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The Return of Pestilence (Bringing Ruin in her Wake)

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Pestilence was coming out of retirement.

The "order" had come a few months after the apocalypse hadn't happened and everyone had returned to their normal activities. She had been hiding in her favorite little corner of Earth, laying on a beach and watching as tourists got food poisoning from questionable vendors, when The Feeling came again. It was a Feeling that she had always had, the one that told her when she should get moving again after a break. It had come in Egypt when she was working the plagues, it had come later in Sparta when she decimated their troops, and over and over it went. She never knew what to call the Feeling, but she knew that her former co-workers got it too (Famine had told her as such back when they had all worked together). She stood up from her lawn chair, making sure to leave a case of stomach flu behind as she smoothed out her dress and got to work.

She had retired back in the 1920's when that bastard Alexander Fleming had "discovered" Penicillin and suddenly she had gone from being a powerful, respected, feared member of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to a minor inconvenience who most could send away with a little shot. She had been so proud of her work on Influenza, and to see what had once been a mighty disease that brought terror into the homes of millions reduced to a mere virus was heartbreaking.

Pestilence had reappeared a single time since she had announced her retirement. In the 1980's, War had tracked her down, telling her how ripe the world was for a new infection and oh, couldn't she please come back just for a little while? She had never been able to say no to War. Pestilence created a disease called AIDS, which she still claimed was one of the most creative diseases she had ever made, and then she had said goodbye and went on her merry way. But she knew that this new virus had to be different, not stronger, not more intense, but something that people would be more likely to ignore until the last minute. It had to be something they had never seen before, something that they wouldn't be expecting. She smiled when she was finished, it wasn't much, but it would do its job. She sent it to War to do as she wished. Now, time to sit back and see what happened.

Damn, she had forgotten how much fun this was. Within months, her little pet project had gone from a small little virus of little concern, to an international pandemic. The humans were panicking in a way that Pestilence hadn't seen since she had made the black plague. It was... refreshing, to be busy again, to be doing big work instead of spending her time making petty little one-off diseases. The people were panicking, and Pestilence hadn't been this happy in a very long time.

It wasn't long before she got a call. The gang wanted to meet up while she was still here. Pestilence found them all waiting for her at a truck stop in Idaho; in the absolute middle of nowhere surrounded by dying corn with a sign that said "HELL IS REAL" next to the parking lot. So much for subtle. She did have to admit, the biker thing was fun, so much faster than the old horses. She walked into the truck stop where the three of them were waiting for her. They all stood up as she walked in. Famine greeted her with a hollow smile, War with a wink, and Pollution leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Death wasn't there, he never showed up for their little meetups even in the old days. Seems like that hadn't changed.

"Pestilence, darling," Pollution said, taking her hand as she sat down. "Lovely to see you again, it's been far too long."

"Yes well, there hadn't been much need for me in a very long time. But here I am now!" She smiled at the group, and Pollution squeezed her hand. She and Pollution had tag-teamed the job during the industrial revolution. The factories that the humans were building had given Pollution a job promotion, and the bad conditions that came from them had given Pestilence the perfect place to work. They had fun together, and damn did they do their work well.

"Speaking of," said Famine, taking a sip of his chocolate shake. "What brought you back?"

"Oh, you know how it is. I just had a Feeling that it was time for me to get back to work."

"I understand," said War, twirling a strand of her hair. "I played around a bit earlier this year, but decided to pull away at the last minute. I had a Feeling that something bigger was coming." She smiled and wiggled a finger at Pestilence, "and I was right! Here you are."

"Well, I can't stay very long, you know how things are." The horsemen nodded. "Speaking of which, I don't think there have been many cases in Idaho. Well, looks like I should change that." She stood up, winking at Pollution as she turned towards one of the truckers and beckoned him over with. He would have to do for now. She asked him for directions to some random place nearby, running her fingers over the man's hand flirtatiously as he gave her directions, and then invited her to meet him at a bar there. She politely declined, taking a step back from the man, but not before blowing him a kiss laced with her new virus. That was all it took on her part. He would realize what had happened in about two weeks, and by then who knew who he might have infected. Pestilence turned around and rejoined the other horsemen at the table. She offered her hand to Pollution, who stood up.

"One more ride, for old time's sake?" Pestilence offered.

"As if you even need to ask."

Pestilence smiled and stepped outside, hand in hand with Pollution and with War and Famine behind her. She looked out to the corn, and for just a second she thought she saw Death among the stalks. She nodded in his direction, and she thought that he nodded back before disappearing once again. She mounted her bike, and the others followed suit, grinning all the while. She hit the gas and then they were off. After all, no matter what she did or whoever came along, she was still a horseman of the Apocalypse, and she would bring ruin in her wake.