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

Chapter 11.

Dwish and his band explored everything and understood nothing. Drott wished for anything familiar, even Matron. Just now he was bathed in a confusing flicker of light. He froze. Maybe it wouldn't kill him if he was very, very still; he couldn't know that he was plastered over part of a harmless cinema screen. It was matinee time.
        He whimpered, his voice merging with the nervous tinkling of his companions. He was deafened by throbbing sounds and massive crashes; his sensors crawled with horror. Strange spirits swept toward him, waving their appendages and spraying pellets of death. Others of these creatures died in obvious agony all around him; Drott closed his sensors and waited for the pain of disintegration.
        Half an hour later he was still waiting. The noises thundered on in bursts, but he felt nothing. Why couldn't they get it over with? He was sweating and his colours pulsed.
        Then came a pause. A haunting melody began to wash across him. It was eerie; a wail, threaded through a regular beat of something like gong-voices. In its alien way it had a siren quality - like the calls which Dwat broadcast during the Season of Dwivvles. Drott risked a peep. Two of the spirits were performing a strange ritual which merged their surfaces.
        "Good Dwogots!" he heard Dwish's bell-like tones, "What in Dwat are they doing?" He saw Dwish slide toward them and then, with bewildering suddenness, everything changed. The flickering light winked out and the couple disappeared. The Dwatters found themselves in an empty area, only washed over by the strange babbling mixture of sound which had been ebbing and flowing around them for many dark-light periods. To the Dwatters, such human speech as...
        "Damn posters! Everywhere!"
        "-money back, it's a disgrace-"
        "Keep the things off the screen at least, can't you?"
        ...was a meaningless jumble of harsh rumblings.
        Drott slid close to Dwish and pulsated. Dwish turned glowing sensors toward him and said: "Gosh! What an experience. Bathing in the dark- light of spirits..." That dreamy expression drifted through his body again and he murmured: "I wonder who they were - what kind of beings? Drott, what if... Just suppose for a minute that... No, you wouldn't understand."
        "What? Tell me, Dwish, please; I know I'm not clever, but-"
        "Hah! You can say that again!" Dwurt's voice clanged behind them. "What's the little philosopher telling you now?"
        "Ignore him," Dwish said, flipping his edge at the rudeness. "I just had this kind of idea. Think about it; we kept being attacked and yet nothing touched us - those creatures all went past and came out the other side, and I didn't feel a thing. Did you? I thought not. All this here," he twirled his body around, "could it be some kind of arena for life-like, phantom images to be displayed, when somebody wants to see them?"
        Drott looked around uneasily. "I don't see anyone but us; who could put the images there and take them away without us seeing?"
        Dwish shifted and pulsed. "Well," he said, "this is only an idea; but supposing that there was another dimension - some other plane that people could live on and still see this one?"
        "But - that would mean, well, wouldn't they see us too, just like those images? I mean they could still be looking at us, right now..." Drott shifted even closer and shivered, casting his sensors wildly around.
        Dwish wasn't listening. "The mystic `third dimension'..." he breathed.
        "`Third dimension'," Dwurt mimicked; "stupid little Dwabat! Just try saying such things in front of Matron, and see what she does to you. Dwivvling would be the least of it."
        Dwish looked at him coldly. "For dwatbeg's sake, get it through your sensors; Matron is on the other side of the Edge." He stopped for a second and then spoke slowly: "We are in an impossible place, Dwurt. Strange things happen and sometimes Djehuti speaks beside us but we cannot see Him. Have you never wondered why - and what makes the other sounds we hear?"
        Dwurt thought for a second and began to quiver. "Well maybe it's... There can't be... It's not logical. Things watching us indeed, ugh!" Then he flushed ice-black, and fainted.

In a scruffier part of town, on the edge of Lower Postleton, the council's Social Freedomists were having their own three-dimensional problems. Derek Hartman drummed his fingers on his desk while he listened to the voice on his phone, and glanced up at the attic window beside him. His hair stood out in spikes where he'd run his hands through it.
        "Yes, Miss Watts. What? More of them? Well what would you expect the council to do about it - frogs are a perfectly allowable form of wildlife, even in our Creek."
