The diner’s door bell chimed.
The man standing there was so large he blocked all the light coming in. He took off his biker’s helmet, revealing long red hair that verged on orange, tied in a ponytail. A few conversations came to a halt and quickly continued when his soul-piercing eyes landed on the talkers. He flicked his tongue in disappointment.
“I’m the first to arrive,” he whispered to himself. He surveyed the counter and signalled the waitress. “Coffee, please. Black, no sugar. And can I have a portion of that apple pie, please?”
“Certainly, luv,” the lady said.
“Don’t be shy about the size of that pie. I’ll sit in the corner.”
As he sat down the waitress placed a large coffee mug and a huge plate of pie in front of him.
“You’re welcome, luv.”
He ate a forkful and gulped some coffee, then the bell chimed as the door opened again. It was another biker, her helmet already in her hand, but where the first one was wide, this was his exact opposite. She was thin to the point of emaciation. Her leather uniform clung to her body, accenting her bones. She looked like a fashion model. The man waved.
She traipsed to his table as he raised. She disappeared in his hug.
“Sis! Good to see you! It’s been such a long time!”
“Yes, it has. Let go of me, you oaf.”
“You won’t want anything to eat, will you?” he laughed.
“Very funny.” She sat in front of him and waved towards the bar. “Just a cup of tea, please.” The waitress looked like the quintessential grandma just about to reprimand her granddaughter she hadn’t seen in a long time for not feeding herself properly, but in the end she bit her tongue.
“Been here for long, Red?”
“Nope,” Red said. He ate some more pie. “Juft arrifed.”
“I see,” she said. Her tea arrived. “Thanks.”
“D’you think the others will take long?” he said.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “But who really knows. Little brother always gets distracted, and elder sister… well, you know. She does what she wants.”
“That she does.”
They stayed in silence for a while, he munching and she sipping her tea, hugging her cup with both hands.
“You know,” she started. “In a sense I never thought this day would arrive.”
“Well, it had to, I know, but somehow… I don’t know. It’s a strange feeling. It’s been so long that I got used to… to all of this. And yes, it’s our duty and all that, but… I don’t know.”
He just stared at her.
“It’s as if…” she continued. “As if it was meant to last forever.”
“Forever is a long time. Even for us. Only elder sister has a glimpse of what that really means.”
“Whoa, Red. That is the most profound thing you’ve said in… Well, ever. What’s happened to you?”
Red wiped his lips clean with a napkin and took a long swip of coffee. He signalled the waitress for more, adding a circular motion of his finger that included the pie.
“People change,” he shrugged.
“Yes they do. But we don’t.”
“I’ve matured then.”
“That’s changing too.”
“Then we do change, Sis. C’mon, you don’t look the same, and you know it. We do change.” He nodded at the waitress and attacked his second ration of pie. “We do change.”
The bell chimed again. Another biker, a man, stood in the door. He looked like a dark-haired version of Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo cartoons, scruffy and lanky. His clothes appeared dirty.
The waitress was just about to say something when Red waved him over, as he raised to repeat his hugging manoeuvre. His sister didn’t move.
“Ouch. I’d like you not to call me that,” the newcomer said, extricating himself from the bear hug.
“No luck for you then, I’ll keep doing it.”
The newcomer sat by his sister.
“Oh, c’mon. Still haven’t forgiven me?”
“Sis, we’ve got work ahead. Lotsa work. And we gotta do it together, like it or not. I’d rather we do it as friends. You?” And he moved a fist towards her.
“Yeah, sure.” And she locked her fist against his for a second.
“Is that apple pie?” he said, and grabbed a bunch of it, putting it in his mouth.
“Can’t you at least use a fork, P?” she said.
“You know the answer to that, Sis,” Red said. P shrugged and made a show of trying to use a napkin to clean his hands. Somehow his hands stayed barely cleaner, but the napkin got all dirty.
“Can’t help it, forry, fif,” he said.
