The Hunt

'Twas but a threatening evening when I happened upon a darkly white steed in the woods. Brown, rich in life and not a sign of error, the horse called out to me. A soft rhythm of whistling and worrying, the stallion called as I approached it. It was situated in a calm clearing, many miles inwards. This slice of woodland was unlike the rest, a strange purple mist encompassed the serene setting of isolation. The air was rank with death, it was poison to my nose and yet I did not seem to station myself. The horse shrieked to my presence, and backed away into the cloudy substance. My sword, now unsheathed, was gripped tightly like a broom; if the creature were to see me hostile then I would have no choice but to take defence.

Slowly and surely, I crept to the beast in the hope of taming it; for this was no ordinary horse, this was Pestilence of the apocalypse; the bringer of infection and the destroyer of worlds. It was merely a horse without its rider, a pilgrim without a journey. The horse turned to face away from I, and galloped away into the purple sea, and I followed.

Sword in hand, I trekked the forest with a hopeful gaze. The horse escaped my view but I could still hear the beacon, the calling, the one sound that summoned me to this deathly place with hellish intentions. I looked down, only to see there was no down. The thick fog had managed to obscure view of my own feet, and the lack of moonlight was futile. We rarely consider how much reliance is made upon the glimmer of the heavens, and yet I was wishing that the gods could show me the path. I remember the shroud of night falling prematurely, neither a star nor comet visible. With every sound of the stallion's hooves moving against the fog, I felt myself aged and exhausted. And then by some old well I found the steed, drinking from the fountain of life as a child does to a bottle. I lowered my guard, and kneeled at this divine sight. The mist cleared, the stench gone and the sun rose. As the horse drank, it seemed to grow stronger and heavier. I dropped my weapon; the next sight that befell me had taken my gaze with envious eyes.

Before me lay three more horses, each different in colour; one black, one red and one pale. Riders sat atop them, proudly snuffing the mist from view, only to replace it with a sickly green aura. From the pale one, the rider held a scythe and wore grey robes, almost as if he was decomposing into the horse; it was Death. Emitting from the red horse came flames that were only advanced by a blood-red sword held by its rider; War. Lastly, the black horseman carried a pair of weighing scales, indicating that this was Famine, the scales representing the way bread is weighed during a famine. The white horse beckoned, to the others as they made a clearing within them. And out of the clearing came a fourth man, strong, valiant and knowledgeable; he mounted the horse with ease and called out to the others. Rising, I fled the prospect and escaped to the mist. Darker and darker again, I heard the horsemen following; beyond what I thought to be possible, the hellish growls of Death, Famine, War and Pestilence terrified me, and the roaring winds violently whipped at my ankles. The trees thickened, the air proving difficult to breathe. Had anyone thought that a lowly missionary such as I would contact such adversaries would truly be mistaken, and yet it happened!

Up ahead I spotted a charnel-house, decaying bricks and crumbly ruins, and a fool I was to flee there. The building was built into the mountain, a large face of rock that rose to the heavens themselves. Had I just been on some holy expedition then I would ignore this place without a glance, but my demise was looming had I not escaped to this structure; the very epitome of life's end. The entrance itself was proportionate to the building's purpose, collections of dust covered the rusty handle and the wood was rotting away to reveal the machinations of the inner darkness. The sounds of the horsemen edged closer, so I decided to risk seeking solitude in this unfathomable place.

Inside, dense air and an unloving fate awaited my entrance. I was a stranger in this place of dead; what was to come of me! The door creaked behind me and closed with a declaring click. I was left with darkness, the kind of darkness we all fear; the kind of darkness that can hunt you; it can break you. I stood in silence, listening for the approach of my pursuers. The hooves of the horses halted, and for a split second it was as if time itself stopped. The horsemen dismounted, my heart raced faster than a chariot. Slowly and steadily, I walked backwards away from the door and the sound of evil. I tried to grab onto something; anything to keep steady in this vast sea of nothingness. Instead, I lost my footing on a step, and fell a hundred feet…black.

I awoke to the chirping of birds and the light of day. Groaning, I rubbed my head and opened my eyes to see what I had landed in. The skeletal remains of those from past lives filled the pit I had fallen into; bodies of old and young, of rich and poor; I gasped at this horrendous sight and pulled myself up. Why did it have to be a charnel house that I happened upon? I jumped to a corner and mentally vomited at the sight. My feet crunched on bones and skulls, I closed my eyes at the sight of death, but I realised I had to escape. I turned and found a grip in the wall; pulling myself up, I grabbed at the grip. A few more pulls and I was out of the pit; the daylight seeped into the house as I noticed the steps that had bested me. I approached the door that had once tricked me, it opened with less difficulty. Blinded by the prospect of light, I silently cheered and sighed. The horsemen were gone, and it was almost noon. I felt safe again, but what message did the horsemen bring? Was it the apocalypse? These questions were not for me to answer; the metaphor of that night will haunt me to my very death.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.