        He paused, shrugged at the amused-looking man who sat at the other desk, and raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Yes, I'm sure gold polka-dots are unusual in this country. Yes, I suppose it could be an environmental problem. No, I don't think it can be the new black stuff causing it; you see the scientists have found- Very well Miss Watts, I'll get an enquiry going straight away."
        Derek slammed the phone down and massaged his eyelids with finger and thumb. "Saints preserve us from the Neighbourhood Improvement Committee, Hugh. It's colourful frogs now, joining all those smoking turds and sullying their nice clean Creek. They're still not happy about the dung. Now they say they're getting the Environment Corps on to it, and if I don't take proper action..."
        Hugh Brightson's brow puckered. "But didn't the scientist Johnnies cut up a few of those turds? I thought they decided it was just cow-dung, converted to high-grade charcoal?"
        "Yes they did. Not even a pollutant. But it isn't pretty, and now it's collecting on the curve above Postle Village. And we have to track down the harmless crank who's doing it, slam him in jail, ruin his life..."
        "Sir," Hugh tapped his pen against his cheek and spoke slowly, "I've just been thinking; my brother is a keen plant and flower expert. Can I make a suggestion?"
        Derek shrugged. "Spew it out, Hugh, spew it out."
        "Well the stuff is collecting easily, isn't it? Why don't we do a public service, get council equipment to clear it up every few days and sell it? Market gardeners and flower arrangers would give their eye-teeth for charcoal of this quality...
        "Hugh!" Derek jumped up with excitement and smashed his hand onto his desk. "Brilliant! Costs would be covered, and who knows - Lady This and That or Madam Muck could end up paying through the nose for the `disgusting stuff'. I love it." He laughed and flung himself back into his protesting chair. He twirled it around. Then he stopped, rubbed his neck, and sighed. "But I suppose I'd better get on to Visect about pollution tests; though I can't see how the Creek could change the colour of frogs."

High above the council's moss-covered roof, Hathor soared through the air in her vulture-form. She was dissatisfied. Arlo was a good "priest", if unorthodox; it was fun to be worshipped so completely. But he hadn't cottoned on to the milk idea and his woman was hostile. Nostalgia washed over her; oh for those heady days when mortals begged for her favour. And she did wish that, once in a while, someone would ask for a drop of milk...
        She looked up. There was that strange thundering noise again, and another streak of white pencilling its way along the blue of the heavens. What kind of bird flew so high?
        She spread herself and flew upwards, spiralling above Postleton- over-Wold. She lost herself in the wind; cotton-wool clouds parted to the beat of her wings. She flew on, to those intriguing trails in the sky.
        Ice. That's all they were; Hathor opened her beak and tasted some. What kind of creature spewed out ice? Ah! Here came another one. She turned to match its flight and swept toward it.
        "Hail - awwwk!" she said, plastered instantly to the massive eyes of the beast. She scrabbled against it, her talons skittering for a hold until she could lean back against the thrusting wind and look into its face.
        The vulture looked down into the cockpit of PPA 505/A; the crew stared back with their chins flapping. Nobody screamed, quite.
        Hathor cocked her head to one side. She edged her head to the left of the windscreen and peered down the wind-scrubbed side of the plane. What was that sticky-out bit? she wondered. She made strange scraping noises as she slithered away to the wing.
        The co-pilot closed his mouth and swallowed. "Dave," he said in conversational tones, "Ah, what is our position just now? Over the good solid Wold region?"
        The pilot nodded.
        "I thought so. Well, old man - would you say we just saw a vulture?"
        The pilot leaned back and sighed. "No," he said.
        Along the body of the plane, Hathor was a sensation. She went from window to window, slithering across the wing, and peered in. Wherever her shadow crawled, disturbing the sky-lit air, people jittered; their eyes would revolve at the windows, and from their mouths would exude sounds: "Aaack! Urgh..."
                Hathor yawed her beak open and hunched her wings around her. She needed to do some serious thinking. She stood up and paced unsteadily along the wing and back, leaning against the wind. This was some kind of carrier, she thought. A flying ship. There had been women moving about inside, smiling, offering trays. Trays? Of what? She felt a surge of excitement. She could do that! Her spurned cow-Hathor milk would be welcomed by tired travellers.
