The mayor stood at his large bay windows and looked over the impossibly small town from his mansion on the hill. It was a fairly sizeable structure by Californian standards but in the eyes of the townspeople it was mountainous. Arms folded across his broad chest, one hand held a glass of warm scotch, swirling it thoughtlessly. Evening crept closer, when the sun would set behind the house and cast a shadow on the town below. A decision he had made years before when the town first sprouted up. He wanted them all to rise and fall under his surveying eye. He wasn’t an evil man by any means. But someone had to lead the townsfolk, why shouldn’t it be him?
The previous days were fraught with anxiety, the mayor could feel it. Even from his detached position on the hill; he knew. It was almost time for him to put the finishing touch on the annual newsletter. In a town so small, everyone already knew each other’s business for the most part. Mr. Mulcahey, who ran the general store, had no chance of hiding marital problems at home. All the ladies talked about it at the salon and all the men ignored it because it wasn’t of any interest to them. Regardless, all of the gossip and secrets were printed in the newsletter. It was the Mayor’s way of keeping everyone transparent and on the same level. None of them could ever figure out how he got his information despite never coming into town, but every year on March 3rd the yearly newsletter would arrive no later than one in the morning. At 12:59:59, front porches would be bare, excluding the occasional welcome mat. One second later, as if by magic, the newsletter would appear. In the beginning, the families would stay up all night to try to catch the mysterious delivery person. Once they realized that there was no such creature, they stopped being concerned with how the newsletters were delivered and more about what they contained.
Private conversations, secrets, and sometimes even dreams were revealed in the pages. At first, they accused each other of being spies for the mayor. As days turned to months turned to years, they came to realize that the mayor was much more than just a simple form of local government. He was all-knowing, all-seeing, and yet non-judging. Under his leadership, no one was poor, no one was ailing, and no one was any better than anyone else. The mayor saw to that.
From outside the town’s border, this probably looks like a communistic lab experiment. That may not be too far from the truth, but the people of this un-mappable town lived 364 days with a feeling of general content. But on March 3rd, the feeling of satisfaction gave way to hand-wringing concern. Included within the articles about crimes and misdeeds, on the very last page was the cause of the thick cloak of unease that hung in the air; the obituary.
Last year, like every year before, there were no deaths to report. Yet, when that yearly publication materialized at the door step of every home, there was a name. There was always a name and with that name came their demise. But on this most recent occasion, Dr. Monaco was the first one to see his copy of the circular and he quickly flipped past the controversies and small-town shenanigans to find the obituary empty. It was the first time in his memory that had happened. He ran outside to see who else had noticed. He glanced up at the mansion on the hill, its silhouette a sharp contrast to the dawn’s light slowly rising from behind it. Other families woke to see who would be named as the sole resident of the saddest article they would read until next March 3rd. They looked to each other’s homes with the same look of cautious confusion.
They couldn’t believe it. The first year that didn’t culminate with the death of a loved one. Two years before, little Julie Renner was the name in the obituary. She was a healthy eight year old girl on March 2nd, but by the morning of the 3rd; she was cold in her bed. Her parents considered storming the mansion and demanding an answer to why their little girl was chosen. They wanted him to print a retraction and take someone older, meaner, anyone but their little girl. But they knew that it was out of the mayor’s hands. He wouldn’t just unfairly decide to kill a child just for another year of peace and civility, right?
The mayor watched from his house on the hill as the townspeople gathered in the square and celebrated the year without an obituary. He watched as they smiled and planned for a feast to be had to rejoice in their good fortune. The mayor almost smiled until he realized what this meant for them. No yearly sacrifice meant that the days of simple harmony were at an end. He was tired of watching them live in ignorance under his protection without as much as a thank you.
He grew tired of them plotting against him and each other without reason. Maybe their true nature was evil as a default. He took a swig from his glass and rolled the liquor around his tongue and cemented his decision that it was time to start over from scratch. They would have their celebration that night, but not without a special appearance from the mayor and his morbid version of an eviction notice.