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

Chapter 21.

The 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.

Rupert 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 here..."
        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..."

His 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 into tears.
        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-"
        "Peanut-brain!" E-L 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.

Ra 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 it is."

Murdo 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 news, sir?"
        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?"

Ra 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.

Opinions 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 money.
        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.

The 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 place.
        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.

Cicely 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 him.
        "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 odd friends-"
        "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 wedding's off!"
        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.

In 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 the bombs."
        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-"
        "-Ridiculous hypothesis, 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 the invasion."
        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 consideration..."
        Bes sighed, and slipped out to play with the secretary before reporting back to Postleton.

Go on to Chapter 22
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved