of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
sogged to a close in Postleton-over-Wold. The trees dribbled water from
their extremities and the light from the street-lamps misted through
damp air. A sulphurous, musty smell hung around from the chimneys. It
was held down by a heavy layer of cloud and it slithered around to find
nostrils to seep into. It was Halloween. The whole of Postleton West
and Upper West Postleton paraded in a genteel fashion through the town,
dressed in half-hearted (but exceedingly fashionable) "occult" outfits.
Half of Postleton East took the opportunity to join in and rub shoulders
with the West End, and the other half took the opportunity to commit
Bryarus stood in his
front porch, dressed in a tattered sheet. He was waiting for the others
to erupt, and listening to Drivula: "What did you say this Halloween
stuff was all about?" She frowned; she twanged a fang and glanced out
again at the chattering people who surged past the gate. "Kids dress
up as witches, vampires and stuff - and then go out begging for things?
WACERFOU won't like the image."
"No no," Bryarus backed
away from her glare hurriedly. "Not begging; that's a new idea. No,
it's a celebration of, er, dead spirits; spells get chanted to ward
off evil and people play party games. It honours you, really."
"Hmm; well okay, but
why only once a year? Oh well." Her voice thickened, and she sidled
closer to him. "Tell you what, why don't you try being a vampire?" Her
eyes locked onto his, and he found himself sinking into the gold; held
by it. She caressed his hand and lifted it to her lips; her glistening
tongue flickered around it. She massaged one of his fingers, slid it
into her mouth, began to nibble it...
Ah, he thought. What
soft lips, what a spine-tingling tongue; what white teeth. Teeth? "Oh
my God! Drivula!" he yelped, and dragged his hand away from her.
She gurgled with mirth.
The door burst open and the others cascaded out, covered in bed-linen
and followed by the yapping drinks cabinet. "Stay!" said Bryarus, and
it began to whine like a hundred wet fingernails being drawn across
glass. Bryarus looked around him at several pairs of reproachful eyes,
and said: "Tonight is Punky Night, as well as Halloween; I don't want
Boozo to get hurt... Ooogh!" He jumped as an object which had the consistency
of warm, dripping liver inserted itself in his ear. It was Bonasus'
"We come, yes?" said
the bonnacon, "You parade WACERFOU, isn't it?"
"WACERFOU? Since when
has Boozo been..." Bryarus sighed as he wiped his ear. He shrugged.
"Oh okay, but don't blame me if you get hurt."
The cabinet yipped,
and jumped up and down. Bryarus thought about tonight's possibilities
while he patted Boozo, and shuddered. Every few years the ancient village
custom of Punky Night fell on October 31st, and a whole village-full
of Punky Paraders fell on the Hallow Paraders. This was one of those
nights; or so the villagers insisted. Any excuse for a party, was their
motto, even (to quote Gaffer Codge, the eldest) if it consisted of being
hit over the head with a flaming mangel-wurzel.
As Bryarus' party set
off, Gertrude lurched over the horizon; Olwyn was poking out through
the roof and her arms windmilled at them to stop. Bast clung on beside
"It's Punky Night, isn't
it?" she said, a breathless excitement in her voice. "You'd better have
these, then; should get things going."
Gertrude was stuffed
full of heavy-duty paper bags full of something squishy. Olwyn smiled
shyly at Bryarus. "It's Bombe Surprise; a failed cooking spell. Just
wait till you throw it, though!"
They didn't have to
wait for long. The spearhead of the Punky Parade had whooped its way
through Lower Postleton by this time. It was twirling its mangel-wurzel
lanterns high overhead; steam rose from their flickering candles and
they cast grotesque shadows across the gaping doorways. The villagers
were singing with a verve which almost made up for the tone-deaf effect.
Gaffer Codge raised
his cracked voice with the best of them, although he broke off occasionally
to wheeze for breath; his ninety-year limbs pumped energetically. The
gnarled oak staff had worn smooth in his service, both as a support
and a weapon. His teeth had decayed too much to bite anyone; but his
breath held the knock-out quality of a liquefying compost-heap, and
he could give anyone a very nasty suck. The local wolf-hounds gave him
a wide berth.
The Hallow Parade column
swung down the East hill toward him, holding its hollowed pumpkins carefully
and chattering in subdued tones. It shuddered and paused, briefly, as
a bunch of lunatics with a graffiti- covered car came yodelling past
from the rear, waving bags of something as they went. Susie Blott sniffed
and looked with meaning at a stormy-faced Cicely, before turning to
whisper to her husband: "...disgrace to the town..."
A strange new chant
began to swell from a third direction; an "ArtofF" green-banner erupted
from a side alley into East Square. A few seconds later a crowd of these
banners followed, pushing and jostling to a chant of "Heathen! Stop
the Heathen parade! Follow the Green Thumbprints of God. ArtofF for
"Who're you callin'
heathen?" A cracked old voice called from the east. A babble of voices
broke out on both sides:
"Yeah! Give it 'em!"
"Stand aside, my man;
let us pass-"
"-What's he think he
knows about gods, then? "If you examine the scriptures-"
"Aaaagh! Oh, my God,
get that vulture off me."
The first Bombe Surprise
shot out over the crowd, in a graceful arc. The curve terminated with
a dull splat and a weak "Urrk!" Sticky, stringy noises rose from the
midst of the hurriedly-parted crowd, and something covered in purple
goo staggered away toward the creek.
Mayhem followed. Bags
of Bombe zoomed in on friend and foe alike; pumpkins scrunched to the
ground and their candles fizzled out; and mangel-wurzels on their poles
became flaming mallets. Gaffer crawled happily around, gumming away
at any legs he could find; this guy had a technique that most dogs would
envy. Mutt followed him in awe.
"Hey," a voice quavered
up from the melee, "wasn't that a gigantic snake I just saw?
With a sheet round its middle?"
Apep raised his head
high over the crowd and took careful aim with his Bombe. He towered
above a man who was busy pushing something that felt like warm, wet
liver out of his ear. The man turned to shout back at his pal:
"Yeah, brilliant what
costumes these kids can think up-" Apep dropped his package. The victim
said: "Urgle, ack, urrk..." He staggered gummily off to the creek.
Bonasus huffed happily;
he was becoming a connoisseur of earwax.
Ra flew high above the
action on Khepri, and dribbled with concentration as he aimed his
Bryarus was fighting
off Gaffer now; he hadn't the heart to Bombe such a frail-looking old
man, in spite of the bulldog-strong jaws clamping his leg. He cast around
frantically for help. "Drivula!" he yelled, and then, when he saw what
she was doing, hysteria entered his voice. "Drivula! Stop that!"
"Oh, phooey," she said,
dropping her victim. He looked remarkably like a ferret; in fact, he
was Kraphedd - recently out of gaol with a reprimand for drunk and disorderly
conduct. Drivula strolled toward Bryarus and stepped fastidiously over
struggling couples. "I just wanted to see what he looked like under
that sheet... Oh, what have we got here! There's plenty of life in this
one, isn't there?" She bent down and pulled Gaffer's head against her
Something soft and scented
rubbed against the old man's cheek. He rolled his eyes and they bugged
out. He had died, right? Wow! What angels they had in heaven! He opened
his mouth to whistle, and Bryarus limped away. The "angel" dumped a
bag of Bombe on Gaffer. A drinks cabinet came and piddled on his foot.
He lay there dreaming of the angel, while the mayhem around him degenerated
into a total rout. Everyone who wasn't bathing in the creek and fighting
off blue polka-dot frogs, was running for home and swearing to himself
that he really hadn't seen anything odder than usual.
This year - Gaffer Codge
pondered to himself as he lay in the gutter, wiped Wych-hazel Bombe
Surprise out of his eyes, and licked his lips thoughtfully - this year
was the best Punky Night ever. Mutt slavered over his face and wagged
a happy tail.
The victorious WACERFOU
team shed what little disguise they wore (all except for Olwyn), and
took their victory to Marco's.
Others seemed to have
had similar ideas; Marco's was bursting at the corners. Probably, Bryarus
thought as he surveyed the unusual hubbub of excited diners, if you
were already half-covered in purple gunk, you didn't give a damn about
whatever stuck you to Marco's seats. But what could make you immune
to the food? He looked closer; people sat with beatific expressions,
licking gobbets of purple off their hands and arms. He turned and raised
his eyebrows at Olwyn. "Could there be alcohol in those Bombes?" he
shouted above the noise.
Her eyes were sparkling,
and her cheeks were flushed with excitement; but her colour deepened
as she met his gaze. "Wych-hazel Cordial," she said.
Bryarus smiled and scanned
the room again; an arm was waving a bottle at them, so he squidged himself
and his party through the throng. It was the museum night-watchman's
arm; Jim was sitting at a table with Tansy and Arlo. Tansy was trying
to ignore the vulture, which Arlo was feeding. He'd found something
in an advanced state of decay under the table, and Hathor was snapping
up the maggots which wriggled through it. Dwish and Drott were draped
over the table. They gonged happily to each other; they were high on
the fumes of decaying grease and Jim's breath.
"Oh Drott," said Dwish,
"aren't these colours and shapes just beautiful?" He absorbed the congealed
light, reflected off the table-top, and began to change a bit of it
here and there on his body...
Jim's eyes started out
of his head. "Boss!" he squeaked, "Look! The table's crawling!"
"Dwish!" Drivula's voice
was sharp gravel. "Stop that. You're frightening the natives."
Bryarus looked at her
curiously. "How can you tell the difference between the two?" he asked,
as he sank into a chair.
She shrugged. "Personality,"
"Sorry," said Dwish,
blushing turquoise; "It's just all so, so - delicious."
"Delicious?" Tansy yelped,
There was a sudden silence,
and all eyes were turned toward their table.
"I mean, the colours;
I want to bring them to life. They taste so good..."
The crowd started mumbling
to itself again, and the noise gathered momentum.
"-Did you hear that?"
"Who said it? I didn't
see nobody's lips moving."
"Which wally wants to
eat colours? Here?"
Soon the room was a
comfortable babble again.
Bryarus turned to Olwyn
and said: "Dwish is obsessed with movies; he gets all excited at the
thought of performing art. It'd be good fun to show him how to make
films; perhaps even let him have a go himself. We can give him room
at the museum, of course, but how do we get all the technical stuff
Olwyn looked with interest
at the Dwatter. "What - doing the sort of thing he just did? That'd
be an amazing film. I wonder... Well, for a start, I know some pretty
dissatisfied cameramen; there's Bill Gimlet, for instance. I might be
able to talk him into helping."
"Hey, Marco! Didn't
you have a jukebox once?" somebody yelled across the room.
"Yep. Still got it.
Over there," Marco waved vaguely at a shapeless mound against one wall.
"You want it? Okay." He fumbled a switch under the counter; the mound
began to pulse with light under the grease, and a deep humming reverberated
through the floorboards. Somebody tip-toed over to the monster and squidged
a few buttons; a bent, wowing record grated the teeth with an old croon:
"Loove ya, ba-aby, lo-ove..."
"Want some Wych-hazel
Bombe?" Olwyn whispered to Bryarus; "it dulls the pain."
"Want your ear bitten,
buster?" Drivula whispered on his other side; "flap it in her direction
just once more, and I'll oblige..."
Bryarus jerked his head
backwards from between them, and bashed it on something hairy; a piece
of warm, wet liver inserted itself into one ear. He sagged in his chair
Drivula looked thoughtfully
across him at the still en-sheeted Olwyn. "Why not take off the disguise,
honey?" she said. Olwyn cringed back slightly, and a gleeful light entered
Drivula's eyes. She leaned forward and whisked the sheet away with a
flick of her fingers.
"Wow!" the gasp ran
around the table. Drivula scowled.
Olwyn sat revealed to
the world in a negligee which clashed stripes of shocking pink with
dayglo orange. It was frilly, semi-see-through, and stopped at the thigh.
"I- well, I couldn't
find any of my clothes this morning; I don't know where this came from,
even." Olwyn scrabbled for the sheet.
Drivula returned it,
muttering to herself: "I guess the Fwich ain't managing to do the job.
I gotta confess he's got some original ideas, though. Better think of
something else... Hmm." She found herself looking across the table at
Min. "Hey, Min; how's the search for a priestess going?" she said. There
was a speculative gleam in her eye which didn't escape him; he turned
his head and winked at her.
Dwish revolved on the
table; his colours melded, changed, became the image of a languorous
woman in a short, dayglo nightie. She lay across the table and began
to writhe around on it... Drivula giggled, and a ripping sound came
from across the table. "Damn trousers," muttered Min, "is too thin."
He was frantically trying to push something back under the table with
Olwyn went bright red.
"Dwish," she said, "if you don't stop that right now I shan't help you
make films, okay?"
The juke-box had wailed
to a halt and somebody punched another set of buttons. A crooner sang:
"Loove ya, ba-aby, lo-ove..."
"Hey, Marco," yelled
someone, "Haven't you got any other records?"
Marco wiped his nose
on his dish-towel and scratched his head. "Yep, I got another in there,
somewhere. This was a job lot. Expect you'll find that other, sometime."
When Bryarus finally
left, he slipped out quietly. As quietly as possible, with a drinks
cabinet yipping and tinkling around his ankles. Behind him the room
was a haze of warmth and evaporating purple gunk. Little "ugh!" noises
rose on the air as more people felt Bonasus' exploratory tongue; and
people jumped out of their seats, marking Apep's progress across the
room. Lower Postleton was thriving.
that night, in Postleton East, a cluricaun spludged yet again into the
pond in Olwyn's house. He surfaced, spluttering, and glared at the polka-dot
frogs who squatted around the edge. "You pushed me!" he said.
"Gribbit, riggit," they
said, and sploshed in too.
Failey Fwich spat out
some slime, and sighed. He turned onto his back and floated like a dispirited
bit of rag. "Damn animals," he said. "That Drivula - to be sure, she
might have told me about the cats. And now, the frogs are at it. Shove
here, push there, and in the bleedin' water I go. Wouldn't mind, now,
if it were only heather beer instead... Ah, well." He sniffed, and struck
out for the shore. Well, anyway, he thought, tonight's work ought to
have done the trick. He chuckled to himself. Then he looked up. He shot
backwards; Codswallop was hanging over the edge, trawling with his claws.
He hadn't signed any stupid contract with WACERFOU.
The following morning,
Olwyn opened her wardrobe door, and cowered away, with a gasp, from
the colours which flamed at her. She gulped, and cringed her body into
the least flamboyant of the creations; it only had gold sequins, scarlet
lace, and large blotches of green and orange all over it. Olwyn looked
at herself in the mirror and nearly tore it off again - and then she
remembered the rest of the wardrobe's contents. She shuddered. Maybe,
she thought, just maybe she'd get used to going around in a short, powder-puff
shaped skirt with matching sleeves.
"Who'd have thought
my arms and legs could look so scrawny?" she muttered to herself, and
shivered as she walked to the door. "Damn poltergeist. Either that,
or I'm going mad. No, it must be a spirit, mustn't it, eh, Bast?" she
called to the cat as she went past.
Bast looked up from
her tea-cosy position on the sofa, and her eyes opened wide. "Eeuraoww,"
Codswallop looked up
from the window-sill, spat like a soda-siphon, and then continued washing.
Olwyn shrugged at the
cats. "Look, I have to go to work looking like a melting party-cake.
I'm sorry." She thought about E-L's probable reaction to her state,
and a gurgle of mirth broke from her. Perhaps the embarrassment would
be worth it. She scooped up the Wold Weekly on her way out, and scanned
the headlines; Jumble Day had made the front page this year, right beside
the usual Halloween story.
Productions was waking up on the other side of town, in the director's
Georgian home. Cicely had just arrived, and Mrs. Effingham-Luton clinked
a tray of coffee onto her desk, with a faint rictus of the face-muscles
and a murmur of "Morning, dear." She tucked wisps of mousy hair back
behind her ears. "Seemed silly to get the maid... I was coming up anyway..."
She fumbled with a pendant earring, and turned. "I suppose... I'd better
let you get on. Oh dear," the dismay in her voice was echoed in her
eyes; her husband had thumped into the room. "I-I mean, hello,
as he stomped through to his office.
"Morning," he growled,
and slammed his door. He took some antacid tablets out of his pocket,
and popped one in his mouth; he waddled toward his desk. Damn cameramen,
he thought; always demanding cash.
E-L sighed, and sank
into his seat. Two seconds later he jumped up, and glared at the desk-top.
"Emily!" he yelled.
His wife poked her head
around the door. "Yes, dear?" she said.
"What's all this mess?
Who is responsible?"
"What a pity," Emily
replied, vaguely. His face went two shades darker and she blenched.
"I mean, it must be the rats, dear. We have rats, you know..."
He gobbled, and stormed
toward her, a sheaf of papers in his hand. "Rats? Rats? Get rid of them,
woman! They've crapped all over my desk, and look," he shook the manuscripts
under her nose, "they've chewed these, too!"
Emily backed away, her
nose wrinkling from the sharp smell of rat's urine. "We've been trying
to get rid of them, dear; Cicely suggested poison, but they haven't
touched what we put down. In fact, we've had to stop because cook found
some of it in the soufflé dish; she swears she didn't-"
E-L raised his fists
in the air. "Never mind about the damn cook, woman - I don't care how
you do it. Get rid of them!"
He turned from his white-faced
wife and continued at ear-splitting volume: "Where's that damn Olwyn
when I need... Good god!" his eyes goggled at the apparition which now
stood in the doorway. He blinked, and was silent for a full second.
"What-? This isn't a carnival float, you know. Wear something decent,
Olwyn's chin lifted.
"This is perfectly decent, E-L sir. There's nothing in my contract about
what I can or can't wear. If you like, we can go to court about it."
His chins wobbled as
he restrained another outburst. He opened and closed his mouth a couple
of times and finally managed: "Well, don't hang about - get your backside
in here and work, dammit." He slammed his study door shut on the last
Olwyn breathed a huge
Emily gave her a nervous
little smile. "Very, ah, very becoming, dear. He's not in a very good
mood, I'm afraid." She shook her head sadly and wafted toward the door,
still talking. "We'll just have to think of something. Oh, dear."
Olwyn felt a wave of
sympathy for this little woman with the wistful eyes. She burst into
speech without thinking: "Oh Emily! Why did you marry him?" Her hand
flew to her mouth. How could I be so insensitive? she wondered.
But Emily just smiled
vaguely. "I don't know, dear... He seemed so powerful, and Daddy
thought..." She blinked. "I really must go and see about these rats.
Such a shame." She slid out of the room.
Just then, someone tapped
on the door. A ferretty face slid round it, and Olwyn gulped. "Yes?"
she said, "can we help?"
Kraphedd goggled at
her. "Um," he said.
Cicely looked up from
her desk, where she had been reading Olwyn's paper, and smiled at him.
"Mr - Kraphedd, isn't it?"
He jerked round. "How
did you...?" his eyes fell to the newspaper in her hands. "Oh," he said.
"We have heard so much
about you," Cicely continued, "Oh - not the rubbish in this rag, heavens,
no. Anyone can get caught up in that sort of bother, of course. No,
you're from the government aren't you? We at the Improvement Committee
were hoping that someone would come down and see to things. Perhaps
you'd come and give a talk-"
Kraphedd's head ducked
and shifted from side to side like a cornered weasel.
On the other side of
the open window, a newsman leaned against his car. He ground a spent
cigarette into the gravel with his heel and lit a new one. He took a
deep drag. He smiled. Murdo Goshawk had a good nose for news; it had
been a brilliant move, offering to chauffeur the MI7 man around for
a while. He got out his notepad. Cicely's monologue ebbed and flowed
through the window.
"-place needs to be
destroyed, and the crime in Postleton East-"
Olwyn half listened
as she rescued her Wold Weekly and sank into her chair. Then she lost
interest in the conversation; she looked down at the paper and started
a bile-yellow office at the other end of the country, a young man lifted
his dark brown eyes from an identical paper. They sparkled with excitement.
"That's it! It must have been Postleton we were flying over. Hey, look!"
His friend opened his
eyes, took his feet down off his desk, and reached out a hairy arm for
the paper. He ran his eyes over the headlines. "What's the excitement?
`Blue frog pollution'... `Jumble Day mayhem'... `Politician lets his
hair down'... It's only a small-town do, Ricky."
Ricky bounced in his
chair and pointed with a trembling finger. "There," he said.
"Vulture lets air out
of `sails'; Balloonist's race spiked by bird?" Hairy-arm lowered the
paper. "You're not still on about that drunk dream, are you? Anyway
it was a woman, not a vulture."
"Oh," said Ricky, his
eyes misting over, "she'll be there somewhere, surely? She appeared
just after it did. She was so wonderful; she was soft, and she tasted
of spiced honey with cream..."
"Pooh, don't be daft.
It was all an hallucination."
"If so, how come you
can't drink anything with milk in it then, eh?"
Hairy-arm wriggled uncomfortably.
"Just a coincidence." He held up a hand and swung back on his chair
again. "Stop bugging me. Find the damn bird if you must."
Ricky looked down at
the picture of a vulture winging like an arrow into a confusion of balloons,
and nodded. "I'll do it," he whispered.