Thief of time, p.23
No Naked Ads -> Here!
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Thief of Time, p.23

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 23

 

  Then she thought: my grandfather is Death. He adopted my mother. My father was his apprentice for a while. Thats all that happened. They were both human, and I turned up in the normal way. There is no way I should be able to walk through walls and live outside time and be a little bit immortal, but I am, and so this is not an area where logic and, lets face it, basic biology have any part to play. In any case, time is constantly creating the future. The future contains things that didnt exist in the past. A small baby should be easy for something. . . someone who rebuilds the universe once every instant. Susan sighed. And you had to remember that Time probably wasnt time, in the same way that Death wasnt exactly the same as death and War wasnt exactly the same as war. Shed met War, a big fat man with an inappropriate sense of humour and a habit of losing the thread, and he certainly didnt personally attend every minor fracas. She disliked Pestilence, who gave her funny looks, and Famine was just wasted and weird. None of them ran their . . . call it their discipline. They personified it. Given that shed met the Tooth Fairy, the Soul Cake Duck and Old Man Trouble, it amazed Susan that she had grown up to be mostly human, nearly normal. As she stared at her notes, her hair unwound itself from its tight bun and took up its ground- state position, which was the hair of someone who had just touched something highly electrical. It spread out around her head like a cloud, with one black streak of nearly normal hair. Grandfather might be an ultimate destroyer of worlds and the final truth of the universe, but that wasnt to say he didnt take an interest in the little people. Perhaps Time did, too. She smiled. Time waited for no man, they said. Perhaps shed waited for one, once. Susan was aware that someone was looking at her, turned and saw the Death of Rats peering through the lens of the glasses belonging to the mildly distracted man searching for them on the other side of the room. Up on a long-disregarded bust of a former historian the raven preened itself. Well? she said. SQUEAK! Oh, he is, is he? The doors of the library were nuzzled open and a white horse walked in. There is a terrible habit amongst horsy people to call a white horse grey, but even one of that bowlegged fraternity would have had to admit that this horse, at least, was white - not as white as snow, which is a dead white, but at least as white as milk, which is alive. His bridle and reins were black, and so was the saddle, but all of them were in a sense just for show. If the horse of

  Death was inclined to let you ride him, then youd stay on, saddle or no. And there was no upper limit to the number of people he could carry. After all, plagues sometimes happened suddenly. The historians paid him no attention. Horses did not walk into libraries. Susan mounted. There were plenty of times when she wished shed been born completely human and wholly normal, but the reality was that shed give it all up tomorrow- -apart from Binky. A moment later, four hoofprints glowed like plasma in the air above the library, and then faded away. Tick The crunch-crunch of the yetis feet over the snow and the eternal wind of the mountains were the only sounds. Then Lobsang said, By “cut off his head”, you actually mean. . . ?

  Sever the head from the body, said Lu-Tze. And, said Lobsang, still in the tones of one carefully exploring every corner of the haunted cave, he doesnt mind?

  Waal, its a nuisance, said the yeti. A bit of a paarty trick. But its okaay, if it helps. The sweeper haas alwaays been a goood friend to us. We owe him faavours.

  Ive tried teaching em the Way, said Lu-Tze proudly. Yaas. Ver usefuul. “A washed pot never boils,”said the yeti. Curiosity vied with annoyance in Lobsangs head, and won. What have I missed here? he said. You dont die?

  I doont die? Wit my head cut off? For laughing! Ho. Ho, said the yeti. Of course I die. But this is not such a sizeaable traansaaction.

  It took us years to work out what the yetis were up to, said Lu-Tze. Their loops played hob with the Mandala until the abbot worked out how to allow for them. Theyve been extinct three times.

  Three times, eh? said Lobsang. Thats a lot of times to go extinct. I mean, most species only manage it once, dont they? The yeti was entering taller forest now, of ancient pines. Thisd be a good place, said Lu-Tze. Put us down, sir.

  And well chop your head off, said Lobsang weakly. What am I saying? Im not going to chop anyones head off!

  You heard him say it doesnt worry him, said Lu-Tze, as they were gently lowered to the ground. Thats not the point! said Lobsang hotly. Its his head, Lu-Tze pointed out. But I mind!

  Oh, well, in that case, said Lu-Tze, is it not written, “If you want a thing done properly youve got to do it yourself”?

  Yaas, it is, said the yeti. Lu-Tze took the sword out of Lobsangs hand. He held it carefully, like someone unused to weapons. The yeti obligingly knelt. Youre up to date? said Lu-Tze. Yaas.

  I cannot believe youre really doing this! said Lobsang. Interesting, said Lu-Tze. Mrs Cosmopilite says, “Seeing is believing,” and, strangely enough, the Great Wen said, I have seen, and I believe"! He brought the sword down and cut off the yetis head. Tick There was a sound rather like a cabbage being sliced in half, and then a head rolled into the basket to cheers and cries of Oh, I say, well done! from the crowd. The city of Quirm was a nice, peaceful, law-abiding place and the city council kept it that way with a penal policy that combined the maximum of deterrence with the minimum of re-offending. GRIPPER THE BUTCHER SMARTZ? The late Gripper rubbed his neck. I demand a retrial! he said. THIS MAY NOT BE A GOOD TIME, said Death. It couldnt possibly have been murder because the. . . The soul of Gripper Smartz fumbled in its spectral pockets for a ghostly piece of paper, unfolded it and continued, in a voice of those to whom the written word is an uphill struggle, . . . because the bal-ance of my mind was d . . . dess-turbed.

  REALLY, said Death. He found it best to let the recently departed get things off their chest. Yes, cos I really, really wanted to kill him, right? And you cant tell me thats a normal frame of mind, right? He was a dwarf, anyway, so I dont think that should count as manslaughter. I UNDERSTAND THAT WAS THE SEVENTH DWARF YOU KILLED, said Death. Im very prone to being dess-turbed, said Gripper. Really, its me whos the victim here. All I needed was a bit of understanding, someone to see my point of view for five minutes. . . WHAT WAS YOUR POINT OF VIEW? All dwarfs need a damn good kicking, in my opinion. Ere, youre Death, right? YES INDEED. Im a big fan! Ive always wanted to meet you, yknow? Ive got a tattoo of you on my arm, look here. Done it myself. The benighted Gripper turned at the sound of hooves. A young woman in black, entirely unregarded by the crowd, who were gathered around the food stalls and souvenir stands and the guillotine, was leading a large white stallion towards them. And youve even got valet parking! said Gripper. Now thats what I call style! and with that he faded. WHAT A CURIOUS PERSON, said Death. AH, SUSAN. THANK YOU FOR COMING. OUR SEARCH NARROWS. Our search? YOUR SEARCH, IN FACT . Its just mine now, is it? I HAVE SOMETHING ELSE TO ATTEND TO. More important than the end of the world? IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD. THE RULES SAY THAT THE HORSEMEN SHALL RIDE OUT . That old legend? But you dont have to do that! IT IS ONE OF MY FUNCTIONS. I HAVE TO OBEY THE RULES. Why? Theyre breaking the rules! BENDING THEM. THEY HAVE FOUND A LOOPHOLE. I DO NOT HAVE THAT KIND OF IMAGINATION.

  It was like Jason and the Battle for the Stationery Cupboard, Susan told herself. You soon learned that No one is to open the door of the Stationery Cupboard was a prohibition that a seven year-old simply would not understand. You had to think, and rephrase it in more immediate terms, like, No one, Jason, no matter what, no, not even if they thought they heard someone shouting for help, no one - are you paying attention, Jason? - is to open the door of the Stationery Cupboard, or accidentally fall on the door handle so that it opens, or threaten to steal Richendas teddy bear unless she opens the door of the Stationery Cupboard, or be standing nearby when a mysterious wind comes out of nowhere and blows the door open all by itself, honestly, it really did, or in any way open, cause to open, ask anyone else to open, jump up and down on the loose floorboard to open or in any other way seek to obtain entry to the Stationery Cupboard, Jason!

  A loop
hole, said Susan. YES. Well, why cant you find one too? I AM THE GRIM REAPER. I DO NOT THINK PEOPLE WISH ME TO GET. . . CREATIVE. THEY WOULD WISH ME TO DO THE TASK ASSIGNED TO ME AT THIS TIME, BY CUSTOM AND PRACTICE. And thats just. . . riding out? YES. Where to? EVERYWHERE, I THINK. IN THE MEANTIME, YOU WILL NEED THIS. Death handed her a lifetimer. It was one of the special ones, slightly bigger than normal. She took it reluctantly. It looked like an hourglass, but all those little glittering shapes tumbling through the pinch were seconds. You know I dont like doing the. . . the whole scythe thing, she said. Its not- Hey, this is really heavy! HE IS LU-TZE, A HISTORY MONK. EIGHT HUNDRED YEARS OLD. HE HAS AN APPRENTICE. I HAVE LEARNED THIS. BUT I CANNOT FEEL HIM, I CANNOT SEE HIM. HE IS THE ONE. BINKY WILL TAKE YOU TO THE MONK, YOU WILL FIND THE CHILD. And then what? I SUSPECT HE WILL NEED SOMEONE. WHEN YOU HAVE FOUND HIM, LET BINKY GO. I SHALL NEED HIM. Susans lips moved as a memory collided with a thought.

  To ride out on? she said. Are you really talking about the Apocalypse? Are you serious? No one believes in that sort of thing any more! I DO. Susans jaw dropped. Youre really going to do that? Knowing everything you know? Death patted Binky on the muzzle. YES, he said. Susan gave her grandfather a sideways look. Hold on, theres a trick, isnt there. . . ? Youre planning something and youre not even going to tell me, right? Youre not really going to just wait for the world to end and celebrate it, are you? WE WILL RIDE OUT . No! YOU WILL NOT TELL THE RIVERS NOT TO FLOW. YOU WILL NOT TELL THE SUN NOT TO SHINE. YOU WILL NOT TELL ME WHAT I SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT DO. But its so- Susans expression changed, and Death flinched. I thought you cared! TAKE THIS ALSO. Without wanting to, Susan took a smaller lifetimer from her grandfather. SHE MAY TALK TO YOU . And who is this? THE MIDWIFE, said Death. NOW. . . FIND THE SON . He faded. Susan looked down at the lifetimers in her hands. Hes done it to you again! she screamed at herself. You dont have to do this and you can put this thing down and you can go back to the classroom and you can be normal again and you just know that you wont, and so does he- SQUEAK? The Death of Rats was sitting between Binkys ears, grasping a lock of the white mane and giving the general impression of someone anxious to be going. Susan raised a hand to slap him off, and then stopped herself. Instead, she pushed the heavy lifetimers into the rats paws. Make yourself useful, she said, grasping the reins. Why do I do this?

  SQUEAK. I have not got a nice nature! Tick There was not, surprisingly, a great deal of blood. The head rolled into the snow, and the body slowly toppled forward. Now youve killed- Lobsang began. Just a second, said Lu-Tze. Any moment now. . . The headless body vanished. The kneeling yeti turned his head to Lu-Tze, blinked and said, Thaat stung a biit.

  Sorry. Lu-Tze turned to Lobsang. Now, hold on to that memory! he commanded. Itll try to vanish, but youve had training. Youve got to go on remembering that you saw something that now did not happen, understand? Remember that times a lot less unbending than people think, if you get your head right! Just a little lesson! Seeing is believing!

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment