The 24-hour news cycle was buzzing with reports about conspiracy theories, debunkings of conspiracy theories and all-new conspiracy theories. The blogosphere dizzied itself as it took aim at target after target. As he watched the chaos his brother had unleashed upon the world, War, who generally has the strongest constitution of all the Horsemen, felt butterflies fluttering through his stomach. As nations pointed the fingers at those they fear, readied himself to join Pestilence’s party.
As Pestilence had predicted, a growing number of mortals steadied their fingers. Instead of aiming them every which way, they instead aimed those fingers towards a solution. Basking in the glory of mass confusion was no longer enough for the spectre; he now had to dissuade the population from arming themselves. While even the most basic of mortals understand you don’t fight fire with fire, he determined he must at least convince them you don’t fight this proverbial fire with water… or even fire retardant.
While humanity may not be safe from the oncoming Rapture—this final judgement will be a surprise for another day—those who worship were not fully apprised of the oncoming display of God’s wrath. So, when the devout were told that their maker would save them, if only they would just believe, truly believe, they found it easy to do just that. When Judgement Day comes, He will save his favourites by taking their lives. The rest will be discarded, living out their remaining years on Earth. Stifling a fit of the giggles, Pestilence implored the faithful to “Pray to your lord.” To ensure their prayers would be heard, he added, “Visit your churches, gather en masse, repent for your sins. If you are truly devout, your god will save you.”
No matter which form your god takes, no matter if you call Him ‘God,’ ‘Buddha’ or even ‘Binky the Dick-Nosed Clown,’ one of His biggest peeves is the dwindling returns worship brings Him. Instead of prayer, people’s attention is instead directed to humanity’s favourite movie stars, musicians, social media influencers and corporations. To be certain, people do pray to Him; however, twelve point eight percent of these prayers alone come from people begging Him to intervene to have Robert Downey Jr rejoin the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was therefore imperative that Pestilence’s word would travel further than the churches’.
If there is one thing humanity loves more than their god, it is their vices. Given this love affair, any time somebody suggests there may be a benefit to these is a cause to celebrate. Any time such a suggestion is made, no matter how ridiculous the suggestion may be, those who partake in said vice will eagerly believe it. So when Pestilence told the mortals to “Drink your alcohol and burn the Covid away,” they got drunk on the feeling of beating the virus back.
“Oh, your straight bourbon isn’t doing the trick?” Pestilence asked as the mortals continued falling ill. “Here, try some straight methanol.” Methanol certainly did ensure a number of mortals didn’t fall to the virus; it instead immediately added their numbers to Death’s tally.
“Cigarettes will kill you,” Pestilence told the mortals, “But, first, they will kill the virus.” As people lit their cigarettes and destroyed their respiratory tracts, determining lung and throat cancers are problems for another day, the virus took its hold.
As the horrible concoction that is nicotine and a variety of carcinogens is common knowledge across the globe, it was natural that a rather substantial segment of the populace didn’t trust this sage advice. Many of them, however, were far more trusting when Pestilence’s advice was accompanied by a baggie of cocaine. “Trust me, snort this and it will sterilise your nostrils.”
Amused by how readily these mortals would leap to poisons to save themselves, Pestilence had to see how far they would go. Ivermectin. Chlorine dioxide. Silver. Chloroquine. It wasn’t difficult to convince the President of the United States to take hydroxychloroquine. Drinking bleach was the President’s own idea, though, something Pestilence remains bitter about to this very day.
At this point, it occurred to Pestilence that he may have overestimated humanity’s intelligence. Refusing to be outdone by a tiny-handed tyrant, he put this theory to the test. “Eat cow shit,” he beckoned, “And when you’re done, wash it down with a warm glass of cow piss.” When a number of mortals listened, Pestilence’s appreciation of God’s plan to thin the herd grew.
As hilarious as it was watching those silly mortals gather in large groups to stop the spread, poison themselves and ingest bovine excrement, Pestilence realised he must also sow distrust about preventative measures. “Who needs to wash their hands?” wasn’t a big enough question; hand sanitizer became the biggest trend since treasure trolls. “It’s antibacterial,” he got people crying across social media, “not antiviral,” but those numbers were too few.
“Masks will save us,” people cried; “Masks will do nothing,” he decried right back. As masks came on and off with a regularity that reminded Pestilence of Ross and Rachel (Friends is the one gift from humanity that always brought the spectre unbridled joy). Soon, governments around the world determined that Ross and Rachel were no longer on a break and mandated that, for the safety of all, the mortals must wear a mask.
As the mandates fell across the world and people were told to mask up, Pestilence grinned. With six simple words, he knew he had humankind right where he wanted it. “But,” was the first of these, always a classic when you want to stir the pot, “What about your personal freedom?”