Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 2.

"What a little beauty, eh?" said the gang's leader. His fetid breath made Olwyn gag. "And she wants company. Tut tut," he went on with a reproving waggle of his knife, "it's not nice to try shutting out your friends."
        Olwyn had tried to grab the door back and slam it. "I w-wasn't talking to you," she managed to utter.
        The Halitosis thug looked around him in exaggerated surprise and grinned as he shrugged his shoulders. "Who, then? A ghost?" He winked back at his mates and they snickered.
        Olwyn flushed. "It was this cat..." She turned to look at the passenger seat, but her new friend had disappeared. A thrumming started in her ears. This was all so unfair.
As if from a great distance, she heard her tormentor's voice behind her: "Okay, lads. Let's have some fun."
        And then, without warning she became furious. It was the kind of fury which takes over every pore of the being and which produces a red mist before the eyes.
        Olwyn was mad. Olwyn wanted to tear out someone's guts and maybe feed them to his friends. She whirled around and pushed the door wide, tipping the men off balance with a domino effect. She rose before them, larger than life. Her hair flared out away from her face and melted into the mist. Reality slipped away from her.
And then a roar crashed around them all, as of a hundred lions bellowing above the grind of a thousand cars crashing into each other. Halitosis and his friends stared over Olwyn's shoulder and turned corpse-grey.
        "L-lady," gasped the leader, his voice rising on a scream, "No, please - don't..." His voice choked into incoherence as he put all his effort into screaming. His pals were already making an art of it. At last they moved; their limbs jerked into a walk. They were all obviously trying to change it into a run. The mist swallowed them. A second later, all activity stopped; the screams cut short. The foggy silence grew deafening.
        Olwyn became aware again. She was panting, and her heart raced. She stretched and thought: What on earth happened? Was that me? Didn't know I had a temper like that. Wow, maybe I do have powers. Pity if I'm only able to lash out and frighten people, though. I wonder if I could find out how to control that kind of outburst? Perhaps Harold would learn to stop treacling all over me! She shivered and sighed.
        At that moment the cheerful mechanic drove up with a melodious toot of his horn.
        Half an hour later, he left her with a lightened heart and a fixed car. Olwyn bent to get back in. "Oh, hello!" she said in surprise. "You're back again. Well, I'm just off; you'd better get out and go home." The cat made no move; just stared with those green-gold eyes, deep into hers... Olwyn blinked. "Oh well, maybe you haven't got a home. I suppose you could come with me; I could always check out the `lost' columns." She buckled herself in. A puzzled look entered her eyes. "I'm not sure why; but think I'll call you Bast," she said.
        Bast said "Mrraow. Mreeef," in a conversational way and lay down in a tea-cosy position on the passenger seat. She tucked her paws and tail away neatly. A loud purr rumbled through the car.
        Olwyn giggled, and drove slowly away from the side. It never occurred to her to wonder why those screams had cut off so abruptly, among the enveloping mists.

The fog started to clear from Postleton-over-wold. Cicely Watts smiled grimly as she clacked up the path and let herself into the house. That should get things moving, she thought. Just a few days, that was all, and the solicitors would have everything wrapped up. She gave a chuckle which she quickly smothered as she opened the front door. She didn't know if Bryarus was home yet, and it would never do to let him know that something was up. His precious museum was as good as sold - though he could still prevent it, if he knew. Ah, but he'd never guess... Dear Arkwright was so clever about these things. He was also related to the solicitor.

The evening sun shone down on Bryarus as he wrestled a large, unwieldy package off the bus. A dozen pairs of eyes watched with interest. He lost his balance and was forced to the pavement by his trophy. He fought it off and arose, dishevelled but triumphant, to a burst of clapping from the bus. He dragged the wrapped statue up the garden path and heaved it into the sitting-room.
