The bees of Death are big and black, they buzz low and somber, they keep their honey in combs of wax as white as altar candles. The honey is black as night, thick as sin and sweet as treacle.
It is well known that eight colors make up white. But there are also eight colors of blackness, for those that have the seeing of them, and the hives of Death are among the black grass in the black orchard under the black-blossomed, ancient boughs of trees that will, eventually, produce apples that...put it like this...probably won't be red.
The grass was short now. The scythe that had done the work leaned against the gnarled bole of a pear tree. Now Death was inspecting his bees, gently lifting the combs in his skeletal fingers.
A few bees buzzed around him. Like all beekeepers, Death wore a veil. It wasn't that he had anything to sting, but sometimes a bee would get inside his skull and buzz around and give him a headache.
As he held a comb up to the gray light of his little world between the realities there was the faintest of tremors. A hum went up from the hive, a leaf floated down. A wisp of wind blew for a moment through the orchard, and that was the most uncanny thing, because the air in the land of Death is always warm and still.
Death fancied that he heard, very briefly, the sound of running feet and a voice saying, no, a voice thinking oshitoshitoshit, I'm gonna die I'm gonna die I'm gonna DIE!
Death is almost the oldest creature in the universe, with habits and modes of thought that mortal man cannot beginto understand, but because he was also a good beekeeper he carefully replaced the comb in its rack and put the lid on the hive before reacting.
He strode back through the dark garden to his cottage, removed the veil, carefully dislodged a few bees who had got lost in the depths of his cranium, and retired to his study.
As he sat down at his desk there was another rush of wind, which rattled the hour-glasses on the shelves and made the big pendulum clock in the hall pause ever so briefly in its interminable task of slicing time into manageable bits.Death sighed, and focused his gaze.
There is nowhere Death will not go, no matter how distant and dangerous. In fact the more dangerous it is, the more likely he is to be there already.
Now he stared through the mists of time and space.
Oh, he said. It's him.
It was a hot afternoon in late summer in Ankh-Morpork, normally the most thriving, bustling and above all the most crowded city on the Disc. Now the spears of the sun had achieved what innumerable invaders, several civil wars and the curfew law had never achieved. It had pacified the place.
Dogs lay panting in the scalding shade. The river Ankh, which never what you might call sparkled, oozed between its banks as if the heat had sucked all the spirit out of it. The streets were empty, oven-brick hot.
No enemies had ever taken Ankh-Morpork. Well, technically they had, quite often; the city welcomed free-spending barbarian invaders, but somehow the puzzled raiders always found, after a few days, that they didn't own their own horses anymore, and within a couple of months they were just another minority group with its own graffiti and food shops.
But the heat had besieged the city and triumphed over the walls. It lay over the trembling streets like a shroud. Under the blowlamp of the sun assassins were too tired to kill. It turned thieves honest. In the ivy-covered fastness of Unseen University, premier college of wizardry, the inmates dozed with their pointy hats over their faces. Even bluebottles were too exhausted to bang against windowpanes. The city siesta'd, awaiting the sunset and the brief, hot, velvet surcease of the night.
Only the Librarian was cool. He was also swinging and hanging out.
This was because he'd rigged up a few ropes and rings in one of the sub-basements of the Unseen University Library'the one where they kept the, um, erotic books. In vats of crushed ice. And he was dreamily dangling in the chilly vapor above them.
All books of magic have a life of their own. Some of the really energetic ones can't simply be chained to the bookshelves; they have to be nailed shut or kept between steel plates. Or, in the case of the volumes on tantric sex magic for the serious connoisseur, kept under very cold water to stop them from bursting into flames and scorching their severely plain covers.
The Librarian swung gently back and forth above the seething vats, dozing peacefully.
Then the footsteps came out of nowhere, raced across the floor with a noise that scraped the raw surface of the soul, and disappeared through the wall. There was a faint, distant scream that sounded like ogodsogodsogods, this is IT, I'm gonna DIE.
The Librarian woke up, lost his grip, and flopped into the few inches of tepid water that was all that stood between The Joy of Tantric Sex with Illustrations for the Advanced Student, by A Lady, and spontaneous combustion.
And it would have gone badly for him if the Librarian had been a human being. Fortunately, he was currently an orangutan. With so much raw magic sloshing around in the Library it would be surprising if accidents did not happen sometimes, and one particularly impressive one had turned him into an ape. Not many people get the chance to leave the human race while still alive, and he'd strenuously resisted all efforts since to turn him back. Since he was the only librarian in the universe who could pick up...Eric
. Copyright © by Terry Pratchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.