        It was but the work of a moment for Hathor to two-dimensionalise herself again, slide in through a non-existent crack in the fuselage and re-volume herself inside as the womanly cow-eared goddess. Nobody saw her materialise; everybody was crowded to the left-hand windows, refusing to believe that the vulture had simply vanished. Two seconds later, they refused to believe that it had existed. They murmured self-conscious nothings to each other as they shambled back to their seats and settled down again.
        Hathor stood at the rear of the plane and considered. A bunch of young men caught her eye. They sang and shouted nearby; pressed buttons, laughed and pinched bottoms. Hathor smiled gently. Their blood must be overheated; they needed cooling sustenance. She moved forward in her thin, figure-hugging goddess garb, and bent gracefully over one of the young men, the one with a dreamy look in his dark brown eyes. "Thou hast need of my milk?" she murmured in her deep, rich voice. Her eyes held his and she put her hand to her breast.
        Ricky shrank back in his seat. "What?" he squeaked, and his suddenly silent mates began to snicker.
        "My milk. Here - drink thy fill," she said, lowering one high breast toward his lips; her eyes still trapped his. He began to suckle... Soft and honey-wild, warm and rich...
        Whistles and cat-calls filled the air; the air-hostesses came hurrying down the aisle to deal with the disturbance and somebody shouted: "Whoo, Ricky! What a baby!"
                "Baby? Wey-hey! Wouldn't I like some of that!" someone else said - and then made a big mistake. He gave Hathor's backside a hearty slap, put his hairy arm around her slim waist, and tried to drag her toward him.
        "Unhand my body, mortal," Hathor roared; she pulled herself up, changing form as she rose. Her roar deepened and echoed through the cabin; she stood, shaking her massive golden lion's head. The cabin's ceiling almost could not contain her. "Wretch! Forever thou shalt thirst for milk of the cow; forever shall it make thee puke!" In that moment, she vanished.
        The air hostesses skidded to a halt and huddled together, staring. Then they pulled apart, and replaced their friendly smiles.
        "Miss - Did you see that?" came a shout from the rear.
        "No," they replied in unison. The hairy-armed one looked at his friends; they all avoided his eyes - and each others'. He licked his lips. His eyes slid to the empty bottle in his hand and he shuddered.
        "God, I must be over the top. Bring me coffee," He demanded, in a voice that shook.
        "Black, Sir?" "Ugh! No, can't stand the taste. With milk, and plenty of it."
        Ten minutes later, he was violently sick.
        Outside, the vulture spiralled dreamily down to earth; yes, that had been fun. Perhaps she could play with more of these ships, one day. She glided toward Postleton West; dusk was beginning to fall and there was a slight chill in the air. She perched on Bryarus' windowsill and put her head on one side. They were sitting around those little pyramids again.
                Bryarus scratched his head. "I'm sure we're almost there," he said, and studied a much-thumbed notebook. "If only the tolerances weren't so fine and if only I could be sure of my directional calculations, allowing for the shift of the earth and the drift of the universe over the last two thousand years..." He sighed.
                Bes, Ra and Olwyn were watching him with interest. "I can only tell you how it was when we were here last," said Ra. His gnarled hand rasped over his beard.
                Bryarus winced at the scritching sound. "You've given me a better starting point," he looked up with a smile, "and I know we'll get there. I'll have to figure out geographical adjustments, too; there'll have to be a finely calibrated micrometer scale in each one. We must allow for distortion, but cardboard is the best material, in the end. It is renewable, easy to work and cheap to manufacture. The best possible `passive alternative technology'."
        "Well I think it's just a terrific idea," Olwyn said, pushing her heavy hair back from her eyes. "To be able to sharpen razor-blades and keep fruit fresh with the same device is a real space-saver. What a bonus it will be if it catches mice humanely, too!"
                "Mmmm." Bryarus was bent over his notebook again. "I know it's supposed to; apparently they just get hypnotised by it. Has to be right first, though."
                "It's strange - there've been a lot of rats up at the Hall recently," Olwyn went on; "can't think where they all came from. They're too clever for traps. Emily keeps talking about a purple one; I don't think she drinks. Cicely gets really upset and insists that we get poison for them. I shan't be able to do that."
        Ra was listening intently. "No!" he exploded. "You shall not! It won't be allowed. My wife - Rat-Eusos..." He looked over at the window, glowering, and saw Hathor outlined in the dark. His brow cleared; he creaked to his feet and shambled toward her, muttering: "Hathor. She's the one to warn her." He started to whisper to the vulture.
        Bryarus watched them and then shrugged and turned toward Olwyn again. "I don't suppose there's anything in that witch's primer of yours to tell you how we can make Cicely content to leave things alone is there?" he grinned ruefully.
        The door crashed open and Drivula's voice sounded like acid dripping over a gravel path: "Hi. Got the little lady back again, I see. Doesn't she have a home?"
        "Drivula-" Bryarus began.
        "Sap," said Drivula, "sucker for a pretty face; when you could have..." and she slid up against him, rubbing her hands over his hips. Bryarus started to perspire; to his dismay he felt himself stir; she really was soft in all the right places, he could feel every inch of her against his back... She breathed on his neck and nibbled his ear, and he remembered those teeth. His sweat froze. What was he thinking of? She was a blood-sucker, for heavens' sake; only half alive - not that she felt that way.
        She gave a gurgling chuckle in his ear and pulled away. "Okay, fellas-" she cast Bryarus a sultry look, and her voice thickened: "-I'm off. Hunting."
        He shivered, and she strode to the window.
                Two minutes later, an enormous vampire bat flapped silently over the moonlit rooftops of the town. It circled, searching. At last it saw the house it wanted, hunched among the other depressed buildings of Postleton East.
        Olwyn's window was trustingly open. Postleton East knew she wasn't worth robbing. The bat slid into the bedroom and Drivula materialised in its place. She looked around the rooms in the dim light, raised her brows and whistled. Some place the girl had magicked for herself. Well, all the more scope for a bit of WACERFOU fun.
        Drivula giggled, and pulled Bryarus' geode out from under her cape. Picking his pocket had been like taking blood from a paralytic. She rubbed it gently and it seemed to throb to her inner promptings. She spoke words in a wild, foreign tongue. It sounded a little like the wind rustling through ancient trees; but more like Chinese crackers exploding in mud. And then she cried: "Come! it is time to help the Cause!"
        "Okay okay," a voice spoke from near her ankle with a slight Irish lilt, "'Tis the WACERFOU agent here; what the devil is it about, now? Can you not go through the normal application procedures?"
        "There wasn't the time for all that paperwork," Drivula sounded impatient. She squinted down at a tiny, wizened man who wore a little red night-cap, a leather apron and tight breeches. His roomy, drab jacket had big buttons which shone brassy even in the gloom, and enormous buckles glinted on his shoes. She raised her brows. "A Leprechaun?" she asked, "I didn't think we had any of those-"
        He stamped his foot. "Leprechaun, indeed. Don't you know a good, honest cluricaun when you see him? Leprechaun! Hah! Do their shoes fit you like a cluricaun's? Indeed they don't. 'Tis just that kind of discrimination we expect among the ignorant, not in WACERFOU itself!"
        She bent closer. "Oh. Sorry. It's too dark... Of course, I see now. You're one of the Fwich family, aren't you?"
        "Failey Fwich, at your service. And what's it to be?"
        "The woman who lives here; she's been making trouble for a WACERFOU member-"
        "You?" the cluricaun's brows were raised.
        "Yes me," Drivula said, "why not? Trouble between me and my fella-"
        "Fella? You?"
        "Look, are you going to shut up and get on with the job, or aren't you?" Drivula snapped; "I can file a complaint with WACERFOU; members are supposed to stick together, not make smart-ass remarks, bucko."
        "Sorry, sorry." Failey held up both his hands, palm out, in submission. "'Twas just; vampires don't need help too often. So is it the 'poltergeist' job you're wanting?"
        "That's the idea; keep her busy, keep her from chasing my fella. Think you can handle it?"
                "Off the top of me head, m'dear. Should be able to nobble her clothing; maybe make a few things 'disappear'..." He rubbed his hands together and cracked his knuckles. "I'll just be taking a look around..."
        He darted into the sitting-room. There was a spludging splash and an "Argh!". A few minutes later there was a heave, and the sploshing stopped. A voice wafted through the door:
        "Didn't think to tell me about the disgusting pool then, comrade?"
        Drivula stifled a laugh and flew away.
        An hour later, she was back in Bryarus' room, wiping a red stain from her lips with the back of her hand. He looked up from his scattering of cardboard, shuddered, and said: "Abattoir?"
        "Yummy," she said.

Failey Fwich, covered in soggy slime, sat by the edge of the murky water and surveyed his new domain. He removed some water-weed from his eyes with a sigh. What a job. Still, at least he was alone for a while to sort himself out and set things up. First things first; a towel. Now, where was the bathroom? Pools of slime in the dining-room, indeed. Pretentious nonsense. What could be worse?
        He turned. And that was when he saw them. Two pairs of cat's eyes, crouched, glowing against the moonlight; one pair amber, one green-gold. "Urk!" he said and slid back into the water.
        "Didn't think to tell me about the livestock, then, comrade," he muttered under his breath.

The next morning, Bryarus was puzzled to find his geode still in his pocket. He could have sworn that he'd spent a long time last night looking for it. Oh well.
        This was the morning of Jumble Day, Postleton's traditional charity event held every October in the church grounds. Bryarus was worried. He didn't think that the gods had quite grasped the meaning of the event; everything to them was a Celebration or a Boring-let's-make-it-a- Celebration. It amounted to the same thing in the end. He had tried to explain: "It's not really a festival - well, yes, there is an exhibition of sorts and a dance tent. Music? You could say so. Drinks? Well, there is a tea tent; may even be a licensed tent if Willey gets his way."
        Min had turned to the others and nodded. "You see?" he said; "Is like I tell you - is Festival. Wine, music, dance; oh, yes. Good. We come."
        And they did.
        It was an unusually clear, mild day, with the smell of fresh-trodden grass in the air; the tents were colourless against the green and strings of bunting fluttered from pole to pole. The trees around still held some of their autumn colours, rustling with a final display of interest before settling to their winter sleep. The Creek cackled as it splashed past.
        The bright, open-faced yokels of Postle Village, dressed in their years-old Sunday best, were privileged to gawk at their superiors. Upper West Postleton was on display in sunshade hats and understated glamour, whilst Postleton West proudly showed up in the latest, unwearable catwalk fashions. Postleton East wandered about, hollow-eyed, in last years' re-worked cast-offs; spraying envious glances around and buying as little as possible. Lower Postleton slid mustily in under the fence; it shambled hopefully over to the food and drink tents, carrying its own flies with it.
        The Jumble area became enthusiastic with bargain-hunters, and a flurry ebbed and flowed around the Improvement Committee's bric-a-brac stall. Susie Blott was watching over it when Olwyn staggered across the grass with a huge barrel of wine and plonked it down beside the stall. "Whew!" she said and wiped her brow with her sleeve; "it's warm enough when you're humping stuff around." She gave Susie a wide grin and was rewarded with a frosty twitch of the lips.
        "What," Susie said, "do you think you're doing with that?"
        Olwyn's grin faded. "It's for sale, of course. Home-made wine, good stuff, too-"
        "Is good, yes," Min had slid up behind her.
        Olwyn turned and smiled warmly up at him. "I'm glad you liked it." She turned back to Susie. "I don't have a stall, but it's my gift to jumble day. I thought-"
        "Not on our stall, you don't. We are not going to encourage the imbibing of spirituous liquor here, thank you very much." Susie sniffed. "The drinks tent is the place for you. Disgraceful place, but the Reverend insisted..."
        Olwyn looked at her wearily and shrugged her shoulders. "Oh well, I'll say good-bye then," she said and bent to pick it up.
        Min was too fast for her; it was already in his arms.
        "Come," he said.
        As they left, Susie's lips quirked in satisfaction. A moment later, something nipped her bottom. "Ooh!" she yelped, and turned to glare as she rubbed the place. There was no-one in sight behind her.

Go on to Chapter 12
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved