of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
grumped into work, a few days later. It was all very well, she thought
as Gertrude screeched to a halt outside Phelonia Hall in a spray of
gravel, having the Little People on your side. The trouble came when
you couldn't get them to leave your clothes alone. Failey's ideas on
flamboyant colours and short skirts did not tie in with her lifelong
convictions about autumnal shades and flowing lines.
She slammed Gertrude's
door; and then had to turn around and stroke it better when the little
car quivered and "wheeeped" unhappily. She sighed. "I shouldn't take
it out on you, should I?" she said, and then she looked down at her
dayglo-oranged feet, and her lips quirked. "Oh well, at least he makes
comfortable shoes. I suppose I catch the eye now; at least I
annoy E-L." She gave the purring car a last pat, and hurried into the
Hall, ignoring Harold as he came tooting up the drive. Damn, she thought,
what was he doing back here?
blast hit her as she entered the office, and Effingham-Luton waved a
sheet of paper under her nose. "It's good of you to honour us with your
"It isn't nine o'clock,
yet, sir," Olwyn's calm voice cut in.
" -and I'll thank you
not to cheek your betters-"
"Well, to be thanked
for something would be nice," she muttered sotto voce.
" -what is the meaning
of this? Eh? Eh?"
She looked down at the
paper and smiled. "Oh," she said, "Bill Gimlet. Let's see. Well, it
seems quite clear; he's declined your offer of a job, owing to prior
engagements. What's wrong with that? There are plenty of cameramen,
you said so yourself."
E-L fumed at her and
began to lurch back and forth across the carpet, his hands waving around
his head. "What's wrong, she asks." He stopped, and thrust his stale
breath into her face. "There's somewhere else for cameramen to work,
that's what! Competition, girl - competition. In my town!" He thumped
his chest and began a paroxysm of coughing. Tears streamed from his
eyes and he slumped onto his chair.
Olwyn stood, waiting
for the fit to pass, and wondering what he wanted her for.
At last, he leaned forward
and wheezed: "You can go and find out about this new - company - that's
hiring staff, and you can tell me all their weaknesses. I'm going to
kill it, I tell you." He took a deep breath. "It's somewhere in Lower
Postleton; possibly around the museum. So Arkwright suggests, anyway.
Go on, then, go on!" He flapped his hands at her.
When Olwyn arrived at
the museum, she was greeted with enthusiasm by Bryarus and Tansy, who
took her up to Dwish's room. "He lives in the Modern Art gallery," said
Tansy with a grin; "he spends ages just sliding onto the paintings and
making them `live' with his body. It can be a bit weird - Jim Fester
nearly swore off the bottle again, when the Madonna waved at him."
"Dwish's been desperate
to learn about our world," said Bryarus, "and he grasps three-dimensional
concepts in a flash. It's amazing how fast he can read; nature books,
philosophy, you name it. He's so refreshing, too."
They passed the three
granite thugs. Olwyn stared; a group of people was examining the stones
with glittering instruments. She looked enquiringly at Bryarus.
"Those?" he twinkled
at her, "oh, they're just a few archaeologists. They've had a fight
with your firm's Harold about the origins of the statues and the meaning
of those gargoyle expressions. Hey, are you all right?"
Olwyn had shuddered.
She said: "I know Bast did it to them, but I do feel a bit guilty. Do
you think we should get Drivula to use that life-gunk on them?"
Bryarus shrugged. "She
won't do it. She says they're better as statues. I think she
enjoys the archaeologists. Here we are..."
Dwish swirled through
the air to greet her, pulsing with green through the colours of his
art. "We've finished one! A complete performance of the body!" The musical
ring of his voice was rough with excitement.
Olwyn's heart jumped
and she grinned. "Already? Oh, can I see it? I'd better warn you, by
the way; I'm supposed to be a spy. E-L doesn't like competition."
"Really?" said Dwish,
"I wonder why?"
Drott vibrated shyly
at the other end of the room. He lay on a contraption made from a table
with wheels. In the centre of the table a white piece of chipboard had
been nailed upright; behind it was a metal box with cables looped around
it. A long, robot arm hung limply on either side of the table and rested
its gloved hand on the floor. Drott pulsed greenly on the front of the
"Come on, Dwish; show
them!" Drott tinkled with laughter: "If Matron could see you now, back
"-There'd be no more
talk of dwivvling with me, would there, right?" Dwish giggled too. "She'd
just kill me, instead!" He zipped back down the room, and splashed himself
onto the table-trolley's board.
