"This is Utopia", said the old man, in answer to my question.
"How odd!" I said. "I must have slipped through some dimension or other".
"Come, let me show you our city", he said.
I was scarcely surprised to see tall white buildings, gardens, fountains, and all the usual appurtenances of the New York World's Fair. The streets were silent and empty and spotlessly clean.
"How peaceful it is!" I murmured.
"We have locked up all the noisy people", said my old man.
"I beg your pardon?" I said, startled.
"After the last war we held a great court of justice", he explained, "and we decided to reorganise society by locking up all the people who were undesirable in a well-balanced community. We started with the people who shout and sing and talk loudly and bellow over the telephone."
I thought there was something in this. "How shining and clean everything is!" I said next.
"We have locked up all the people who throw away tram tickets,
paper bags, cigarette packets, and broken umbrellas", replied the old man.
"Not to mention people who drop bombs and things?" I said.
"We have no wars now", answered the old man. "We locked up
all the people responsible for the last war."
"You must have done a bit of locking up", I suggested.
"We did", he said. "We locked up all the profiteers as well, and all the black-marketeers, and all the defeatists."
"So then you had nothing left but sane, healthy, noble human beings," I asked.
"That's right", said the old man. "That's quite right. For two hundred years we had uninterrupted peace and prosperity. No unemployment, no fear of poverty, no illness, no crime."
"Not even a crime passionel?" I demanded hopefully.
"We locked up all the queer people", he said, "but alas . . ."
"Alas?" I encouraged him.
"Some of the people grew insolent and irresponsible under continual peace and security", he murmured sadly. "So we had to lock them up."
"Then you have by this time weeded out all but the best?"
"More of the people became arrogant", he continued as if he had not heard. "There was no hold over them. There was no discipline. We had to lock up more and more of them."
"And now . . . ?" I asked breathlessly.
"Today", he said, "We locked up the last thousand." He laughed loudly, hysterically, insanely. "There are all locked up now. I am the only man left."
I laid a restraining hand on his arm, but he shook it violently off.
"Let me go!" he screamed. "I must go! Let me go, let me go!"
He rushed off, waving his arms madly.
"Where are you going?" I shouted after him.
"I am going! I am going!" his voice came back more and more faintly. "I am the last man, and I am going to lock myself up!"
from Zenith no. 5, April 1942