By Nick Cracknell
It was just another Friday night at The Loft in Brooklyn when Jimmy told me about the letter. As usual we’d had a couple beers after our shift and Jimmy was down four one on the pool table. He was lining up for a shot at the 8-ball when he mentioned it.
“You know, I got this weird letter through a couple days ago. Some sort of scam. I think they’re after money but I can’t figure it out.”
I nodded sagely. “My kid got this email. Get this, some Nigerian claimed he’d found a long lost uncle who’d left everything to Tommy in his will, and needed his account number to deposit $4.8 million.” I chuckled and swigged my beer. “The shit they pull, huh?”
Jimmy missed his shot by a clear foot and looked distant. “Nah, this was different. Real weird. To be honest it’s put a dick right up me. Here, look.”
He fished in his tool bag and pulled out a white envelope. It looked like any other, but there was something about the way his name was written that made it seem odd. It was written all in capitals, in perfect, bold, copperplate handwriting. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d received a hand written letter.
I opened it up. The paper was quality. Cream linen. The expensive type that absorbs the oil on your fingers. It was headed up with some kind of watermarked stamp.
To the entity James Fintan McMurtreigh,
Your life has been audited by the Investigations Department of the Galactic Commission for Humanistic Standards, Competency and Ethical Underpinning.
The Commission was formed to review the rate of accelerated progress in science, technology, arts and medicine made by the human race, and its potential implications on the Extra-Planetary Union.
The Commission’s findings indicate that, at the continued rate, within five Galactic Epochs (approx. 97 Earth Years) the human race will neither be able to effectively sustain nor have need for a figure exceeding 5.23 billion of its current population, and may take corrective measures to eliminate such a figure, whether knowingly or through the indigenous intervention of an appropriate random agent (famine, pandemic, warfare etc).
Such action directly contravenes Section 4.2(iii) of the Universal Code of Biomorphics, therefore the Commission has conducted audits on the entire population to determine those most potentially responsible for the decline.
The results of your audit reveal insufficient evidence to conclude you remain an utilisable member of the human race.
Please provide all relevant evidence to the Commission within five working days or the necessary steps will be taken to ensure future non-compliances are avoided.
Scion Pankapuuy Grylilarg, 0.8 Director, GCHSCEU
I finished, looked up at Jimmy and laughed. “This has gotta be some kind of joke, right?”
Jimmy shrugged nervously. “I ain’t gonna lie to you man, it freaked me out. I mean, what the heck are they talking about?”
“Do you know anyone else who got one of these?” I asked.
“I ain’t asked nobody. Come on, it ain’t the kinda thing you bring up at the water cooler is it? Nah, I figure it’s just some kinda scam. Like some reality TV bullshit, you know?”
We laughed it off and played four more games, all of which I won, before we called it a night. Jimmy never mentioned his strange postal delivery again.
“Say Jimmy,” I said as we were emerging into the freezing cold night air outside the bar, “When did you say you got that letter?”
“Let’s see, what’s it today, Wednesday?”
“It’s fuckin’ Friday Jimmy. You normally drink so much on a school night?”
“I guess it came Monday then. Why?”
“Just wondering. Night pal. See ya next week.”
But that night I didn’t sleep. If it was a scam, fine. There’s no excuse for some of the weird things people spend their time on these days. Heck, if I was the college type who’s to say I wouldn’t have tried it myself instead of welding sheet metal for 30 years? There’s gotta be an easier way of making money. I guess I’m not going to figure it out now. I’m too old for a new beginning.
But what if it was serious? Jimmy’s ‘five working days’ were up. What did that mean? Even if he knew what he had to provide them, knowing Jimmy he’d just tell them to get bent, flick them the bird and open another beer.
I drifted off thinking about how that letter felt in my fingers.
Then Jimmy didn’t show for work on Monday morning. Old man Kablowski even called me in to his office and asked me where Jimmy was. I hadn’t heard from him, I said. Sure I had, said Kablowski, we’re like two shits in a diaper. I hadn’t heard from him, I said. Well tell him he’s fired, said the boss.
After my shift I headed straight round to Jimmy’s apartment. I banged on the door for 15 minutes but there was no answer. I called his number but it said it had been disconnected. He didn’t show for the rest of the week.
It was like he’d disappeared.
Then on Thursday night I worked the late shift and got woken by the postman. He handed me the usual pile of junk mail, a couple of bills, and a fine cream linen envelope with my name written in perfect, bold copperplate.