Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019

Four of a Kind

The two of them sat in relative silence. They had known each other long enough now that their mannerisms alone were enough to hold a long conversation. The one on the left, gaunt, angular and so pale peered out the window next to their table. A small shrug of the shoulders and the one on the right smirked.

No one came to refill their mugs, or offer them dessert – not that they would have taken the offers. They sat alone, as they always did, and watched the world pass them by. Everyone out the window far too busy within themselves to notice the strange figures watching from the small cafe.

The one on the right, their face hidden by a strange mask, made a small noise deep in their throat. The pair of them stood and excused themselves. The one on the left didn't even look around as they walked – or limped – out of the door and into the street. As the door swung opened, the noise and thrum of the city outside echoed through the otherwise empty cafe. It rattled the one on the left and even without a single movement of their facial features, you can tell there's a frown on that face.

The one in the mask could feel something in the air. A grime that no one else – not even their cafe companion – could feel. It swirled around them and as they walked through it, they could feel it swirl and ebb, as if pushing through a stagnant water pond. Their eyes adjusted to the natural light and slowly the grime, this film over the world, came into focus and the one in the mask could see it. It swirled around the people who shared the street. Some had it more than others, but no one didn't have it. The mask prevented anyone from seeing the satisfied look on their face.

There was another pair, almost always apart from their cafe counterparts. The two from the cafe were reluctantly accepted by the people around them. As if what they did was natural. A part of their world.

The other two were not so lucky. They were, of course, always invited to the cafe. Invited to take part in their activities, but they never could. Their influence, or their charisma, had been shortened and they were confined to smaller places. Less developed places. Sure, from time to time the so-called ‘civilised’ people let their guard down and one of them snuck something in. But it was rare and getting rarer.

The tall thin one, so thin, stalked through the village. No one saw them. No one cried out at the sight of their emaciated body dragging its feet through the brown-red dirt. The people here were almost all gone now. The tall thin one had done good work. There were many villages here and they had all succumbed to a similar fate. An open mouth smile, full of teeth and blood, filled the thin ones mouth as they left the village to rejoin the large one sitting atop a nearby hill. Even from here the thin one could hear their companion laughing. A terrible, awful noise that filled them with something approaching glee. There were still more places for them to go.

The large one watched as the people, so small, so angry, fought each other in the streets. They laughed and laughed as the gutters filled with blood and bodies. They cried in pure satisfaction as the city fell to the fighting and the blockade broke.

All it took these days was the smallest nudge. A single word. And they did the rest themselves. The few people who resisted were always the first against the wall and the large one guffawed as yet another small group of resistors fell, dying for their cause as so many others had before them.

The thin one, as opportunistic as always dragged their lanky, maggot filled carcass down the hill and into the city. There was no conversation between them, but a look passed. Their personal dislike for each other, while famous, wasn't going to interfere with the job.

The angular, pale one tapped their way down the street. They made sure to not brush against anyone, or disturb the growing number of people that had made this place their home. The others, especially the large one, didn't understand why they did their work so slowly. Why they waited. Again, without so much as a twitch, their face showed the barest hint of resentment as they walked slowly past the throngs of people. They had their way of doing things, they had tried different ways before, but it never mattered; the result was always, and forever, the same.

The one in the mask sat down at a small creek. Fresh water ran down from the mountains here. All around them were rolling fields. Long grass and flowers hid the small creatures that had made this place their home. The people hadn't quite reached this far yet. A family, old and waning, claimed ownership of this land, almost all the way to the mountains, but they were almost all gone now. The pale one had seen to that.

The one in the mask leaned down and ran their hand through the water. The swirling, flowing grime that followed them everywhere took to the water happily and started to spread itself all over the surface.

Across the mountains, in a place that was not as beautiful as this and therefore not as valued, the large one was laughing and laughing. The large one would be blamed for this. Their actions always lead to the destruction of beautiful places.

The pale one understood. They had their roles to play, the others, but those three only worked to deliver people to them. These people, everlasting and at greater and greater numbers, only had one place to go. And at the end of that road, there would be a single vision they faced – a gaunt figure in a long black robe. All they had to was wait.