“Did you see?” Pestilence bragged standing a little taller than usual and puffing out their chest. “Pretty good, huh?”
War rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “Eh, two global pandemics in a couple centuries? That’s nothing to brag about.”
Death took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He put his bony fingers together and rested them on what would have been the bridge of his nose if he’d had a nose. These two were always bickering, each trying to one up the other. Famine mostly kept to himself, bothering third-world nations and occasionally dipping his toe in when a first world country got a little too greedy. He didn’t bother with this silly competition and Death preferred it that way. Once upon a time, he’d taken the competition in stride. Souls had to be collected one way or another. Now it seemed these two were always making more work for him.
“Why can’t you two just get along?” he chided. “Your bickering has gotten so out of hand I’m always pulling overtime. I’d love to have some time off, but I never get it.”
“It’s not my fault.” Pestilence pouted, they were the least mature of the group, “She started it.”
“Well, if they didn’t keep at it, this competition would have ended a long time ago.” War retorted. She always had to have the last word in any given situation.
Death always felt like he was the mediator. It was tiring. Maybe, after the apocalypse, he’d be able to rest once and for all. Existing as an eternal being that was needed to keep the balance of the universe sure had its downside. These guys were all babies compared to him. Despite how they acted, Pestilence was not actually the baby of the group, War was. War had not been born until after humanity evolved the capacity to make weapons. As such, she was younger than both Famine and Pestilence.
But after she’d come into the family, War had taken the spotlight. Death paid more attention to her than he ever did to Famine and Pestilence. Maybe that’s why Pestilence wanted to make her envious for once. War invented things, and Death was kept busier than ever. But Pestilence was not to be outdone. They brought the black plague. When that happened, they smirked over at War who’d be hard pressed to wipe out that many people at a time even at her busiest. Just when Pestilence thought they had won the competition, War came out with the atomic bomb.
Even when Pestilence hit the world with Covid-19, War just rolled her eyes. “At any moment I could trigger the apocalypse. All I have to do is set off one nuclear war head. You don’t think I’m capable of that?”
Death intervened. “I think you’re not about to make that much work for me before the scheduled time. Are you?” War hung her head sheepishly and shook it. Pestilence looked smug because War had been called out. They loved it when War got in trouble. Famine, on the other hand, sat in the corner playing on his video game console. Why couldn’t these two be more like him? Death moaned.
But War wasn’t about to let that admonition stop her from torturing Pestilence. “Remember smallpox?” Pestilence winced at the memory.
“It’s making a comeback,” but Pestilence’s reply was barely above a whisper. “Thanks to anti-vaxers.”
“What was that? It’s making a comeback. Naw man. It’s over. Face the truth of the matter. Anyway, I’d never let something like that happen to me.”
“Really? What do you call the United Nations then? Seems like you really cocked it up with that war that spanned across Europe. Scared people so much they decided to make an organization just to prevent you from conducting business in their neighborhoods.”
“Maybe Hitler was a bit much. I probably could have made it last longer if he weren’t so… you know. Still, the fear is there so I know I can resume any time I want. It’s just probably best that I stick to the middle east for now.” War’s voice had gotten less edgy and more melancholy.
“Well scientists are working really hard to make me obsolete. Do you know how that feels? At least you have comfort in knowing that you’ll never die. As long as people exist, you’ll exist too. Even if you do have to stay in the middle east for now.” Pestilence was also running out of steam, and this became obvious as their voice softened with each word.
“Don’t worry about that. I’m sure you’ll find a way. Covid-19 was a work of genius.” War may always compete with Pestilence, but it didn’t mean she hated them. She didn’t like to see them get so down on themself.
“You’re just saying that.” But their voice was starting to perk up a little and War noticed that her encouragement was going to work. She smiled, perhaps a bit smugly.
Death breathed a sigh of relief. At least they were getting along now. He hated leaving when they were bickering because he never knew what they might get up to while he was gone. Sure, he’d find out about it when he got home and usually there was something for him to clean up. “Listen,” he announced. “I've got to go clean up that mess you made in the Ukraine." He gave War a scathing look. "Think you two will be alright on your own for a bit?”
“Of course.” War responded quickly. Almost too quickly. Death eyed her warily before turning to Pestilence.
“Why wouldn’t we be?” But their answer was even less comforting.
Why indeed. Death turned to his other child who seemed a little bored. “Hey, Famine. Come with me. You could use the fresh air.” He hoped this wasn’t the wrong call, leaving those two alone, but it wasn’t like Famine would step in and stop it if they started fighting again.
“Okay.” Famine was always so compliant. It’s no wonder he was the family favorite.