4th Horseman: part 4

Blue’s dark lips quivered as he bore his teeth. Death smiled at him thinly and lifted the can in a mock toast. Blue took it from him and tilted it back, raising his head high to slosh the beer into his throat. A dribble of foam formed at the corners and ran onto his dappled, grey coat. He crushed and ground the can in his molars before tossing it down onto an irregular shaped hill of dust that clanked with the sound of previously discarded tin cans.

“So what should we do today?” They were the only words Death had spoken out loud for several months, words he greeted his horse with every morning. Blue snorted and tossed his head, a moldy brass bit materializing in his mouth. Along with the bit a leather bridle and reins appeared. Death took the reins limply in his hand and led Blue around to the front the trailer. It was a left over ritual, one that meant nothing here but they still couldn’t shed.

Death dropped the reins. Blue wandered a few feet and nuzzled the dirt as if it concealed grass to graze. Death got to his knees and poked around under the trailer, eventually pulling a folding lawn chair out from under a tarp weighed down at the corners with bricks.  He gave the flimsy chair a good shake and situated it facing northeast so hours from now his back would be toward the setting sun. After the first few hundred times of getting up late in the day to turn the chair, he finally adjusted his routine to account for the nuisance.

He returned to his stash under the trailer and pulled out a floppy piece of rubber. Then took a valve in his mouth and started to blow. After a few minutes he situated a jury-rigged kiddy pool made from inner tubes just in front of his chair. With an angry slash of his hand he created a rift from thin air, violating the standard four dimensions of Earth’s inhabitants, and a briny water started to fill the pool. After watching the Dead Sea pour through the rift for half a minute he closed it off with a yank of invisible strings and sat.

Death took a deep breath through his nose. It was good to smell anything, but the salt was still a self-inflicted punishment. He pulled off his boots to expose his gnarled and pasty toes and dipped them in the water. The water fizzled and popped while the remnant of halobacteria cooked. It was nothing like fresh water, but still the tiny bubbles brought a modicum of relief to him as he tipped his chair back and closed his eyes.

In an earlier life he had rotted away for six years in prison. For the last six years he rotted in a dustbowl of his own making. A coincidence that currently seemed neither poetic or ironic, but mostly pathetic.

It was then that the black box, now attached to his belt, vibrated again. Letters ran across its illuminated face until they had spelled out another message. “How long are you going to need? We can always find another. ~ War.”

Part 5

4th Horseman: part 3

He rubbed his hand on his forehead and ran it through his hair. His mouth was a catacomb, and he exhaled a noxious gas into the cabin of the Airstream. His arm ached. He rubbed his left armpit as he rolled his left shoulder and raised it above his head, causing him to grimace. The wound represented another dream waiting to haunt him at a later date.

He exhaled, more slowly this time. These were the tradeoffs. He ached always, racked with nightmares, but the tequila took the edge off. And being here meant that he wasn’t there, reporting for duty, punching in for a job that he could no longer bear.

He nudged the glowing box with his rattlesnake boot, before putting considerable effort into rising from the mattress. His movements caused the trailer to creek as much as his joints. His mortal shell, the skin he put on every time he dwelled upon the surface, could not stand much more traditional aging. Not without a return to Megiddo.

Screw it. Opening the latch to the icebox, he took out a beer. Blowing a cloud of dust from the mouth of the can, he pulled the tab. The sound of the carbon dioxide escaping brought an angry snort from outside the window where snot already plastered the glass. Death reached back into the sweltering icebox for another hot beer. He and ice had never gotten along.

Outside the trailer most of the dust had settled, the storm barely visible to the east. They were getting worse because of his presence, but man had started the apocalypse by themselves. It was typically the sort of thing that would have cheered him, if he’d been working. He gazed upward toward the sun. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time. So much explosive potential. Such a waste. Outlined against the orb, a scattering of vultures circled while waiting out the last of the black blizzard.

He wrapped his soured mind around the heavenly computations. It had been six years since he first came here. Six years. How could such a short span of time last so long? He’d forgotten what the passage of time felt like in a chronological progression, and there was no way to know his cumulative age. September 16, 1930 was when he first became Death. So he chose that exact moment to return for his walk about.

It was an act he thought not so much ironic as poetic. After another moment of wracking his brain he concluded he had been thirty five, give or take. That would make him, using a twisted logic, roughly forty one. But it was ridiculous. That was a different life, one he’d left for another he now longed to leave as well.

How had it ever seemed fresh? He crinkled his face and sniffed the scorched air. He couldn’t distinguish the smell of sulfur any longer. He twisted his boot back and forth in the barren dirt, pushed it down against the grit, until it smoked like a hot iron. Nothing.

He lifted it to take a look, but there hadn’t been anything there alive in the first place. Around the backside of the trailer, Blue stamped at the ground and snorted his discontent. Yeah, Yeah. Death took a draw off the beer in his right hand, blew the dust off the one in his left and sauntered around the trailer where he’d left his only companion before beginning his most recent bender.

Part 4 

4th Horseman: part 2

The air exploded with sulfur, as it did every time the riders scorched the surface of the earth — burning through planes of time and space to crash exclusively into the four dimensions that humans called home. The smell would become as comforting as pumpkin spice cookies and then lose all distinction of joy, but currently the sizzling sulfur air ignited a raw lust in him, so fresh, so new was his experience.

The visceral sounds of war washed over him. Nearby a lance found its mark, pierced flimsy steel armor pounded and reshaped too many times. Then came the sound of snapping wood, an impact, the air being knocked out of mortal rider as he loses his mount. Fresh. All of it so fresh.

His lungs burned as he swelled to test the limits of his new mortal shell. Giddy, he swung his scythe with all the might his muscles could muster. In a single stroke the downed rider was cleaved and the earth split for the space of a few yards. Ah, he thought, I will have to do better.

According to convention, his companions crossed over before him scattering the battlefield into chaos. Upon his arrival the smell of cooked flesh already intermingled with rot and decay. He spun his weapon in his right hand, dipping it down and back, then lifting it horizontally above his head before finally lashing out at full arm’s length and releasing two heads from their earthly anchors.

He lifted his gaze toward the hill Golgotha. Upon it Famine, always mindful of his protege, nodded back in affirmation before turning his horse and galloping off to judge the surrounding lands with scale and withering hand. Injustice and Death always followed Conquest and War.

And then he bathed in the details of it all. A mongrel hound dodged a falling Muslim warrior. Rain clouds rolled in from the Mediterranean, a whiff of winter in the air, yet still a vague scent of olive lingering from the fall.

He raked his scythe low, back in front of his body with both hands, and disjointed a couple of knees from behind.  Then he wound it around to the left and unfurled it above his head for a full reaching blow which left the weapon in his left hand. The untethered head flew fifteen feet before striking a mounted knight and knocking him from his steed. It was a good shot. Something fun to share with Conquest and War later.

He spun his weapon down and back before twisting his body to take the scythe in both hands at mid-torso. His last blow had inspired him. Now he was playing around. Hearing someone behind him, he leveled a baseball style swing as he turned to face him.

Salty. He had always loved the Mediterranean because of the salt. Now, as the scene played over again in his dream, salt would always remind him of the moment he had felled his mentor, his companion in the transition — the only one who had known him before he became Death. A stoic look of disapproval, Famine, with his arm outstretched almost to Death’s shoulder, listed and fell. His upper half removed cleanly from his lower.

Death jolted from his sleep, smacked his forehead against a shelf above the head of the fetid mattress. Dust lifted from its surface as he shifted to an upright position, sending the peculiar black box tumbling to the floor where it proceeded to vibrate.

Part 3

4th Horseman: part 1

 

fourth horseman“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.

Part 2

The Fourth Horseman

If the Dustbowl itself can’t erase the regrets that haunt the Fourth Horseman, it’s unlikely the tequila will. Besides, what’s Armageddon without Death? (coming in April)

 

First, an introduction.

Hidely-ho, reader. I’m the writer best known as David Mark Brown and the infamous RedneckGranola. You may know me from such websites as www.thegreenporch.com or www.onetruepants. But currently you have stumbled upon my greatest achievement, Reeferpunk.

 

Join the Revolution!

O.K., so the website isn’t all that special, and there are some persistent glitches that are giving me hemorrhoids. Oh, but the writing is something special. I’m particularly fond of the characters that you will get to know and love over the next decade’s worth of Reeferpunk (The first book will be cataclysmically good. The next three will be somehow even better. I’ll grow fat on my wealth of penny rolls (I like my money in shiny form) leading to a blase fifth book, then rebound for the sixth, seventh and eighth. The ninth will be a terrible attempt to take the characters into space on a diesel-powered locomotive (only read it if intoxicated). And blah, blah, blah.).

 

What to expect at RP.com

Before we get back to the characters, I want to explain the experience here at reeferpunk.com. Over the next few months you’ll witness the birthing of four short stories which I am calling prequellas. They are like the mutant progeny of prequels bred to novellas, released in serial form. By reading this page you are preparing to embark on a bizarre tale of death’s mid-life crisis. Hey, it happens to all of us, even when working out of the Valley of Megiddo. And the irony in this bad boy is as ripe as a a July melon. Mmmm, melon.

 

The Fourth Horseman is divided into ten haunting scenes depicting the stark reality of the Dustbowl and the twisted mental state of a soul employed as the harbinger of death for a bit too long. A little artsy-fartsy, The Fourth Horseman is all about finding purpose in life, even when it’s death. And who among us don’t need a bit more of that?

 

Follow these links for more on ReeferPunk or Fistful of Reefer, the first book in the series coming out later this summer.

 

And enjoy the show!