Wood-grafted on the side of the porch was an old handprint, full now of termites eating away at its edges until it was scarcely recognizable. They hadn’t made their way to the house itself, full of delicious wooden support beams and hard crunchy floors – and that was the very use of the handprint, after all. That is, it was, as far at Pestilence thought it. In the morningtime she would sit on the porch and eye the far corner, every so often seeing a lone termite crawl up over the edge before veering back down in hungry curiosity toward the hand-print. Pestilence’s own hand itched at the thought of it. She only had one to speak of, and spoke of it often when she got the chance – to anyone and everyone. About how it ached, how sore her tendons were. She would sooner have no hands than both, she would sometimes say, if this was what it meant to be whole. Her white ringlets fell around her face like a frozen waterfall, crystalline blue eyes shining brightly through tempest-tossed bangs.
There was a weathervane on the brown-tile slated roof of the house: the blackened image of an iron bird, bent slightly where it had once been struck by lightning. It survived anything and everything, and it still lit up sometimes during thunderstorms. It was once a rooster, probably, but over the years the melted, blackened thing had come to resemble a hunched old crow or raven, with empty, cut-out eyes. Death sat on the very point of the roof, hanging tightly on with one cold fist to the base of the weathervane. He watched it turn between his fingers, powerfully, as if not by wind but by some other force, until the beak pointed West. He tried to turn it himself every so often, but the stubborn thing wouldn’t budge under his thumb. He spent bored hours pressing his hand to the iron till his skin turned from brown to red with lightning-heat. His yellow eyes darted from one end of the horizon to the other, surveying everything.
A raggedy scarecrow stood legless on a post in the field where nothing grew, out back of the house. The straw poking through from his stitched wrists, drawn-on eyes stared out to the horizon, mostly unmoving. Every so often a maggot would make its way out of a hole in his checkered shirt and fall to the ground, leaving a thin bloody stain in its wake, and a gaping peephole through which all the dead crops could see his pink insides. Famine’s straw fingers would curl into a fist when his painted eyes saw a crow land in the field, but they did not pay him heed – or else, he was welcoming them.
To the West of the house stood a tall and weathered barn, with rusted nails in the walls and a heavy padlock hung over the door. War sat in the dirt under it, her legs stretched out before her and a shotgun in her arm. Inside, she could hear quiet beastly breathing – four pairs of lungs stretching and shrinking in unison. Every so often a drop of water would fall from the edge of the slanted roof onto her bare head into her tack-short hedgehog fuzz hair. Each time, she would wipe it off with the sleeve of her green jacket in the same way. Sometimes the breathing inside grew louder, and she would hear the shuffling of hooves against dry dirt, or a fierce whinny. Then she would lift the shotgun over her knees and, one eye closed, aim it slantways toward the sky. A blast, thunderlike, shaking the dust. Then silence. They’d shut up in there.
“Not till you’re needed,” she’d say quietly over the sound of four breaths, in line and unison again.