The Riders

There are many common depictions of the four horseman, Death, Pestilence, Conquest and Famine. They are nearly all wrong. Especially about the horses.

Death is not a tall, pale rider, though he is the youngest and the tallest of the four. Conquest is not a broad-shouldered, brutish warrior-Prince, Pestilence is not a green man of oozing sores, and Famine is not skin stretched taut over a weak skeletal frame.

The Riders are eternal children, and their steeds are sticks held between their legs. And when they play together, empires fall.

Famine cries constantly from hunger, with no mother to nurse him. He isn’t old enough to know what is and isn’t his; so he takes. And he takes, and he takes, and he takes.

Pestilence cries as well, softer. She has a rash under her nose from wiping away the dribbles, and her poor little throat hurts from the coughing. She toddles about the world, arms open, desperate for someone to cuddle up to until she feels better. They never seem to last long enough.

Conquest cries because he is angry. He’s not mature enough to know why, or understand what he feels. He just knows he’s very, very angry. He doesn’t know to use his words, not his fists. He doesn’t know many words anyway.

Death doesn’t cry. He isn’t even old enough to understand what he does. The other children think he’s strange, following them around like a lost puppy. But they’re the only ones that he ever sees twice.

They’re a strange and restless bunch, fidgeting, tottering about the world wherever something catches their short-lived attention. There is nobody to teach them otherwise, and none of them truly understand what they do.

It’s more comforting to think of them as old, and wise, as beings of intent.

But we should never attribute to malice what could readily be explained by ignorance.

One thought on “The Riders

  1. Lovely idea – I’ve never seen the four horsemen portrayed like this before and it works very well. There was only one sentence that jarred in the whole piece and that was the last sentence in paragraph six. ‘They’ seemed a bit ambiguous to me, but that might well be just my reading of it. Overall, a great little piece!


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