Bill Door - a timeline
The events of Reaper Man take place over about seven days.
The first day begins when the Death of Discworld finds that he has been given a liftimer. He has been suspended from office and will soon come to an end himself. When his servant Albert asks him if he was not afraid to die, Death answered that he did not know how to be afraid. "I could show you", said Albert, but Death said, “No. I should like to learn by myself. I shall have experiences at last... At last I have time. I am going to spend it.” Riding through the heat and dust of summer in Discworld, Death came to the farm of Miss Flitworth, who took him on as a farm hand at sixpence a week. When asked what his name was he answered Bill Sky, to Miss Flitworth's disbelief. His second suggestion - Bill Door - was considered believable, as Miss Flitworth had once known a Bill Doors. His first experience was of having a name. His second experience was sleep, or rather, it was a lack of experience. He woke up wondering how six hours of his life had been stolen.
The second day, and the three days that followed that, were signalled by the crowing of Cyril the dyslexic cockerel. At first Bill Door was able to be a farm hand, cutting hay in the high meadow, albeit in his own particular way - one blade of grass at a time. Always he was aware of time passing. Although he knew wind and sunshine, he had never experienced the wind push at him before, nor how the sun made you hot.
On the evening of the third day, Miss Flitworth invited him into the parlour of the house. She wanted to tell him about the disappearance of her fiance years before, the day before they were to get married. Nobody knew for sure what had happened to him. Some said he had run away, but she thought he had died on one last smuggling journey in the mountains. She had refused to let this become the story of her life, though she never married. She was testing what Bill Door thought about her.
On the fourth morning he woke from a dream with a cry of terror that roused the cockerel and Miss Flitworth. When she came to the barn to see what was wrong, he said to her, “I suddenly know that we are going to die.” In return, he encountered a new thing, human fortitude and endurance. "Keep busy and act cheerful." That morning he experienced the taking of life. First a chicken was to be killed for the pot. He recoiled from killing it with the cleaver. Later she put down poison for the rats. He felt like a murderer.
That night he tried to avoid sleep for fear of dreaming, but was woken by shouting. The tavern was on fire, and a little girl was still inside it. Now the gulf between human and Death's ways of looking at things showed its full extent. Death knew that "to tinker with the fate of one individual could destroy the whole world". But for Bill Door, with a degree of humanity, it was different, and stung by Miss Flitworth's response to his hesitation, he walked into the fire and rescued the child. She was alive but remained in a deep sleep. He was giving her time from his lifetimer. Everything moved very fast after that. Bill Door spent the rest of the night trying to bring a scythe blade to total sharpness.
He finished sharpening the scythe at the dawn of the fifth day, and took it to the village forge, where he wanted it destroyed, killed. He planned to put up a fight against the new Death that would come, and in a ghostly form the scythe might be available to him. But the man he gave it to could not bring himself to destroy it. That day, Miss Flitworth suggested Bill Door get on with the harvest of the corn. He ended up in a race against the Combination Harvester, a newly built machine that could do the work of many men. Brought back to the farm, exhausted and in pain, he said he could understand now why some people wanted to die. He was galvanized into action by a storm, which threatened to ruin "his" harvest. At midnight Bill Door's timer emptied and the New Death sought him out. Bill Door was now in ghostly form, intangible. The prepared scythe had not been destroyed, so he could not use it. The New Death revealed himself with no visible features, just a gold crown. This assertion of rulership infuriated Bill Door. Just as the New Death was about to strike him down, Miss Flitworth willed Bill Door some of her own time, and he was able to grasp the tangible scythe with which he had made the harvest, and destroy the New Death. "No crown. No crown," he said. "Only the harvest." From this point on he resumed his form as Death.
Death knew that Miss Flitworth had only a short span of life left. Wondering what to do, he went to her farm at sunset on the sixth day, and quietly looked into her three treasure boxes. Two contained gold, one her bridal veil, and a music box, with two little dancers on it. He went before Azrael, the singular beginning and end of time, and made his argument, asking to be granted some time to repay what had been given. Azrael affirmed what he said, and the Auditors who had conspired against him were dismissed. Bill Door returned to the farm, to the surprise of Miss Flitworth. He brought her rich gifts, and offered to take her anywhere in the world, but she wanted only to go the Harvest Dance. To her surprise again, they danced till dawn. Finding that she was like an eighteen year old again, she realised she had died.
At dawn on the seventh day, he reunited her with her fiance Rufus at the point at which he had died in an avalanche nearly sixty years before. "Wherever you go," he said to the young man before he saw Miss Flitworth again, "you go together.”
Once again in his own realm, Death felt it lacked something. He caused fields of golden corn to appear, then the wind to move them, to remember. It was the first trace of colour in his domain. The memories of Bill Door gave him another knowledge of the world of life he served, irregular, untidy as it was. Faced with the Death of Rats, who had once been a part of himself, he allowed it to continue a separate existence, remembering the loneliness of the Alone.