On the edge of space and time there exists a city named Lafindumonde. This is no ordinary city. Its people are no ordinary people. So where's the distinction?
In the city of Lafindumonde people know, with precision, the date and time of their passing. Their lives are defined by this knowledge. They are on a schedule of events they enjoy, rather than a schedule of duties, responsibilities, errands, and chores. Their professional lives matter less, their personal lives more. There is no mulling over the next mortgage, car, or flat screen TV payment. There is less CNN, QVC, and HBO, and more sunsets, tides, and birds. Interests are geared less toward supervisors, colleagues, and acquaintances, and more toward friends, family, and neighbors. There is less Wanchai Ferry, Hot Pockets, and Burger King at the dinner table, and more homemade chicken soup, beef stew, and crème caramel. There are less corporate parties, business dinners, and "highly recommended" social events to attend, and more garden parties, small dinners with neighbors, and quiet movie nights at home.
In the spring, the people of Lafindumonde take their little ones out to see the glory of the daffodils in bloom. The little ones are told the daffodils won't be around for long, so every day in their presence is a crystallized dewdrop. Bumble bees buzzing around lavender bushes in front yards are not mere background music; they are an intricate part of the spring season.
When the summer months arrive, the families of Lafindumonde are at the beach and in the parks, enjoying the water and the sand and the trees and the grass and the endless blue sky. The children are playing with beach balls, building sand castles, enjoying picnics, picking worms, and flying kites.
In the fall, everyone returns home to somewhat of a grounding time. An ordinary work schedule resumes - the usual thirty-hour week. The children return to school - four days out of seven. In the early evenings, couples go out for walks in the woods. They enjoy the splendor of the changing colors, the crackle of dry leaves under their feet, the light crispness of the air.
When winter comes, Lafindumonde is a quiet city, but no one is hibernating indoors. Everyone is out to see the first fall of snow and watch it melt on the sidewalks. The outdoor cafés are packed with pink faces drinking hot chocolate and cider and watching the children play tag around the fountain on the town square. And with the winter freeze comes the highest entertainment - listening to the sound of boots squishing in the snow.
This is how the people of Lafindumonde live, every season, every year.
One day, a stranger comes to the city. We'll call him Mr. Z. He's not a visitor. He's here to stay. Because it is customary for the residents of Lafindumonde to know the exact date and time of their passing, the new arrival is informed of his facts by the town spokesperson. But this information does not have the desired effect on Mr. Z. Rather than doing as the people of the city do, he goes on a schedule of collecting, bookkeeping, hording, recording, preparing, hiding. He is ravenous for anything and everything. Grasping. Clinging. Tenacious. And soon after, he invites a female companion, also from out of town, to join him in Lafindumonde. The townspeople, until now, have not bothered with Mr. Z and his pettiness, but the arrival of this companion is a threat of changes to come. It is only a matter of time before things are no longer as they used to be.
The townspeople are nervous. Anxious. Jealous. They feel entitled to protect what is theirs. But as it is unlike them to force an issue, they ask their spokesperson to have a word with Mr. Z. Already, this is a sacrifice - meetings are not popular in Lafindumonde. During this meeting, the town spokesperson informs Mr. Z that his city's people live satisfied lives in the knowledge of their date and time of passing, and that they are not seeking any modifications to their way of life, especially by a person who came here initially seeking their way of life. And it is always easiest to swim with the current rather than against it, sir, the spokesperson tells Mr. Z. Mr. Z is pained by this exchange. He had hoped for more of a discussion and less of a monologue. He understands what the spokesperson is saying well enough, and he agrees with the logic behind it, except that there is one dilemma: he knows his date and time and is helpless to curb his instincts, his nature, which counter any attempt to change his habits and become like the people of Lafindumonde, who have evolved a contentment with the very knowledge that challenges him. And so, they come out of the meeting exactly as they had entered it, without an agreement. There is no animosity or resentment, but missing also are the feelings of hope and promise that hover over an inkling of accord between two previously opposed parties.
The people of Lafindumonde should not be mistaken as inflexible or backward. On the contrary. They have advanced their society intellectually, culturally, scientifically, technologically, beyond any other society. Everything in Lafindumonde functions with absolute punctuality, efficiency, precision, and perfection. Everything is planned, organized, and premeditated. Nothing is left to chance, fate, coincidence, or providence. Time, the most precious aspect of the city's existence, does not allow for such serendipities. The people should also not be considered cold or heartless simply because they know the dates and times of their deaths and the deaths of their loved ones, and yet are able to lead such serene lives. One may say that they are not as struck by the shock of parting with loved ones as we are. That they are able to plan for the arrival of such? Yes. That they can say their final goodbyes in a more eloquent and timely fashion? Yes. That they are better equipped to take care of unfinished business? Yes. But that they are heartless? No.
Mr. Z is intrigued by the clinical methodology the townspeople have adopted - it is what had brought him to Lafindumonde in the first place. Knowing that people in this city put in thirty hours of work a week and accomplish what they do and are paid large salaries and still have free time, plenty of it, for leisure and relaxation, had been the decision maker. But there is an unsettling element for him. Life in Lafindumonde is, if such a thing is possible, too designed, too perfect. It is true that Mr. Z had left his old town because life had become too intense with a fifty-hour work week and responsibilities too many to count. He had begun to feel like an indentured slave to his house, his car, his job, the fillings in his teeth, all of which required him to work like a beast so he could pay pay pay. So what had his options been but to explore, in what should have been his golden years, the possibility of a new life in a new place with a different vision of what is ideal? And so he had happened upon Lafindumonde. And, if truth be told, the townspeople had given him the facts before he made a decision; there was no deception involved. So, what to do, now?
Going against the current is something that Mr. Z acknowledges he can't risk; the spokesperson was right about that. And so, following several days of deliberation, within himself, and with his companion, on a cruel and brittle January morning, after the holidays and festivities are over, Mr. Z and his companion leave the key of their rental home under the mat at their front door, pack their few belongings into their car, and drive out of Lafindumonde while the city sleeps, knowing they will never return.
The townspeople awaken to a new day of dark skies and endless snow. But as is their habit, they go about their daily activities with energy and optimism. By the lunch hour, every person in the town has heard of Mr. Z's departure, but the news is just that - news. There are no comments, speculations, or discussions over lunch in any of the cafés. With time being as precious as it is, there is not a moment to be lost. There is lunch to be enjoyed in the company of friends, and work to be done - all at a leisurely pace, of course. And there is a town gathering on the main square to be looked forward to, this evening. A new outsider from somewhere across the world is coming to Lafindumonde with hopes of establishing residence. And the town spokesperson will be there to deliver the facts.