“Damn it to hell, P. Damn it to hell.”
Red signalled the waitress for some more pie for P. She nodded, albeit with a disgusted grimace. She brought the plate, to which she had added a large spoon. P scooped some pie with the spoon. Part of it fell on the table as it travelled to his mouth.
“So, this is exciting,” he said. “The four of us finally together! This is it! The final show!”
“Yes,” Sis said.
“Hm,” Red said.
“Elder sister still not here?”
“Nope,” his sister said. “We were just about to bet who would arrive last, you or her.”
“Oh, it had to be her. Definitely her. Though, you know, she’s always exactly on time. Part of her trade, you know.”
“Yes, we do,” she said.
As if on cue, the bell chimed once again.
A petite brunette stood by the door. Her shoulder-length black hair was straight and smooth. She had pale skin that contrasted with her black clothes, and she wore a golden pendant in the shape of the Eye of Horus.
She looked way younger than her siblings.
She smiled and walked over. Red started raising, but she shot him a look and he stopped. He sat back.
“Hey guys,” she said. “Sis, Red, P. How you doing?”
“Doing fine, thanks,” Sis said.
“Cool to see you,” P said.
“Hm,” Red said.
“So. Here we are,” she said. “The four of us.”
“Yes!” P said. “Let’s go!”
“Actually,” she said, “I think we ought to talk for a while before going anywhere.”
“Talk?” P said. “I thought this was pretty straightforward, wasn’t it? We ride out and it’s the end of the world and everything?”
“I hate to agree with P,” Sis said, “but I do.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but no,” their elder sister said. “Red?”
P and Sis stared at him, agape. He wiped his lips.
“I’ve had second thoughts, yes,” he even managed to look contrite. “And third and fourth ones. And I’m not riding out with you.”
“Are you crazy, man?”
“I’m not crazy. I’m tired. And I bet you are, too. We’ve been doing this forever. Forever. And just to wait for this day. Doomsday, ha. We have had our Doomsdays already.”
“I am in general agreement with Red,” their elder sister said.
“No way,” Sis said.
“I’m not hearing this,” P said.
“You yourself have felt it too, Sis. You were saying so a while ago, that you felt as if the world was here to last forever.” She didn’t need to remark she had not been there to hear it.
“Yes,” Sis said. “I did say it, but…”
“They don’t need us,” Red said. “Perhaps centuries ago they did. But now? Haven’t you seen? They do a better job killing themselves, ruining this world, than we could ever do. They do have an imagination for that. And they do it painfully and slowly. We are no longer needed.”
Sis opened her mouth to protest, but stopped. Then she sagged.
“I know,” she said. “I know. I felt it in my bones, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Yes. They certainly don’t need me.”
“To hell with you all!” P said. “This is bullshit!”
“No, P,” his elder sister said. “First of all, that is just the way you are. The rebel. Second, humans like you. Ultimately, you are chaos. They embrace chaos. But look inside yourself. You’ll see the truth.”
“Look inside me, then,” she said. “Look.”
P focused on her for several minutes.
“But then…” he said finally, defeated. “What do we do? We are the Four Riders. Have we been made redundant?”
“I’m afraid so,” Red said.
The elder sister picked up her helmet.
“You know, P, you can do whatever you want to,” she said. “There are more immortals out there to meet and have fun with. I for one am going to take a ride and enjoy the sun. It’s a nice day, all things considered.”
And she walked out of the diner.
This is my entry for this week’s Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Apocalypse Now! We had to write 1500 words of an apocaypse… But in Wendig’s words:
I don’t want you to write THE USUAL APOCALYPSE.
I want you to make one up you have not seen before.
A rare, strange, unparalleled apocalypse. Unexpected. Unwritten.
I recycled an idea for a past challenge that I never finished, and had fun with it. I hope it’s a strange enough apocalypse.
EDIT: I thought I had mentioned it, but it seems I forgot to: with this story I’m paying homage to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.