Tag Archives: apocalypse

The Red Horseman is Stoned

Red Horseman

You aren’t going to throw your stone at me, are you?

White Horseman

I have to admit, it would be difficult for me to do so after you just endorsed everything I said.

Just then, an overweight and aged woman burst forward from the crowd. She was dressed in a robe embroidered with moons and crosses and stars. 

The Whore of Babylon

Doctor Kimel, this is outrageous. You know that it’s your duty to stone this man.

White Horseman

Why should I? Who are you to tell me what to do? Besides, I feel as if I’m in a dream, and moral obligations don’t exist in fantastical contexts.

The Whore of Babylon

Don’t think about the fact that you’re dreaming, or you’ll wake up, and this interesting narrative will come to an end.

White Horseman

Why should I throw a stone at this innocent and wise man?

The Whore of Babylon

He isn’t innocent at all! In your last dream, he threw a stone at me. Then, Black threw a stone at Red in retaliation for that crime. Then, Pale threw a stone at Black in order to avoid your potential retaliation. On Easter, you ceded your choice of what to do next to me. Red tried to deceive me into casting my stone at myself, eliminating myself from the game, since a sequence of two strikes is enough to end matters. But you persuaded me otherwise. So, now I vote for Red to be stoned. You have no other option.

White Horseman

I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I don’t understand why I have any sort of obligation to stone this man. He’s about to host some kind of tournament. It would spoil all the fun.

The Whore of Babylon

The plot needs to progress. And you decided to give me this choice, whether you like it or not. If you remembered your last dream clearly, you would see what a noble decision you made. Besides, his attempt to debate you was simply laughable. He didn’t even try to challenge you. He was hoping to flatter you to avoid punishment. Wait until you hear what the Black Horseman has to say.

As if by magic, my stone and slingshot drifted from my hands and floated into the woman’s possession. Without hesitating a moment, she aimed for the head of the Red King and let the rock fly. His entire body disappeared in a puff of blood. 

Another seal broke on my scroll.

10/30/2011

Next entry 11/6/2011


A Duel of Wits in Ephesus

I was led a long distance until we reached Ephesus, a settlement of many gates and towers. At its center was a great palace, the court of the Red King. We entered his throne room and my captors, having prostrated themselves, began to explain our presence there. He nodded apprehensively as they spoke. For my part, I stared at the man in mute awe. I recognized his face immediately from our former encounter, but still unaware that I was asleep, the similarity was more confusing than enlightening. He was no longer dressed as a horseman, but was crowned with laurel and decked in robes of scarlet.

At last, he addressed me.

“Why have you appealed to meet with me?” he thundered. “I’m a busy man.”

“I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.”

“Indeed?” he scoffed. “And just who do you think you are?”

In the crowd, I caught sight of the Lamb from the corner of my eye, and took comfort in his presence.

“I am the White Horseman,” I intoned.

The crowd burst into laughter.

“That’s impossible,” snapped the Red King. “He disappeared long ago, before the war of the Seven Cities established my ancestor as monarch of this place. Since that time, a great famine has blighted this land season by season, and to avert catastrophe, we periodically hold a Tournament of Fire. Is that why you’re here? Well, you couldn’t compete, even if you wanted to. Only three nobles from each of the seven cities can join in the game, with me and my two brothers serving as judges. The participants have all been chosen.”

“If you won’t let me compete,” I said, “then I’ll have to take your place as Judge once I execute you.”

“Are you seriously challenging me to a duel?” he growled. “I’ll destroy you.”

“You can try.”

A ring of fire suddenly blazed forth, with me and the Red King materializing at its center. At my side, I found my old slingshot, and one stone in my grip.

“If you really are the White Horseman,” hissed the Red Horseman, “then tell me—what did my ancestor challenge you to do in the original Game of Stones?”

“To defend the concept of God,” I said confidently, “and this is how I began:

‘God is love,’ taught Christ, but ‘God is dead,’ wrote Nietzsche. If so, Nietzsche is now in good company.”

“How did you know that?” cried the Red Horseman.

“A little lamb told me,” I said. “Now hear my defense of God, and give way.”

