Destiny's Horseman

Amanda Curtis

I served a line of very ordinary customers, who all looked as though they’re in a rush to get somewhere else. The time they spend in a grocery store is irrelevant to them, they just want to get in, buy their food, and get out. But when death wandered in, carrying his scythe, then you know there’s trouble.

“Have a good day!” I said cheerfully, waving another regular away. An elderly woman moved up next, she’s smiling and tottering, her hands shaking fiercely. “How are you?”

Death moved into my line of sight, joining the queue of customers. He had his shopping trolley at the ready. Why did he choose now, of all times? My heart pounded in my throat, announcing that something wasn’t right here. I served one last customer, when Death finally banged his goods on the counter. They ranged from a frying pan to bleach. What surprised me though wasn’t either of these items. It was the fact that he had a skeleton mask from our Halloween range.

“I said I’d meet you after work,” I said, glaring at him. My eyes swivelled over to the mask. I gripped it and swiped it through, before he could change his mind. What was he, insane? Anger flooded through me. Please tell me it wasn’t more of this blending in crap. Death nodded meekly, his bony fingers reaching for the EFTpos machine. “You take credit cards?”

I sighed. Of course we took credit cards. How could we not take credit cards, the large establishment that we were? But Death couldn’t be expected to know that, and in all honesty, I didn’t know why I gave him the time of day.

“Yes,” I swiped his card, and waved him along. Unlike the elderly woman, he didn’t even get a ‘have a nice day, sir!’ before he left.

Scythes were often very noticeable weapons. Used primarily in farming in the days of old, they were vital pieces of equipment. In today’s urban society, scythes had fallen out of use and into obscurity. The only places they survived were in a countless number of literary works. Technology had taken over the world, and Death’s goddamned scythe had no place in this brave new world. Death sat on my couch, looking for all the world as though he belonged there. Kicking him to the curb was harder than shaking off a pack of fleas.

“What the hell d’you want?” I snapped, deciding that formalities weren’t necessary.

“You.” The statement didn’t creep me out as much as it used to. When it came to Death, it’s best you didn’t put layers in where there weren’t any. “You’re Destiny. We need you back.”

At least he elaborated this time. Elaboration worked wonders and stopped the imagination spiralling off on tangents.


“You live with Famine, War, and Pestilence,” Death pointed out. “How can you still say no?”

“For starters,” I said, trying to ignore Famine clanging around in the kitchen. “War doesn’t always live with us. I think he’s stirring up trouble in Israel. Two: Famine’s cooking dinner. Three: I have no idea where Pestilence is, but I cannot say that I live with him.”

“But you do live with Famine,” Death persisted. “You are Destiny. I don’t think you’ve noticed how ironic it is for you not to accept who you are.”

“I have accepted who I am,” I snarled. “What I’m not going to accept is the rubbish that goes with it. Now get out of my sight before I do something I’ll regret.”

I wish I could say that Death hightailed it out of there as fast as his legs could carry him. But apparently I’m not as threatening as I like to think. Death just gave me one, hard look and went to help Famine in the kitchen.

By the time Pestilence stumbled in, dinner was already over. Pestilence’s late arrival wasn’t unusual in the slightest; he did mutter what could be interpreted as ‘hello’ before disappearing into his bedroom.

“That’s what I meant when I said I don’t really live with Pestilence,” I said to nobody in particular. Death looked my way, or I thought he did. Famine mumbled something about having to go to the bathroom, and shot out of the kitchen like a house on fire.

“I didn’t argue the point,” Death said diplomatically. “We need to gather the Horsemen.”

“We?” I asked. “Hold on a minute. Why do I have to be part of this?”

“You’re Destiny,” Death answered, shrugging. “The apocalypse is coming.”

“If the apocalypse is coming,” I said shortly, “Then I would know something about it. I have had no dreams of fire and brimstone, earthquakes, or even the slightest hint of an Anti-Christ. Yet you’re gathering the Horsemen!”

“That is the reason for my visit,” Death explained. “But in order for the Horsemen to ride out, we need you.”

“You do not need Destiny to ride out,” I told him. “You can ride out all by yourselves and start whatever apocalypse you please, because I’ve had no reason to call one in, thank you very much!”

“Remy,” Death said slowly, “Please.”

“Alright,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I’ll get Famine and Pestilence. We can pick up War on the way.”

The atmosphere in the kitchen lightened up. It looked like I’d just made Death happy, by agreeing to this little apocalypse of his. It wasn’t as if this was the first time he’d called one. I’d had the visions that time, of fire and brimstone and the hell that went with the Second World War.

I banged open Pestilence’s door. Pestilence was dozing on his queen sized bed, reading trashy magazines and flicking between channels on the television. “Apocalypse.”

Pestilence groaned. I couldn’t say I blamed him. He looked at me as if to say I was crazy.

“Any visions?” Pestilence asked hopefully. “Any end of the world destruction?”

“No,” I told him. “Just Death’s whim. We ride out at dawn.”

Pestilence nodded, resigned. He didn’t have the heart to argue with Death. Death had been planning this for centuries. It didn’t mean it would never happen; it’s just that he’d never quite picked the right time, date, or Anti-Christ. Famine joined us in the hall, looking grim.

“What about War?” She asked, pouting. “We can’t go without War if we’re to have an apocalypse.”

“We’re picking him up along the way,” I told her. “Everyone sorted?”

“Everyone not sorted,” Famine said, folding her arms. “I don’t see why we have to have an apocalypse every second month.”

I rolled my eyes. They knew very well why we were riding out. I just wasn’t sure why I was.

“Then tell me why I have to be involved,” I said, imitating Famine by folding my arms and pouting. “Tell me why I have to be involved in this ruddy mess. I’m Destiny. I should be having a succession of dream dates, instead I’m stuck with an apocalypse every second Thursday.”

“Death likes you,” Pestilence said, as if it were obvious.

“Likes me?” I repeated, dumbfounded. I knew Death liked me as a friend, but there were two kinds of like and I really hoped it wasn’t true.

Famine twiddled her thumbs. Pestilence just looked impatient, as though he were talking to a very slow child. “Death has had a major crush on you for centuries.”

The floor fell out from underneath me. My head did a three sixty degree turn. What on earth did Pestilence mean? He couldn’t be telling the truth. This latest apocalypse couldn’t have been just because Death wanted to spend time with me.

“The only way Death gets to spend any time with you at all is if there’s an impending apocalypse,” Famine said exasperatedly. “That’s what these gatherings every second Thursday are for. Plus, they give our horses some exercise.”

“Now go talk to Death,” Pestilence said, making a ‘shoo fly’ gesture. “I’m in the middle of something important. You’re going to go and have a warm fuzzy moment with Death. Try and prevent the impending apocalypse, so on and so forth.”

Like hell I would have a warm fuzzy moment with Death. Pestilence had no idea about how our relationship worked, and I’m sure Death didn’t either. If spending time with him meant a weekly apocalypse, I was all for it. Anything to get out of a confrontation that would most likely end in tears.

Death sat in front of the television, exactly where I’d left him. He looked unfazed, like he wasn’t worried that the world might end at any second. I had been a fool to think he really thought an apocalypse was possible. There had been no signs of an Anti-Christ. I sat down next to him, and eyed the television screen apprehensively.

“Famine and Pestilence think that there isn’t going to be an apocalypse,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm. “They think you’re putting it on so we can have...”

I didn’t want to say the words ‘a date.’ I really didn’t. But Death just sat there, the living room heating to a god-almighty temperature that didn’t bode well with my curls.

“A relationship,” Death said, finishing my sentence for me. “You have been avoiding the truth for centuries, Remy. Famine and Pestilence have been very good, but their patience is wearing thin. I cannot say I blame them.”

“I...” My brain clogged up. It was refusing to process the most obvious thing since last Christmas, when Death had given me a diamond necklace. The wheels had rusted through, and weren’t going to cooperate to form the simple three word sentence that would make everything all right.

“Remy?” Death asked, chilling me to the bone. “Would a human glamour help?”

I swallowed. God, please let this not be happening. Please let me go back to my normal life, where humans actually think I’m one of them. “Yes.”

“Come to the Halloween dance with me,” Death said, warm and inviting. Which Halloween dance? There were several, and each of them would compliment his outfit.

“Alright,” I agreed, and then fled to my room.

Centuries had passed since I’d last looked at a man in what could be classified as love. Those same centuries had passed since I’d had a boyfriend, a real, human boyfriend who called himself my lover. I wished that I had never chosen Destiny to be my title, had never accepted the job, and had never met the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Then this wouldn’t have happened, and I wouldn’t be hiding in my room listening to the pounding chorus of my heart, telling me the one thing I’d dreaded all this time. I loved him.

© 2010 Amanda Curtis. All rights reserved.