Vive La Wossname
"Don't put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions. People die, and nothing changes." – "Night Watch"
The funniest thing, Sam Vimes reflected as he finished lacing his boots and tested the weight of the bell he had been handed, was how it all went back to normal within a day or two. There had been so much talk of how glorious it would be once Lord Snapcase was Patrician, how everyone would be better off and we'd all be happy, or at least happier, and the world would be a better place. After all, that's what revolutions were for, right? Making the world into the sort of place you'd like your kids to grow up in, better than the lousy old hand-me-down world with frayed edges and suspicious stains you'd inherited from your parents. A revolution was when enough people got sick and tired of the old tattered world and got out their needle and thread to patch up the holes, maybe take a hem up here and there, and then bung the whole thing in the tub for a good scrub before handing it on to your offspring.
The funny thing was, what you discovered you had afterwards was the exact same thing, only now it seemed a little tidier and was sopping wet. Soon enough it would start coming apart at the seems again, and out would come the needle and thread once more, this time in the hands of your children, or their children. And round and round it went, over and over again, without it ever once occuring to anyone to stop the whole stupid business and just get a new one.
Everyone still got up in the mornings. People still argued over what to have for breakfast. Children played – or whatever it was children did – in the streets, and their elders still had to go to work and earn a living. Sam Vimes still had to go to work, more to the point, and even there things had settled back down to something resembling the generally accepted definition of "normal". However, a few vital changes had been made, changes which Sam felt were probably good, or at least right, which is seldom the same thing but close enough. They no longer took the hurry-up wagon out, and since the Particulars' headquarters had been burned down they had much more work to do and the cells were usually full up. This had meant they got a pay rise which, however slight, had been enough to bolster moral for a while.
There was a new captain too, who seemed content to let the sergeants run the show most of the time but did have a habit of springing surprise inspections on them. Sam was just happy that Lord Rust had gone. He had only encountered the man a couple of times but there was something about him which Sam instantly despised. This new captain seemed to know a bit about being a guard. According to one of the lads, he had been a sergeant in the Day Watch but was getting too old for higher command there, so was fobbed off on the Night Watch instead of proper promotion.
Corporal Colon seemed to have forgotten that anything out of the ordinary had ever happened. He was sitting at the desk when Sam came trudging out of the locker room, and beamed happily at him.
Colon's grin grew even wider. "Allo, Vimesy. I see you're nice and early. Keen, that's the thing."
"Bright young lad. All the right ideas."
"Yeah," said Sam again, then paused and added, "what?"
The top half of Colon's head should have dropped off by now. "It's what the captain said. He wants to see you, toot sweet."
"Yeah? What's that then?" asked Sam, slightly worried.
"Er, right now, I think."
Sam nodded and headed up the stairs, imagining that every moan of the timber beneath his feet was the creaking of his knees, old and tired, trudging up the same stairs in thirty years' time. Like most sensible young people, he had never thought much about getting old, but when you were a Watchman Getting Old thought about you all the time.
He knocked on the door, paused with his hand on the knob. It was a few moments before the captain's voice beckoned him into the office, and he shut the door gently behind him, wondering vaguely why he felt the overwhelming obligation to make as little sound as possible around his new commanding officer.
The captain was sitting at the desk, reading a sheet of paper. A bulky cardboard file rested on the desk in front of him, and Sam could see his own name written on the front in bold black letters, which the captain half-heartedly covered up with his sleeve when he realised Sam was staring at it. How could there be so much information on him? He had only been in the watch a few weeks, and anyway, Sam would be the first to admit there wasn't anything interesting or remarkable about him.
"Lance-Constable Vimes, is it?" said the captain, without looking up from the sheet of paper.
Sam saluted clumsily. "Yessir."
"Not any more."
Sam's heart started thumping furiously. Was he being fired? Why? And what would he tell his mum?
"S-sir? I don't understand, sir!"
"Good. Can't have young people going round understandin' things, Vimes. Leads to all kinds of trouble."
"Couldn't agree more, Lance-Corporal."
"Yes, I said Lance-Corporal. Nothing wrong with your ears or my talking.
Sam's face went bright red and he blurted out, "Sir! There's been a mistake somewhere, I've not been a Watchman for more'n a month and-"
"No mistake. I heard Sergeant Keel himself was keeping an eye on you, and when Keel's got his eye on someone, well, the rest of the world had better keep an eye on 'em too, so I'm promoting you to a rank where people can see you. You get a stripe, y'see, and everyone looks at stripes. Can't have you hidden away amongst the constabulary where just about anyone can go round ignoring you."
"But I don't know how to be a Corporal, sir!" Sam protested.
"Of course not, no one does."
"You'll do fine, lad. Now then. There's the funeral tomorrow, and I'm guessing a Night Watch funeral isn't much different from a Day Watch one. Mostly people stand around and look at their feet while a priest of no particular faith reads something unimportant from a book no one knows the name of, yes?"
"Never been to a funeral, sir."
"Ah well, you'll get plenty of practice." The captain drummed his fingers on the thick green folder. The paper he had been studying was lying on the desk now, and Vimes tried to make out what it said.
"You'll want to say something, I imagine," said the captain.
"At the funeral. About how Sergeant Keel influenced you so drastically in such a short space of time? How he's the copper you will always aspire to be? How we all owe it to his memory to do our best to make the city a safe place to live?"
Sam winced. "Do I have to, sir?"
"Do you want to?"
Sam thought about it. Everything the captain had said was more or less true. In Sergeant Keel Sam had finally found a Watchman he could respect rather than simply not dislike. Yes, Keel had taught him many things, mostly Smite before you are Smoten, and Sam certainly wasn't averse to keeping the city safe. But he wasn't sure he wanted to say these things aloud to anyone. He had a sneaking suspicion that if he told anyone about the things Keel had taught him it would make it all, somehow, less true.
"Yessir," said Sam.
"Then you will?"
"Nossir. Sorry sir. I'm not good at speaking in front of lots of people."
"Hmmf," said the captain, glancing at the sheet on the table. After a moment, he picked it up and tucked it back into its folder. Sam glimpsed an untidy mess of paper inside, all of it covered in tiny writing. Someone, somewhere, certainly had a lot to say about him.
"Well, then. That seems to be all. Thank you, Lance-Corporal. And viva la wossname. Revolution."
Faintly perplexed, Sam saulted again and left the room.
The funeral was exactly as the captain had predicted. The Night Watch, minus only a couple of recruits, fit easily around the neat graves. Sam was acutely aware of the swiftly dwindling size of the Watch, and felt faintly worried because the two other boys who joined at the same time as him had left and got other, more sensible jobs. After the revolution, Sam felt like part of the Night Watch, but he was the only new recruit who did.
Sam stood beside Corporal Colon, who had endeavored the previous night to show him the Corporaling ropes. These had consisted of shouting a little bit louder when you rang your bell, and expecting hefty discounts in pubs. Sam hadn't liked the shouting much, but he was beginning to see the attraction of pubs. His mum had warned him never to go into such places, but it was still quite chilly at night and standing outside while Colon went in wasn't really an option.
The priest spoke for exactly seven minutes, just enough to feel respectful but not enough to waste anybody's time. Then the diggers started filling in the graves. Sam and Colon lingered as the rest of the Watch drifted away to do whatever they all did when off duty, until the only people left in the graveyeard were themselves, the two diggers, and the small, untidy urchin crouched behind a gravestone nearby.
"You can come out now, Nobby," said Colon kindly. "You could have come to the funeral too, official, like. No one would have minded."
Nobby sidled out from behind the stone. He was clutching his spoon and looked utterly miserable.
"Come on," said Colon, moving to pat Nobby on the head but changing his mind half-way through and turning it into a gesture which suggested they move on. "You look starved, and I wouldn't say no to a curry myself. You coming, Vimesy?"
"Hmm?" said Sam.
"Are you coming?" Corporal Colon repeated.
"Fair enough. Come on, Nobby."
Sam watched them walk away, then sat down on the grass until the last gravedigger had finished his work.
"You can't sit here all day, kid," he commented, almost clouting Sam with his shovel as he slung it up onto his shoulder.
"I'm not going to."
"Glad to hear it. It's not healthy, sitting in graveyards. Too many kids hanging around in graveyards these days, it's not right. You should be," he waved a vand in a vague gesture of generalisation, "seeing the world an' meeting girls and such. Just my advice to a young lad."
Sam nodded, then averted his eyes in a universe-wide motion that said 'I'm done with you now, thanks'. The look had been presented to him along with the stripe and the pay rise, and this was the first time he had tested it out. It was a good look, almost indistinguishable from a full Corporal's 'I've already wasted too much time on you'.
