1Well, it happened. All the quote-unquote “Good Christians”—all the ones who’d affixed a Jesus fish to their bumpers; all the ones who’d gone to church every Sunday (except the Catholics); all the ones who’d given money to televangelists, if you can believe it—all of them disappeared one day, just like they’d said they would.

2There was a bit of disappointment at first, a bit of Oh. Okay then. But after a while, those of us who got left behind did what human beings have been doing ever since the first of us died, way back when: 3We got on with it.

4The rivers ran with blood, of course, but in this day and age, it didn’t take long for someone to discover how to filter it out. 5The water was left with a mineral tang that most of us got used to and some people found that they liked. 6Locusts swarmed to feast on our crops, but you can eat locusts, too, you know. 7We laughed when we first ate them because, really, they tasted like chicken.

8The Dragon came, every once in a while, courting us to follow him. Some people did, but most of us didn’t. Most of the ones who did came back. He was surprisingly even-tempered about it, just nodded, seemed to understand. 9Non serviam, we told him, and really what could he say to that?

10We found we didn’t miss the ones who’d been sealed as servants of God. Maybe if you were married to one or the child of one, you grieved, but soon you noticed how relaxed you felt, how much straighter you were able to stand. 11There was no one around anymore to tell you who you could and could not to love. There was no one to say what your name had to be or what your body couldn’t do or what shames you should carry with you forever and ever, amen. 12The nights were longer than they had been, but through them, we had each other. You could hold someone if you wanted, but didn’t have to. 13We found that actually, we all wailed less, and most everyone stopped grinding their teeth.

14We found a cure for all the pestilence. 15We agreed that we were done with the wars. 16We looked and beheld a pale horse, and him that sat on him was Death, and while Hell did follow with him, he wasn’t nearly as bad as all that. More often than raking us over with his scythe, we would catch him simply watching as we cooked or built shelters or danced. He liked to hear our stories. The simplest of jokes made him roar. Wonderful, he’d say, while listening to someone whistle. Wonderful, he’d sigh when he saw you scratch a dog behind the ears. 17You can find him in the woods a lot, these days, birds alighting on his skeletal fingers. He is fond of giving children a ride on his horse; he seems to value their smiles most of all.   

18The demons are the same, for the most part. They like whiskey and playing cards and will often keep it down if you ask. They keep to themselves, really, just happy to be out of the flames.

19These are the things we’ve learned in The End Times: That even the trumpeting of the angels eventually fades into the background. That a lake of fire turns out to be as beautiful as it sounds. 20That the stars are no longer fixed in the sky, but this has only made us look at them even more.

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Derek Heckman was born in Peoria, Illinois, and holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Montana. His work has been published in Embark Journal, Ellipsis Zine, The Collapsar, and Wigleaf, and was also featured in the anthology “Teacher Voice” from Malarkey Books. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and you can find him on Twitter as @herekdeckman.