Not long ago I was invited to a librarians’ event by a lady who cheerfully told me, ‘We like to think of ourselves as information providers.’ I was appalled by this want of ambition; I made my excuses and didn’t go. After all, if you have a choice, why not call yourselves Shining Acolytes of the Sacred Flame of Literacy in a Dark and Encroaching Universe? I admit this is hard to put on a button, so why not abbreviate it to: librarians?
—  Terry Pratchett
Nanny Ogg was taking some time out to tend her secret still in the woods. As a still it was the best-kept secret there could be, since everyone in the kingdom knew exactly where it was, and a secret kept by so many people must be very secret indeed. Even the king knew, and knew enough to pretend he didn’t know, and that meant he didn’t have to ask her for any taxes and she didn’t have to refuse.
—  The Sea and Little Fishes, Terry Pratchett

There was an hourglass on his desk, one that was small, slightly larger than a candle stub but smaller than a photo frame. Occasionally when he was working, he would fiddle with it, giving his hands something to do while leaving his mind blank. Regardless of whichever way he shook it, the sand stayed in what he came to think of as the topmost bulb out of convenience.

When the doctor delivered him news that his mind was now burdened with the great embuggerance, he took to carrying it around with him, just in case he suddenly needed more time. One whole day to be lucid and not be an empty husk of who he was. To set his affairs in order, to assure others that he was going to be fine…

He knew he was lucky, of a sort, lucky enough for some god to grant him time to deal with everything…but when the time came and Death looked at him expectantly, the shade of Sir Terry sat up and looked around.

“Oh my,” he said, because in this sort of situation you need to say something, however embarrassed you are. “This is quite a lot of people.” There was no more anger, he noticed, or rather, it was still there, just a bit far off. He supposed he could find a way to access it later. “I wasn’t expecting this. But oh well.”

IT IS TIME, SIR TERRY PRATCHETT. said the Grim Reaper. Terry smiled. He got it right and Death was just as professional as he knew him to be.

The skeleton was silent for a moment, until he tilted his skull to one side, looking as quizzical as he could be. ARE YOU NOT GOING TO USE IT?

“The extra day?” Terry drew the hourglass out of his pocket and looked at it as if he had forgotten what it was supposed to be for. But in all actuality he had not.

And now that his mind was free from the constraints of the embuggerance, he knew what he was going to do.

Death’s steady expression didn’t seem to change, but the flames in his skull seemed to flicker when Trry stepped forward and placed the hourglass in his hands. “I don’t think I need it,” Pterry said, dusting himself off. “Everything’s settled.”

The Grim Reaper was still for a moment, but that moment passed and he stowed the hourglass somewhere in the deep recesses of his robe.

I HAVE BOUGHT THE SWORD, AS IS FITTING, he said, drawing the blade out. It glowed blue.

“Ready when you are.” Death nodded and brought it down.

“Well, that was easy.” Terry said, looking past the portal and far into the distance, at the stars, the black sand of the desert and the mountains. “What happens now?” he added with a grin. Of course he knew, but he had wanted to say that for quite a while.


And Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.