of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
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
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
"Damn posters! Everywhere!"
"-money back, it's a
"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.
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,
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
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
"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."
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
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..."
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
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
Ricky shrank back in
his seat. "What?" he squeaked, and his suddenly silent mates began to
"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
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!"
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.
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.
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
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
"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!"
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."
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.
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
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-"
"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?"
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.
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
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.