The Dean ticked off his purchases. 'Now,' he said, 'that's six Patrician-sized tubs of banged grains with extra butter, eight sausages in a bun, a jumbo cup of fizzy drink, and a bag of chocolate-covered raisins.' He handed over the money.

'Right,' said the Chair, gathering up the containers. 'Er. Do you think we should get something for the others?'


In the picture-throwing room Bezam cursed as he threaded the huge reel of Blown Away into the picture-throwing box.

A few feet away, in a roped-off section of the balcony, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Vetinari, was also ill at ease.

They were, he had to admit, a pleasant enough young couple. He just wasn't sure why he was sitting next to them, and why they were so important.

He was used to important people, or at least to people who thought they were important. Wizards became important through high deeds of magic. Thieves became important for daring robberies and so, in a slightly different way, did merchants. Warriors became important through winning battles and staying alive. Assassins became important through skilful inhumations. There were many roads to prominence, but you could see them, you could work them out. They made some sort of sense.

Whereas these two people had merely moved interestingly in front of this new-fangled moving-picture machinery. The rankest actor in the city's theatre was a mufti-skilled master of thespianism by comparison to them, but it wouldn't occur to anyone to line the streets and shout out his name.

The Patrician had never visited the clicks before. As far as he could ascertain, Victor Maraschino was famous for a sort of smouldering look that had middle-aged ladies who should know better swooning in the aisles, and Miss De Syn's forte was acting languidly, slapping faces, and looking fantastic while lying among silken cushions.

While he, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, ruled the city, preserved the city, loved the city, hated the city and had spent a lifetime in the service of the city . . .

And, as the common people had been filing into the stalls, his razor-keen hearing had picked up the conversation of two of them:

'Who's that up there?'

-- Advertisement --

'That's Victor Maraschino and Delores De Syn! Do you know nothing?'

'I mean the tall guy in black.'

'Oh, dunno who he is. Just some bigwig, I expect.'

Yes, it was fascinating. You could become famous just for being, well, famous. It occurred to him that this was an extremely dangerous thing and he might probably have to have someone killed one day, although it would be with reluctance.[26] In the meantime, there was a kind of secondary glory that came from being in the company of the truly celebrated, and to his astonishment he was enjoying it.

Besides he was also sitting next to Miss del Syn, and the envy of the rest of the audience was so palpable he could taste it, which was more than he could do with the bagful of fluffy white starchy things he'd been given to eat.

On his other side, the horrible Dibbler man was explaining the mechanics of moving pictures in the utterly mistaken belief that the Patrician was listening to a word of it.

There was a sudden roar of applause.

The Patrician leaned sideways to Dibbler.

'Why are all the lamps being turned down?' he said.

'Ah, sir,' said Dibbler, 'that is so you can see the pictures better.'

'Is it? One would imagine it would make the pictures harder to see,' said the Patrician.

'It's not like that with the moving pictures, sir,' said Dibbler.

'How very fascinating.'

The Patrician leaned the other way, to Ginger and Victor. To his mild surprise they were looking extremely tense. He'd noticed that as soon as they had walked into the Odium. The boy looked at all the ridiculous ornamentation as if it was something dreadful, and when the girl had stepped into the pit proper he'd heard her gasp.

They looked as though they were in shock.

'I expect this is all perfectly commonplace to you,' he said.

'No,' said Victor. 'Not really. We've never been in a proper picture pit before.'

'Except once,' said Ginger grimly.

'Yes. Except once.'

'But, ah, you make moving pictures,' said the Patrician kindly.

'Yes, but we never see them. We just see bits of them, when the handlemen are gluing it all together. The only clicks I've ever seen were on an old sheet outdoors,' said Victor.

'So this is all new to you?' said the Patrician.

'Not exactly,' said Victor, grey-faced.

'Fascinating,' said the Patrician, and went back to not listening to Dibbler. He had not got where he was today by bothering how things worked. It was how people worked that intrigued him.

Further along the row Soll leaned across to his uncle and dropped a small coil of film in his lap.

'This belongs to you,' he said sweetly.

'What is it?' said Dibbler.

'Well I thought I'd have a quick look at the click before it got shown-'

'You did?' said Dibbler.

'And what did I find, in the middle of the burning city scene, but five minutes showing nothing but a plate of spare ribs in Harga's Special Peanut Sauce. I know why, of course. I just want to know why this.'

Dibbler grinned guiltily. 'The way I see it,' he said, 'if one little quick picture can make people want to go and buy things, just think what five minutes' worth could do.'

Soll stared at him. .

'I'm really hurt by this,' said Dibbler. 'You didn't trust me. Your own uncle. After I gave you my solemn promise not to try anything again, you didn't trust me? That wounds me, Soll. I'm really wounded. Whatever happened to integrity round here?'

'I think you probably sold it to someone, Uncle.'

'I'm really hurt,' said Dibbler.

'But you didn't keep your promise, Uncle.'

'That's got nothing to do with it. That's just business. We're talking family here. You got to learn to trust family, Soll. Especially me.'

Soll shrugged. 'OK. OK.'


'Yes, Uncle.' Soll grinned. 'You've got my solemn promise on that.'

