Series: Discworld #37
Published by: HarperCollins
Release Date: 6-10-2009
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Discworld lives on in Unseen Academicals, the latest novel from Terry Pratchett. Delivering the trademark insight and humor readers the world over have come to expect from “the purely funniest English writer since Wodehouse” (Washington Post Book World), Unseen Academicals focuses on the wizards at Ankh-Morpork’s UnseenUniversity, who are reknowned for many things—sagacity, magic, and their love of teatime—as they attempt to conquer athletics.
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It was midnight in Ankh-Morpork's Royal Art Museum.
It occurred to new employee Rudolph Scattering about once every minute that on the whole it might have been a good idea to tell the Curator about his nyctophobia, his fear of strange noises and, he now knew, his fear of absolutely every thing he could see (and, come to that, not see), hear, smell and feel crawling up his back during the endless hours on guard during the night. It was no use telling himself that everything in here was dead. That didn't help at all. It meant that he stood out.
And then he heard the sob. A scream might have been better. At least you are certain when you've heard a scream. A faint sob is something you have to wait to hear again, because you can't be sure.
He raised his lantern in a shaking hand. There shouldn't be anyone in here. The place was securely locked; no one could get in. Or, now he came to think about it, out. He wished he hadn't thought about it.
He was in the basement, which was not among the most scary places on his round. It was mostly just old shelves and drawers, full of the things that were almost, but very definitely not entirely, thrown away. Museums don't like things to be thrown away, in case they turn out to be very important later on.
Another sob, and a sound like the scraping of... pottery?
A rat, then, somewhere on the rear shelves? Rats didn't sob, did they?
'Look, I don't want to have to come in there and get you!' said Scattering with heartfelt accuracy.
And the shelves exploded. It seemed to him to happen in slow motion, bits of pottery and statues spreading out as they drifted towards him. He went over backwards and the expanding cloud passing overhead crashed into the shelves on the other side of the room, which were demolished.
Scattering lay on the floor in the dark, unable to move, expecting at any moment to be torn apart by the phantoms bubbling up from his imagination...
The day staff found him there in the morning, deeply asleep and covered in dust. They listened to his garbled explanation, treated him kindly, and agreed that a different career might suit his temperament. They wondered for a while about what he had been up to, night watchmen being rather puzzling people at the best of times, but put it out of their heads... because of the find.