I’d like to spin you a tale about our common interest; The Discworld. If you’d be so kind as to bear with me, we shall be getting underway shortly.
Reading, being what it is; is a very solitary endeavour. Whilst we’re turning the pages only two things exist, the story and our reaction to it; nothing more is needed or indeed welcome, as when we’re engrossed we want to dissolve into the fiction without distraction. Thus the importance we place on a novel is self originating, we give it meaning by journeying through the story alone, every once in a while being taken by the hand and pointed in an interesting direction by the thoughtful author.
Imagine my surprise when someone did the unthinkable. Imagine the day when someone made the Discworld novels all the more important to me. Well lucky for you this is the tale I was harping on about before, so you don’t have to imagine a thing.
Time and memory have shrouded this day; this conversation, soothing the edges of loss to make the very act of reminiscing bearable. I say to you, dear Reader that the heart of this tale remains accurate even if some of the corner pieces have been misplaced.
It wasn’t an inappropriate question for me to ask, in my defence, in any other circumstances but these; however it’s very much the social practice to not mention death to the dying. Why skirt around the subject, I thought. Anyway I’ve never been very good at ignoring the elephant in the room and she knows this about me. The query earns me a smirk – even in her current state she still takes pleasure in pointing out my idiocy, for which I’m grateful.
‘Curiously enough I have considered what may happen to me after I die.’ Her elevated volume earns me a scowl from the duty nurse, in whose opinion I embody all that is wrong with the world. ‘What a lucky coincidence, that you should ask me, ehy?’ I told her to stop making fun of me and waited for her to answer my question.
With neither of us being of a religious persuasion we’d often revelled in the creative freedom we possessed when it came to discussing the core questions that have baffled all good philosophers for centuries. When there is no designated destination the only limit is the scope of your imagination and we would delight in crafting increasingly flamboyant possibilities, always arriving however, with the certain knowledge that nothing will ever be more flamboyant than a choir of cherubs.
‘You know those books that you read? What are they called again?’ I smile inwardly. This is our little game; she pretends to be ignorant of the series of novels I’ve been talking about for ten years and I pretend to believe her. I sigh in mock exasperation and proffer my scripted line. ‘Yes; the Discworld, that’s it. Well I’ve always liked the idea from there that you make your own ever-after; where you go depends on what you believe. Death happens and from then on it’s up to you. I think that’s comforting and of course it appeases my controlling tendencies – as you like to call them.’ She smiles, daring me to challenge her accusation. I remain silent, admitting defeat; an action of which she approves and smugly continues. ‘So to answer your question you’ll need to know what it is I’ve decided to believe.’
Needless to say my interest was piqued. She always had an eccentric approach to explanations and out of necessity I learned from very early on to surrender myself to her words, letting her guide me to whatever conclusion she was intending via the most exotic route imaginable.
‘I’ve read all of them; all of the Discworld novels.’ She offered as a confession; I merely nodded. Of course she had, even if it were only to catch me out whenever I misquoted, I knew she wouldn’t stand for me knowing more than her on the literary front. I’d known for years. A fact I’d chosen to withhold through fear of spoiling our familiar game; for which her reasons were no doubt similar. I had no need to actualise the question on my tongue; she had already begun illuminating her reason. ‘You always spoke of them with such passion, such interest and enthusiasm I thought they must have been bloody marvellous to prod any sort of reaction from you. I wanted to know about that special section of your life and the only way was to experience it. Oh and it was an added bonus that I knew when you were “telling it wrong” of course.’ The last addition to her sentence made me laugh.
‘So what I’ve chosen to believe is that my “ever-after” will be on the Disc, and through virtue of me believing this and some rather shady logic, it must therefore be the case.’ This served to heighten my laughter to which she joined in. I don’t really recall why I was surprised; she’d never been one to follow the conventions, so why should this be any different. I laughed because it was so her, I laughed because it was so wonderfully absurd, I laughed because the other option wasn’t appropriate and we laughed just like old times.
Then rolling the idea around in my head it began to make sense; what is it that all of the afterlives have in common? Their very existence is contingent upon an individual reading a text and affiliating a specific meaning. The Discworld is indeed no different and stranger things have been suggested and are in fact adhered to.
We settled ourselves down out of necessity – it is only possible to ignore the glare of an authoritarian duty nurse for so long. She continued ‘I want to experience the place; reading from afar no longer cuts it, I’m ready for some tangible participation.’ I had to agree with her on that point as I’ve always found the limit of all fiction to be the distribution of spectator’s tickets, when all you really want to be doing is playing the game. She read the next question from my features; a practice which still amazed me. Being the person who spoke in riddles and dealt only in encrypted thoughts; it was always surreal to be in the presence of someone who already had you all figured out including pre-empting your next five possible reactions; needless to say I rarely won a debate.
‘I want to see it. All of it. I want to see the colour of magic, to watch the sluggish and lazy sunrise and I want to meet all of the people that I’ve come to know so well. To visit The Long Man, The Big Wahoonie and The Dysk, but most of all I want to dwell in the world that commands such a special fragment of your heart; to remain in your imagination where I can be as real as you believe me to be. I know that the Discworld never leaves you – not always thought of, but always there and I promise you that’s how I’ll remain, as long as you hold it dear then that’s where you’ll find me.’
She must have sensed my attempt to remain stoic and took pity on me, lightening the mood. ‘And that way you’ll never be rid of me!’ She smirked victoriously. ‘Since I’ve shared, it’s your turn. Same question to you.’
I was finding it difficult to maintain my composure and only managed to croak out ‘I don’t know I’ll have to get back to you.’ She sent me the warmest smile to counter my weak response.
‘I suggest that you do.’
That dear Reader is the last thing she said to me. Later that afternoon my dearest friend hopefully found her way to her destination, no doubt taking the most exotic route she could; eventually claiming her place upon the Disc.
She left me with a great task; to keep her alive through my belief, to maintain her with my imagination and ultimately keep her close to my heart. She intentionally or not bestowed the greatest of meaning onto something that I thought could hold no more. And now every time someone appreciates a story, talks about it with fond words or simply believes in the power it holds, the Discworld lives; and because of that dear Reader, so does she.