Fourth Horseman by John Curran

So old Abe wakes up again to the distant thuds of bombs the screaming missile strikes the mushroom clouds of the explosions on the horizon. At least he was far enough away not to have to hear the screams, the wailing, ‘n then the silence, the silence of the dead and dying. He could watch it though, from his roof, through his mounted telescope or the binoculars everyone considered essential so as to know, didn’t matter which side, just to know, which way it was coming from this time. So Abe gets up and turns on TV. There’s a movie but it ain’t on yet. He’s flipping around the dial and gets that crazy quiz show ‘Quicksand’ hosted by that zany Zero Mostel lookalike. Not just a lookalike a made up to look lookalike, the gappy grin, the raggedy old hat, the clothes, the whole bit, part of the schtick, even breaking out short snatches of “Tradition” as they break for commercial. Abe never watched the damn silly show except for this day, right at that moment, the zero was posing an interesting question to three nitwits at their podium. The question was “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse represent War, Famine, Disease, and four a million dollars in fake money (ha ha) what is the fourth?” And just then before even the first nitwit can hit the buzzer, someone shouts out from the studio audience (Real live and real exclusive) “Bebe!!!” And boy does that get a laugh. It gets going and is going for so long that Abe never does get the actual answer, though ruefully, he does have to admit that it is kind of apropos, anymore, and the hilarity on set is such that they never do get the answer. Bebe just leaves them all laughing, I guess you could maybe say.

There’s a knock at his door. It’s his two neighbors from next door, Aaron and Josh. They’re younger, gay, and live together. Abe knows no more than that, nor does he want to. They’re okay neighbors in the important ways, they’re no trouble to him. Sometime they even socialize, Abe and Aaron and Josh, like now, though it is a little early. Abe answers the door. “So Aaron, Josh, what it be like?” Abe, seventy years old, talking like a teenager, the miracle of living on the sacred land. “Hey Abe.” It’s Aaron, the taller of the two. “You hear the bombs. A couple of good ones, not too far. We was wondering if could come take a look.” Aaron and Josh did not have the rooftop setup Abe did. “Yeah okay,” says Abe, kinda curious himself. The shit was getting deep these days. Who’d ever have thought. Fourth horse horseman indeed. “Yeah okay, sure, let’s go see.” There was a stairwell that pulled down from the ceiling and up they went. Four floors up. The roof. Flat. With a kind of parapet on three of the sides, fortress-like. In one corner over by the one open side was a mounted telescope, a nice one, pointed off to where in the distance some action was definitely happening. Abe trained in the scope and took a first look. “Man it’s tore up. Just past tent city there’s a big crater. I see some people. Zombies, dazed and confused I’m sure.” “Rats, vermin, that’s all,” says Aaron. “the sooner we get rid of them the better.” “Lemme see abe,” says Josh, the shorter of the two. Abe turns over the scope, and Josh sights in. “Man it’s like women and children. We ain’t done yet.” And just then, a screaming strike jet goes roaring past, only to unload a couple of fat burning missiles over the tops of the tent city into the crater. For what purpose? Who knows. Once it’s cratered, it’s cratered already, brother. No need to waste ammo, except it’s always good to make sure the slaves keep their heads down, dammit. Down to the ground, to their shuffling shoes and keep them there.

And then Aaron wants a cheer for IDF as suddenly projectiles seem to be raining up at them from somewhere to the sound of someone yelling something directed it seems at them. And looking over the side of the roof, open as was, they see this kid, ten years old, there in the street four flights down. And next to him, a pile of rocks. And he’s throwing up at them “Motherfucker” the whole time. And some of the rocks are connecting from four flights down. “Aaron, go get me my rifle. You know where it is.” Aaron did indeed and was back like that with the heavy weapon. The kid now had turned and was walking away. And Abe raised up the gun and was scoping in on the kid’s back. Spinal, from the neck down. And just right then, the kid turns and hollers out, right then and there, in a voice so loud it carries across the whole block of high end privilege “I am the Fourth Horseman you motherfuckers!” And right then Abe lowers the weapon. “Well shoot him Abe,” screams Aaron, the taller of the two, into his ear. And Abe says, “No, this one walks.” And that was it for that, I will say that.

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