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The Last Rider of the Apocalypse

Floris M. Kleijne (floriskleijne.com) writes stories--some of them award-winning--in the interstices between his family, his career in finance, and his insatiable craving for Netflix binges. His stories have appeared in the Writers of the Future anthologies, Galaxy's Edge, Factor Four, Little Blue Marble, and many other publications. This is his sixth appearance in Daily Science Fiction; you can search the DSF site for his other stories, about Siri on steroids, a sentient painting, telepathic corporate espionage, a trans dragon, and a mother's loss.

The Riders fled, and Porcaleo followed.
Pestilence attempted to make the long, cold crossing to Andromeda. Some million light years into the void, Porcaleo overtook the fleeing murderess, and released the billions of cures he had accumulated over the millennia, until Pestilence vanished without even a pop to mark her passing.
In the center of the Horsehead Nebula, in the photosphere of a dying star, Famine turned to face him after a centuries-long chase. Porcaleo swerved round Famine's barrage of dirigible singularities and emptied all four barrels of his cornucopia rifle. The path of his discharge traced a line of implosions like scintillating blossoms, and Famine collapsed under the abundance.
For ages, War managed to evade him in the densely populated heart of the galaxy. Patiently, Porcaleo charted rumors of strife, death tolls beyond belief, weaponized destruction, until he finally homed in on War's stronghold deep inside a dense cloud of asteroids. Paying no heed to War's whispered entreaties, he released the swarm of creatures he had engineered for this moment, and watched in grim victory as the white doves suffocated War with their olive leaves.
At long last, Porcaleo caught up with Death, his final quarry.
The Reaper hung motionless, a misshapen black silhouette like a bottomless hole in the gargantuan, shimmering expanse of the Milky Way. A field of stars too numerous to count outlined the absolute darkness of Death's vessel.
Porcaleo's pod vibrated with Death's echoing sandpaper whisper. He did not respond, but readied his armaments.
"You cannot kill me. I am Death."
Still Porcaleo held his tongue. So close to finally avenging humanity, he dared not let himself be drawn into the distraction of a debate. His pod now bristled with barrels, aimed to cover every last corner of the universe.
"You brought death to my companions. But I am Death. How could you think you can ever touch me?"
"You are, aren't you?" Porcaleo whispered. "You are become Death."
He had wondered, through all the millennia of his quest for vengeance. He had wondered as he wiped out Pestilence, wasted Famine, smothered War. Because he no longer knew. His memory of the four that came and rained destruction upon humanity, assuming the archetypes of the four Riders to mock humanity's superstitions, was that a real memory? It was all so long ago. Or was it a dream? Were they the real Riders, and his relentless pursuit a terrible blasphemy?
Or was there a third possibility? Had the archetypes consumed them, and had they become the Four Riders they had impersonated to wipe out mankind? The Apocalypse had been real enough.
It didn't matter. Porcaleo was the last surviving human, and he would avenge his kind if it meant going up against God Himself.
Death's answer rattled his skull. "I am. And you cannot kill Death, human."
Porcaleo spun up the tremendous stockpiles he had accumulated as he hunted. "True. I can't." His finger curved around the trigger. "But I can make you irrelevant." His pod trembled as a million barrels simultaneously unleashed their payload into subspace. The immortality he had first engineered for himself, multiplied almost to infinity, washed over the universe. Death's screeched denial dissolved into a final, keening lament.
Porcaleo sat back, inviting the contentment of completion. None came; instead of fulfillment, he felt only emptiness. He had avenged his kind. But there would always be more injustice, more cruelty, more evil to hunt down.
He glanced outside, where the Milky Way sprawled in splendor, no longer marred by Death's jet vessel. He set a course at random. He had been Porcaleo, the last human. Now he would be Vengeance, the last Rider.
And his work wasn't done.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 14th, 2019

Author Comments

The journey is more important than the destination. But what, then, once you finally reach that destination? To find new purpose is much harder than to just keep going. Still, what other choice does Porcaleo have? What else is left for him? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

- Floris M. Kleijne
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