A hat full of sky, p.29
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       A Hat Full of Sky, p.29

         Part #32 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 29

 

  some reason. No one seemed to notice her. She was watching the frantic witches around the hiver, where there was an occasional flash and sparkle of magic. She had a calm, faraway look. Tiffany brushed Miss Ticks arm away, ducked under the rope and ran up to her. Granny! The blue eyes turned to her. Yes?

  In stories, where the genie or the magic frog or the fairy godmother gives you three wishes . . . whats the third wish?

  Ah, stories, said Granny. Thats easy. In any story worth the tellin, that knows about the way of the world, the third wish is the one that undoes the harm the first two wishes caused.

  Yes! Thats it! Thats it! shouted Tiffany, and the words piling up behind the question poured out. Its not evil! It cant be! It hasnt got a mind of its own! This is all about wishes! Our wishes! Its like in the stories, where they-

  Calm down. Take a deep breath, said Granny. She took Tiffany by the shoulders so that she faced the panicking crowd. You got frightened for a moment, and now its comin and its not going to turn back, not now, cos its desperate. It dont even see the crowd, they dont mean a thing to it. Its you it wants. Its you its after. You should be the one who faces it. Are you ready?

  But supposing I lose-

  I never got where I am today by supposin I was goin to lose, young lady. You beat it once, you can do it again!

  But I could turn into something terrible! Then youll face me, said Granny. Youll face me, on my ground. But that wont happen, will it? You were fed up with grubby babies and silly women? Then this is . . . the other stuff. Its noon now. They shouldve started the Trials proper, but, hah, it looks as though people have forgotten. Now, then . . . do you have it in you to be a witch by noonlight, far away from your hills?

  Yes! There was no other answer, not to Granny Weatherwax. Granny Weatherwax bowed low and then took a few steps back. In your own time, then, madam, she said. Wishes, wishes, wishes, thought Tiffany, distracted, fumbling in her pockets for the bits to make a shamble. Its not evil. It gives us what we think we want! And what do people ask for? More wishes! You couldnt say: A monster got into my head and made me do it. Shed wished the money was hers. The hiver just took her at her thought. You couldnt say: Yes, but Id never have really taken it! The hiver used what it found - the little secret wishes, the desires, the moments of rage, all the things that real humans knew how to ignore! It didnt let you ignore them! Then, as she fumbled to tie the pieces together, the egg flipped out of her hands, trusted in gravity and smashed on the toe of her boot. She stared at it, the blackness of despair darkening the noonlight. Why did I try this?

  Ive never made a shamble that worked, so why did I try? Because I believed it had to work this time, thats why. Like in a story. Suddenly it would all be . . . all right. But this isnt a story, and there are no more eggs. . . There was a scream but it was high up and the sound of it took Tiffany home in the bounce of a heartbeat. It was a buzzard, in the eye of the sun, getting bigger in its plunge towards the field. It soared up again as it passed over Tiffanys head, fast as an arrow, and as it did so, something small let go its hold on the buzzards talons with a cry of Crivens! Rob Anybody dropped like a stone, but there was a thwap! and suddenly a balloon of cloth snapped open above him. Two balloons, in fact, or to put it another way, Rob Anybody had borrowed Hamishs parachute. He let go of them as soon as theyd slowed him down, and dropped neatly into the shamble. Did ye think wed leave ye? he shouted, holding onto the strings. Im under a geas, me! Get on wi it, right noo!

  What? I cant! said Tiffany, trying to shake him off. Not with you! Ill kill you! I always crack the eggs! What goose?

  Dinnae argue! shouted Rob, bouncing up and down in the strings. Do it! Or yere no the hag of the hills! An I know ye are! People were running past now. Tiffany glanced up. She thought she could see the hiver now as a moving shape in the dust. She looked at the tangle in her hands and at Robs grinning face. The moment twanged. A witch deals with things, said her Second Thoughts. Get past the I cant. O-K . . . Why hasnt it ever worked before? Because there was no reason for it to work. I didnt need it to work. I need it to help me now. No. I need me to help me. So think about it. Ignore the noise, ignore the hiver rolling towards her over the trodden grass . . . Shed use the things shed had, so that was right. Calm down. Slow down. Look at the shamble. Think about the moment. There were all the things from home . . . No. Not all the things. Not all the things at all. This time, she felt the shape of what wasnt there - - and tugged at the silver horse around her neck, breaking its chain, then hanging it in the threads. Suddenly her thoughts were as cool and clear as ice, as bright and shiny as they needed to be. Lets see . . . that looks better there . . . and that needs to be pulled this way . . . The movement jerked the silver horse into life. Then it spun gently, passing through the threads and Rob Anybody, who said, Didnae hurt a bit! Keep goin! Tiffany felt a tingle in her feet. The horse gleamed as it turned.

  I dinnae want to hurry ye! said Rob Anybody. But hurry! Im far from home, thought Tiffany, in the same clear way, but I have it in my eye. Now I open my eyes. Now I open my eyes again- Ahh. . . Can I be a witch away from my hills? Of course I can. I never really leave you, Land Under Wave . . . Shepherds on the Chalk felt the ground shake, like thunder under the turf. Birds scattered from the bushes. The sheep looked up. Again, the ground trembled. Some people said a shadow crossed the sun. Some people said they heard the sound of hooves. And a boy trying to catch hares in the little valley of the Horse said the hillside had burst and a horse had leaped out like a wave as high as the sky, with a mane like the wave of the sea and a coat as white as chalk. He said it had galloped into the air like rising mist, and flew towards the mountains like a storm. He got punished for telling stories, of course, but he thought it was worth it. The shamble glowed. Silver coursed along the threads. It was coming from Tiffanys hands, sparking like stars. In that light, she saw the hiver reach her and spread out until it was all around her, invisibility made visible. It rippled and reflected the light oddly. In those glints and sparkles there were faces, wavering and stretching like reflections in water. Time was going slowly. She could see, beyond the wall of hiver, witches staring at her. One had lost her hat in the commotion, but it was hanging in the air. It hadnt had time to fall yet. Tiffanys fingers moved. The hiver shimmered in the air, disturbed like a pond when a pebble has been dropped into it. Tendrils of it reached towards her. She felt its panic, felt its terror as it found itself caught- Welcome, said Tiffany. Welcome? said the hiver in Tiffanys own voice. Yes. You are welcome in this place. You are safe here. No! We are never safe! You are safe here, Tiffany repeated. Please! said the hiver. Shelter us! The wizard was nearly right about you, said Tiffany. You hid in other creatures. But he didnt wonder why. What are you hiding from? Everything, said the hiver. I think I know what you mean, said Tiffany. Do you? Do you know what it feels like to be aware of every star, every blade of grass? Yes. You do. You call it opening your eyes again. But you do it for a moment. We have done it for eternity. No sleep, no rest, just endless . . . endless experience, endless awareness. Of everything. All the time. How we envy you, envy you! Lucky humans, who can close your minds to the endless cold deeps of space! You have this thing you call. . . boredom? That is the rarest talent in the

  universe! We heard a song, it went Twinkle twinkle little star. . . What power! What wondrous power! You can take a billion trillion tons of flaming matter, a furnace of unimaginable strength, and turn it into a little song for children! You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming! Completely binkers! said a cheerful voice at the back of Tiffanys memory. You just couldnt keep Dr Bustle down. Pity us, yes, pity us, said the voices of the hiver. No shield for us, no rest for us, no sanctuary. But you, you withstood us. We saw that in you. You have minds within minds. Hide us! You want silence? said Tiffany. Yes, and more than silence, said the voice of the hiver. You humans are so good at i
gnoring things. You are almost blind and almost deaf You look at a tree and see . . . just a tree, a stiff weed. You dont see its history, feel the pumping of the sap, hear every insect in the bark, sense the chemistry of the leaves, notice the hundred shades of green, the tiny movements to follow the sun, the subtle growth of the wood . . . But you dont understand us, said Tiffany. I dont think any human could survive you. You give us what you think we want, as soon as we want it, just like in fairy stories. And the wishes always go wrong. Yes. We know that now. We have an echo of you now. We have . . . understanding, said the hiver. So now we come to you with a wish. It is the wish that puts the others right. Yes, said Tiffany. Thats always the last wish, the third wish. Its the one that says “Make this not have happened”. Teach us the way to die, said the voices of the hiver. I dont know it! All humans know the way, said the voices of the hiver. You walk it every day of your short, short lives. You know it. We envy you your knowledge. You know how to end. You are very talented. I must know how to die, Tiffany thought. Somewhere deep down. Let me think. Let me get past the I cant. . . She held up the glittering shamble. Shafts of light still spun off it, but she didnt need it any more. She could hold the power in the centre of herself. It was all a matter of balance. The light died. Rob Anybody was still hanging in the threads, but all his hair had come unplaited and stood out from his head in a great red ball. He looked stunned. I could just murrrder a kebab, he said. Tiffany lowered him to the ground, where he swayed slightly, then she put the rest of the shamble in her pocket. Thank you, Rob, she said. But I want you to go now. It could get. . . serious. It was, of course, the wrong thing to say. Im no leavin! he snapped. I promised Jeannie to keep ye safe! Lets get on wi it! There was no arguing. Rob was standing in that half-crouch of his, fists bunched, chin out, ready for anything and burning with defiance. Thank you, said Tiffany, and straightened up.

  Death is right behind us, she thought. Life ends, and theres death, waiting. So . . . it must be close. Very close. It would be . . . a door. Yes. An old door, old wood. Dark, too. She turned. Behind her, there was a black door in the air. The hinges would creak, she thought. When she pushed it open, they did. So-oo . . . she thought, this isnt exactly real. Im telling myself a story I can understand, about doors, and Im fooling myself just enough for it all to work. I just have to keep balanced on that edge for it to go on working, too. And thats as hard as not thinking about a pink rhinoceros. And if Granny Weatherwax can do that, I can too. Beyond the door, black sand stretched away under a sky of pale stars. There were some mountains on the distant horizon. You must help us through, said the voices of the hiver. If youll tak my advice, youll no do that, said Rob Anybody from Tiffanys ankle. I dinnae trust the scunner one wee bitty!

  Theres part of me in there. I trust that, she said. I did say you dont have to come, Rob.

  Oh, aye? An Im ta see you go through there alone, am I? Yell not find me leavin you now!

  Youve got a clan and a wife, Rob!

 
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