The Last Continent Page 43


'No worries. Here, I thought we ought to give you this,' said the gaoler, handing him a little giftwrapped package. 'Got no use for it now, eh?' Rincewind unwrapped the hempen rope. 'I'm lost for words,' he said. 'How thoughtful. I'm bound to find lots of uses for it. And what's this . . . sandwiches?'

'Y'know that sticky brown stuff you made? Well, all the lads tried it and they all went “yukk” and then they all wanted some more, so we tried cooking up a batch,' said the gaoler. 'I was thinking of going into business. You don't mind, do you?'

'No worries. Be my guest.'

'Good on yer!' Someone else wandered up as he watched them hurry away. 'I heard you were going back,' said Bill Rincewind. 'Want to stay on here? I had a word with your Dean. He gave you a bloody good reference.'

'Did he? What did he say?'

'He said if I could get you to do any work for me I'd be lucky,' said Bill. Rincewind looked around at the city, glistening under the rain. 'It's a nice offer,' he said. 'But . . . oh, I dunno . . . all this sun, sea, surf and sand wouldn't be good for me. Thanks all the same.'

'You sure?'

'Yes.' Bill Rincewind held out his hand. 'No worries,' he said. I'll send you a card at Hogswatch, and some bit of clothing that doesn't fit properly. I'd better get back to the university now, I've got all the staff up on the roof mending the leaks . . .' And that was it. Rincewind sat for a while watching the last of the passengers get aboard, and took a final look around the rain-soaked harbour. Then he stood up. 'Come on, then,' he said. The Luggage followed him up the gangplank, and they went home. It rained. The flood gurgled along ancient creek beds and overflowed, spreading out in a lacework of gullies and rivulets. Further rain ensued. Near the centre of the last continent, where waterfalls streamed down the flanks of a great red rock that steamed with the heat of a ten-thousand-year summer, a small naked boy sat in the branches of a tree along with three bears, several possums, innumerable parrots and a camel. Apart from the rock, the world was a sea. And someone was wading through it. He was an old man, carrying a leather bag on his back.

He stopped, waist deep in swirling water, and looked up at the sky. Something was coming. The clouds were twisting, spinning, leaving a silvery hole all the way up to the blue sky, and there was a sound that you might get if you took a roll of thunder and stretched it out thin. A dot appeared, growing bigger. The man raised a skinny arm and, suddenly, it was holding an oval of wood that trailed a cord, which hit his hand with a slap. The rain stopped. The last few drops hammered out a little rhythm that said: now we know where you are, we'll be coming back . . . The boy laughed. The old man looked up, caught sight of him, and grinned. He tucked the bullroarer into the string around his waist and took up a boomerang painted in more colours than the boy had ever seen in one place together. The man tossed it up and caught it a couple of times and then, glancing sideways to make sure his audience was watching him, he hurled it. It rose into the sky and went on climbing, long past the point where any normal thing should have started to fall back. It grew bigger, too. The clouds parted to let it through. And then it stopped, as if suddenly nailed to the sky. Like sheep which, having been driven to a pasture, can now spread out at their leisure, the clouds began to drift. Afternoon sunlight sliced through into the still waters. The boomerang hung in the sky, and the boy thought he would have to find a new word for the way the colours glowed. In the meantime, he looked down at the water and tried out the word he'd been taught by his grandfather, who'd been taught it by his grandfather, and which had been kept for thousands of years for when it would be needed. It meant the smell after rain. It had, he thought, been well worth waiting for.

The End

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