Eric Page 13

There didn't seem to be much to do.


Death turned to go but, just as he did so, he heard the faintest of noises. It was to sound what one photon is to light, so weak and feeble that it would have passed entirely unheard in the din of an operating universe.

It was a tiny piece of matter, popping into existence.

Death stalked over to the point of arrival and watched carefully.

It was a paperclip*. (*Many people think it should have been a hydrogen molecule, but this is against the observed facts. Everyone who has found a hitherto unknown egg-whisk jamming an innocent kitchen drawer knows that raw matter is continually flowing into the universe in fairly developed forms, popping into existence normally in ashtrays, vases and glove compartments. It chooses its shape to allay suspicion, and common manifestations are paperclips, the pins out of shirt packaging, the little keys for central heating radiators, marbles, bits of crayon, mysterious sections of herb-chopping devices and old Kate Bush albums. Why matter does this is unclear, but it is evident that matter has Plans.

It is also apparent that creators sometimes favour the Big Bang method of universe construction, and at other times use the more gentle methods of Continual Creation. This follows studies by cosmotherapists which have revealed that the violence of the Big Bang can give a universe serious psychological problems when it gets older.)

Well, it was a start.

There was another pop, which left a small white shirt-button spinning gently in the vacuum.

Death relaxed a little. Of course, it was going to take some time. There was going to be an interlude before all this got complicated enough to produce gas clouds, galaxies, planets and continents, let alone tiny corkscrew-shaped things wiggling around in slimy pools and wondering whether evolution was worth all the bother of growing fins and legs and things. But it indicated the start of an unstoppable trend.

All he had to do was be patient, and he was good at that. Pretty soon there'd be living creatures, developing like mad, running and laughing in the new sunlight. Growing tired. Growing old.

Death sat back. He could wait.

Whenever they needed him, he'd be there.

The Universe came into being.

Any created-again cosmogonist will tell you that all the interesting stuff happened in the firs couple of minutes, when nothingness bunched together to form space and time and lots of really tiny black holes appeared and so on. After that, they say, it became just a matter of, well, matter. It was basically all over bar the microwave radiation.

Seen from close by, though, it had a certain gaudy attraction.

The little man sniffed.

“Too showy,” he said. “You don't need all that noise. It could just as easily have been a Big Hiss, or a bit of music.”

“Could it?” said Rincewind.

“Yeah, and it looked pretty iffy around the two picosecond mark. Definitely a bit of ropy filling-in. but that's how it goes these days. No craftsmanship. When I was a lad it took days to make a universe. You could take pride in it. Now they just throw it together and it's back on the lorry and away. And, you know what?”

“No?” said Rincewind weakly.

“They pinches stuff off the site. They finds someone nearby who wants to expand their universe a bit, next thing you know they've had it away with a bunch of firmament and flogged it for an extension somewhere.”

Rincewind stared at him.

“Who are you?”

The man took the pencil from behind his ear and looked reflectively at the space around Rincewind. “I makes things,” he said. “What sort of things?” “What sort of things would you like?” “You're the Creator?” The little man looked very embarrassed. "Not the. Not the. Just a. I don't contract for the

big stuff, the stars, the gas giants, the pulsars and so on. I just specialise in what you might call the bespoke trade.“ He gave them a look of defiant pride. ”I do all my own trees, you know,“ he confided. ”Craftsmanship. Takes years to learn how to make a tree. Even the conifers."

“Oh,” said Rincewind. “I don't get someone in to finish them off. No sub-contracting, that's my motto. The buggers always keep you hanging about while they're installing stars or something for someone else. ”The little man sighed. "You know, people think it must all be very easy,

creating. They think you just have to move on the face of the waters and wave your hands a bit. It's not like that at all.“ ”It isn't?“ The little man scratched his nose again. ”You soon run out of ides for snowflakes, for

example.“ ”Oh.“ ”You start thinking it'd be a doddle to sneak in a few identical ones.“ ”You do?“ ”You think to yourself, `There's a billion trillion squillion of them, no-one's going to

notice`. But that's where professionalism comes in, sort of thing."

“It does?”

“Some people” - and here the creator looked sharply at the unformed matter still streaming past - “think it's enough to install a few basic physical formulas and then take the money and run. A billion years later you got leaks all over the sky, black holes the size of your head, and when you pray up to complain there's just a girl on the counter who says she don't know where the boss is. I think people appreciate the personal touch, don't you?”

“Ah,” said Rincewind. “So... when people get struck by lightning... er... it's not just because of all that stuff about electrical discharges and high points and everything... er... you actually mean it?”

