frank had no friends and had not had a job for a while, but he still got a lot of junk mail.
he always slept late after staying up all night doing nothing. the mail had usually been delivered by the time he got up. he picked it up at the front desk on his way out to get his cup of coffee and doughnut.
eddie was at the front desk. "lots of mail, today, frankie boy. you're a real popular guy." eddie usually greeted frank with these words or some variation on them.
frank took the six envelopes - no catalogues - over to the couch furthest from the television and the front window and looked them over. this was part of his usual routine.
five of the envelopes looked familiar - magazines he did not want and charities he would not give a dime to even if he could afford it - and he ripped them in half and put them in the waste basket beside the potted plant.
he opened the sixth envelope with a practiced hand. it contained a card with spaces to be filled in, a return envelope - not postage paid - and a single sheet of paper.
"dear mister james," he read,
permit me to introduce myself. my name for your human purposes is 531-7435, which i have chosen for its euphony and easy memorability. i am an officer in the imperial fortesian navy. in a few weeks the forces of the fortesian empire will land on your planet and restore order there. i am not sure that "restore" is the correct term. but let that pass.
a number of events and promotions have been scheduled to humor the population and facilitate a smooth transition to the new order. among them is a lottery, and the purpose of this letter is to invite you to participate. every one of the seven billion plus human inhabitants of the planet will be invited to submit an entry - one entry only . there is an entry fee of one dollar. payment must be in cash. no cheques or money orders. simply fill out and sign the enclosed card and return it in the enclosed envelope with your dollar.
the winning ticket is scheduled to be drawn sixteen days after our first landing.
there will be one winner only. and the prize is -
complete freedom for the lucky winner, for a period of one year.
the winner will be allowed to go anywhere and do anything physically possible. all the other creatures on the planet will be subject to the winners wishes and whims, and the full power of the empire will be available to enforce the winners inclinations.
the physical resources of the planet will also be completely at the winners disposal.
i hope this message is sufficiently clear in its intent. i apologize if it is not.
on behalf of the emperor of fortesia,
531-7435, commander rfn
frank looked at the return envelope. it was addressed to "rfn" at a post office box in san rafael. it stated " will not be delivered without correct postage". bummer. he could ask eddie for a stamp - pay him if he had to - but then eddie would ask him why he wanted one, and he didn't want to get into it.
he would have to go to the post office. but maybe it was just as well. then he could mail it right there at the post office and it would save a little time and be a little more secure. and there would be a pen at the post office to fill the card out with.
he put the card, the letter and the return envelope back in the larger envelope and put the larger envelope in the pocket of his shirt. then he got up and went outside.
the sun was shining on o'farrell street. it was a nice day, around sixty-eight degrees. frank decided to go to the doughnut shop first, on his way to the post office.
he was in a good mood, and it got even better when he got his caffeine and sugar fix in the doughnut shop on jones street.
he sat at the counter in front of the window and wondered what he would do with the total freedom he was confident of winning. total freedom! he could taste it already.
suddenly a slightly dark thought crossed his brain.