It stood upright, ten feet tall, rested its hands on the hilt of the sword, and halted. It didn't look very much different from its posture on the slab, but this time there was an air of alertness about it, a sense of huge energies idly ticking over. It paid no attention at all to the four who had awoken it.
The screen stopped its wild pulsating. Something had sensed the presence of the golden man and was focusing its attention on him. Which meant that it was temporarily removing it from elsewhere.
There was a stirring from the audience. They were waking up.
Victor grabbed the Librarian and Detritus.
'You two,' he said. 'Get everyone out of here. Get them out of here fast.'
The Holy Wood people didn't need much encouragement. Seeing the shapes on the screen clearly, without the cushion of hypnosis, was enough to make anything brainier than Detritus have a sudden urge to be a long way away. Victor could see them struggling over the seats, fighting to escape from the pit.
Ginger started to follow them. Victor stopped her.
'Not yet,' he said, quietly. 'Not us.'
'What do you mean?' she demanded.
He shook his head. 'We have to be the last ones out,' he said. 'It's all part of Holy Wood. You can use the magic, but it uses you, too. Besides, don't you want to see how it all ends?'
'I had rather hoped to see how it all ends from a long way off.'
'OK, look at it another way . . . it's going to take a couple of minutes for them to get out. We might as well have a clear run at it, eh?'
They could hear shouts in the ante-chamber as the former audience piled into the tunnel.
Victor walked up the suddenly-deserted aisle to the back row and sat down in a vacated seat.
'I hope old Detritus is bright enough not to be left holding up the ceiling again,' he said.
Ginger sighed, and sat down next to him.
Victor put his feet up on the seat in front of him and fumbled in his pockets.
'Would you like', he said, 'some banged grains?'
The golden man was just visible under the screen. His head was bowed.
'You know, he does look like my Uncle Oswald,' said Ginger.
The screen went dark with such suddenness the inrushing blackness almost made a noise.
This must have happened many times before, Victor thought. In dozens of universes. The wild idea arrives, and somehow the golden man, the Oswald or whatever, arises. To control it. Or something. Maybe wherever Holy Wood goes, Osric follows.
A point of purple light appeared, and grew faster very quickly. Victor felt that he was dropping down a tunnel.
The golden figure raised its head.
The light twisted, and took on random features. The screen wasn't there any more. This was something entering the world. It wasn't an image at the other end of the hall, but something frantically trying to exist.
The golden man drew back his sword.
Victor shook Ginger's shoulder.
'I think this is where we leave,' he said.
.The sword connected. Golden light filled the cave.
Victor and Ginger were already racing down the steps of the antechamber when the first shock hit. They stared at the tunnel's empty mouth.
'Not on your life,' said Ginger. 'I'm not going to be trapped in there again.'
The flooded stairs lay in front of them. Of course, they must connect to the sea, and really it was only a few yards away, but the water was inky black and, in Gaspode's word, boding.
'Can you swim?' said Victor. One of the cavern's rotting pillars crashed down behind them. From the pit itself came a terrible wailing.
'Not very well,' said Ginger.
'Me neither,' he said. The commotion behind them was getting worse.
'Still,' he said, taking her hand. 'We could look on this as a great opportunity to improve really quickly.'
Victor surfaced fifty yards offshore, lungs bursting. Ginger erupted a few feet away. They trod water, and watched.
The earth trembled.
Holy Wood Town, built of unseasoned wood and short nails, was shaking apart. Houses folded down on themselves slowly, like packs of cards. Here and there small explosions indicated that stores of octo-cellulose were involved. Canvas cities and plaster mountains slid into ruin.
And between it all, dodging the falling timber but letting nothing else stand in their way, the people of Holy Wood ran for their lives. Handlemen, actors, alchemists, imps, trolls, dwarfs - they ran like ants whose heap is ablaze, heads down, legs pumping, eyes fixed furiously on the horizon.
A whole section of hill caved in.
For a moment Victor thought he saw the huge golden figure of Osbert, as insubstantial as dust motes in a shaft of light, rise over Holy Wood and bring its sword around in one all-embracing sweep.
Then it was gone.
Victor helped Ginger ashore.
They reached the main street, silent now except for the occasional creak and thud as another plank dropped off the half-collapsed buildings.
They picked their way over fallen scenery and broken picture boxes.
There was a crash behind them as the 'Century of the Fruitbat' sign slipped off its moorings and thudded on the sand.
They passed the remains of Borgle's commissary, whose destruction had increased the average food quality of the entire world by a small but significant amount.
They waded through unreeled clicks, flapping in the wind.
They climbed over broken dreams.
At the edge of what had been Holy Wood, Victor turned and looked back once.
'Well, they were right at last,' he said. 'You'll never work in this town again.'
There was a sob. To his surprise, Ginger was crying.
He put his arm around her.
'Come on,' he said. 'I'll walk you home.'
Holy Wood's own magic, now rootless and fading, crackled across the landscape, looking for pathways to earth itself.
Click . . .
It was early evening. The reddened light of the setting sun filled the windows of Harga's House of Ribs, which was nearly deserted at this time of day.
Detritus and Ruby sat awkwardly on human-size chairs.
The only other person around was Sham Harp himself,
smearing the dirt more evenly around the vacant tables with a cloth and whistling vaguely.
'Ur,' Detritus ventured.
'Yes?' said Ruby, expectantly.
'Ur. Nuffin,' said Detritus. He felt out of place here, but Ruby had insisted. He kept feeling she wanted him to say something, but all he could think of was hitting her with a brick.
Harga stopped whistling.
Detritus felt his head twist around. His mouth opened.
'Play it again, Sham,' said Holy Wood.
There was a crashing chord. The back wall of the House of Ribs moved aside into whatever dimension these things go, and an indistinct but unmistakable orchestra occupied the space normally filled by Harp's kitchen and the noisome alley behind it.
Ruby's dress became a waterfall of sequins. The other tables whirled away.
Detritus adjusted an unexpected tuxedo, and cleared his throat.
'Dere may being trouble ahead-' he began, the words flowing straight from somewhere else into his vocal chords.
He took Ruby's hand. A gold-tipped cane hit his left ear. A black silk hat materialized at high speed and bounced off his elbow. He ignored them.
'But while dere moonlight, an' music-'
He faltered. The golden words were fading. The walls came back. The tables reappeared. The sequins flared and died.
'Um,' said Detritus, suddenly.
She was watching him intently.
'Ur. Sorry,' he said. 'Dunno what come over me, there.'
Harga strode up to the table.
'What was all that-' he began. Without shifting her gaze, Ruby shot out a treetrunk arm, spun him around, and pushed him through the wall.
'Kiss me, you mad fool,' she said.
Detritus' brow wrinkled. 'What?' he said.
Ruby sighed. Well, so much for the human way.
She picked up a chair and hit him scientifically over the head with it. A smile spread across his face, and he slumped forwards.
She picked him up easily and slung him over her shoulder. If Ruby had learned anything in Holy Wood, it was that there was no use in waiting around for Mr Right to hit you with a brick. You had to make your own bricks.
Click . . .
In a dwarf mine miles and miles from the loam of Ankh-Morpork, a very angry overseer banged on his shovel for silence and spoke thusly:
'I want to make this absolutely clear, right? One more, and I really mean it, one more, right? just one more Hihohiho out of you bloody lawn ornaments and it's double-headed axe time, OK? We're dwarfs, godsdammit. So act like them. And that includes you, Dozy!'
Click . . .
Make-my-day, Call-me-Mr-Thumpy hopped to the top of the dune and peered over. Then he slid back down again.
'All clear,' he reported. ,'No humans. Just ruins.'
'A playshe of our own,' said -the cat, happily. 'A playshe where all animals, regardlesh of shape or speciesh, can live together in perfect-'
The duck quacked. ,
'The duck says', said Call-me-Mr-Thumpy-and-die, 'it's got to be worth a try. If we're going to be sapient, we might as well get good at it. Come on.'
Then he shivered. There had been something like a faint tang of static electricity. For a moment the little area in the sand dunes wavered as in a heat haze.
The duck quacked again.
Not-Mr-Thumpy wrinkled his nose. It was suddenly hard to concentrate.
'The duck says,' he wavered, 'the duck says . . . says . . . the duck . . . says . . . says . . . quack . . . ?'
The cat looked at the mouse.
'Miaow?' it said.
The mouse shrugged. 'Squeak,' it commented.
The rabbit wrinkled its nose uncertainly.
The duck squinted at the cat. The cat stared at the rabbit. The mouse peered at the duck.
The duck rocketed upwards. The rabbit became a fastdisappearing cloud of sand. The mouse tore over the dunes. And, feeling a lot happier than it had done for weeks, the cat ran after it.
Click . . .
Ginger and Victor sat at a table in the corner of the Mended Drum. Eventually Ginger said: 'They were good dogs.'
'Yes,' said Victor, distantly.
'Morry and Rock have been digging through the rubble for ages. They said there's all kind of cellars and things down there. I'm sorry.'
'Maybe we ought to put up a statue to them, or something.'
'I'm not sure about that,' said Victor. 'I mean, considering what dogs do to statues. Maybe dogs dying is all part of Holy Wood. I don't know.'
Ginger traced the outline of a knothole on the tabletop.
'It's all over now,' she said. 'You do know that, don't you? No more Holy Wood. It's all over.'
'The Patrician and the wizards won't let anyone make any more clicks. The Patrician was very definite about it.'
'I don't think anyone wants to make any,' said Victor. 'Who's going to remember Holy Wood now?'
'What do you mean?'
'Those old priests built a kind of half-baked religion around it. They forgot all about what it really was. That didn't matter, though. I don't think you need chants and fires. You just need to remember Holy Wood. We need someone to remember Holy Wood really well.'
'Yeah,' said Ginger, grinning. 'You'd need a thousand
'Yeah.' Victor laughed. 'Poor old Dibbler,' he said. 'He never got them, either . . . '
Ginger moved a fragment of potato round and round on her plate. There was something on her mind, and it wasn't food.
'But it was great, wasn't it?' she burst out. 'We had something really amazing, didn't we?'
'People really thought it was good, didn't they?'
'Oh, yes,' said Victor sombrely.
'I mean, didn't we bring something really great into the world?'