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

Chapter 4.

Bes descended onto his stomach again and swivelled his eyes toward Bryarus.
"What hit me?" the god whispered.
        Bryarus lifted his face from the floor and squinted upwards. "I think Min's mad at you," he whispered back. "You seem to have caught hold of his, uh... Do you think he was a good choice? He's not too well dressed."
        Bryarus heaved onto his hands and knees, and crawled backwards in a concentrated hunch. He washed his hands of the whole business. It was nothing to do with him if his mind told him lies when he gave it a drink. A drink; now that was a good idea. He stood up and fumbled the bottle out of his pocket. It was niftily removed from his fingers.
        He looked up: "Hey! Watch it! You're not supposed..." he said, but Hathor was already thirstily glugging it back. A few seconds later she removed it from her lips and gasped silently as she leaned against the doorpost.
        "Oogh!" she managed finally. "Kill the mortal. He hath tried to poison me."
        "No, no," soothed Drivula. "It seems strange at first, but after a while you get used to it. It's alcohol."
        "In truth," Hathor spoke in wonder, "the fire hath indeed died down. There is a sense of pleasure in the kneecaps." A hand reached through the group and grabbed the bottle. Drivula looked round; it was Min, clad in nothing but a tall crown, a grin and a necklace. Her eyes slid down his body and came to rest on his still rampant flesh. "Is it always like that?" she asked with interest.
        Min hadn't heard. He raised the bottle and said: "Is for me to try, also. See what makes Hathor fail." He poured some whisky down his throat and swayed. Parts of him collapsed.
        Drivula spoke with satisfaction: "Ah! So it does go down sometimes. I just wondered."
Min turned his tortured eyes toward her and croaked: "What?" then he took in her half-cloaked shape and began to revive. "Is charming lady..."
        By now a cluster of gods had pulled themselves off the wall and aimed for the action; their voices clashed confusingly in the long, high-ceilinged room. Min waved the bottle at them and they stepped back nervously. "What kind of drink can stagger Hathor and Min?" a fair-haired woman spoke with a voice like warm honey. "I think we should be careful."
        An identical voice replied: "Hah! You carry on and be careful, Isis dear. I want a taste."
        The twins were difficult to tell apart. Their wide eyes flashed royal blue, large within their delicate features.
        "Nephthys! Look - a brand new man," Isis said and put up a hand to pat her shoulder-length golden hair. She began to slink toward Bryarus, who blinked in confusion. Her arms shimmered with sleeves of long, soft feathers. Her skirt flowed up from ankle to just below bustline; however, it was made of a most unrespectable see-through pink material. Bryarus gulped. Stare as he would, he could see no trace of cloth over those full rose-tipped breasts...
        "Lay off ladies," Drivula's voice crackled with frost; "I got here first."
        Isis cast a considering glance at the vampire, who grinned and continued: "Like I said. Lay off. There's plenty more where this one came from."
        A writhing rustle sounded behind the group. Nephthys whirled around and pointed. "Ooh, look," she said, "Apep's here! Goody!" She ran over to the startled-looking serpent and wrapped her arms around as much of him as she could; he was still trying to unravel his huge mottled length off the wall. His coils already reached half-way down the echoing room.
        "Sstop it," he hissed. "I'm conssentrating." He eased some more of himself off the wall and turned his head to see how the job was going.
        In her eagerness to help pull Apep off the wall, Isis trod on the toe of an old man behind her. "Oops! Sorry Ra," she said and hurried on. "It's a long time since we've been able to use a good solid snake." She grabbed hold of a heaving handful, thought for a minute, and shrugged. "Or anyone else solid, come to think of it."
        The old man was hopping around on one foot, nursing the other one and cursing. His spare hand grasped at his tall crown to keep it from wobbling off his head; this task was complicated by the presence of a small serpent, which curled around it and flipped at his fingers with its tail.
        "Ra, you old rascal!" Drivula squealed. She jumped forward and flung herself at him. He tried to fight her off and regain his balance.
        So this was the sun god, Bryarus thought. Lord of the sky. Creator of everything by spitting or masturbating. Well he was a perfect example of the dangers of such activities. He dribbled like a sick old man. His body and legs were exposed, skinny and raddled, under a knee-length Egyptian loincloth and wide necklace. And his beard - well, anything as thin and ragged as that deserved an honourable burial. Bryarus almost smiled until those deep, ancient eyes turned toward him.
        "Drivula," the god's voice was deep and harsh; "put me down! You're upsetting Uraeus and you know what that means."
        Drivula looked up. The tiny king of snakes glared down at her from Ra's crown and she shuddered. "I guess I'm sorry, Ury," she said and the glare lost heat.
        Bryarus was struck by a thought. He turned to Ra and said: "Isn't Uraeus an asp? Wasn't Cleopatra..." His voice tailed off, as he became aware that Ra was backing away and signalling frantically.
        The god had gone white and was shaking his head, mouthing "No! No, don't say it!"
        Uraeus turned his basilisk glare on Bryarus and opened his mouth on the start of a hiss. A stench crawled out and fought with the mustiness of the museum; sharp-tanged fumes of combusting, decayed maggots mixed with the oily brown stink of rotting fish-guts.
        Bryarus took one breath and gagged. He ran for the door. He was not alone; the room was brisk with bodies emptying from it. A few busy seconds later, Ra stood alone; abandoned by all but his pet. The only sound to disturb the tomb-like peace was that of a god fighting for breath.
        The little snake shut its mouth again; as always at such moments, it gazed around in a puzzled fashion and rumbled deep in its throat. The god sank onto the floorboards and blew his nose on the end of his loincloth. The others began to drift hesitantly back.
        Bes caught hold of Bryarus and hissed in his ear: "Don't ever say anything about Cleopatra to that serpent. It seems to be a sore spot; don't know why, because no-one ever sticks around long enough to find out. Boy, has that kid got bad breath! But you must never, never say so in his hearing - he's sensitive about that too."
        "Have you no -ah- books; no arts?" the slow, musical voice came from behind. Bryarus turned to see the magnificent ibis-head of Djehuti with its long curving beak, thoughtful eyes and rust-coloured, shoulder-length cape. Now here was a god with class, he thought; a god who used only his voice to Create. Must be a fantastic singer. He certainly looked magnificent with that glistening, tanned body highlighted by the white knee-length loincloth.
        "Hey," Ra waved a bottle at the rival demiurge and caught his attention, "you ought to try this stuff. It packs quite a punch."
        Djehuti - god of clerks, keeper of the divine archives, and inventor of all arts and sciences - took the bottle and contemplated it in silence. He shook it, and held it up to the light. He tried to get his beak into it; it was too small. His beak gave an impatient click. He pushed his bird's head back to reveal a pink, bald man's face; He lifted the bottle to his lips and drank deep. " -Ah-" he said, standing rock-still with a distant expression in his eyes; "well, ah..."
        Bryarus cleared his throat. "Yes, we do have other rooms here," he answered the god's earlier question. "Would you like to see?" He led the way out. He didn't notice Drivula stroll over to the phial of life-gunk, stopper it and slip it under her cloak. He heard her throaty chuckle but thought nothing of it.
        The gods thudded through the dimly lit, high-arched passages. They ran like children from room to room, squealing in glee at the variety; from Failed Inventions to Asian Artefacts and from Plastics to Prints.
        But it was the Music room which delighted them most. It contained ancient middle-eastern instruments - and especially, to Bes' joy, a huge African drum. He began to beat a deep note on it and soon he was stroking a series of staccato taps, mixed with a rhythm of thumps. Hathor picked up a sistrum and had begun to shake it, when Tansy stuck her head around the door. "What's all the commotion about? Oh hi, Big Boss! I just popped back in to show Arlo the new batch of vulture etchings that arrived when he was out; what's your excuse?" She turned her head to someone behind her and said: "It's Big Boss; he's got a bunch of friends here."
