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Whatever else one might have said about the Apocalypse, it was thorough. I, with the aid of my three companions, had killed every single living thing on earth, right down to the bacteria, and we had done it with neither remorse nor hesitation. When you’re created for a single purpose, there’s not a lot of room for exploring your options, but what now that our purpose was no more? The earth was dead, and I know dead. What was left? Just me and my companions, now apart from the Consensus.
I wondered for a while if we were meant to destroy ourselves and thus complete the annihilation, but killing Death made about as much sense as throwing a lit match on a forest fire. As for the others . . . well, in truth they were just aspects of me, as I was an aspect of the Consensus. I knew that and I think the other Horsemen did too, but it wouldn’t be tactful to mention it.
After the Apocalypse the Horsemen rode off in separate directions. We met up now and then over the centuries, stayed together for awhile as the mood took us, broke apart again. The last time we were together we had a grand old time. War turned his back for a moment, and Pestilence tried to give him a cold. War chopped Pestilence’s head off and kicked it like a soccer ball. It was a good kick. Three hundred yards across the blighted landscape, easily. By the time Pestilence’s headless body managed, scrabbling across the dust and debris, to feel its way to where the head had rolled, we were pretty sure he wouldn’t try that again. A pity, really. I hadn’t laughed so hard since the Apocalypse.
After that we separated again, which was why I happened to be alone, riding along on a manifestation of a horse that I’d named Patience, brooding as is my habit, and almost didn’t notice when I came across the impossible.
A pine seedling.
When I said thorough, I meant thorough. There was nothing left living on earth, and that included the seeds, spores, sperm, eggs, what have you, of every living thing. Dead as dead can be, and no mistake. Yet here was this clearly impossible thing growing in the lee of a boulder in a cold northern latitude. The seedling was spindly, green, and definitely alive.
And as God at the moment wasn’t my witness, I had no idea what I should do.