The Mended Drum was silent. Well, nearly silent. The brawlers had long since left, leaving nothing but splinters of chairs and tables lying in puddles of well-quaffed ale. In the tavern’s centre, a single table stood untouched.
Five figures sat around it, cast into shadow by the guttering candles above. Together they sat and stared at the object in the centre of the table: an hourglass, nearly empty, the last of its sand emptying with a patient hiss that filled the room.
One figure shifted, the crooked point of his grubby hat swaying, the word ‘Wizzard’ barely visible beneath the grime.
“How much longer?” he asked softly.
NOT LONG, replied a voice as heavy as the grave.
“That’s what you said last time!” snapped the figure to its right, her arms crossed firmly in front of her plain, black robe, “I won’t stand for it!”
I AM SORRY, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, replied Death, THERE IS NOTHING MORE TO SAY.
Another figure leaned forward, his well-worn armour creaking around him. “Isn’t there anything we can do? Some…” he swallowed his distaste and said the word, “spell, some magic that could save him?” He turned to the final figure, who sat slumped in their chair, an untouched pile of peanuts on the table in front of them.
“Ook,” came the sad reply.
THE LIBRARIAN IS RIGHT. THIS IS BEYOND THE POWER OF MAGIC.
“There ain’t nothing right about it.” murmured Granny darkly.
The armoured man started forward. “What about you then!” he challenged the Reaper. “What was it that saved me? ‘Kwa’-something or other? Couldn’t you use that to-”
‘QUANTUM’ COMMANDER VIMES. AND NO. I MAY NOT. YOUR DEATH WAS NEVER CERTAIN. HIS IS. HE IS GOING TO DIE AND NOTHING CAN CHANGE THAT. Death’s cowl turned towards Granny Weatherwax who met his endless gaze with her own piercing stare. NOT EVEN ME.
Silence fell again and all heads turned towards the life-timer as the last of the sand continued to fall, its hateful hiss seeming to grow even louder. Two bulbs stacked atop each other, connected by a small channel. Simple and unadorned.
“It’s so plain,” said Rincewind absently, “I’d have thought it would have been…grander somehow.”
“What’s that supposed to mean, ‘just a man’? Without him we’d be nothing!”
“That’s a point,” said Vimes, slumped back in his chair, his armour even more rumpled than usual, “Has anyone thought about what happens to us?”
Rincewind’s eyes bulged with fear and realisation. “Oh by the gods!” He twisted in his seat, his hat swinging in a low arc that left a trail of dust and grime in the air behind it. “What happens to us?” he demanded of the Grim Reaper. “Do we just vanish? Is this the end?”
“No,” spoke Granny, uncrossing her arms and scowling at the sand as if sheer disapproval could stop its flow. “We stay. The disc turns and the turtle swims. We’ll be here long after he’s gone.” The spite in her voice made the very air tremble.
Vimes sighed deeply. “It’s not fair.”
“It’s not Right,” agreed Granny.
“It’s not just,” finished Rincewind.
THERE IS NO JUSTICE. said Death. THERE’S JUST-
“Eek!” screeched the Librarian, flinging a peanut hard at the grinning skull. It bounced off Death’s forehead with a soft crack and landed softly on the beer-soaked floor.
“No, he’s right,” placated Rincewind. He scanned the table, meeting his companions’ gazes one by one. “There’s just us.”
All eyes and eye-sockets turned to the life-timer for a final time. The last few grains were rattling in the top bulb. The flow of the sand had slowed to its final crawl.
“Well go on then!” bit Granny at Death, “You’ve got a job to do.”
The Grim Reaper bowed his head and stood. He reached out a bony hand and gently lifted the hourglass from the table.
FAREWELL. He said before leaving by the door. Of course, he didn’t stop to open it.
(From Sir Terry Pratchett’s Final Tweets)
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.