I was lucky enough to meet Terry Pratchett on three occasions, and each time he greeted me like an old friend, as though we were picking up a conversation we'd left behind on our previous visit. In reality I was just one of many, many people who had queued to spend a moment with the man who wrote some of the greatest books that had ever been published.
He was gracious and friendly and pleasant, adding messages and pressing ink stamps of Discworld characters onto books as he chatted with everyone. I remember one evening seeing him with a bag of frozen peas at the ready to soothe his aching hand after signing for so many people.
The true depth that his work worked its way into our lives has only really become apparent for many people since news broke that he has passed away at the age of 66. The stories, the characters, the style, the humour, the satire, all of those things have now crystallized in our minds once again. The books are wonderful, and his legendary status was further cemented by his fascinating nature in conversation, his love for Orang-utans, his wit, his honesty regarding his fight against Alzheimer's disease and his will to carry on.
His loss has hit me harder than it probably should have. I may have spent a few brief moments with him, but I didn't know him. I just admired and enjoyed. I was just another fan, but he made everyone he met feel like the most important person there. With his passing we have lost a treasure of a man, a cherished mind and personality.
But we haven't. Not really.
Here, let me explain with my own brief tribute.
News travelled fast. Very fast. “The End,” the final tweet had said. The news sites picked up the moment quickly. He had gone. People began to hear the news right around the world that a life had been cut short, a wonderful mind had succumbed to ill health. A man that many saw as an inspiration, an entertainer, a genius, had gone.
Across the world there was mourning. Across the world there were stories shared of what his creations had meant to people, the things his unique vision had brought into the lives of millions.
Around the world, hands reached up to shelves and pulled out well-worn paperbacks and hardbacks. Favourites that had been there throughout entire lives.
Around the world, the sound of pages rose, turning with the world, rising like a whispering wave. Inside that sound, between those turning pages, there was the sound of laughter, the sound of adventure, the sound of wizards and witches and idiots and heroes and more idiots and a rather hairy Librarian, the sounds of people who lived in a carpet, the sound of real society being pointed at, the sound of years of stories being rediscovered, remembered, relived.
The pages continued to turn, and as the legend of those stories was ignited anew, they would continue to turn for generations to come. In the sound of pages, between those adventures and gasps and snorts and explosions and chases and schemes, deeper, between those wonderful things, a softer sound was there.
In the sound of pages, the great man breathed again.