Moist stared. He'd felt the snap of the rope, the choke of the noose! He'd seen the blackness welling up! He'd died!
"I'm offering you a job, Mr. Lipwig. Albert Spangler is buried, but Mr. Lipwig has a future. It may, of course, be a very short one, if he is stupid. I am offering you a job, Mr. Lipwig. Work, for wages. I realize the concept may be unfamiliar."
Only as a form of hell, Moist thought.
"The job is that of postmaster general of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office." Moist continued to stare.
"May I just add, Mr. Lipwig, that behind you there is a door. If at any time in this interview you feel you wish to leave, you have only to step through it and you will never hear from me again."
Moist filed that under "Deeply Suspicious."
"To continue: the job, Mr. Lipwig, involves the refurbishment and running of the city's postal service, preparation of the international packets, maintenance of Post Office property, et cetera, et cetera-"
"If you stick a broom up my arse I could probably sweep the floor, too," said a voice. Moist realized it was his. His brain was a mess. It had come as a shock to him that the afterlife was this one.
Lord Vetinari gave him a long, long look.
"Well, if you wish," he said, and turned to a hovering clerk. "Drumknott, does the housekeeper have a store cupboard on this floor, do you know?"
"Oh, yes, my lord," said the clerk. "Shall I--"
"It was a joke!" Moist burst out.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I hadn't realized," said Lord Vetinari, turning back to Moist. "Do tell me if you feel obliged to make another one, will you?"
"Look," said Moist, "I don't know what's happening here, but I don't know anything about delivering post!"
"Mr. Lipwig, this morning you had no experience at all of being dead, and yet but for my intervention you would nevertheless have turned out to be extremely good at it," said Lord Vetinari sharply. "It just goes to show: you never know until you try."
"But when you sentenced me -"
Vetinari raised a pale hand. "Ah?" he said. Moist's brain, at last aware that it needed to do some work here, stepped in and replied:
"Er ... when you ... sentenced ... Alfred Spangler--"
"Well done. Do carry on."
"--you said he was a natural-born criminal, a fraudster by vocation, a habitual liar, a perverted genius, and totally untrustworthy!"
"Are you accepting my offer, Mr. Lipwig?" said Vetinari sharply.
Moist looked at him. "Excuse me," he said, standing up, "Id just like to check something."
There were two men dressed in black standing behind his chair. It wasn't a particularly neat black, more the black worn by people who just don't want little marks to show. They looked like clerks, until you met their eyes.
They stood aside as Moist walked toward the door, which, as promised, was indeed there. He opened it very carefully. There was nothing beyond, and that included a floor. In the manner of one who is going to try all possibilities, he took the remnant of the spoon out of his pocket and let it drop. It was quite a long time before he heard the jingle.
Then he went back and sat in the chair.
"The prospect of freedom?" he said.
"Exactly," said Lord Vetinari. "There is always a choice."
"You mean ... I could choose certain death?"
"A choice, nevertheless," said Vetinari. "Or, perhaps, an alternative. 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. Now ... will you take the job? No one will recognize you, I am sure. No one ever recognizes you, it would appear."
From Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. Copyright Terry Pratchett 2004. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Harper Collins.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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