Once the gravedigger had gone, Sam moved to sit on the low wall where he could clearly see the row of graves against the back wall of the yard. Something had been praying on his mind for the last couple of days. He remembered passing out at the end of the struggle on Cable Street, but, although unconscious, he had heard a number of things. Quite possibly the blow to the head had knocked a couple of synapses askew and he had imagined it, especially since the voice had sounded like Keel's, and Keel had already died. But it was always possible …
Above Sam's head, the lilac tree was still in bloom. It's scent grew heavy as the afternoon wore on, and Sam found himself shoving his hand into his pocket, where he found the dry, brown, crumpled remnants of his battle plume. Crushing the dead flower in his hands, he scattered the pieces over the central grave. The stone bore the legend "HOW DO THEY RISE UP". Sam got a feeling he would never completely forget that song.
Then there was a sound, or the sudden perception of a sound which until that moment had been just below hearing level. It was like a cat scratching at the bare floorboards back home, getting steadily louder until something splintered. There was a moment's cursing, coming from under Sam's feet, then the earth over one of the graves started to move, imperceptible to anyone who hadn't been sitting around waiting for it. After a few minutes, the soil sagged and collapsed into the hole. Reg Shoe grappled at the gaping mouth of the grave, then finally hefted himself out so he was sitting on the edge with his back to Sam, who had perched himself on Ned Coates's gravestone.
Sam watched as Reg stared around in amazement at the world, then at his hands, then at the grave he had just clambered out of. He didn't know much about zombies, but returning from the dead had a certain element of birth about it, without the whole horrible business of pregnancy and delivery. And childhood, for that matter, although new zombies often had a childlike wonder about them. Once you died, you developed a profound interest in the world you'd never had a chance to look at properly when you were alive.
"How are you, Reg?" said Sam eventually. The zombie jumped, surprised, then twisted round to stare at Sam.
"Vimes, isn't it?" he asked.
"Am I a … zombie?"
Sam grinned. "'Fraid so, Reg."
"'Fraid so?" Reg echoed. "This is … it's amazing! I have conquered death! I've come through the other side of the darkness everyone fears and discovered all you have to do is not die!" Reg scrambled to his feet and faced the row of gravestones.
"Come on, you lot!" he yelled. "Up you get! You don't have to be dead, you don't have to decompose! Death isn't the end!"
Sam watched as Reg shouted futilely at the stones. "Um," he said. "I don't think any of them are getting up."
"It's just laziness," said Reg, calming down a little. He gazed around the graveyard. "They'll all figure it out on their own, I'm sure."
"…Yeah," said Sam, getting up. "Well it's good to see you up and about again, Reg. I knew death couldn't keep you down."
"Death's just the start," said Reg happily. "Seeya, kid." He grabbed Sam's hand and shook it vigorously, then set off down the little path that meandered through the stones towards the gate.
Sam stood back at stared at Keel's grave. It was strange how fleeting acquaintances could leave such a mark on your life. Last week Sam had done his job purely to earn that handful of dollars a month, but now he suspected there was a better reason to get out of bed each morning. He wasn't sure what it was yet, but Keel had known it, and passed all the little clues on to Sam. Maybe one day he would piece them all back together and know it himself.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and began the walk down through the graves himself, legs already walking the policeman's steady walk. It was beginning to occur to him that maybe the purpose or revolutions wasn't to make the world a better place, but to keep it the same sort of place it was yesterday, i.e. dull. No one really wanted an exciting existence when made to think about it seriously, least of all Sam himself. What he did want right now was a good meal, a bath, and a clean uniform, but failing that a quick drink and a pie before work would do fine.
As he left the cemetery, he was watched by the captain who, for the last fifteen minutes or so, had been leaning on the far wall. He was still carrying his thick green folder with "SAMUEL VIMES" written across the front, and as Sam disappeared out of sight, the captain removed a small, thin piece of paper and stared at it. It was a list, with a number of things already checked off. The last thing on the list was "wille he remembr?", which the captain marked with a firm tick.
A little bald man with a broom stopped pretending to sweep the doorway of a hotel and sidled over to the captain.
"I think so," said the captain. "I wasn't completely sure the altered timeline would allow him to progress to sergeant in time to be made captain, so I nudged him to corporal a bit early. Other than that, this has been one of the easy ones."
"Nothing we do is easy," said the Sweeper.
"Comparatively speaking," said the captain. "Nonetheless, I just have this resignation letter to post and then I feel it's time for me to return to the temple."
Sweeper nodded. "Sam Vimeses don't need much manipulation to obey narritivium. I think we've done enough."
The captain tucked the folder under his arm, and they set off towards the funny foreign building wedged between the pawnbrokers and the shonky shop, which served the History Monks as a temple. Both walked with the satisfaction of a job well done.
They were watched all the way, from the rooftops, by a thin figure dressed in every shade of dark except black.