Is it ready? Is it here?

NOT YET.

I've never seen it before.

We know. Quiet now. Watch.

They could all remember this moment - the first moment they could remember in fact, the moment of birth.

Of course, they could all have be said to have existed for always. Even the first bacteria died, even they could starve without sustenance, even the among the first insects were primitive ants which warred amongst themselves, and while Pollution might be young the concept of befouling air, water and earth to the point where life was destroyed was as old as the first volcano.

Birth took just a little more than that. To exist you could not be merely an event, something that happened unnoticed in the night. To exist you must be a concept.

SOON NOW I THINK. VERY SOON. YOU CAN SEE IT FORMING.

For Death the moment had come early in humanity's existence, shortly after humanity had slowly begun to come to the realisation that it might in fact exist. The first time that man had turned on man, that brother had turned on brother, and Cain had struck Abel angrily in a field, Death's possibility had hovered transparently in the air, waiting.

He had not known, that first poor murderer, what it was he intended to do. He only knew that there was rage, and so he struck, and Abel stumbled and fell.

Cain bent over him, confused and wondering, and stared into his brother's blank eyes. He touched Abel's still-warm hands, and called his name - once, twice and again - and received neither movement nor word in reply. The body was perfect still, except for one ugly wound, but it was empty. It contained nothing that could reply any longer.

And Cain knew triumph, for now his brother could compete with him no longer. He knew pride, for he had held the strength to strike down that which challenged him. But he knew horror, guilt and misery also, for something unspeakably beautiful had been destroyed, he had torn down a unique creation and there was nothing that could be done to repair it.

Something had been, and now it was not, and it could not be recreated.

As Cain understood that for the first time, touching his brother's face gently as though trying to define the quality that had now vanished forever from it, Death was born. Unseen, his scythe severed soul from body for the first time.

There's no need to get impatient about it. It could be centuries yet.

No, he's right. It's at critical stage now. I don't think they can turn him back.

War's possibility had indeed existed for centuries before her true conception. In every scuffle between men it had hovered, waiting for them to take it the step further that was needed.

For war was not simply a disagreement between villages or tribes, a quick fight in a field to settle a claim over cattle, or land, or women. War took more than that, and so it waited.

Finally, the time came. Not in a moment's rage, a spark that went too far, but in two villages; both blessed (or cursed) with leaders capable of understanding strategy; neither carrying a spark of compromise.

Each of them armed their men well, each of them planned their battles with care. Every battle was prepared for. Fields were burnt in the night, women and children were captured and enslaved, injured or helpless men were brutally dealt with. The carnage was terrible, and it lasted for years - well beyond any individual battle. Each attack triggered revenge attacks, and so it went on until it seemed that no-one could stop what had been started, it could only continue, the losses growing worse with each fight.

From strategy and planning, and two villages which fought until they ran out of menfolk, weeping at their losses all the while, War was born.

It's gathering speed now. Look - almost there.

There was hunger, and then there was starvation

It was discovered by those same two pitiful villages, the first winter without menfolk. Fighting so long had left no time for storing food for hard times, and fields which had been burnt or sown with salt yielded no grain to feed the hungry villagers.

There were no men to go hunting, to make up the deficiency in meat. All of those left were too young or weak to try such a thing. As food supplies dwindled, they fought over what was left, and then even that was gone.

And as women and children grew sluggish with lack of food, their bodies grew weak and tired. They had no strength left with which to fight, and illness, once begun, spread quickly and cruelly. After the winter, not a soul was left living in either village. Hunger and illness had taken all.

From those villages, Famine and Pestilence, two brothers cut from the same cloth, were created. Later one would fall behind and be lost, destroyed by the same humanity which had created him, but at that time they were young and strong.

There! I think I see it!

For centuries the four lived together, centuries before they gathered again to watch the creation of a new Horseman. Pollution's potential had existed from the moment Adam and Eve had struck the spark that lit the first fire, and clung together beside it as its smoke drifted into the sky. No-one had heard the term fossil fuels then, and they had no clue what chemical reactions might be happening inside the flames.

It would be centuries before they would need to know.

Little fires were not enough for such a thing - that was to be expected. His time would not come until little fires were not enough for humanity. Finally they needed more than that and built their factories, great chimneys pointing towards the sky. The smoke they created was not little wisps any longer, but great dark plumes. They filled the cities with choking intensity, plaguing the denizens with ash and muck. They could not be fuelled any longer by little sticks of wood but by great carriages filled with coal, great tankers of oil.

Not until the first time humanity witnessed an oil-spill, its rainbow colours beautiful as it floated atop the water, dead birds in its wake, did it understand what might have been begun, and so Pollution was born.

There! I see it!

THEY BELIEVE IN IT NOW.

And when enough people see it, and understand it...

There!

Her potential had existed since the first time humans had evolved beyond barter, with the first concepts of money and currency, but it was only now it could become more than that. Only when interest rates rose until consumers tightened their grip on the money they held in their pockets and refused to spend any more. Only when even Christmas, with its traditional largesse, did not bring the needed increase in turnover.

Only when retailers finally turned and looked at their end of year profits and wept; for they knew fear and despair.

Someone was born on Christmas Day. No, someone else.

Financial Devastation stepped onto the world fully formed, wearing a neat pin-striped suit, and looked at what it offered to her.

She saw everything, from the largest event to the smallest one. She saw the company accountant, working diligently for hours over his numbers until no-one noticed the missing million. She saw the director who kept smiling and lying, who kept insisting that everything would be fine until his staff were paid with the money he did not have and he finally had to admit that he had nothing to give his customers in return on Christmas Eve when there was no time to pay for replacements even had they had the money. She saw the equity firms, buying for practically nothing the companies which had been devastated by the pricking of a bubble which they themselves had created.

She saw it all, beautiful in its complexity. She saw the devastation created by the beauty. And she smiled. For it is only when such beauty and devastation combine that a Horseman (or woman) may ever be created.

Quickly she found a place for herself in the world. Not for her the battlefield; that would never suit her smart suit. No, her place would be stalking around boardrooms, whispering on stock exchange floors, watching the Nikkei index and giving pensions advice. Later, when the companies collapsed, when the currency fell in value, when redundancies were announced or pensions were discovered too late to be in deficit and worthless her victims would remember only a friendly voice who had seemed so helpful at the time.

All should know her and despair.

As she looked up, still smiling, four figures breathed a sigh of relief and turned as one towards her. The four Horseman came at last to welcome their new younger sister home.