        Cicely came in and looked at him suspiciously. "What have you got there?" she asked, and then clicked her tongue against her teeth as she looked at the floor. "Don't drop all that wrapping on the carpet; I've just vacuumed it. You know white shows up every..." and then she looked up. "Aaaagh!" The full force of Bryarus' offering to the household spirits hit her. She was deprived of air for a full minute. "What's that?" she breathed finally, cringing away.
        Terrific, isn't he?" Bryarus walked around it. "It's Bes; an Egyptian god of the home. He's good at helping women adorn themselves and so on - useful at childbirth, too," he looked at his sister with a querying lift to his brows. "But I don't think that's going to interest you for a while, is it; unless Arkwright's jumped the gun?" He saw with satisfaction that she was gobbling quietly. "Of course, after you finally marry the man... Hey! perhaps I've just found the ideal wedding gift! Bes is even supposed to protect sheep - and Arkwright will be perfect in the role."
        Cicely finally found her voice. She spoke with deadly calm. "Take it away. I don't want to see it again. You're certainly not keeping it here." She looked around at the exquisite wallpaper and furnishings; then glanced back at the plastic statue and shuddered. "He's dreadful. He's ugly and fat; look at that stomach."
        Bryarus put his head on one side and looked at Bes thoughtfully. "He does look a bit debauched, doesn't he? That's a fine pot-belly." Then he looked his outraged sister up and down, and said: "At least he gets his weight through fun and partying. Mind you, he likes a good fight too. Maybe he'd be a bad influence on a young married couple."
        "Out! Get it out!" Cicely was purple with rage.
        Bryarus chuckled and gave in. He was just starting to manoeuvre Bes up the stairs, when a memory struck him. Just suppose it really hadn't been a dream... He turned. Cicely regarded him stiffly, and he asked: "Ah - by the way, did you get any - visitors - or anything, today?"
        A look of puzzlement crossed her face. "Visitors? Well, Reverend Willey popped in. He wanted to ask me about the Jumble Day stand. That's all, though. Why? Were you expecting someone?"
        "No, no; well actually, I was wondering if someone would be coming to - I think there was a young lady who said she needed a room," Bryarus was thinking hard, "and I have a feeling I said she could use one of ours."
        "What? Some dreadful tramp here, in my house?"
        "It's my home too, remember?" Bryarus leaned Bes against the banister. "If I choose to invite friends... Anyway," he crossed his fingers behind his back, "she'd be quite respectable."
        Cicely sniffed in disbelief, and tossed her neat head. "Huh." She paused for a second and her eye brightened. Her upper lip lifted in a jubilant sneer. "So. Interested in girls now, are we?"
        "Well, you spend all your time brushing them off; plain ones, pretty ones, beauties. I'd have thought a normal man..." Bryarus growled like rising thunder, and she finished feebly: "I can't think what they all see in you."
        His shoulders slumped. "Neither can I." He picked up Bes again. He hunched wearily up the stairs. Cicely's words echoed in his mind. The women he met were soft and cuddly, he thought, which was very nice; but there never seemed to be any solid thoughts inside their marshmallow brains. Nothing for a secret rebel to share his dreams with.
        Cicely's voice shot after him: "Well, don't expect me to entertain or feed her."
        Bryarus grinned. "I won't," he said, his mind alive with the thought of Cicely feeding his self-invited guest.
        He staggered into his study, dumped the statue and flung himself into his old chair. It welcomed him with a puff of stuffing. He kicked off his shoes and scrunched his length further into it; the seat had sagged slightly, and it hugged him into itself. His knees, clad in baggy corduroy, jutted up toward his chin; and his fingers beat a gentle rhythm on the arms of the chair. It responded with more friendly little puffs, which just added to the dusty jumble of papers and cardboard pyramids which jostled each other at his feet. Bookshelves lined the walls; books, chunks of rock and fossils competed with each other for space. His marble-topped desk was a riot of jars and bottles, while colourful slime slid with enthusiasm over a hefty stone sink in the corner and its tall brass tap held itself like an aristocrat. His eyes basked, as always, on the joyous disorder which overflowed his shelves; the "Sex Life of Dinosaurs" and "Egyptology Today" scuffed shoulders with "Mystic Power - Science or Speculation" and "The Chemist's Notebook".
