Rest in peace, Terry Pratchett

I remember swiping The Colour of Magic from my father’s library pile, at age 8 or 9. That was my first encounter with Sir Terry’s words, followed by the Witches books, Moving Pictures and Eric. Even my mother (never a fantasy reader) streamed with tears of laughter as we read choice passages to her. I was hooked long before I reached the City Watch and Death novels, where Vimes, Susan and Death himself became immediate favourites. Pratchett’s work only improved with time, despite his health struggles, leading to my personal favourite, Thud, and the well-loved Moist von Lipwig series.

While I never had the chance to meet the man himself, Pratchett’s characters, his satirical eye and his prolific and consistent output have been inspirational. More importantly, his work was always, and primarily, entertaining. And that work will live on. It doesn’t dull the edge of loss, but it matters. Rest in peace, Sir Terry Pratchett.

The last post

Vimes could feel the cobblestones beneath his boots. And then he couldn’t. He opened his eyes. The street was indeed gone, as were the various targets of his protection and ire. A swirling fog filled his vision instead. The dwarves must have pierced a steam line again, although that didn’t explain the cobbles. Maybe… A figure strode through the mist, its joints clicking loudly.
“Oh,” he said. “Bugger.”
Vimes was rarely at a loss for words, but he hadn’t been expecting this. He had been expecting death, that is, for most of his life, but it had always been a little less personal. Or personable. He nodded.
“Child.” Vimes corrected. “I only have the one.”
Vimes did. It was probably best that little Sam learned about death early on. Lady Sybil would have disagreed, he was certain, but this was one argument she wouldn’t win. He smiled at the thought.
“AHEM.” Said Death, after a minute. “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MORE SUGGESTIONS?”
“No thank you, I think I’m ready.” Vimes replied.
“Are you.” Vimes corrected again. A sloppy Death, after all. And he’d had such high hopes. He sighed.
“Don’t be sorry, let’s just get on with it.”
Death blinked. There had been others, pushy individuals with little to lose, mostly. But this was a human with it all. A job. A house. A family. He even had a pair of boots.
“I hadn’t realised that was on the table.” Vimes said.
Vimes waited in silence.
“Oh, for…” Vimes stopped talking, because it’s hard to talk while grappling with an over-active skeleton for an over-sized scythe. He had intended to go peacefully, but intent doesn’t matter when a maniac swings an obsolete farming implement at a copper.
There was an OOMPH. And a THUD. Followed by a very subdued rattle as dozens of bones fell to the nonexistent ground and faded away.
“BUGGER.” Vimes said again.

The Florinese Painter

I never expected to spend my latter years entrenched in litigation. Literally entrenched, I’m afraid, as each day brings ream after ream of progressively ridiculous claims. Surely, no other could produce such an outpouring of irrelevant and painstaking detail? Morgenstern has his heir – in brevity if not in wit – and my last thoughts will dwell on this parody of justice.

Helen cleaned me out, of course, during the divorce proceedings. Her own expert witness, she chronicled my daily failings in the marriage, fatherhood and bedroom departments, dictated with a clinician’s dispassionate ease. I spent the trial immersed in memories, which probably worked against me. The judge called me distant, vapid, and I was too preoccupied to disagree.

The whale went with her, which was a relief. For a time I was almost happy. It wasn’t joy, exactly, but the loss of a vast, oppressive force, leaving a kind of booze-soaked peace. That was before my lawyer, Charley, called.

“We have a problem.” He began. That was his usual opener, but this time it lacked a jovial tone. “It’s The Princess Bride.” I swear, that’s how it came out; the man could italicise his speech.

My father’s voice intruded on our conversation at this point, repeating words that had buoyed me over the years. “Most dreadful treachery,” he said in my head. “And miraculous of loves.” I muttered in automatic agreement to Charley’s legalese, but he caught on.

“Christ, Bill, are you listening?” That got my attention. Charley wasn’t a religious man – “What lawyer is?” asked my father – but a judicious convent school had beaten the blasphemy out of him, for the most part.

“I’m listening.” I offered, chasing my father’s ghost from the bedroom of my memory. “Litigation… costly… S. Morgenstern…”

“Junior. S. Morgenstern Junior. The bastard had a bastard, can you believe it?”

“No,” I answered. I’ll claim preoccupation, or too many mojitos, but I was a little slow on the uptake. “I can’t believe it.”

“Well he exists and he’s suing you, claiming you abridged his father’s work without permission and defamed his family name.”

The words hung in the air, and my father’s ghost re-entered the room and playfully rearranged the letters. They still made no sense.

“Suing me?”

“That’s the short version. He’s… His father’s son.”

What does that mean? I wondered. “What does that mean?” I asked.

“His brief isn’t.”

Truer words were never spoken. I don’t begrudge the son’s depth of feeling over a father’s legacy; I couldn’t, since that’s how I came to adapt The Princess Bride. But to recount, verbatim, the passages whose omission had most offended him, the alliances and intrigue and endless bloody hats. Only a Morgenstern could manage that.

The case came to nothing, but only because I was broke. Rights and royalties were handed to Morgenstern Junior, and the tabloids once again wanted my picture. I made my peace with it – or would have, but the correspondence continues. Summons and synopses and the paper parade that follows me no matter how I make my address.

It might be his line now, but I’ll borrow it at my last: life really isn’t fair.

This piece was written to a Write On prompt celebrating the announcement of Harper Lee’s second novel: “In 500 words, write a story featuring your favourite literary character at an earlier or later point in their life.”

Book: Holy Smoke

Fallen-Shepherd-Saga-Holy-Smoke120wI’m really pleased to announce the release of Holy Smoke, Part two of The Fallen Shepherd Saga. The ebook is available now at $1.99 here.

Antonio has nothing against killing. Well, there is that whole “thou shalt not” thing, but he’s confident that only applies to humans. Mostly confident.

Being shot at is something different, though. It shows a distinct lack of professional courtesy, especially when you’re left with too many suspects and too little Kevlar. Tony’s bridges still smoulder, but a bullet is one hell of an incentive to start rebuilding.

Part two of The Fallen Shepherd Saga, a serial story. Holy Smoke can be read as a stand-alone volume, but is best read after Holier Than Thou.

It’s dark inside

Fatigue is but a word, so far removed
A shadow of the sweaty groans it brings,
When all I need is sleep, and yet unmoved,
I lie and fight his tugging at my strings.

My eyes are crumbling, weary mines of red,
And yet I cannot let the nightmare wake,
To sleep, perchance to usher in the dread,
I’m still aware. I’m vigilant… I break!

As silent shadows slink around my sight,
And blindness bids me stumble into sleep,
I lose my last connection to the light,
And all alone, in darkness do I creep.

And though I call them dreams, I know inside,
I sleep as Jekyll, but I stalk as Hyde!


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #14. The challenge was a sonnet, with the prompts “fading light” and “discovery.”