'I didn't mean that. Being a screen goddess isn't all it's cracked up to be, you know,' said Ginger.
Ginger sighed. 'No more Holy Wood magic,' she said.
'I think there may be some left,' said Victor.
'Just drifting around. Finding ways to use itself up, I expect.'
Ginger stared at her glass. 'What are you going to do now?' she said.
'Don't know. How about you?'
'Go back to the farm, maybe.'
'Holy Wood was my chance, you see? There aren't many jobs for women in Ankh-Morpork. At least,' she added, 'none that I'd care to do. I've had three offers of marriage. From quite important men.'
'Have you? Why?'
She frowned. 'Hey, I'm not that unattractive-'
'I didn't mean it like that,' said Victor hurriedly.
'Oh, I suppose if you're a powerful merchant it's nice to have a famous wife. It's like owning jewellery.' She looked down. 'Mrs Cosmopilite says can she have one of the ones I don't want. I said she could have all three.'
'I've always been that way about choices myself,' said 'victor, cheering up.
'Have you? If that's all the choice there is, I'm not choosing. What can you be, after you've been yourself, as big as possible?'
'Nothing,' said Victor.
'No-one knows what it feels like.'
Ginger grinned. It was the first time Victor had ever seen her face shorn of petulance, anger, worry or Holy Wood make-up.
'Cheer up,' she said. 'Tomorrow is another day.'
Click . . .
Sergeant Colon, Ankh-Morpork city watch, was awakened from his peaceful doze in the guardhouse over the main gate by a distant rumbling.
A cloud of dust stretched from horizon to horizon. He watched it thoughtfully for some time. It grew bigger and, eventually, disgorged a dark-skinned young man riding an elephant.
It trotted up the road to the gates and lumbered to a halt at the city wall. The dust cloud, Colon couldn't help noticing, was still on the horizon and still getting bigger.
The boy cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted: 'Can you tell me the way to Holy Wood?'
'There ain't no Holy Wood any more, from what I hear,' said Colon.
The boy appeared to consider this. He looked down at a piece of paper in his hand. Then he said: 'Do you know where I can find Mr C.M.O.T. Dibbler?'
Sgt Colon repeated the initials under his breath.
'You mean Throat?" he said. 'Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler?'
'Is he in?'
Sgt Colon glanced at the city behind him. 'I'll just go and see,' he said. 'Who shall I say wants him?'
'We've got a delivery for him. COD.'
'Cod?' hazarded Colon, glancing at the lowering cloud. 'You're herding fish?'
Huge grey foreheads were becoming visible in the dust. There was also the very distinctive smell you get when a thousand elephants have been foraging for days in cabbage fields:
'Just hang on,' he said. 'I'll go and fetch him.'
Colon pulled his head back into the guardroom and nudged the sleeping form of Corporal Nobbs, currently the other half of the keen-eyed fighting force that was ceaselessly guarding the city.
'You seen .ole Throat this morning, Nobby?'
'Yeah, he was in Easy Street. Bought a Jumbo Sausage Surprise off him.'
'He's back selling sausages?'
'Got to. Lost all his money. What's up?'
'Just take a look outside, will you?' said Colon, in a level voice.
Nobby took a look.
'Looks like - would you say it was a thousand elephants, Sarge?'
'Yeah. About a thousand, I'd say.'
'Thought it looked about a thousand.'
'Man down there says Throat ordered 'em,' said Sergeant Colon.
'Get away? He's going into this Jumbo Sausage thing in a big way, then?'
Their eyes met. Nobby's grin was evil.
'Oh, go on,' he said. 'Let me go and tell him. Please?'
Click . . .
Thomas Silverfish, alchemist and failed click producer, stirred the contents of a crucible and sighed wistfully.
A lot of gold had been left behind in Holy Wood, for anyone who had the nerve to go and dig for it. For those who hadn't, and Silverfish wouldn't hesitate to put himself first among that number, there were the old tried-and-tested or, to put it another way, tried-and-repeatedly-failed methods of wealth production. So now he was back home, picking up where he had left off.
'Any good?' said Peavie, who had dropped in to commiserate.
'Well, it's silvery,' said Silverfish doubtfully. 'And it's sort of metallic. And it's heavier than lead. You have to cook up a ton of ore, too. Funny thing is, I thought I was on to something this time. I really thought that this time we were on the way to a new, clear future . . . '
'What are you going to call it?' said Peavie.
'Oh, I don't know. It's probably not worth naming,' said Silverfish.
'Ankhmorporkery? Silverfishium? Notleadium?' said Peavie.
'Uselessium, more like,' said Silverfish. 'I'm giving up on it and going back to something more sensible.'
Peavie peered into the furnace.
'It doesn't go boom, does it?' he said.
Silverfish gave him a withering look.
'This stuff?' he said. 'Whatever gave you that idea?'
Click . . .
It was pitch dark under the rubble.
It had been pitch dark for a long time.
Gaspode could feel the tons of stone above this little space. You didn't need any special doggy senses for that.
He dragged himself over to where a pillar had smashed down into the cellar.
Laddie raised his head with difficulty, licked Gaspode's face, and managed the faintest of barks.
'Good boy Laddie . . . Good boy Gaspode . . . '
'Good boy Laddie,' Gaspode whispered.
Laddie's tail thumped once or twice on the stones. Then he whimpered for a while, with longer and longer pauses between the sounds.
Then there was a faint noise. Just like bone on stone.
Gaspode's ears twitched. He looked up at the advancing figure, visible even in utter darkness because it Would forever be darker than mere blackness alone could manage.
He pulled himself upright, the hairs rising along his back, and growled.
'Another step and I'll have your leg off and bury it,' he said.
A skeletal hand reached out and tickled him behind the ears.
There was a faint barking from the darkness.
'Good boy Laddie!'
Gaspode, tears pouring down his face, gave Death an apologetic grin.
'Pathetic, isn't it?' he said hoarsely.
I WOULDN'T KNOW. I'VE NEVER BEEN THAT MUCH OF A DOG PERSON, said Death.
'Oh? Come to that, I've never liked the idea of dyin',' said Gaspode. 'We are dyin', ain't we?'
'Not surprised, really. Story of my life, dyin',' said Gaspode. 'It's just that I fought', he added, hopefully, 'that there was a special Death for dogs. A big black dog, maybe' .
No, said Death.
'Funny that,' said Gaspode. 'I heard where every type of animal had its own ghastly dark spectre what come for it at the end. No offence meant,' he added quickly. 'I fought there was this big dog that trots up to you an' says, "OK, Gaspode, your work is done and so forth, lay down your
weary burden, style offing, and follow me to a land flowin' with steak and offal." '
NO. THERE'S JUST ME, said Death. THE FINAL FRONTIER.
'How come I'm seein' you, if I ain't dead yet?'
Gaspode looked alert. 'Am I? Cor.'
'Good boy Laddie!' The barking was louder this time.
Death reached into the mysterious recesses of his robe and produced a small hourglass. There was almost no sand left in the top bulb. The last seconds of Gaspode's life hissed from the future to the past.
And then there were none at all.
Death stood up.
There was a faint noise. It sounded like the audible equivalent of a twinkle.
Golden sparks filled the hourglass.
The sand flowed backwards.
And then, where he had been, there was a triangle of brilliant light.
'Good boy Laddie!'
'There he are! Told you I hear barking!' said the voice of Rock. 'Good boy! Here, boy!'
'Cor, am I glad to see you-' Gaspode began. The trolls clustering around the opening paid him no attention at all. Rock heaved the pillar aside and gently lifted Laddie up.
'Nothing wrong that time won't heal,' he said.
'Can we eat it now?' said a troll above him.
'You defective or something? This one heroic dog!'
'Good boy Laddie!'
Rock handed up the dog and climbed out of the hole.
'-'scuse me-' Gaspode croaked after him.
He heard a distant cheer.
After a while, since there didn't seem to be much of an alternative, he crawled painfully up the sloping pillar and managed to drag himself out on to the rubble.
No-one was around.
He had a drink out of a puddle.
He stood up, testing the injured leg.
And finally, he swore.
'Woof, woof, woof!'
He paused. That wasn't right.
He tried again.
He looked around . . .
. . . and colour drained out of the world, returning it to a state of blessed blacks and whites.
It occurred to Gaspode that Harga would be throwing out the trash around now, and then there was bound to be a warm stable somewhere. And what more did a small dog need?
Somewhere in the distant mountains, wolves were howling. Somewhere in friendly houses, dogs with collars and dishes with their names on were being patted on the head.
Somewhere in between, and feeling oddly cheerful about it, Gaspode the Wonder Dog limped into the gloriously-monochrome sunset.
About thirty miles Turnwise of Ankh-Morpork the surf boomed on the wind-blown, seagrass-waving, sand-dune-covered spit of land where the Circle Sea met the Rim Ocean.
Sea swallows dipped low over the waves. The dried heads of seapoppies clattered in the perpetual breeze, which scoured the sky of clouds and moved the sand around in curious patterns. '
The hill itself was visible for miles. It wasn't very high, but lay amongst the dunes like an upturned boat or a very unlucky whale, and was covered in scrub trees. No rain fell here, if it could possibly avoid ·t.
But the wind blew, and piled the dunes against the dried-out, bleached wood of Holy Wood Town.
It howled its auditions on the deserted backlots.
It tumbled scraps of paper through the crumbling plaster wonders of the world.
It rattled the boards until they fell into the sand and were covered.
The wind sighed around the skeleton of a picturethrowing box, leaning drunkenly on its abandoned tripod.
It caught a trailing scrap of film and wound out the last picture show, snaking the crumbling glistening coils across the sand.
In the picture-thrower's glass eye tiny figures danced jerkily, alive for just a moment . . .
The film broke free and whirled away over the dunes.
Clicka . . . click . . .
The handle swung backwards and forwards for a moment, and then stopped.
Holy Wood dreams.