Betting On Horses

I arrange a few clippings into a row. All around me, slips of paper create a snowy wonderland scene that is the counter to my grim task.

Some of the scraps have jagged edges. Those, I tore out of magazines and newspapers that weren't mine. The rest have clean, meticulous cuts. The silver scissors on my coffee table gleam in a stray ray of light that has broken through the blinds.

When I think a clipping may not be important, I fold it once at the center. Later, I'll come back around to it, and if it still seems useless, I'll fold it over a second time. Only after a few months will I finally crumble it into a ball. That tells me which scraps I'm completely done with.

For now, my attention is on the items that have taken precedence on said table. At the center of it all is a racing form. I found it on the city bus, just sitting there across the aisle from me. Curiosity got the better of me, and I took it home.

A few of the horses were checked off in blue pen. Their names were Old Soldier, I Smell A Rat, Starving Artist, and It's All Over Now. I'll never understand where these titles come from, and how exactly picking a name with "RAT" in it can be anything positive.

Still, the thing doesn't seem that important to me. Not in the great plan of the Universe, which I have been working hard to unravel. My eyes drift to the other clippings, and I make mental notes on what to keep and what to fold in half.

Newspaper article: "LOCAL REP. PUTS FORTH GUN MANDATE - Congressman Mike McCreedy has been a long-time supporter of gun rights. Now, he wants every home in his district to own a firearm."

Magazine interview: "Reporter: What do you have to say to the families of the dead who trusted that information? - Gen. Deets: We had good, solid intelligence that told us we had to strike. If we hadn't acted when we did, that madman would still be in power."

Protest Brochure: "Farmacost CEO Dolph Ambrose wants to lead the charge for genetically modified foods, but he's not telling you that Farmacost seeds are engineered to never sprout, forcing farmers to keep buying. What ELSE do they do to keep sales high?"

Print-out from the Web: "This is your world-famous truth-teller, Rich Lafferty, with another dose of reality the lame-stream media doesn't want you to hear. Climate change is a scam, perpetuated by the feeble-minded followers who resent the success of big business. Make no mistake, Patriots. The American Dream is under siege from these hippie-dippy eco-fad lunatics!"

Nothing seems particularly interesting to me. It's a lot of the same B.S. from the same types of people. At this point, late at night, after a long day of searching for answers… all I can think about is getting to bed so I can start fresh tomorrow.

By coincidence… or is it fate… I catch sight of an article I had twice folded. One I was about to get rid of forever. It's a notice from the paper, listing the winners of that day's races.

Old Soldier, I Smell A Rat, Starving Artist, and It's All Over Now. The names peek out at me like old friends peering into my life, trying to pull me out of a funk.

"Could this be it?" I wonder, "Is this the definite sign I've been waiting for?"

I join the clipping with the others and move them around a bit. Now it's all becoming clear! Now it's all starting to make sense!

1.) A Politician tries to force entire communities to arm themselves with deadly weapons. It's All Over Now. DEATH.

2.) A General defends his botched battle, insisting that the cost of lives is worth the meager accomplishments. Old Soldier. WAR.

3.) A CEO plays with the rules of Nature and enhances his iron grip on the Country's food supply. Starving Artist. FAMINE.

4.) A highly successful crackpot seeks to undermine efforts to keep the Planet healthy and clean. I Smell A Rat. PESTILENCE.

I sit back and I can barely breathe. I am in a state of sheer ecstasy. I've spent my entire life looking for signs and symbols to show me the way… to give me some sort of handle on how to help the Universe.

I know.

I see.

The four of them are out there, right now, and if someone doesn't stop them we're going to be hurtled headlong into the Apocalypse. They are mortal men. They can be killed. I know I am the one to do it.

Shuffling through the paper debris, I make my way to the haphazard lab I've managed to set up. I study the explosives… the poisons… the particularly difficult to find vial marked "Radioactive". There are so many choices, and I pray I still have time to stop them before they bring about the End.

I also pray that this time these four are the final incarnations.

I don't know how many more decades I'll be able to get away with destroying Horsemen.

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