The new town council had finally managed to pass their more economical and humane laws regarding criminals. Every offense, without exception, would result in banishment. A border patrol was established to make sure the criminals stayed out.

The community response was mixed. It was a very divisive issue. Several families moved out within weeks of the new laws being issued.   “Just goes to show they had criminal tendencies,” some remarked.

“Maybe they were already planning on moving,” others said.

It didn’t take long for the first offense to be brought to court. Three children had been throwing snowballs and broken a window. “Banishment, no exceptions,” the judge said. Their families asked about the possibility of an appeal, but were told it was simply not possible. They moved out.

Burglary. Vandalism. Not scooping up after your dog. Banishment, banishment, banishment. More and more families moved out.

As families moved out, they discovered that it was difficult to sell their homes for a good price. Everyone knew they were desperate to sell, and there weren’t any families moving into town. Soon, houses were standing vacant as families gave up on even trying to sell them.

A police officer was caught on camera giving a warning instead of citing someone for speeding. He and the criminal who had been driving seven miles over the speed limit were both banished.

A strange mood descended over the town. Businesses were boarded up after their owners were banished. There was no dry cleaner or used bookstore anymore.   The grocery store was short staffed.   So was the only restaurant left in town. People watched each other from the corner of their eyes and didn’t stop to chat.

A teacher wrote a check that bounced and was banished. When the other teachers at the school protested, they were charged with loitering and banished as well. The school was closed and the children were bussed to the nearest town for school. More families moved out.

The library was only open once a week. The gas station closed. The bakery closed. The pharmacy closed. The local doctor had pages of waivers for patients to sign. It was rumored that he was making preparations to join a practice out of town.   No one went out after dark any more.

The border patrol was stretched thin. Several members were found to have entered their hours incorrectly.   They’d somehow undercounted how many hours they were on patrol.   “Banishment, no exceptions,” the judge said.

The grocery store closed after the owner neglected to stop at a stop sign and was banished. It was the last straw for many families. “We’re moving out preemptively,” one woman said. “What’s left here anyway?” Her husband added.

The answer to his question was obvious. Not much. Whole streets were dark and abandoned. The footsteps of the dwindling police force echoed through the empty streets. Crime was at an all time low, but no one seemed to be celebrating.

No one went outside if they could help it. Playgrounds were always empty. More and more people moved out without being banished.   Lawyers petitioned to repeal the law. “Our city is dying, surely you can see that,” one said.

“Our city is safer than it’s ever been,” the mayor said. “I suggest that we seize the abandoned land and sell it to a developer. That’ll bring jobs and life back to the town.”

No developers wanted the land. The dissenting lawyers were targeted by officers and banished for driving too slow or too fast or sharing baked goods without owning a food vendor license.   They protested. “Banishment, no exceptions,” the judge said.

“I don’t think that’s even a law,” one lawyer said, when he was sentenced for talking on the phone in an elevator.

“It was passed a week ago. The new laws are on display in city hall. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Banishment,” the judge said.

The mayor forgot about the law against talking loudly in court when he came in to greet the judge one day. “Banishment, no exceptions,” the judge said.

“You’re banishing me?” The mayor asked. “There’s no one else left.”

“No exceptions,” the judge said.

He drove home that evening through silent streets. There was legally no one left in town but him. Without law enforcement or border patrol, that was sure to change. The criminals would come sneaking back. Perhaps it was time to leave. He’d done his duty and could leave with a clear conscience. Justice had been well served here.