'That's my boy.'

At the other end of the row, Victor and Ginger were staring at the blank screen in sullen horror.

'You know what's going to happen now, don't you,' said Ginger.

'Yes. Someone's going to start playing music out of a hole in the floor.'

'Was that cave really a picture pit?'

'Sort of, I think,' said Victor, carefully.

'But the screen here is just a screen. It's not . . . well, it's just a screen. Just a better class of sheet. It's not -'

There There was a blast of sound from the front of the hall. With a clanking and the hiss of desperately escaping air, Bezam's daughter Calliope rose slowly out of the floor, attacking the keys on a small organ with all the verve of several hours' practice and the combined efforts of two strong trolls working the bellows behind the scenes. She was a beefy young woman and, whatever piece of music she was playing, it was definitely losing.

Down in the stalls, the Dean passed a bag along to the Chair.

'Have a chocolate-covered raisin,' he said.

'They look like rat droppings,' said the Chair.

The Dean peered at them in the gloom.

'So that's it,' he said. 'The bag fell on the floor a minute ago, and I thought there seemed rather a lot.'

'Shsss!' said a woman in the row behind. Windle Poons' scrawny head turned like a magnet.

'Hoochie koochie!' he cackled. 'Twopence more and up goes the donkey!'

The lights went down further. The screen flickered. Numbers appeared and blinked briefly, counting down.

Calliope peered intently at the score in front of her, rolled up her sleeves, pushed her hair out of her eyes, and launched a spirited attack on what was just discernible as the old Ankh-Morporkian civic anthem.[27]

The lights went out.

The sky flickered. It wasn't like proper fog at all. It shed a silvery, slatey light, flickering internally like a cross between the Aurora Coriolis and summer lightning.

In the direction of Holy Wood the sky blazed with light. It was visible even in the alley behind Sham Harga's House of Ribs, where two dogs were enjoying the All-You-Can-Drag-Out-Of-The-Midden-For-Free Special.

Laddie looked up and growled.

'I don't blame you,' said Gaspode. 'I said it boded. Didn't I say there was boding happening?'

Sparks crackled off his fur.

'Come on,' he said. 'We'd better warn people. You're good at that.'

Clickaclickaclicka . . .

It was the only noise inside the Odium. Calliope had stopped playing and was staring up at the screen.

Mouths hung open, and closed only to bite on handfuls of banged grains.

Victor was dimly aware that he'd fought it. He'd tried to look away. Even now, a little voice in his own head was telling him that things were wrong, but he ignored it. Things were clearly right. He'd shared in the sighs as the heroine tried to preserve the old family mine in a Worlde Gonne Madde . . . He'd shuddered at the fighting in the war. He'd watched the ballroom scene in a romantic haze. He . . .

. . . was aware of a cold sensation against his leg. It was as though a half-melted ice cube was soaking through his trousers. He tried to ignore it, but it had a definite unignorable quality.

He looked down.

' 'Scuse me,' said Gaspode.

Victor's eyes focused. Then his eyes found themselves being dragged back to the screen, where a huge version of himself was kissing a huge version of Ginger.

There was another feeling of sticky coldness. He surfaced again.

'I can bite your leg if you like,' said Gaspode.

'I, er, I-' Victor began.

'I can bite it quite hard,' Gaspode added. 'Just say the word.'

'No, er-'

'Something's boding, just like I said. Bode, bode, bode. Laddie's tried barkin' until he's hoarse and no-one's listenin'. So I fort I'd try the old cold nose technique. Never fails.'

Victor looked around him. The rest of the audience were staring at the screen as if they were prepared to remain in their seats for . . . for . . .

. . . forever.

When he lifted up his arms from his seat, sparks crackled from his fingers, and there was a greasy feel to the air that even student wizards soon learned to associate with a vast accumulation of magical potential. And there was fog in the pit. It was ridiculous, but there it was, covering the floor like a pale silver tide.

He shook Ginger's shoulder. He waved a hand in front of her eyes. He shouted in her ear.

Then he tried the Patrician, and Dibbler. They yielded to pressure but swayed gently back into position again.

'The film's doing something to them,' he said. 'It must be the film. But I can't see how. It's a perfectly ordinary film. We don't use magic in Holy Wood. At least . . . not normal magic . . . '

He struggled over unyielding knees until he reached the aisle, and ran up it through the tendrils of fog. He hammered on the door of the picture-throwing room. When that got no answer he kicked it down.

Bezam was staring intently at the screen through a small square hole cut in the wall. The picture-thrower was clicking away happily by itself. No-one was turning the handle. At least, Victor corrected himself, no-one he could see.

There was a distant rumble, and the ground shook.

He stared at the screen. He recognized this bit. It was just before the Burning of Ankh-Morpork scene.

His mind raced. What was it they said about the gods? They wouldn't exist if there weren't people to believe in them? And that applied to everything. Reality was what went on inside people's heads. And in front of him were hundreds of people really believing what they were seeing . . .

Victor scrabbled among the rubbish on Bezam's bench for some scissors or a knife, and found neither. The machine whirred on, winding reality from the future to the past.

-- Advertisement --