of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
party swung on, oscillating through the half-open door in a babble of
sound and warm scent.
Behind the infested
walls, a stream of grim-whiskered rodents scuttled in silence. They
emerged at last, flowing out from cracks in the carved dado-panelling
and from behind cupboards; they spread out across the floor, claws clattering
on the polished wood. An enormous, puce rat surveyed the room, and nodded.
Djehuti was in the nearest corner. Rat-Eusos slid over to him and tugged
at his ankle.
Effingham, who wore a collar and lead and very little else, stood and
talked to an attractive young Queen Victoria. He shifted uneasily from
foot to foot; the pile of ecstatic mail, which squatted in his office,
kept haunting him. Young Luton will flay me if I do what the viewers
want and commission even more Dwish-films, he thought. And the viewers
might lynch me if I don't. And Fiona will whip me senseless if she catches
me talking to this girl...
A frisson of excitement
shuddered down his back at the final thought, but he fell silent as
he sipped at a glass of wine, while the Queen munched her way through
a plateful of salad. With one eye, he watched the door; his beloved
Fiona would be back from the loo in a minute. His companion hunched
a shoulder at him, scowled, and glanced down at her feet. Something
scuttled over them; she shrieked, threw her plate of food in Rupert's
face, picked up her skirts, and hopped lithely onto a chair. From this
vantage point she continued to yell: "Help! Murder! Rape!"
Rupert glanced around
through a dripping film of quiche and yoghurt, and smiled weakly at
the accusing crowd of faces. "I-I didn't - I wouldn't..." A whip
curled around his shoulders, and whirled him to face his leather-clad
Fiona. She looked him up and down, sniffed, and caught sight of a movement
on the floor. Two seconds later, she was teetering on the chair beside
the "Queen". Her eyes bugged out, her mouth opened and closed, and she
pointed at the floor. It heaved with rats.
The crowd erupted from
that spot and billowed out through every door; an "elephant" caught
the buffet table with his trunk as he lumbered past, and food cascaded
to the ground. Screams mingled with the clatter of breaking plates and
the squish of bodies falling into coleslaw.
The door behind Bryarus
crashed open, and a gorilla, a Zulu chief, and a belly-dancer fell through
it. The brown rat-sea flowed after them, with Djehuti wading through
it. "Get out!" E-L's pudgy hands flapped at them. "Out, I say. No, no,
not you, Bryarus, sit down - ouch!" He kicked out as a rat gave his
toes an experimental nibble. "Ugh, disgusting things. Get them out of
The gorilla and his
pals surged on past; Djehuti hoisted Bryarus over his shoulder like
a sack of coal, and followed. Visect clung to him, screaming: "The experiment!
You're ruining it, yes, ruining it! Stop; come back... Oww!" Rat-Eusos
had leapt from the doorway and grabbed his buttocks with her teeth.
She spat out a mouthful
of fabric. Ptui, she thought, didn't this guy ever change his clothes?
Pathetic, too - there he was, writhing about on the floor and screaming.
Mind you, to be fair, he probably was a bit uncomfortable. She thought
of calling off the score or so of her subjects who were nibbling him
around the edges; then she smiled indulgently through her whiskers.
No, she thought; they were enjoying themselves so much.
The rats looked around
for more fun; several of them chewed up the papers on the desk, while
a few snapped at E-L's fingers every time he tried to brush them all
away. "Em-ily!" he shouted, and danced up and down, wobbling
on the spot. "Emily! Stupid bitch - get rid of these damn rats, woman..."
wife, at that moment, was in no fit state to respond. She was revealed
in the conservatory, naked, in the wake of an energetically fleeing
herd of aristocrats and Nouveau Riche. She stood, stricken, in the ruins
of her desires and her flowers. The twins dashed past, giggling and
dragging their latest acquisition, and Rupert lurched by under the weight
of his Fiona. He staggered to a halt beside his relative; he looked
from her to the impressively naked Min. "My dear," he gasped, "What
do you think you're doing? You haven't been unfaithful?"
Emily stamped her foot.
"No," she said, "you were all two minutes too early, sod you." She burst
The screams of departing
guests skimmed into the distance, and the rats melted into the squashed
buffet. E-L staggered into the huge lounge, and glared around at the
mess; he lifted his fists and eyes to the ceiling and yelled: "Damn
it! I nearly had the place. Blast them all..."
Emily appeared in the
doorway, her clothing flung on anyhow, and glanced around with awe in
her eyes. "Oh," she said. Her hand crept up to her mouth.
Her husband caught the
movement, and lowered his arms; his voice began to drip saccharin: "Ah,
Emily, dear; so glad you could join me. It seems the guests had to leave
suddenly. You stupid woman, I told you to get rid of those damn
rats! Would you, though? Oh, no, far too mamby-pamby. `Jarrold, dear,
poison is dangerous,'" he mimicked a falsetto, "`and traps are so cruel.'
Well, look what's happened now; your precious party in tatters, mess
everywhere, and that damn museum still out of my grasp."
"But Jarrold, I-" Emily
began, and then stopped with a little squeak. Something heaved in the
middle of the room. From amongst the chaos of cream-gateau splatters
and upturned furniture, Arkwright emerged.
"Oogh," he groaned,
"mmmf." He wiped chocolate out of his ear and turned to E-L. "Wouldn't
he sign, then?" He looked at his uncle's purple face, and hurried on:
"Well, I've been thinking-"
exploded. "Since when has your thinking got us anywhere?"
"But, Uncle, there's
something else in the title-deeds; there's a `change of use' clause
which allows for compulsory purchase in the event of an owner violating
the terms. A film-making company in the premises is bound to be a violation,
don't you think?"
E-L's face cleared;
he almost smiled. "My boy," he said, and patted his nephew's shoulder.
He put a heavy arm around Arkwright's shoulders, "I think you've finally
got something. But, dear lad," he rubbed his chin and frowned, "they
might try to wriggle out of it; if they called those films `educational',
mightn't we have trouble making it stick? Now, that little fiancee of
yours, she could be ve-ry useful. What if she were to change a few things
at the museum? Hmm..." he frowned. "I didn't see you being lovey-dovey
with her tonight; I'm sure you'll sort that out. Just a lover's tiff,
I expect, eh, my boy?"
Emily slid out of the
room and sighed. Echoing in her mind was a memory of a laughing god's
last whisper: "I go now." He had held her away from him and gazed into
her eyes with a wry twist to his mouth. "You come to me, priestess,
yes? Remember; Min calls you." He had brushed the tip of her nose with
his lips, before slipping away.
had decided not to go the party. He preferred to sprawl on cushions
in Bryarus' study, drinking whisky and sulking. Uraeus' head hung listlessly
out of his pocket. Khepri, reduced to his usual size, scurried around
the floor; he rolled pyramids and glasses and balls of fluff around.
Ra watched him.
There was a brooding
light in the god's eyes, and he sniffed. He wiped his nose on the back
of his hand, and muttered: "What a place this is. Khepri, old son, remember
when you had the whole Egyptian sun to hoist around the sky? We really
knew how to live in those days; the fights with Apep, the parties, the
rivers of blood, the festivals... And now, will they let you do your
job? Not a bit of it. Not even up there, in space. You'd think they'd
be glad to have that rubbish cleared up."
He took another swig
at the bottle, and shivered as his old eyes watered. The beetle came
over to him and stood, touching his face with its antennae and rustling
gently. Ra brightened. "Hey! You're right. Come on, let's fly - Marco's
Goshawk ambled along to his basement through the swirling mists of early
December. The street-wise entrepreneur, Berkoff, was at his street-corner
post, muffled in heavy coat and long scarf. He arranged newspapers on
a fold-up table and blew on his half-gloved fingers, in between shouts
of: "Read all about it! Sex among the gods. Aliens invade. Universe
in danger. Read all - ah, good morning sir, thank you, sir, buy your
Murdo had stopped and
glanced over the five differing papers on display. He smiled to himself;
there it was, his work, splashed over the front pages at last. He flipped
through a couple of them, and nodded with satisfaction - there hadn't
even been any editorial slashing. He threw the disordered papers back
onto the table and wandered off; it was amazing, he thought, how much
mileage (and cash) you could make out of one story.
He didn't notice Berkoff's
outraged yell: "Oy! Mister, this ain't a library - where's your money?"
was on his way back to the Watts' house, humming gently to himself;
he lurched toward the infuriated vendor. He'd found the perfect job
for Khepri; a brilliant move, he thought. Sheer genius. He stopped and
swayed, as Berkoff got into the sing-song of his headlines chant again.
Now there was a peculiar noise, thought the god. Did the man think he
was singing? Ra leaned against the table, with a lewd leer on his lips
and his thoughts far away; then he caught sight of Murdo's lurid work.
He riffled through some of the papers, and flung them back down. He
staggered off. The others had to know about this; the danger of a few
hysterically-dropped bombs was growing.
He didn't even hear
Berkoff's shout of rage.
The man did a silent
dance of fury, tearing at his hair. Then his shoulders slumped and he
began to gather the news back into orderly piles. His voice croaked
into another cry of: "Read all about it; Sex among the gods..." A graffiti-covered
Fiat screeched to a halt beside him and a woman leaped out. Her gaudily-covered
curves propelled a whiff of fresh heather toward him. She grabbed a
couple of the papers and looked down at them; then she smashed them
back onto the pile with a horrified gasp, and sprinted away to her car.
Berkoff didn't even
bother to scream. He just kicked the table over and sat on the soggy
pile of papers, in the gutter, with his head in his hands.
However, keeping a good
entrepreneur down has never been easy. Two weeks later, Berkoff's cheery
voice could be heard outside the museum, proffering his latest wares
to the hordes of new tourists: "Buy them here! Save yourselves when
the universe collides! Buy my kits and survive the end of the world..."
His business thrived.
about Dwat split the whole world into cults. The Western world felt
that it shouldn't be allowed; what were the authorities doing to let
them get away with such an invasion? The Eastern world took happy-snaps
of themselves in front of the museum and the tramps.
Jim Fester painted himself
and Mutt green, and posed, as aliens, in front of the museum. He made
Dwish put on live shows,
on the white board of his trolley; the tourists went wild, clapping
and cheering. Berkoff made little replica trolleys, complete with a
green Dwatter-splodge. He made money.
tired year was wandering through December; it was on its way toward
Christmas, and it contemplated a frost or two.
Bryarus had been at
Marco's, celebrating Friday. He was also celebrating the foiling of
another of Cicely's ploys - she had tried to gut the museum that morning.
He'd caught her removal men carrying a load of artefacts out of the
He staggered home from
Marco's with Drivula; they supported each other along the road, and
tried to stifle giggles. They carried one of Berkoff's kits. The two
of them crept into the darkened sitting-room and festooned the contents
of the packet over Cicely's "pograp" figure. "Never liked that thing,"
Bryarus muttered, and belched whisky fumes up the stairs; "sancti- sanct-
sanctimom- bloody stupid expression the thing's got. 'Snot as though
C-Cicely believes in anything, anyway. 'Cept money."
Drivula grabbed the
bottle off him and glugged at it.
was not amused to find her favourite statuette gazing soulfully at the
dawn sky through the contents of a packet of cut-price army rations,
a hair-net, and a large square of tin foil. She scraped the offending
items off the figure and stormed out into the hall. "Bry-arus!" she
shouted, "what do you mean by-" Just then, the bell rang. Cicely flung
the door open to Olwyn, whose smile quivered to nothing at the fury
in her eyes.
"Bryarus?" Olwyn asked.
Cicely tapped her foot,
and turned her head to yell up the stairs: "Bryarus! One of your - girlfriends
- is here." She then stood in the doorway, and looked Olwyn up and down.
"Still wearing tart's clothes, I see," she said.
"Being polite to my
guest, dear?" Bryarus had bounded down the stairs, and stood by Cicely's
shoulder. She turned in fury and threw the handful of army rations at
"You sod!" she said.
Olwyn regarded the stuff
with interest. "What is it?" she asked.
Cicely sniffed. "Ask
your boyfriend; I found it plastered all over my statue."
"Well," said Bryarus,
she won't leave the museum alone. I caught her, with a removal van,
trying to empty the place."
"It was all rubbish!"
Cicely was indignant, "and Arkwright's cousin was willing to pay a good-"
"That `rubbish' meant
a lot to Dad, and it means a lot to me! Lay off, Cicely!"
Olwyn looked from Cicely's
fury to Bryarus' scowl, and shook her head.
"Look," she said, "there's
been no harm done. The statue's not damaged; and you'll leave the museum
alone, now you know how he feels, I'm sure."
"You stupid tart," Cicely
said through clenched teeth, "what do you know about it? I know the
sort of thing your type gets up to. You and all those hippie friends
of his." She turned back toward her brother. "Gods, indeed! Hah!" At
that moment, Arkwright began to drag his unwilling feet up the path.
Olwyn gazed at the other
woman in disbelief. Her jaw set in firm lines, and she nodded to herself.
Her eyes glazed over; her lips moved in a silent spell, and she flickered
her fingers in complex signs. Three things happened at once: Arkwright
reached the group and touched his beloved's arm; Cicely's face lit up;
and they all got deluged by purple rats.
"Oh dear," Olwyn said.
"Ugh!" said everyone
else. Including the rats.
Arkwright flapped his
hands around like a desperate windmill with hiccups. "That's it!" he
shouted, "I've had enough of you and your blasted brother. I don't care
what E-L... Er..." The cash register in his mind began to click
over again, and he stopped dancing around. He smiled weakly: "Sorry,
darling, I don't know what came over me. Mind you," and he glowered
at the sight of the twins strolling up the path, "you have some very
"Oh, but, Arkwright,
my love - they aren't my friends," she leaned closer and whispered
in his ear, "and I'd disown him, you know I would, if I could only have
my rights in the museum and everything..."
Bryarus had been unashamedly
straining to hear, and was stroking the geode in his pocket as he concentrated.
At that moment, the naked running man careered around the side of the
house, followed by an enquiring Bonasus. The man was still yelling unintelligibly
when he made a grab for Arkwright. The accountant shrank away, gave
a yell, and sprinted off down the path, screaming: "I don't care! The
The twins' eyes lit
up as he legged it past them, and they both made a grab for him. There
was a tearing sound, and they were left, each holding a large piece
of cloth. They shrugged, and turned to the bespectacled, naked runner;
he stood, his shoulders bowed in defeat. Just as they reached out for
him, he disappeared. The twins pouted.
Arkwright was halfway
home before he realised that he'd lost his trousers.
Bonasus huffed in Cicely's
ear; she screamed. She looked wildly around, burst into tears, and ran
back into the house.
Olwyn turned to Bryarus,
and shook her head sadly: "It's all such a mess, and it's partly my
fault. I was only trying to make her stop being beastly. All we got
was a load of extra rats; I don't know what's wrong with my magic. It
gets worse and worse."
Isis patted her shoulder.
"It's not just you," she said.
Her sister joined in:
"Yes, there's some kind of pressure on magic; all sorts of things are
going wrong. Our men are giving out quicker and quicker, even when we-"
Bryarus cleared his
throat: "Ahem. Shall we join my drinks cabinet? and, Olwyn, we've succeeded!
That's one thing this `pressure' hasn't damaged; the breakthrough came
yesterday. Take a dekko at our experiments." He turned to go in; the
bonnacon slurped a soggy tongue over his face. "Yes, yes, Bonasus, we'll
get you a bucket."
The floor of Bryarus'
room was littered with a selection of cardboard pyramids; out of some
flowed sharp razor-blades, out of others popped healthy cabbages and
onions. "Oh, you clever things!" said Olwyn, and flung her arms around
Bryarus in a big hug.
He laughed, and hugged
her back. "Whoah!" he said, "You'll break my ribs. We can refresh any
vegetables or fruit; we haven't tried garlic, because of Drivula, but
I'm sure it'd be okay. Ra, there, has a special project going."
Ra was looking pleased
with himself; he hovered around a particular pyramid. A few rats were
popping in and out of it. A close inspection of them showed that those
which entered the pyramid were different ones from those which left
it. Their purple colouring was the giveaway. "Matter transference,"
he said happily.
a darkly-panelled Victorian room, Jaawdown slid warily into his chairman's
seat. He inspected the table cautiously, and leaned back. He glowered
at Kraphedd, who'd been brought back by Bes and who wore a bewildered
expression. A fine secret spy he'd turned out to be. The discussion
was already under way.
General Cragblatt smashed
his hand down on the table. "No!" he said. The table jumped, neighed,
and reared up to paw the air; Cragblatt pressed back against the wall.
The secretary came hurrying
in, making little coo-ing noises and waving a polishing cloth; the table
settled down again and nudged her. "You mustn't hit it, sir," she said
reproachfully, and began to polish.
"Yes, er indeed," said
the general, and cleared his throat. He shook a pile of papers in their
faces and went on: "You've all seen the reports, since the news was
blown open; the public are crawling into everything. Are you still dithering?
Can't you see - the only way is to bomb the place?"
He looked around the
table. He glared at the group of scientists. "And you listen to the
wingeing of this bunch of idiots. Pah!" He raised his fist again, ready
to bring it down with a last thump. He remembered just in time. Kraphedd
jumped, and Bes hid a smile.
Visect glared at Cragblatt,
through his bandages, and said: "Mr. Chairman, the general has no notion
of the importance of science, yes science. His first instinct is always
destructive, yes destructive. We would only say that, dangerous as this
manifestation may be, we have a duty, yes duty, to study it before dropping
Bes cleared his throat.
"Hey, guys," he said, "when me and Kraphedd, here, were up there doing
- research - we heard that a bomb at this time would explode both universes.
Isn't that right, fella?"
Kraphedd gulped, and
nodded. "Well, yes, yes, that's right... Both universes, that's what
the man said." He glanced wildly at Bes, who gave him a big grin and
a wink. Kraphedd rubbed his head. There was a gap of several days in
his memory; he could have sworn that he'd spent them all in the car.
Impossible, of course.
The scientists broke
into a babble: "Need to be proved by rigorous-"
after all, a two-dimensional-"
"-Needs to be plugged,
yes, plugged with a bomb (after research, of course); the danger would
be implosion if matter continued to leak."
Cragblatt's voice rose
above them all: "Nonsense! A bomb, and now, is the only way to stop
Jaawdown tapped the
table. It shivered, and he stepped back hurriedly. "Gentlemen, gentlemen,
we must bear in mind here that what we could be facing is a case of
severe civil unrest. It does seem as though a bomb may begin to be the
best solution, justifiable politically; we shall have to give it serious
Bes sighed, and slipped
out to play with the secretary before reporting back to Postleton.