TIME. Spring 2019 - Page 28

der and the city below vanished in a single flash. I am the rage that springs from your whispered lies and devouring greed. As the judgement unfolded, I was everywhere, my sword whispering its sibilant whisper. I enflamed the hearts and the minds of the people and they thought only of fighting and killing. Brother turned against brother, friend against friend, nation against nation. And I was the catalyst for it all, a solitary rider appearing in the midst of every conflict, holding my sword aloft and trampling all before me. What are blows and bullets to War? Nothing at all. Humanity could not touch me. To do so, they would have to cut me out of their hearts and minds. I do not know if that is possible. Under my direction, humankind cast down its proudest mon- uments. Under my manipulation, they pillaged the great places of culture of the world, smashing the fleeting wonders of ages past. They dried up sparkling rivers and destroyed golden fields, in the name of War. All of this is my work. My brothers did the same. I saw them enact their judgement even as they saw me enact mine. I watched the plagues and hunger they cultivated unleashed upon the doomed world. Pestilence and Famine left nothing but corpses and ruins in their wake. And always came Death, riding after the three of us, riding silently upon his pale horse. I know my brothers looked upon Earth in the same fashion that I did. We were born together and were far more similar than any of us would admit. We fulfilled our duty, but found no pleasure in it. Why? Because now I had seen the Earth. I had seen the sun rising over the mountains. I had heard the cry of the sea eagle and the rush of great wings. I did not belong here. I was the in- truder, the outsider, the ugly thing set apart. I was the terror I saw in my victims' eyes, the looming steel shadow that bent over them before they finally died. 28 Spring 2019 What I remember most are the faces, for they changed the most between the living and the dead. A living face was end- lessly changing, eyes and lips and muscles all flowing from one expression to the next. A dead face was flat and broken. There was no meaning in the faces of the dead. Their eyes were empty, whether open or closed. Their lips were silent, whether sealed or screaming. And I looked upon them from my crimson saddle and found no satisfaction. I opened and closed my gauntleted hands, searching for something in those flat faces, and finding nothing. Only emptiness. Was this what I was fated to be? I am a steel rider upon a flaming steed because the world needs a steel rider upon a flaming steed. This Earth is not the place it was meant to be, no matter how many sunrises I watch glimmer upon the open waters. Something in it was broken at the beginning. I was not there, but the echo of this first wrong resounds about me every time I wheel my horse into our next bloody undertaking. So I rode on. I might have wept inside the steel cage that covers my face, and left your blood to dry upon my sword, but I rode nonetheless. Over the course of my ride—whether it lasted a day or a millennium I cannot say—I did meet with my brothers, and beheld them at last in the flesh. I rode with Pestilence, and together we united many a tribe into a conquering army, only to have them at each other's throats as they grew fat and bloat- ed with the spoils of victory. I rode with Famine, and stirred the starving dregs of humanity into hungry desperate turmoil. The memories I share with them will stay with me forever. A queen proclaiming a great future for her people, if only they would follow her into glorious, righteous battle. A writhing mass of emaciated bodies, scrabbling at the soil, scooping dirt into their mouths. A pack of men loping through a shattered city on all fours, hair long and unkempt, nails crusted with dried blood. None of us ever rode side by side with Death. He was shaped into being before the rest of us, and to him alone was giv- en knowledge of things to come. He kept apart, only visiting