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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Death after Midnight

Ken's short fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction as well as Interzone, BuzzyMag, Abyss & Apex, Perihelion, and various anthologies. His first short story collection Fortune's Fantasy was released last year. He has created an arctic fantasy world based on Inuit mythology in Alaana's Way, his series of epic fantasy novels from Cat's Cradle Press. You can preview this work and others at his website KenAltabef.com.

Gazing at the midnight sky, the stars so far above, my thoughts turn to the possibility of space travel. How easy it would be if you didn't have to breathe. How easy it would be if you didn't have to eat, if you had a spaceship and all the time in the world.
"Nice night," says George, a fellow stargazer. "Beautiful."
"Mmmmnn," I say.
"Hard to believe it's been thirty years."
"Hard to believe," I agree. "Hard to believe."
Hard to believe it had only been thirty years. Thirty years since the virus got loose, since the dead rose up hungry to kill the living, twenty years since the last survivors were overwhelmed. They tried to make their stand, to fight, to hide, but the dead were millions strong and all it took was a bite or a good deep scratch and the living joined our ranks. All the world had become a mortuary, a mass grave with the occupants above ground, shambling, searching, starving, always starving.
I was different. Cold and dead, just like the rest, and hungry too, but I could still think. Surrounded by mindless, lumbering corpses, I wandered alone for a long time until I found others like me among the multitudes, a few in every town.
We could think. Sure, we hungered for flesh with that same maddening ache, and when all the living were gone, we suffered. We couldn't die, only suffer. But it didn't have to be that way.
And when we got to talking, we knew what we had to do. Those others who couldn't think--we just got rid of them. A quick shot to the head--easy enough. They had no reason to suspect us; they couldn't know.
I used to be a schoolteacher, but now I've taken to raising pigs. It isn't difficult and I do so love the taste of fresh bacon.
My town is just north of what used to be Schenectady. Plenty of open land here. And good people, not that there's much trouble anywhere. Emotions are things of the past; there's no love or hate, just the ache for food and that we have plenty. George here plays the guitar, with enough practice over the years his dead fingers found their way again. And why not? Through some quirk of this new physiology, we have all the time in the world. We don't have jealousy or greed or any of that now. No wars, no weapons. There are no children, but really they were mostly pains in the ass as I remember it, anyway.
There's one other sensation, one that breaks through the muddle in the long hours after midnight, and it's a feeling of bliss. A feeling that we are what we were always meant to be. Immortal, happy, at peace. This is paradise, and it's going to last forever.
Some called the virus an apocalypse. I call it evolution. I used to be a teacher, and I remember all the controversy about teaching evolution in the classroom. Hard to believe.
I look again at the stars, and the vast empty spaces between. Space travel. How easy it would be if you didn't have to breathe. How easy it would be if you didn't have to eat, if you had a spaceship and all the time in the world.
It's a beautiful night.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 1st, 2016
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