Famine tricks Death, but the loser is Gerard
History confidently announces them as War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.
History is wrong.
There is, in fact, a Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. He does his job extraordinarily well, so well in fact that hardly anyone is aware of him and those that are don’t really care. His name is Apathy.
While he works alongside the other Horsemen, Apathy is very much a loner. Not for him a casual drink at Sergei’s Bar, neither is he seen in the dark recesses of the Underworld. No one knows where Apathy goes when he isn’t working. Some say he never stops working. Some say he walks amongst us all, infecting us as he passes. But most really don’t care. Death cares, he cares passionately, but then, he has work for him.
Apathy works with The Riders often, his main duty being to increase their effectiveness. His methods are invidious and cunning; his primary aim to instil a deep lack of interest in making any significant changes that would prevent everything from spilt milk to global tragedies.
Apathy is the one that stops you knocking on the door of the old lady who lives down the street that you haven’t seen for a few days – just to make sure she’s okay. He’s the one that tells you that it’s fine to waste the Earth’s resources or to look away when you see waste, hunger and crime. He’s possibly the most dangerous one of all, simply because we are completely unaware of him. He knows this and uses it to his advantage. He is exceptional in his field.
You might ask why he is being introduced now. Very simple – Death will form a plan of revenge on Gerard. It will be a cruel plan and he will need Apathy to make it work.
“He got away!” Pestilence screamed, pulling Death backwards away from the now crumpled form of Famine.
It didn’t take a lot to make Famine appear crumpled, but it did take a lot to make him look as bruised and bloodied as he did right now.
Death glared down at his beaten opponent as he reached behind and casually batted Pestilence’s hand away from his jacket; smoothing out any creases before they formed. Creases or marks of any kind knew better than to appear in Death’s clothes. He always looked immaculate – always. Now would be no exception.
Death turned; still angry, he shoved Pestilence backwards. Contrary to how he appeared, Pestilence exuded no smell. Years of decay, dirt and disease simply lay encrusted on his clothes and skin until it appeared as though it was merely another layer of the man himself. Regardless, it was not something that Death wished to be too near. From a work perspective, he recognised, of course, Pestilence’s commitment and passion for his job, even admired him for it along with his thorough treatment of every project he undertook. But they were not close.
Death liked women, he made no secret of it. He was handsome and had just enough of a roguish image to attract them in droves. All the Underworld babes loved a bad-boy and Death delivered, frequently. Pestilence simply did not fit the image Death wanted to project. He hung out with Famine on occasion merely because Famine’s meagre frame and sharp, pinched features made him look even better when he stood nearby.
The idea that Gerard was proving even more popular drove him to seething point. Death had the means to make Gerard, however innocent in the proceedings, regret it, and regret it he would!
“I don’t care! He can’t evade me for long. You know that!” Death yelled in reply to Pestilence’s original complaint that Gerard had escaped.
“Not if he’s alive, but he’s not, is he?” Pestilence countered.
“He’s not dead either!” Death growled.
“But he wants to be alive, and that’s where you have the advantage.” Pushing himself from the floor, Famine spat the blood from his mouth and laughed showing a row of blood stained teeth.
“Does he now?” Death turned suspicious eyes towards Famine.
“Yeah, his body’s on life support at the hospital.”
“And if he wants to be alive, why, exactly is he supposedly after my job?”
For the briefest of moments Famine frowned.
“Are you playing me, Famine? Because if you’re trying that again…”
“Death!” Famine feigned his most innocent voice. “Death, you wound me! I wouldn’t do that, you know me better…”
“I know you all too well, Famine!” Death warned.
Famine drew himself up, appearing indignant and hurt by the accusations.
“You want to know what happened? Well I’ll tell you. Richard arrived at the scene of an accident. This kid wasn’t dead, but rose up anyway. He convinced Richard to leave the book with him so he could do your job. To be honest, Richard was only too happy to give it up. Let’s face it, he’s no good at it anyway. But the kid? He wanted it, you heard what he said, that he’s ‘doing it because the one who’s supposed to do it has got better things to do’. You heard him say it yourself!”
Death contemplated his words in silence, before asking a second question, his tone still hanging heavy with suspicion.
“So why does he keep his body alive?”
“Richard told him not to upset you. He’s a kid, but that doesn’t make him stupid. It’s a back up. He thinks he can escape you by going back to his body if things get a little too hot.”
“He can’t truly believe he’s safe from me alive?” Death jeered.
“I said he’s not stupid, I didn’t say he knew anything useful!” Famine sneered.
Death smiled to himself. Famine’s story sounded plausible and was apparently backed up by words he himself had heard. Famine smirked as he basked in Death’s trust once more. Of course he knew different. The story, whilst based on truth, had been twisted to his own ends and was wholly misrepresented.
Pestilence cocked his head to one side as he considered Death’s words.
“If you’re thinking what I think you are, you’re even more evil than I thought,”
“He thinks that if he crosses me he can escape back to his body. But to do that he’s going to need a body to go back to, isn’t he?” Death sneered, his face exuding arrogance and a smile that could only signify a twisted form of pleasure.
“You’re getting Apathy onto it?” Pestilence smirked at the idea. “Oh, Death, you’re a sly one! He’ll be begging us to let him live!”
“He can beg all he likes,” Death’s face hardened into a deep angry frown. “No one takes my position and survives!”
Frank looked up as Ray and Bob were shown into the small makeshift waiting room. He hadn’t purposely done it for sympathy, but his expression was pitiful. Pulling him into a hug, all three friends stood in silence offering mutual support.
“Are you okay?”
On hearing those three simple words, all of Frank’s pent up fear and guilt bubbled to the surface. Only now did he fully comprehend what he felt, which was the awful truth that he had escaped almost unscathed, while his two companions had suffered much more severe injuries. Tears welled in his eyes as he gazed up at Ray, who had asked the question.
“Hey!” Ray began comfortingly. “This is not your fault! The doctor told us. A drunken driver turned too quickly and mounted the sidewalk. There was nothing you could have done.”
“B…but, Gee, he’s…”
There was nothing more to do than comfort the distraught young man. He was in shock and deeply traumatised. Ray tried not to dwell on the thought, but it was possible that Frank had potentially witnessed their friend being killed; knocked down in his prime by a drunk behind the wheel of a car. If Gerard didn’t survive, it seemed likely that Frank would struggle to get over the shock. The two men were at a loss to know what course of action was best. They had never seen Frank so emotional. But one thing they knew, he needed to rest. In addition, there was an unspoken suggestion, but both men knew what was also needed.
“I’ll go, you stay with him.”
Ray nodded as he watched Bob leave the room in search of Doctor Harman; Frank really needed something to calm him down.
“Did the doc say when we could see them?” Ray asked trying to keep his voice low and soothing.
Frank took one or two deep breaths as he tried to release his throat from the crushing and agonising hold of his tightening muscles. The pain he felt from trying to swallow the lump in his throat had long since weakened and exhausted him.
“He… he must have,” Frank struggled to think. “Oh, God, Ray, this is important and I can’t remember. I can’t remember!”
Lowering his head, Frank’s shoulders sagged and he wept, quietly at first, but as soon as Ray pulled him close and cradled him in a reassuring and comforting embrace, Frank crumbled. The shock of the accident and the sight of his two friends so badly hurt had taken its toll on him. Ray frowned with anger as he thought about how the doctor had allowed this without considering the very real shock and trauma that Frank had suffered. He fervently hoped that Bob would return soon so that Frank could receive the treatment he so desperately needed.