Death stopped the clock at 2:34am GMT. Her three sisters didn’t want to help but Death could be incredibly persuasive when she wanted to be.
War got to work, spiriting away armaments from all sides. She couldn’t change their warlike nature, and almost congratulated herself for encouraging it in the past. She rebuilt shattered settlements and created homes for the displaced. War cried at first, but she soon found making instead of destroying to be far more satisfying – although if any of these new spaces were damaged, there would be hell to pay.
Pestilence took up a mop and set about clearing up the oceans. The devastation shocked her, and she only wished that she’d taken more humans if it would have meant less chemicals in the water, fewer damaged reefs, and better fishing stocks. She absorbed the poisons of the seas, and considered how she might best use it to create a new plague in the future.
Famine swept through the land, reversing damage to the forests, and purifying the air. She imbued crops with an innate resistance to pests, and absorbed blight from trees and plants. Quarries were filled in, covered with forest, and the landscape breathed a sigh of relief.
Death got to work on the people and the animals. She rooted out the men who were dead inside, hollow shells masking a hole where their conscience should be, and snuffed them out. Poachers were removed, and she gave life back to the animal population to help swell the numbers of endangered species.
It took them a year, and they met in Parliament Square when their work was done.
“We’ve done well, ladies. It’s a shame it took our intervention but hopefully everything has been balanced, and they can maintain it,” said Death.
“But if they don’t…” said War.
“Then we saddle up and do this all over again the good old-fashioned way.” Death grimaced.
The four sisters hugged each other before Pestilence, War and Famine went their separate ways. Death pointed at the clock of Big Ben, and snapped her fingers. The minute hand slid to 2:35am.
Humanity moved onto borrowed time.