Summary: After the defeat of the four horsemen, the ones who follow after them wonder what to do. A very short standalone about human nature through an unhuman lens.
Originally posted on AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/works/19353496
Those Who Follow On Foot
Twenty six days after the end of the world almost occurred, and then didn’t, four new figures finally made it to the Upper Tadfield Airbase. Or, to be more precise, they awkwardly hung around just far enough outside of it that the soldiers didn’t start yelling inconvenient things about not coming any closer and how trespassers will be shot.
Like the previous group of four that had entered the base, they were anthropomorphic personifications of a sort, but far less explicit in their names.
The first one, a wide, muscular man in dungarees and a hard hat dug a hanky out of his pocket and wiped his brow. As always, he was sweaty and sunburned, like he had only just got back from hard labour. In his other hand he held a builder’s trowel, dull from dust. “So we got here late again then?” He asked, grumpily.
The second shrugged, and lent on her spade for support, her straw hat covering her face in shadow. They had all come a long way. “Looks like it. And they’re all gone. Or beaten. Not sure which.”
The thing about the Four Horsemen, and indeed, the actions of the humans and the uncaring motions of the universe that brought them into existence, is that they weren’t always completely through. Sure, sometimes a war, or a plague, or a famine, sent an entire group of humans to the final member of the Horsemen. Increasingly often, Death picked away the final member of some hapless species. But just as often, people were left standing in in the wreckage, and those poor sods were forced to ask, and answer for themselves, one very simple question.
“What do we do now?”
Coincidentally, this question was also asked by the latest member of the group. They were as old as the others, but had only been brought in when the horsemen switched out pestilence. Currently they were dressed like a particularly close-to-nature hippie. Like their companion, they leaned on something for comfort; theirs being a walking stick ending in a sharp spike, with several pieces of litter impaled onto the end they had picked up on the long hike.
They looked to the final member of the group, who had taken a seat on a rock. A staff wrapped in two serpents and wings emerging from the tips sat across the lap of the final member. Their body and their staff were covered in wounds, scars from when they had, at least temporarily, stopped Death claiming his bounty. A white lap coat hung awkwardly from them, while their face remained hidden by a curved mask, almost like a giant beak, and dark glasses. It was a tool that had long stopped being useful, but they kept it for the aesthetics, at least in this country. For a personification, the aesthetics are extremely important.
After a few more moments, the masked face looked up. “There is more to do. We go and do it.”
The other three nod. There was always more to do.
Exchanging goodbyes, they turned away from each other and headed back out, trudging along on foot. They weren’t as fast as the horsemen had been, and sometimes they didn’t reach where they needed to be in time, but if you look closely, you might be able to see them, or someone very like them. The sound of repairs in a damaged city. A figure in a dusty field of crops, digging irrigation channels. Someone carefully removing contaminated topsoil. Bandages and medicines handed to those Death failed to claim today.
Look for them, and try to give them names.