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

Chapter 14.

October 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 felonies.
        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' tongue.
        "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 her.
        "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 ever!"
        "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 Surprise.
        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 wisp-covered breast.
        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," she said.
        "Sorry," said Dwish, blushing turquoise; "It's just all so, so - delicious."
        "Delicious?" Tansy yelped, "At Marco's?"
        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 seen to?"
        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 and sighed.
        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 his hands.
        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.

Later 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," she said.
        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.

Phelonius 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, dear."
        Effingham-Luton scowled 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, for chrissake!"
        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 word.
        Olwyn breathed a huge "Whew!".
        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 to giggle.

In 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.

Go on to Chapter 15
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved