In the eighth part ofÂ Reaper Man, Death ponders death. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to readÂ Discworld.Â
Trigger Warning: For talk of death, suicide.
Itâ€™s not easy to think about death.
Itâ€™s been creeping up on me lately as more and more people I know pass into the great unknown. Iâ€™d lost friends in high school â€“ to gang violence, to suicide, to alcoholism, to drunk drivers â€“ and I lost a friend to HIV in college. My father passed in 2006; I watched friends wither away from disease and illness. Thatâ€™s not to suggest that I have experienced death more than anyone else, but I donâ€™t know that Iâ€™ve ever had a chanceÂ notÂ to think about it, except when I was younger. But I also donâ€™t recall ever giving it a serious thought until my father passed. Even then? I thought more about grief and absence than anything else. I donâ€™t feel any reluctance when stating that I donâ€™t think anything happens after we die, and that was definitely the case when my dad died.
Despite that I am not alarmed by my belief in nothingness, Iâ€™ve started wishing I didnâ€™t have to die. Itâ€™s an absurd thing to spell out, but I have so much I want to do in life, and I certainly feel like the clock is ticking, louder now than a year ago, ten years ago, twenty. How much more time do I have left? Am I wasting my time? That crosses my mind a lot, and I donâ€™tÂ thinkÂ I am. I know that motivates me to pursue experiences that are rewarding and exciting. (Iâ€™d definitely quantify this whole Mark Reads thing as one of those adventures!) But is it always going to haunt me? Is it going to get worse?
Iâ€™m so fascinated by these very questions that are addressed through Deathâ€™s experience as Bill Door. This is the first time that Death has everÂ trulyÂ thought about what death is. Since heâ€™s never been able to even comprehend what itâ€™s like, heâ€™s mostly horrified and existentially challenged by its existence. He finds rat poison offensive. He believes heâ€™s a murderer for eating chicken. Then he has an eye-opening conversation with Sal Lifton, the child from earlier who knows heâ€™s actually a skeleton. (It took every ounce of willpower not to call him a skellington.) I think that childâ€™s innocence and bluntness forces him to accept whatâ€™s happening to him. Heâ€™s dying. Heâ€™sÂ goingÂ to die. And to expand on that, everyone around him is going to die, too, including Sal Lifton. That seems such a strange thing for Death, of all characters, to realize, but heâ€™d never killed prior to this. Death was just a part of his job, and heâ€™d never been on the other side of it. To him, death was inevitable fate for everyone, so it was neverÂ personal.
So when Sal gets trapped in a fire at the local inn, he has to accept that this inevitable fateÂ hurts. It hurts people, it destroys lives, and in the case of Miss Flitworth, Bill Doorâ€™s apathetic take on death offends her. It all seems so impossible to Death because he canâ€™t imagine how anyone could live a life knowing that it all ends, and soÂ soon. That sense of existential dread haunts Death. How is he going to get over that? Perhaps saving Salâ€™s life will help.Â CanÂ her life be saved, though? That whole â€œborrowed timeâ€ line is both a clever pun and a horrible clue. Did Death give part ofÂ hisÂ time to keep Sal alive?
Thatâ€™s my guess. Props to those who worked on the splits for this book because I loved that this was almost entirely about Death. It flowed really well as its own piece. Sure, thereâ€™s a brief update about Windle and his bizarre, aimless quest alongside Schleppel and Lupine, but this is all about Death. And death. Itâ€™s clear now that Deathâ€™s fears precipitated in that dream that opened this section. Iâ€™m sure that heâ€™d love to return to that world, you know? Itâ€™s comforting. Itâ€™s certain. ButÂ canÂ he? It would have been too easy for him to be given his job back just because it was a â€œmistake.â€ I donâ€™t imagine this is how the rest of this book will go. And shit, thereâ€™s still half a book to go! I love when I have no idea where a story is going to go, yâ€™all.
The original text contains use of the words â€œcrazyâ€ and â€œstupid.â€
Mark Links Stuff
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