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All That Remains

     Dust drifted across the dry dead earth of an immense barren plain. Four figures emerged from the gloom on horseback, riding slowly and quietly up to a single house that stood alone in the vast emptiness. Tiles had fallen off the roof, many of the bricks seemed to be giving way, and every inch of it was dirty. The entire building looked as if it had given up. It was like a large stain, its original colour impossible to discern.

     The riders came to a stop before it. The fourth rider, the only woman among them in a long pale grey dress, turned to the man atop a horse as white as virgin snow, so bright it seemed to glow. Its rider was pale, skin tinged green and a pallid unhealthy look about him, and wearing thin, drab, clothes.

     “Pestilence, would you like to enter first?” asked Death.

     He nodded to her and slid off his mount. No sooner had his feet touched the ground the horse collapsed shivering in the dust. White hair clung to his finger as Pestilence trailed one thin, clammy hand over his steed’s heaving sides. It took only moments for the life to fade from the beast, without its rider there was no longer a need for it. Pestilence turned away toward the house, lungs wheezing painfully as he made his way to the front door, every step making his pale limbs ache. The door swung inward as he approached, in invitation or challenge? He ignored instead making his laboured way up the stairs until he had reached the very top of the house.

     A door with a tarnished number seven affixed to it stood to his right, a vile stench creeping through the cracks between wall and floor. He breathed deep, inhaling the smell of unclean bodies, mildew, and decay. The smell of neglect. The smell of Sloth.

     The door swung inwards at the lightest pressure to the wood. A wall of damp heat wrapped around him as he stared into the near pitch black of the room. He stood stock still, ready and tense, gazing into the dark; but no one came to meet him. No one called out. Taking a step forward his shoe fell upon something that made a harsh crunch. He doubted very much that he wanted to see the floor, almost glad for the darkness concealing it. Taking another deep breath of foul air he walked in, crunching and snapping on things with each step. He tried to calm the wheezing of his lungs listening for the sound, any sound, of his quarry.

     The few weak beams of moonlight forcing their way through the filthy window allowed Pestilence to avoid walking into any of the furniture, but he still stumbled once or twice. Not quite the grand entrance he had imagined, but familiar enough. Waste and rot were a welcoming invitation for disease.

     A small cough came from the corner of the room and Pestilence turned to stare down at a young man curled upon a mouldy beanbag on the floor. His hair was a matted dirty brown, as was his wispy beard. There were purple circles under his eyes and his clothes were thin and worn.

     “Will you not even stand?” asked Pestilence. Sloth stared blearily back and gave the smallest shake of his head. “Perhaps then you would speak?” Sloth shifted ever so slightly on his bag, making it rustle, stuffing leaking out of its side. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse from lack of use. It had been many years since he’d last used it.

     “Are you here to end it?” he asked.

     “I’m here to-”

     “Please,” he begged. “Please end it.” Pestilence raised an eyebrow, rocking back on his heels. He had expected a fight, a violent struggle, was sin not supposed to be deadly? Instead here he sat, pleading for his own end.

     “You would truly not lift a finger to save yourself?” Sloth shook his head again and Pestilence was surprised to see a dampness in his bloodshot eyes.

     “I just want it to end now,” he said, thick tears sliding down his hollow cheeks, leaving winding tracks in the grime. “I just- I just-” his voice was hitching and his slight frame began to shake. Unable to get the words out he suddenly burst into loud, ugly sobs.

     “My, my,” murmured Pestilence pulling a slightly damp tissue from his pocket, “this must be the most effort you’ve shown in decades.” He crouched, handed the tissue to Sloth, and reflected upon this pitiful creature he had come to destroy. The horseman had taken many lives, many millions of lives, all of them wriggling, squirming, desperate to escape him. Yet here was one who would not fight, instead longed for what pestilence would bring. He had imagined feeling triumphant, leaving this place in glorious victory. Instead he was very quiet, his mind thin and hollow much like the creature before him. He knelt, wincing at the detritus around them.

     “Now, now, it will be over soon,” he crooned reaching to touch Sloth reassuringly on the shoulder. “Would you let me?” Sloth hiccupped and tried to control his sobbing; he managed a weak nod.

     “Alright.” Pestilence moved his hand to Sloth’s throat. The change was immediate but hardly noticeable. Sloth was in such a dreadful state already that there was hardly any work to do. A soft wheezing began in his lungs, a light sheen of sweat broke through the dirt on his brow. Heat rolled off him yet he started to shiver. Sloth gave a pained whimper and Pestilence hushed him, assuring him that he could rest soon. It wasn’t long till Sloth grew quite still.

     “I’m just…so…tired,” he murmured, his last breath brushing past his lips. A weight seemed to have settled itself on Pestilence’s chest. He stood. It would have been far easier if Sloth had fought back. He walked back the way he had come, keeping his eyes downcast as he quietly closed the door.

Opposite him he saw flat number six. Well, there was no point in delaying it. He pushed open the door snapping the lock with ease. This flat was cleaner at least. Each broken lamp and grimy window was draped in deep reds and purples bringing a strange warmth to it. The centre of the room was taken up by a huge king-sized bed. For a moment, he did not notice the figure of a man sprawled across the mattress. Pestilence paused, looking the figure up and down as it turned to face him.

The man rose slowly from the bed, letting the scarlet, silk sheets slide off his bare body. He had once been beautiful, akin to the Greek sculptures of long-gone human museums. Now there was no trace of the smooth, toned muscle on this wasted form, only prominent bones for skin to cling to. His groin was swollen and inflamed, as if he had been clawing at it alone in this room. Like Sloth, Lust was pale. A sheen of sweat across his brow made his chocolate curls stick to his burnt caramel skin.

     “Come to indulge yourself?” he asked raising an eyebrow suggestively.

     “You know who I am,” said Pestilence, voice hard “Don’t.”

     “I could be useful to you, I don’t mind being used you know,” drawled Lust.

     “I have no interest in your body.” Pestilence drew a blade, orange with rust, from inside his coat. This one might prove more dangerous than his brother. Lust looked down at his near skeletal frame and winced. These long, hard years had not been kind to his once sculpted form. He looked back up to Pestilence and tried to adopt a lazy expression.

     “I know I don’t look like much right now,” he started making his way over to Pestilence, “but take me with you, to…wherever it is you creatures go when you’re not too busy bringing about Armageddon.” His dark, sunken eyes flicked to the knife and back again. Sauntering over to Pestilence he ran a finger down his torso. Pestilence’s lips curled into a sneer, shoving Lust away and sending him stumbling back onto the dusty mattress.

     “Do you think to seduce me? I am not one of the mortals you so easily led astray,” he stalked toward Lust who lay back opening his legs and stretching his arms above him.

     “You are a living thing, are you not? Surely you have…needs,” murmured Lust lifting his hips ever so slightly. Pestilence looked down at him, saying nothing. The silence dragged on and soon Lust began to fidget and whine. “Please,” he gasped “No one has touched me in so long.”

     “Is that what you long for? Touch? Closeness?” Lust nodded and widened his legs even more.  

     “I was never alone. There was always someone that wanted me, there was always someone I wanted. But it’s been years now. Please,” he wailed “Please, I need someone to touch me again.”

Pestilence considered the body before him, playing with the rusted blade in his hand. When he leaned down to the bed, Lust nearly cried out in relief. “Thank you,” he panted already growing hard at the sight of the diseased old man over him. Pestilence lowered himself till there was only a few millimetres between their bodies and Lust bucked his hips in excitement, grinding into Pestilence’s thigh. Hands reached up to clutch at Pestilence’s clothes as Lust frantically tried to create friction against his swollen length. “Yes,” he breathed, as Pestilence’s hand travelled down his body.

Lust gasped as the knife slid into his belly, twisting as it sunk deeper. Dark eyes growing dim, Lust clung to Pestilence, quivering, trying to pull himself even closer.

     “You know…you know what will happen…if you finish this,” he rasped. Pestilence gave a tiny nod, face haggard and grim. Lust’s breath caught, eyebrows furrowed as the last bit of life left his body. Pestilence drew back pulling the knife with him, leaving Lust sprawled amongst the sheets, blood oozing onto the red silk.

Heedless of the dark stains it left on his shirt and hands Pestilence put the knife back into his coat. He turned away from the body on the bed, closing the door softly, as if his victim was merely sleeping. Looking out of the grimy window at the end of the hall he saw his fellows, still waiting in the front garden. He raised his hand to beckon them.

     “It seems our comrade was successful,” said Death.             

     “Indeed,” replied War, hissing at his horse as it fidgeted. Its coat was the colour of dried blood and foam formed around its teeth as it champed at the bit, eager to be loose. “Shall I take my turn?” He was already half way out of the saddle when Death held up her hand.

     “No.” War froze glaring at her. “Famine? Should you like to enter next?” Famine gazed at her steadily for a moment then nodded. He sat upon a horse as dark as Pestilence’s had been light, an unbroken pitch from nose to tail. He was a small man with deep umber skin, limbs as thin and brittle as twigs. His glittering eyes shone out from a withered face and his short vest was open at the front so that every rib could be seen. He said nothing as he slid from his horse. It tottered after him as he walked away letting out a keening whinny. After only a few steps it stumbled and collapsed, like Pestilence’s had done, onto the dusty ground. It huffed, its hoof twitched, and it stilled.

     He didn’t look back at his steed making his way into the house and up the stairs. He walked down the hallway on the third floor, putting a hand on the cracked and yellowing wallpaper. He paused before the door, studying it with concern. Wooden planks had been used to board the door shut from the outside. On some were deep scratches and what looked like bitemarks surrounded by stains the same rusty colour as War’s steed. It looked as though the other occupants of the house had grown afraid of their brother and had trapped him inside.

     Leaning close to the entryway Famine closed his eyes to listen. There were many thumps, scrapes, and growls coming from within. His prey was restless. Famine curled his fingers around the wood and pulled it free. It splintered in his grip the nails screeching as they popped out of the frame. The sounds inside stopped as Famine forced open the door to face his foe.

     “It seems even your kin have aban-” He had to throw himself to the side as a blurred shape launched itself at him, landing in a very undignified heap on the floor. It was somewhere in the hallway, scrabbling to get to its feet. Pushing himself up Famine hissed in anger seeing the flat for the first time. It had been torn to pieces. There were scratches everywhere, the floor, the walls, even the ceiling. He could see the marks of teeth running up the legs of furniture and more of those rusty stains in patches here and there. He got to his feet just as the creature re-entered the room. Its hunger had gotten the best of it, so much so that the others had trapped him in here to save themselves from his ravenous maw.

     “Gluttony?” He asked but the creature only growled and licked its cracked lips. He could not even remember his own name, so it seemed. Famine knew there would be no talking with this deranged, ugly thing.

     Gluttony’s skin sagged off him, hanging loose where there had once been thick fat. The skin on his fingers had been shredded and Famine could see the white of bone beneath the ruined flesh. His face was caked in dried blood, twisted into a wide manic grin showing broken yellow teeth and gums that were red raw. Famine braced himself as Gluttony sank into a crouch. He looked into those wild eyes and saw the desperate, ravenous hunger there. Gluttony sprang forward jaws wide. Famine rolled sideways letting Gluttony collide with the wall behind him. This was a mistake. As soon as his back was turned Gluttony had pushed off the wall onto Famine’s back clinging to it like a spider. He sank his teeth into the horseman’s shoulder tearing away a mouthful of flesh he began to chew, slavering blood down his chin. Famine roared and staggered backward slamming hard into the wall. There was a gasp behind him as Gluttony released his grip. Without stopping to think, Famine spun on the spot and brought his hand to Gluttony’s windpipe squeezing it with all his might. He flailed and kicked, one tattered hand clawing at Famine’s face leaving deep furrows in his cheek. He pushed Gluttony onto the floor not daring to loosen his grip on his throat. The ragged fingertips tore at Famine’s arms, scraping away chunks and pushing them ravenously into his mouth. But he could not swallow, not with Famine’s grip on him. Nevertheless, he kept stuffing his face till it bulged with scarlet scraps. Still Famine did not let go, bringing his knees up and pinning Gluttony’s arms down. Famine bared his own teeth in a savage leer.

     “You disgusting thing,” he spat as Gluttony’s face began to turn an ugly purple; his small sharp eyes glittering with delight as he chewed. “This will be the end of you!” Famine bellowed, releasing his hold on Gluttony’s throat ever so slightly. Instinctively Gluttony tried to swallow the great wad of flesh, sucking it down into his gullet. He began to splutter sending a smattering of blood down his front. His whole body doubled-up as he coughed violently gasping for air. Famine sat back and watched as Gluttony struggled to clear his windpipe, writhing on the floor as he choked. A grin grew on his face as Gluttony’s movements slowed to a weak flopping, like a fish lying on the deck of a fisherman’s boat. He looked into that ugly purple face as it went slack, mouth hanging open and blood still dribbling from his lips.

     There was a warm metallic taste on Famine’s tongue as he leaned heavily on the wall. Spitting on the body at his feet, he tried to staunch the blood sliding freely down his arms. A whimper, quickly stifled, made his shoulders tense. Famine looked down at the twisted corpse, thinking at first that it had made the noise. Another gasp. There was a woman standing in the open doorway.

     “You killed him,” she muttered, hazel eyes wide. Saying nothing, he looked her up and down. She was short and stocky, her lank mousy brown hair cut raggedly into something like a bob-cut. Her cream woollen jumper was only slightly dirty and her jeans had small patches stitched here and there. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought her human. As soon as he took a step forward she backed away toward her own door across the hall.

     “If you kill us…you know what happens.”

     “Yes, I do,” said Famine taking another step toward her “You are Envy I presume?”

     She didn’t answer, scrambling away into her room. Famine heaved a sigh, dragging his feet and pulling the door shut on Gluttony behind him. Many thuds and crashes came from the flat before him as if Envy were throwing things to create a barricade. The door creaked as Famine pushed passed it. The room was a mess. It seemed Envy had indeed tried to hinder his path. The floor was covered in yellowing newspapers, broken ornaments, shelves that had been tipped over. Famine considered it for minute. His feet were bare and no matter how carefully he trod he was bound to stand on something.

     “Ah well.” He stepped forward, ignoring the shards of ceramic that cut into the soles of his feet. It didn’t matter anyway. As he moved through the debris, it seemed to become denser. Pillars of junk that grew till they were taller than he was. Soon he was climbing over piles of who-knows-what following the sound of Envy as she continued to push things into his path. “So undignified,” he muttered to himself. When the darkness was almost complete, he came to stop staring at a mound leaning against the wall. Famine could just make out the end of an umbrella, the pale leg of an antique doll, and an assortment of mismatched clothes all of which had holes. In the very centre an eye, wide with fear, watched through a tiny gap in the rubbish.

     “What sort of a life is this?” asked Famine gesturing to his surroundings. “This…” but words failed. He made a small noise of revulsion.

     “Go away.” Envy’s voice was a timid squeak, muffled by her hiding place.

     “You know that’s not going to happen.”

     “Please,” a few bits and pieces tumbled down as she shifted amongst it all. “Just leave me alone.” Famine peered at the rickety shelves around him. There was so much crammed onto them that he couldn’t tell what any of it was.

     “You don’t care what happens to your fellows?” he asked. More items tumbled down as sobs came from within.

     “You…you can take them but please leave me be.” Her voice broke as she was overcome with tears. Pathetic, thought Famine.

     “Are you not supposed to be monster? A demon? One of the greatest downfalls of the human race?” His voice was almost angry but there was only fearful silence. He shook his head.

     “Envy, my dear. Surely it is kinder to end it all.” Envy whimpered. The wounds left by Gluttony throbbed, and the cuts from walking through Envy’s flat stung sharply. Famine wanted this over with. “Anything to say?” A terrified scream came from the collection of items as it shifted and groaned.

     “No! Please no, please don’t do it!” Envy’s eye vanished as she attempted to crawl deeper, away from Famine. He cocked his head, watching curiously. What was the point? She had trapped herself, nowhere to go. Frowned he scratched at his chin. He didn’t particularly want to go digging for her; after all who knows what she had hidden in there. Well if she wanted to hide, he’d make sure she got her wish. He reached for the set of shelves beside him and pushed it over onto the pile. A shriek rang through the flat. He took hold of the unit on his other side and tipped that over too. The wall was no longer visible as Famine continued to knock things over on top of her. Envy continued to scream as Famine made his laborious way back to the door. He rolled his eyes. If she kept making a racket like that she’d use up the little oxygen he’d left her. If the weight of all her rubbish didn’t crush her first.

     “Such noise.” He said, closing the door and muffling the sound slightly.

     Like Pestilence before him he walked to the window at the end of the hall and looked out.

     Death’s smiled back up at him. A smile like a shadow in an empty room, indiscernible and full of threat.

     “War,” she said to the final man, “Your turn.” War pushed himself off his mount so forcefully it staggered, falling to its knees as War tossed the reins carelessly aside. It gave a high, piteous whinny; he didn’t even blink only glared at the crumbling brickwork, the windows that looked ready to fall out of their frames. What made them think this was the best place to hole up? It looked as though it could fall down at any moment. War made sure to make every footstep heard as he stomped up the stairs. He wanted them to know he was coming. In the middle of the landing he stopped looking left and right, between rooms two and three. Which should meet their end first? Just as he’d made his decision the choice was taken away. There was a sound like a cannon blast as something slammed into his side knocking him to the floor. A rain of blows pummelled him as his attacker snarled. War stayed silent covering his face as the blows hammered down. Under the guise of shielding himself he flicked a tiny knife, barely and inch long, from his sleeve. A pause for breath from the assailant and he lashed out blindly. He didn’t need to kill him straight away after all. There was a roar and a thud. War got to his feet to look down at the man on the floor. Wrath was tall, dark-haired, dressed in a ragged grey-white shirt and black business trousers. His face, flushed with anger, might have once been handsome but it was contorted into something like a dog facing down an opponent in a ring. Though they were screwed up in rage War could see his eyes were strangely pretty, long-lashed and baby blue. A line of blood was blooming across his cheek. They bared their teeth at each other.

     “You thought you were stronger than me?”

     “You cheated,” spat Wrath trying to wipe away the blood. War laughed and shrugged.

     “All’s fair.” Another snarl and Wrath launched himself toward him hands out stretched reaching for his throat. War dodged easily stretching out hand so that Wrath cut himself again on the tiny blade. It was like a bull trying to charge down a scorpion. Dodge and slice. Dodge and slice. War cackled as he felt warmth beginning to soak into his sleeve. Soon Wrath stood panting, his shirt in tatters more red than white, ready to collapse onto the hallway floor.

     “This is very boring,” said War smirking “Why not surrender now?”

     “You’re a bastard you know that!”

     “Oh, I know. I’m always the one to blame. But what about you hm?” Wrath frowned.

     “Me?” Now it was War’s turn to look confused.

     “Every time a child is shouted at for something they don’t understand. Every time a husband decides to take it out on his wife. Every time a boy decides to murder his classmates because a girl told him no. Who did you think was behind it all?” Wrath’s face was enraged once more.

     “You’re the one attacking me!” he shouted “You made me do this!”

     “Of course I did,” said War, his voice barely more than a whisper. As he stepped forward Wrath raised his fist for another punch. The tiny knife in War’s sleeve suddenly grew ten inches the body of it emerging from War’s sleeve like a sting. War drove it deep into Wrath’s chest. He fell back curling in on the wound, hands trying desperately to stop the blood spreading across his front.

     “Now, now,” said War crouching down to look into those accusing blue eyes. “No one ever said I played nice.” He grasped the handle of door number two, not taking his eyes off the writhing from of Wrath. As he was about to turn it, he paused. The occupant knew him well, as War knew him. In past times they had celebrated together, gotten drunk, caused fights, kissed on a battlefield as the first shot rang out. It was a great shame that this had to happen, but happen it must; and if he knew Greed, which he liked to think he did, he would do anything to avoid his fate. Leaning back War pushed open the door stepping aside at the same time. There was a high-pitched popping noise as two holes appeared across the way.

“Is that any way to greet a lover?” called War.

     “Considering what you’re about to do I would say it’s appropriate,” said Greed from within the flat, his voice silky and confident. Not particularly wanting to have a conversation through the wall War asked;

     “May I at least enter without being shot?” Another pop, another hole.

     “Depends,” said Greed “Shall we promise not to try and kill each other for the next five minutes?” Without answering War stepped into the doorway. Greed was so average looking it stood out. He looked like a politician, a salesman, a man in a crowd that no one knows. Lowering the silenced pistol in his hand he gestured to a pair of plush armchairs of a rich, royal purple. War bowed his head gratefully and they sat each considering the other. The rest of the flat looked as though it didn’t belong in the house. Not only was it absurdly lavish, with artwork, delicate furniture, and even a small chandelier, it was also pristine; not a speck of dust anywhere.

     “You’ve done well for yourself,” said War.

     “You know me. Only the best will do.”

     “Then why are you here?” said War He sinking into the soft material of the armchair. “Surely a mansion is more your style.” Greed’s mouth quirked though his face was bitter.

     “I was, but you know how family are. They wanted me close. It was only for a few days but then the world decided to destroy itself and I was stuck.” He looked disdainfully around the flat. “Still, I’ve made do.” War chuckled.

     “You never were satisfied.”

     “Don’t deny you didn’t love that about me. After all it’s what made us such good partners,” said Greed.

     “Maybe so,” said War “But that doesn’t change what needs to happen.”

     “Who says it needs to happen?” Greed gazed into the empty fireplace “What do you want to happen?”

     “What I want isn’t important.” Greed barked a high, derisive laugh.

     “Of course it is! If you’re willing you can have whatever you want, just look at me!” War shook his head and leaned forward, elbows on his knees.

     “It’s always “want” with you.” This earned another laugh.

     “Well,” Greed mirrored War’s position, leaning forward until their faces were inches from each other. “My name is Greed.” They both stared into the other’s eyes. Then their lips met. The kiss was angry, hard, leaving them breathless. Touching his forehead to War’s Greed whispered “Forgive me.” Another swift pop threw War back. He could feel a heavy dampness oozing across his chest.

     “Actually, you don’t have to, it doesn’t matter.” As War sank to the floor Greed rose to his feet tossing the pistol onto his seat. “I thought that would’ve been more difficult to be honest with you.” War laughed then winced as the bullet wound protested the movement.

     “That wasn’t five minutes,” said War through gritted teeth.

     “I know, but you see I don’t trust you.” Crouching beside him Greed pushed War onto his back. “I’m going to rule the world you know. Oh, sure there isn’t much of it now but think of what I could do?” His eyes glittered with boyish wonder. “But you and your great plan. What good has it done? All those beautiful things destroyed! Well now I can have anything. Anything!” He gripped the front of War’s shirt baring his teeth in a manic grin. BANG!

Greed’s head snapped back, a neat hole between his eyes. The gun shook in War’s hands. It dropped from his hand forcing himself to his feet. He gave Greed’s body one last, mournful look and shook his head.

     “Why wouldn’t I have a gun as well?”

     Staggering out of the flat he nearly tripped over Wrath’s corpse in the hall. Using the wall to support him he made his steady, uncertain way to the window. A smeared trail of blood behind him. He slammed a hand against the glass, leaving a bloody handprint. It would have to be enough.

     Death smiled gently at the bloodstain, as if seeing an aged picture of old friend. She heaved a deep breath.

     “At last.”

     Her dust coloured horse shivered as she ran a delicate hand along its neck. It did not fall as the others had done but instead went to its knees and gently lay down. Death slid off its back, giving it a gentle pat. “Thank you my dear.” She kissed it lightly on the nose. The horse’s eyes closed; its body slumped. Death stepped back looking down at the horses. All four now lay dead as the earth surrounding them.

     Death made her way toward the house, more gliding than walking. Only one left now. His door stood beside the stairs leading up to the other floors. The number one affixed to it had been polished to a bright shine. She knocked, waiting patiently as she heard footsteps on the other side. After a moment it opened. Pride was old; well that went without saying; but one usually chose to appear as young, at most middle-aged. Pride’s hair was white, his face lined. Yet he stood straight, he stood…proud.

     “Ah, yes,” He beckoned her in “I was expecting you.” A faint whistling was growing louder and louder within the flat. A large black kettle was suspended over an absurdly cheerful fire that danced merrily in the fireplace. Inside certainly wasn’t as luscious as Greed’s flat but Pride had at least managed to keep it clean. He had managed to keep hold of comfort amongst all the chaos.

     “Tea?” he asked already pouring her a cup.

     “Thank you,” replied Death looking around.

     “Please make yourself comfortable.” They settled themselves across from each other, Pride handing Death a fine china cup a charming image of roses painted on its side. Somehow, he had managed to keep it intact. “Now then.” He surveyed her as though she were a snake, docile for the moment yet likely to bite if tempted. They both took a sip of tea.

     “You understand what must happen I take it?”

     “I do.” She nodded satisfactorily.

     “That’s good. Most don’t you see. They get very upset with me; as if I have any choice in the matter.” She said more to herself than to him.

     “I understand, but that doesn’t mean I like it,” he said.

     “Yes,” she sounded weary “There are quite a few like that too.”

     “I imagine that the humans put up quite a fuss as you…erm…razed the earth as it were.”

     “They were,” she smiled “but it all works out in the end.” They sat in silence for a while enjoying their tea. The ticking of an expensive looking grandfather clock filled the room.

     “Pride isn’t always a bad thing you know,” said Pride. Death ran a fingertip around the edge of her teacup absentmindedly.

 

     “Oh I know. Just as a little bit of sloth isn’t a bad thing; or lust, or gluttony. Everything in moderation is all fine.”

     “Myself I understand, but the others?” He frowned “Could you explain? If you are not pressed for time that is.”

     “Not at all.” She placed her teacup on the small table by her chair. “Take Sloth. Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a lazy day, every so often it’s good to relax. Lust, so long as it does not consume one’s entire being, causes no issues as far as I see. If it is reciprocated that is.”

     “I see.” He leant forward slightly apparently eager to learn.

     “Be a glutton when the time calls for it, but do not take from others,” she said sounding rather like a teacher imparting wisdom to a student.

     “And envy?”

     “To be envious of what others have can make you strive to attain it, as is the same with greed. It is the method one uses to obtain what you want, therein lies the risk of sin. Then there are those deserving of wrath. They have earned it through their corrupt ways. What is the use of being calm when someone dismisses your life? What is to stop them if they meet no resistance?”

     “And of course there is nothing wrong with being proud of your work or the work of another,” he said happily.

     “Quite right. It is when pride only allows one to see what they want to see that the problem arises.”

     “You agree then? So why, why do you want to kill us?” His face was sad and questioning, a dog that has denied a scrap of food. Death picked up her tea again.

     “I see your confusion. After all, without your existence mine becomes rather pointless.” Pride set his own teacup down and shifted to the edge of his seat.

     “Do you have no self-preservation at all? It is not as though I can do much harm if you let me be. Think about it for a moment; you have to admit it makes sense. We could all walk away from this as friends.” She let him finish, eyebrows raised in scepticism.

     “All?”

     “The other horsemen. I don’t know how close you are with them but you don’t have to stay with them you could-”

     “Their dead,” she said watching Pride’s face closely, amused by his suddenly fearful eyes. It took him a moment to recover.

 

     “Well…well,” he stammered.

 

     “They died as soon as they served their purpose,” she said calmly. “I made sure of it.” Recovering, Pride hitched a winning smile onto his face but Death could see his eyes still betrayed his fear.

 

     “Well there was no point to them anymore I suppose, not with all the humans gone,” then realising what he had just said he quickly carried on “Imagine. The two of us, the only beings left in existence. Rather grand don’t you think? We could be best friends, or arch enemies. We could go forth from here and never see each other again. I mean you’re Death, no one tells you what to do.” He folded his arms as he finished his pitch. Death considered his words, studying his confident face.

     “You’re right,” he jumped to his feet with the energy of a much younger man despite his aging body. “I am Death.” She fixed her black eyes on him. Pride staggered. All the blood had left his face leaving his skin an ugly grey. His breathing became haggard and he stumbled. He fell back into his chair making it skid backwards. The table holding his teacup tipped and the china shattered as his hand knocked into it. She watched him as he struggled, finishing her tea and making a little humming noise of appreciation.

     “Too proud. Too arrogant. Did you really think you could manipulate me?”

     The grandfather clock continued to tick; the fire crackled slightly as it burned low. It was just her now. Death put down her empty cup. What would it be like, she wondered, to die? Thinking back to Pride’s words she imagined simply refusing her duty. Ironic, Death being the only thing left alive. The idea faded. No. Everything must go.

     She settled deeper into the armchair letting her eyes close. Slowly, very slowly, she let herself drift away. The clock stopped. The last of the flames in the fireplace went out. The world went quiet. Silent as the grave.

The End

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