The end is nigh as the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse ride. Just as humanity loses hope, the 4 horsemen of wholesomeness descend in a beam of light: Mr. Rogers (love), Jim Henson (life), Steve Erwin (nature), & Bob Ross (peace)
The scythe hung inches from my head. I could see my reflection in what little was visible through the rust; death’s hands fastidious and precise.
“Where,” Death asked, his voice a croak. “Are the others?”
Here was the moment I’d always seen on film. The moment where we got to see if the hero was worth following. The moment where the hero would reject the villain’s questions out of some inward stubborness, some inward belief in his cause.
Only I didn’t have a cause. All I had was the vague idea we might survive another pitiful wretched day in the burning hell hole that had become earth. So I stared up at Death.
The scythe drew slowly closer.
“Well?” Death said. “Whether I kill you now or later does not matter to me, Terrence.”
“Death comes for all living things, in the end. No matter how well they try to hide from me. I am the grand equalizer. The balancer of accounts, and you, humanity, by all means, have overdrawn far too much.”
Another tremor in my limbs. A numbness spreading through my veins. Death was too near. Both literally and metaphorically.
But this wasn’t what they would’ve wanted.
“There’s a funny thing about life,” Henson said. “Life’s a movie, Death,”
Slowly I turned my head and stared at the horsemen of life, astrode a puppet danging with strings from the heavens themselves.
“But we get to decide what the ending of that movie will be. So we keep moving, and we keep pretending, and at the end, we get to make life even better.”
“What,” Death croaked, staring at him. The scythe flashed out. An inch, closer, closer, drawing me into a captive position.
“And the ending today doesn’t involve Terrence, I’m afraid,” Henson said.
The heft of the scythe was wrapped in long puppet strings, and despite Death’s best efforts, the blade wouldn’t come closer to my throat. “You complete and utter idiot. It is my time to reap the world.”
“The world is at War,” War said, sliding into the picture. His long rifle was packed across his back, his horse, a fine red maned creature that spoke of fastidious grooming and ritualistic over funding nickered at Henson. “And it is time for it to end.”
“You’re right,” Ross said, stepping in. The stadium was becoming beautiful as we watched. Where he stepped, plants grew. Where he looked, color bloomed into existence. The clouds weren’t quite so grey with the Painter’s steed; a great verdant thing of roiling green vines dripping with paint. “It’s time for the war to end, after all.”
“You’d fight us over one life?” Death asked, abandoning his scythe.
“We’ve seen what you plan to do,” Henson said. “And we think there’s still hope in the world for their kind.”
“The world’s over,” War said. “The governments have fallen. There’s nothing left worth saving.”
“I learned one thing while I was painting,” Boss Ross said, his divine vines flicking across the stadium. “And I learned one thing while I was warring. No matter how big the mistakes are, no matter how unending the pain is. You can make it better if you try. You can turn them all into happy little trees.”
And maybe it was just my imagination, but even the air, laden with decades of smog and misuse, felt a little sweeter of my lungs.
“There are some mistakes too big for just that,” Conquest said, his horse casually sliding out of the sky. “I think you understand entirely what I mean.”
Ross frowned, pausing from his quiet contemplation of his beautiful world. “You cannot hold what remains of humanity accountable for the sins of the whole, Conquest.”
“I can, and I will break them across my sword.” He raised it, and the clouds shattered into storm clouds. The rain washed away the gentle paint. The air grew harsh.
No room for me to run for it.
No room for me to make a break for it. Just me, and five gods.
And the bunker of crying people deep below me. The last bastion of humanity, crying out into the cold.
and me as the last guard.
“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us,” Rogers said, slipping out from the corner. He had no horse. He needed none. All would be his neighbor. There were no barriers to him. There never would be, and never had. “There’s still love in this world conquest. There’s still hope. Beauty. Joy. There’s still such perfect room to grow, and… I think you love them for that.”
Conquest’s sword shook. “I want you to know that this isn’t the end. The world is ending. It’ll take more than some false pretty words and hope and dreams to fix things. The population is starving to death. I am a mercy. I am a beautiful mercy, and I will kill them, because ultimately, we love them.”
“And they will starve,” Famine said, rising from the ashes of the dead outside. His skeleton skin was drawn taut against him like a drum, his haggard appearance a reflection of the state of the world. “They’ve killed almost everything, you understand. There’s nothing left to support them.”
“Crikey,” The Crocodile Hunter said, descending in the form of a flock of carrion birds. He coalesced into a solid form, and beamed. “Sorry I’m late you guys! I saw this fantastic shark out in the harbor, tangled up in some nets, and I just had to go save it.”
“That’s lovely,” Ross said. “I think I might paint that.”
“That poor beast,” Henson said. “But it’ll be alright?”
Steve Irwin shot the assembled ranks a thumbs up. “If we just work together, we can save the planet.”
“Your confidence in them is misplaced,” Famine said, dryly. “But I see that you’ll be fighting us the entire way.”
“There’s no use in fighting,” Ross said. “They’ll figure it out. The hardest thing will be convincing them they have a chance.”
“Of course we have a chance,” Irwin said, beaming down at me. “If we didn’t, the other guys wouldn’t be so forceful in trying to end it. They’re scared too, you know.”
“They are?” I asked, looking at the horsemen of the apocalypse. Their steeds nickered.
“War, that horse is a beaut~!” The crocodile hunter said, staring down at it.
“I keep her well fed on the bodies of bloated governments,” War replied, just as dry.
“We’ll be back,” Death said. “When this ends, and there’s nothing left for you to save.”
“And you’ll see they’ll rise again,” Henson said. “They’ll rise to the occasion. If there’s one thing they’re better at than ruining things…”
The four icons of good wholesome tv looked at each other. “It’s creating!”
The apocalypse left that day, leaving me alone amongst the wholesome ranks. Mild chatter about steeds, and their performance, then the hunter flashed a grin.
“You guys won’t believe what I found!”
“The sewers are filled with aligators! Want to come check it out?”