The Fifth Horseman
By: James Rumpel

Five thrones formed a circle around a blazing fire, the flames providing the only light in the ancient chamber. Shadows randomly danced on the walls.

Five figures occupied the thrones; each staring intently into the inferno, watching, waiting. They had sat here looking into the fire for centuries. They intently watched as the flames revealed the relevant truth to each.

The first throne was cracked and dilapidated. It crumbled slightly with each movement of its occupant. Debris, minuscule pieces of stone and dust, was scattered about its base. The man positioned on this decaying chair appeared to be in a similar state. He was thin and pale. His skin was covered with blotches and oozing sores. His dim eyes intently gazed into the fire. What Pestilence saw within the twisting flames was a world plagued by disease and suffering. Millions of people dying from cancer and other illnesses. A planet slowly eroded by neglect and misuse. Pestilence flashed a nearly unperceivable smile.

The second throne was little more than a stool. It was constructed of dry cracked wood. The seat did not appear to be able to hold the weight on its gaunt, emaciated user, yet somehow it did. Famine nodded his head slowly as he used the blaze to look upon the world. He saw countries ensnared by the grip of starvation. He observed acres and acres of land no longer able to produce sufficient crops. Families in affluent lands went hungry while their neighbors wasted excessive amounts of food.

The third throne was constructed of bones. It was ornately decorated with human skulls. Death sat upon this grotesque chair. He wore a black tunic which served to emphasize how white and lifeless his flesh was. His deep ebony eyes gazed at the tale told by the flickering flames. He watched more than one hundred fifty thousand deaths each day. He watched accidents, suicides, illness, and murder. Knowingly, Death turned to look at the next throne.

The fourth throne was that of War. This seat was made of steel and stone. It was strong and menacing. An enormous, bloody broadsword leaned against its side. War was a man who could easily wield such a weapon. He possessed massive, broad shoulders and tree trunk sized legs. His bearded face was covered with hideous scars. When war looked upon the Earth, he saw countless battles. He observed terrorist attacks and revolutions. As the undeniable leader of the Horsemen, he stood. "It is time," was all he said.

Each of the other Horsemen stood and began preparations for their conquest of Earth. War reached for his mighty sword, grabbed it by the hilt and attempted to raise it skyward. The sword did not move. With all of his substantial might, War pulled on his weapon. It resisted his efforts and remained adhered to the throne.

Death reached behind his skeletal throne to grab his cloak. A horrified gasp escaped his lips as he opened the chest where it was stored. What had once been a cloak of the darkest black was now a bright pink in color.

Pestilence soon discovered that his mud-encrusted boots had been replaced by yellow bunny slippers. Famine did not know it at the time, but he had a large "Kick Me" sign taped to his back.

All four of the risen Horsemen turned in unison to face the final throne. In the beige recliner sat a young girl wearing a frilly dress and an impish smile.

"Mischief," shouted War, "what have you done? We can't start the Apocalypse like this. Now we are going to have to wait for the next perfect time. It might be centuries before everything aligns once again."



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