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

Chapter 15.

Min wandered into Bryarus' study, yawning vaguely. Apep launched himself across the room, coiled around the god of Travel and Fertility, and waved a paper in front of his face. "Min," he said, "I ssusspect I've found what I'm ssearching for. Look!"
        "Is a map," said Min, and struggled out of the snake's coils. He held up a hand to twitch the map from Apep's mouth. "Is help you want, yes? I translate?"
        Apep nodded his head vigorously.
        Min frowned. "Is more complicated than in old days." He looked up at Apep's anxious expression, and grinned. "Is okay, though. I work it out."
        Half an hour later Apep slithered like a roller-coaster down the stairs; he almost knocked Djehuti over. "Ssorry!" he shouted, his voice fading as he slid out of the house, "Ssee you ssometime. Gwendoline - ah, ssweet Gwendoline..."
        Next day, newspapers reported an unusual surge in minor motorway accidents. As the Fashionable Review stated: "Police are looking into rumours of a northward-bound serpent which is believed to have disrupted traffic. Many eye-witnesses were incoherent when interviewed, but they all mentioned a huge snake which glided past them. Reports vary as to the length of the beast."
        "Mile-long Monster at large!" screamed the tabloids.
        Apep became aware of the interest that evening. Searchlights slashed at him from an object which went "WhupWhupWhup" in the sky and blinded him. Bullets crashed down onto his hide and hurt him. He was not pleased. He'd been enjoying the sightseeing, but now... He stopped and thought for a second, bathed in the harsh, shifting light. He'd have to investigate, he supposed; he sighed, and reared up toward the buzzing thing, which began to wobble alarmingly. Voices stuttered from the vehicle behind the light, which started to move away. Apep reached out his face to grasp hold of the object, and gently pulled it to the ground.
        Someone was whimpering: "...make it go away, please god make it go away, please-"
        Apep peered through the glass front, and two men stared back at him. In the distance another faint "WhupWhupWhup" sounded. Bother, thought Apep. Oh well. He removed his third dimension.
        The two men gaped at the space which had been a serpent. They stirred.
        "Ummm," said one.
        "It was all a hoax, right?" said the other.
        "Right," said the first.

Murdo Goshawk was sitting in his grubby little basement office. The light of day filtered reluctantly through the cracked window-panes and just touched the ash-bespattered desk. Murdo took a swig at the beer-bottle beside his elbow, rubbed his eyes, and lowered his hands to clatter the typewriter keys again: "...could the factory be the culprit? Is the Improvement Committee right; should Lower Postleton be fumigated and razed to the ground? Mr. Kraphedd promised the Improvement Committee that the government would provide a complete environmental investigation into our mutating frogs and rats.
        "A spokesman, Mr. Barney, for the building company of LPB (Luton, Pillidge, & Barney), was keen to explain the advantages of fumigating and levelling the factory and the Lower end of the town. `Where you see nothing but infestations of tramps and rats today, there could be a superb area of executive housing leading down toward the creek. The Village could be turned into a picturesque retreat for the tired businessman - we envisage a quaint, olde-worlde flavour. These houses would be more expensive, but worth it to those who dream of idyllic country living. The factory? Oh well, that could be re-built as a plush shopping plaza, where you could buy everything from executive toys to high-class furnishings.'
        "Mr. Barney smiled at the next question, and said: `Everyone complains about the possible loss of jobs; but there will be a net gain in employment. There are going to have to be staff in the shops, are there not? Of course, they will have to be suitable; to be, as it were, in tune with the tone of the place.'"
        Murdo sat back and stretched. He lit a cigarette, balanced it carefully on the overflowing ashtray, and flexed his fingers: "At present, LPB Holdings own a fair amount of the land; however, there appear to be certain areas of blockage. The museum is the main one. The place appears to outrage Mr. Barney, who asks why we need it. He says: `Why does there have to be a Protection Order on it, and the area around it? The museum is supposed to be an education to the public; hah! Who ever goes there? It is centrally placed in the area to be developed, and no sensible improvement work can be carried out while this eyesore remains.'"

A few evenings later, a shower of sparks and bangs echoed through the West Square. November the 5th had erupted into the glowering night.
        Catherine wheels careered around Georgian facades; rockets whizzzz- BANGed into globules of colour which ricocheted off the clouds. Sparkles of light and colour rained down on the "Oohs" and Aahs" of the crowd. Faces stared upward and were warmed by the flickering mountain of fire in the centre of the cobbled area. The pyramid of timber and brick-a-brac had loomed over the Square for days; now the fire was having its way. It licked here; tasted there; and then ka-foomed through a particularly interesting morsel, sheeting upwards in a solid glare before settling down to steady consumption. The air was heavy with the warm smell of wood smoke and the sharp tang of fireworks.
        Berkoff, purveyor of ArtofF artefacts and pograp shrines for the newly-converted, was wandering through the crowd. He whistled through the gap in his teeth and yelled: "pograp! ArtofF! Buy your pograp cakes he-ere; come and buy, ArtofF!"
        Steam rose from his tray, heady with the thick aroma of spice and warm buns. Each doughy lump dripped with green icing through which a rough P or A emerged in raisins. A sign depended from the tray: "Berkoff's Cakes; Get God's Thumbprints Inside You."
        The gods had scavenged a small fire of their own, in a corner of the square. They had brought their special kettle along; as Min had said, "Is cold. We mull wine; we get warm, yes?" The kettle started to fizz and bubble. It had mellowed with use.
        The copper figure no longer appeared to kneel; he lounged back on his haunches and supported himself on hands braced back against the warmth. The mouth-spout was now an impish grin, and every so often a sound emerged which was suspiciously like a belch.
        A woman nearby nudged her neighbour. "Get a load of that," she said. "I could 'a' swore the thing winked at me!"
        Her friend turned to look at it: "Ugly lookin' thing."
        "Looks a bit like the Flick lad, eh?"
        "What, young Jerry?" The woman considered the kettle for a minute. She shuddered artistically. "I dunno. Did you hear, he's scarpered?"
        "Ay. Heard his ma the other day - ravin' on about how he's pissed off with her pawn money. She won't half cop him one when he turns up."
        They shook their heads and sighed. The inquisitive one glanced at the kettle again: "That thing do look awful like the Flick lad, though, don't it?"
        They looked at each other, and turned their backs on the fizzing kettle. "Nah," said her friend.
        Bryarus looked around. He craned to look over the heads of the crowd, and then wandered around the fire. He watched Min ladle steaming wine into mugs for them all; the sweet scent of cinnamon rose up his nostrils. "Didn't Olwyn say she'd come?" he asked.
        The god looked up from his task. "Beautiful priestess? But, of course. Will come, bring `Cordial'."
        Bryarus frowned. "She's not your priestess, for heaven's sake," he snapped.
        Min grinned and shrugged. "She make no objection. Is superb." He kissed the tips of his fingers, and spread them to the night in an ecstasy.
        "Does she know what a priestess of the fertility god is supposed to do?"
        Min chuckled. "Truly, no. But maybe later..." His eyes twinkled, and Bryarus' frown deepened.
        A huge bat flapped down out of the air and swirled into woman's shape. Drivula said, "Hi, fellas," and sidled up to them, wiping her lips. She wore her cloak close around her body, but when she slid against Bryarus, he could feel the warm, firm softness of her. He gulped. The fire reflected from her eyes, which were deep with the night; they gazed into his. Bryarus felt various parts of himself throb.
        Then she opened her mouth to speak, and the sickly smell of fresh blood spurted up his nostrils. He jerked backwards and gasped: "Drivula! for heaven's sake - what have you been doing?" He glanced around wildly, his mind cringing from an inward vision of bodies littering the field, and was only partially reassured to see the crowd still jostling and laughing around the bonfire.
        Drivula hunched a shoulder and started to pick her teeth. "You do fuss so. Ain't you ever eaten a `rare' steak?"
        Cicely walked past with Arkwright, who was expounding in a monotone. A few words wafted toward Bryarus: "...Maximum profit on the saltpetre used. And of course, the sparklers can be sold at-"
        Bryarus grinned. "Hi, Cicely; having fun?"
        She frosted him with a glare, and then turned the ice on Berkoff, who had materialised beside them.
        "pograp! Try my Thumbprints..." Bryarus' party were all looking at Berkoff's wares with varying degrees of interest. All except Drivula, who was looking at his tightly-jeaned crotch in disbelief.
        Bryarus hurriedly bought a few of the hot, green-smeared objects. He put his change back in his pocket, and stroked the comforting lump of geode. "How's business-," he bit into a cake, and his teeth stuck together; "-mmm-mmff?" he finished.
        "Oh, fine," Berkoff flung back over his shoulder; "selling like hot-cakes. Hey! Who the heck is that?" his eyes goggled, and Bryarus turned to look. A naked man, wearing only spectacles, boots, and a wild-eyed expression, was running through the crowd and gesticulating. He headed straight for Cicely and Arkwright with his arms outstretched toward them. He mouthed a plea; then, he disappeared.
        "Wow!" breathed Nephthys; her eyes flashed blue. "Shame he left..."
        "I say, who was that then?" Arkwright was frowning at Cicely.
        "Arkwright! How would I know? If you think that I'm in the habit of looking at naked men-" said Cicely, her face the colour of beetroot.
        Drivula giggled. "Maybe it was Guy Fawkes, come to haunt us all."
        "Well, I don't know," said Isis, her brow puckered with serious concentration. She turned to Cicely, "was Guy Fawkes circumcised?"
        Cicely made little strangled noises. "Disgusting!" she finally managed. She glared at Bryarus, and turned to Arkwright. "Take me away from these - these - oooh!" She grabbed her fiancÚ's arm and propelled him away.
        Bes blinked. His bulging eyes glanced from Cicely's retreating back, to Bryarus. He shook his head and his beard bristled. "I'd look out, if I were him," he murmured to Ra; "that woman oozes hate. If looks could kill..."
        Bryarus shrugged. He looked around the square again with restless eyes, and started to pull at his lower lip. Djehuti was peacefully soaking up mulled wine, but he noticed the other's disturbance. The god leaned over toward Bryarus. "Is -ah- something troubling you?" he asked.
        "Olwyn. I'm afraid something may be the matter," said Bryarus; "she's been having all this `poltergeist' trouble..." Drivula was speaking to Min at the other side of the fire, but she looked toward them with a frown. She thought for a moment and then she slid closer to Min and whispered in his ear. He grinned and nodded, and she chuckled; the sound of a lorry-load of gravel falling down a treacle-lined chute. It bothered Bryarus.
        Djehuti was speaking: "Well -ah- why not speak to the -ah- priest - your vicar? Is this not his -ah- province?"
        Bryarus' face broke into a smile. "Of course! Why didn't I think of it? Is he here?"

