Final Notice

by Bill Taggart © 2003

Earth would end not with a bang, but with a clerical error.

Melrose sat barefoot on the beach, sipping his beer, wondering how all this had come about and how much time was left.

Earth’s fate had been sealed – he laughed and thought – not only sealed, but also sealed, certified and sent via United States Postal Service. It had seemed a joke at the time. Not even a joke, just a harmless prank by some bored comedian, and then the invasion forces had landed in all the major capitols across the world. The forces were no longer were in the capitols, but then there was no need to occupy smoldering ruins. Now the repo-droids were spreading out over the face of the globe.

The letter had arrived, sent from – if he remembered correctly – the Andromeda (M31) Collection Agency. It had stated in part, "This is an attempt to collect a world. Any information gathered by and during this attempt shall be used solely for that purpose." It went on to list a variety of things that the world, "herein after referred to as Sol 3 (Three)…," was responsible for, had ignored in the past, and for which was now "due in full under penalty of repossession. (GCA Code 551 – section 51)"

Swirling the last of the beer, he drank it down, ignoring the foam. Normally he would have complained about the beverage being warm, but now it did not seem very important.

Melrose could only imagine the reaction of others with his status and position, working in governments abroad, when morning mail call had sounded two week ago. It must have been the same across the world. Office workers in starched white shirts receiving that innocent little piece of paper, just a No. 11 envelope, with windows, one sheet of paper neatly typed and signed and no enclosures. Looking at it briefly, over the morning coffee, perhaps displaying it to a co-worker, and then tossing it in the trash and moving on to serious mail.

On the almost deserted sand of the once popular shore, he could hear a radio in the distance. Over forty-seven million dead or missing at this time, and that was only in the U.S.

Dammit, it was not his fault. He defied anyone to come up with the Certified Planetary Accountant to make the appeal, even if he or anyone else had taken it seriously.

A shadow moved over the white sand and surf. Melrose knew it was not a cloud, but refused to look, instead he reached into the ice chest for another beer. Much better, this one was still ice cold.

x x x

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