8/28/2011

Next Entry 9/4/2011


“You Have Appealed to the Red King…” (“And to the Red King You Will Go…”)

I did my best for many nights to control the content of my dreams, but to no avail. Whenever I found myself vaguely cognizant of my surroundings, I would either fly around at random and ignore the shadows surrounding me, or I’d repeat the same phrase again and again to everyone who encountered me:

I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

And so it went, for many nights. For their part, the other shadows seemed uninterested in me. They were all discussing something called a Tournament of Fire to be hosted by three kings, not coincidentally called Red, Black, and Pale. But in my dazed state, the similarity of the names meant nothing to me.

Finally, there came a certain morning on which I needed to wake up for a meeting at 8:00. In my anxiety, I roused myself a bit too early, at 5:30, and returned at once to a deep sleep. This proved to be the occasion for the resumption of my nightly agency.

Alone in a meadow, I was preparing to take off into the sky when a hooded figure approached me.

I said: I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

I then noticed that the face of the stranger, though hidden in shadows, was clearly not that of a man at all, but a lamb. Suddenly, my memories came pouring back to me, and I said:

“Do you remember that there was a contest once, to the death, in which four horsemen threw stones at each other and at a woman accused of adultery?”

“There is an ancient legend to that effect,” said the Lamb. “But the game of stones was never carried out to its conclusion. They say a clarion voice burst from the sky, unmistakable to everyone present, and scattered the assembly.”

“What did the voice say?”

“That’s been forgotten. It’s nothing but a legend now.”

I tilted my head to the side, confused. Then I intoned again: I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

“Who do you think you are, the legendary White Horseman?” laughed the Lamb. “You’re obviously a stranger here.”

I must strike the Red Horseman. Then the Black must strike the Pale. Then the Pale must strike the Black. Then I must strike the Pale.

A crowd began to assemble.

“What’s he talking about?” barked an indistinct form. “Who is this man, and where is he from? Is he here to compete in the Tournament of Fire?”

“Doesn’t he know,” whined another shadow, “that only Nobility can compete?”

“He’s some fool, asleep,” whispered a third form. “Wake him up and be done with it.”

“No, leave me alone!” I cried. “I know my rights. Take me without delay to the one you call the Red King!”

The shadows conferred. Then a figure dressed as a guardsman said,

“You have appealed to the Red King, and to the Red King you will go…” and I was immediately thrown in irons.

8/14/2011

Next entry 8/28/2011


A Journey Through Seven Circles (On Chaos and Providence)

In my dream, I was transported to what seemed to be a chamber of fire, where all that was or is or will be formed a seething mass of sheer potentiality.

A voice intoned,

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed a sudden expansion of Time and Space. Being came to grips with Nothingness and Existence conquered Oblivion—just barely.

In this universe, there is a Law—that chaos reigns. 

“And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now, I was transported to a world of particles combining and recombining, a whole universe of generation, destruction, and change.

Again, a voice intoned,

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed light bursting forth for the first time and illuminating the nothingness enveloping us, though no eyes existed in this universe to interpret the shine.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

 “And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now I was transported to a world of great spheres of light blazing in the firmament before vanishing altogether or exploding in holy fire. Some of these suns were orbited by humbler spheres of solid and liquid and gas.

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed a being that sensed me in turn, and then many millions of them, dancing and evolving with such rapidity that it boggled the mind.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

 “And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now I was transported to a world of monsters—savage beasts feasting on each other’s flesh by land and sea, a kingdom of dragons but no chivalry.

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed the monsters shrieking in agony before giving way to human beings.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

“And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now, I was transported to a world of emperors and slaves shadowed by great colonnades wrought by the hands of the un-free.

This is the sum total of Reality.

“But not for long,” I said, and at that moment, sensed humankind developing a conscience, and Technology beginning to ward off Death.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

“And yet there also seems to exist a force for greater Order…”

***

Now, I was transported to my own city, a world of electricity and silicon and steel.

This is the sum total of Reality.

I sighed.

The Law is unchanging—chaos reigns.

“And yet there has always existed a force for greater Order…”

***

Then, at last, I was delivered to a final city—a world of robots and simulations governed by unadulterated imagination.

Now, this is the sum total of Reality. And in this seventh circle of Imagination and Reality united as One, I ask you, has the Law ever changed?

“It was and is and always will be unchanging,” I said. “There exists a force for chaos, and a force of a different kind too.”

In my hands, another seal on the scroll burst open without warning.

Then, I woke up.

August 7, 2011

Next Entry August 14, 2011


The Red Horseman’s Complaint (On Atheism)

Before I could say another word, the pale horseman barked at the red: “You’re no one to set conditions. If only I had my turn back again, there’s no question of what I’d do. I’d throw a stone at you myself and finish you off—as it was, I wasn’t sure enough about your guilt to execute you. But now you say that God is dead, which proves that everything you swore about believing in the Sacred Law was a lie. You began this game for no reason when you cast a rock at this innocent girl.”

***

Black Horseman

It’s a bit late for that realization! Why should I have suffered because I was persuaded by the white horseman’s reasoning from the start?

Pale Horseman

You have to forgive me for stoning you—every move is painful in this game. I loved the red horseman too much to kill him, though now I see what a hypocrite he is.

Red Horseman

You’ve misunderstood me entirely.

I acted completely righteously in this game. I followed the Sacred Law to the letter. Now, I’m about to be killed because my enemies are conspiring against me.  According to the white horseman here, logic is to be our guide rather than dogma. Well, if this is the result, then I curse God, and say that it’s preposterous to believe in Him.

In the first place, God can’t be omnipotent. Could He create a rock He couldn’t lift? Could He make pi a rational number?

In the second place, God can’t be benevolent. This universe is too evil for words. Why should the agony of this world be experienced by anyone? Why should the innocent suffer?

Finally, God’s nature can’t be singular. Everyone worships God in different ways, and people go to war self-righteously and die like martyrs for opposite beliefs. We’ve no way of determining what’s true or false, since the questions that matter come down to faith and intuition. There are no absolute values. Religion serves social ends–it’s all a great lie.

I always assumed that God couldn’t be described logically—that the limits of human language itself put constraints on our ability to find words for Him. The Law was the Law–I didn’t dare to question it. But if logic is to rule the day, then I’ll die an atheist. The world is probably as it seems. It’s a random, Godless place, and no one will prove otherwise, because sad though it is, you all know that I’m right. Now, let the white horseman stone me, and let him accept the consequences. I couldn’t care less.

May 8, 2011

Next entry May 15, 2011


The Red Horseman’s Plea (On Suicide)

The crowd began to disperse in all directions, and almost immediately, the lamb was lost in the throng. But as if nothing else mattered but the game of stones, the red horseman turned toward the woman and hissed,

“The white horseman thinks he’s being clever by championing your rights, but consider this. If you survive this game, I know for a fact that you’re fated to experience one of the most excruciating roles in the history of world history. Avoid this undeserved fate, and end the game for yourself now. Were you in love? Then you’ve been abandoned by your lover, and have learned that the world is a cruel place. Were you raped? Then why should you be cursed by the role of mother, or live with bitter memories that can’t be erased? Why would you choose to live in a world in which no one would love you, and your own mother would turn you out? Your era is random, and vicious, and awful, and there’ll be no end to your worries if you survive.”

The pale horseman immediately broke forward and said,

“Now that he’s spoken as he did, there’s no doubt in my mind that you must kill the red horseman. In this terrible game, you can at least self-righteously defend yourself with confidence. Consider this; if you let this villain survive, there is every indication that he’d kill you on the next turn. Even if you would end your own life, to allow him to survive to kill another woman like you would be wrong if you believe yourself an innocent victim. And besides, it would be criminal to kill the black horseman who defended you, or to throw a stone against me, who did nothing to harm you explicitly.”

“Disgusting sophistry, “ said the red horseman to the pale. “Even if the girl doesn’t kill herself, stoning you, the pale faced horseman, would be a better choice than touching me. At least then she wouldn’t be committing a murder, and the pain in this game would be evenly distributed among several participants. That’s rational too, isn’t it?”

The pale horseman turned to me,

“You wouldn’t let this woman touch me, would you, when I just spared you a rock in the face? Clearly the red horseman must be stopped, now, before he sheds more innocent blood.”

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said, “But I can’t quite get over the anthropomorphic lamb skull who just talked to me. Am I dreaming?”

“Well, how would you know you’re in a dream, if you’re in a dream?”

I’d forgotten the usual answers to the question—that writing doesn’t remain constant on a page in a dream, and that it’s difficult to turn electric lights on and off. But nothing was on hand to inspire the thought, I suppose. Instead, I said,

“You’re right. I can’t be sure of anything but my own existence…”

“Listen to me,” said the pale horseman. “Never mind philosophy for the moment. All that matters is, you must kill the red horseman. It’s the only just move if you believe the girl is an innocent victim. You wouldn’t let this child hurt herself, or me, would you?”

“You did throw a stone at the black horseman who defended her against the red horseman.”

“That’s between me and the black horseman.”

“Well, ultimately, it’s out of my hands. I gave my vote to this woman, here, and am bound by her decision.”

“You’re a fine actor,” said the pale faced horseman. “But remember this—should you throw a rock at me on this turn, in this woman’s name or otherwise, I will never forget the injury, and as far as I’d be concerned, death would be too good for you. Should you spare me, on the other hand, I will never forget your perfect justice. Act righteously, and carefully.”

***

The Child

What should I do? The Roman Lucretia stabbed herself to preserve her honor after the king’s son raped her. Even if she were innocent, she didn’t want to live as an example for unchaste women to cite when they didn’t end their lives after they were caught red-handed…

White Horseman

But weren’t the nuns who chose not to kill themselves after rape by the invading barbarians even better examples than Lucretia? This whole idea of women as damaged property in the aftermath of rape is too cruel for words, and is a reflection of sexist and old fashioned mindsets. If you were raped, you’d be innocent of adultery. And even if this child were conceived in passion out of wedlock, would even the wickedest judge insist that its mother deserved to be stoned before it was even delivered? The red horseman is a very dangerous man and must be stopped. In your heart, you know this is true, even though your decision is excruciating.

The Child

I’m afraid of killing him! I’d rather stone the pale faced horseman, who hurt my champion the black, and avoid killing anyone.

White Horseman

But then you’ll be signing my death warrant. Consider that the red faced horseman will kill his black faced counterpart on the next turn. The pale faced horseman will then stone me in self-righteous revenge for this throw. Then, I’ll be forced to retaliate against the pale, killing him, leaving the red horseman with the final move, to kill me, and then you, and others like you too. There’s only one thing to do—the fact that self-defense is righteous in a game like this makes your choice all the clearer. Do you know it yet?

The Child

To stone myself?

White Horseman

I’m afraid not…

***

The red faced horseman licked his lips.

“Well, well,” he said. “I can see the way the wind is blowing. But let me say this to you, now. You’re overturning this woman’s will and warping her mind with your strange logic. I won’t let you escape responsibility for what you’re about to do. Is this my reward for being a righteous player?” He clenched his fists. “Today’s events have convinced me that God is dead. Atheism is most rational. Convince me otherwise, and I won’t begrudge you my death in this game. Otherwise, let it be on your head, Doctor Kimel.”

“Now there’s a challenge,” I said, stepping forward.

May 1, 2011

Next Entry May 8, 2011


The White Horseman’s Move (The Right Decision)

White Horseman

Tonight on this Easter Sunday, I will be succinct. I give my vote to the poor, defenseless, pregnant woman here who had a rock thrown in her face and is being threatened with death for the “crime” of being raped. Madam, I will stone whom you tell me to stone. At this moment, I am ashamed of this world. It’s too evil for words.

***

Red Horseman

That’s cheating!

Black Horseman

No it’s not. Even if the woman doesn’t technically receive a stone by the terms of this ancient game, the White Horseman can still simply ask her advice and do her will. It’s unprecedented.

Anthropomorphic Lamb Skull

Doctor Kimel, I presume!

***

Now, a roar erupted from the crowd. The severed head of a black lamb, all that remained of their feast, had actually come back to life and begun to talk.

In my hands, the second seal on the scroll broke.

April 24, 2011

Next Chapter May 1, 2011