The Four Horsemen by Penny Rogers

The ocean growled to Gaia ‘we need our revenge, we must end this now.’ Gaia looked at the plastic, floating in rafts across the seas, observed the destruction of the sea bed, witnessed the poisoning and contamination of the creatures in and around the oceans, she understood the sea’s anger. 

‘Time is on your side’ she responded, ‘there is no need to do anything, let them do it themselves.’ The ocean snarled at her, knowing she was right. But that night its temper got the better of reason and the might of the sea smashed into the coastline, washing away beaches, sea defences, roads and homes. Gaia had to use all her skills to make the mighty waters calm down, return for the time being to its rhythm of tides and seasons.

The trees whispered a similar story. ‘We cannot continue; used, abused, exploited and punished for willingly providing millennia of shelter, fuel, food and medicine.’ Gaia’s answer to the trees, the grasses and all photosynthetic life was the same, ‘they will exhaust their species soon enough, their days are numbered. Yours are just beginning.’ The trees and plants sighed and agreed to wait, but their discontent manifested in poor harvests and new pathogens.

Deputations of animals arrived at Gaia’s feet. The great apes were articulate and persuasive; they had been exploited to the point of extinction.  Their habitats had disappeared; their family structures destroyed, their only future was in captive breeding programmes. The ungulates agreed and followed by carnivores, insects, rodents, reptiles and birds, all assented to the dire situation of their world.

She said the same to them all, commanding them to be patient and let humans destroy themselves. But she was concerned, after all humans were part of her world and she had a responsibility to them as well. She was frustrated. Why couldn’t they see what they were doing? Why couldn’t they learn the lessons of their history? But she recognised that it was probably too late and this clever, social species was on the brink of destruction.

So she tried one last time; letting the seas loose upon the land, generating storms, causing droughts, giving strength to freezing winters and allowing pestilence to sweep across the peoples of the world. For a brief period of time humanity seemed to hold back, take stock and reconsider what they were doing. But greed and selfishness soon returned and Gaia watched helpless as war, disease, famine and death exacted their revenge on the human race.

Penny writes mostly short stories, flash fiction and poetry; a few years ago she was shortlisted for flash fiction in the Bridport Prize . She is reviews editor for SOUTH poetry magazine.

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