of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
Bryarus Watts snapped
upright and clutched the bedclothes around his neck. "W-w-what... Ack?"
he said to the voluptuous, scantily-clad figure who had materialised
near his feet.
Dark-gold, almond eyes
gazed hypnotically into his from a heart-shaped face which was white
as the sheets - or as Bryarus' face, it came to the same thing at that
moment. The only patch of colour in the lady's skin was the gash of
red which outlined her perfect teeth. But it was those teeth which caused
the sweat to spring from Bryarus' brow. They were very long and painfully
sharp, and Bryarus hoped with all his heart that he was dreaming.
The vampire leaned toward
him and spoke in a voice which had the consistency of treacle cascading
down a gravel slope. "Hi, fella," she said, "so what d'you want? You
don't look sick to me," she paused and looked critically at him, "but
you do look a bit pale. Have you already had the treatment?"
"Nasty stammer you've
got there. You called the wrong crowd in to deal with that. Us bats
only do fevers. You got a fever, fella?" She leaned closer to him and
Bryarus cringed back against the headboard.
He clutched the bedclothes
tighter and cleared his throat. His brain thawed and jumped into frantic
activity. Perhaps if he could keep her talking, he thought, she'd stop
thinking of... "Ms-, I don't know who you are, but-"
"Well now, if I didn't
forget! Where'd I put my card; you'll see it's okay. I'm the genuine
article. See," she pulled a piece of plastic from the material which
barely covered her thighs, "here; it shows I'm a member of the Bat-Leech
Order Of Doctors." She held out the card. Bryarus made a tentative grab
He read: "Drivula, B/LOOD,
WACERFOU. Speciality; control of fevers and unpleasant humours." There
followed two impressive logos and a stamp.
Bryarus looked across
at her. She picked her teeth; he wished she wasn't twanging them quite
so loudly. However, she did look as though she wasn't about to pounce
on him. He cleared his throat. "Well, Ms-" he consulted the card again,
"-Drivula, I really don't need your, ah, services." He cringed back
again as she lifted her head to glare at him.
"Well now, if that don't
beat everything! He calls me here, a rotten night it is too, and he
'doesn't need my services'," she finished in mocking imitation. She
stood up from the edge of the bed and her voice deepened in anger. "D'you
think I ain't got better things to do with my time?"
Those teeth were bared
again. Bryarus was mesmerised by them, but a part of his mind had freed
itself and was appreciating the fine figure she cut with her hair and
cloak flung back in a cascade of black silkiness. How the hell, he thought,
does she keep that scrap of stuff which covers her chest from falling
down? What the hell am I thinking about? How can I get rid of her?
He started to hiccup.
Concern replaced the anger in her eyes; she was a doctor, after all.
She came closer and the sounds increased in volume. She frowned, pushed
him forward, and delivered a hearty slap to his back; the hiccups stopped.
So did Bryarus' breathing. "Okay now?" Drivula asked when he'd got his
The syrupy voice at
his ear did nothing to calm his nerves, but Bryarus nodded his head
and managed to gasp, "Thanks." When he looked up she was sitting in
a dejected heap at the end of his bed again. Her shoulders hunched under
the voluminous cape and she sighed.
"It's no use. You really
don't need me, do you? No-one ever does, but I thought the breakthrough
had come tonight when you called. It wasn't the most poetic wording
- 'Bloody bats' - but it was a call. Say," she looked across at him
again, "why did you shout for us if you didn't want us?"
"But I didn't!" Then
realisation hit him. "Oh. Bloody bats, you say? Oops; I was shouting
about my sister, Cicely. She wants me to sell out my half of Dad's museum
to some cruddy developer." He felt his anger rise as he remembered that
morning's confrontation. "She doesn't care that Dad loved it; she is
bloody- ahem." He coughed as he saw his companion's outraged expression.
"It's just a term of - I mean, I'm afraid we use it to..." His voice
trailed off. She's going to get really mad now, he thought.
And then she sniffed.
He looked at her, startled, and saw her eyes over-fill with molten tears
which splashed gold on the sheets. She turned away and her shoulders
started to heave. "Th-that's it," her voice came in muffled gasps, "it's
too much. Now we're used for swu-swuh-swearing."
"I'm sorry." Bryarus
felt helpless. One finger trembled out and touched her shoulder, then
cringed back again. "I didn't mean-"
She swung round and
lifted her chin. "Well," she wiped her nose with the cloak and sniffed
again, "WACERFOU shall hear of this!"
"A fine bunch, dedicated
to eradicating prejudice; the World Association of Creatures Especially
Ridiculed, Forgotten, Overlooked, or Undervalued. Yes, Sir! A wonderful
goal and one which has proved itself necessary time and again. They
were the ones to set up us vampires in a job which is both satisfying
"I'm sorry, but I've never heard of them. And your job - blood-letting,
I gather - isn't it a bit sort of, well, fatal? To the patient, I mean?"
"There you are! As prejudiced
as the rest. That attitude is exactly why we never get any work." She
sighed and hunched her shoulders again. "Bram Stoker did it, writing
all that stuff about Dracula. The Count was a madman, for hellsake!
So okay, he did infect people. But only because he was a sleazy git
who wouldn't wash his teeth between meals. And we all get labelled as
filthy perverts because of one mad vampire."
"Don't vampires, well,
have to suck blood then - just to survive?"
"Oh sure," she said,
looking absently around the room. "Nice dump you've got here. Say!"
she brightened slightly, "there's plenty of space; what say I stay as
Bryarus wasn't listening.
He was preoccupied. "About this blood-"
"Yeah! That's what I
need. A base, somewhere to work from. I'll tell the Brothers. Man, what
a great idea-"
"-I mean, if you go
around biting people, well, it's anti-social-"
"Hmm? Oh, you're still
on about that? It's okay, any blood will do. We usually go down to the
Bryarus shuddered. The
mental picture froze him. He became aware of Drivula prattling on: "I
can move in straight away, just get some guys to bring my box from the
"What?" Bryarus screamed,
"you're not moving in here!"
Her eyes grew wide
and glowed, liquid gold; she slid toward him. Her hand, cool and smooth,
caressed his cheek. "You'd throw a girl out at this time of night?"
Her voice grew thicker. "I had you pegged as a real nice fella, too."
A sob caught her.
Bryarus watched her
chest heave; he couldn't think. He felt himself stir beneath the sheets.
Omigod, he thought, what am I doing; she's a vampire. He broke
out in a cold sweat, and squeaked: "All right, all right, you can stay.
But don't expect anything-" he finished on a gasp, as he received a
shapely vampire full on his chest.
"Terrific!" she said,
and kissed him ecstatically. His toes were just beginning to curl when
she broke away and started to make excited plans.
He cut her off. Weariness
washed over him. "Look, I'll die if I don't get some sleep," he said.
"Make yourself at home. Choose a room, any room. Except this one," he
went on hurriedly as she looked around speculatively, "or my sister's.
Now, please, I'm so tired. Please, Drivula? Get off my bed?"
She responded to the
pleading note in his voice and swept out of the room with a wave, still
Bryarus told himself
firmly that she had been an illusion. Vampires didn't exist. He tried
to sleep, but his brain seemed to have woken up and was rummaging about
in his head. He groaned and threshed around a bit to get comfortable;
his hand fell onto the pile of clothing which he had tastefully hung
up on the floor. He felt the hardness of the lucky geode in his jacket
pocket, and smiled. He took it out and stroked it; this was one item
which hadn't found its way into his parents' run-down museum. "Damn
Cicely," he muttered. "Just because the museum is in Lower Postleton
and is a bit - well - run-down..."
If only his father had
left a will.
The Watts' final trip,
just a few months ago, had ended with a fatal encounter with the previously
unknown Obilipo tribe of Libya; the contretemps involved intimate sacrificial
contact with a cooking-pot.
