It all began when the old men in the colony started wearing speedos at the community pool. Then it was sexting. Pixelated pictures of drooping breasts and flaccid dicks filled the ether above our city. Then it was the healthcare crisis. Cro worried that his pre-existing heart condition wouldn’t be covered and talked of moving to Canada. Then it was the immigrants, taking our jobs planting corn in the fields (not that it mattered—what with the drought, nothing was growing, anyway).
“We should get away for a while,” Elizabeth said. “Go on a vacation. I hear Reno is gorgeous this time of year.”
“Can’t,” I said. “Business is slow.” I worked as a salesman, selling Britannica Encyclopedias door to door. I hadn’t sold a set in months.
“Maybe I’ll go then,” Elizabeth said.
Last month, George Howe was killed by some natives while hunting for crabs in the Chesapeake. On Wednesday, Mr. Cotchery, the mailman, opened an unmarked letter containing anthrax. The duchess was photographed topless in France. We set up security checkpoints around the island, but then people went crazy and started crashing into them.
When Madoff went to prison, some of the more well-to-do people in our colony lost their summer homes. Our children fled north to join the protests on Wall Street. Others went to start a commune. We hear from them every now and again, asking for money or the best way to make grist. They’re saddled with debt from law school.
Since the economic downturn, we’ve resumed trading with the natives—gunpowder and tobacco mostly, a few iPads and a PS3—but things have been tense lately. Mrs. Harrison’s favorite silver cup went missing, and she claimed she saw a half-naked man with a feather lingering outside her window the night before (that’s impossible, though, because we have a state-of-the-art security system). Still, we had no choice but to sack the nearest village. That week, I sold three sets of encyclopedias.
There are reports that the counterattack will come any day now. Bob Pearson set up a committee to man the battlements and expand our current defenses (a smorgasbord of IEDs, boiling tar, and airborne carcinogens). Elizabeth suggested I join up and show some of the same patriotism that made this country great, but the last time there was a disagreement with the Secotans, they retaliated with a sophisticated denial-of-service attack that left us without Internet for a week. It was like we were all on our own, alone in a vast wilderness.
Then it was the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran and gay marriage. We put a rover on Mars that discovered alien life. Mr. Wozniak, the biology teacher, started teaching evolution in the high school. Someone burned an effigy of Darwin on the courthouse steps.
“Any day now,” Bob Pearson said.
The colony’s west quarter had to be abandoned when we learned no one was living there anymore. It cost too much to keep the streetlights on. We blamed China. When I asked Cro where he thought all the people went, he said, “The housing bubble, man.”
Then it was corporate welfare, the ever-shrinking middle class, and climate change.
Elizabeth and I were lying in bed. “Did you know,” she said, “that between 1851 and 1970, our island lost 928 feet to shoreline erosion and rising sea levels?”
“We’re racing California to the sea,” I said, rolling away from her.
Cro carved his name into a tree dying from gypsy moths and left for Canada. We blamed the rising cost of living, the impending demise of social security, the unease in the Middle East. Elizabeth left a note and an extra ticket for Reno should I want to join her.
Then it was the homeless: They’d started squatting in the west quarter.
“Something needs to be done,” Bob Pearson said.
“It’s an outrage! Gathering around burning barrels, masturbating in broad daylight!” old Mrs. Globowitz said, reddening at the very thought. “Pornography’s to blame.”
We all agreed something had to be done.
However, the last straw came when our parents escaped from the nursing home in what could only be described by the director as “a highly coordinated maneuver.” I should’ve suspected something was afoot when my mother called wanting to know what the point of living in such a godforsaken place was if there was no hope of her ever seeing her great-grandchildren. The last anyone heard, their caravan of motorized wheelchairs was seen headed for Phoenix.
So, the last of us—we defiant few—began the task of dismantling our homes and places of business, board by board and brick by brick. If there was nothing left, at least we could pretend we were never there.
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