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

Chapter 6.

The gods were discussing the problem of clothing. Bryarus mentioned cashflow problems, suggesting second-hand shops, and Tansy said that gods like these deserved the best. Cambider's was the shop for them. Bryarus gulped and mentioned the cashflow problem again. Tansy suggested a cup of coffee.
        Ra refused to leave Uraeus behind at the museum with Apep, or at home with Bonasus. "I need to find a pocket that will hold him," the god quavered and wiped spittle from his chin.
        At least Ra kept the snake in his shirt now and not on his head, Bryarus thought. He didn't feel up to arguing about it. He had sums to do.
        They sat in Marco's with the coffee - or something mud-coloured, anyway. A smell of mildew hovered in the air. Tansy said: "Hey, Marco - what's cooking? This place smells worse than usual; mould or something."
        He shrugged. "People say that all the time. I don't notice nothin'." He thought for a bit. "Creek's risen this mornin', into the kitchen. Bit sloshy in there."
        Bryarus boggled.
        Arlo sat dreamily with the Hathor-vulture on his shoulder. Every so often he'd blurt out: "Wow, you should see what this bird can do," or "Yeah, this lass'll dance to my `Dead Frog' song next folk night." Hathor was sipping delicately from the cracked mug which he held up.
        Tansy glowered at them and muttered something about men who ogled birds.
        Bryarus was trying to work out the logistics of the situation, writing calculations with a fork through the table-grease. They would need two taxis and then there were four men and three women to clothe; and, try as he would, he couldn't make the sums come to anything less than astronomical.
        "Tansy," he said at last. "Tansy! Hey!"
        Tansy wrenched her glare away from Arlo and muttered: "Yes, Big Boss?"
        He cleared his throat. "Your clothes look pretty good on Isis and Nephthys, don't they?" There was a plea in his eye.
        She looked at him, then at the blonde goddess twins and then back at him again. "No, B.B," she said with a firm shake of her head. He could see what she meant; her bright jazzy colours did not go well with their fair, delicate complexions. They were a little taller than their hostess, which meant that her mini-skirts were of questionable decency; but worst of all was the difficulty with which they kept their exuberant breasts from bursting out of confinement. Marco was enjoying the show from behind the counter, as he picked at his nose.
        Bes had wandered across to Arlo and was whispering in Hathor's ear. She stopped sipping, cocked her head to one side and blinked at him. Bryarus caught the last few words:
        "-says he's the richest man in town. Go to it, bird-face. Get us some." The vulture suddenly spread her wings and let out a cackle; then she stretched up and whirred out of the cafe. Arlo gazed worshipfully after her and Tansy hunched her shoulders.

Olwyn was on her way to work. She was still nurturing Gertrude along the tree-bordered driveway of Phelonia Hall when Jarrold Effingham-Luton, the director of Phelonius Televisual Productions, erupted into the Hall's Georgian offices with a snarl. His face mottled with rage, he waved an open letter in one pudgy, be-ringed hand. "What's the meaning of this? I'm not to be disturbed with such petty quibblings," he shouted. He glanced around and said: "Where's that damn secretary? She's supposed to stop all this sort of bother!"
        Cicely Watts looked up from her desk and pursed her mouth into a prim smile. "Oh, E-L sir," she said: "I have no idea. She hasn't been in yet this morning and it's gone nine o'clock." Cicely looked down at the backs of her well-manicured hands and shuffled a few papers. "I rather think... She left pretty sharp on Friday, too."
        "Hmph," said the boss. "Well, send her in as soon as she arrives. I don't pay good money to a secretary that never works." He stormed into his inner sanctum and slammed the door as he yelled: "And bring me some decent coffee, for a change!"
        Two seconds later his door flew open again, to a further burst of yelling: "Aaargh - what the hell... Catch that damn bird, it's got my money!" A huge vulture caromed through the gap, clutching a fat brown wallet in its beak. It flapped through Cicely's screams in a leisurely manner and sailed out of the open window, just as Gertrude came to a sighing halt in the parking area.
        Olwyn glanced at her watch as she slid through the door of the Hall's office wing. Cicely sat, looking unusually flushed but still prim and smug. "He wants to see you," she said, "I just had to tell him you were late..."
        Bitch, thought Olwyn and glowered at the personnel assistant. Then she sighed, straightened her cheerfully flowered skirt and knocked on her employer's door.
        The room she entered was large, with a blocked-up Adam fireplace. Huge windows graced the end wall, and disclosed gnarled trees which were still acorns when this East wing was built. The plush carpet, which echoed the peach colour of the high ceiling, rolled over the acreage between the door and an antique oak desk. At the desk smoke wisped up from a golden cigarette holder which a seething, balding, flabby man was just about to lift to his lips.
        As always, Olwyn wondered why on earth quiet little Emily Effingham had married this man. What had she seen in him? Perhaps his drive to succeed had seemed irresistible? He had certainly managed to grab her, the house, and any money he could lay hands on; and he'd tacked her posh name onto his ordinary "Luton".
        E-L paused as Olwyn entered, and roared: "About bloody time! Come here! What do you mean by it?"
        Correctly interpreting this as a rhetorical question, Olwyn walked silently toward the desk.
        "Look," he put down the holder and lifted a small pile of letters from the desk, "what are these?" He shook them under her nose.
        Olwyn looked. Her heart sank. "They are requests for payment, E-L sir," she said; "they are long overdue and you really ought to pay the cameramen-"
        "Don't you tell me what I should do, my girl," shouted Effingham-Luton, his face purpling over again; "I employ you to keep this sort of thing-"
        "-if you want them to work for you again," Olwyn went on. Her face was schooled to calmness, but her heart hammered. "I promised them that I would make sure you saw the bills."
        "There are plenty of men out there," he waved a pudgy hand at the window, "crying out to work for Phelonius. Why should I bother with this petty stuff?"
        "If you're not going to pay them, perhaps you could instruct me to tell them that they may sue...?"
        "Don't be stupid, girl." E-L shook the papers. "Here's Bill Gimlet - he can't afford to sue! Anyway, Barney & Loophole wouldn't let-"
        "Well sir, Bill says he's found a solicitor who will do the job."
        Her employer slammed the sheaf of papers down on the desk again and gobbled slightly. He sat down and his voice sank to a normal level. "Dammit," he said, "why would they take such a small thing to court?"
        Olwyn's heart steadied again. "I think that they want to pay their mortgages, sir. That sort of thing. At least that's what they say."
        "Cheats! The lot of them, demanding expenses for chrissake! Bloodsuckers." He scowled and looked at the crumpled sheets. He began to mutter: "Money. People must think I'm made of the stuff. Even, just now, that bloody vulture. Where the hell did it come from? I'll take that bloody zoo for all I can get..." His head shot up and his eyes gleamed. His voice rose again. "As for you, what do you mean by wasting time I pay for? Where the hell have you been this morning?"
        Olwyn felt panic rise, nauseous in her throat. "I-I went to the museum, Sir; I wanted to ask them... I didn't think you'd-"
        "The museum?" His eyes were sharp with interest. Olwyn was surprised to see that his anger was fading. "Hey, perhaps you're not so dumb. Snooping around, were you? What did they tell you? They wouldn't speak to young Harold." He rose and started to pace the floor.
        "Well I didn't see very much, but they said I could go back and browse. I did see some new statues." Olwyn was puzzled.
        "New ones?" He frowned again and paused, "I thought the point was that they'd lost some. I'd heard they'd got some new paintings; fancier versions of those new posters, or some such nonsense. You'd think Cicely would know something about it, but that brother of hers- Ah, Harold," he went on as the door opened to reveal the art critic; "Miss Doorbar, here, seems to be getting somewhere with that museum crowd. This could be our lever into the Lower Postleton scene, if we play it right; should be lots of cheap film material down there. `Human interest' rubbish."
        Olwyn glanced with distaste at the young man who had syruped through the door. A bow tie hid the shortness of his neck and accentuated a large, jutting chin which sprouted designer stubble. His eyes were glazed with horn-rimmed spectacles, which were insufficient to hide their arrogant expression. Those eyes quickly undressed Olwyn and caressed her intimately, whilst his small mouth primmed itself into speech: "There you are, E-L; I always said Little O had a way with men."
        She could perhaps have forgiven him for being a prat, if only he hadn't also owned sweaty octopus-hands and a cousinship with Effingham-Luton. Her voice crackled with frost as she said: "I don't know what you're talking about. I went to the museum to-"
        "Yes yes," said E-L, who resumed his pacing, "and they didn't throw you out - even invited you back. Now," and he stopped directly in front of Olwyn, thrusting his face into hers so that she flinched from the conflict of sweat and stale tobacco, "what we want is for you to arrange an interview. Art documentary, that kind of thing. Cheap. Do I make myself clear?"
        Olwyn went back to her desk, having had to squidge around Harold and his leer to get to the door. She felt depressed without quite knowing why. More depressed than usual, that is, after a dose of Harold and E-L. When she thought about it, she realised that she just didn't want to let these slime monsters loose on the simple decay of Lower Postleton. A chord within her responded to the world of that long-limbed, desperate-eyed man of the museum.
        Well, she'd just have to do it. And at least it would get her out of the Hall for a while - legitimately. While she was out she might as well deal with something else which was on her mind; those statues kept returning to her inner vision and she felt that she just had to get help. The Bertha Clewydd who advertised as a Wiccan teacher sounded ideal.
        Bast was sitting tidily on Gertrude's bonnet when Olwyn crunched over the granite chippings to the car and got into the driver's seat. The cat stood up, arched her back, and rubbed affectionately against the windscreen before flowing down onto the passenger seat. "Got a bit of driving around to do today," said Olwyn, and set Gertrude lurching down the drive.
        They skirted the town, south toward the heavy brown stink of the glue-factory which towered over the ancient village of Postle. This huddle of houses had nestled in a fork of Pos Creek long before factories or sewage-plants had come to need its waters. Trees still whispered agedly over the place, dipping their moss-covered roots in the murky waters; Mother Nature coughed and wheezed a bit, however, these days. The stench of liquefying bones mingled with rotting eggs and methane, to powerful effect.
        The Neighbourhood Improvement Committee of Postleton West (in which Cicely was a leading light) wanted the whole area razed to the ground, and converted into an up-market shopping plaza. The Postle Villagers kind of liked things the way they were. They enjoyed having homes to live in and jobs to go to.
        At the moment, Olwyn thought, the Village was winning; the Wold Regional Council was run by Social Freedomists. She screwed up her eyes as she tried to remember - hadn't she read somewhere that Derek Hartman, the chief councillor, had been brought up by the tramps in Lower Postleton? She shook her head. No; there'd been something like that, though.
        Bertha Clewydd opened the door of her chunky cottage in answer to Olwyn's knock, and peered up through mild grey eyes. Her face was a mass of tanned wrinkles; her hair splayed out in surprised-looking white wisps, and she stooped over a gnarled stick. "Hello, my dear," she said, before Olwyn could say a word. There was only a trace of a Welsh lilt to the soft voice. "I was wondering when you'd turn up. But come in, come in!" She turned and led the way into a small, round room which sparkled and swirled with brasses and pictures and bright, gingham curtains.
        Olwyn blinked and closed her mouth. She doesn't know me - how could she tell I was coming? she thought, and then she shrugged and followed.
        "Take a seat, there now, do," Bertha gestured vaguely and sat on a high-backed, embroidered chair. Her hands rested, crossed, on the top of her cane. "Come, now, there's something on your mind. Tell me."
        Olwyn chose a sturdy milking-stool and looked up into Bertha's eyes. She stumbled into speech: "Well it sounds so silly, but I always wanted to have powers or something, but I never expected to; and now - now, I don't know what to do..."
        The old woman nodded her head encouragingly, and eventually the whole tale of the motorway incident came stumbling out. "Am I dangerous? Can I learn how to, you know, control it? I saw your advert - you do still teach magic don't you?"
        Bertha's eyes stared thoughtfully, unfocused. "There's tricky for you," she muttered softly to herself. Then she roused herself and shook her head. "I can teach you the Old Ways, the ways of Wicca - witches - if that's what you want. But by what I can tell, it wasn't you who did that curse. Power like that can't come unbid. This isn't the magic of Wicca; it is an older spell even, from the origins of time. Someone else is here - a queen of magic." She looked at the open doorway where the sun's rays fell through. In a puddle of light Bast was curled, with one back leg elegantly raised over her head, washing her genitals.

At that moment, Bryarus was trying to explain to a bunch of excited gods why they couldn't grab at just any clothing which caught their eyes and carry it off - particularly if someone was wearing it at the time. And especially not before they'd entered the store. By the time he had shepherded his charges inside Cambider's Ladies and Gentlemen's Outfitters, there was one shirtless taxi-driver shouting out of his cab; three women screaming lustily in various stages of undress; and two dustmen yelling about their trousers.
        A scruffy old mongrel hid under the dust-cart. Mutt knew when to keep quiet.
        The screams and shouts stopped abruptly when Bryarus slipped back out of the shop waving banknotes, and hissed: "Shh! The camera's still rolling. You acted wonderfully; thank you. Here's a little something for your trouble." The taxi-driver grinned sheepishly; the women patted their hair and smiled in all directions, whispering: "Ooh! Is it the telly? One of them `surprise' programmes? Fancy, me on telly!" and the dustmen pulled their trousers back up.
        But Mutt wasn't stupid; something else was bound to happen. He stayed under the cart. Sure enough, a few minutes later a vulture went whizzing past and into the shop with something brown in its beak. There was only a tiny pause before several hysterical shoppers erupted onto the pavement. Mutt slunk off to Lower Postleton. Things were safer there, in spite of Marco.
        Inside the store, Bryarus sat with his head in his hands. Isis and Nephthys were fighting busily over the torn remains of some purple creation, while Bes was experimenting with makeup. Hathor flew across to the god; he deftly removed the wallet from her beak and winked. She quietly turned back into a woman and gazed around.
        The assistants were beginning to take charge; they guided the gods toward the expensive racks and helped them disrobe. One young man, labelled "Daniel", tried to help Ra. "Oooh!" he gasped when he pulled at the god's shirt and gazed into Uraeus' basilisk glare. "Aaaah," he gabbled and let go of the cloth with a jerk. Unfortunately the spasm flicked the serpent into the air, and it came down on Daniel's neck. Daniel then proceeded to gyrate in a dance which would have produced rain if the store had had clouds. He hopped and he jumped; his legs twirled and twinkled and his arms windmilled around his head. "Urgle, unk, gurk," he grunted rhythmically. He was being very earnest about it.
        The twins stopped fighting, to watch. "How about that one for a priest?" said Isis, "he's got plenty of stamina."
        Nephthys tapped her chin with a small finger and looked at the gyrating man. She nodded. "Perhaps we should take turns, though," she said. "He doesn't look very muscular."
        Uraeus slid grumpily to the floor and Daniel collapsed into a panting heap. Nephthys undulated over to him. He yelped; she'd grabbed his crotch.
        "Yes," she called to her sister, "he'll do."
        Tansy laughed. "Put him down," she said, "we'd better get you dressed."
        An older, greyer assistant stood beside a naked Min. He averted his gaze. "Sir will need the modern, baggy style of trouser, I believe." Min tried on the modern, baggy pair and looked hopeful.
        The assistant frowned. "Sir does appear to have a - problem, doesn't Sir?" Sir did, indeed. It looked as if he had something akin to an excited wombat up his trouser-leg. The assistant cleared his throat. "Perhaps something a little tighter after all, might be advisable. And, if Sir would agree; some support stockinet to bind around the leg and the - member? Does Sir `dress' to the left or the right? The left? Very good, Sir."
        Isis slid out of her cubicle and twirled happily in a powder-blue, wool dress with a very full skirt. Suddenly she stopped. Her eyes flashed blue. "Hathor!" her honeyed voice held shards of ice, "Put him down; he's ours. We saw him first. He doesn't want your milk." She stalked over to Hathor and the bemused Daniel, swung the young man over her slim shoulders, and walked out.
        Hathor sulked and turned back into a vulture.
        On the way back to the museum, the gods were laden with bags and boxes. Bryarus didn't even want to ask where the money had suddenly appeared from; one look at Bes' innocent face was enough to know that he wouldn't like the answer.
        Djehuti sat next to him in the taxi and asked: "Ah- what was the magic word you conjured silence with earlier? It is a word which Tansy said -ah- has much power. I see now that this is so."
        "Eh? Oh, you mean about the camera? Well, if people think they're going to be on TV..."
        He looked around him at the blank faces, and chuckled. "Of course, you wouldn't know. Tell you what, why don't you all come home with me tonight and I'll show you."
        At the museum, Arlo said: "That woman who came earlier; she was back, asking for you, boss. Dunno what she wanted; said she'd come again tomorrow. I don't think it's books this time."
        Bryarus was a little startled. Behind him, he could hear Ra and Min snigger. "Oh, come and help me shift some stuff," he said crossly and led them away.

Tansy was checking the "back shop"; she could see Arlo, through the shelf slats, hunched over a soldering iron. She smiled tenderly to herself. He really was kinda cute, she thought. Just then, Hathor flew into the room, shook out her feathers and rose up into her shape of statuesque, cow-eared woman. Her eyes glistened at Arlo's concentrating spine. "Dost thou desire a drink?" Her deep voice brought Arlo's head up with a jerk and her eyes caught his.
        "Eh?" he said. "Wha-? Who...?"
        Her hand lifted to her breast. "Wouldst like a suck?"
        "No, he wouldstn't," Tansy's voice yelled from behind the shelves.
        Hathor frowned and then shrugged and walked out. Another time, perhaps. This man could make a good priest. Arlo stood looking after her, his mouth open and soldering iron dangling. Tansy glowered at him through the slats.
        After work, Arlo looked for the vulture. Tansy tapped her foot. "She's gone back with Big Boss," she said.
        He looked vague, and his hair stuck up in endearing ginger spikes. He ran his hand through it again. "Oh? Pity. I wanted you to see her tricks. I swear she understands what I say," he said. His eyes focused on Tansy. His face split in a shy grin and Tansy's irritation melted.
        "Yeah, well," she said, "let's pick up your guitar and nip along to the club, eh?"
        Half an hour later they slid into Marco's; the sound of folksong already warbled from the windows above the cafe. Marco was leaning against the counter, picking his teeth; he looked at the guitar and waved a thumb at the ceiling. "They've started." he said. "Wanna beer?"
        They grabbed a jar of his home-made ale and hopped up the stairs, avoiding the broken ones.
        Half the jar and the "Dead Frog song" later, Arlo was moaning to anyone who would listen: "That vulture, she can really dance you know. Wanted you all to s-see it, an' now, now - where is she? Oh wow, what a b-bird..." Tansy squinted at him and belched. That ale was special.
        The air grew heavy with sweat and smoke and a new member fought his way through dancing, tapping bodies to the window. He grasped the latch and pushed, just as a cry of "Nooo - don't open it!" rose from a dozen throats. The window, a chunk of wall and the folk enthusiast fell with a splash into the waiting Creek.
        Someone else yelled "Aaaah - shit!" from the stairwell, as he tripped over a loose board in the stairs and made a soft landing in the grease at the bottom.
        Marco stopped picking his teeth. "You wanna beer?" he asked.
        All was normal at the Folk Club.

Cicely was out when Bryarus got his flock back to the house. Drivula was inspecting the drinks cabinet, while the Bonnacon's head hung soulfully through the window. "What's this stuff?" Drivula called over her shoulder, holding up a bottle of bitters. And then she caught sight of the neatly- dressed gods and whistled. "Wow! What class!"
        Bryarus removed the bitters from her grasp. She entwined her fingers through his and slithered her other hand up his arm. He shivered with the silkiness and closed his eyes. Then he heard her click those teeth together and jerked away. "Believe me," he said, "you wouldn't want to drink that neat. Okay; anyone for cocktails?" The next few minutes were busy with tinkling sounds, slurps and sighs.
        Isis slipped into the room and grabbed Bryarus' glass. She drank thirstily.
        "What'd you do with your `priest'?" he asked.
        She shrugged. "Oh, he wasn't much use, after all. He kept squealing and falling asleep."
        The television was switched on and the gods clustered around it. Moans of surprise wafted through the room: "Is glowing! A sun-"
        "-little people-"
        "-a window between -ah- worlds?"
        "Shush," said Bryarus, sitting down on one of Cicely's angular chairs, "It's only television. Should be the news right now. Hey look, that's Postleton! Quiet. Let's hear what they're saying." His companions squatted beside him on the soft white carpet.
        The news cameras were roving around the shabby streets of the East end of town and had homed in briefly on a temporary, lean-to stall by the Old Wall; this area was thick with green, luminous posters which overlay decades of peeling proclamations. A hand-painted sign dripped above the stall and declared that it contained Berkoff's Antiques and Curios. A man who was, presumably, Berkoff himself grinned at the camera through soiled and gappy teeth and held up a mis-shapen object. Before him was a rough placard which declared the item to be a "Genuine, Hand-crafted pograp Shrine". It further urged the public to "Buy One Today".
        The camera cut to views of the new posters which covered Lower Postleton; a disembodied voice was speaking: "-And have spread into Upper West Postleton. We return you to the studio."
        The programme was the regular, networked news discussion on Channel C, and it came from the Wold Area studios. Murdo Goshawk was the host. He sat in the semi-circle of leatherette chairs with the Reverend Willey, a bishop, a military general and a scientist. Bryarus sat up with a jerk and snorted. Dr. Visect, he thought; what was he doing there? The man had a knack for appearing on chat shows, and he was only a drugs specialist - but one who advocated experiments on prisoners and looked like a weevil. "Bet he pulled the wings off flies when he was a kid," Bryarus muttered to himself.
        "The phenomenon is most unusual, yes unusual," Dr. Visect was heard to say. He pushed his glasses up the thin bridge of his nose and coughed. "There seems to be no way of removing these posters and yet they are placed most haphazardly. Somebody knows how to move them, yes move them, but we have been unable to discover how or who. But I cannot, yes cannot agree with the good general-"
        General Cragblatt spluttered. He was a square, heavy man and his voice was a loud bark: "Agree! Hah! I tell you, an evacuation order should be slammed on this town right away. Leave it to the military. We'll find the danger; eradicate it at source."
        "Exactly. You would remove something which science has not yet had the chance to study," said Visect, "rather than think, yes think: `How can we contain the menace until suitable research has been carried out?' There are some valuable tests which must be made; for instance, did you know that these posters, although luminous, yes luminous, appear to be totally non-radioactive? Without question, we should proceed cautiously, yes cautiously before levelling the area. We must first understand what we deal with, and then detonate, yes detonate."
        The bishop cleared his throat. "Ahem. I believe that the general has a point; these objects could be an immediate danger. People respond to hype. Anarchy could-"
        "My dear bishop," said Dr. Visect, "you should be aware, yes aware, that more damage could result from faulty understanding. For instance, the posters may not be easy to destroy in conventional ways-"
        Bryarus gasped. He jumped to his feet and shouted impotently at the screen: "The bastards!" He stopped and looked around at the gods, whose faces were all turned up toward him; enquiring moons. He flung his hands out toward the flickering light and his drink slopped over the glass. "Don't you see? They all want to bomb the place - kill the Dwatters!" "Well -ah- a three-d bomb wouldn't hurt them, you know. But it would frighten them," Djehuti said, a frown on his face, "the -ah- noise, you know."
        "Never mind that - what about us? What about my home, my museum? And would your Gate survive a nuclear bomb?"
        "Hush, another speaks," Hathor's deep, harsh vulture-voice spoke. "Let us hear what he hath to say."
        "...from the local parish. What does your Church recommend?"
        "My Church? I can only speak for myself, you know," Willey's vague voice wafted from the tinny speaker, "but I-I cannot agree - do you really feel that it's right to judge harshly?" The camera showed his face in stark close-up and his pale brown eyes shifted nervously. "Whoever is doing this - they must be God's creatures, too, don't you think? I don't think we have the right to-"
        A babble drowned him out: "-threat to the State!"
        "-from the Devil himself-"
        "-duty to science-"
        The director overrode the sound and Murdo's face filled the screen. Against a background of shouts, he smiled and said: "Well, it appears that we all have a lot to think about; however, we've run out of time here at News Around C. My thanks to-"
        Bryarus strode over to the set and thrust the switch off. He stood, drumming his fingers on the plastic top, and stared, unseeing, at the window. Bonasus crowded out the light; he was slurping merrily at a bucket of cocktail. A brooding peace descended for a while.
        An hour later, the door of the room crashed open, and Cicely bustled in, saying over her shoulder to someone behind: "Look what I got at the market! It's perfect for... Ugh! What - who - what is all this?"

Go on to Chapter 7
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved