The four horsemen rode through the land and in their wake left intolerance, anger, greed and debasement of the human soul. The horsemen never raced or galloped across the land but came at a slow, measured pace. People scurrying around, wrapped in their daily toil failed to observe the horsemen’s approach.
The first horseman rode a white horse. He infected people with intolerance. They divided into tribes of close minded zealots, reinforcing their ignorance of views held by other tribes.
The second horseman rode a red horse. He stirred people to anger and to express their views in violent ways. Peace diminished as the red horseman rode among them.
The third horseman rode a black horse. He weighed the worlds resources in his scales and drove greed before him. The rich became richer and the poor became poorer.
The fourth horseman rode a pale horse. He removed all respect for life and glorified in the debasement of the human soul.
The horsemen walked their slow, measured pace throughout the land for forty years, trampling virtue and sowing discord.
In the fortieth year,after the advent of the horsemen. the land and its people were dying from war, disease and famine and the people finally awoke to see the horsemen in their midst. They united for the first time and called for a great gathering to discuss solutions to the crisis. After four days of discussion they instituted the winds of change and sent couriers North, South, East and West to ensure that all were aware of the new mandate.
The four horsemen having no vices to nourish their mounts disappeared from the land to wait patiently in the fourth dimension until their time would come again to walk the land.
We walk our lonely paths of quiet decay. Structures, once vibrant and alive, are worn down by the passage of time and buffeted by the winds of indifference. Old ways of being morph into future generations and new structures are born.
Eight babies poured from my mother’s womb in eight years, then someone turned off the tap and the babies stopped flowing. I was the fourth of the eight children my parents raised in our three bedroom apartment. The apartment was unending chaos. With my father absent ten hours a day my mother tried hard to cope but was heavily outnumbered. I remember pouring Coca Cola on top of my cereal for breakfast, eating three different flavours of ice cream for lunch and enjoying endless Kraft dinner. Due to the closeness of age , life was one long battle, all of us fighting for our parents attention. The chaos continued from birth through puberty. We would steal each others clothes and leap in anger at any provocation. I had no solitude, no secrets, no new clothes and no desire to be around my family.
Turning eighteen, I found a job in a small company as an office clerk and left home to make my own way in the world. I worked hard, enrolled part time in bookkeeping courses and found I enjoyed the logic, neatness and continuity of the process. Soon after completing the course I was offered the job of bookkeeper and accepted with extreme delight. My world became confined to 12 feet by 20 feet of office space and my best friends were two metal filing cabinets, holding memories of past transactions. I spent twelve hours a day in that tiny office savouring the quiet, the routine, the order and the occasional software challenge. Far from the maddening crowd and family.
When I first left home my family stayed in touch and later on I would receive invitations to birthday parties, marriages, christenings. I ignored them all and continued plodding along blissfully wrapped in my bookkeeping cocoon. After a while the invitations stopped coming.
Twenty five years had passed and I accepted the speech and the gift from the company in honour of my years of service. I should have been happy with the acknowledgement and the applause of my co-workers, so why did I feel so empty inside. I looked on all those smiling faces and realized that I did not know them or hold any feelings for them. It was then that the depression started. I awoke the next morning and all of a sudden life no longer had any purpose. Arriving in work, I realized it was all business, there was no real closeness or friendship with my office colleagues. I returned home that evening to the empty apartment and felt despair. After a year of this existence I was friended on Facebook by someone who claimed to be my nephew.
I was apprehensive about pushing the confirm friend button but took the plunge. We conversed back and forth for a few weeks. My nephew bringing me up to date on family affairs. Then the invitation came for the annual family reunion. I thought about the invitation long and hard and eventually decided to go. So here I am at the train station, butterflies in my stomach and the beginning of a migraine.
My sister Karen picked me up from the train station. Greeted me with a hug, took my suitcase, bundled me into the car and I found myself smiling nostalgically. She drove to the resort where the family was staying and I found myself surrounded by family, chaos revisited. There were more hugs and kisses, crying, recriminations, strange looks from in-laws and shy glances from twenty nieces and nephews I had never seen. My head spun as I tried to keep up with all the introductions. I was back into the melting pot of family life and I loved it.
He galloped to the lighthouse keeper and instructed him to light the beacon. Turning he heard a whoosh and doubled over as the arrow pierced his stomach. He spun his horse and galloped away as another arrow drove into his back. He took the spiraling cliff path down to the beach and sent the summons. He knew there should be more words, but the agony was intense, clouding his brain, and the remaining words would not come. The horse stumbled pitching him onto the white sand of the beach. He lay in a stupor trying to fight through the pain, aware that he was losing blood fast and needed to act. He glanced at the ocean. Water would revive him. He willed himself to crawl forward snapping the end of the arrow protruding from his stomach. Ignoring the arrow impaled in his back, elbows beneath his body, he struggled forward. He passed out again. The incoming tide washed over his body, reviving him, but threatening to drag him out into the ocean.
He luxuriated in the soft flow upon his face and he reached towards the heavens. Thousands of raptors were circling above, their feathers cascading down to earth. His call had been answered. He reached out with his awareness and the peregrine falcon descended and landed on his wrist. With his dying breath the words came to him and his soul was transferred to the falcon. His soulless, human body spun in rhythm to the tides and disappeared beneath the ocean.
The pain was gone,he felt so alive seeing with his new eyes, flapping his wings to the rhythm of air floating above and below. He propelled himself forward and flew out over the ocean spying the ships sailing towards shore. The invaders were coming.
He flew towards the light house. Had the beacon been lit. His keen sight spotted the archer in the sparse copse by the side of the light house. The lighthouse keeper was still trapped within the confines of the lighthouse, aware of the archer but unable to act. It was at that moment the lighthouse keeper decided to take a chance and ignite the wood that would carry the warning signal. He crept forward with his flame.
Circling a mile above the lighthouse, the falcon spotted the archer stringing his bow preparing to kill his prey. He calculated that from this distance he could reach the archer in about eighteen seconds. Would that be enough time. Wings folded the falcon swooped towards the archer at his maximum speed of 200 mph. The archer drew but before he could release the falcons talons ripped into his eyes and the arrow flew wild. The falcon continued to rip the archers face with his talons and the archer, blinded, stumbled over the edge of the cliff to his death.
The lighthouse keeper lit the flame and the warning signal was seen and carried forward warning of the invaders. The peregrine falcon, now fully aware, soared to lead his army of raptors that would perform their part in the war to come.
Professor Geoffrey Random pondered a dilemma. Should he apply for the research money or hide his discovery till he thought the world was ready. He had tried to think through the implications of his discovery and the down side of unexpected consequences of implementing his research. You can plan and plan but the human mind is complex and can deviate from expected norms of behaviour given the right circumstances. He sighed, uncertain of what to do, trying to clear his mind and crystalize his thoughts. He unexpectedly came to his decision. I’ll accept the government grant, proceed with perfecting my research and hang the consequences. My research is bleeding edge and I will not deny humanity it’s chance for change.
Professor Random despaired over the prejudices of the human species in reacting to different skin tones. His scientific mind accepted skin tone as just a biological fact, based on skin pigmentation evolving to regulate the amount of ultraviolet radiation penetrating the skin. The closer to the equator, the higher the amount of UVR, thus the mutation of DNA in the skin cells. He shook his head in astonishment over the term ‘ people of colour’ to refer to a specific skin tone. Are we not all people of colour, black, brown, white and all the shades in between. Why do we insist on this continuous bickering over variations in skin colour. He was determined to solve this issue.
He started with experiments in manipulating the gene that determined skin colour, but had no success. He then proceeded to study melanin, the main determinant of skin colour. He worked on the biology of skin colour for five years but was unable to come up with a workable method of how to change skin pigmentation. Realization soon began to dawn that he was taking the wrong approach. It was not about changing the body colour itself but other peoples perception of the colours they see.
The colour we see is determined by the wave length of reflected light. Millions of tiny cone cells in the retina respond to light, zap the signal along the optic nerve to the visual cortex of the brain which processes the information and returns with the colour. What if we could manipulate the wavelength of reflected light to deceive the retina into interpreting this information a specific way to fool the cortex into returning specific colours. He experimented on this hypothesis for a further five years and came up with a prototype nanobot which when injected into the human body would transmit a signal to change an observers perception of skin colour. Due to limitations in the nanobots frequency function only the main colours of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red were available. It was this prototype that was submitted to the government for research funds.
Professor Random received the news that his research funds were approved and proceeded with his work, transforming the nanobot prototype into a workable model over two years. For marketing purposes the nanobot was concealed inside a pill that was to be taken orally with a glass of water. The colour of the pill determined the perceived colour of your skin. He then hired 500 volunteers for testing and after a further six months submitted the finished product for government testing. It took a further year to obtain government approval and he was finally ready to market.
Advertising was extensive, extolling the many benefits of exotic skin colours and public acceptance was immediate. What Professor Random failed to predict was that a whole new colour identity social structure was about to be born. He naively thought that colour would be an individual choice rather than a group identity choice. The first adherents of this new technology were the LGBT community who adopted violet as their colour of choice. This was quickly followed by environmentalists who chose green. Followers of political parties soon jumped on board with conservatives adopting blue and liberals/socialists/progressives/communists adopting red. Religious leaders frowned on this new technology and forbid their followers to take part. This resulted in many followers leaving their religion and attaching themselves to a colour identity for economic reasons. The one exception were Buddhists who adopted yellow for enlightenment. Orange was left for ANTIFA and other anti society groups.
Soon a whole new society emerged based strictly on skin colour. The entertainment and fashion industry would only accept people with violet skin. Main street media companies would only allow people with red skin and major industrial business and finance companies would only employ people with blue skin. Mental health issues increased substantially, especially among sports followers, who were conflicted between buying the pill based on their sports team colours or social ideology. Governments continued to appeal to its colour discrimination policies but evidence of your beliefs were attached to skin colour and so it was easy for corporations to reject applicants as being unqualified.
There was a major side effect to the colour pill that quickly became apparent. A red progressive became disillusioned with his ideology and decided to change to blue. He purchased the required blue pill, swallowed and the nanobots started emitting different frequencies which fried his brain into a vegetative state. After this was discovered and Professor Random’s company paid out $10 billion in compensation to the victim’s family, the drug was forced from the market by government decree. Another failed social experiment. Be very careful of bleeding edge technology.
I graduated, in the Spring of 2075, with a degree in bio engineering, specializing in body sculpture. Six long years of study, without a break, at a cost of $1.2 million. It was worth it. I was excited at my future prospects knowing this was a growing field with lots of money to be made.
I have always been interested in the way people interact with their bodies. Most of us have a particular self image, usually different from the body we were born with. We are never satisfied with ourselves.
Before the 20th century our body image was shaped around tribal customs, rituals and acceptable modes of appearance. Erasable body paint progressed to permanent body tattoos and migrated to body piercing. The body was moulded into acceptable forms of beauty by sometimes harsh and painful methods, elongated ears, wider lips and smaller feet. All this the precursor to cosmetic surgery.
In the latter part of the 20th century advancements in medical science enabled failing body parts to be replaced by an equivalent transplant. The first heart transplant famously conducted by Dr. Barnard in 1967. Lost limbs were initially replaced by dormant prototype limbs that had no functionality. But as technology improved these limbs were designed to perform functions equal or superior to the original limbs.
Medical science designed only for the preservation of the body as a functioning unit completely changed at the beginning of the 21st century. Perhaps it was the complete mapping of the genome in 2003 that changed the medical science perspective on the human body. From that discovery medical researchers considered ways the human body could be manipulated beyond the biological norms. The first tentative steps taken in this direction was transforming the sexual identities of individuals. It was then that the medical profession crossed the boundary into unchartered territory.
Much like manufacturers advertising under arm deodorant enticed a population to smell like lilac, lavender or a soft ocean breeze the medical profession advertised it’s gender changing techniques to an accepting public. This led to the birth of the body sculpture movement.
The mid 21st century was all about the animal craze. It started with a rich Hollywood celebrity losing her pet dog. Wanting a visual reminder of her dog, she had the dog’s tail transplanted on to her behind. This trend became fashionable,mainly for the rich, as the fees for this type of body sculpture were prohibitive for the average working person. It soon became common to see famous celebrities with feathered faces, fish fin ears and an elephants trunk for a nose. The common people were left to express their own forms of personal identity.
After graduating from university my first client consulted with me on his wish to become an angel. We spent weeks discussing the size, texture and colour of feathers as well as perusing thousands of bird photos to arrive at the perfect pair of angel wings. We finally agreed on colourful peacock feathers which I grafted individually on to his shoulders. We were both extremely pleased with the results. The cost was only $5 million but I understand he went on to become a star in religious videos and recouped the cost of the wings in a few short months.
My latest client came with a proposal that challenged my ingenuity. He wanted me to sculpture his body into an old fashioned clock. He kept repeating “tick tock, I’m a clock” over and over which became a little unnerving, but I was determined to grant him his wish. It took months to review every conceivable type of time device from sun dials to grandfather clocks but we finally settled on a workable design.
His initial thought was to transform his face into a clock and leave the rest of the body alone. But I quickly disavowed him of this idea. It’s all about balancing the body parts to bring each part into harmony with the whole. We settled on the centre of his body as the focal point, replacing his heart with a pendulum that would be wired to the brain through the left side of his face. The swing of the pendulum would replace his heart beat and perform that vital function. His arms would be the hands of the clock, this seemed self evident and fit in perfectly with the overall design. The crown of his head would be the clock face. I explained to him that this body sculpture would take several visits as completing it in one operation would cause severe trauma to his body. Along with the final design I gave him my estimate of $20 million dollars for a total of ten visits.
The above image reflects my progress after 20% of the work completed to-date. I am quite pleased with the results and I know my client is extremely happy with the aesthetics and is counting the days till I finish.
I’m thinking of grafting an extra pair of arms onto my body as I can then make double the money. I have no regrets about entering into this profession, I get to satisfy my clients sense of self while making lots of money. Life is good all round.
She kicked off her shoes and danced through the meadow. The sun on her face, the warm breeze caressing her skin, the sweet perfume of wild flowers taking her breath away and transporting her to a another world. She lingered by the edge of the meadow, enjoying the heat from the noon sun , before skipping into the coolness of the woods. She caressed each tree, singing to them, adding her voice to the chorus of robins from their choir loft in the branches. She was ecstatic at the wonder of it all. She slumped in the arms of a red maple, sliding slowly to the ground resting her head against the trunk and closing her eyes.
Someone was gently shaking her shoulder.
“April, are you awake. April, time to wake up dear. Time for breakfast. Your favourite, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and toast. Here let me raise the bed a little”.
The nurse pressed the button at the foot of the bed and the head of the bed was electronically adjusted to the perfect height for April to sit and balance the breakfast tray. She started to nibble at breakfast, still half in the dream word, trying to come to grips with her surroundings.
She looked around at the other nine inhabitants of the chronic care ward. She didn’t know them well, they came and went, usually dying after only a three month stay. She had seen many empty beds and new faces in her two years at St. Brigid’s Hospice. But here she was, breathing oxygen through the tube attached to the cylinder by her bed. She had been diagnosed with COPD three years ago. Managing to survive one year at home with a portable oxygen tank, she was finally forced into chronic care, needing a constant supply of oxygen.
Later on that morning the nurse came to take her breakfast tray and cajoled her into the wheelchair for a visit to the common room where she could sit and talk to other patients. She never talked, preferring her dream world of a life lived long ago. She ate lunch by herself. After a few hours the nurse wheeled her back to bed to administer the nebulizer. She drifted off to sleep and was awakened for supper. She then drifted off to sleep again.
She was awakened by a sound in the night. Peering into the darkness, she heard someone trying to open the locker by the side of her bed.
” Who’s there ” she cried, the fear showing in her voice.
” Where do you hide your chocolate” replied a strange voice.
“I have no chocolate. Go away or I’ll buzz for the nurse” said April.
The next morning April relayed her nocturnal adventure to the nurse.
” Don’t worry about it, you must have been dreaming April. Just put it out of your mind and enjoy your breakfast”.
The nurse reported the incident and her supervisor replied . “The night nurse was probably asleep again. One of the Alzheimer patients must have been wandering around. Susan is on duty tonight, I’ll have a word with her to be extra vigilant”.
During the day April kept thinking about the incident in the night and she became increasingly apprehensive. She slept most of the day, could not be persuaded to go to the common room or eat lunch, and dozed off again after supper.
Just before dawn April rose from her bed and detached the oxygen tube. She shuffled through the ward past the night nurse, sleeping as usual at her desk. She walked through the main entrance undisturbed and noticed the golf cart used to ferry the maintenance staff around the grounds. She stumbled into the drivers seat and pushed the start button. The cart gave a whirr and jumped forward.
She guided the cart through the front gate and down the road to the meadow she knew lay two miles distant. Reaching the meadow she slid out from the seat and walked on to the grass, once more feeling the earth beneath her feet. The sun was just beginning to peak above the horizon and she gazed in awe at the dawn’s majesty. Waking slowly though the meadow she reached the sacred grove. The trees were aligned in a circle with the mother tree in the centre. She felt young again, full of life and danced around the grove acknowledging with a bow each tree she passed. She came to the mother tree in the centre and exhausted from her dance and out of breath she lay beneath the tree in deep contentment. She closed her eyes and slept.
The nurse came with April’s breakfast the next morning but failed to wake her. The nurse took April’s pulse, noted the time and immediately reported April’s death to her supervisor.
I shivered as I sat on the front porch steps of the decrepit old Victorian house, sipping lemonade, chomping on carrot sticks and massaging knots in the back of my neck. I had been pushing a rusty lawn mower in front of the house all morning and still had about half an acre of bumpy lawn and gopher holes to mow. The downpour came suddenly forcing me inside the vacant house. Standing in the doorway, glowering at the rain I heard a muffled noise coming from inside the house. The noise peeked my curiosity, I ventured further into the house exploring the rooms. I entered a room that seemed to have been an old nursery , complete with broken dolls and vacant stares. Sitting on a child’s dresser were three immaculate objects , a silver pocket watch, a gold candelabra and a strand of pearls. A small note, folded in a tent sits nearby on a rusted hand mirror, it reads:
You who so boldly enter this realm, lay down your tools and be away from this hell But should you still keep Adams vain, stay awhile and forego your shame An object of three you see with your mortal eyes. Which one shall be your coveted prize.
I extended my hand towards the dresser and grasped the silver pocket watch. The room shimmered and changed and I found myself pacing up and down a hallway. The house was no longer decrepit, beautiful artwork adorned the walls and a magnificent chandelier adorned the ceiling. I glanced at my watch, it was 3:00 a.m.
She was supposed to be home at mid-night. I specifically told her mid-night, no later. I paced up and down, continually glancing at my pocket watch, growing increasingly agitated. There was the sound of a carriage in the driveway and I heard laughter. The front door opened and Mary entered, swaying slightly, giving me a challenging stare.
“I specifically asked you to be home by mid-night”, I thundered.
Mary gave a slight hiccup and burped silently, ” I was having fun and forgot the time. Do you still remember what fun is or has age stolen it from you. I will not be spoken to like a child”.
“Keep your voice down” I replied “Emily is sleeping. Perhaps you should retire to your room and sleep it off. You are obviously drunk”.
” At least I had some fun”. She shouted ” You do remember what fun is. At least Johnny Thorpe is a fun fellow, I had great fun with him at the party dancing all night. You never pay any attention to me. You only married me to baby sit your brat”.
It was then I noticed her slightly smeared lipstick and the grass stains on the side and back of her gown. I stormed away, checking in on Emily sleeping peacefully in the nursery before retiring to my room.
I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of Rose. We had been extremely happy, doting on each other. Emily coming into our lives had increased our happiness and we were content. Than four years ago Rose had suddenly died. That moment still held anguish and will be forever imprinted on my soul. We had invited a fellow lawyer Thomas and his daughter Mary for dinner. We sat around the table making merry when towards the end of the evening Rose suddenly grasped the ends of the table, stood and then crashed to the floor. We were unable to revive her.
I spent the months after Rose’s death completely lost. I had no idea how to take care of a child and Emily needed a mother. It was then that Thomas approached me with a proposition. He would be willing to give his daughter Mary in marriage if I agreed to offer him a half partnership in my thriving law firm. I agreed.
The decrepit old lady shuffled towards the open door of the equally decrepit Victorian house. We’re quite the match she thought. She had never seen the door open before and it was inviting her in. She crossed the threshold and started exploring the rooms. She peered into the nursery and spied a young man sprawled on the floor clutching a silver watch. She thought he was dead but saw that his eyes were continually twitching as if in a deep dream. It was then she noticed the golden candelabra and a strand of pearls sitting on the child’s dresser. She reached for the strand of pearls.
The room shimmered and changed and she found herself sitting at the dinner table. She was entertaining guests, Thomas and his daughter Mary. She knew that her husband liked Thomas, but she always thought he had a vain and shifty demeanor. She didn’t quite trust him. She though Mary was as vain as her father and rather shallow. However, for the sake of her husband, she entered into the spirit of the evening and laughed at the appropriate moments. Towards the end of the evening some instinct, deep within her soul, made her pay careful attention to the movements of Thomas. He had been continually trying to distract her with conversations concerning the decor of the dining room. She fingered the strand of pearls around her neck while glancing at Mary flirting with her husband. Mary was batting her eye lashes and trying to draw admiring comments from him.
” That’s a wonderful painting” Thomas pointed to Mary’s left “Did you know the artist”.
Rose half turned to view the painting and out of the corner of her eye saw Thomas reaching over casually to slip some powder into her wine. Rose appeared not to notice and continued her conversation with Thomas. Discussing her views on art with Thomas, she waved her hands dramatically knocking over the wine glass and spilling the contents onto her dress.
“I’m so clumsy” she said ” I’ve ruined a perfectly good dress. You’ll have to excuse me while I go and change”.
Rose’s husband tiring of the tedious conversation with Mary took this as an opportunity to end the evening’s entertainment and showed Thomas and Mary to the door while Rose changed her dress. Later that evening Rose told her husband that she had caught Thomas slipping a powder into her wine. Her husband was furious but Rose talked him into ignoring the incident and they agreed that they would never see them again.
” What did I ever see in that blasted fellow” said her husband ” He was always nagging on about entering into partnership with me. I kept refusing and now I’m glad I did”.
Before they retired for the night they looked in on Emily sleeping peacefully in the nursery. Hugging each other closely, they counted their blessings in having such a beautiful child and each other.
The young man pushed the lawn mower over the pristine grass, detouring around the spring flower beds when required. He waved his hand in greeting to the decrepit old lady shuffling along on the far side of the road. Finishing his job he walked up to the door of the elegant Victorian mansion and rang the bell.
“I’m finished Mrs. Nightingale. Shall I come next week as usual”
‘Yes please Jimmy” replied Mrs. Nightingale ” How much more do you need to save for the camera”.
” Another three weeks, should do it Mrs. Nightingale. You are very generous”.
Emily smiled at Jimmy and closed the door.
Objects of power absorb psychic abilities that can change yours and other peoples destiny. Be careful what you touch.