Cakletown and the Lone Chancers of Custard

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      Beware, this story is for the light of heart and laughter inclined, not to be confused with Dafletown and the Tone Dancers of Dustard or Mapletown and the Mown Mancers of Mustard which are stories made of an altogether different cloth…

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      “Glod help us all when Jacques Schitt and Frank Diddley Squat turn up”, Glodfrey remarked with a heartfelt sligh.

      After perusing the latest plot proposal he felt a strong need to know just how many characters were potentially on the move. His head swam with the ramifications, and he had a sinking feeling that there were far more characters than he could begin to imagine.
      So he started reading, inwardly screaming “don’t make me count!”. At first he’d only considered the earth bound more or less human characters.

      “Glod help us all,” he repeated, his eyed glazed with apprehension. “Who will we ever get to ploof lead all this now?

      “You deplessing old flart, Glodfrey, for leavens slake, it will be sluch flun!” Lilith said, giving him a playful plunch on the ell bough. “The arrival of The Time Travelling Absinthe Pirates might coincide with the government alien disclosure programme, what a hoot!”


      Flinnley plicked up Glodfrey’s head, that was still swilming with the ramifications in the cacklwarium, and plut it black florceflully on the man’s bloody blody.
      “Gloss” said Arona with a disglusted flace.
      “Thanks, Finnley. Godfrey, doln’t be so pleaslandish”, said Lelizabeth to Glodfrey, “there lare and will lalways be more lants in all the probable versions of Earth than there will be chlaracters in a stooly.” She tlook some tlime to appreciate what she had just said, finding it would sound good for the plosterity.


        Bea decided that she needed to put herself back to sleep quickly. She had to wake up to a different external reality than loud cackles, lisps and pyramid-stealing rats with a bindle and attitude to boot.

        She was glad there was some of her sleep inducing medication left. This time apparently, they looked like Chinese medicine, gooish and blue in colour, with pungent smell of dried sea cucumber mixed with dirty alloys of slit nosed bat’s snot.

        Maybe the weird scenarios were a resurgence of the ego… She would have to meditate more on what these false egos and contrived characters appearances truly meant.


          By doing so, she dreadedly realised she might have broken one or two rules.

          She let the thought float and flow away, embellishing it with a flurry of hells to make it sound more like it came from Lalaland.

          With that, she should be safe from retributions and impeding baldness.
          “Well, better that than the horrible fate of toothlessness of that last Filna’s incarnation” she couldn’t help but think before slumbering away.


            In the Void’s state, the Breathe of Story that was the source of the ten thousands characters took a pause, and convened with Itself to discuss the next course of events.

            Soon enough, chatter started again, and It broke down the Formless Dream into a new Multitude of Itself.


              First appeared the We, closely followed by the Others. In fact, so closely, they could hardly been called apart at the beginning.

              Then awareness awoke again, oscillating for an instant between the We and Others. Which should be this time?
              Discarded Forms awoke quickly to follow in the aperture of awareness, and opened their eyes to their memories, filled to the brim with old and new stories about themselves, about the world, its purported reason to be as it is, its rules and all the hows and whys that should once more be turned upside down.

              The set was ready, its actors in place. There was no time to waste, for there really was no time at all.


              “The key comes from a certain Dory”, said Becky with a puzzled look. “Does anyone know a Dory ? I don’t.”
              “Have you been taking sleep pills again?” asked Tina in the brink of an eyeroll.
              “Not at all”, said Becky briskly, bringing the letter and the key close to her chest. “I just don’t remember. It seems so far away.”
              “It looks like a locker key, or maybe a safe key.” said Sam. “Look, there is a little monkey carved on it, and a number.” he said pointing at it.
              Becky and Tina looked more closely.
              “1495”, said Becky.
              “Year 1495 (MCDXCV) was a common year starting on Thursday”, said Al. He was trying to solve a puzzle based on chaotic randomness theory and the evolution of the electromagnetic flux of sunspots in real time.
              “There’s a little card with it.” Tina was holding a small square rigid paper with a name on it. “It’s written Tikfijikoo Island.”
              “I remember the name”, said Sam, “I think it’s that place where they are building the Spider Amusement Park, or SAP.”


              Vincentius took one last look at the children, wondering if he should give them all a hug and bid them farewell. But they were happily engrossed in smearing Fanella’s collection of Venetian glass with marmite and peanutbutter paint effects, so he slipped out without a word and left them to it.

              Shivering in the damp chill air, he looked nervously at Arona. “Where are you taking me? I’m not supposed to leave without permission, I might get sent back to the detention camp on the island.” He shuddered at the thought.

              “Don’t be silly,” snapped Arona, “Do pull yourself together, you are but a shadow of your former self. Yes, yes, I know it must have been awful,” she said impatiently at Vincentius’ self pitying look, “You can tell me all about Tikfijikoo Spider Camp later. But now we must hurry. Come on!”


              Becky sat looking at the key in her hand long after the others had gone to bed, her mind going over seemingly disjointed images and random memories, trying to piece them all together. Why had Dory sent her, Becky, the key to the detention camp? She wasn’t expected to fly to the island and physically release the detainee’s surely? Should she send it to someone in the area? But who? Or was it more symbolic? But symbolic of what, exactly?

              Was it connected to the Imagination Wave? It surely must be, she thought. It must be connected to the surge of story character refugees, looking for a new story.

              Becky sighed. There had been such a dearth of imagination during the previous waves that literally countless story refugees had been rounded up and detained, with no new stories available anywhere on the planet. Of course this wasn’t actually true: there were always countless new stories to be told, but the lack of imagination, the sheer lack of will to tell them, had brought the global situation to a dreadful impasse.

              We could write them all out of the stories with a rat tat tat of the keyboards, she mused, and immediately cringed at the idea. Any fool can destroy in seconds. Destruction isn’t power, creation is.

              Was it a coincidence that the leader of the old story where most of the characters were fleeing from, had the same name as that alien that kept promising to land, but never actually did?

              Shaking her head, Becky wondered, not for the first time, if the world population can’t handle a few displaced story characters, what in Glods name would be the reaction to a load of aliens? Still clutching the blue key, Becky went to bed. She would discuss it with the others in the morning.


              Sam woke up the next morning feeling puzzled. There was no apparent reason for it, so he thought it might be related to the new moon or to some singular configuration of space time crossing with the known universe. He scratched his 3 days and a half beard a few times. He liked the sound of it and did it frequently. Only then would he get out of bed and prepare some breakfast.
              When he came to the kitchen, the tv was on. A certain Godfrey was speaking about an upcoming wave of migrants due to lack of rafts in the sea of confusion. Sam thought he wasn’t the only one feeling puzzled.
              “Do you have all your papers ready ?” asked Al, already dressed up as if he was going to a wedding.
              “I like when you wear your tuxedo”, said Sam. Al looked absolutely delicious. “And yes, I have all my papers ready. But I wonder… Why do you need papers when you’re asking for a new identity?”


                He arrived early to the new world’s consuelambassy. He liked being spontaneously on time.
                In order to go to this new world, you didn’t need a visa, only a new identity. The office was in a super mall. You had to get through the shops first. There were elevators to go to the next floor, and you had to change to a new one each time. Of course the elevator to the next level was always after a labyrinth of luxury or food stores.
                Sam felt tired and sick just after the second level. Twenty more to go, he thought. He reminded himself of his grumpy meditation training and looked at the fire alarm. It would certainly clear the area. But might just render it too chaotic for his taste.


                  On the fifteenth floor, Sam thought he might be late after all.


                    A man with big hairy hands welcomed him in the new world’s consuelambassy office. “Welcome”, said the man with a deep voice. Sam couldn’t get his eyes off the man’s hands. He looked at the guy. Without those hands he would just be like a regular guy.
                    “I’m a bit early”, said the man, “so we might as well begin now. Is that ok for you ?”
                    “What ? Oh! yes, of course…” those hands are so huge, he thought.
                    “Perfect. Just sit on this chair and I’ll guide you through the procedure.”
                    “Ok.” Sam sat on the chair he had been shown and gave the man the papers he had brought for the procedure.
                    “Great, I can see you’ve brought everything pertaining to your old self.” He barely looked at the documents and threw them in the shredder. A red light flickered before turning to a bluish green.
                    “You won’t need those.”
                    “Obviously”, said Sam. As he had already been puzzled that morning, he decided it was superstifluous to continue in this direction. He had come here to get a new identity after all. His old self had been torn apart. There was certainly no one to feel disrespected.


                      “What is the name of your father ?”
                      “My father ?”
                      “Yes, your new father”, said the man. “We offer the possibility for you to choose your parents. That’s a rare thing in life, you know. I think that’s why the new world has so much appeal. People are just tired of the lack of control in their life.”
                      “And can you change if you get bored by your new parents ?”
                      “You can do it twice, after which the choice is definitive.”
                      “That’s an illusion of control, then.”
                      “Well… People just quickly get into their new role and they forget that they had the choice. Most of them don’t even use their first possibility.”
                      “Do I have to choose among parents that already exist in the new world?”
                      The man looked annoyed. He put his big hands on the table. Sam looked at them fascinated.
                      “You can choose whatever parents you want. If they don’t exist in the new world, you can then choose if they are deceased or just in vacation outside of the new world. In which case whenever someone matching your parents description apply for the new world, we can arrange for a poignant family reunion.”
                      “I just have a last question”, said Sam.
                      “Ok, make it a quick one. Other people are desirous to start a new life in the new world, you know.”
                      “Yes, I know. But still, I wonder if the persons who apply for an identity that matches my new parents. I can see in your file that you never ask their date of birth. They couldnt be younger than me, could they ?”
                      The man scratched his head with his left hand. Sam wondered what it was like to have such huge hands.
                      “Theoretically, that could happen. But you know, we offer you a new life in the new world, not a perfect life in a perfect world.”


                        His shift was almost over. Ed wondered why the funny guy had looked so insistently as his hands. That was not the part people usually stared at… He shrugged — people are always stressed when they get their new identity, probably a bit overwhelmed by the realization of how direly they liked their comfortable boundaries and restrictions.
                        Some people weren’t just ready for such a change. Actually, it had taken himself quite a few years as well, that it within relativilastic timing, all considering.

                        He looked outside the window, it was night already, but at least the rain had stopped.
                        Usually, he would wait a little more until the brunt of the office people had disappeared from the overcrowded stairs, escalators or “moving staircases” as they liked to call it.

                        But today he was feeling like leaving early. Liz’ would be waiting for him.
                        Putting on his raincoat, with his murse in one hand, he twirled his mustache with a grin and the other one.


                        Cornella giggled, dusting off her keyboard before leaving the office. Ed Steam might have something to say about it when he saw the new lists of identities in the morning, but it had been worth it. A little alliteration helped to pass the day, after all. For the most part the story refugees either didn’t notice, or at any rate didn’t complain. They were relieved that the endless process was over, or too nervous about starting a new story to notice.

                        Zoe Zuckerberg to Zimbabwe was one of her favourites; and Quentin Quincy to Queensland. What did it matter that Zoe, previously known as Madam Li, had no desire to go to Zimbabwe, or that Ted Marshall had family in Spain? It was up to them to make up whatever they wanted once they started the new story. Her job was assigning names and locations, the rest was up to them.

                        She’d laughed out loud when one of them sat down at her desk, clearing his throat nervously. Current name and location? she asked.
                        Percy Piedmont from Paris, he said, I have a brother in Shanghai who has a new story, he said he’d insert me into his.

                        Cornella couldn’t help wondering who had assigned him his last character role, and if they were playing games in the office to pass the day, too.

                        Alright Percy, how about Shane Shylock?


                          Yalnnif was stirred from her meditation by the sound of the ezapper soft buzz which signaled the end of the 21 minutes of conscious breathing.

                          Obviously Yalnnif was not her real name, just the one she got when she’d came to the Bureau of New Identities. Some uninspired pencil pusher had obviously pushed it the opposite way, and found the result funny.
                          Do your worst, I can always fix it up” had always been her secret mantra. For once, she was served. She still could apply a second time, but she had her share of bureaucracy for a year, and she wanted to allow this one a try.

                          Yalnnif Yanit from Yorknew.

                          She could have sworn the clerk had smirked at her when he’d handed her the card with the name, a sort of unspoken “now, fix that one up”.

                          She had thanked him with a proper “peace off.” After all, propriety was her secret super-power.


                            Geoffroy du Limon had felt confident that he had the skills to act the new role, considering his notable career in the theatre in the old story. He liked his new name: Miles Fitzroy suited him perfectly; and he anticipated resonating with London (although he would have preferred New Zealand: he’d heard that his old friend Francette Fine had been assigned a new story there). He found himself floundering, however, in unexpected ways.

                            The most unsettling factor was the absence of a back story. Without associations or automatic habits, he was unsure how to play his personality. Without triggers, where was the humour? There was simply nothing dramatic, comedic or tragic, nothing to make the play thrilling, exciting, or enticing, if everyone was an innocuous beige blob. A present beige blob is still a blob and not very interesting.

                            Roll up! Roll up! Come and see the show! Watch the cast focusing on themselves and not reacting to triggers! Nothing to judge here, folks, Roll up!

                            Geoffroy had no idea that having so few limiting guidelines could be so difficult. One had always assumed that it was the limiting guidelines that boxed one in, held one back, he mused, not the other way round. It was indeed a challenge, and he found himself feeling nostalgic for the old story.


                              The old woman looked him up and down before pushing past him, curtly telling him to knock because they were all asleep. Quentin quaked inwardly. He’d arrived at his new location, a dilapidated old hotel, although not without a certain other worldly charm, at an ungodly hour of the morning. Hovering on the porch, he was unsure whether to risk waking his new hosts. He didn’t want to make a bad first impression. He felt even more dejected and confused when he realized he had no idea what kind of first impression he wanted to make.

                              His first encounter saddened him, and he hoped they all weren’t as unwelcoming as she had been. He wasn’t accustomed to feeling like such a stranger, or so nervous and shy. What made it even worse was that Quentin was quite well aware that his lack of confidence would be bound to make everything worse.

                              “You’re not another one of those story refugees, are you? Did I frighten you?” the girl asked, as Quentin jumped at her sudden appearance from behind the spider plant.
                              “My name’s Prune, are you Quentin Quincy? Aunt Idle’s expecting you, but she’s not up yet. Are you going to be in the new room ten story?”


                                After a few days, Quentin had had enough already of the food. Pickles, pickles, and more pickles. Pickled cabbage, green or red, gherkins and all sorts and sizes of pickled cucumbers, pickled onions and eggs… There was only variety in the type of thing that weird hostel family was able to think of pickling. Even his beard started to smell of pickles. It was slowing driving him nuts.

                                That, and the strange random cackling at all hours of day and night, which he’d hoped to leave behind after being a refugee from that dreaded town. It had started again. And it seemed to come from the huge framed pea above the mantelpiece. He smirked at the thought that the only reason that pea was framed was that they didn’t find any fitting jar to pickle it.

                                He was still waiting for an appointment with Aunt Idle, who apparently had forgotten him altogether. That was no small wonder, as he passed in front of her door with the half-unscrewed sign on her door that said “management”, he could smell she was into another kind of pickling altogether. With moonshine rather than with apple cider vinegar.

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