from
Going Postal
by
Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

This page:

Going Postal

Category:

Fantasy

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Going Postal

Copyright © 2004 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett

Chapter 1

The Angel
“You see, I believe in freedom, Mr. Lipwig. Not many people do, although they will, of course, protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be completely without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.”

Topic:

Freedom

The world was blessedly free of honest men and wonderfully full of people who believed they could tell the difference between an honest man and a crook.

The broom must have been kept as an ornament, because it certainly hadn’t been used much on the accumulations in the stable yard. On the positive side, this meant he had fallen into something soft. On the negative side, it meant that he had fallen into something soft.
Chapter 2

The Post Office
Some cheap pillars had been sliced in half and stuck on the outside, some niches had been carved for some miscellaneous stone nymphs, some stone urns had been ranged along the parapet, and thus Architecture had been created.

Topic:

Architecture

Dimwell Arrythmic Rhyming Slang: Various rhyming slangs are known, and have given the universe such terms as “apples and pears” (stairs), “rubbity-dub” (pub), and “busy bee” (General Theory of Relativity). The Dimwell Street rhyming slang is pretty unique in that it does not, in fact, rhyme. No one knows why, but theories so far advanced are 1) that it is quite complex and in fact follows hidden rules, or 2) Dimwell is well named, or 3) it’s made up to annoy strangers, which is the case with most such slangs.

Topic:

Linguistics

What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.

Topic:

Democracy

Chapter 3

Our Own Hand, Or None
Being an absolute ruler today was not as simple as people thought. At least, it was not simple if your ambitions included being an absolute ruler tomorrow. There were subtleties. Oh, you could order men to smash down doors and drag people off to dungeons without trial, but too much of that sort of thing was bad for business, habit-forming, style-lacking, and very, very dangerous for your health. A thinking tyrant, it seemed to Vetinari, had a much harder job than a ruler raised to power by some idiot vote-yourself-rich system like democracy. At least he could tell the people he was their fault.

Topic:

Tyrants

“In his Thoughts, which I have always considered to fare badly in translation, Bouffant says that intervening in order to prevent a murder is to curtail the freedom of the murderer and yet that freedom, by definition, is natural and universal, without condition,” said Vetinari. “[...] Mr. Gilt has studied his Bouffant but, I fear, failed to understand him. Freedom may be mankind’s natural state, but so is sitting in a tree eating your dinner while it is still wriggling. On the other hand, Freidegger, in Modal Contextities, claims that all freedom is limited, artificial, and therefore illusory, a shared hallucination at best. No sane mortal is truly free, because true freedom is so terrible that only the mad or the divine can face it with open eyes. It overwhelms the soul, very much like the state he elsewhere describes as Vonallesvolkommenunverstandlichdasdaskeit.”

Topics:

Philosophy

Sesquipedality

Chapter 4

A Sign

“I’m paying for all that! I was nearly hanged, godsdamit!”

“Yes. But Even Now You Harbor Thoughts Of Escape, Of Somehow Turning The Situation To Your Advantage. They Say The Leopard Does Not Change His Shorts.”

Topic:

The Leopard

Chapter 5

Lost in the Post
“You think about money in the old-fashioned way. Money is not a thing, it is not even a process. It is a kind of shared dream. We dream that a small disc of common metal is worth the price of a substantial meal. Once you wake up from that dream, you can swim in a sea of money.”

Topic:

Wealth

Chapter 6

Little Pictures

Oh, you could do it all by magic, you certainly could. You could wave a wand and get twinkly stars and a fresh-baked loaf. You could make fish jump out of the sea already cooked. And then, somewhere, somehow, magic would present its bill, which was always more than you could afford.

That’s why it was left to wizards, who knew how to handle it safely. Not doing any magic at all was the chief task of wizards—not “not doing magic” because they couldn’t do magic, but not doing magic when they could do and didn’t. Any ignorant fool can fail to turn someone else into a frog. You have to be clever to refrain from doing it when you knew how easy it was. There were places in the world commemorating those times when wizards hadn’t been quite as clever as that, and on many of them the grass would never grow again.

Chapter 7

Tomb of Words

He stopped. Miss Cripslock was scribbling like mad, and it’s always worrying to see a journalist take a sudden interest in what you’re saying, especially when you half suspect it was a load of pigeon guano. And it gets worse when they’re smiling.

Topic:

Journalism

“But . . . but you can’t treat religion as a sort of buffet, can you? I mean, you can’t say, ‘Yes please, I’ll have some of the Celestial Paradise and a helping of the Divine Plan but go easy on the kneeling and none of the Prohibition of Images, they give me wind.’ It’s table d’hôte or nothing, otherwise . . . well, it could get silly.”

Topic:

Religion

Somewhere it has every book ever written, that ever will be written, and, notably, every book that is possible to write. These are not on the public shelves lest untrained handling cause the collapse of everything that it is possible to imagine.*

* Again.

Just below the dome, staring down from their niches, were statues of the Virtues: Patience, Chastity, Silence, Charity, Hope, Tubso, Bissonomy,† and Fortitude.

† Many cultures practice neither of these in the hustle and bustle of the modern world, because no one can remember what they are.

