A hat full of sky, p.23
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.23

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 23

 

  Is that the big wee hag dreamin shes the hills or the hills dreamin theyre the big wee hag? said Daft Wullie. Both, mebbe, said Rob Anybody. They watched the huge hand close and winced. But ye cannae kill a hiver, said Daft Wullie. Aye, but ye can frit it awa, said Rob Anybody. Its a big wee universe oot there. If I was it, Id no think o try in her again! There were three more booms in the distance, louder this time. I think, he went on, thats its time we were off ski. In Miss Levels cottage, someone was knocking heavily on the front door. Thump. Thump. Thump. S?^^ Chapter 9 Soul ant Tiffany opened her eyes, remembered, and thought: Was that a dream, or was that real? And the next thought was: How do I know Im me? Suppose Im not me but just think Im me? How can I tell if Im me or not? Whos the me thats asking the question? Am I thinking these thoughts? How would I know if it wasnt? Dinnae ask me, said a voice by her head. Is this one of them tricksie ones? It was Daft Wullie. He was sitting on her pillow. Tiffany squinted down. She was in bed in Miss Levels cottage. A green quilt stretched out in front of her. A quilt. Green. Not turf, not hills . . . but it looked like the downland, from here. Did I say all that aloud? she asked. Oh, aye.

  Er . . . it did all happen, didnt it? said Tiffany. Oh, aye, said Daft Wullie cheerfully. The big hag wuz up here till just noo, but she said ye probably wasnae gonna wake up a monster. More bits of memory landed in Tiffanys memory like red-hot rocks landing on a peaceful planet. Are you all right?

  Oh, aye/ said Daft Wullie. And Miss Level? And this rock of memory was huge, a flaming mountain thatd make a million dinosaurs flee for their lives. Tiffanys hands flew to her mouth. I killed her! she said. Noo, then, ye didnae-

  I did! I felt my mind thinking it. She made me angry! I just waved my hand like this - a dozen Nac Mac Feegle dived for cover - and she just exploded into nothing! It was me I remember!

  Aye, but the big hag o hags said it wuz usin your mind tae think with- Daft Wullie began. Ive got the memories! It was me, with this hand! The Feegles who had raised their heads ducked back down again. And . . . the memories Ive got . . . I remember dust, turning into stars . . . things . . . the heat . . . blood . . . the taste of blood . . . I remember . . . I remember the see-me trick! Oh, no! I practically invited it in! I killed Miss Level! Shadows were closing in around her vision, and there was a ringing in her ears. Tiffany heard the door swing open and hands picked her up as though she was as light as a bubble. She was slung over a shoulder and carried swiftly down the stairs and out into the bright morning, where she was swung down onto the ground. . . . And all of us . . . we killed her . . . take one crucible of silver . . . she mumbled. A hand slapped her sharply across the face. She stared through inner mists at the tall dark figure in front of her. A bucket handle was pressed firmly into her hand. Milk the goats now, Tiffany! Now, Tiffany, dyou hear! The trusting creatures look to you! They wait for you! Tiffany milks the goats. Do it, Tiffany! The hands know how, the mind will remember and grow stronger, Tiffany! She was thrust down onto the milking stool and, through the mist in her head, made out the cowering shape of. . . of. . . Black Meg. The hands remembered. They placed the pail, grasped a teat and then, as Meg raised a leg to play the foot-in-the-bucket game, grabbed it and forced it safely back down onto the milking platform. She worked slowly, her head full of hot fog, letting her hands have their way. Buckets were filled and emptied, milked goats got a bucket of feed from the bin . . . Sensibility Bustle was rather puzzled that his hands were milking a goat. He stopped. What is your name? said a voice behind him. Bustle. Sensibil- No! That was the wizard, Tiffany! He was the strongest echo, but youre not him! Get into the dairy, TIFFANY! She stumbled into the cool room under the command of that voice and the world focused. There was a foul cheese on the slab, sweating and stinking. Who put this here? she asked. The hiver did, Tiffany. Tried to make a cheese by magic, Tiffany. Hah! said the voice. And you are not it, Tiffany! You know how to make cheese the right way, dont you, Tiffany? Indeed you do! What is your name? . . . all was confusion and strange smells. In panic, she roared- Her face was slapped again. No, that was the sabre-toothed tiger, Tiffany! Theyre all just old memories the hiver left behind, Tiffany! Its worn a lot of creatures but they are not you! Come forward, Tiffany! She heard the words without really understanding them. They were just out there somewhere, between people who were just shadows. But it was unthinkable to disobey them. Drat! said the hazy tall figure. Wheres that little blue feller? Mister Anyone?

  Here, mistress. Its Rob Anybody, mistress. I beg o ye not tae turn me intae

  somethin unnatural, mistress!

  You said she had a box of keepsakes. Fetch it down here this minute. I feared this might happen. I hates doin it this way! Tiffany was turned round and once again looked into the blurry face while strong hands gripped her arms. Two blue eyes stared into hers. They shone in the mist like sapphires. Whats your name, Tiffany? said the voice. Tiffany! The eyes bored into her. Is it? Really? Sing me the first song you ever learned, Tiffany! Now!

  Hzan, hzana, mtaza-

  Stop! That was never learned on a chalk hill! You aint Tiffany! I reckon youre that desert queen who killed twelve of her husbands with scorpion sandwiches! Tiffany is the one Im after! Back into the dark with you! Things went blurry again. She could hear whispered discussions through the fog and the voice said: Well, that might work. Whats your name, pictsie?

  Awfly Wee Billy Bigchin Mac Feegle, mistress.

  Youre very small, arent you?

  Only for my height, mistress. The grip tightened on Tiffanys arms again. The blue eyes glinted. What does your name mean in the Old Speech of the Nac Mac Feegle, Tiffany? Think . . . It rose from the depths of her mind, trailing the fog behind it. It came up through the clamouring voices and lifted her beyond the reach of ghostly hands. Ahead, the clouds parted. My name is Land Under Wave, said Tiffany and slumped forward. No, no, none of that, we cant have that, said the figure holding her. Youve slept enough. Good, you know who you are! Now you must be up and doing! You must be Tiffany as hard as you may, and the other voices will leave you alone, depend on it. Although it might be a good idea if you dont make sandwiches for a while. She did feel better. Shed said her name. The clamouring in her head had calmed down, although it was still a chatter that made it hard to think straight. But now at least she could see clearly. The black-dressed figure holding her wasnt tall, but she was so good at acting as if she was that it tended to fool most people. Oh . . . youre . . . Mistress Weatherwax? Mistress Weatherwax pushed her down gently into a chair. From every flat surface in the kitchen, the Nac Mac Feegles watched Tiffany. I am. And a fine mess we have here. Rest for a moment and then we must be up and doing-

  Good morning, ladies. Er, how is she? Tiffany turned her head. Miss Level stood in the door. She looked pale and she was walking with a stick. I was lying in bed and I thought, Well, theres no reason to stay up here feeling sorry for myself, she said.

  Tiffany stood up. Im so sor- she began, but Miss Level waved a hand vaguely. Not your fault, she said, sitting down heavily at the table. How are you? And, for that matter, who are you? Tiffany blushed. Still me, I think, she mumbled. I got here last night and saw to Miss Level, said Mistress Weatherwax. Watched over you, too, girl. You talked in your sleep or, rather, Sensibility Bustle did, whats left of him. That ol wizard was quite helpful, for something thats nothing much moren a bunch of memories and habits.

  I dont understand about the wizard, said Tiffany. Or the desert queen.

  Dont you? said the witch. Well, a hiver collects people. Tries to add them to itself, you might say, use them to think with. Dr Bustle was studying them hundreds of years ago, and set a trap to catch one. It got him instead, silly fool. It killed him in the end. It gets em all killed in the end. They go mad, one way or the other, they stop remembering what they shouldnt do. But it keeps a sort of . . . pale copy of them, a sort of living memory. . . She looked at Tiffanys puzzled expression and shrugged. Something like a ghost, she said. And its left ghosts in my
head?

  More like ghosts of ghosts, really, said Mistress Weatherwax. Something we dont have a word for, maybe. Miss Level shuddered. Well, thank goodness youve got rid of the thing, at least, she quavered. Would anyone like a nice cup of tea?

  Ach, leave that tae us! shouted Rob Anybody, leaping up. Daft Wullie, you an the boys mak some tea for the ladies!

  Thank you, said Miss Level weakly, as a clattering began behind her. I feel so clum- what? I thought you broke all the teacups when you did the washing up!

  Oh, aye, said Rob cheerfully. But Wullie found a whole load o old ones shut awa in a cupboard-

  That very valuable bone china was left to me by a very dear friend! shouted Miss Level. She sprang to her feet and turned towards the sink. With amazing speed for someone who was partly dead she snatched teapot, cup and saucer from the surprised pictsies and held them up as high as she could. Crivens! said Rob Anybody, staring at the crockery. Now thats what I call hagglin!

  Im sorry to be rude, but theyre of great sentimental value! said Miss Level. Mister Anybody, you and your men will kindly get away from Miss Level and shut upV said Mistress Weatherwax quickly. Pray do not disturb Miss Level while shes making tea!

  But shes holding- Tiffany began, in amazement. And let her get on with it without your chatter either, girl! the witch snapped. Aye, but she picked up yon teapot wioot- a voice began. The old witchs head spun round. Feegles backed away like trees bending to a gale. Daft William, she said coldly, theres room in my well for one more frog, except that you dont have the brains of one!

  Ahahaha, thats wholly correct, mistress, said Daft Wullie, sticking out his chin

  with pride. I fooled you there! I ha the brains o a beetle! Mistress Weatherwax glared at him, then turned back to Tiffany. I turned someone into a frog! Tiffany said. It was dreadful! He didnt all fit in so there was this sort of huge pink-

  Never mind that right now, said Mistress Weatherwax in a voice that was suddenly so nice and ordinary that it tinkled like a bell. I expect you finds things a bit different here than they were at home, eh?

  What? Well, yes, at home I never turned- Tiffany began in surprise, then saw that just above her lap the old woman was making frantic circular hand motions that somehow meant Keep going as if nothing has happened. So they chatted madly about sheep and Mistress Weatherwax said they were very woolly, werent they, and Tiffany said that they were, extremely so, and Mistress Weatherwax said extremely woolly was what shed heard . . . while every eye in the room watched Miss Level - - making tea using four arms, two of which did not exist, and not realizing it. The black kettle sailed across the room and apparently tipped itself into the pot. Cups and saucers and spoons and the sugar bowl floated with a purpose. Mistress Weatherwax leaned across to Tiffany. I hope youre still feeling . . . alone? she whispered. Yes, thank you. I mean, I can . . . sort of . . . feel them there, but theyre not getting in the way . . . er . . . sooner or later shes going to realize . . . I mean, isnt she?

  Very funny thing, the human mind, whispered the old woman. I once had to see to a poor young man who had a tree fall on his legs. Lost both legs from the knee down. Had to have wooden legs made. Still, they were made out of that tree, which I suppose was some comfort, and he gets about pretty well. But I remember him saying, “Mistress Weatherwax, I can still feel my toes sometimes. ” Its like the head dont accept whats happened. And its not like shes . . . your everyday kind of person to start with, I mean, shes used to havin arms she cant see-

 
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