Thief of time, p.35
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       Thief of Time, p.35

         Part #26 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 35


  I have no idea what I am, sighed Lady LeJean. But right now I know that I am everything an Auditor should not be. We. . . they . . . we have to be stopped!

  With chocolate? said Susan. The sense of taste is new to us. Alien. We have no defences.

  But. . . chocolate?

  A dry biscuit almost killed me, said her ladyship. Susan, can you imagine what it is like to experience taste for the first time? We built our bodies well. Oh, yes. Lots of tastebuds. Water is like wine. But chocolate. . . Even the mind stops. There is nothing but the taste. She sighed. I imagine it is a wonderful way to die.

  It doesnt seem to affect you, said Susan suspiciously. The bandages and the gloves, said Lady LeJean. Even then it is all I can do not to give in. Oh, where are my manners? Do sit down. Pull up a small child. Lobsang and Susan exchanged a glance. Lady LeJean noticed it. I said something wrong? she said. We dont use people as furniture, said Susan. But surely they will not be aware of it? said her ladyship. We will, said Lobsang. Thats the point, really.

  Ah. I have so much to learn. There is. . . there is so much context to being human, I am afraid. You, sir, can you stop the clock?

  I dont know how to, said Lobsang. But I. . . I think I should know. Ill try.

  Would the clockmaker know? He is here.

  Where? said Susan. Just down the passage, said Lady LeJean. You carried him here?

  He was barely able to walk. He was hurt badly in the fight.

  What? said Lobsang. How could he walk at all? Were outside time! Susan took a deep breath. He carries his own time, just like you, she said. Hes your brother. And it was a lie. But he wasnt ready for the truth. By the look on his face, he wasnt even ready for the lie. Twins, said Mrs Ogg. She picked up the brandy glass, looked at it, and put it down. There wasnt one. There was twins. Two boys. But. . . She turned on Susan a glare like a thermic lance. Youll be thinking, this is an old biddy of a midwife, she said. Youll be thinking, what does she know? Susan paid her the courtesy of not lying. Part of me was, she admitted. Good answer! Part of us thinks all kinds of things, said Mrs Ogg. Part of me is thinking, whos this haughty little miss who talks to me as if I was a kiddie of five? But most of me is thinking, shes got a heap of troubles of her own and has seen plenty of things a human shouldnt have to see. Mind you, part of me says, so have I. Seeing things a human shouldnt have to see makes us human. Well, miss. . . if youve any sense, part of you is thinking, theres a witch in front of me whos seen my granddad many times, when shes sat by a sickbed thats suddenly become a deathbed, and if shes ready to spit in his eye when the time comes then she could probably bother me considerably right now if she puts her mind to it. Understand? Lets all keep our parts to ourselves, and suddenly she gave Susan a wink, as the High Priest said to the actress.

  I absolutely agree, said Susan. Completely.

  Right, said Mrs Ogg. So. . . twins . . . well, it was her first time, and human wasnt exactly a familiar shape with her, I mean, you cant do what comes naturally when you aint exactly natural and . . . twins aint quite the right word . . .

  A brother, said Lobsang. The clockmaker?

  Yes, said Susan. But I was a foundling!

  So was he.

  I want to see him now!

  That might not be a good idea, said Susan. I am not interested in your opinion, thank you. Lobsang turned to Lady LeJean. Down that passage?

  Yes. But hes asleep. I think the clock upset his mind, and also he was hit in the fight. He says things in his sleep.

  Says what?

  The last thing I heard him say before I came to find you was, “Were so close. Any passage might do,” said her ladyship. She looked from one to the other. Have I said the wrong thing? Susan put her hand over her eyes. Oh dear. . . I said that, said Lobsang. Just after we came up the stairs. He glared at Susan. Twins, right? Ive heard about this sort of thing! What one thinks the other thinks too? Susan sighed. Sometimes, she thought, I really am a coward. Something like that, yes, she said. Im going to see him, then, even if he cant see me! Damn, thought Susan, and hurried after Lobsang as he headed along the passage. The Auditor trailed behind them, looking concerned. Jeremy was lying on a bed, although it was no softer than anything else in the timeless world. Lobsang stopped, and stared. He looks. . . quite like me, he said. Oh, yes, said Susan. Thinner, perhaps.

  Could be, yes.

  Different. . . lines on his face.

  Youve led different lives, said Susan. How did you know about him and me?

  My grandfather takes, er, an interest in this sort of thing. I found out some more by myself, too, she said. Why should we interest anyone? Were not special.

  This is going to be quite hard to explain. Susan looked round at Lady LeJean. How safe are we here?

  The signs upset them, said her ladyship. They tend to keep away. I. . . shall we say? . . . took care of the ones who followed you.

  Then youd better sit down, Mr Lobsang, said Susan. It might help if I told you about me.


  My grandfather is Death.

  Thats a strange thing to say. Death is just the end of life. Its not a. . . a person-

  PAY ATTENTION TO ME WHEN I AM TALKING TO YOU. . . A wind whipped around the room, and the light changed. Shadows formed on Susans face. A faint blue light outlined her. Lobsang swallowed. The light faded. The shadows vanished. There is a process called death, and there is a person called Death, said Susan. That is how it works. And I am Deaths granddaughter. Am I going too fast for you?

  Er, no, although right up until just now you looked human, said Lobsang. My parents were human. Theres more than one kind of genetics. Susan paused. You look human, too. Human is a very popular look in these parts. Youd be amazed.

  Except that I am human. Susan gave a little smile that, on anyone less obviously in full control of themself, might have seemed slightly nervous. Yes, she said. And, then again, no.


  Take War, now, said Susan, backing away from the point. Big man, hearty laugh, tends to fart after meals. As human as the next man, you say. But the next man is Death. Hes human- shaped, too. And thats because humans invented the idea of. . . of. . . of ideas, and they think in human shapes-

  Get back to the “and, then again, no”, will you?

  Your mother is Time.

  No one knows who my mother is!

  I could take you to the midwife, said Susan. Your father found the best theres ever been. She delivered you. Your mother was Time.

  Lobsang sat with his mouth open. It was easier for me, said Susan. When I was very small my parents used to let me visit my grandfather. I thought every grandfather had a long black robe and rode a pale horse. And then they decided that maybe that wasnt the right environment for a child. They were worried about how I was going to grow up! She laughed mirthlessly. I had a very strange education, you know? Maths, logic, that sort of thing. And then, when I was a bit younger than you, a rat turned up in my room and suddenly everything I thought I knew was wrong.

  Im a human! I do human things! Id know if-

  You had to live in the world. Otherwise, how could you learn to be human? said Susan, as kindly as she could. And my brother? What about him? Here it comes, Susan thought. Hes not your brother, she said. I lied a bit. Im sorry.

  But you said-

  I had to lead up to it, said Susan. Its one of those things you have to get hold of a bit at a time, Im afraid. Hes not your brother. Hes you.

  Then who am I? Susan sighed. You. Both of you. . . are you.

  And there I was, and there she was, said Mrs Ogg, and out the baby came, no problem there, but thats always a tryin moment for the new mum, and there was . . . she paused, her eyes peering through the windows of memory, like . . . like a feelin that the world had stuttered, and I was holdin the baby and I looked down and there was me deliverin a baby, and I looked at me, and I looked at me, and I remember saying, “This is a fine to-do, Mrs Ogg,” and she, who was me, s
aid, “You never said a truer word, Mrs Ogg,” and then it all went strange and there I was, just one of me, holdin two babies.

  Twins, Susan said. You could call them twins, yes, I spose you could, said Mrs Ogg. But I always thought that twins is two little souls born once, not one born twice. Susan waited. Mrs Ogg looked in the mood to talk. So I said to the man, I said, “What now?” and he said, “Is that any business of yours?” and I said he could be damn sure it was my business and he could look me in the eye and Id speak my mind to anyone. But I was thinking, youre in trouble now, Mrs Ogg, cos itd all gone myffic.

  Mythic? said schoolteacher Susan.

  Yep. With extra myff. And you can get into big trouble, with myffic. But the man just smiled and said that he must be brought up human until hes of age and I thought, yep, its gone myffic all right. I could see he hadnt got a clue about what to do next and it was all going to be down to me. Mrs Ogg took a suck at her pipe and her eyes twinkled at Susan through the smoke. I dont know how much experience you have with this sort of thing, my girl, but sometimes when the high and mighty make big plans they dont always think about the fine detail, right? Yes. Im a fine detail, Susan thought. One day Death took it into his skull to adopt a motherless child, and Im a fine detail. She nodded. I thought, how does this go, in a myffic kind of way? Mrs Ogg went on. I mean, technicly I could see were in that area where the prince gets brought up as a swineherd until he manifests his destiny, but theres not that many swineherding jobs around these days, and poking hogs with a stick is not all its cracked up to be, believe you me. So I said, well, Id heard the Guilds down in the big cities took in foundlings out of charity, and looked after them well enough, and theres many well set-up men and women who started life that way. Theres no shame in it, plus, if the destiny doesnt manifest as per schedule, hed have set his hands to a good trade, which would be a consolation. Whereas swineherding s just swineherding. Youre giving me a stern look, miss.

  Well, yes. It was rather a chilly decision, wasnt it?

  Someone has to make em, said Mrs Ogg sharply. Besides, Ive been around for some time and Ive noticed that them as has it in them to shine will shine through six layers of muck, whereas those who aint shiny wont shine however much you buff em. You may think otherwise, but it was me standing there. She investigated the bowl of her pipe with a matchstick. Eventually she went on: And that was it. I would have stayed, of course, because there wasnt so much as a crib in the place, but the man took me aside and said thank you and that it was time to go. And why would I argue? There was love there. It was in the air. But I wont say that I dont sometimes wonder how it all turned out. I really do. There were differences, Susan had to admit. Two different lives had indeed burned their unique tracks on the faces. And the selves had been born a second or so apart, and a lot of the universe can change in a second. Think of identical twins, she told herself. But they are two different selves occupying bodies that, at least, start out identical. Theydont start out as identical selves. He looks quite like me, said Lobsang, and Susan blinked. She leaned closer to the unconscious form of Jeremy. Say that again, she said. I said, he looks quite like me, said Lobsang.

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