Etheriel, a very low-ranking angel, is trying to find a flaw in Archangel Gabriel's presence, but cannot. Smiling, Gabriel blows his trumpet, and with that sound, everything in the universe aside from Earth is swept away, becoming the nothing it was before the Word was spoken. Earth itself is now suffused in a soft warm light.
R. E. Man wakes up to see that the world has ended at exactly the appointed time. Therefore, he gets up and starts wandering around town to see how everyone is dealing their afterlife. Several Slice of Life-style stories are told about the fate of humanity, interspersed with Etheriel's progress in navigating the Celestial Bureaucracy to convince the Chief (God) to undo the end of the world.
This story has been reprinted several times; Earth is Room Enough (1957), The Far Ends Of Time And Earth (1979), Angels And Awakenings (1980), Catastrophes! (1981), Faszination Der Science Fiction (1985), The Complete Stories, Volume 1 (1990), and An Anthology Of Angels (1996).
Examples of tropes within this work:
- Alternative Calendar: The End of the World as We Know It is scheduled to take place the first minute of 1957, but Etheriel uses the existence of alternative dating methods to argue with God into allowing Earth to continue until everyone agrees the year is 1957. Satan immediately gets to work on supporting proposals for years to be measured from the Atomic Era.
- Always Lawful Good: The angels are product of Divine Will, and follow every Commandment they are given. This provides a bit of Good vs. Good conflict as Etheriel tries to get through the Celestial Bureaucracy and convince the Chief to not destroy the Earth.
- Archangel Gabriel: Gabriel's arrival kicks off the start of the story, blowing the last trumpet to signal the end of the universe.
- Celestial Bureaucracy: Archangel Gabriel must show junior seraph Etheriel the paperwork for the Act of Ascendancy they're here to announce/enact. Acts countersigned by the Chief cannot be revoked. Meeting the Chief is to be done by appointment, and there's a six-winged cherub who acts as his secretary.
- Endless Daytime: After The End of the World as We Know It and everyone starts waking from death, there is no sunlight, just a pervasive light and warmth. One of the characters believes it to be the light of the First Day; before the sun, moon, and stars were created.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The world is scheduled to end at the very first minute of the year 1957. Once that occurs, Archangel Gabriel will blow his horn, and everyone will wake from the dead. The universe itself will go away and Earth will transform into a featureless plane with warm light suffusing everywhere. There will be Only One Afterlife; everyone is left to talk and think.
- Energy Beings: In this story, angels are without physical substance, formed by energy and leaving energy in their wake. Archangel Gabriel finds it quaint that Earth has matter-to-energy equivalence, because it allows for the Nuclear Option.
- "Eureka!" Moment: Etheriel realizes that the Act of Ascendancy is scheduled to take place in 1957, but it doesn't specify Anno Domini; arguing with God that the Act should be postponed until everyone on Earth agrees that the current year is 1957.
- Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: After The End of the World as We Know It and everyone starts waking from death, the buildings disintegrate, nobody pays much attention to people's bodies, and even the landscape itself starts to level out.
- Fun with Homophones: The angel (who is made of Pure Energy) Etheriel's name sounds like ethereal, which means "extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world".
- God: In this story, he lives in the Primum Mobile, and is called Chief of the Celestial Bureaucracy. No order given by the Chief can be revoked, because that would mean he wasn't omnipotent.
- Good Needs Evil: The Chief explains that the Adversary is still a servant of his, because Good is defined by the eternal struggle against Evil.
- Good vs. Good: Etheriel is trying to navigate the bureaucracy of heaven to convince the Chief to prevent The End of the World as We Know It.
- In Mysterious Ways: Once Etheriel figures out how to convince the Chief to postpone Judgement Day, the Chief says he knew the arguments the whole time, and was waiting for the angel Etheriel to figure it out himself.
- Louis Cypher: The name of R. E. Mann is a reference to the Persian word Ahriman, which means "adversary", like the Hebrew word Satan.
- Mass Resurrection: Resurrection Day has been announced, so people are waking up from death and climbing out of their graves. The most recently dead wake up first, but everyone in the world will be resurrected.
- Naked on Revival: The humans who were alive when the trumpet announced Resurrection Day are clothed, while the humans who were dead are crawling out of their graves completely naked. This distinction will be lost, as the clothes people were wearing dissolve away, just like the landscape is fading.
- The Namesake: The word 'trump' is short for trumpet, and the title refers to Archangel Gabriel's horn being used to announce Judgement Day and the resurrection of everyone who has ever died.
- No Plot? No Problem!: The b-plot of R. E. Man walking around town after The End of the World as We Know It has no narrative arc, just a collection of scenes where people are dealing with the changes since Judgement Day occured.
- Only One Afterlife: Since everyone had different ideas for what the afterlife should be, Satan suggested that the common elements of all afterlives be used, so God resurrects everyone to live in a featureless plane.
- Our Angels Are Different: These angels are made of energy and working for a Celestial Bureaucracy of multiple worlds/universes.
- Reasoning with God: Archangel Gabriel announces that it's time for Judgement Day, but Etheriel, a junior angel, points out a loophole in the declaration, plucks up his courage, and successfully argues for the whole thing to be postponed. (God's reaction to the argument turns out to be, more or less, "Oh good, I was hoping somebody would bring that up".)
- Reset Button: Once God has been convinced to postpone the Day of Judgement, he resets the world/universe to the minute where the world ended.
- This Isn't Heaven: Two different characters realise the afterlife wasn't what they expected:
- One of the resurrected souls claims this is Heaven, but R. E. Man is quick to point out that he's never repented, never been to church, and believes a lot of things about God that would bother them.
- One of the resurrected souls points out to R. E. Man that there is nothing beyond Earth, buildings are crumbling, hills are flattening, desires are gone... Soon, there will be nothing but a featureless plain and people. They believed that Fire and Brimstone Hell undersells divine imagination; an eternity of nothingness is a torture of a divinely inspired everlasting hell.
- Title Drop: Unusual for this trope, the title is used quite early in the story because it announces The End of the World as We Know It, and most of the story itself is about Etheriel trying to prevent the end, after it ended.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: Two stories are told at the same time; the A-plot is about angel Etheriel and his quest to prevent The End of the World as We Know It (because then Satan would win), and the B-plot is about R. E. Man checking out how humanity is handling The End of the World as We Know It.