☠ Boy saves the princess but chooses not to marry her.
☠ Alternate realities can co-exist.
☠ If you want Death’s job, learn how to speak in all caps. Now.
Mort was the first book of the great fantasy master that I read, some time at the end of last millennium. It was borrowed from the then newly-disc
wover led (by me) Saffron Walden library. It took me exactly one evening and one full night. I finished reading about five in the morning, and I was working that day. I don’t remember if I came across a read this absorbing ever since. On the darker side, no other book of Pratchett I read was quite up to the standard set by Mort.
Now that I re-read Mort fifteensomething years later, I enjoyed it even more. I think most of its humour was lost upon me the first time round. A lot of brilliant ideas, barely mentioned here, could easily have been developed into fully blown novels. (Maybe they were.) And, while I did remember most of the book, some parts of it completely slipped off my mind, like the scene of Mort’s very first solo job.
The witch stood up, leaving her body behind.
“Well done,” she said. “I thought you’d missed it, for a minute, there.”
Mort leaned against a tree, panting heavily, and watched Goodie walk around the log to look at herself.
“Hmm,” she said critically. “Time has got a lot to answer for.” She raised her hand and laughed to see the stars through it.
Then she changed. Mort had seen this happen before, when the soul realised it was no longer bound by the body’s morphic field, but never under such control. Her hair unwound itself from its tight bun, changing colour and lengthening. Her body straightened up. Wrinkles dwindled and vanished. Her grey woollen dress moved like the surface of the sea and ended up tracing entirely different and disturbing contours.
She looked down, giggled, and changed the dress into something leaf-green and clingy.
“What do you think, Mort?” she said. Her voice had sounded cracked and quavery before. Now it suggested musk and maple syrup and other things that set Mort’s adam’s apple bobbing like a rubber ball on an elastic band.
“. . .” he managed, and gripped the scythe until his knuckles went white.
She walked towards him like a snake in a four-wheel drift.
“I didn’t hear you,” she purred.
“V-v-very nice,” he said. “Is that who you were?”
“It’s who I’ve always been.”
“Oh.” Mort stared at his feet. “I’m supposed to take you away,” he said.
“I know,” she said, “but I’m going to stay.”
“You can’t do that! I mean—” he fumbled for words — “you see, if you stay you sort of spread out and get thinner, until—”
“I shall enjoy it,” she said firmly. She leaned forward and gave him a kiss as insubstantial as a mayfly's sigh, fading as she did so until only the kiss was left, just like a Cheshire cat only much more erotic.
“Have a care, Mort,” said her voice in his head. “You may want to hold on to your job, but will you ever be able to let go?”