Azhural let the paper drop to the ground. 'To a place called Ankh-Morpork,' he said despondently. He sighed. 'It would have been nice,' he said.
M'Bu scratched his head and stared at the hammerhead clouds massing over Mt F'twangi. Soon the dry veldt would boom to the thunder of the rains.
Then he reached down and picked up the stick.
'What're you doing?' said Azhural.
'Drawing a map, boss,' said M'Bu.
Azhural shook his head. 'Not worth it, boy. Three thousand miles to Ankh, I reckon, I let myself get carried away. Too many miles, not enough elephants.'
'We could go across the plains, boss,' said M'Bu. 'Lot of elephants on the plains. Send messengers ahead. We could pick up plenty more elephants on the way, no problem. That whole plain just about covered in damn elephants.'
'No, we'd have to go around on the coast,' said the dealer, drawing a long curving line in the sand. 'The reason being, there's the jungle just here,' he tapped on the parched ground, 'and here,' he tapped again, slightly concussing an emerging locust that had optimistically mistaken the first tap for the onset of the rains. 'No roads in the jungle.'
M'Bu took the stick and drew a straight line through the jungle.
'Where a thousand elephants want to go, boss, they don't need no roads.'
Azhural considered this. Then he took the stick and drew a jagged line by the jungle.
'But here's the Mountains of the Sun,' he said. 'Very high. Lots of deep ravines. And no bridges.'
M'Bu took the stick, indicated the jungle, and grinned.
'I know where there's a lot of prime timber just been uprooted, boss,' he said.
'Yeah? OK, boy, but we've still got to get it into the mountains.'
'It just so happen that a t'ousand real strong elephants'll be goin' that way, boss.'
M'Bu grinned again. His tribe went in for sharpening their teeth to points. He handed back the stick.
Azhural's mouth opened slowly.
'By the seven moons of Nasreem,' he breathed. 'We could do it, you know. It's only, oh, thirteen or fourteen hundred miles that way. Maybe less, even. Yeah. We could really do it.'
'Y'know, I've always wanted to do something big with my life. Something real,' said Azhural. 'I mean, an ostrich here, a giraffe there . . . it's not the sort of thing you get remembered for . . . ' He stared at the purple-grey horizon. 'We could do it, couldn't we?' he said.
'Right over the mountains!'
If you looked really hard, you could just see that the purple-grey was topped with white.
'They're pretty high mountains,' said Azhural, his voice now edged with doubt.
'Slope go up, slope go down,' said M'Bu gnomically.
'That's true,' said Azhural. 'Like, on average, it's flat all the way.'
He gazed at the mountains again.
'A thousand elephants,' he muttered. 'D'you know, boy, when they built the Tomb of King Leonid of Ephebe they used a hundred elephants to cart the stone? And two hundred elephants, history tells us, were employed in the building of the palace of the Rhoxie in Klatch city.'
Thunder rumbled in the distance.
'A thousand elephants,' Azhural repeated. 'A thousand elephants. I wonder what they want them for?'
The rest of the day passed in a trance for Victor.
There was more galloping and fighting, and more rearranging of time. Victor still found that hard to understand. Apparently the film could be cut up and then stuck together again later, so that things happened in the right order. And some things didn't have to happen at all. He saw the artist draw one card which said 'In thee Kinges' Palace, One Houre Latre.'
One hour of Time had been vanished, just like that. Of course, he knew that it hadn't really been surgically removed from his life. It was the sort of thing that happened all the time in books. And on the stage, too. He'd seen a group of strolling players once, and the performance had leapt magically from 'A Battlefield in Tsort' to 'The Ephebian Fortresse, That Nighte' with no more than a brief descent of the sackcloth curtain and a lot of muffled bumping and cursing as the scenery was changed.
But this was different. Ten minutes after doing a scene, you'd do another scene that was taking place the day before, somewhere else, because Dibbler had rented the tents for both scenes and didn't want to have to pay any more rent than necessary. You just had to try and forget about everything but Now, and that was hard when you were also waiting every moment for that fading sensation . . .
It didn't come. Just after another half-hearted fight scene Dibbler announced that it was all finished.
'Aren't we going to do the ending?' said Ginger.
'You did that this morning,' said Soll.
There was a chattering noise as the demons were let out of their box and sat swinging their little legs on the edge of the lid and passing a tiny cigarette from hand to hand. The extras queued up for their wages. The camel kicked the Vice-President in Charge of Camels. The handlemen wound the great reels of film out of the boxes and went away to whatever arcane cutting and gluing the handlemen got up to in the hours of darkness. Mrs Cosmopilite, Vice-President in Charge of Wardrobe, gathered up the costumes and toddled off, possibly to put them back on the beds.
A few acres of scrubby backlot stopped being the rolling dunes of the Great Nef and went back to being scrubby backlot again. Victor felt that much the same thing was happening to him.
In ones and twos, the makers of moving-picture magic departed, laughing and joking and arranging to meet at Borgle's later on.
Ginger and Victor were left alone in a widening circle of emptiness.
'I felt like this the first time the circus went away,' said Ginger.
'Mr Dibbler said we were going to do another one tomorrow,' said Victor. 'I'm sure he just makes them up as he goes along. Still, we got ten dollars each. Minus what we owe Gaspode,' he added conscientiously. He grinned foolishly at her. 'Cheer up,' he said. 'You're doing what you've always wanted to do.'
'Don't be stupid. I didn't even know about moving pictures a couple of months ago. There weren't any.'
They strolled aimlessly towards the town.
'What did you want to be?' he ventured.
She shrugged. 'I didn't know. I just knew I didn't want to be a milkmaid.'
There had been milkmaids at home. Victor tried to recollect anything about them. 'It always looked quite an interesting job to me, milkmaiding,' he said vaguely. 'Buttercups, you know. And fresh air.'
'It's cold and wet and just as you've finished the bloody cow kicks the bucket over. Don't tell me about milking. Or being a shepherdess. Or a goosegirl. I really hated our farm.'
'And they expected me to marry my cousin when I was fifteen.'
'Is that allowed?'
'Oh, yes. Everyone marries their cousins where I come from.'
'Why?' said Victor.
'I suppose it saves having to worry about what to do on Saturday nights.'
'Didn't you want to be anything?' said Ginger, putting a whole sentence-worth of disdain in a mere three letters.
'Not really,' said Victor. 'Everything looks interesting until you do it. Then you find it's just another job. I bet even people like Cohen the Barbarian get up in the morning thinking, “Oh, no, not another day of crushing the jewelled thrones of the world beneath my sandalled feet.”'
'Is that what he does?' said Ginger, interested despite herself.
'According to the stories, yes.'
'Search me. It's just a job, I guess.'
Ginger picked up a handful of sand. There were tiny white shells in it, which stayed behind as it trickled away between her fingers.
'I remember when the circus came to our village,' she said. 'I was ten. There was this girl with spangled tights. She walked a tightrope. She could even do somersaults on it. Everybody cheered and clapped. They wouldn't let me climb a tree, but they cheered her. That's when I decided.'
'Ah,' said Victor, trying to keep up with the psychology of this. 'You decided you wanted to be someone?'
'Don't be silly. That's when I decided I was going to be a lot more than just someone.'
She threw the shells towards the sunset and laughed. 'I'm going to be the most famous person in the world, everyone will fall in love with me, and I shall live forever.'
'It's always best to know your own mind,' said Victor diplomatically.
'You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?' said Ginger, not paying him the least attention. 'It's all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they're really good at. It's all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. It's all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad ploughmen instead. It's all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when it's even possible to find out.'
She took a deep breath. 'It's all the people who never get to know what it is they can really be. It's all the wasted chances. Well, Holy Wood is my chance, do you understand? This is my time for getting!'
Victor nodded. 'Yes,' he said. Magic for ordinary people, Silverfish had called it. A man turned a handle, and your life got changed.
'And not just for me,' Ginger went on. 'It's a chance for all of us. The people who aren't wizards and kings and heroes. Holy Wood's like a big bubbling stew but this time different ingredients float to the top. Suddenly there's all these new things for people to do. Do you know the theatres don't allow women to act? But Holy Wood does. And in Holy Wood there's jobs for trolls that don't just involve hitting people. And what did the handlemen do before they had handles to turn?'
She waved a hand vaguely in the direction of Ankh-Morpork's distant glow.
'Now they're trying to find ways of adding sound to moving pictures,' she said, 'and out there are people who'll turn out to be amazingly good at making, making . . . making soundies. They don't even know it yet - but they're out there. I can feel them. They're out there.'
Her eyes were glowing gold. It might just be the sunset, Victor thought, but . . .
'Because of Holy Wood, hundreds of people are finding out what it is they really want to be,' said Ginger. 'And thousands and thousands are getting a chance to forget themselves for an hour or so. This whole damn world is being given a shake!'
'That's it,' said Victor. 'That's what worries me. It's as though we're being slotted in. You think we're using Holy Wood, but Holy Wood is using us. All of us.' 'How? Why?' 'I don't know, but-'
'Look at wizards,' Ginger went on, vibrating with indignation. 'What good has their magic ever done anyone?'
'I think it sort of holds the world together-' Victor began.
'They're pretty good at magic flames and things, but can they make a loaf of bread?' Ginger wasn't in the mood for listening to anyone. 'Not for very long,' said Victor helplessly. 'What does that mean?'
'Something real like a loaf of bread contains a lot of . . . well . . . I suppose you'd call it energy,' said Victor. 'It takes a massive amount of power to create that amount of energy. You'd have to be a pretty good wizard to make a loaf that'd last in this world for more than a tiny part of a second. But that's not what magic is really about, you see,' he added quickly, 'because this world is-'
'Who cares?' said Ginger. 'Holy Wood's really doing things for ordinary people. Silver screen magic.' 'What's come over you? Last night-'
'That was then,' said Ginger impatiently. 'Don't you see? We could be going somewhere. We could be becoming someone. Because of Holy Wood. The world is our-'