“Oh, not me. I don't run the things. It's a big enough job just building 'em, you can't expect me to operate them as well. There's a load of other universes, you know,” he added, a slight note of accusation in his voice. “Got a list of jobs as long as your arm.”

He reached underneath him and produced a large, leatherbound book, which he had apparently been sitting on. It opened with a creak.

Rincewind felt a tugging at his robe.

“Look,” said Eric. “This isn't really... Him, is it?”

“He says it is,” said Rincewind.

“What are we doing here?”

“I don't know.”

The creator glared at him. “A little quiet there, please,” he said.

“But listen,” hissed Eric, “if he really is the creator of the world, that sandwich is a religious relic!”

“Gosh,” said Rincewind weakly. He hadn't eaten for ages. He wondered what the penalty was for eating a venerated object. It was probably severe.

“You could put it in a temple somewhere and millions of people would come to look at it.”

Rincewind cautiously levered up the top slice of bread.

“It's got no mayonnaise in it,” he said. “Will that still count?”

The creator cleared his throat, and began to read aloud.

Astfgl surfed across the entropy slope, an angry red spark against the swirls of interspace. He was so angry now that the last vestiges of self-control were slipping away; his jaunty cap with its stylish hornlets had become a mere wisp of crimson dangling from the tip of one of the great coiled ramshorns that framed his skull.

With a rather sensuous ripping noise the red silk across his back tore open and his wings unfolded.

They are conventionally represented as leathery, but leather wouldn't survive more than a few seconds in that environment. Besides, it doesn't fold up very well.

These wings were made of magnetism and shaped space, and spread out until they were a faint curtain against the incandescent firmament and they beat as slowly as the rise of civilisations.

They still looked batlike, but that was just for the sake of tradition.

Somewhere around the 29th millennium he was overtaken, quite without noticing, by something small and oblong and probably even angrier than he was.

Eight spells go to make up the world. Rincewind knew that well enough. He knew that the book which contained them was the Octavo, because it still existed in the library of the Unseen University - currently inside a welded iron box at the bottom of a specially-dug shaft, where its magical radiations could be kept under control.

Rincewind had wondered how it had all started. He'd imagined a sort of explosion in reverse, with interstellar gases roaring together to form Great A'Tuin, or at least a roll of thunder or something.

Instead there was a faint, musical twang, and where the Discworld hadn't been, there the Discworld was, as if it had always been hiding somewhere the whole time.

He also realised that the feeling of falling he had so recently learned to live with was one he was probably going to die with, too. As the world appeared beneath him it brought this aeon's special offer - gravity, available in a choice of strengths from your nearest massive planetary body.

He said, as so often happens on these occasions, “Aargh.” The creator, still sitting serenely in mid-air, appeared beside him as he plummeted. “Nice clouds, don't you think? Done a good job on the clouds,” he said. “Aargh.” Rincewind repeated. “Something the matter?” “Aargh.” “That's humans for you,” said the creator. “Always rushing off somewhere.” He leaned

closer. “It's not up to me, of course, but I've often wondered what it is that goes through your heads.”

“It's going to be my feet in a minute!” screamed Rincewind. Eric, falling alongside him, tugged at his ankle. “That's not the way to talk to the creator of the universe!” he shouted. “Just tell him to do something, make the ground soft or something!”

“O, I dunno if I could do that,” said the creator. “It's causality regulations. I'd have the Inspector down on me like a ton of, a ton of, a ton of weight,” he added. “I could probably knock you up a really spongy bog. Or quicksand's very popular at the moment. I could do you a complete quicksand with marsh and swamp en suite, no problem.”

“!” said Rincewind. “You're going to have to speak up a bit, I'm sorry. Wait a moment.” There was another harmonious twanging noise.

When Rincewind opened his eyes he was standing on a beach. So was Eric. The creator

floated nearby.

There was no rushing wind. He hadn't go so much as a bruise.

“I just wedged a thingy in the velocities and positions,” said the creator, noticing his expression. “Now: what was it you were saying?”

“I rather wanted to stop plunging to my death,” said Rincewind.

“Oh. Good. Glad that's sorted out, then.” The creator looked around distractedly. “You haven't seen my book around, have you? I thought I had it in my hand when I started.” He sighed. “Lose me own head next. I done a whole world once and completely left out the fingles. Not one of the buggers. Couldn't get 'em at the time, told myself I could nip back when they were in stock, completely forgot. Imagine that. No-one spotted it, of course, because obviously they just evolved there and they didn't know there ought to be fingles, but it was definitely causing them deep, you know, psychological problems. Deep down inside they could tell there was something missing, sort of thing.”

The creator pulled himself together.

“Anyway, I can't hang about all day,” he said. “Like I said, I've got a lot of jobs on.”

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