novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990) is a comedic novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, a satire of prophecies of the Apocalypse and Armageddon.
- Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.
- Disclaimer on the credits page.
In the beginning. . .
- It was a nice day.
All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn't been invented yet. But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one.
- "A demon can get into real trouble, doing the right thing." He nudged the angel. "Funny if we both got it wrong, eh? Funny if I did the good thing and you did the bad one, eh?"
"Not really," said Aziraphale.
- GOOD OMENS : A Narrative of Certain Events occurring in the last eleven years of human history, in strict accordance as shall be shewn with: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter
Compiled and edited, with Footnotes of an Educational Nature and Precepts for the Wise, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
- Crowley (An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards)
Eleven years ago
- God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players*, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.
- Footnote to above: * ie., everybody.
- Many phenomena — wars, plagues, sudden audits — have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for Exhibit A.
- All tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums.
- It'd be a funny old world, he reflected, if demons went round trusting one another.
- That's how it goes, you think you're on top of the world, and suddenly they spring Armageddon on you. The Great War, the Last Battle. Heaven versus Hell, three rounds, one Fall, no submission. And that'd be that. No more world. That's what the end of the world meant. No more world. Just endless Heaven or, depending who won, endless Hell. Crowley didn't know which was worse.
- He'd been an angel once. He hadn't meant to Fall. He'd just hung around with the wrong people.
- Most of the members of the convent were old-fashioned Satanists, like their parents and grandparents before them. They'd been brought up to it and weren't, when you got right down to it, particularly evil. Human beings mostly aren't. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow.
- It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
- He rather liked people. It was a major failing in a demon.
Oh, he did his best to make their short lives miserable, because that was his job, but nothing he could think up was half as bad as the stuff they thought up themselves. They seemed to have a talent for it. It was built into the design, somehow. They were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse.
- Just when you'd think they were more malignant than ever Hell could be, they could occasionally show more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of. Often the same individual was involved. It was this freewill thing, of course. It was a bugger.
- He stared down at the golden curls of the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness.
"You know," he concluded, after a while, "I think he actually looks like an Adam."
- On the naming of Adam Young
- Buggre Alle this for a Larke I amme sick to mye Hart of typefettinge. Master Biltonn if no Gentelmann, and Master Scagges noe more than a tighte fisted Southwarke Knobbefticke.
- "There you are then", said Crowley, sitting back. "Whole sea bubbling, poor old dolphins so much seafood gumbo, no one giving a damn. Same with gorillas. Whoops, they say, sky gone all red, stars crashing to ground, what they putting in the bananas these days?"
- There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that, despite thousands of years of manmade evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf. These dogs advance deliberately, purposefully, the wilderness made flesh, their teeth yellow, their breath astink, while in the distance their owners witter, "He's an old soppy really, just poke him if he's a nuisance," and in the green of their eyes the red campfires of the Pleistocene gleam and flicker . . .
This dog would make even a dog like that slink nonchalantly behind the sofa and pretend to be extremely preoccupied with its rubber bone.
It was already growling, and the growl was a low, rumbling snarl of spring-coiled menace, the sort of growl that starts in the back of one throat and ends up in someone else's.
- It leapt the hedge and padded across the field beyond. A grazing bull eyed it for a moment, weighed its chances, then strolled hurriedly toward the opposite hedge.
- The owner of a voice like that would be the sort of person who, before making a plastic model kit, would not only separate and count all the pieces before commencing, as per the instructions, but also paint all the bits that needed painting first and leave them to dry properly prior to construction. All that separated this voice from chartered accountancy was a matter of time.
- "It's Tchaikovsky's 'Another One Bites the Dust'," said Crowley, closing his eyes as they went through Slough. To while away the time as they crossed the sleeping Chilterns, they also listened to William Byrd's "We Are the Champions" and Beethoven's "I Want To Break Free." Neither were as good as Vaughan Williams's "Fat-Bottomed Girls."
- Apart from, of course, the fact that the world was an amazing interesting place which they both wanted to enjoy for as long as possible, there were few things that the two of them agreed on, but they did see eye to eye about some of those people who, for one reason or another, were inclined to worship the Prince of Darkness. Crowley always found them embarrassing. You couldn't actually be rude to them, but you couldn't help feeling about them the same way that, say, a Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighborhood Watch meetings.
- There were people who called themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm. It wasn't just the things they did, it was the way they blamed it all on Hell. They'd come up with some stomach-churning idea that no demon could have thought of in a thousand years, some dark and mindless unpleasantness that only a fully-functioning human brain could conceive, then shout "The Devil Made Me Do It" and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn't have to. That was what some humans found hard to understand. Hell wasn't a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley's opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind.
- Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men.
- Any prowling maniac would have had more than his work cut out if he had accosted Anathema Device. She was a witch, after all. And precisely because she was a witch, and therefore sensible, she put little faith in protective amulets and spells; she saved it all for a foot-long bread knife which she kept in her belt.
- "What're they playing at?" said Aziraphale.
"I don't know," said Crowley, "but I think it's called silly buggers." His tone suggested that he could play, too. And do it better.
- "I think the maggots were a bit over the top, myself," said Aziraphale, but without much rancor.
- "I'm not occult," said Aziraphale. "Angels aren't occult. We're ethereal."
"Whatever," snapped Crowley, too worried to argue.
- "All the higher life forms scythed away, just like that."
"Nothing but dust and fundamentalists."
"That was nasty."
"Sorry. Couldn't resist it."
- In a climate-controlled cabinet in one corner was the original scroll in the shaky handwriting of St. John the Divine of Patmos, whose "Revelation" had been the alltime best seller. Aziraphale had found him a nice chap, if a bit too fond of odd mushrooms.
- The redhaired woman in the corner of the hotel bar was the most successful war correspondent in the world. She now had a passport in the name of Carmine Zuigiber; and she went where the wars were.
Well. More or less.
Actually she went where the wars weren't. She'd already been where the wars were.
- Red signed the receipt pad, illegibly, then printed her name. The name she wrote was not Carmine Zuigiber. It was a much shorter name.
- The men in the room suddenly realized that they didn't want to know her better. She was beautiful, but she was beautiful in the way a forest fire was beautiful: something to be admired from a distance, not up close.
And as she held her sword, she smiled like a knife.
- "I bet you don't have to be Spanish to be the Spanish Inquisition," said Adam. "I bet it's like Scottish eggs or American hamburgers. It just has to look Spanish. We've just got to make it look Spanish. Then everyone would know it's the Spanish Inquisition."
- It was a very good torture, everyone agreed. The trouble was getting the putative witch off it.
- Anathema didn't only believe in leylines, but in seals, whales, bicycles, rain forests, whole grain in loaves, recycled paper, white South Africans out of South Africa, and Americans out of practically everywhere down to and including Long Island. She didn't compartmentalize her beliefs. They were welded into one enormous, seamless belief, compared with which that held by Joan of Arc seemed a mere idle notion. On any scale of mountain moving it shifted at least point five of an alp.*
- * It may be worth noting here that most human beings can rarely raise more than .3 of an alp (30 centialps). Adam believed things on a scale ranging from 2 through to 15,640 Everests.
- It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that really change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.
Somewhere in Adam's sleeping head, a butterfly had emerged.
- It might, or might not, have helped Anathema get a clear view of things if she'd been allowed to spot the very obvious reason why she couldn't see Adam's aura.
It was for the same reason that people in Trafalgar Square can't see England.
- He didn't say "That's weird." He wouldn't have said "That's weird" if a flock of sheep had cycled past playing violins. It wasn't the sort of thing a responsible engineer said.
- Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. Two of these were wrong; Heaven is not in England, whatever certain poets may have thought, and angels are sexless unless they really want to make an effort. But he was intelligent. And it was an angelic intelligence which, while not being particularly higher than human intelligence, is much broader and has the advantage of having thousands of years of practice.
- Sometimes he would scribble something on a sheet of paper by his side. It was covered in symbols which only eight other people in the world would have been able to comprehend; two of them had won Nobel prizes, and one of the other six dribbled a lot and wasn't allowed anything sharp because of what he might do with it.
- There was a time when witchfinders were respected, although it didn't last very long.
- He'd found that even the people whose job of work was, so to speak, the Universe, didn't really believe in it and were actually quite proud of not knowing what it really was or even if it could theoretically exist.
- This is how Newton Pulsifer looked as a man: if he went into a phone booth and changed, he might manage to come out looking like Clark Kent.
- Gather ye ryte close, goode people. Come close untyl the fire near scorch ye, for I charge ye that alle must see how thee last true wytch in England dies. For wytch I am, for soe I am judged, yette I knoe not what my true Cryme may be. And therefore let myne deathe be a messuage to the worlde. Gather ye ryte close, I saye, and marke well the fate of alle who meddle with suche as theye do none understande.
- Newt had never been in a woman's bedroom before, but he sensed that this was one largely by a combination of soft smells. There was a hint of talcum and lily-of-the-valley, and no rank suggestion of old T-shirts that had forgotten what the inside of a tumbledryer looked like.
- "Anathema Device," said Anathema. "I'm an occultist, but that's just a hobby. I'm really a witch. Well done. You're half an hour late," she added, handing him a small sheet of cardboard, "so you'd better read this. It'll save a lot of time."
- Along with the standard computer warranty agreement which said that if the machine 1) didn't work, 2) didn't do what the expensive advertisements said, 3) electrocuted the immediate neighborhood, 4) and in fact failed entirely to be inside the expensive box when you opened it, this was expressly, absolutely, implicitly and in no event the fault or responsibility of the manufacturer, that the purchaser should consider himself lucky to be allowed to give his money to the manufacturer, and that any attempt to treat what had just been paid for as the purchaser's own property would result in the attentions of serious men with menacing briefcases and very thin watches. Crowley had been extremely impressed with the warranties offered by the computer industry, and had in fact sent a bundle Below to the department that drew up the Immortal Soul agreements, with a yellow memo form attached just saying: "Learn, guys..."
- Agnes was the worst prophet that's ever existed. Because she was always right. That's why the book never sold.
- Most psychic abilities are caused by a simple lack of temporal focus, and the mind of Agnes Nutter was so far adrift in Time that she was considered pretty mad even by the standards of seventeenth-century Lancashire, where mad prophetesses were a growth industry.
- "She managed to come up with the kind of predictions that you can only understand after the thing has happened," said Anathema. "Like 'Do Notte Buye Betamacks.' That was a prediction for 1972."
- Most of the time she comes up with such an oblique reference that you can't work it out until it's gone past, and then it all slots into place. And she didn't know what was going to be important or not, so it's all a bit hit and miss.
- You see, it's not enough to know what the future is. You have to know what it means. Agnes was like someone looking at a huge picture down a tiny little tube. She wrote down what seemed like good advice based on what she understood of the tiny little glimpses.
- "What I'm trying to say," she said patiently, "is that Agnes didn't see the future. That's just a metaphor. She remembered it. Not very well, of course, and by the time it'd been filtered through her own understanding it's often a bit confused.
- When most people said "I'm psychic, you see," they meant "I have an overactive but unoriginal imagination/wear black nail varnish/ talk to my budgie"; when Anathema said it, it sounded as though she was admitting to a hereditary disease which she'd much prefer not to have.
- Anyway, there isn't any evil here. That's what I don't understand. There's just love.
- He pulled on the gloves and gingerly took the flask, and the tongs, and the bucket — and, as an afterthought, he grabbed the plant mister from beside a luxuriant rubber plant — and headed for his office, walking like a man carrying a thermos flask full of something that might cause, if he dropped it or even thought about dropping it, the sort of explosion that impels graybeards to make statements like "And where this crater is now, once stood the City of Wah-Shing-Ton," in SF B-movies.
- The demon Crowley carrying Holy Water.
- Plan A had worked. Plan B had failed. Everything depended on Plan C, and there was one drawback to this: he had only ever planned as far as B.
- Just for a moment he had entertained the possibility; that was where Crowley had got him. It was just possible that Hell was testing him. That Crowley was more than he seemed. Hastur was paranoid, which was simply a sensible and well-adjusted reaction to living in Hell, where they really were all out to get you.
- Demons aren't bound by physics. If you take the long view, the universe is just something small and round, like those waterfilled balls which produce a miniature snowstorm when you shake them.
- For those of angel stock or demon breed, size, and shape, and composition, are simply options.
- Other songs he had written included: "Happy Mister Jesus," "Jesus, Can I Come and Stay at Your Place?" "That Ol' Fiery Cross," "Jesus is the Sticker on the Bumper of My Soul," and "When I'm Swept Up by the Rapture Grab the Wheel of My Pick-up."
- It was then that Marvin got religion. Not the quiet, personal kind, that involves doing good deeds and living a better life; not even the kind that involves putting on a suit and ringing people's doorbells; but the kind that involves having your own TV network and getting people to send you money.
- The world is a lot more complicated than most people believe. Many people believed, for example, that Marvin was not a true Believer because he made so much money out of it. They were wrong. He believed with all his heart. He believed utterly, and spent a lot of the money that flooded in on what he really thought was the Lord's work.
- MORTALS CAN HOPE FOR DEATH, OR FOR REDEMPTION. YOU CAN HOPE FOR NOTHING.
ALL YOU CAN HOPE FOR IS THE MERCY OF HELL.
JUST OUR LITTLE JOKE.
- "You're Hell's Angels. . . What chapter are you from, then?"
REVELATIONS . . . CHAPTER SIX.
- Death and Famine and War and Pollution continued biking toward Tadfield.
And Grievous Bodily Harm, Cruelty to Animals, Things Not Working Properly Even After You've Given Them A Good Thumping But Secretly No Alcohol Lager, and Really Cool People traveled with them.
- She finished drying herself, and started picking up clothes from the floor, and, unselfconsciously, pulling them on. Newt, a man who was prepared to wait half an hour for a free changing cubicle at the swimming baths, rather than face the possibility of having to disrobe in front of another human being, found himself vaguely shocked, and deeply thrilled.
- Now, I know what you're thinking, Sergeant Shadwell. You're thinking that any second now this head is going to go round and round, and I'm going to start vomiting pea soup. Well, I'm not. I'm not a demon. And I'd like you to listen to what I have to say.
- The Antichrist is alive on earth at this moment, Sergeant. He is bringing about Armageddon, the Day of Judgement, even if he himself does not know it. Heaven and Hell are both preparing for war, and it's all going to be very messy.
- "Listen," croaked Skuzz. "Got something important to tell you. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse . . . they're right bastards, all four of them."
- Cars, in theory, give you a terrifically fast method of traveling from place to place. Traffic jams, on the other hand, give you a terrific opportunity to stay still.
- Okay, so Hell was down on him. So the world was ending. So the Cold War was over and the Great War was starting for real. So the odds against him were higher than a vanload of hippies on a blotterful of Owlsley's Old Original. There was still a chance.
It was all a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
- The technical term for it is infrablack. It can be seen quite easily under experimental conditions. To perform the experiment simply select a healthy brick wall with a good runup, and, lowering your head, charge. The color that flashes in bursts behind your eyes, behind the pain, just before you die, is infrablack.
- Odegra. Nothing could cross it and survive.
Nothing mortal, anyway. And he wasn't sure what it would do to a demon. It couldn't kill him, but it wouldn't be pleasant.
- A street of light will screem, the black chariot of the Serpente will flayme, and a Queene wille sing quickfilveres songes no moar.
- It would take a lot to faze a copper from the Met.
It would take, for example, a huge, battered car that was nothing more nor less than a fireball, a blazing, roaring, twisted metal lemon from Hell, driven by a grinning lunatic in sunglasses, sitting amid the flames, trailing thick black smoke, coming straight at them through the lashing rain and the wind at eighty miles per hour.
That would do it every time.
- Adam opened his mouth and screamed. It was a sound that a merely mortal throat should not have been able to utter; it wound out of the quarry, mingled with the storm, caused the clouds to curdle into new and unpleasant shapes.
It went on and on.
It resounded around the universe, which is a good deal smaller than physicists would believe. It rattled the celestial spheres.
It spoke of loss, and it did not stop for a very long time.
- Pepper? Wensley? Brian? Come back here. It's all right. It's all right. I know everything now. And you've got to help me. Otherwise it's all goin' to happen. It's really all goin' to happen. It's all goin' to happen, if we don't do somethin'.
- "You've got to help me sort it out," said Adam. "People've been tryin' to sort it out for thousands of years, but we've got to sort it out now."
- No one paid any attention to them. Perhaps they saw nothing at all. Perhaps they saw what their minds were instructed to see, because the human brain is not equipped to see War, Famine, Pollution, and Death when they don't want to be seen, and has got so good at not seeing that it often manages not to see them even when they abound on every side.
- "Hey," he said, but much more weakly this time, "did any of them kids have some space alien with a face like a friendly turd in a bike basket?"
- Adam glanced up. In one sense there was just clear air overhead. In another, stretching off to infinity, were the hosts of Heaven and Hell, wingtip to wingtip. If you looked really closely, and had been specially trained, you could tell the difference.
- You just had to decide who your friends really were.
- There was a tearing sound. Death's robe split and his wings unfolded. Angel's wings. But not of feathers. They were wings of night, wings that were shapes cut through the matter of creation into the darkness underneath, in which a few distant lights glimmered, lights that may have been stars or may have been something entirely else.
- He is Not that Which He Says he Is
- In bunkers under Novya Zemla men found that the fuses they were frantically trying to pull out came away in their hands at last; in bunkers under Wyoming and Nebraska, men in fatigues stopped screaming and waving guns at one another, and would have had a beer if alcohol had been allowed in missile bases. It wasn't, but they had one anyway.
- Crowley was not used to people identifying him so readily, but Adam stared at him as though Crowley's entire life history was pasted inside the back of his skull and he, Adam, was reading it. For an instant he knew real terror. He'd always thought the sort he'd felt before was the genuine article, but that was mere abject fear beside this new sensation. Those Below could make you cease to exist by, well, hurting you in unbearable amounts, but this boy could not only make you cease to exist merely by thinking about it, but probably could arrange matters so that you never had existed at all.
- You think wars get started because some old duke gets shot, or someone cuts off someone's ear, or someone's sited their missiles in the wrong place. It's not like that. That's just, well, just reasons, which haven't got anything to do with it. What really causes wars is two sides that can't stand the sight of one another and the pressure builds up and up and then anything will cause it. Anything at all.
- "I don't see what's so t'riffic about creating people as people and then gettin' upset 'cos they act like people," said Adam severely. "Anyway, if you stopped tellin' people it's all sorted out after they're dead, they might try sorting it all out while they're alive.
- "But you can't just leave it at that!" said Anathema, pushing forward. "Think of all things you could do! Good things!"
"Like what?" said Adam suspiciously.
"Well ... you could bring all the whales back, to start with."
He put his head on one side. "An' that'd stop people killing them, would it?"
She hesitated. It would have been nice to say yes.
"An' if people do start killing 'em, what would you have me do about 'em?" said Adam. "No. I reckon I'm getting the hang of this now. Once I start messing around like that, there'd be no stoppin' it. Seems to me, the only sensible thing is for people to know if they kill a whale, they've got a dead whale."
- You can't be certain that what's happening right now isn't exactly right, from an ineffable point of view.
- "God does not play games with His loyal servants," said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.
"Whooo-eee," said Crowley. "Where have you been?"
- "We seem to have survived," he said. "Just imagine how terrible it might have been if we'd been at all competent."
- "That's not Beelzebub!" he shouted, above the noise of the wind. "That's Him. His Father! This isn't Armageddon, this is personal."
- Crowley started to argue, and realized that he hadn't anything. There was nothing he could lose that he hadn't lost already. They couldn't do anything worse to him than he had coming to him already. He felt free at last.
He also felt under the seat and found a tire iron. It wouldn't be any good, but then, nothing would. In fact it'd be much more terrible facing the Adversary with anything like a decent weapon. That way you might have a bit of hope, which would make it worse.
- "I'd just like to say," he said, "if we don't get out of this, that . . . I'll have known, deep down inside, that there was a spark of goodness in you."
"That's right," said Crowley bitterly. "Make my day."
- Maybe it's all part of a great big ineffable plan. All of it. You, me, him, everything. Some great big test to see if what you've built all works properly, eh? You start thinking: it can't be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire. And don't bother to answer. If we could understand, we wouldn't be us. Because it's all — all — "
INEFFABLE, said the figure feeding the ducks.
- Nothin' wrong with witchfinding. I'd like to be a witchfinder. It's just, well you've got to take it in turns. Today we'll go out witchfinding, an' tomorrow we could hide, an it'd be the witches' turn to find US...
- There would be other summers, but there would never be one like this. Ever again.
Better make the most of it, then.
- For a fraction of an instant Adam saw, outlined in the smoke, a handsome, female face. A face that hadn't been seen on Earth for over three hundred years.
Agnes Nutter winked at him.