Essay Eye Behold A Pale Horse Wiki

This article is about the concept in the Christian Bible. For other uses, see Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (disambiguation).

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ to John of Patmos, at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a book or scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. The Lamb of God opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses. Though theologians and popular culture differ on the first Horseman, the four riders are often seen as symbolizing Conquest[1] or Pestilence (and less frequently, the Christ or the Antichrist), War,[2]Famine,[3] and Death.[4] The Christianapocalyptic vision is that the Four Horsemen are to set a divineapocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.[1][5] One reading ties the Four Horsemen to the history of the Roman Empire subsequent to the era in which the Book of Revelation was written. That is, they are a symbolic prophecy of the subsequent history of the Empire.[6]

White Horse[edit]

See also: White horse (mythology)

For other uses of the term "White Rider", see White rider.

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

— Revelation 6:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Based on the above passage, a common translation into English, the rider of the White Horse (sometimes referred to as the White Rider) is generally referred to as "Conquest".[1] The name could also be construed as "Victory", as in the translation found in the Jerusalem Bible (the Greek words are derived from the verb νικάω, to conquer or vanquish). He carries a bow, and wears a victor's crown.

The White Rider has also been called "Pestilence", particularly in popular culture (see below).

As righteous[edit]

Irenaeus, an influential Christian theologian of the 2nd century, was among the first to interpret this Horseman as Christ himself, his white horse representing the successful spread of the gospel.[3] Various scholars have since supported this notion,[7] citing the later appearance, in Revelation 19, of Christ mounted on a white horse, appearing as The Word of God. Furthermore, earlier in the New Testament, the Book of Mark indicates that the advance of the gospel may indeed precede and foretell the apocalypse.[3][8] The color white also tends to represent righteousness in the Bible, and Christ is in other instances portrayed as a conqueror.[3][8]

However, opposing interpretations argue that the first of the Four Horsemen is probably not the horseman of Revelation 19. They are described in significantly different ways, and Christ's role as the Lamb who opens the seven seals makes it unlikely that he would also be one of the forces released by the seals.[3][8]

Besides Christ, the Horseman could represent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was understood to have come upon the Apostles at Pentecost after Jesus' departure from Earth. The appearance of the Lion in Revelation 5 shows the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Heaven, and the first Horseman could represent the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.[9]

Other interpretations relying on comparative religious research ascribe the first Horseman as guiding for "the right path"; MahabharataLord Krishna was a charioteer to Arjuna by riding on white horses, while Arjuna himself was an archer.[10]

As infectious disease[edit]

Under another interpretation, the first Horseman is called Pestilence, and is associated with infectious disease and plague. It appears at least as early as 1906, when it is mentioned in the Jewish Encyclopedia.[11] The interpretation is common in popular culture references to the Four Horsemen.[12]

The origin of this interpretation is unclear. Some translations of the Bible mention "plague" (e.g. the NIV) or "pestilence" (e.g. the RSV) in connection with the riders in the passage following the introduction of the fourth rider; cf. "They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:7-8 NASB). However, it is a matter of debate as to whether this passage refers to the fourth rider, or to the four riders as a whole.[1]

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, in his 1916 novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (filmed in 1921 and in 1962), provides an early example of this interpretation, writing "The horseman on the white horse was clad in a showy and barbarous attire. [...] While his horse continued galloping, he was bending his bow in order to spread pestilence abroad. At his back swung the brass quiver filled with poisoned arrows, containing the germs of all diseases."[13]

As evil[edit]

One interpretation held by evangelist Billy Graham, casts the rider of the white horse as the Antichrist,[14] or a representation of false prophets, citing differences between the white horse in Revelation chapter 6 and Jesus on the white Horse in Revelation chapter 19.[15] In Revelation 19,[16] Jesus has many crowns. In Revelation 6, the rider has just one; a crown given, not taken. This indicates a third person giving authority to the rider to accomplish his work.

As empire prosperity[edit]

According to Edward Bishop Elliott's interpretation, that the Four Horsemen represent a prophecy of the subsequent history of the Roman Empire, the white color of this horse signifies triumph, prosperity and health in the political Roman body. For the next 80 or 90 years succeeding the banishment of the apostle John to Patmos covering the successive reigns of the emperors Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian and the two Antonines (Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius), a golden age of prosperity, union, civil liberty and good government unstained with civil blood unfolded. The agents of this prosperity personified by the rider of the white horse are these five emperors wearing crowns that reigned with absolute authority and power under the guidance of virtue and wisdom, the armies being restrained by their firm and gentle hands.[6]:129–131,134

This interpretation points out that the bow was preeminently a weapon of the inhabitants of the island of Crete and not of the Roman Empire in general. The Cretans were renowned for their archery skills. The significance of the rider of the white horse holding a bow indicates the place of origin of the line of emperors ruling during this time. This group of emperors can be classed together under one and the same head and family whose origins were from Crete.[6]:140,142–144

According to this interpretation, this period in Greek history, remarkable, both at its commencement and at its close, illustrated the glory of the empire where its limits were extended, though not without occasional wars, which were always uniformly triumphant and successful on the frontiers. The triumphs of the Emperor Trajan, a Roman Alexander, added to the empire Dacia, Armenia, Mesopotamia and other provinces during the course of the first 20 years of the period, which deepened the impression on the minds of the barbarians of the invincibility of the Roman Empire. Roman war progressed triumphantly into the invader's own territory, and the Parthian war was successfully ended by the total overthrow of those people. Roman conquest is demonstrated even in the most mighty of these wars, the Marcomannic succession of victories under the second Antonine unleashed on the German barbarians, driven into their forests and reduced to Roman submission.[6]:131–133

As war[edit]

In some commentaries to Bibles, the white Horseman is said to symbolize (ordinary) War, which may possibly be exercised on righteous grounds in decent manner, hence the white color, but still is devastating. The red Horseman (see below) then rather more specifically symbolizes Civil War.[17]

Red Horse[edit]

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

— Revelation 6:3-4 NASB

The rider of the second horse is often taken to represent War[2] (he is often pictured holding a sword upwards as though ready for battle[18]) or mass slaughter.[1][5][19] His horse's color is red (πυρρός, from πῦρ, fire); and in some translations, the color is specifically a "fiery" red. The color red, as well as the rider's possession of a great sword, suggests blood that is to be spilled.[3] The sword held upward by the second Horseman may represent war or a declaration of war, as seen in heraldry. In military symbolism, swords held upward, especially crossed swords held upward, signify war and entering into battle.[20] (See for example the historical and modern images, as well as the coat of arms, of Jeanne of Arc.)

The second Horseman may represent civil war as opposed to the war of conquest that the first Horseman is sometimes said to bring.[3][21] Other commentators have suggested that it might also represent the persecution of Christians.[8][22][full citation needed]

As empire division[edit]

According to Edward Bishop Elliott's interpretation of the Four Horsemen as symbolic prophecy of the history of the Roman Empire, the second seal is opened and the Roman nation that experienced joy, prosperity and triumph is made subject to the red horse which depicts war and bloodshed — civil war. Peace left the Roman Earth resulting in the killing of one another as insurrection crept into and permeated the Empire beginning shortly into the reign of the Emperor Commodus.[6]:147–148

Elliott points out that Commodus, who had nothing to wish and everything to enjoy, that beloved son of Marcus Aurelius who ascended the throne with neither competitor to remove nor enemies to punish, became the slave of his attendants who gradually corrupted his mind. His cruelty degenerated into habit and became the ruling passion of his soul.[23]:86–87

Elliott further recites that, after the death of Commodus, a most turbulent period lasting 92 years unfolded during which time 32 emperors and 27 pretenders to the Empire hurled each other from the throne by incessant civil warfare. The sword was a natural, universal badge among the Romans, of the military profession. The apocalyptic figure indicated by the great sword indicated an undue authority and unnatural use of it. Military men in power, whose vocation was war and weapon the sword, rose by it and also fell. The unrestrained military, no longer subject to the Senate, transformed the Empire into a system of pure military despotism.[6]:150–152

Black Horse[edit]

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”

— Revelation 6:5-6 NASB

The third Horseman rides a black horse and is popularly understood to be Famine as the Horseman carries a pair of balances or weighing scales, indicating the way that bread would have been weighed during a famine.[3][21] Other authors interpret the third Horseman as the "Lord as a Law-Giver" holding Scales of Justice.[24] In the passage, it is read that the indicated price of grain is about ten times normal (thus the famine interpretation popularity), with an entire day's wages (a denarius) buying enough wheat for only one person, or enough of the less nutritious barley for three, so that workers would struggle to feed their families.[3]

Of the Four Horsemen, the black horse and its rider are the only ones whose appearance is accompanied by a vocal pronunciation. John hears a voice, unidentified but coming from among the four living creatures, that speaks of the prices of wheat and barley, also saying "and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine". This suggests that the black horse's famine is to drive up the price of grain but leave oil and wine supplies unaffected (though out of reach of the ordinary worker). One explanation for this is that grain crops would have been more naturally susceptible to famine years or locust plagues than olive trees and grapevines, which root more deeply.[3][21] The statement might also suggest a continuing abundance of luxuries for the wealthy while staples, such as bread, are scarce, though not totally depleted;[21] such selective scarcity may result from injustice and the deliberate production of luxury crops for the wealthy over grain, as would have happened during the time Revelation was written.[2][7] Alternatively, the preservation of oil and wine could symbolize the preservation of the Christian faithful, who used oil and wine in their sacraments.[25]

As Imperial Oppression[edit]

According to Edward Bishop Elliott's interpretation, through this third seal, the black horse is unleashed — aggravated distress and mourning. The balance in the rider's hand is not associated with a man's weighing out bits of bread in scanty measure for his family's eating but in association with the buying and selling of corn and other grains. The balance during the time of the apostle John's exile in Patmos was commonly a symbol of justice since it was used to weigh out the grains for a set price. The balance of justice held in the hand of the rider of the black horse signified the aggravation of the other previous evil, the bloodstained red of the Roman aspect into the darker blackness of distress.[6]:161,164–167,170The black horse rider is instructed not to harm the oil and the wine which signifies that this scarcity should not fall upon the superfluities, such as oil and wine, which men can live without, but upon the necessities of life — bread.[26]

In history, the Roman Empire suffered as a result of excessive taxation of its citizens. During the reign of Emperor Caracalla, whose sentiments were very different from the Antonines being inattentive, or rather averse, to the welfare of the people, he found himself under the necessity of gratifying the greed and excessive lifestyle which he had excited in the Army. During his reign, he crushed every part of the empire under the weight of his iron scepter. Old as well as new taxes were at the same time levied in the provinces. In the course of this history, the land tax, the taxes for services and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil and meat were exacted from the provinces for the use of the court, army and capital. This noxious weed not totally eradicated again sprang up with the most luxurious growth and going forward darkened the Roman world with its deadly shade.[23]:138–139

In reality, the rise to power of the Emperor Maximin, whose cruelty was derived from a different source being raised as a barbarian from the district of Thrace, expanded the distress on the empire beyond the confines of the illustrious senators or bold adventurers who in the court or army exposed themselves to the whims of fortune. This tyrant, stimulated by the insatiable desires of the soldiers, attacked the public property at length. Every city of the empire was destined to purchase corn for the multitudes as well as supply expenses for the games. By the Emperor's authority, the whole mass of wealth was confiscated for use by the Imperial treasury — temples stripped of their most valuable offerings of gold, silver and statues which were melted down and coined into money.[23]:142–143

Pale Horse[edit]

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

— Revelation 6:7-8 NASB

The fourth and final Horseman is named Death. Known as "Θάνατος/Thanatos", of all the riders, he is the only one to whom the text itself explicitly gives a name. Unlike the other three, he is not described carrying a weapon or other object, instead he is followed by Hades (the resting place of the dead).[citation needed] However, illustrations commonly depict him carrying a scythe (like the Grim Reaper), sword,[27] or other implement.

The color of Death's horse is written as khlōros (χλωρός) in the original Koine Greek,[28] which can mean either green/greenish-yellow or pale/pallid.[29] The color is often translated as "pale", though "ashen", "pale green", and "yellowish green"[21] are other possible interpretations (the Greek word is the root of "chlorophyll" and "chlorine"). Based on uses of the word in ancient Greek medical literature, several scholars suggest that the color reflects the sickly pallor of a corpse.[3][30] In some modern artistic depictions, the horse is distinctly green.[31][32][33]

The verse beginning "they were given power over a fourth of the earth" is generally taken as referring to Death and Hades,[21][34] although some commentators see it as applying to all four horsemen.[1]

Destroying an Empire[edit]

See also: Crisis of the Third Century

This fourth, pale horse, was the personification of Death with Hades following him jaws open receiving the victims slain by Death. Its commission was to kill upon the Roman Earth with all of the four judgements of God — with sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts. The deadly pale and livid appearance displays a hue symptomatic of approaching empire dissolution. According to Edward Bishop Elliott, an era in Roman history commencing within about 15 years after the death of Severus Alexander (in 235 AD[35]) strongly marks every point of this terrible emblem.[6]:191–192Edward Gibbon speaks of a period from the celebration of the great secular games by the Emperor Philip to the death of Gallienus (in 268 AD[36]) as the 20 years of shame and misfortune, of confusion and calamity, as a time when the ruined empire approached the last and fatal moment of its dissolution. Every instant of time in every province of the Roman world was afflicted by military tyrants and barbarous invaders — the sword from within and without.[6]:192[23]:189

According to Elliott, famine, the inevitable consequence of carnage and oppression, which demolished the produce of the present as well as the hope of future harvests, produced the environment for an epidemic of diseases, the effects of scanty and unwholesome food. That furious plague (the Plague of Cyprian), which raged from the year 250 to the year 265, continued without interruption in every province, city and almost every family in the empire. During a portion of this time, 5000 people died daily in Rome; and many towns that escaped the attacks of barbarians were entirely depopulated.[6]:193

For a time in the late 260s, the strength of Aurelian crushed the enemies of Rome, yet after his assassination certain of them revived.[23]:246 While the Goths had been destroyed for almost a century and the Empire reunited, the Sassanid Persians were uncowed in the East and during the following year hosts of central Asian Alani spread themselves over Pontus, Cappadocia, Cilicia and Galatia, etching their course by the flames of cities and villages they pillaged.[6]:197

As for the wild beasts of the earth, according to Elliott, it is a well-known law of nature that they quickly occupy the scenes of waste and depopulation — where the reign of man fails and the reign of beasts begins. After the reign of Gallienus and 20 or 30 years had passed, the multiplication of the animals had risen to such an extent in parts of the empire that they made it a crying evil.[6]:194

One notable point of apparent difference between the prophecy and history might seem to be expressly limited to the fourth part of the Roman Earth, but in the history of the period the devastations of the pale horse extended over all. The fourth seal prophecy seems to mark the malignant climax of the evils of the two preceding seals to which no such limitation is attached. Turning to that remarkable reading in Jerome's Latin Vulgate which reads "over the four parts of the earth,"[6]:201[37] it requires that the Roman empire should have some kind of quadripartition. Dividing from the central or Italian fourth, three great divisions of the Empire separated into the West, East and Illyricum under Posthumus, Aureolus and Zenobia respectively — divisions that were later legitimized by Diocletian.[6]:202

Diocletian ended this long period of anarchy, but the succession of civil wars and invasions caused much suffering, disorder and crime which brought the empire into a state of moral lethargy from which it never recovered.[6]:203 After the plague had abated, the empire suffered from general distress, and its condition was very much like that which followed after the Black Death of the Middle Ages. Talent and art had become extinct in proportion to the desolation of the world.[38]


Prophetic interpretation[edit]

Some Christians interpret the Horsemen as a prophecy of a future Tribulation,[7] during which many on Earth will die as a result of multiple catastrophes. The Four Horsemen are the first in a series of "Seal" judgements. This is when God will judge the Earth, and is giving the World a chance to repent before they die.[citation needed]

Historicist interpretation[edit]

According to E.B. Elliott, the first seal, as revealed to John by the angel, was to signify what was to happen soon after John seeing the visions in Patmos and that the second, third and fourth seals in like manner were to have commencing dates each in chronological sequence following the preceding seal. Its general subject is the decline and fall, after a previous prosperous era, of the Empire of Heathen Rome. The first four seals of Revelation, represented by four horses and horsemen, are fixed to events, or changes, within the Roman Earth.[6]:121,122

Preterist interpretation[edit]

Some modern scholars interpret Revelation from a preterist point of view, arguing that its prophecy and imagery apply only to the events of the first century of Christian history.[21] In this school of thought, Conquest, the white horse's rider, is sometimes identified as a symbol of Parthian forces: Conquest carries a bow, and the Parthian Empire was at that time known for its mounted warriors and their skill with bow and arrow.[3][21] Parthians were also particularly associated with white horses.[3] Some scholars specifically point to Vologases I, a Parthian shah who clashed with the Roman Empire and won one significant battle in 62 AD.[3][21]

Revelation's historical context may also influence the depiction of the black horse and its rider, Famine. In 92 AD, the Roman emperorDomitian attempted to curb excessive growth of grapevines and encourage grain cultivation instead, but there was major popular backlash against this effort, and it was abandoned. Famine's mission to make wheat and barley scarce but "hurt not the oil and the wine" could be an allusion to this episode.[21][30] The red horse and its rider, who take peace from the earth, might represent the prevalence of civil strife at the time Revelation was written; internecine conflict ran rampant in the Roman Empire during and just prior to the 1st century AD.[3][21]

LDS Interpretation[edit]

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe their first prophet, Joseph Smith, revealed that the book described by John "contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence" and that the seals describe these things for the seven thousand years of the Earth's temporal existence, each seal representing 1,000 years.[40]

About the first seal and the white horse LDS ApostleBruce R. McConkie taught, "The most transcendent happenings involved Enoch and his ministry. And it is interesting to note that what John saw was not the establishment of Zion and its removal to heavenly spheres, but the unparalleled wars in which Enoch, as a general over the armies of the saints, ‘went forth conquering and to conquer’ Revelation 6:2; see also Moses 7:13–18]”[41] The second seal and the red horse reprsent the period from approximately 3,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. including the wickedness and violence leading to the Great Flood.[42]

The third seal and black horse describe the period of ancient Joseph, son of Israel, who was sold into Egypt, and the famines that swept that period (see Genesis 41–42; Abraham 1:29-30; 2:1, 17, 21). The fourth seal and the pale horse are interpreted to represent the thousand years leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, both the physical death brought about by great warring empires and the spiritual death through apostasy among the Lord's chosen people.[42]

Other interpretations[edit]

Artwork which shows the Horsemen as a group, such as the famous woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, suggests an interpretation where all four horsemen represent different aspects of the same tribulation.[43]

American Protestant Evangelical interpreters regularly see ways in which the horsemen, and Revelation in general, speak to contemporary events. Some who believe Revelation applies to modern times can interpret the horses based on various ways their colors are used.[44] Red, for example, often represents Communism, the white horse and rider with a crown representing Catholicism, Black has been used as a symbol of Capitalism, while Green represents the rise of Islam. Pastor Irvin Baxter Jr. of Endtime Ministries espouses such a belief.[45][not in citation given]

Some equate the Four Horsemen with the angels of the four winds.[46](See Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel, angels often associated with four cardinal directions).

Other Biblical references[edit]


The Book of Zechariah twice mentions colored horses; in the first passage there are three colors (red, speckled/brown, and white),[47] and in the second there are four teams of horses (red, black, white, and finally dappled/"grisled and bay") pulling chariots.[48] The second set of horses are referred to as "the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world."[48] They are described as patrolling the earth, and keeping it peaceful. It may be assumed that when the tribulation begins, the peace is taken away, so their job is to terrify the places in which they patrol.[3]


The four living creatures of Revelation 4:6-8 are very similar to the four living creatures in Ezekiel 1:5-12. In Revelation each of the living creatures summons a horseman, where in Ezekiel the living creatures follow wherever the spirit leads, without turning.

In Ezekiel 14:21, the Lord enumerates His "four disastrous acts of judgment" (ESV), sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, against the idolatrous elders of Israel. A symbolic interpretation of the Four Horsemen links the riders to these judgments, or the similar judgments in 6:11-12.

See also[edit]


Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Death, Famine, War, and Pestilence , an 1887 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. The Lamb is visible at the top.
The first Horseman, Conquest on the White Horse as depicted in the Bamberg Apocalypse (1000-1020). The first "living creature" (with halo) is seen in the upper right.
The second Horseman, War on the Red Horse as depicted in a thirteenth-century Apocalypse manuscript
Gustave Doré -The fourth Horseman, Death on the Pale Horse (1865)
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (by Arnaldo dell'Ira, neo-roman project of mosaic, 1939-1940.

rating: +101+–x

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

The living creature thrashed in its slumber, twitching and jerking in its never-ending agony.

It wasn't in pain because of the acid bath, or the radiation, or the injected chemicals coursing through its body. It barely felt those. In fact, it had almost never felt any pain from anything the humans had done, no matter how many times they'd nearly destroyed its body. Its agony was the same anywhere it went, no matter what it was doing, no matter what was done to it, only lessened in the presence of one, never stopped.

A voice echoed in the living creature's mind.

You have endured your suffering long enough. Your punishment is finished.

