversation I had with a close personal friend about what the modern horsemen of the apocalypse could be, taking into consideration what the major themes of western society today. Hopefully this will end up as part of a collection of short stories, currently a work-in-progress (ie. unfinished), reimagining the bible myths with a more crooked view.
Next post will be up soon.

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