Topic:

Virtue

Chapter 10

The Burning of Words

And after a thought like that is when you realize that however hard you try to look behind you, there’s a behind you, behind you, where you aren’t looking.

Topic:

Amusing one-liners

He could feel that old electric feeling, the one you got deep inside when you stood right there in front of a banker who was carefully examining an example of your very best work. The universe held its breath, and then the man would smile and say, “Very good, Mr. Assumed Name, I will have my clerk bring up the money right away.” It was the thrill not of the chase but of the standing still, of remaining so calm, composed, and genuine that, for just long enough, you could fool the world and spin it on your finger. These were the moments he lived for, when he was really alive, and his thoughts flowed like quicksilver, and the very air sparkled. Later, that feeling would present its bill. For now, he flew.

“As I understand it,” said Moist, “the gift of sausages reaches Offler by being fried, yes? And the spirit of the sausages ascends unto Offler by means of the smell? And then you eat the sausages?”

“Ah, no. Not exactly. Not at all,” said the young priest, who knew this one. “It might look like that to the uninitiated, but, as you say, the true sausagidity goes straight to Offler. He, of course, eats the spirit of the sausages. We eat the mere earthy shell, which, believe me, turns to dust and ashes in our mouths.”

“That would explain why the smell of sausages is always better than the actual sausage, then?” said Moist. “I’ve often noticed that.”

The priest was impressed. “Are you a theologian, sir?” he said.

He’d sent letters to Offler, Om, and Blind Io, all important gods, and also to Anoia, a minor goddess of Things That Stick In Drawers.*

* Often, but not uniquely, a ladle, but sometimes a metal spatula or, rarely, a mechanical egg-whisk that nobody in the house admits to ever buying. The desperate, mad rattling and cries of “How can it close on the damn thing but not open with it? Who bought this? Do we ever use it?” is as praise unto Anoia. She also eats corkscrews.

Chapter 11

Mission Statement

It was garbage, but it had been cooked by an expert. Oh, yes. You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, ravished, stripped of all true meaning and decency, and then sent to walk the gutter for Reacher Gilt, although “synergistically” had probably been a whore from the start. The Grand Trunk’s problems were clearly the result of some mysterious spasm in the universe and had nothing to do with greed, arrogance, and willful stupidity. Oh, the Grand Trunk management had made mistakes—oops, “well-intentioned judgments which, with the benefit of hindsight, might regrettably have been, in some respects, in error”—but these had mostly occurred, it appeared, while correcting “fundamental systemic errors” committed by the previous management. No one was sorry for anything, because no living creature had done anything wrong; bad things had happened by spontaneous generation in some weird, chilly, geometrical otherworld, and “were to be regretted.” *

[...] The Grand Trunk “was about people” and the reporter had completely failed to ask what that meant, exactly? And then there was this piece called “Our Mission” . . .

* Another bastard phrase that’d sell itself to any weasel in a tight corner.

Topic:

Propaganda

Chapter 12

The Woodpecker

“Besides, I heard there were bandits up in the mountains,” said Moist.

“Used to be,” said Jim. “Not as many now.”

“That’s something less to worry about, then,” said Moist.

“Dunno,” said Jim. “We never found out what wiped them out.”

Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.

What was magic, after all, but something that happened at the snap of a finger? Where was the magic in that? It was mumbled words and weird drawings in old books, and in the wrong hands it was as dangerous as hell, but not one half as dangerous as it could be in the right hands. The universe was full of the stuff; it made the stars stay up and the feet stay down.

But what was happening now . . . this was magical. Ordinary men had dreamed it up and put it together, building towers on rafts in swamps and across the frozen spines of mountains. They’d cursed and, worse, used logarithms. They’d waded through rivers and dabbled in trigonometry. They hadn’t dreamed, in the way people usually used the word, but they’d imagined a different world, and bent metal around it. And out of all the sweat and swearing and mathematics had come this . . . thing, dropping words across the world as softly as starlight.

Topic:

Technology

Chapter 13

The Edge of the Envelope
You did what you were told or you didn’t get paid, and if things went wrong it wasn’t your problem. [...] No one cared about you, and everyone at headquarters was an idiot. It wasn’t your fault, no one listened to you. Headquarters had even started an Employee of the Month scheme to show how much they cared. That was how much they didn’t care.

“It’s a disguise,” said Alex.

“A big horned helmet?”

“Yes. It makes me so noticeable that no one will suspect I’m trying not to be noticed, so they won’t bother to notice me.”

“Only a very intelligent man would think of something like that,” said Moist carefully.

Topics:

Intelligence

Disguise

Chapter 14

Deliverance

Sometimes the truth is arrived at by adding all the little lies together and deducting them from the totality of what is known.

Topic:

Truth

The pillars of the world ceased to tremble. The Credit Bank would open in the morning, and when it did so, bills would be honored, wages would be paid, the city would be fed.

They’d saved the city with gold more easily, at that point, than any hero could have managed with steel. But, in truth, it had not exactly been gold, or even the promise of gold, but more like the fantasy of gold, the fairy dream that the gold is there, at the end of the rainbow, and will continue to be there forever—provided, naturally, that you don’t go and look.

This is known as Finance.

Topic:

Economics

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Graphics copyright © 2005 by Hal Keen