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"I am Death, the last of the Four Horsemen come to claim your world. I am eternal, and my task, unwavering. Few seek my favour, but would it be so bad? To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream... For in that sleep of death what dreams may come."

Deciphered from "Sacralexicon": Edit

In the legends, Death never loses. But then, no one is fighting Death, though they all invoke him. In those tales of old, the hero wins when they kill their great foe. Perhaps in the more sentimental stories, the hero allows their adversary to live out their full allocated time, letting Death claim them some other time... It makes no difference, both hero and villain will greet Death when all is said and done.

But those legends always stop before we see his sickle claws and beady eyes. Though it's left unsaid, we all know that's how the stories really end. At the end of every road, every mortal soul, Death awaits. No matter how great the hero, or how large they stood in life, Death does not compromise. For as long as there is life, he will reap mortal harvests in mortal fields. For he is the last chapter. The irrevocable end.

Part 2 Edit

For part 1 go to Famine

I make it back to civilisation with broken ribs, severe malnourishment, cuts and bruises, and no demon. The demon has been left behind in that godforsaken house, where it followed me till the last. Oh God, I'm safe.

Once I'm alone, my heart slows down gradually, and finally, I'm getting drowsy again in spite of everything, my abused body needing rest. I'm just sliding off into sleep, muscles relaxing, when—

—yellow teeth, red eyes, flash of pale thin evil face—

"What?" Someone says, poking their head through the door. "You okay?"

Nothing's there. I—it—I just saw it—damn. "Did you see?" I ask, before stopping myself.

But crap, if the demon followed me here—if it's attached to me in some way, crawling on the walls...

But no. I'm probably just dreaming anyway. Just some PTSD-addled, drugged-up, old-fashioned seeing things. Everything's going to be fine.

"Nothing," I say, trying to relax. "Just dreaming, I guess."

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a now-familiar flash at the window, a flash that looks like eyes, but by the time I swivel my head toward it, it's gone. I stare, heart pounding, and think I see another flash just over at the next window, but when I flick my eyes there, it's gone again. Crap.

I wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of scrabbling, a high-pitched shrieking noise going along with it. It's dark in the room, and my heart is pounding. I'm probably just dreaming the sounds. Because seriously, that demon had to be left behind on the farm.

But it's going to damage something if it keeps scratching like that.

I stole a knife from the kitchen during lunch. I don't think anyone noticed, but I'm going to keep trying to kill this thing.

I'm pretty sure the demon is following me around the hospital, using whatever weird alien sensors it has to feel out where I am so it can creep along the wall parallel to me. At the sections of the where the wall is thinner, I hear its steps, claws clicking, and I have the same crawling feeling on the back of my neck all the time that I used to get at night in the farmhouse. I know I'm putting everyone at risk by being here, that the thing is looking for a way in through the wall so it can get at me. I just have to take care of this, or find a way to get definite evidence so I can prove to them that it's out there.

In the meantime, I'm having trouble sleeping. I think the doctors are worried, but it's hard to be too concerned about that when the demon's stalking me.

It's 3 am and I'm not sure why I'm awake, but then I hear it, that scrabbling, the thing trying to claw its way in to get me. Something has to be done.

I slip out the door of the room, groggy and miserable, and had just enough semblance of mind to grab the knife on the way. I make my way to the entrance like moving in a dream. I'm sad and lonely and nothing will ever get better. The stars are covered behind cloud and dust. The sky is black.

I think about my lungs going empty, that terrifying moment of no oxygen before your brain goes soft and blank, how brief the smothering would be, how soon it would be over. The relief of it, your heart ceasing to beat. I can hear the demon outside the window, that scratch of metal against bony carapace, the endless malicious tapping. It's getting closer. If I opened the door it could come in, or if I let myself out, it would have me immediately, it could claw its way into my flesh. That's what it wants. That's what it's always wanted. I know the demon can sense my thoughts, sense how death feels like a friend to me, how close I am to it.

I see a long, red leg cross the glass of the window. It's close now. So close, not worried about me seeing it anymore. I think about my misery, floating up to fill my body, the empty desolation of starvation. The relief it would be to stop existing. I feel hypnotized and hazy.

As the door opens, the demon's long legs start coming in, the way I knew they would. It reaches for me, trying to get close enough to do whatever it's been wanting to do, to claw and tooth into my skin. I can feel its malice, how it's going to fling itself at me.

I can see that flash of teeth, the horror of it still too much for my brain to take, it's like the memory of a dream, the emotion stronger than the visual. Without thinking about it I leap toward it, the knife held tight in one fist.

It's gone into the emptiness in the blink of an eye, so the doorway is left shining and clear and normal, like it may all have really been a dream.

I still feel like I'm sleepwalking.

---------

The body was found at first light. Skinny and gaunt, a small knife lying unused by the door.

"Poor mortals, crazed with fear, fleeing in all directions on hearing the thundering pace of Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. But getting angry at the Horsemen for bringing about the end of life is like getting angry at ice for being cold. They are as inevitable as the sunrise. They were there to spark and fan the flame of dragonkind's awakening, to spin the wheel of civilization. And when the forest would grow rank and needed clearing for new growth, they were there to set it ablaze." - Effluvium

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