Unfortunately, the incident
led to the attention of the military and the complete destruction of
the whole tribe. This maddened their big-footed gods, who were now without
worshippers. In fact, the Gods of the Stomp lusted after revenge, but
Bryarus didn't know this final fact. The immediate problem for him,
apart from having lost two close friends by his parents' death, was
the fact that he and Cicely had inherited their house and museum in
He really liked this
geode. Its centre held an infinite mystery - it might contain crystal
or it could contain prehistoric air. It always seemed to radiate the
warmth of the desert to his touch. But most of all he enjoyed it because
it looked like a fresh brain and caused Cicely distress when he brought
it out at her terribly correct dinner parties.
"I wish I could change
this whole damn place," he growled to himself.
The stone seemed to
pulse in his hand.
A slit heaved open
The rats in the dust-filled
basement of Lower Postleton's museum saw some strange sights that night.
A thin line on the edge
of sight shone almost green in one cobwebbed corner. A sound as of a
gate bursting open rang through the fusty air, and something slithered
through the gloom. The rats stopped chewing priceless artefacts and
lead pipes and looked at each other.
"Eeek?" said one.
A luminous, puce-coloured
shape loomed up in front of them and spoke to their minds: "I am Rat-Eusos.
I am your god."
A rush of nothingness
pushed by them and a cat-like shape disappeared up the stairs; the echo
of a farewell "Miaow" hung on the air as the goddess Bast slipped into
Postleton West slumbered on. He was still clutching the geode when he
too drifted into unconsciousness at last.
His dreams were amazingly
lucid. He could have sworn that he really was in the Dwat of the ancient
Egyptians, listening to a bunch of worried gods. Of course, he thought
with a chuckle, gods wouldn't talk like this.
He was entirely wrong...
Day drew to a tired
finish around that other world; a two-dimensional world peopled by insubstantial
images. Darkness slid past Dwat with a crash and thunder growled through
the sky. The sun came to rest in Dwat's Nether world, and shone on its
maze of misty swirls. The gods took off their crowns and rested. Ra
sat beside his sun like a bag of old bones, and mopped his brow; it
had been a heavy day, as usual. His constant companion, Khepri the scarab,
sat patiently on the other side of the sun. The scarab flexed his sun-blackened
wing-cases with a papery rustle, and sighed gently. Ra reached across
to rub this faithful friend's head.
The long, coiling serpent
form of Apep slid into the area and he grumbled: "Why iss it alwayss
me that hass to attack? I get sset upon by everyone. Night after night,
day after day; jusst because I'm Lord of Night and Sstorms and sstuff.
I do the worsst job, and what thankss do I get? My brotherss at WACERFOU
are consserned. Exssploitation of the-"
Ra sighed. "Look," he
said, "the natives expect to see the show. You don't want to
lose our worshippers here, too, do you?"
A short wide fellow
dashed in, panting. His eyes bulged and his tongue hung out of his huge
mouth, but that was normal for Bes. "Hey, guys!" he called, "We've got
"The West Gate; it's
sprung open. I think it's broken."
"But it was all gummed
Bes' voice calmed to
its usual guttural pitch. "I reckon someone Outside has been fiddling
with a Total Dimension-Key. I know that Bast and Rat-Eusos and maybe
one or two more of us wanted out; so I guess they'll have pushed from
this side, too."
"A leak!" Ra climbed
to his feet. "Quick, we'd better plug it before our more adventurous
worshippers find it. They could go mad through there. Have any
Dwatters discovered it yet? There's a chance..."
The gods surged to the
edge of the world, glowing with worry. Their brightness highlighted
the pink and blue ranges of aether which bordered the edge of Dwat.
Their attention was caught by the gaping, black emptiness in its fabric;
the Gate looked as though it had been irreparably torn. The luminous
green tail of a Dwatter was just disappearing through it, and Apep lunged
forward in a futile grab.
"Now we have
got a problem." Ra plucked at his lip. "That gate has to be fixed. And
there could be any number through the gap by now; we Created those idiots,
so we've got to look after them. We'd better get them back - but how
can we leave Dwat godless? There'd be even more panic here if loads
of us disappeared." He looked around. "Any ideas?"
The gods gazed at each
other blankly and then at him. They shook their heads. Bes frowned in
thought. Finally he spoke: "Ra, we need clones; that's the answer."
"Clones? That's a new
one. Is that what you've been fiddling with this aeon? Well; you're
the experimenter - how do we get them?"
Bes' beard bristled
with excitement. "Great! I can't wait to try this. First, we've got
to have idols or pictures of ourselves in that world - okay, that's
easy. The tricky bit is going to be getting my formula made up; I'll
tackle the guy with the dimension key - he must be vulnerable to us,
or the key wouldn't have worked, would it?" His deep voice grew husky.
"And the great thing is, we can dip into our clones now and then and
feel what they do!"
Ra's old eyes looked
thoughtfully at the fun-loving boudoir protector. "Bes," he said, "There's
something you're keeping from us, isn't there? Right. What's the hitch?"
"We-ell..." Bes' gaze
shifted uncomfortably. "There's a danger, just a tad, that we could
end up merging with our clones - or them with us - it depends if there's
an imbalance between them and us. But it'd take ages," he hurried on,
"and the job'll be done long before that could happen."
"Humph," said Ra.
over the three corners of Postleton-over-wold. To be accurate there
were four corners to the town; but decent people usually tried to forget
Lower Postleton which suppurated in the south-east and bred fleas, rats
In a tiny, first-floor
bedsit in the slightly more salubrious area of Postleton East - an area
in which people were only likely to get mugged or, perhaps, broken and
entered - Olwyn Doorbar was flinging clothes into a suitcase. It had
the funereal sag of something which should have been interred long ago.
The case matched its
surroundings. Peeling wallpaper strained to leave walls which were patched
with moisture, and the rag rugs cringed from floorboards which were
black with aged varnish. One or two cupboards hunched in corners and
the bed would have made a fine hammock. Some shapelessly green objects
were cramped into the remaining area apparently for the sole purpose
of barking shins; they could possibly have been chairs. A gentle, regular
"tink! plonk! tink!" of water discoloured the stoneware sink under the
window as a tap dripped with determination. A smell of boiled cabbage
seeped in under the door and clung to everything.
Olwyn hesitated, and
picked up a copy of "Wiccan Advertiser" which lay on the table; she
shrugged and slipped it into the case. She still didn't know why she'd
given into impulse and bought it; what was the point of yearning to
be a witch? Magic was just for fairy-tales. She stood and stretched
her slim back with a groan. She pushed the heavy wings of deep auburn
hair away from her face, flicking it behind her ears. Her wide, hazel
eyes looked thoughtfully at the grey cat who was still washing what
remained of his ears. She scowled. If only she could afford a place
with a little more room, she thought; a flat, her own loo, somewhere
to put up a friend... "Damn E-L, damn Phelonius Productions, damn Harold,"
The cat looked up and
blinked. He had been saddled with the name of Codswallop, but that didn't
seem to bother him; he obviously felt that this was a decent pad on
the whole, and interesting things happened. Such as food for instance.
He sniffed the air and essayed a throaty "Mrrraow?"
"Okay Coddy," Olwyn
said and smiled; "I've finished the packing. You get your herrings now."
The cat jumped down
and nodded at her before starting to champ his way through the fish.
She sat beside him and started to stroke him. "If I didn't need the
money, I'd leave that stinking place right now." She got up and walked
over to the window. The view of cracked backyards and moss-covered walls
was reasonably depressing. "Who does E-L think he is, telling me to
go on errands for him at weekends?"
"Frrrp?" said Codswallop
and jumped onto the windowsill for his after-dinner wash.
"Yeah, okay, so he thinks
he's my boss. And he's right. But Harold isn't, and if he puts his greasy
hand on me once more, I'll-"
Codswallop bumped against
her and purred. He obviously felt that it was time for high jinks on
the tiles. A few women, a touch of song... With a last couple of friendly
headbuts, he jumped up to the cat-door beside the window and slipped
out. Olwyn watched him clamber down the fire escape and then she turned
away and went to bed. "You're right, of course," she muttered after
him. "I won't do a thing - there's not much call these days for rotten
secretaries like me. Only a cheapskate like E-L would take one on."
Things were moving
nearby. Strange shadows slunk away from the patches of dirty light around
street-lamps. Gruesome things happened in dark corners to people whose
cries rose on the night air only to be choked dead. But all this was
normal for Postleton East.
No, it was in the unmentionable
but relaxed atmosphere of Lower Postleton that something really unusual
was happening. Oval, bulbous-nosed blots of phosphorescent, green light
huddled on the floor of the museum's basement. The Dwatters were confused.
Was this the true edge of the world?
Drott's pale colour
pulsed and his voice tinkled nervously: "Where the Dwatbeg are we? I
can't get back... The `strong-pull' and `dark-light' are all wrong -
I wish I hadn't come!" He ended on a wail. The others twitched their
nose-blots at him.
A deep, gonging voice
sounded: "Snap out of it you stupid, cowardly little-"
"No, Dwurt," said Dwish
gently, "leave him alone. It is frightening. But we can help each other,
do something about it, if we stick together." His broad body glowed
a steady deep green.
"Okay, big-shot," said
Dwurt, "so what do we do about it?"
"We... We explore, of course." Dwish's voice firmed to a clear bell-note.
He slipped through racks
of typeface-sample sheets, relics from closed-down type founders and
wood-letter makers. Drott stuck close to his friend; he couldn't get
used to the variations in "strong-pull" from the objects - walls, boxes,
rats - which were transparent to his other senses. He pulsed as he wondered
what dangers lurked around him.
"Hey, look at this!"
Dwish reappeared from the huge wood-letter sample trays and swirled
himself around; he was marked with bold, black squiggles. His clear
tones quivered with excitement.
"What is it, Dwish?"
They clustered around him and absorbed his aura.
"You'd better watch
out," Dwurt's deeper voice rang out, "you've always fancied yourself,
haven't you? Just let the Nobles see you decorated like that; they'll
smash your sensors!"
"Oh, dwogdrivvle. We're
beyond the edge of the world, aren't we? No Noble's going to follow.
These things are there for the copying, anyway. Just have a look."
An excited tinkling
and gonging filled the air as the Dwatters surged toward the trays and
disappeared into them. They flowed onto the wood- letter sheets and
gradually changed the colour-patterns of their light in imitation. Dwish
covered himself with a glorious mish-mash; a cheerful tangle of scripts.
Drott quivered, and altered his nose-blot to accommodate a single, discreet
Some time later, a large
quantity of faintly glowing green patches could be seen, flowing through
the museum's basement and onto the streets or up the stairs. If anyone
had cared to look they would have been able to just make out, in the
dim glow, the shapes of large, curlicued black letters. For some reason
two particular scripts and letter combinations had appealed to most
of the Dwatters: "ArtofF" and "pograp".
The rats had had enough.
The silence of the museum echoed as hundreds of clawed feet scuttered
up to the attics, and then silence descended again. The night watchman
continued to sleep as peacefully as ever, his half-empty whisky bottle
The sun rose and
tried to pierce a fog which hung over Postleton-over-wold. The fog shook
it off; the sun shrugged, and continued about its business. Beneath
the fog, people stirred.
Bryarus, on the way
to his beloved museum, looked idly out of the bus windows. He was trying
hard not to think about what he'd left behind. When he'd awoken, he'd
remembered having some strange dreams. One of them had been particularly
realistic. What was it? he'd wondered. Oh, yes, a vampire. Oh my God...
He'd searched wildly
in the sheets for evidence that it had been his libido at work.
And then he'd caught sight of the strange golden splashes on the blanket.
Oh no! She had cried, hadn't she - gold tears - she was real!
And she'd said she was staying. He needed to find out something about
He grimaced now at Postleton
West as it slid by. Its spotless pavements measured the distance in
grey slabs; each triple-metre sprouted a cringing, pollarded tree. Uniform
ranks of houses loomed, uncaring, through the fog. They presented their
mortgaged squares of vacuumed lawn for inspection and their windows
cast covert glances at the world through veils of net.
Postleton East began
to show itself, as the slope down through town gained momentum. Lawns
gave way to cracked courtyards which gradually diminished as the houses
marched in grim file closer to the road. Unwilling prisoners of fortune
peered enviously up the hill from those rented facades of decay. They
had their place; they gave the West a sense of superiority. Bryarus
turned away with a shudder.
He brightened as they
descended into the thickest of the fog. The bus disgorged him and hurried
away. Lower Postleton beckoned to him through its piles of garbage;
doors hung open in friendly gossip or lay on the ground, their rusted
hinges worn at a jaunty angle. The gaping doorways, thus liberated,
offered their comfort to any weary traveller; many of them displayed
old, infirm, or drink-sodden heaps which stirred or coughed occasionally.
No-one here need ever pay rent; and mortgages - what were they?
Bryarus pulled his coat
up around his ears and walked past houses which were crumbling the pavement
to nothing in their eagerness to jostle each other out of the way. Mildewed
concrete of the '20s rubbed shoulders in friendly rivalry with sagging
Elizabethan half-timbers; woodworm and mould had their musty-smelling
freedom of the area along with everyone else. Exuberant graffiti crawled
across every area of wall, cheerfully announcing "Why worry" through
Come to think of it,
there was an unusual amount of graffiti around, Bryarus thought as he
approached the museum. Actually it looked more like a weird type of
poster, accidentally scattered. Some were on the walls which loomed
up, and some spread over the litter on the ground.
The museum had a decayed
grandeur all its own. It straddled one side of a cobbled square and
the pillars of its facade rose in pride, softened with the same moss
which curled around the cobbles. An earthy smell hung around and mingled
with the mist.
"Hello, Arlo," Bryarus
said to his handyman, who was trying to remove one of the "posters"
from the building's steps. "What gives?"
"Blest if I know," Arlo
Kyte replied, scratching his head. He looked up. "This was here when
I got in this morning and I'm blowed if I can see how to get it off."
"Ah well, just leave
it. What's it say? `ArtofF'? What the heck's that mean?"
"Search me. I just try
to clean it off." Arlo picked up his brush and followed his boss in.
He was a thin, quiet young man with short, unruly ginger hair, a pale
complexion, and a passion for vultures. Sometimes he looked slightly
like a scared rabbit.
"Is Tansy in yet?"
"Yeah," Arlo grunted,
flushing slightly as he entered the shop room.
Bryarus grinned; Tansy
was the other passion in his handyman's life.
"Hi everybody," a cheerful
voice called out. "Is that the Big Boss I hear? Old lanky?" A vivacious
brunette with hair which curled rebelliously around her face appeared
from behind a dusty rack of bookshelves. She wiped her hands on an old
he retorted with a grin, "what about respect for my advancing age?"
She made a rude noise. He laughed and hurried on: "Anything new in yesterday's
shipment for the shop? And, do we have any articles about vampires?
I had a feeling there was something..."
"Hmm," she said and
turned to the silent Arlo, who was gazing at her with his habitual morose
expression. "There were some pretty good replica statuettes this morning,
weren't there?" He nodded, and lifted his tool kit off the counter.
"Got some fixing to do," he said, "the old cleaner's broken down. Then,
there's a load of transistors to torture in that `new' organ. See you."
Tansy waved a salute.
"Difficult to believe he can sing and dance, isn't it?" she mused. "But
you should see him at the folk club! Wo-ow, can that boy play the guitar."
She looked up at Bryarus and giggled. "Sorry, Big Boss. There was something
else? Oh yes, vampires. I think there are some old facsimile manuscripts
on the shelf in the `back room'. The new stuff is there too, so you
can have a dekko."
Bryarus squeezed into
the `room' behind the shelves, and the first object to catch his eyes
was the most enchanting, ugly statue he had ever seen. It stood three
feet high, and was a stocky man, wearing a leopard skin loin-cloth complete
with tail. He held his podgy arms akimbo, with his hands resting on
sturdy hips. His head was large and bearded.
But what riveted Bryarus'
attention was the goggling eyes and the huge mouth, agape in a massive
laugh with the tongue hanging out. This was just the thing for Cicely's
drawing-room... He smothered a chuckle. "Hey, he looks almost alive!
It's the Egyptian Bes, isn't it?" he said.
Tansy nodded. "A beauty,
"Wonderful," said Bryarus
with laughter quivering in his voice, "I know I shouldn't - but I think,
yes, I really am going to have to buy him myself."
Tansy looked at him
curiously and said: "Hoo! Boss, you'll never get rich that way."
"No, but I find this
chap irresistible." He paused and thought for a minute. It really was
unusual for him to want a plastic statue. He looked back at the figure
and its eyes seemed to look at him with a plea. Ridiculous. And then
Cicely's outraged expression floated through his mind. He gurgled. "I
just feel I've got to have him! I'll take him home tonight."
It was almost precisely
at this moment that Olwyn Doorbar's old Fiat 500 finally wheezed to
a standstill on the motorway intersection. Poor old "Gertrude" had served
its mistress sturdily, but now the car was just too tired.
It was actually in remarkably
good condition, considering that it had been parked outside Olwyn's
terrace in all weathers. For some reason, probably because it was too
small, it had avoided the attentions of vandals; except in the matter
of graffiti. At present it sported eyes, a nose, and some obscure motto,
together with a curvy rainbow of colours around its backside.
Olwyn sighed when she
realised that nothing she could do would shift her old friend. She got
out and shivered; the fog was glowering all around. Everything was so
dark. She walked hesitantly along the roadside until a shape loomed
out of the mist; she jumped and then scolded herself. It was only the
"Okay Miss, we'll be
along as soon as we can." The voice on the end of the phone was cheerful
and she wished that she could cling to it.
Come on, she told herself,
snap out of it. Her mind promptly dredged up all the lurid tales she'd
ever heard of attacks on lone women. She blundered back through the
fog and shivered again. If she just sat in Gertrude and waited, she
thought, no-one would bother her. It seemed an awful long way though...
Olwyn reached the vehicle
at last and opened the car door - something was in there! She gave a
gasp of terror and jerked backwards. "Oh," she said, putting her hand
up to her heart which was still thundering, "a cat. Only a beautiful
puss. Hello, what're you doing here?" She paused, struck by a thought.
"And; how did you get in?"
The cat regarded her
with glowing, green-gold eyes which were vivid against the glossy black
fur. It was a sinuous, graceful animal and it sat with its tail tucked
neatly around its paws on the passenger seat. It blinked and said "Prrrp!";
a contented, throaty sound.
Olwyn slid into her
seat, still wondering. "I suppose - could I have left the door open
and it slammed shut on you? Well," she gave a nervous laugh, "you'll
be company until-"
A shape heaved out of the mist; her heart did a flip. The closing door
was wrenched out of her hand. A stink of stale sweat thrust up her nostrils
and a harsh voice mocked: "Hey guys, the little lady says she wants
Her head snapped around
and her eyes dilated. "Who - who are you?" she asked. She looked at
the thickset youth. He wore metal rings on his knuckles, a leer on his
grubby face, and a knife in his hand.
Behind him stood two
of his friends, wearing identical gap-toothed grins. Olwyn's heart sank.