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

Chapter 16.

Olwyn 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?
        "Ol-wyn!" The 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 presence-"
        "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 table.
        "Come on, Dwish; show them!" Drott tinkled with laughter: "If Matron could see you now, back in Dwat-"
        "-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 returned.
        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 it.
        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..."

Two 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.
        "Good-bye, Harold," 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.
        "Em-ily! Come 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; his Fiona.
        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.

That 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."
        "Rrribbt?" "Grriggit!" "Ribbbitt?" - the night exploded into froggy rasps, and a stream of slippery, colourful bodies bounced out of the waters and slithered around him.
        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 it?
        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.

Postleton 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, didn't they?
        A giggle gurgled in her throat.
        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 hall chair.
        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 her scream.

Bryarus 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.

Go on to Chapter 17
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved