“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hell was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” ~ Revelation 6:7-8
The storm thinned allowing sepia sun rays to filter through the dust and illuminate the interior of the trailer with a gaunt light. A man, slack-jawed and skewed across a straw-stuffed mattress in the rear of the trailer, gargled and choked until a clot of phlegm hurdled from his opened mouth. He coughed and his swollen tongue listed back in place. Snot seeped into his mustache as he dreamt. But it was not a fantasy or a dream of past or future from where his dreaming began. First he dreamt of his current situation as seen from outside his body, an effort of his subconscious to free itself. What he saw was a world effected by his apathy.
Roiling black clouds of dust and hot winds scoured the flatlands from horizon to horizon like a stew of steel wool brewing over a fire. Beneath the banshee was the panhandle of Texas. An abandoned ranch north of Amarillo lay scattered with the dried out carcasses of its cattle. In the center of the ranch a dirt road leading from Farm to Market 1061 dead-ended at a small Airstream trailer.
The trailer pitched in the storm. Abandoned to its fate, the solitary tear-shaped capsule could just as well have sprung from the ground or fallen from the sky as been delivered there by some long gone vehicle companion that forsook its cargo to save itself. Yet tethered to the leeward side was a living beast, a grey gelding with smoking dark eyes like molten lead had recently cooled in both sockets. Impervious to the howling sand the beast neither whinnied nor blinked, only peered through the black roller as if watching a movie unfold across the curtain. A handful of tenacious flies clung to its rough hide.
The horse turned its head to snort at the porthole window of the trailer. Phlegm from its nostrils latticed the glass before being encrusted with dust. Inside the trailer creaks and snaps could be heard above the constant howl of the storm. An irrepressible, fine dust levitated in the space. A tin cup clanged about in a porcelain basin, water a bygone thought. Water, the basis for life.
The front cabin of the trailer housed a small kitchen and storage cabinets, all enshrouded with dust. A blue enameled kettle, matching the cup, overturned onto the floor. The sound was instantly muffled by the suffocating dust and terrible storm. The door to the trailer rattled on its hinges but held fast. On the floor, just beyond the man’s reach, sat a green bottle with a rectangular bottom. Raised glass lettering said only Casa Herradura, 1878, Reserva. A wooden crate, half full of similar bottles still corked and sealed with wax, sat by the door.
The man was Death. His skin was raised and bristled with hair as if permanently chilled, his face sallow and etched with the burden of time. His chest rose and sank steadily while an occasional limb or facial muscle jerked with seizure. On his stomach perched an odd device illuminated with a dim, morbid green light from within. Letters and words scrolled across the face of it, appearing and then disappearing from the bowels of the black box.
Routinely it vibrated and began its short message anew: “Work backing up without you. Coming to a head, can’t wait much longer. ~ Famine.”
Next he dreamt of the past.