        At that moment, someone's stomach grumbled. This seemed to be the start of a gut symphony. Bryarus hadn't thought of that; how was he going to feed this shower?
        "Hast thou hunger? Take my milk," Hathor said, eagerly lifting her hands to her breasts.
        Her host looked away quickly. "No no, Madam," he said, glancing at the faces around him. They portrayed various stages of revulsion. "We wouldn't think of making you supply your own sustenance."
Hathor looked wistful, but he saw with relief that she had stopped fumbling at her bodice.         "I'd rather have some more of -ah- what's in that bottle," Djehuti's voice sang out like a mellow cello. "It seems -ah- to grow on one." There was a general surge in the direction of Bes and his bottle. Hathor went into a corner to sulk. No-one noticed that she'd turned into her vulture-form by the time she came out; they were all far too busy wiping their eyes and gasping.
        Tansy came into the room with Arlo behind her. "You need an all-night chippie," she said. Then she looked around and her eyes grew round with wonder. "Heck, have you seen the gear your friends are all wearing, Big Boss?" she whispered in awe. "Is it a fancy-dress party, or what? That one is all naked," she went on nodding toward Min. She was impressed.
        Bryarus coughed. "Yes well. It's like this. My friends wanted to see the museum and we walked over for the exercise and we got mugged. the muggers took most of our clothes and - and - that's it," he finished lamely.
        Tansy looked at him carefully. His eyes shifted under hers. She shook her head. "Try again, Boss. No-one ever wants to see the museum."
        Bryarus shifted his weight from one foot to the other and made up his mind. "Okay. I made some gunk, brought that Bes statue to life; then we came here and released a few other gods."
        Tansy gazed at him for a full minute and his eyes held hers with a frantic plea. She nodded slowly. "I'll buy that story," she said. She looked around, listening to the sound of grumbling stomachs. "We still need that chippie. You'd better get a towel or something for the naked one; he'll give the natives a complex."
        "Hey, Tansy!" Arlo's voice rose with excitement. He had just spotted Hathor. His ginger hair stood on end. "Look! What a vulture! Wow, a real beauty..."
        His beloved looked at him. He was lifting Hathor onto his shoulder and crooning to her. Tansy shrugged and turned back to the others. "Food," she said. "Come on. I'm empty, too. We'll be all right at Marco's; he won't notice anything odd. Arlo! Bring the damn bird and stop crooning at it."
        Bes touched the drum. It shimmered and disappeared; he calmly folded something up in his palm and pocketed it. "What'd you do with my drum?" yelped Bryarus.
        "Oh, I thought we might need it later. It's two-dimensional now - easier to carry."
        "But if you can do things like that, why not just bring each other to life off the wall? Why bother with the gunk?"
        "-Ah-" Djehuti spoke; "that is not -ah- possible. We can Create new live beings, or we can reduce life to stone or metal. We can -ah- expand and contract inanimate objects or, indeed, ourselves; but it is very -ah- inadvisable without the Formula, to-"
        "-Clone ourselves," Bes finished quickly. "Now what about this food?"
        Bryarus looked at the stream of gods which ambled along Lower Postleton's cracked streets with him and tried to keep his eyes away from naked flesh. It was an almost impossible task.
        Apep frolicked along in weed-covered gap-sites and scrunched his body through garbage; he lifted his lichen-covered head above the roof-tops to see further and hissed into doorways. The tramps ignored him and he went away.
        "You see that, Nellie?" said one.
        "Oh ah." Nellie nodded. "Nothin' special, Joe, were it?"
        "Nah. Seen better on a real binge."
        They huddled up together under a ragged blanket.

From the small oily cafe that was Marco's, a sharp tang of sweat and rancid fat reached out of the door to grab at passing nostrils. The customers ranged from tramps to glue-factory shift-workers. They sat huddled at tables which dripped grease onto the sticky floor; it was difficult to tell whether there were tablecloths lurking under the grime. The fifteen-watt light bulbs weren't dim enough to hide the blobs of something indefinable which cowered in corners and the food seemed to shrink from contact with the cracked plates. Over the kitchen door there was a sign, yellowed and streaked with green and brown, which proclaimed: "No dogs."
        When Bryarus' party entered, Marco sniffed and wiped his hand across his nose. He eyed them narrowly when asked for a table for ten plus an asp, a serpent with a length problem and a large vulture. He said: "No dogs allowed. You got any dogs?" On their earnest assurance that dogs did not feature as part of their ensemble, he swung his large, encrusted hand out in an expansive gesture to include the whole room and said: "Wha'll you have?"
        The choice in the end was fairly limited. At Marco's one could have fish with beans and congealed chips, or chips with beans and congealed fish. Any other variation confused the chef. It was a high-class joint, for Lower Postleton.
        Drivula leaned close to Marco and breathed on his neck. "Black pudding? You gonna get me a black pudding, mister?"
        He looked thoughtfully at her teeth and then at her chest; his eyes wandered back to the teeth. "Okay," he said, "See what I can find." He ambled into the kitchen.
        The conversation rose and fell in the room undisturbed. It was a steady, restful sound. It mingled with the "slap-slap" of Pos Creek which slithered past the back door.
        Bryarus picked moodily at the mess on his plate and wondered what Drivula was up to now. She and Tansy seemed to have taken to each other in a huge way and they had spent some time whispering, looking at him and giggling. However, five minutes ago they had gone into a deep conference with Djehuti; he sounded very enthusiastic about something, in his measured way. It sounded as though they were going to try some experiment with those green blobs. What were they called? Dwatters, that was it. Bryarus heard the word "museum". He strained to hear.
        "-Won't be able to resist; they'll fall over each other to photograph the place-" Tansy's voice rose in enthusiasm.
        "What are you lot talking about?" Bryarus asked.
        Tansy grinned at him, waved, and carried on chatting.
        Isis and Nephthys chattered; their eyes darted around the room and lingered on some of the young men. "Now, he would do for me," said Isis, pointing to one muscled lad, "what about you?"
        Bryarus broke in: "Do for what?"
        Two pairs of blue eyes widened at him. "Why, for a priest of course!"
        Bryarus gasped: "But you can't go round castrating people in Postleton!"
        "What? Oh, no, we don't do that." The twins looked at each other and giggled. "Well yes, maybe we did once, but we think of much more fun things to do with them these days."
        It was all very disturbing. The third whisky bottle was circulating freely and Bryarus grabbed it as it went past; no-one else seemed to be worried about anything so why should he?
        At this point Tansy and her two new conspirators heaved themselves to their feet and left in what they obviously felt was an unobtrusive fashion. However, three people wading between tables in a crab-like crouch and saying "shush" to each other in stage whispers at odd intervals is more likely to grab the attention than not. But they got away with it; nobody called the police or the lunatic asylum. This was Lower Postleton.
        Half an hour later the rest of the party unstuck themselves from their seats, paid for the half-eaten mess (or rather, Bryarus did), and left.
        Bryarus strode out of the door - smack into the side of a large, hairy, bull-like creature. He sat down abruptly. The creature turned a head armed with strong curving horns and pushed him gently with its nose. Bryarus shook his head to clear it and removed a bunch of animal-hairs from his mouth.
        "What's this?" he asked of no-one in particular.
        Drivula and Tansy appeared from the other side of the animal and looked at each other and then away again. Tansy cleared her throat. "Well B.B., it's like this. You see Drivula thought, well I hadn't actually seen anything come to life and it didn't seem fair, so while we were back there with Djehuti..."
        Bryarus amazed himself with the calmness of his voice. "Which room was it?"
        "Well we thought perhaps the Asian room might be interesting..."
        "Oh my God," Bryarus put his head in his hands. "How many of that lot did you let loose?" he shuddered as he thought of some of the bizarre characters there.
        Drivula chipped in: "None, honest, fella. Only Bonasus here."
        "Bonasus?" Bryarus stood and bent to dust his trousers.
        "Yeah. That's his name. He's an Asian Bonnacon..."
        "What?" Bryarus had snapped upright with a yell. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper. "Don't you know what these chaps do?"
        The two girls looked at each other with raised brows and shrugged their shoulders.
        Bryarus continued. "They evacuate their bowels, ladies. And when they do that everyone around has to duck. And I have to find a home for him."
        At that moment Djehuti re-appeared, striding along with his ibis-head on and humming to himself. Tansy looked an enquiry at him and he nodded briefly. "All -ah- taken care of. Those Dwatters have faith in me; they'll do as I say and -ah- stay still for a while."
        "Great," said Tansy; "It won't take long - you'll see."
        A huge yawn shook Bryarus. It was time to lie down somewhere comfortable. Preferably for a long time. Perhaps when he awoke all this would have been a dream. Then he looked at his little flock, clustered around him with friendly, trusting faces, and he felt a surge of affection. No, he thought, he'd be glad if they weren't a dream. Interesting things would be bound to happen now. "Arlo," he said, "can you take that vulture home with you? And Min too, perhaps; for heaven's sake find him some trousers. That towel is slipping."
        Arlo nodded: "Yeah. Shall I take the big snake, too? This is a great place; no-one'd notice."
        "Splendid," said Bryarus, blinking slightly at this view of Lower Postleton's advantages, "and Tansy - can you take anyone?"
        "Well, I have got a couple of camp beds tucked away." she turned to Isis and Nephthys. "You two could do with something to wear; I'm maybe about your size. How about it; d'you fancy kipping at my hovel? it's just a bedsit but I've seen worse."
        The twins greeted this with enthusiasm. "Good." said Bryarus. "Cheerio for now, then." He turned up the road with Bes and Drivula and waved to Djehuti and Ra to follow with the Bonnacon. "Damn!" he said. "It's too late for buses and we'll never find a taxi down here. Oh well. It's a long walk, I'm afraid."
        "Pardon Master," said a husky new voice.
        "Eh?" was Bryarus' inelegant reply.
        "I wish to suggest Master, that I am good to be ridden on, goodness yes."
        "Bonasus! you can talk!"
        "But yes of course," The Bonnacon sounded offended. "If you do not wish to ride, it is up to you Master. But it seems there is a problem, isn't it?"
        "Indeed it is," replied Bryarus, "we thank you for the kindness." The five of them clambered up onto the huge animal's back and his stride effortlessly gobbled up the miles.         The journey took mere minutes.
        The house was in darkness. Bonasus was dubious about entering it: "In my home country I see the stars at night. I sleep under the sky, isn't it?"
        "Well, you certainly may if you wish. There's a stream at the back if you're thirsty. Will you be warm enough?"
        "Oh yes indeed; no problem, Master."
        "Good night then," said Bryarus, as he ushered his other guests quietly into his home and found beds for three of them. He still didn't know where Drivula slept and he rather thought he didn't want to.
        Bonasus meanwhile went to examine the stream. He had urgent need of it for more than just a drink.

The bright lights were dimmed at the museum. Jim Fester, the watchman, sank into his usual sedated doze. The night settled around the Egyptian room with its luminous green poster-paintings on the walls. The enigmatic typeset messages merged delicately with new, complicated swirls of coloured light. All was peaceful.
        In Postleton West an enormous, flaming turd floated down a narrow stream and a Bonnacon settled for a comfortable sleep on the bank.

Go on to Chapter 5
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved