I am in the early stages of planning a story called The Four Flamingos of the Apocalypse. The premise is that the Four Horsemen have manifested on the surface of the earth and are tasked with bringing about the apocalypse, but due to an unforeseen quirk they've all incarnated as flamingos.

As flamingos they're going to find it very hard to do the kind of damage necessary to bring about the apocalypse, so I'm looking into the kinds of resources flamingos have available and what they could do with it. Some flamingos live in sodium salt lakes, and I wonder how much potential that has as a resource. I suspect I'll end up giving the flamingos some non-real-world capabilities but I want to figure out what their options are before blessing them with any special abilities.

My chemistry knowledge is unfortunately quite poor for a handful of reasons, and most of the information I have seen online about sodium salts makes little sense to me. Wikipedia has a short article on it but none of the options sound particularly dangerous. Can anybody give me any pointers?

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    $\begingroup$ There is very little that can be said in general about sodium salts. Sodium chloride is table salt and it is a vital nutrient -- about 5 grams per day are required. Sodium cyanide is a powerful poison -- about 0.3 grams will kill a person. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ Important question: Do the Four Flamingos still ride horses? $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ There are four horsemen and they each have different characteristics. They're still supernatural even if they're flamingos, because four ordinary people can't bring about the apocalypse on their own either. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ By far the most common sodium salt in those lakes is sodium chloride, aka table salt. Death can use salt poisoning, pestilence is out of luck since salt can kill bacteria, famine is out of luck since salt makes food last longer, war... I guess wars have been fought over salt? Legionaries were paid in salt? Like your story idea though :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 17:30

4 Answers 4


Soil salinity.

By bringing enough salt to the farmland, you can destroy the agriculture system of your world. This process is called soil salinity, and it can harm or even stop plant growth, damage the infrastructure of buildings, and pollute the underground water.

I know one of the four horseman is Famine, and salinitize the soil can surely make it happen.


Well, there's sodium, and there's sodium. You can solve your "which salt is bad?" problem by ensuring that every salt is bad.

Sodium-22 is a radioactive isotope that has a half life of 2.6 years (long enough to hang around a bit, but short enough to be quite hot) that decays by positron emission (which will then inevitably interact with an electron, producing a nice gamma ray for your enjoyment). IF you're less patient, there's always sodium-24, but with a halflife of under a day you'll have to transmute it at the point of use rather than creating some ahead of time and letting it spread around.

What's the point of radioactive sodium? Well, sodium appears pretty much everywhere in a human (and indeed, in a vast array of animals and other living things) which means that once radioactive sodium gets into you, it gets into every bit of you and causes damage to everything.

People assume "pestilence" means a plague of infectious organisms... parasites, viruses, bacteria... but it could just as easily be a biosphere-wrecking radiochemical that causes a cancer epidemic.


Sodium chloride, one of the most common sodium salt, is used as sapidity enhancer for ages. It's not immediately toxic, though its excessive assumption may cause hypertension in late age. I guess your flamingos want something more rapid.

How can sodium salts be dangerous?

They cause dehydration of organic material. If you bury a body in salt, it will lose most of its water. In the past it was used as a method to preserve meat; actually it was the only way to preserve meat before refrigeration was invented.

But if you bury a living person under salt, suffocation will kill the person way before dehydration. So, if you want, burying the cities under salt is an option.

Moreover, if you spread salt on farmland, most of the crops will not grow. Therefore it is possible to induce a massive famine.

What can improve the damage potential is if you can somehow separate the sodium from the halogens to which it is bonded.

Metallic sodium strongly reacts with water, producing hydrogen and flames. When in contact with the skin causes deep burning.

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    $\begingroup$ Not to mention the toxicity of the separated halogen - that could even outweigh the dangers of the metallic sodium. Chlorine gas is a hell of an unpleasant chemical. $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 15:22

One of the sodium salts mentioned in the wiki is Diclofenac. If your horsemen have the power to produce it, then they can cause mayhem in the world.

Diclofenac has been used to treat farm animals for a long time. Not all of their flesh becomes meat, and when vultures eat the carcasses, it destroys their kidneys.

If the Pestilence Flamingo spreads diclofenac over the world, all birds would die. This would disrupt almost every land ecossystem. The biosphere as a whole would suffer.

Other animals are also affected. A global cloud of diclofenac would poison other creatures as well (I have used it to kill spiders).

Once the biosphere is wrecked, the Famine Flamingo would surely reign (no more chicken, most animals poisoned), and the War Flamingo would have people fighting for the remaining food and other resources available. At the end, everyone would be taken under the wings of the Death Flamingo.


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