It was late in the 20th century when an American scientist began to remember something that leading members of his Western world had long since forgotten, that there was a time when myths were true stories intentionally encoded in oral history, in such a way, that surviving generations would remember them. An unfortunate consequence of writing things down meant Westerners forgot how to decode them over the years, but not a 20th-century research scientist named Abe.
It was very early in the morning when Abe was driving across the desert Southwest. The comet Hale-Bopp hung in the star-filled sky. He began thinking about myth and origin stories and the interpretations of those myths of other cultures around the planet. He remembered various translations, especially those with animals involved, and recalled that many of the early translations got some very important definitions wrong. In one instance, a word that meant "animal" to one culture meant "priest-astronomer" to another.
A light turned on inside his mind at this discovery; it must have been what it was like the first time a nation that did not know about the Rosetta Stone was introduced to it. The link between animals and stories in myth, when decoded properly, could translate time and even locations where catastrophic events had happened and would happen again.
Abe put together a team of scientists who began pouring over data, searching for patterns to crater impacts on Earth, time frames that could be measured. Eventually they all came to the same conclusion. Over a period of thousands of years, a series of comets return to the sky and are visible to the naked eye, four of them to be exact. More importantly they arrive with passengers, deadly ones, whose impact can cause enough dust in the atmosphere to block out the sun, triggering ice ages that can cover half of the United States, where Abe lived.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse were not animals but were comets. Abe wondered, "Had the Westernized world remembered too late?"