The Emperor’s New Bones

The Emperor’s New Bones June 19, 2018

 

 

In Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man, Death has been dismissed from his duties and sent to live like everyone else—still a seven-foot skeleton (not that anyone notices), but now mortal, going by the name Bill Door.

Death is seated in a pub when a child spots him. In the midst of the scene, Pratchett casually tosses off a gem insight about death (see bold):

He’d heard a small voice say: “That man is a skelington,” and had turned to see a small child in a nightdress watching him over the top of the bar, without terror but with a sort of fascinated horror.

The landlord, who by now Bill Door knew to be called Lifton, had laughed nervously and apologised. “That’s just her fancy,” he said. “The things children say, eh? Get on with you back to bed, Sal. And say you’re sorry to Mr. Door.”

“He’s a skelington with clothes on,” said the child. “Why doesn’t all the drink fall through?”

He’d almost panicked. His intrinsic powers were fading, then. People could not normally see him –he occupied a blind spot in their senses, which they filled in somewhere inside their heads with something they preferred to encounter. But the adults’ inability to see him clearly wasn’t proof against this sort of insistent declaration, and he could feel the puzzlement around him. Then, just in time, its mother had come in from the back room and had taken the child away. There’d been muffled complaints on the lines of “—a skelington, with all bones on—” disappearing around the bend in the stairs.

And all the time the ancient clock over the fireplace had been ticking, ticking, chopping seconds off his life. There’d seemed so many of them, not long ago…

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