Moving Pictures
Page 13

 Terry Pratchett

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For the first time in days he felt that he was thinking clearly. That was the strange thing about Holy Wood. When you were there it all seemed natural, it all seemed just what life was all about, but when you got away from it and looked back, it was like looking at a brilliant soap bubble. It was as though, when you were in Holy Wood, you weren't quite the same person.
Well, Holy Wood was Holy Wood, and Ankh was Ankh, and Ankh was solid and proof, in Throat's opinion, against any Holy Wood weirdness.
He splashed through the puddles, listening to the rain.
After a while he noticed, for the first time in his life, that it had a rhythm.
Funny. You could live in a city all your life, and you had to go away and come back again before you noticed the way the rain dripping off the gutters had a rhythm all its own: DUMdi-dim-dim, dumdi-dumdiDUM-DUM . . .
A few minutes later Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs of the Night Watch were sharing a friendly roll-up in the shelter of a doorway and doing what the Night Watch was best at, which was keeping warm and dry and staying out of trouble.
They were the only witnesses to the manic figure which splashed down the dripping street, pirouetted through the puddles, grabbed a drainpipe to swing around the corner and, clicking its heels together merrily, disappeared from view.
Sgt Colon handed the soggy dog-end back to his companion.
'Was that old Throat Dibbler?' he said after a while.
'Yeah,' said Nobby.
'He looked happy, didn't he?'
'Must be off 'is nut, if you ask me,' said Nobby. 'Singing in the rain like that.'
Whumm . . . whumm . . .
The Archchancellor, who had been updating his dragon stud book and enjoying a late night drink in front of the fire, looked up.
. . . whumm . . . whumm . . . whumm . . .
'Bigods!' he muttered, and wandered over to the big pot. It was actually wobbling from side to side, as if the building was shaking.
The Archchancellor watched, fascinated.
. . . whumm . . . whummwhummwhummWHUMM.
It wobbled to a standstill, and went silent.
'Odd,' said the Archchancellor. 'Damned odd.'
On the other side of the room, his brandy decanter shattered.
Ridcully the Brown took a deep breath.
Victor was woken up by sandflies. The air was already warm. It was going to be another fine day.
He waded out into the shallows to wash and clear his head.
Let's see . . . he still had his two dollars from yesterday, plus a handful of pennies. He could afford to stay a while, especially if he slept on the beach. And Borgle's stoo, while only food in the technical sense, was cheap enough - although, come to think of it, eating there might involve embarrassing encounters with Ginger.
He took another step, and sank.
Victor hadn't swum in the sea before. He surfaced, half-drowned, treading water furiously. The beach was only a few yards away.
He relaxed, gave himself time to get his breath back, and swam a leisurely crawl out beyond the breakers. The water was crystal clear. He could see the bottom shelving away sharply to - he surfaced for a quick breath - a dim blueness in which it was just possible, through the teeming shoals of fish, to see the outline of pale, rectangular rocks scattered on the sand.
He tried a dive, fighting his way down until his ears clanged. The largest lobster he had ever seen waved its feelers at him from a rocky spire and snapped away into the depths.
Victor bobbed up again, gasping, and struck out for the shore.
Well, if you couldn't make it in moving pictures there was an opening here for a fisherman, that was certain.
A beachcomber would do all right, as well. There was enough winddried firewood piled up on the edge of the dunes to keep Ankh-Morpork's fires supplied for years. No-one in Holy Wood would dream of lighting a fire except for cooking or company.
And someone had been doing just that. As he waded ashore Victor realized that the wood further along the beach had been stacked not haphazardly but apparently by design, in neat piles. Further along, stones had been stacked into a crude fireplace.
It was clogged with sand. Maybe someone else had been living on the beach, waiting for their big chance in moving pictures. Come to think of it, the timber behind the half-buried stones had a dragged-together look. You could imagine, looking at it from the sea, that several balks of timber had been set up to form an arched doorway.
Perhaps they were still there. Perhaps they might have something to drink.
They were, indeed, still there. But they hadn't needed a drink for months.
It was eight in the morning. A thunderous knocking awoke Bezam Planter, owner of the Odium, one of Ankh-Morpork's mushrooming crop of moving-picture pits.
He'd had a bad night. The people of Ankh-Morpork liked novelty. The trouble was that they didn't like novelty for long. The Odium had done great business for a week, had broken even for the next week, and was now dying. The late showing last night had been patronized by one deaf dwarf and an orang-utan, who'd brought along its own peanuts. Bezam relied on the sale of peanuts and banged grains for his profit, and wasn't in a good mood.
He opened the door and stared out blearily.
'We're shut 'til two o'clock,' he said. 'Mat'nee. Come back then. Seats in all parts.'
He slammed the door. It rebounded off Throat Dibbler's boot and hit Bezam on the nose.
'I've come about the special showing of Sword of Passione,' said Throat.
'Special showing? What special showing?'
'The special showing I'm about to tell you about,' said Throat.
'We ain't showing nothin' about any special passionate swords. We're showin' The Exciting-'
'Mister Dibbler says yore showing Sword of Passione,' rumbled a voice.
Throat leaned against the doorway. Behind him was a slab of rock. It looked as though someone had been throwing steel balls at it for thirty years.
It creased in the middle and leaned down towards Bezam.
He recognized Detritus. Everyone recognized Detritus. He wasn't a troll you forgot.
'But I haven't even heard of-' Bezam began.
Throat pulled a large tin from under his coat, and grinned.
'And here are some posters,' he added, producing a fat white roll.
'Mister Dibbler let me stick some up on walls,' said Detritus proudly.
Bezam unrolled the poster. It was in eye-watering colours. It showed a picture of what might just possibly be Ginger pouting in a blouse too small for her, and Victor in the act of throwing her over one shoulder while fighting an assortment of monsters with the other hand. In the background, volcanoes were erupting, dragons were zooming through the sky, and cities were burning down.
' “The Motione-Picture They Coud Not Banne!” ', read Bezam hesitantly. ' “A Scorching Adventure In the White-Hotte Dawne of A New Continont! A Mann and a Womann Throne Together in the Wherlpool of a World Gone Madde!! STARING **Delores De Syn** as The Woman and **Victor Maraschino** as Cohen the Barbarian!!! THRILS! ADVENTURE!! ELEPHANTS!!! Cominge Soone to A Pit nr. You!!!!” '
He read it again.
'Who's Staring Delores De Syn?' he said, suspiciously.
'That's starring,' said Throat. 'That's why we've put stars against their names, see.' He leaned closer and lowered his voice to a piercing whisper. 'They do' say', he said, 'that she's the daughter of a Klatchian pirate and his wild, headstrong captive, and he's the son of . . . the son of . . . a rogue wizard and a reckless gypsy flamenco dancer.' '
'Cor!' said Bezam, impressed despite himself. Dibbler permitted himself a mental slap on the back. He'd been quite taken with it himself.
'I reckon you should start showing it in about an hour,' he said.
'At this time in the morning?' said Bezam. The click he had obtained for the day was An Exciting Study of Pottery Making, which had been worrying him. This seemed a much better proposition.
'Yes,' said Dibbler. 'Because a lot of people are going to want to watch it.'
'I dunno about that,' said Bezam. 'Houses have been falling off lately.'
'They'll want to watch this one,' said Throat. 'Trust me. Have I ever lied to you?'
Bezam scratched his head. 'Well, one night last month you sold me a sausage in a bun and you said-'
'I was speaking rhetorically,' snapped Throat.
'Yeah,' said Detritus.
Bezam sagged. 'Oh. Well. I dunno about rhetorically,' he said.
'Right,' said Throat, grinning like a predatory pumpkin. 'Just you open up, and you can sit back and rake in the money.'
'Oh. Good,' said Bezam weakly.
Throat put a friendly arm around the man's shoulders. 'And now,' he said, 'let's talk about percentages.'
'What're percentages?'
'Have a cigar,' said Throat.
Victor walked slowly up Holy Wood's nameless main street. There was packed sand under his fingernails.
He wasn't sure that he had done the right thing.
Probably the man had just been some old beachcomber who'd just gone to sleep one day and hadn't woken up, although the stained red and gold coat was unusual beachcombing wear. It was hard to tell how long he'd been dead. The dryness and salt air had been a preservative; they'd preserved him just the way he must have looked when he was alive, which was like someone who was dead.
By the look of his hut, he'd beachcombed some odd stuff.
It had occurred to Victor that someone ought to be told, but there was probably no-one in Holy Wood who would be interested. Probably only one person in the world had been interested in whether the old man lived or died, and he'd been the first to know.
Victor buried the body in the sand, landward of the driftwood hut.
He saw Borgle's ahead of him. He'd risk breakfast there, he decided. Besides, he needed somewhere to sit down and read the book.
It wasn't the sort of thing you expected to find on a beach,
in a driftwood hut, clutched in the hand of a dead man.
On the cover were the words The Boke of the Film.
On the first page, in the neat round hand of someone to whom writing doesn't come easily, were the further words: This is the Chroncal of the Keeprs of the ParaMountain coppied out by me Deccan Beacuase Of the old onne it being fallin Apart.
He turned the stiff pages carefully. They seemed to be crammed with almost identical entries. They were all undated, but that wasn't very important, since one day had been pretty much like the other.
Gott up. Went to lavatry. Made up fire, announused the Matinee Performanse. Broke fast. Colected woode. Made up fire. Foraged on the hille. Chanted the Evening Performansee. Supper. Sed the Late-Nite Performanse chant. Wnet to lavatry. Bed.
Gott up. Went to lavatry. Made up fire, sed the Matinee Performanse. Broke fast. Crullet the fisheman from Jowser Cove have left 2 fyne see bass. Clected woode. Heralded the Evewning Performanse, made up fire. Howskeepeing. Supper. Chanted the Late Night performanse. Bed. Gott up at Midnigte, went to lavaotry, checked fire, but it was not Needful of Woode.
He saw the waitress out of the tail of his eye.
'I'd like a boiled egg,' he said.
'It's stew. Fish stew.'
He looked up into Ginger's blazing eyes.
'I didn't know you were a waitress,' he said.
She made a show of dusting the salt bowl. 'Nor did I until yesterday,' she said. 'Lucky for me Borgle's regular morning girl got a chance in the new moving picture that Untied Alchemists are making, isn't it?' She shrugged. 'If I'm really lucky, who knows? I might get to do the afternoon shift too.'
'Look, I didn't mean-'
'It's stew. Take it or leave it. Three customers this morning have done both.'
'I'll take it. Look, you won't believe it, but I found this book in the hands of-'