Tansy looked at Olwyn's
dropped jaw, and said: "Arlo resurrected this and adapted it; it's one
of the rubbish items from our `inventions' room. He's made it run by
fiddling with photoelectric cells. See them? On each corner, and a line
on the middle? Tricky, unless you happen to be born a Dwatter. See -
aren't they amazing?"
The trolley was rattling
around the room; its wheels protested and the "hands" spattered against
the floor in a running motion. Drott flowed over its corner cells, lighting
them with precision touches; he rolled it up to a projector. He called
out: "Kill the lights."
Olwyn sank into a chair
which Bryarus pushed at her. The film caught and washed her senses clean.
Dwish's voice rang from the speaker, showing her into a room full of
paintings and inviting her to share the wonder of it. "Isn't it amazing?"
he said, "all these people pouring emotions and beauty onto surfaces,
just for you to see! Look! Look at this!" The screen filled with a painting
of late winter. The sky gloomed down onto trees on which buds were already
fattening. A few patches of snow still lay on the naked earth; but in
the foreground, lit by a ray of sunlight, a small cluster of green,
swelling spikes thrust through the white.
"Can you see it? The
hope?" the picture began to shimmer slightly and shift. The patches
of snow melted and the sky began to clear. The trees burst into leaf,
the spikes nodded into snowdrop bells... then the original painting
The film continued,
with humour as well as compassion, and always that child-like wonder.
Dwish would show a piece and invite the viewer to share his delight;
and then he would use his own body to demonstrate how he saw
Half an hour later the
lights came back on, and Olwyn sat stunned. She felt like laughing and
crying, and she couldn't believe it had finished; she ached for more.
"That's - just fantastic!" she managed at last; "people have to see
it. Harold, eat your heart out!"
Bryarus looked at her
and smiled. "We hoped you'd like it; we rather thought it'd go down
well on TV. You know how to deal with commissioning editors and so on;
how about it, Olwyn?"
She put her head in
her hands. "Oh lord," she said, "it hasn't a hope in a million; not
among that bunch. Rupert Effingham only allows in stuff that comes from
E-L. They like to keep it in the family, you see. I'll ask, but..."
hours later, back at Phelonia Hall, Olwyn stared at the pile of cameramen's
bills which she'd been told to send back, unpaid and labelled "Overcharged".
Her teeth clamped together and her chin set in a firm line.
She saw years stretch
ahead, full of unpleasant tasks and E-L's bullying, and Harold. It just
wasn't worth the hassle. Maybe poverty wasn't as bad as people made
out. She nodded and stood up. There'd been some fiddle to get tax concessions,
if she remembered aright; share- ownership by poor little Emily, or
something of that nature. Not that the woman was allowed any say in
the business, of course, but still...
Olwyn went into the
main part of the house, in search of Mrs. Effingham-Luton. The older
woman was deep into the intricacies of a linen-cupboard. Her bottom
stuck out of it and quivered with concentration. Emily jumped when Olwyn
spoke behind her, and bashed her head on a shelf; she rubbed her head
and looked like a ruffled rabbit as she turned. "Oh, it's you, dear,"
she said, and began to smile. "Can I help?"
"There's this problem
with bills; these men need to live, and your husband won't pay them.
I thought, well, perhaps you could help?"
"Me, dear?" The surprise
was enormous. Then Emily thought about the other night; the pain, the
humiliation - and peace spread across her face like balm. "Of course,"
she whispered, "of course."
Ten minutes later, Olwyn
marched into E-L's office with a bundle of file copies. She flung them
down on his desk.
He gobbled at her and
then at the papers. "What's this? Paid bills - how - what the hell's
going on?" He half rose out of his chair and his voice gathered volume.
"You're fired, my girl. Do you hear? fired!"
Olwyn smiled sweetly.
"If you look closely, E-L, you will see that my resignation is under
your hand. It takes effect as of this morning, so you see you can't
fire me. Your wife accepted my resignation before she paid the bills;
I think you'll find them all in order-"
"Hussy! You'll never
find work in this town again!"
"-good day, sir, It's
been a privilege knowing you. I hope you fall into a cess-pit tomorrow,
you fat bastard." Still smiling happily, Olwyn marched toward the door,
reaching it just as it opened to admit Harold.
"Why," he said. He grabbed
her arm and stopped her, holding her away from him so that he could
run his hot eyes over her. "Little O! Looking very beautiful too, today;
the new image suits you."
She looked down at the
hand on her arm. "Harold, let go," she said quietly.
"That bitch is fired!"
E-L barked behind her.
Harold ignored them
both and went on, cupping her breast with his other hand. "Sounds like
my Little O needs some help." He put his head on one side. "Shall I
help her? What would I get if I-"
"Let go, Harold."