        Bryarus turned and contemplated the statue. "Well Bes," he said, "maybe you can help me find what I'm looking for." Why had he said that? He yawned. "I mean, the secret of the pyramid. Razor-sharpener, food-freshener, and the perfect humane mousetrap... How wonderful if I could only get it right," he said as he kicked one of his cardboard efforts moodily away from his foot. He took the geode out of his pocket and felt its texture and warmth while he stroked it. He smiled and drifted into a doze. He dreamed that someone - the statue - was calling him; he was falling into a well of soft, buoyant fug...
        He was awake, on his feet, mixing powders again. He felt strangely detached from his actions, as though his body moved but his mind looked on from a cocoon of mist. He watched his hands; measuring, choosing, sifting; adding moisture from various bottles; swirling the mix deftly around in the crucible.
        "Hey, fella, What're you doing with this lot?" Drivula's voice broke the spell. Bryarus whirled around.
        She was solid, all right; that cloak really ought to be wrapped around her. He wrenched his eyes away from the scarlet scraps of silk and gulped. "I don't know," he admitted. "It just felt the right thing to do. I think it's finished now, though."
        He turned back to the desk and poured the resulting brown sludge into a phial. It oozed down the side of the glass; it smelled of stale drains. Drivula wrinkled her nose and said: "Ugh!"
        Somehow that other, guttural voice seemed to be back in Bryarus' head; calling, calling... He turned blankly to the statue and poured a drop of the goop onto its head. The plastic beneath changed colour. The patch started to grow. In a matter of seconds, the surface of the whole figure had changed; it was sliding, shimmering, growing in the light. And then the show was over. A short, fat, under-dressed man stood in the statue's place and looked around. His protuberant eyes caught sight of the vampire and his full, curling beard bristled.
        "Drivula! By all that's unholy!" he said in a thick voice.
        "Hi, Bes bucko; long time no see. It must be, oh-" Drivula's delicate forehead wrinkled in concentration and the tip of her tongue came out to touch her top lip "-about fifteen hundred years, give or take a century." She gave a toothy smile. "How's things? How come you've been missing all the meetings?"
        "Oh, someone panicked about dimension leakage, locked the Gates and lost the Key." Bes shrugged. "They even gummed 'em up. Couldn't get out."
        "Well, you're out now. So what gives?"
        "Oh well, I'm not really out. I'm on a job right now..."
        "A job? Here?" she looked around the messy room and her eyes alighted on the gawping Bryarus. He seemed frozen in place, still with the phial in his hands. "Hey, fella! Snap out of it; didn't your mother tell you not to stare?"
        Bryarus blinked and closed his mouth. He put the container down carefully and snapped the lid on. Boy could he do with a drink, he thought. A large, alcoholic one. Perhaps he could cope with these delusions after that. He opened a drawer which lurked under the desk, drew out a flat bottle and took a long, satisfying gulp. He wiped his streaming eyes and squared his shoulders. Then he turned to his companions. They were still there, but it didn't matter so much now. He said: "I take it you two know each other? How come? Correct me if I'm wrong, but up to a couple of minutes ago this chap was a solid plastic statue." He collapsed into the armchair and a bit more of its stuffing seeped out.
        Bes and Drivula had been standing huddled together, staring at this pantomime. Bes cleared his throat and said: "Any chance of trying a little of what's in that bottle?"
        Bryarus passed it over absent-mindedly. Bes glugged. Drivula watched him while she answered Bryarus' question: "Oh; Bes here is a founder member of WACERFOU. The other gods were always using him as a clown. Hey, leave me some of that."
        The final comment was directed at Bes, who was already lowering the bottle from his lips. Drivula grabbed it and raised it to hers. Bes was silent; he staggered and sat on the floor. He coughed uncontrollably and wiped eyes which were screwed up and streaming with tortured tears. "Gack!" He managed at last. He took a gulp of air and tried again, his voice a whisper: "You - what is that stuff?" He looked with renewed respect at Bryarus. "Do you drink poison all the time?"
        By this time, Drivula had joined him on the floor. She leaned against him and gasped for breath. She finally managed to speak: "Wow! Is this stuff varnish, or what?"
        Bryarus was puzzled. "Haven't you ever had whisky - alcohol - before?"
        "Alcohol! So that's what it is." Bes had raised his head again. "Maybe it's not so bad, once you get over the pain." He grabbed the bottle for another drink. "We used to have beer and so on; nothing like as vicious." He wiped his eyes again.
        "Give that back," said Drivula. She took it from Bes' slack grasp. "Fermented blood is our tipple in Tarantaville. It's not a patch on this. Wow!"
        Bryarus put his head in his hands. And then the phone rang. "Help! Rape S-sir, murder, aga-aga-..." It was the museum's night watchman. For once he was sober; just terrified witless.

Thousands of miles away an explorer stooped; he picked up one of the rough spheres which littered the desert around him. He stroked the geode in wonder. The air beside him whooshed into a "Pop" and a squat, prune- wrinkled man appeared.
        This wizened creature was dressed in a striped desert shift (or djebba), with a piece of cloth wound around his head bedou-style; he hobbled toward the explorer on enormous, filthy feet. "Hah!" he said. "Prepare to meet thy end, infidel."
        "Why?" the explorer asked.
        The little man sneered. "You, a bearer of the cursed Watts name, dares to ask? You, who are to be Stomped, hear and be shamed. Your forebears have sinned-"
        "Hang on. My name isn't Watts."
        "-against the great gods of... What?
        "I'm not Watts."
        The little man raised his fists to the sky and stormed: "WACERFOU hath failed me once more! This Watts escapes my vengeance again!" He stamped a festering foot and winced. "Shit," he said, and disappeared.

Olwyn drove home the following evening. She whistled happily in tune with the crackling radio and glanced briefly at the seat beside her. The Wiccan Advertiser lay open there, with the cat tea-cosied on top. Olwyn grinned. She had read the magazine from cover to cover last night, without feeling like an outsider. A bold pencil-line ringed one advertisement; she had high hopes that "Bertha Clewydd, Private Tutor" would be willing to take on a new pupil.
        She indicated to leave the motorway at her exit, and then noticed a commotion at the top of the slip-road on the other side; there was some sort of crane over there. Curiosity hit her. She drove around the roundabout, parked at the side, and walked over to the bustle.
        "What is it?" she asked. "Are they going to close this off?" Just then she caught sight of what they were lifting; three heavy statues.
        The man turned and wiped his brow. "No, luv. It's okay. There's just been some mad artist left his sculpture rubbish lying around on the verge here. The bosses can't find who they belong to; we're taking them to the museum for now. Ugly cusses, aren't they?"
        Olwyn walked around the granite "sculptures" and looked into their faces. She felt panic bubble inside her. "Yes. Oh, yes; they certainly are," she said. She managed to make it back to the car before the shaking started. Even ossified in that rictus of horror, Halitosis and his pals were easily recognisable. What had she done? And how? "My God," she mumbled, "what kind of monster am I?" The cat rubbed against her and purred. She stroked it absently. "Okay, Bast; I suppose they were monsters too. But one thing I'm sure of - I'd better try this Clewydd lady; learn to control whatever it is." She took a few deep breaths and put Gertrude into gear. As she drove off, the radio's tinny music was interrupted by a news bulletin.
        "The disturbance at the museum last night is still unexplained," the newscaster read out. "The mystery deepens. Although several statues and paintings were removed or defaced, the thief seems to have left a series of abstract paintings in exchange. Mr. Harold Sandiford, renowned art critic, said when interviewed-"
        Olwyn snorted in disgust and turned the radio off. "The last thing I need is to hear what slimy Harold thinks," she said. "What on earth was that all about? The museum - who'd steal from that place?"

Go on to Chapter 3
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved