Colours sang, rained, shivered, danced and seethed. Images of worlds, galaxies, universes and singularities kaleidoscoped, fractured and folded into each other. A vortex of unfathomable blackness swirled into an opening, piercing space and time and presenting a tunnel crossing all points of existence at once.
It was the usual light show.
“Giddyup,” Pestilence mumbled, kicking the heels of his tatty leather boots into the sides of his mount.
His horse, as black night, head bowed as though the weight of life and everything had gotten to it, started forwards without bothering to look up. Instead, it stared at the shifting floor of the vortex and wondered if there might be grass this time.
The journey through the vortex probably took millennia, but to Pestilence it was only matter of minutes. Time is like that. It fools you. One minute you have all the time in the world to get ready, then suddenly they are out outside, car horn blaring, waiting impatiently for you to get your backside in gear. With an elastic snap the vortex closed in on itself and Pestilence found himself high on a plateau of pale rock.
His yellow tinged eyes looked furtively about. He frowned. He turned his head, left, then right. His frown deepened, threatening to burrow into the bridge of his nose. He turned bodily in his saddle to look behind him. There was no one to be seen. There was only a vast expanse of arid rock poorly lit by a waxing moon. It was night and he was alone.
“The f**k are they?” he said, to no one.
Flies buzzed and droned around him, some at his head, others whizzing excitedly around the tail of his horse. They travelled with him at all times. They were the only sound.
“Hello?” he enquired, on the tacit understanding that his eyes might have been lying about his apparent solitary situation.
Somewhere far in the distance a wolf or hound of some sorts barked briefly. Whether or not it was in response to him disturbing the still evening Pestilence couldn’t sure.
“F***s sake,” he grunted, “they’re late again.”
He breathed deeply and eyed the fat little flies that flitted about him. This was s**t. Every time they were supposed to meet it was the same. Either one or, as more frequently happened and was happening right now, none of them could be bothered to show up.
“I mean, it’s only the bloody apocalypse isn’t it? Not like it’s a big bloody deal or anything,” he said, while rolling his eyes and issuing a strong puff of air to punctuate his sarcasm.
How many times had it been now? Four? Five? It could be double figures even. He had lost count. There were cults and sects and even entire civilisations that had been given a very exacting ETA for every probably apocalyptic end-time and they had all been let down. The poor Mayans had gone to trouble of creating a calendar for theirs.
‘How foolish must they be feeling now?’ he thought.
He reached into the heavy black robes that wrapped around his frail frame, withdrew his pocketbook, and opened it to approximately a third of the way through. He narrowed his eyes and studied the spider scrawl writing. His writing. He ran a long chipped nail down the page. Then stopped.
“There,” he said reproachfully. As though War, Famine and Death were gathered around him waiting to be given a severe bollocking. “Monday. April 1st. 2019 – Apocalypse. Earth. About 11pm. Waste of bloody time they are. A waste of bloody…”
“Wait a minute,” he said sharply and peering with greater scrutiny at the entry. “That’s not my writing!”
It wasn’t. It had the unmistakable flourish of War’s fancy scribble.
“That f*****g cow,” he snapped. “Bloody tiresome joker!”
He shook his head and the fat little flies buzzed excitedly.
“April 1st…” he said, evenly and through mouldy, gritted teeth.
He sighed heavily and reached forward with one arm to absently scratch at his horse’s ears. She liked it and gave a light snort of approval. Ahead, just a few miles in the distance was a sprawling city, a tapestry of chaotically organised lights.
“May as well grab a snack,” he said. “Pick up a burger and drop off a little influenza. That should keep ’em busy until the actual big day I suppose.”
He pulled on the reins and his mount turned, happy to be moving as there wasn’t a single blade of grass here on this rocky promontory. Pestilence headed towards the city. Death would probably show up. He always did. And War was everywhere these days. Famine, well, he only showed up if there was a chance to tell someone all about how great being a Vegan was. But, it didn’t matter. They all had to arrive at the same time for the apocalypse to start. That was the rule. You couldn’t change or break the rules. But you could at least enjoy a decent burger. Then give everyone the flu.
“Yes. You can do that,” he said, and smiled.