~Nobody Becomes William
by Anna Marcelli Palmer
LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?
-Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
Dedicated to Sir Terry Pratchett
with infinite love and admiration.
Far away, within the shadiest and unexplored depths of the Multiverse, amongst systems, galaxies, red giants and neuron stars, the Great A Twin, the biggest living creature ever known, swims its sluggish way through the oceans of Infinity itself. Upon its back, like a shoddily thrown pile of shape, color and tons of geography, is the Discworld, flat and round like a cosmic table, phantasmagoric like a shard of beauty pinned on the boundless firmament. A tiny Sun revolves lazily around it, shedding light upon the continents, and the subversive Cori Celesti, and the Rimfalls forever pumping water into Nothingness*-
...Then, the observer backs farther and farther away, and what was a tridimentional miracle of astrophysics shrinks down to an infinitesimal dot sealed behind the looking glass; farther and farther away, to the point where dimentions twirl around one another, and we suddenly are in a room where a slender figure slips swiftly across what looks like an endless series of shelves carrying thousands -no, millions- of hourglasses.
Well, not exactly hourglasses, of course. And the figure is not exactly slender; in fact, the stranger in the cloak is tall and skinny, unnaturally tall and unnaturally skinny, to the point of not possessing a skin, mainly because he doesn't possess a flesh either. This is Death's domain, a parallel dimention created by the self-proclaimed Anthropomorphic Personification himself, and these are the timers that count the living seconds of every existing organism, abiding by the laws of a supreme gravity that pulls the life of the tomorrow in the vast kingdom of the yesterday.**
Its owner strides up and down in distress. Hormones may not be exactly his cup of tea, but the latest happenings have shown that only a deplorable minority of things can be explained by common logic when it comes to the Death of a world that waltzes with uncertainty on the back of four elephants.
And the source of that specific distress is that specific infinitesimal dot. The reflection in the glass. The timer; a small one, garish and sibilant and loud like Life itself. The last few grains of sand are already abandoning the upper half. Now there's less of them. Now even lesser, if that is the word.
THE APOCRALYPSE, murmurs the skeleton, and it is more of a stir in the fabric of acoustic harmony than an actual voice. IT'S ALMOST HERE.
The name carved upon the wooden base is Great A' Twin.
The cylindrical object wasn't really that old, yet it already possessed a whole family of marks and stains. A thick piece of glass had been carelessly attatched on its one side, and some curly scratches here and there implied that, whoever its creator was, they certainly had a lot of imagination they should by no means express again through the art of carving.
As for the creator himself, a mysterious young man with weird habits and the unexblainable belief that everything on the Discworld has been created for a reason, wasn't quite decided with regards to its exact use -not just yet- although he had already dubbed it a "magnoscope". The name didn't sound very right, but seemed descriptive enough; even though things looked only a mangy three times bigger, it was the first step to his personal exploration of the cosmos.
And, with the utmost care, it had been fixed on a rough base by the window; through the lense, a pair of ice blue eyes -the type that gives off an impression of imprinted intelligence, but, on the same time, innate scaredness- was moving frantically, in a desperate attempt to devour the secrets of Existence. In vain, of course, since there is no actual secret, maybe apart from the fact that the Gods have the sadistic attitude of a five year old torturing a colony of ants with a toothpick.
So, for the time being, the first celestial observations of the Discworld's first scientist and astronomer confined themselves to the positions of the stars in the nocturnal sky, and the false alarm of a fly that had, for some reason, found a somewhat idiotic death by colliding against the glass.
That is, until now.
There was a strange blur in the distance, a black olive on the plate of Creation; its shape hazy, seemed to redefine itself just for the sake of being observed. Plump fingers instictively fumbled the sleek surface for insect remains, but found nothing. A drop of sweat tumbled down his forehead. This one was real. It was a start. Could mean something.
To him, it certainly would.
That very first time, he didn't panic. That very first time, screams of frenetic enthusiasm filled the derelict hut, and died in the surpassing uproar of Ankh-Morpork itself.
Gary Leo called himself a "Practical Filosofer and Ecsplorer of The Mysterys of Laif"***, although he could probably have thought of a term to summarize all that erroneous spelling inscribed above his front door. It was a rather uncommon proffession, and he had formed various speculations on why it had never produced any income, none of which seemed to be strictly accurate.
And, without knowing it yet, he had just seen the enormous celestial object that, in less than fifteen days, would collide against the Discworld, leaving Death with the work of a lifetime, and the rest of its inhabitants totally, conclusively, incorrigibly dead.
*And that's, in a nutshell, how the system functions. There has been an awful lot of philosophical debate over how impractical this all is, considering the tons of water that go to waste every day because of it, and the gigantic amounts of energy it takes the oceans to defy physics and restore themselves. The most plausible explanation is that it obviously comprises a nice visual effect.
**Or vice versa. You can never know with those evasive terms, especially considering the Discworld's powerful magical field; after all, running faster than the speed of light isn't much of an accomplishment here. As a result, if anyone in this dimention ever conceived and wrote the Theory of Relativity, they would probably be blatantly laughed at, or -depending on the audience- be sent to sleep with a terrible headache and never wake up again.
***Anyway. You get the message.