When I saw Terry Pratchett's message titled An Embuggerance I, like many other readers, had that "Oh no not another one" moment. Once I had properly digested the statement "I am not dead" however this little tale just popped into my head. Of course this issue isn't just a moment for Terry Pratchett and given he's spent so many of his other moments providing me (that's right, the world revolves around me, it doesn't just float about on turtle fixated elephants) with so many hilarious books I thought I should attempt to return the favour and put my brief thought to paper, err LCD (photons perhaps?). Hopefully the lack of writing experience on my part doesn't spoil the reading experience on yours.
As had become a habit of recent nights, the scribe tossed and turned, twisting his bed sheets and nightshirt into an inseparable tangle. He was sure he'd placed restful sleep on the schedule somewhere yet his sleep was anything but restful. With so many projects and plans afoot and sprinting enthusiastically towards deadlines, his subconscious had secretly filed a treatise on the guilty act of wasting time sleeping.
With his subconscious off on a guilt-trip and his conscious out in the field studying the art of being unconscious, so it was that this night proved to be an especially unique scheduling nightmare. You see, at a time when all senses and sensibilities were most needed there simply was no-one manning the mental helm to greet the awareness of a tall, dark presence standing at the end of his bed.
A few threads of consciousness untangled themselves from the bedclothes, made some quick scheduling changes and managed to blink and mouth a number of unprintable words. A strained inhalation later and he was finally able to put voice to his shock.
"Who are you? What are you doing in my room?"
Somewhere a part of his mind quickly read the finer descriptive text of the moment and decided it best not to ask the reasons for bringing along a rather unpleasant looking piece of farming equipment.
I THINK YOU KNOW WHO I AM.
What passed through his ears seemed little more than a moaning wind in the distance, yet inside his head the letters of the words seemed like boulders in a great avalanche. That voice sent his mind scribbling an urgent note down to the Clacks tower over on the corner of Adrenal and Gland banishing the last vestiges of sleep.
"Ahh. Well yes, that is... Urk!"
As the scribe trembled, his pulse finally beginning to drop to speeds more appropriate to his heart’s construction, the figure loomed patiently.
Despite not moving and making no sound, the figure could not have been more terrifying if it were accompanied by a burning fuse and a keg of something liable to get quite excited by the approaching flame.
Curiously, in the transfixed state he found himself, he noticed the figure wore a small crystal hourglass hanging like a fob-watch from a small silver chain attached to an ornate, though macabre, clasp. Such a small and typically kitchen-related item should not have been so fear-inspiring and yet the tiny sounds of the running sands described the very material of foreboding.
After a few moments of sheer terror and several more of much less sheer, more visible terror, the scribe finally felt ready to form a sentence.
"Why are you here?"
YOU MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT YOUR HEALTH RECENTLY.
"Yes but, um. The fact is, ahh. Not to put too fine a point on it you see..."
He stumbled a bit while his brain came to terms with whom he was speaking.
"…I am not dead."
"Well then why?"
YOU WRITE ABOUT ME. CAN'T YOU GUESS.
"Ahh. Err. Huh?"
Finding himself at the end of his hastily prepared script, stumbling over this verbal shrug was the best the scribe could improvise on short-notice.
PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER MAN. THERE’S A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF TIME FOR THAT LATER.
NOW, HUMOUR ME. EXPLAIN WHY I AM.
Here his subconscious, conscious and even a little of the unconscious he’d kept for later study, were able to come to quick agreement and fall back into the comfortable and familiar position of paraphrasing his past writings.
"You are an anthropomorphised concept, an idea given expression and form. You exist because people believe you should exist."
PRECISELY. I EXIST BECAUSE PEOPLE BELIEVE I MUST EXIST. I DO WHAT I DO BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT SOMEONE MUST.
The figure loomed in a little closer.
YOUR READERS ESPECIALLY, IT SEEMS, BELIEVE RATHER STRONGLY.
The figure straightened and shrugged.
OF COURSE, THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.
"Well I'm sure they mean well. Err. Oh dear."
YES... THEY BELIEVE YOU ARE DEAD AND SO THEY BELIEVE I SHOULD BE HERE.
Desperation quickly typed up a memo about being more assertive.
"Ahh, well I believe you shouldn't be. So shoo. Go away."
I'M AFRAID IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE. THEY BELIEVE IT AND THERE ARE A GREAT MANY OF THEM.
"What if I publish another book?"
COULD BE A SHADOW WRITER.
"What about a press interview."
NO-ONE BELIEVES THE PRESS WHEN IT'S GOOD NEWS.
YES. I'M AFRAID WE'RE BOTH TRAPPED HERE.
The figure stood patiently. Unmoving. Silently. And, rather disturbingly, not breathing.
The scribes mind, having rallied its forces, carefully prepared a retraction notice for the Clacks and came to terms with the situation.
"Well, seeing as you're here, I've been working on this new book and I'd rather like you to test-read some of the dialogue..."