"-poured oil on the
waters? What about a kiss, eh?" He started to slide his hand around.
Her voice went throaty,
and her eyelids fluttered down. "Does Harold want a little kiss?" she
murmured. His eyes brightened. "You'd better come a little closer; closer...
Here you are, then."
Olwyn's knee came up
hard, and made a very satisfying "Scludge" against Harold's crotch.
"Ffwooo-ggafff," he said, as his eyes bugged out and he folded up.
she said, and stepped over the writhing figure on the floor.
Emily was dithering
in the hallway. "Jarrold's angry, isn't he?" she asked.
here, woman!" The shout echoed from the office.
"Oh," she said, and
turned to Olwyn. She answered the other's twinkle with a nervous giggle.
"I think I'd better go out for a while. Do you think you could drop
me in town, dear?"
Half an hour later,
Olwyn strode into Dwish's room (where the museum staff had congregated
again) and held out her hand. "Give me the film," she said. "It damn
well is going to be shown."
She grabbed it from
Tansy and stormed back out. The others were left, looking at each other
with their mouths open. She stopped briefly, and peeped back in: "You
look like a school of surprised haddock," she said, and giggled her
way down the stairs. She sat in Gertrude for a few minutes and checked
something in her witch's primer. Yes, there it was; under "Not To Be
Used For Personal Gain." Well, that was okay.
Next stop was Rupert
Effingham's plush office in Channel C's building. The walls were lined
with learned books which he never read, and empty tape-boxes. They gave
him the correct atmosphere, he felt. He wore a charcoal-grey suit and
a Club tie; his cuffs wore monogrammed links, and his shoes shone black.
He was every inch a gentleman, proud of his heritage and his name; even
young Luton had coveted it. He'd had to marry Emily to get it.
No-one ever knew that
Rupert wore frilly pink bloomers with "Call me Nancy" embroidered on
the rear. No-one, that is, except the woman who whipped him once a week;
Olwyn strode past his
secretary, threw: "Urgent business for the firm" at her, and marched
into his room. "Hello, Mr. Effingham," she said, and gazed deep into
his eyes. She placed the roll of film on his desk and made a few writhing,
magical gestures with her fingers. "This is important," she said in
a monotone, "this will be shown. This is the most special of films,
and you will feel unhappy if it isn't on air soon. You will not review
it first, or tell anyone about it. You will re-schedule to get it in,
it means so much..."
He looked down at the
film in a daze. "Of course, of course," he muttered to himself, and
picked the colourful frog off his notepad. How had that got there? He
passed it over to the woman who was standing with her hand out. He shook
his head; it felt kind of fuzzy. "Thank you, Miss, er; young Luton wants
this done quickly, of course. It's such a wonderful film."
Olwyn smiled at him
and edged toward the door. He cleared his throat. "Yes well, I'm sure
this can be slotted in, now let me see..." He flicked his notes over.
"Yes, here we are; peak time on a Friday. Perfect. The half hour can
be taken from..."
Olwyn closed the door
on his mutterings, and grinned as she stroked the frog. She looked forward
to her lessons with Bertha; the spells were really getting to be very
interesting. She entered the Acquisitions department carrying a freshly-drawn
contract, and left with a signature, a cheque, and two frogs.
evening, purple steam arose from a chunky cottage in Postle Village
and frosted into the starlit air. Light flickered through the irregular,
leaded windows of Bertha Clewydd's home.
A blue, polka-dotted
frog slopped down the path toward the creek; Bertha's voice rose in
frustration from behind him.
"No, no, Olwyn
cariad." Bertha's hair stood out where her fingers had ruffled it, like
manic wisps of smoke. "You draw this point of the pentagram too heavy,
look you. How can you be in true harmony if the balance is wrong?" Olwyn
stood in the centre of the room and stared down at the candle-smudged
chalk design. Bertha looked at her, sighed, and patted her on the shoulder.
"Come, now; you're getting on well, really. It's proud of you I am.
We've only this one little problem left. How about a cup of tea?"
The frog reached the
creek and stopped. He frowned at the water and belched. He dipped a
toe in, then withdrew it and shook it. Yuk, he thought, what kind of
place was this? Where were the delightful slime- waters of home, thick
and warm against his skin? Where was home? He belched again,
and produced a desolate "Grrriggitt."
"Ribbbitt?" - the night exploded into froggy rasps, and a stream of
slippery, colourful bodies bounced out of the waters and slithered around
He put his forefeet
on his haunches and hunkered back, his mouth set in a masterful line.