Olwyn would have been delighted at his concern. She had intended to come to the bonfire. She had been looking forward to it. She'd arrived home from work, sticky and tired, and had stumbled up the dark communal staircase; past the bathroom, complete with its chipped enamel and someone's washing drip, dripping into it. She had felt her way past the toilet, from which came the gut-wrenching sounds of the stair's drunk being sick again. She closed her eyes; her stomach heaved as she recalled evenings when she'd had to wipe the seat clean. It had always looked like diced carrots in a goo of bile, some of which had clung persistently; and the smell - so sharp, she could almost taste it, still.
        But now, she thought as the spray from her newly personal shower sparkled against her skin and invigorated it, now she had this. All to herself. Clean, fresh, scented with rose-petals and jasmine...
        The walls, covered with purple fur as waterproof as an otter's, were soft and warm to busy elbows or knees; Olwyn had grown used to the gold dragon's- head taps, and no longer shrank away when they opened and closed their mouths. She simply offered her body to them, arms outstretched, and they played a symphony of water-needles over her, soft, then hard, then soft again. When her skin vibrated and glowed with sensation all over, the soap dispenser slid a jasmine-scented bar into her hand; she slowly lathered silken swirls over her whole body.
        By the time the dragons had rinsed her and she had enveloped herself in the fluff of a towel, she was feeling totally relaxed. Which made it all the more frustrating when she could find no clothes in the whole flat.
        "Bloody poltergeist," she raged, stamping around the place. She shook her fists in the air and then quickly brought them back down as the towel began to descend and the doorbell rang.
        She looked through the spyhole; it was Min! "Oh, thank heaven!" she said as she flung open the door and stood back.
        Min's eyes widened. He gazed at the knotted towel which highlighted the faint dusting of freckles on her skin, and smiled. "Is help you need, sweet priestess? I come to your call." He raised her hand to his lips. "Ah! Jasmine! Scent of beauty and mystery..."
        "Yes, well I'm sure you're right;" she said, removing her hand from his and leading him through the flat, "the trouble is, you see, my clothes." She flung out an arm to indicate the empty wardrobe.
        Min's left leg bulged to a ripping sound, and a look of agony crossed his face. He doubled up. "Excuse," he gasped, and turned his elegant back. He did frantic things with his pants.
        Olwyn tapped her foot and frowned; this problem of his always surfaced at the wrong time, she thought. He swung round again. "Whew," he grinned. "Now, your problem - is something I can do." He shrugged out of his jacket and moved toward her. He gazed into her eyes, and reached his arms around her. He enveloped her shoulders with the jacket, stroking each one and murmuring: "Beautiful priestess. So soft; so smooth." He lifted her chin and kissed the tip of her nose. "Is belt you need also, no? Here, this will make one good." He began to loosen his tie.
        The doorbell rang.
        Olwyn flushed. She dashed to the peep-hole and squeaked with pleasure. "Heavens! It's everyone!" She danced up and down as she opened the door. "Hi! And I thought I was going to have to miss it all!" she laughed in delight.
        Bryarus looked at her - towel askew, jacket half off - and at Min's dishevelled state, and frowned. "Min!" he accused.
        The god shrugged and twinkled at him, winking at Drivula who hovered behind. The Reverend Willey averted his gaze and coughed politely. "Um, my dear fellow, do you think we should..." The twins thrust him forward, through the doorway, and piled in after him.
        "Oh Min," said Isis, looking at his trousers, "do you need a hand?"
        Willey got out his book and his bottle of holy water. "It is an exorcism for a poltergeist, I take it, dear lady?" he said to Olwyn with a slight bow.
        "I think so," she said, and then she caught sight of Drivula's smirk.
        The vicar began to read from the book, and flicked some water toward the fireplace.
        "That does it," a reed-like voice shouted. A damp Failey Fwich stormed out from behind the coal-bucket, wiping his eye. "And now, you're after flinging the water at me, are you? Not satisfied with throwing cats and frogs at me, to be sure. Well, madam vampire, the Fwich resigns."
        Min looked at Drivula, whose face was split in a grin, and at Failey. He shook his head and slipped out to the kitchen.
        Bast, sphinx-like on the sofa, opened her eyes wide. So the cluricaun's job was finished, eh? Well then, that meant the WACERFOU contract was voided. She purred and thumped down onto the ground.
        Failey tore his cap off his head, flung it on the ground and jumped on it.
        Then he toppled slowly over. Bast had turned him to stone.
        Drivula produced a drop of life-gunk from her phial, and he sprang back to his feet, spluttering.
        "A leprechaun?" said Olwyn. She shrank back from his glare.
        "Leprechaun, is it! Hah!" His face was as red as his cap, and he shook his fists at everyone. "And you wouldn't be knowing a cluricaun when you see him, would you? No shoddy workmanship from us; 'tis shoes we make, not leaky, bog-soaking rubbish!"
        Bast glared at Drivula and turned Failey back to stone.
        Drivula grinned and gunked him again.
        "I'm sorry, Mr. Fwich-" Olwyn could have saved her breath.
        "Damn you all-"
        Stone, gunk...
        "WACERFOU does little for us cluricauns-"
        Stone, gunk...
        "Stop doing that!" he finally managed to shout at Bast, who gazed up at the ceiling.
        Min reappeared, a jug in one hand and a few glasses in the other. "Is `Cordial'," he whispered to Bryarus; "we make him happy, yes?"
        Bryarus nodded. He nudged Olwyn and handed her a full glass, jerking his head toward Failey.
        "-'tis at times like these that we find discrimination amongst brothers, even- eh? Wine? Well I don't mind if I do, thank ye."
        He took a deep swig and breathed a sigh. "Ah the smell, the smell; 'tis like an echo of the true heather beer." He took another gulp and rolled his eyes at Olwyn. "Well perhaps 'tis not all your fault." He gazed thoughtfully at the bottom of the glass, and Olwyn re-filled it. "Why thank you, thank you," he said and squinted up at her. "Mind, you could be doing with some advice in your dress. Tell you what. You take me on as valet and we'll forget the whole thing." He fell over and snored loudly.
        Codswallop sharpened his claws and looked hopeful. "No, Coddy!" Olwyn yelled, seeing him lash his tail and crouch for the spring. Bast cuffed what there was of his ear and then licked it.
        Nephthys put her head on one side and looked at Bast with narrowed eyes. "Getting a bit fat aren't you, Bast dear?" she said. Bast glared at her.
        Bryarus looked curiously at Drivula. "How come there's always some goop in that phial?" he asked. She grinned.

In an airy, echoing barn a few hundred miles away, a sculptor looked with longing at a small, round stone on a bench. Just one small tap, he thought, just to get the symmetry perfect. He wouldn't crack it open...
        He placed his chisel against the geode, and gave it the lightest of knocks with his hammer.
        A "Pop" sounded beside him.
        "Aha!" said the squat, shrivelled man who appeared. His huge feet stank something rotten. "Haroon has you now, O Watts and spawn of Watts!"
        "Eh?" said the sculptor, and Haroon sighed.
        "I said," he spoke slowly and loudly, "I have you now, O Watts and spawn-"
        "Just a minute. I beg your pardon, but you didn't. You said something about maroon, or a prune, or something. `A prune has you now-'"
        "What? What?" the little man stamped his blistered foot, and yelled: "Ow! Do not think you can escape thus, O mortal! I have come to seal your fate; prepare to meet thy doom, O Watts and spawn of-"
        "My name isn't Watts."
        "What?" "No, nor Watt. Watch my lips," it was the sculptor's turn to speak slo-owly; "not Watt, or Watts."
        Haroon snatched the grubby shemag off his head, and flung it on the ground. He jumped on it. "Ow! Bloody WACERFOU, leading me up the gum tree without a paddle-"
        He disappeared.

Cicely sat at home, alone in the dark. She was steaming gently to herself and twisting a large handkerchief between her fingers. Arkwright had taken her home and had left without a kiss or a caressing word. He had been cool. There had been signs of it for the past few days; a broken date here and a plea of business there. A dry sob racked her body.
        What could she do? It was Bryarus, she thought with a vicious twist of the handkerchief. Bryarus and his dreadful friends, and that appalling museum. Perhaps Arkwright's last idea was worth trying; Mr. Barney thought it would work. But that wouldn't get rid of them, as well.
        She closed her eyes. She couldn't bear to lose Arkwright, she thought; all that prestige, all those investments! Half of them could be hers - or even all of them if he were to die. After the wedding, of course.
        What if Bryarus were to die? Oh, if only he would. She twisted the handkerchief one more time; it was tight, tight as a rope, and her hands held it like a garrotte.

The bangs and crashes of a dying Guy Fawkes night were a genteel distance from Upper West Postleton. Emily Effingham-Luton was going to bed. She paused by her husband's bedroom door.
        A yell hurled itself from his bathroom, followed by a string of curses. They rapped out clearly, even through two closed doors. Oh, dear, thought Emily. She pushed the bedroom door open, and called out: "Jarrold, dear? What is it?"
        He erupted from the doorway opposite, naked in a cloud of steam, and stood waving a bar of soap in one pudgy hand. His chins wobbled, and the effect rippled down his hairy paunch, but Emily didn't notice. Her gaze riveted itself to the damp darkness around his genitals. "Oooh," she thought. She licked her lips. It had been a long time; he was such a beast, but-
        "Bloody rats!" He interrupted her thoughts, "even eating the bloody soap. You have to get rid of them, woman! Well? Well? Do you hear me?" He flung the soap back into the bathroom and began to dry his legs.
        She sidled through the door. Her heart was thumping. Tiny jabs of excitement ran up into her stomach, and she couldn't take her eyes off that waggling little pendulum of flesh. "Yes, dear," she said, "we are trying, truly we are. We've tried everything. I wonder... Well, Olwyn was saying that Bryarus - Mr. Watts - is working on a special mousetrap. Something to do with pyramids... If only we had professionals in Postleton." She shrugged her blouse off and slid the skirt down her slender legs. "I've seen them, you know; they're almost tame, one of them is bright puce, never seen anything like it - have you, dear? - it's huge, and it takes food right from under our-"
        "Puce? What nonsense." He looked up from the task of tying his pyjama-trousers over the expanse of his paunch. "What do you think you're doing, woman?" He waved a hand at the door. "Losing your memory as well, now? This isn't your bedroom. Get out!" She clutched her brassiere, a frilly, gossamer message of hidden desire, to her slim chest. The blood thundered in her ears. "I just wondered... It's a long time since we-"
        "What? What? You actually think I want that scrawny body of yours tonight? Grow up, for heaven's sake." The fire of shame flared up her body from thighs to face. Her eyes sparkled with tears. "But Jarrold, I'm your wife!"
        "Yes? Well, I call the shots around here."
        He flung her out of the room and slammed the door. She stood naked, still clutching the scrap of lace, and shivered. She was pale as ice.

The next morning, the mists of dawn swirled darkly around Postleton West. Three bin-men clustered, bug-eyed, around their dust-cart. "What the hell is it?" whispered one.
        "God knows," his mate replied, "I must be dreaming."
        A dustbin was rolling up the road toward them. Khepri pushed it.
        "You ever see that movie - the one about insects taking over the world, and they, like, farm people?" hissed the third man.
        Three bin-men yelled lustily and legged it down the street. Khepri rolled the dust-cart after them.
        Bryarus peered out at the cacophony of bins and yells. "Ra," he said, rubbing sleep from his eyes, "you're going to have to do something about that stupid beetle. Find him something else to roll about, for heaven's sake."
        Ra looked up at the sky and hummed to himself.

Go on to Chapter 16
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved