For Jill Palmer, a Respected Authority on the Horsepersons of the Apocalypse.
* * *
Come and See
* * *
Famine isn't aware of the point at which he becomes himself. One moment he was, a freefloating cruelty in distended bellies and parched mouths; the next he was a man.
Or something like it.
The first thing he remembers as himself -- as Famine, who walks and talks and writes his name in flaming letters -- his very first memory is that of waking to the distorted face of a dying man.
This probably explains a lot about him.
There are other -- memories, for lack of a better word. Not merely images or sounds or sensations, nothing a human could understand. Famine remembers being the hunger in a child's belly. He remembers gnawing at men's sanity, devouring their hope.
These things lie under his consciousness. They are what he is.
* * *
He meets War in a tavern. She is a woman with red red hair and Famine does not know her, but there is something in her eyes that Famine recognises: something that is him.
"What's your name?" he asks, feeling her out, what power he may have over her. He smiles; he could consume her, little woman . . . .
"I'll give you a hint," she purrs, and the light glints off her teeth as if it would much rather be somewhere else. "It begins with a "W," and ends with a--"
"Aargh!" A mortal crashes through the window, an arrow in his throat.
"Scream," says War, her smile widening.
War always had a taste for the dramatic.
* * *
He meets Pestilence in the street, kneeling by a child.
"I had dibs on that one!" says Famine, but the protest is half-hearted. His throat feels oddly scratchy.
"You're too late," Pestilence says, without looking up. "Sorry."
He's barefoot, white-skinned, silver-haired and old. Famine's skin itches. The air smells of unhealth.
He hunkers down beside Pestilence anyway, watching the child's chest rise and fall for the last time, his breath stuttering to a stop.
"It's almost a kindness, don't you think?" Pestilence says casually. "You have to admit, it would have been a lot more painful if he'd gone your way."
Famine can't deny that, but he's still a little annoyed. It's not like the Plague's a joy ride either.
"There's only one way to go," he says. "The last way."
Pestilence slants a look at him.
"Yes, well, that doesn't really apply here, does it?" he says. "You might as well say all books are the same 'cos they end up in dust and silverfish. It doesn't matter."
He stands up and dusts himself off.
"Let's have a drink," he says. "On me."
Famine doesn't move.
"Promise I won't put cholera in it."
Famine is secretly relieved when Pestilence retires. At least Pollution doesn't talk so much.
* * *
He meets Death first, last, always.
Death is a cold wind on the back of his neck and the chill that sweeps in when his job is done. Death is the end of hope in the eyes of Famine's own. More to the point, Death is an extremely intimidating seven-foot-tall skeleton who isn't really a colleague, no matter how Famine and the others may pretend to themselves that he is.
Death is out of Famine's league. In a way, Death isn't even in the game. He is the game -- the beginning, the end, the always.
Famine meets Death in the distorted face of a dying man, the day he is born.
FAMINE, says Death, and there he is.
He was begun, and he will be ended, and he is always.