He nodded toward the house. "Grrriggit," he said. That was the source
of the problem; why didn't everyone get up there and do something about
When Olwyn finally burst
out of the house, waving good-bye as she went, she found herself surrounded
by a glistening, surging sea of blue, gold and purple. The rasping sound
from a few hundred throats was ear-splitting. The village opened its
windows in curiosity or hid under the beds; Gaffer Codge shot out of
his house into the gloom, armed with a rake, yelling "Okay, come and
get me, then. Fascist bastards!"
Olwyn drove home, covered
in frogs. Her warm, slimy pond received them with enthusiasm.
West settled to its evening routine of television, dinner parties and
curtain-twitching. Most of it did, anyway. The Watts' house was different.
Cicely crept into her
darkened hall. She could hear them, laughing and singing, upstairs;
she bit her lip and fondled the twine which coiled in her hands. Get
rid of him, she thought, and everything will be normal; no more bangs
or smells or orgies. No more shame. It had to be an "accident", though.
The stairs - people in books often fell downstairs and broke their necks,
A giggle gurgled in
She crept up the stairs.
How did killers do it? she wondered. Of course; the banister rail, tie
the twine on this side. Now for the other side... She slid her hand
around the smooth wall. She sat back on her heels and huffed to herself.
Too smooth. How did people manage it in those books?
And then she heard the
voices, floating from Bryarus' room: "The Dwatters are so good at it,"
said Bryarus, "they could take over here, you know. And it's amazing
how people latch onto propaganda gimmicks - all that business with `posters',
they lap it up." A treacly giggle answered him. "Yeah - and it's all
our doing; we could take over the country if we wanted to, fellas. I
can see the headlines now: `Sold out to extraterrestrials! Other dimensions
to rule!' All from one tatty old museum..."
"Hey! Watch your language.
That museum is my-" Bryarus' voice was drowned out by a general laughter.
Cicely gasped. She crept
back downstairs, eyes wide, hand over mouth. Well! she thought as she
hunted for Kraphedd's card. Who'd have thought it? Her own brother,
and that museum, tied up in a takeover by aliens? It was her duty to
stop it. She was bound to report this. Never mind the twine, now! She
picked up the phone and dialled the secret agent's number.
"Mr. Kraphedd? I'm afraid
that I have to report my brother, yes, he's implicated in a plot
to take over the world, that's right, I overheard him plotting
just now. I've been worried about the friends he keeps for some time
now. Well, I thought it was my duty, I mean family togetherness
is all very well, but when you have a traitor, I mean treason
- yes, well I know that the penalty is death, Mr. Kraphedd, but I hope
I'm public-spirited enough to overcome personal feelings, I do serve
on several committees, you know. You did come to find out who's
been stirring things up here, didn't you? Yes, well, I think you should
send the police right away."
She put the phone down
and turned - to look straight into her brother's face. She gasped. He
just stood and looked; a long, sorrowful stare. "My sister, eh?" he
said. "All I have left in the world, and me an orphan?" He shook his
head and then bounded upstairs. A few minutes later, when he came back
down with a small pack slung on his back, Cicely had subsided into a
A whining sound wafted
down the stairs, as of a hundred glasses being squeaked. "No!" Bryarus
yelled up, "Stay! Good boy. Stay with the others. Drivula! For heaven's
sake look after Boozo for me. And don't forget to warn the others when
they get back." He swung round to his sister. "I think it's time for
a small holiday, don't you? Say `cheerio' to everyone for me. Oh, by
the way," he turned as he flung the front door open and stepped out,
"I think you ought to know; my Will leaves everything I own to a cats'
home. Cheerio, sister dear."
The door slammed on
thought for a minute, and headed up the road toward Upper West Postleton's
mansions. Phelonia Hall would be ideal; he could speak to Olwyn there,
tomorrow. He didn't realise how wrong he was. He didn't want to go to
her home; "they" might find him there, and she'd have a tough time.
Treason, for heaven's sake! He fingered the comforting lump of the geode
in his pocket. It really was amazing, the way that lump of stone could
feel so warm; almost throbbing, sometimes. Silly, he supposed, but it
was like - well - company.
He found the coal-chute,
threw in his bag, and slithered after it. No-one would think of looking
for him in these posh cellars...
"Hello," said a voice
in his head.
"What?" he said intelligently.
There was an edge of
impatience to the thoughts: "I said, hello. What did you think I said?"
"Um," said Bryarus,
"I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting anyone. Hello. I can't see a thing; hang
on," He fumbled a box out of his pack and lit a match. In its flare,
a hundred pairs of red eyes glinted back at him. He sat down abruptly.