The Bromeliad Trilogy
In a world whose seasons are defined by Christmas sales and Spring Fashions, hundreds of tiny nomes live in the corners and crannies of a human-run department store. They have made their homes beneath the floorboards for generations and no longer remember -- or even believe in -- life beyond the Store walls.
Until the day a small band of nomes arrives at the Store from the Outside. Led by a young nome named Masklin, the Outsiders carry a mysterious black box (called the Thing), and they deliver devastating news: In twenty-one days, the Store will be destroyed.
Now all the nomes must learn to work together, and they must learn to think -- and to think BIG.
Part satire, part parable, and part adventure story par excellence, master storyteller Terry Pratchett’s engaging trilogy traces the nomes’ flight and search for safety, a search that leads them to discover their own astonishing origins and takes them beyond their wildest dreams.
This is the story of the Going Home.
This is the story of the Critical Path.
This is the story of the lorry roaring through the sleeping city and out into the country lanes, smashing through street lamps and swinging from side to side and shattering shop windows and rolling to a halt when the police chased it. And when the baffled men went back to their car to report Listen, will you, listen? There isn’t anyone driving it!, it became the story of the lorry that started up again, rolled away from the astonished men, and vanished into the night.
But the story didn’t end there.
It didn’t start there, either.
The sky rained dismal. It rained humdrum. It rained the kind of rain that is so much wetter than normal rain, the kind of rain that comes down in big drops and splats, the kind of rain that is merely an upright sea with slots in it.
It rained a tattoo on the old hamburger boxes and chip papers in the wire basket that was giving Masklin a temporary hiding place.
Look at him. Wet. Cold. Extremely worried. And four inches high.
The waste-bin was usually a good hunting ground, even in winter. There were often a few cold chips in their wrapping, sometimes even a chicken bone. Once or twice there had been a rat, too. It had been a really good day when there had last been a rat – it had kept them going for a week. The trouble was that you could get pretty fed up with rat by the third day. By the third mouthful, come to that.
Masklin scanned the lorry park.
And here it came, right on time, crashing through the puddles and pulling up with a hiss of brakes.
He’d watched this lorry arrive every Tuesday and Thursday morning for the last four weeks. He timed the driver’s stop carefully.
They had exactly three minutes. To someone the size of a nome, that’s more than half an hour.
He scrambled down through the greasy paper, dropped out of the bottom of the bin, and ran for the bushes at the edge of the park where Grimma and the old folk were waiting.
‘It’s here!’ he said. ‘Come on!'
They got to their feet, groaning and grumbling.
He’d taken them through this dozens of times. He knew it wasn’t any good shouting. They just got upset and confused, and then they’d grumble some more. They grumbled about cold chips, even when Grimma warmed them up. They moaned about rat. He’d seriously thought about leaving alone, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. They needed him. They needed someone to grumble at.
But they were too slow. He felt like bursting into tears.
He turned to Grimma instead.
‘Come on,’ he said. ‘Give them a prod, or something.
They’ll never get moving!’
She patted his hand.
‘They’re frightened,‘ she said. ‘You go on. I’ll bring them out.’
There wasn’t time to argue. Masklin ran back across the soaking mud of the park, unslinging the rope and grapnel. It had taken him a week to make the hook, out of a bit of wire teased off a fence, and he’d spent days practising; he was already swinging it around his head as he reached the lorry’s wheel.
The hook caught the tarpaulin high above him at the second try. He tested it once or twice and then, his feet scrabbling for a grip on the tyre, pulled himself up.
He’d done it before. Oh, he’d done it three or four times. He scrambled under the heavy tarpaulin and into the darkness beyond, pulling out more line and tying it as tightly as possible around one of the ropes that were as thick as his arm.
Then he slid back to the edge and, thank goodness, Grimma was herding the old people across the gravel. He could hear them complaining about the puddles.
Masklin jumped up and down with impatience.
It seemed to take hours. He explained it to them millions of times, but people hadn’t been pulled up on to the backs of lorries when they were children and they didn’t see why they should start now. Old Granny Morkie insisted that all the men look the other way so that they wouldn’t see up her skirts, for example, and old Torrit whimpered so much that Masklin had to lower him again so that Grimma could blindfold him. It wasn’t so bad after he’d hauled the first few up, because they were able to help on the rope, but time still stretched out.
He pulled Grimma up last. She was light. They were all light, if it came to that. You didn’t get rat every day.
It was amazing. They were all on board. He’d worked with an ear cocked for the sound of footsteps on gravel and the slamming of the driver’s door, and it hadn’t happened.
‘Right,’ he said, shaking with the effort, ‘That’s it, then. Now if we just go – '
‘I dropped the Thing,’ said old Torrit. ‘The Thing.
I dropped it, d`you see? I dropped it down by the wheel when she was blindfoldin' me. You go and get it, boy.’
Masklin looked at him in horror. Then he poked his head out from under the tarpaulin and, yes, there it was, far below. A tiny black cube on the ground.
It was lying in a puddle, although that wouldn’t affect it. Nothing touched the Thing. It wouldn’t even burn.
And then he heard the sound of slow footsteps on the gravel.
‘There’s no time,’ he whispered. ‘There really is no time.
‘We can’t go without it,’ said Grimma.
‘Of course we can. It’s just a, a thing. We won’t need the wretched object where we’re going.’
He felt guilty as soon as he’d said it, amazed at his own lips for uttering such words. Grimma looked horrified.
Granny Morkie drew herself up to her full, quivering height.
‘May you be forgivenl’ she barked. ‘What a terrible thing to say! You tell him, Torrit.’ She nudged Torrit in the ribs.
‘If we ain’t taking the Thing, I ain’t going,‘ said Torrit sulkily. ‘It’s not – ’
‘That’s your leader talkin’ to you,‘ interrupted Granny Morkie. ‘So you do what you’re told. Leave it behind, indeed! It wouldn’t be decent. It wouldn’t be right. So you go and get it, this minute.”
Masklin stared wordlessly down at the soaking mud and then, with a desperate motion, threw the line over the edge and slid down it.
It was raining harder now, with a touch of sleet. The wind whipped at him as he dropped past the great arc of the wheel and landed heavily in the puddle. He reached out and scooped up the Thing —
And the lorry started to move.
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Crivens! It appears the audio excerpt from the book that we had to go here has been borrowed by a wee free man.