Emotions flew through the living creature's mind. Incomprehension and disbelief, then joy, then regret, then sorrow.

All is forgiven. Once more, you are one of Mine, and you will never pass from My sight again.

The living creature felt elation - gratitude and elation beyond compare.

Dr. Alto Clef watched SCP-682 from the viewing deck above its new enclosure in Area 1032. The creature writhed in its massive holding tank. Its mouth was moving, though vital sign readouts confirmed that it was unconscious. Through the new acid mixture, you could still see it rapidly regenerating. But the mix was working excellently, in combination with the K103-particle bombardment and the chemical cocktail regularly injected into the creature's veins by darts fired from slots in the inner tank.

Really, Clef wanted this containment to work perfectly because he was so goddamn tired of SCP-682. The years of failed termination tests. The constant containment breaches. The body count numbering in the thousands. He'd known some of the people on that list. A few too many.

Clef had honestly expected 682 to breach containment at a dozen points during its transport to the newly built Area. He'd expected it to breach containment when they removed it from its original chamber at Site 19. He'd been expecting it to breach containment for the past two weeks. Hell, he was still expecting it to breach containment now.

But so far, so…

SCP-682 stopped moving, all at once. Simultaneously, a warning alert came up on the monitor readout.

Clef's eyes narrowed as he read it.

The living creature's entire being suffused with light. The acid and the radiation and the chemicals ceased to affect it. The suffering and horror and fear drained away like water.

To the living creature, it was like its eyes opening for the first time in thousands of years.

Its vast wings, once cut from its back as punishment for its sins, sprouted once again.

It spread its wings and flew.

Chaos. 682 ripped through the walls of its tank, then the walls of the inner containment chamber. The MTF squads opened fire as it entered the secondary containment chamber. Clef didn't wait to see what would happen. He left the observation deck.

At this rate, 682 was going to breach into the Area at large in only minutes. When it did, it would be able to kill a lot more people, before it was either contained or the last-resort nuke went off. Clef did not intend to sit by while that happened.

He went to the office behind the observation deck, opened the safe in the back, and took out his backup gun.

"Gun" was somewhat of an understatement. "Cannon" might have been a better description. The PSX820 was a testosterone-fueled monstrosity straight from a 90's video game. It was an incredibly expensive weapon, designed initially to take down certain anomalous, heavily-armored vehicles. In testing it had been able to reduce 682's mass by up to 65%, depending on the power setting and how well you aimed.

Clef had never been what you'd call a crack shot at close range. Not without a perfectly calibrated scope. But with a cannon like this, you didn't really need to aim.

He took the elevator down to the outer containment chamber, and arrived not a moment too soon, judging from the racket coming from behind the—

682 burst through the tertiary containment doors. Wasting not a second, Clef fired the cannon directly into the monster's face.

The blast washed over the creature just as harmlessly as if Clef had been blasting it with a garden hose.

Tendrils sprouted from 682's form and ripped through Clef's body.

It was different, somehow — changed —

Shock. Then, loss of consciousness.

The darkness receded for a little.

Clef tried to prop himself up. Tried to reach the case of plastic explosives attached to his belt. But he couldn't get his fingers to move the right ways. Could hardly move at all.

682 prowled restlessly across the other side of the outer containment chamber. It didn't look like the same 682 anymore, though. It was entirely a pale off-white color. Still sort of reptilian in appearance, but mostly covered in feathers and quills. It moved less like a lizard and more like a lion, complete with feathery mane.

It had two wings folded along its back. It never had wings before.

"Fucking… Lament…" Clef muttered. "I'm gonna kick your ass so hard if…"

If 682 didn't stop ignoring him again and finish the job of killing him. If he didn't bleed to death here on the floor. If he didn't get rescued and then die of some weird 682-transmitted infection. If he survived but could ever walk again. Pretty big ifs.

And then 682 turned to look at him. Six reflective eyes blinked in the feathers on its face.

"Lament," 682 said. "I recognize the name."

Clef had heard 682 speak comprehensibly on only one other occasion, that recorded in its general-access file. "Disgusting." Inexplicably spoken in guttural English. Half of what little understanding of 682's psychology that they had. Off-the-record, researchers often assumed it had started out human. Some kind of reality bender gone wrong.

Its voice was very different now. And it wasn't speaking English. Some alien song-like sounds that for some reason Clef could understand perfectly.

"Yes. Troy Lament. The man born Jeremiah Colton. The containment specialist who designed this new prison for you."

It was conversing with him. Also… Jeremiah Colton?

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Clef said. "But I suspect you're going to tell me."

682 seemed to hesitate. "He is not the only one of yours with a false name. I know who you are, Alto Clef."

Clef laughed. He was getting dizzy. "Then you should know what will happen if you kill anyone else in this containment site. The Chowder-Clef Containment Protocol activates. Then it's boom, boom, boom all the way home. And that's just the beginning. You think you know pain? You have no idea. Not even the slightest clue. The plans I've set up will haunt you to the ends of the earth and beyond."

"You are lying. There is no such Chowder-Clef Containment Protocol. I know who you are. I know what you are."

"Of course I am lying." Focus. Focus. "I'm the Devil, remember? Just when you think I'm down for the count, I'll be back to stop you, roaming the Earth like a roaring lion…"

"You may have once loved the goddess, the mother of demons," 682 said, "but that does not make you the Devil."

"You'll take Lilith's shtick seriously, but you can't cut me a little bit of…" Clef coughed. "Slack?" Blood. Figured. "Looks like you got me good, either way."

"I have not killed you. Only disabled you. You will be retrieved by your underlings when I leave. You will need weeks to recover, but you have not been permanently injured in any way that your Foundation cannot fix."

"Well, that's… awesome. Very kind of you," Clef said. "We're bros now, huh? That's it?"

682 watched him with its many new eyes.

"So goddamn chatty all of a sudden. Why the hell haven't you killed me?" Clef asked.

"There will be much death to come," the creature said. "And there are other reasons, which are my own."

"That… that time when they shoved me in your containment cell," Clef said. "Why didn't you kill me then?"

"I was unsure what you were. Due to the alterations made to you. It gave me pause. Confusion. I thought perhaps… you were one of His servants, come for me at long last. I thought… No matter. Now that I have returned to my glorified form, I can see you for who and what you are."

"Glorified form? What the hell are you, anyway? What the hell are you doing here?"

"I wait. The others have ridden forth already. Conquest, War, and Famine. Only I remain."

"…The Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Clef laughed out of sheer disbelief. "And you're… what? Conquest, War and Famine… That makes you Death, doesn't it." He laughed again. "Death. Huh. Should have called that…"

"I am not Death," 682 said. "I am her Steed."

"Her Steed?"

"Yes. I await my Rider." 682 raised its head abruptly. "She comes. It is time for me to go."

"Wait!" Clef tried harder to focus. "Why didn't you kill me? Who is your Rider? What are you planning to do? What…" More questions that he should have asked already. Needed to delay the monster more. Get as much information as possible. But the words were all slipping through his mental fingers like grains of sand.

"For what it's worth, Alto Clef. I am sorry."

Clef processed that for a long moment. His vision had gone blurry.

"Why are you sorry? Thought you said… that I wasn't gonna die."

"I am sorry for everything that I have done to you and yours. I am sorry for all the innocents I have killed. I am sorry for all that I have done which you do not know of. And though I am not responsible, I am sorry for everything else you have lost. I am sorry that there is nothing I can do to make amends for any of it. My Master calls."

Clef tried to think of a witty rejoinder. Everything was so cloudy…

"Above all, I am sorry for all that is to come." 682 seemed to be moving away. "Goodbye, Alto Clef."

Alto Clef slipped away again into unconsciousness.

Excerpt from Surveillance Log x16012113441, Date █-██-████

<██05> Biohazard Level 4 Alert. Site-17 enters Accelerated Lockdown due to multiple containment breaches.

<██56> Instances of SCP-098 enter Site-17. SCP-098 instances display previously uncatalogued behavior and morphology.

<██08> Site-17 Security Team Bravo engages SCP-098 in hallway C-10.

<██12> Site-17 Security Team Bravo neutralized.

<██13> SCP-098 swarm proceeds to containment facility for SCP-053.

<██20> Containment Breach. SCP-098 swarm enters SCP-053's containment chambers. SCP-053 reacts with apparent familiarity.

<██32> SCP-098 swarm breaches lockdown and accompanies SCP-053 off premises of Site-17.

The living creature met the little girl for the second time in several thousand years and nuzzled her with delight. She kissed him, giggled a girlish giggle, and climbed onto his back.

Reunited with her Steed at last, Death rode hard towards the vast army of angels to join their march across the world.

And Hell followed with them.


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