And So It Was

Jenny looked at the corpse, its limbs still contorting closer to its torso despite Death’s touch.
“I thought you were against this,” she said before glancing up.
Death seemed to consider the scene again, but remained silent. Neither apologetic nor happy about the latest turn of events.
Jenny hadn’t really expected him to say anything. He hadn’t uttered a word since he and his brethren had descended on her small town.
“Descended” was a bit dramatic. The Horsemen had suddenly appeared at her diner counter. No fire or brimstone. No reign of terror. Simply a faint whistle sound and then four men materializing on stools in the blink of an eye.
War had ordered coffee for the four of them and then started chatting. He liked to talk.
He was around the corner talking to people right now, seemingly oblivious to the body at Jenny’s feet. She knew he wasn’t being a diversion so they could hide the evidence. They were not a discreet bunch. Hence the surprising arrival at her diner.
Jenny had been frozen in place when they appeared. Patrons had cautiously left the diner. They didn’t want to abandon her, that much was clear by their expressions as they fled. Still, they couldn’t be expected to rescue her.
War had introduced his brothers while the customers ran. Again, seemingly oblivious, to what was happening around him. The others didn’t seem to pay much more attention. They kept their eyes and smiles directed at Jenny. Waving or nodding at the mention of their name. Politely asking for milk instead of cream and saying Thank You for everything.
Balance apologized for the television programs being disrupted.
“Less global reporting of our appearances this way. A few good solar flares and it’s a nice natural way to break up the conversation before hysterics,” he explained. “We needed a way to temper the panic a smidge. Don’t want everyone terrified.”
“Like that,” War commented.
“It’s a global community with wonderful advancements in communication. We were never going to get a low-key affair,” replied Balance. “That is unfortunate though. Sorry about that, dear.”
Neither man had turned to look at the mob forming outside. They hadn’t even tilted their heads to acknowledge they knew what was going on beyond the counter. But they knew. They always knew.
“He doesn’t talk,” War gestured to Death whose smile grew again at the attention. “Says plenty, mind you. Never a word though.”
“You usually talk enough for two anyway,” said Pestilence with a laugh. “Mind if I snag a croissant, miss?”
“Are you here for me?” Jenny finally asked while walking to get the requested pastry.
“You and everyone else,” War answered. His smile never wavered. “Big day.”
“Oh you needn’t worry so,” said Pestilence. “It’s not like in the book.”
“It’s not?”
“Of course not,” he said. “We’re not to be feared. Do we seem that frightening?”
Death put his hand to chest, and donned an innocent expression.
Despite her fear, Jenny laughed a little. “I guess not.”
“That story is more an execution than judgement,” War said. “How it got so mixed up–”
“It’s like their telephone game,” interrupted Balance. “One end you get the original message, then it’s passed through human ears and free will means they can interpret that message however. So it can get a little jumbled, then you have different translations by more humans and by the other end, it’s rather different.”
“We could explain the whole process but we only have a day to get this done,” said Pestilence.
“And it’s already mid-morning,” Jenny commented. “Not to rush you or–”
“Don’t worry about us, dear,” laughed War. “We’re right on time. In fact, I think we’re ahead of schedule in Australia.”
“Feels that way,” responded Balance.
Death nodded with a satisfied look.
“What are you doing? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“We’re prepping everything for judgement,” replied War. “Greasing the wheels, rounding up people.”
“Herding the animals to safety,” added Pestilence.
“So you’re not here to create wars or kill people?”
“Oh no,” responded Balance.
Death looked insulted.
“I end wars,” said War. “I only encourage people to fight for what’s moral. That’s the fighting I like. Wars over land? Insignificant. Wars over humanitarian rights? Always good. I get to stop the wars, show who should have won or whether the fighting was even needed. Takes a lot of talking.”
“I point out hypocrisy, when things aren’t fair,” said Balance. “I force out honesty so people know where they actually stand. They can admit if they were just or not.”
“I’m here for the sick,” said Pestilence. “No matter the illness, I can take it. Those with diseases and whatnot, they get some good ol’ caring from me.”
“And Death is the supervisor,” War said. “He just wraps up any loose ends. The end coming a bit sooner than expected for some people today, unfortunately. Someone’s gotta get that organized.”
Death gestures for War to continue.
“He’s not going to be wielding a sword, killing innocents. Never been his scene,” War said.
There was a faint whistle sound again.
Balance sighed loudly as a giant shadow passed over the crowd outside. They ran in terror.
“What was that?”
“Lucy’s up,” War got off his stool. “Better go say Hi fellas. You know how sensitive he is.”
“Who?” Jenny asked as the others got  up to leave.
“Lucifer, he’s the dragon flying outside.”
“Puff the dragon,” quipped Balance.
“Isn’t it Puff the Magic Dragon?” Jenny carefully followed them outside.
“Nah,” said War. “He’s all huff and puff but no magic. Been trying to prove a point for years. And now he’s admitting the truth: humans aren’t all bad.”
“He was promised the bad ones, once the sorting’s all done. The numbers are remarkably low. He’s letting off steam about being wrong.” Balance waved to the creature soaring in the sky, snorting fire in the air. “He’ll calm down.”
“You’ve done this,” shouted Harold, one of Jenny’s customers. He threw a rock at the four horsemen. “You’ve brought this upon us all. We’re good people. We don’t deserve this.”
“Now, Harold, that is rude and annoying,” said War. “I understand you wish to protect your town, but you’re fear is confusing you. You know they should rally together, gather somewhere. Attacking us, whom you know are not actually responsible, will not accomplish that. Fight the good fight smarter. I’ll help.”
War walked toward Harold who slowly backed away. Undeterred, the group followed a bit down the road. It was a nice day for a stroll down the main street, especially if the fire-breathing dragon overhead was ignored.
They followed a frightened Harold to a waiting crowd. Some people threw bricks at the horsemen, yelling at them to leave poor Harold alone.
“Nice throw, Claire. You’ve always had an arm.” War caught one of the bricks with ease. “Now, this group is what I was talking about Harold. A community coming together to protect itself, to help each other. We’re here to help you do that.”
It was a touching moment, as War talked about what was to come, what each of them did and the crowd slowly relaxed, giving up on the need to fight.
Jenny looked at the body again. It had been a touching moment. Then Death had wandered into an alley. By time she and Pestilence had caught up, it was too late.
Gerald or Gerry or George… Jenny couldn’t recall the name. He’d only been in town a week or so. Still, he’d seemed nice enough.
“Is this the “not killing” War mentioned?” Jenny asked.
Death nodded, before crouching beside her. He patted her arm, and didn’t flinch when she jerked it away.
“Gerard was a good man,” said Pestilence. “His time was up. Death can’t disobey the rules.”
“And this,” Jenny gestured to the contorted form.
“The body missed its soul, dear,” replied Pestilence. “It mourned its lost time. He felt no pain.”
With a reassuring smile, Death patted her arm again. He jerked his head to suggest they rejoin the others.
Pestilence nodded.
Jenny heard faint whistle sounds again. More were coming.
“There is no point in killing anyway. This is the end of your world. This is beyond death. This is a new world for everyone,” Pestilence said while helping her up.
And so it was.

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