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Fantasy Fiction Funny

“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.

August 03, 2022 15:26

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21 comments

Graham Kinross
13:58 Sep 18, 2022

Really interesting idea. If pestilence is going to brag about anything, shouldn’t it be Malaria? That’s supposedly killed about 1-4 percent of people who ever lived. Yeah, famine would always be the winner in the end.

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Ej Lagerberg
14:15 Aug 15, 2022

Great concept. This could definitely be developed into a bigger story. There are opportunities to expand on those characterizations; really, so many ways you could take this 'family.'

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L. E. Scott
14:58 Aug 15, 2022

Thank you. Glad you liked it.

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Timothy Cooper
23:13 Aug 10, 2022

So, this was the second story the website recommended that I critique for this week. I am sooo jealous of this concept. It's friggin brilliant. I can't really find anything "wrong" with this story, so I'm struggling to offer any kind of solid, helpful critique. Maybe "it feels a little unfinished"??? I don't know, there you go.

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L. E. Scott
23:39 Aug 10, 2022

Thank you

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Michał Przywara
21:01 Aug 10, 2022

This was an amusing story. I like the characterization of the horsemen, but it's also a little frightening to think of them as competing with each other to screw us over. And that ending is ominous :) As others have mentioned, tying this to real world events was a good idea. It gives the story some weight and context, and it makes us wonder what comes next. I also appreciate how there's seniority among them, with war the youngest. That opens the door to perhaps a fifth as-yet-unborn horseman.

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Matt Airey
12:49 Aug 10, 2022

I love your style! You have a knack for creative themes. 🙂

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L. E. Scott
12:50 Aug 10, 2022

Thank you so much.

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Tommy Goround
21:05 Aug 08, 2022

Lol@ending. ::Clapping

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Elyssa White
00:33 Aug 08, 2022

This is amazing! You took plain, negative *things*- Death, Famine, War... and spun it into a web that stretched out to our real world. Covid-19 and the Ukraine war was brilliant. You threw in real events, making me get more excited about it. I mean, who isn't excited when something they know comes in a book?

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L. E. Scott
02:39 Aug 08, 2022

Thank you for reading and your kind review.

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Yves. ♙
08:34 Aug 07, 2022

This was so interesting, particularly as such a unique take on the prompt. I can definitely say I was excited to see this approach, and happily surprised! Thanks for sharing with us.

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L. E. Scott
13:25 Aug 07, 2022

Thank you for reading. Glad you liked it.

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Cole Hiller
21:20 Aug 04, 2022

I really liked this! I thought it was a very neat concept. I liked how you showed Pestilence and War as being friends despite their competition, it was a good way of characterizing their friendship into something relatable. I liked how it was from deaths perspective, because Death was clearly tired of Pestilence and War one upping each other, and wanted them to stop, kind of how we also want them to stop. It was a really cool way to kind of satirize what's going on today. I think this could be a continuing story, and this would kind of be th...

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L. E. Scott
21:51 Aug 04, 2022

Glad you liked it. Might be submitting this one, it has the most feedback of the five.

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Cole Hiller
22:08 Aug 04, 2022

Yeah, you should go for it, it was a fun take on the world situation.

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Felice Noelle
16:31 Aug 04, 2022

L.E.: I always love stories that cynically, but realistically, strike home with a message to us humans. You did a great job characterizing each of the four horsemen, but perhaps the story would benefit from detailed setting, maybe weaving in the Ukraine and other sensitive areas around the globe. I really loved your concept, it just might need something to anchor the story and provide a narrative. This was very clever and well-done. Any suggestion is just my humble opinion to take or not. This was a great story any way. Maureen/Felice

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L. E. Scott
16:34 Aug 04, 2022

Could be death tells war hes got to "clean up her mess" in the Ukraine before deciding to take famine with him?

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Felice Noelle
04:54 Aug 05, 2022

L.E.: Yes, that would help move the narrative. How about setting a scene for your four horsemen, like around a high stakes poker game, or atop a mountain viewing another global disaster, etc, ...just something to anchor the characters in time and space a little more. Just a thought, but I absolutely loved your story and thought it was both clever and extremely timely and provocative. Good job. Maureen/Felice It was a little reminiscent of the character in The Book Thief, so you could probably develop it into a book. I seem to remembe...

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Moon Lion
16:58 Aug 03, 2022

Firstly, congrats on multiple stories this week! Secondly, loved this. I'm a sucker for anything like this, and this was really well done. Somehow the familiar and sort of childish dynamic between such beings never gets old, and it was especially funny here. Pestilence being the annoying one was too perfect. Also that ending was both wicked and awesome. I think this was pretty much a perfect, self contained and well charcaterized short story! Nice one :)

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L. E. Scott
17:12 Aug 03, 2022

Thank you. Of the five, which would you suggest entering into the contest?

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