It has been hectic here in Dume Swamp in recent months. Some time ago, a Green Man called and persuaded me to have solar panels installed on the roof. It was at no cost to me, he said, I’d get paid for the electricity they generated, he said, and then ‘Aaagh, stop skinning me alive!’ he said and then he went very quiet apart from the occasional gurgle.
He was okay, but a bit stringy. The Green Men often are.
Other Green Men arrived and installed big panels on the roof. I sent Click up to make sure they installed them over the holes. Good thing too, since keeping the rain out is all they turned out to be good for. Here in the north of Scotland, in a swamp permanently shrouded in fog, solar panels don’t do anything much. If the first Green Man had mentioned they need sunlight to work, the later Green Men could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and the later ones would at least still have skin.
I wish someone else would call. You have to boil the meat for hours to take out the bitterness and reduce the gristle to chewable levels.
Anyway, I now have enough power to fire up the computer as long as Click keeps running in the wheel.
So I have been perusing the details of a miniature Australian version of our own swamp’s whipweed, one so small it can only eat flies. It has a great deal of growing to do before it can deal with Ferals and salesmen but it’s a start. While perusing, I felt a set of icy phalanges on my shoulder.
“Good evening, Dume,” boomed the empty voice of Death. “I see your offspring has been somewhat lax in his duties. You’re still alive.”
“Sorry to disappoint. Still, he’s only three years old at the end of this month. You have to make allowances for his age and for my well-developed cunning. He hasn’t even eaten his mother yet.”
“Hmm.” Death leaned over my shoulder. “Reading the news? Here’s one of far more interest to you, as a writer.” He took control of the mouse and changed the page.
I began to read the story that appeared. “Body parts have value? How fascinating.”
“No, no, not that.” He scrolled down to something that looked like a map produced by a deranged railway engineer. “This. This is a plot of the most popular story elements in successful novels. Notice who occupies the largest segment?”
I turned to look at him just as he puffed out his ribs.
“Me,” he said.
My attention returned to the screen and the story. “Not really. What this says is that from a selection of the best selling books, most of them include someone’s death as a plot element. It isn’t actually you.”
Death rummaged in his cape and took out a pair of narrowed eyes, which he held over his orbits. “Are they, or are they not, dead?”
I scratched my ear. “Well, they are fictional so–“
“Dead or not dead. It’s a yes or no thing. it always is.”
“Well, okay, yes, they are dead.” I sensed the evening was likely to transcend logic.
“I am Death, am I not? So even if the dead people are fictional, they need a fictional version of me to collect them. So it counts. I am the most popular thing in the most popular novels.” He leaned close. “So if you want to write a popular novel, you must have me in it.”
I put my face in my hands. Red Stan expects a story about him and now Death wants one too.
“Okay,” I said. “Most of my characters die so technically you’re already in there and you did feature in Bernie’s Bargain as yourself. I can make you more prominent if you like.”
“I like.” He grinned, I suppose, but then he has little choice in the matter, and then he vanished.
I think what I need now is a story with both Death and Red Stan in it. That should shut them both up.
For a while.