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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    • #3984

        Bea couldn’t contain a hearty cackle issuing forth at the dire straits of the thread entanglement situation. It was hard to know what to say, and where to say it.

        Or was it?


        Ed Steam was all but overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation.

        He was up to his moustache in paperwork as he attempted to resolve the thread entanglement dilemma. At the same time he was striving to keep tabs on the various cacklers and manage the PR for the crowd gas experiments.

        “What a jolly brouhaha,” he moaned.

        “I am sorry to add to your woes,” said Evangeline cheerfully, “but there have been recent reports of a Cautacious Cackler cackling in various threads, although this may just be a typo for the Audacious Cackler or another strong possibility put forward by the experts is that the Cautacious Cackler has been confused for the Contumacious Cackler.“

        She paused to see the effect this information was having on Ed, noting with pleasure the drops of sweat forming on his brow. She leaned over the desk and gently mopped them away with her handkerchief.

        “And there have been unverified reports of a possible granite termitation on this thread,” she said softly.

        It was too much for Ed.

        “I want you to trace it back to when the first signs of entanglement began,” he screamed at Evangeline.


        “Well, it’s a bit tricky, Ed,” replied Evangeline. “I’m moving to another thread, had you forgotten? Today is my last day. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about my leaving party this evening!”

        Ed was speechless.


        But he was not speechless for long.

        “Or was he?” asked an irritating voice from seemingly nowhere.

        Because as luck would have it, Funley the cleaner popped her head in the door to see if the bin needed emptying and overheard Evangeline’s ill-timed and thoughtless words.

        Snooty tart and what a bloody mess there will be to clean up tonight after the party.

        “Don’t worry, Mr Steam, I will untangle this tangled web of threads for you! And I can mop your sweaty brow,” she added sarcastically, rolling her eyes at Evangeline.


        “Well, that does it. I am withdrawing my resignation,” said Evangeline.
        “Too late,” replied Funley. “But you can have my cleaning job if you want. You’ll have to mind your nails.”


        Final nail in the coffin, indeed.

        Despite the overwhelmnity of the situation, Ed couldn’t fathom why nobody would take some time to stop and ponder on the incoherences, the gaps in the net, so to speak.

        It behooved him to do so. The deranged cackler, like a mockery of the divine breath, ruling over the bizarro earth he had been sworn to protect — it had to be stopped.

        But where was the elusive cackler hiding, he would seemed to appear anywhere and everywhere. And what to make of those cases of mistaken identities, or all the althreadnarrative-realities jumping. The occurrences were piling up. He couldn’t even seem to count on assembling his old fierce Surge Team. All gone bizarro too.

        Pouring over his copious notes, he remembered how it all started. The strange case of Baked Bean Bea.
        She seemed to have breached through, and quite frankly shattered in all likelihood some old reality limitation, and somehow, she now was able to unwittingly shape the world to new strange alternate realities at her every whims.

        He painfully tried to recall, what he was, who he had been in the course of the last months. Blaze, his old genius inventor friend had left him some device, a transfocal whatever thingy. Usually it would change shapes as well, reconfigure itself with each realities. But its function was more or less the same. Reconnect him to his previous alternate realities. Which was handy, when you couldn’t even trust the notes you took. Obviously Bea wasn’t Baked Bean Bea before… or was she?

        Now the Transfocal Thingy seemed to have relocated in the bathroom. The shower head with the wires seemed a bit of a giveaway.
        Ed put on the water.


          Obviously, Baked Bean Bea was a pseudonym for Baked Bean Barb , but it was perhaps too obvious. In fact, the more obvious the clues were, the more invisible they became. It had been plainly stated in the book (although omitted in the movie, as usually happened with movies based on books) that the point of the story was to
          “broadcast seeds of absurdity in the cornfields and the meadows of the hay hoo down dooly…“

          The trouble was that not many had ascended to the degree that they could understand the value of absurdity. Absurdity was never disconnected, if one had an eye for the connecting links, and more importantly, it was a thing of joy when approached from the right angle, occasioning an ebullient cackle.

          It was ironic that the more the inhabitants ascended to jaunty joyful cackling at absurdities, the more the shiftmeisters tried to control them.


          That cackle again! Blue Bit Bea was at it again.
          Ed just had time to recall some of the past clues, fresh from the shower head which had now turned into a big celadon turnip with electric wires.
          He couldn’t still figure out what caused those surges and reality ripples. That was quite a discomfiture.


          Ed was still puzzled while he was eating his breakfast, and even more perplexed when he noticed all the blue bits in the confiture he had spread upon his toasted buns.


          “Clean up the bun crumbs, Evangeline,” said Funley.


          Evangeline gaped at Funley, who was sitting on Ed’s knee trying to wipe his brow with the bottom of her apron while he was trying to eat his buns.

          “The crumbs are all over your thighs, Funley,” Evangeline retorted, “Are those blue bits varicose veins?”

          This scene is getting ridiculous, she thought, and started to cackle at the absurdity.

          Stung at the cackling, Funley whispered fiercely to Ed, “Sack the impertinent wench, give her the boot!”

          “He’ll never settle down with the likes of you, Funley,” responded Evangeline, in a desperate attempt to validate the contribution to the furtherance of the plot with a flimsy attempt at continuity.

          “Poor show!” retorted the erstwhile cleaner. “Increasingly rubbish!”

          She had a point.

          Or did she?


          It didn’t take too long to Ed Steam to find her. By his count, only a few hundred reality reboots.

          It could have been more, but keeping a steady count of all the trigger-cackles was tricky.
          He never was quite the same person each time. Hopefully, he’d noticed after the 57th reboot that something new had happened — since that particular reboot, it had seemed easier to keep track of his identity from reboot to reboot.

          As if Zero-point Bea had realized something, and honed her entangling capabilities.

          Ed had tracked her at the border. Funnily, nowadays she was more or less the only unchanging thing in the whole universe.
          She had rented a small apartment near the border, and was offering reallocation services on an ad-hoc basis.

          There were still many characters refugees who were looking for a story placement, and that’s what she provided them.

          Ed was there for one thing: termitate her. His reality now was quite different from the one he originated, but despite all the changes, he was still in charge of preventing the surges wherever they happened.
          It was a moral dilemma. Already so many persons had been displaced by the cackling surges and Bea’s uncontrolled shifting realities. Not even a map-dancer could now keep track of all the transfocal encounters and reallocation. The world was a much different place now, on shifting grounds and sandy whorls with no minute of fame.

          Ed was next in line, dreading that he couldn’t get to her before the next cackling reboot.
          The success of his mission was paramount to the security of the fabric of reality.


            Bea had finished taking notes for her last client’s reallocation.

            Nowadays, she wouldn’t release the cackle at each and every time.
            It was too time consuming to realign her wits after it shuffled reality, and it was actually more effective to do many changes at once.
            That much she’d learned. It was like giving dog food to a pack. Much better to give all at once to the hungry dogs, rather than try to organise the melee.

            She was about to call for the next client, when the walls of her kitchen trembled.

            The next minute, she was in a labyrinth, dark and comfortable, with a musky smell, and soft sounds of coconuts thumps on a beach faintly in the distance.

            A looming silhouette was here in the dark.

            “Hello Bea” it said “welcome to my hut, I am the techromancer.”


            Someone had told him once : “Catastrophes are like meteor shower, they come in flocks.”

            Jeremy looked with dread at the smoke coming out of his computer. He had been writing an important e-mail to his new boss at the bank and was about to click the send button when it happened. The tech had said there was a current surge affecting the whole building. Everyone was in deep shit at the moment, they had to close the building to angry customers, and someone in high place was certainly worrying about the intangible money the bank was manipulating daily.
            Oh! and concerning all his data, considering the smoke coming out of the machine, it was certainly irremediably lost.

            Jeremy sighed. His last relocation a few hours ago had made him a 36 year old salesman in a not so well known bank. His ID said he was called Duncan Minestrone, but he couldn’t let go of his old identity and kept on thinking of himself as Jeremy. And he didn’t feel that old.

            His memory of his former life, before the relocation, was fading away. He didn’t remember well what he was doing and what were his passions. The only thing he was sure is that they had confiscated his cat, Max, when they gave him his first identity and he had been on the look for him ever since.

            It wasn’t easy, especially since every other day he was receiving a new identity in his mailbox. At first he had found it odd and not so easy : as soon as he got accustomed to a new persona, he would have to change again. He feared he would soon lose track of who he really was. And he wasn’t sure about what all this was about.

            The phone hanging on the wall rang. It was one of those old public phones. Jeremy had thought it was only for decoration. The tech was looking at him.

            “Are you going to pick up ?” he asked.
            “Me ?”
            “Of course! The phone is in your office, isn’t it ?”

            Jeremy hesitated but eventually got up from his desk. The phone was calling him, but he didn’t really want to take the call. What if it was more problems. They come in flocks.
            It was one of those old ringing tone caused by a mechanical bell inside. The speaker was shaking furiously. Jeremy couldn’t help but notice the dust on the machine.

            “You’d better take the call”, said the tech.

            Jeremy picked up the apparatus which a greasy feeling in his hand.

            “At last! Duncan, in my office! Now!”
            It was the voice of his new boss, Ed, and he didn’t seem very happy.


            Funley sniffed loudly as she unhurriedly emptied the trash can in Ed Steam’s office, pausing to read any interesting correspondence which may have wound up there. Looking over towards Ed and finding that his attention was still fixed on the computer monitor, she followed her sniff up with a small snort and then a throat clearing noise. When her sniffs and snorts didn’t capture Ed’s attention, she proceeded to blow her nose explosively.

            This did the trick. Ed jumped and looked at Funley in alarm.

            “Whatever is the matter, Funley? Are you ill?”

            “Sorry, didn’t mean to disturb you,” apologised Finnley, pulling up a chair in front of Ed’s desk and seating herself comfortably on it.

            “Actually, if you are not too busy, there is a small problem I’ve been wanting to speak with you about. I promised I would untangle the threads for you however the entanglement situation is worse than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Or nightmares for that matter. I don’t know who has been doing the record keeping — although I would hazard a guess at Evangeline — but the cross referencing, where it exists, is appalling and … “

            A tap on the door and the new employee, Duncan Minestrone, popped his head into the office. “You wanted to see me, Mr Steam?” he asked.

            Funley glanced towards the door in exasperation at the interruption and then her expression changed to one of horror.

            Jasper Grok!” she gasped. “What are you doing here?”


            “You!”, said Jeremy Duncan Jasper before jumping on the woman. “You stole my cat! What have you done to Max ?”
            “I don’t have your cat”, said Funley loudly. She was trying to protect her face as an instinctive reaction and pushed on the ground with her feet. The chair had little wheels which allowed her to escape the man’s grasp, but it bumped on Ed’s desk. She was cornered. She jumped out of the chair and ran behind Ed’s desk followed closely by an angry Jeremy.

            “I assume you already know each others”, said Ed, tugging at his mustache casually.

            “Of course I know her”, said Jeremy in a short breath. He showed his fist angrily. “She was supposedly from the hygiene inspection bureau when I worked at the veterinarian clinic. She stole my cat!”

            “I don’t have your cat”, repeated Funley.

            “What have you done with him old crone ? You gave me all those papers to read and sign and when I came back you were gone… with Max.”

            “Tsk tsk”, said Ed. “We have more important matters to attend to.” He lifted his hand to prevent any objection. “You may or may not have noticed, but I have and that’s the more important. Reality has been rebooting repeatedly, and each time people… or animals”, he said looking at Jeremy, “are disappearing.”

            “You see”, said Funley, “I don’t have your cat.” Jasper snorted and showed his teeth.

            “We need to do something”, concluded Ed.

            “Excuse me”, said Duncan, “but what does that have to do with us ? I’m just a bank employee.”

            “A bank employee, who was a veterinarian, a plumber, a taxi driver, a tech guy at the phone company… and more importantly a map dancer. I need a team of gifted people to maximize our chances of survival.”

            Funley raised an eyebrow. “Mr Steam, à propos”, she said brandishing the paper she had found in the trash can.


            “Give that to me, Funley. You can’t go rifling through my trash can. How many times have I told you? It’s practically stealing.” Ed made a grab for the piece of paper in Funley’s grasp but she held it at arm’s length.

            “I think not, Mr Steam. Not until you have explained this!” She shook the piece of paper in her hand.

            Duncan leaned forward and regarded it quizzically. “It looks like a recipe for bone broth.”

            “Oh what!” said Funley. “Damn it! there must have been another reboot.”


              The techromancer was teaching Bea to hone her shifting skills.
              That was the only way she could escape her fate at the hands of the Scourge Moderators (or the Surge Team as they had been called in other iterations of that reality).

              Bea actually was a quick student, but she was too wild and would often go overboard with the whole reality shifting.

              “Focus!” he told her “only a sheet of paper will do for now.”
              “And you don’t actually need the cackling for it to work.”


              Jeremy beamed at Ed, holding what looked like a foiled contraption vaguely reminiscent of a sun oven to his face.

              “Get that out of my mustache, and tell me what it is!” Ed had no patience this days where reality was still dangerously shifty, and Bea nowhere to be found.

              “That’s the solution to locate your patient zero, Mr Ed! I’ve reconfigured your Transfocal Thingy and made a few improvements on the wirigly compensator and…”

              Ed interrupted “I have no idea what you are talking about, son. Make it plain English before I start doubting about you having been rebooted…”

              “Mr Ed, Sir, you know, the device that your friend Pr Blaze Ingle gave you before he was rebooted to a goat-herder in the Andalusian mountains…”

              “Yes, I’m aware, the Transfocal Thingy, that is helping us all to retain more or less our identity, of course I remember! What about it? Don’t tell me you’ve broken it!”

              “On the contrary! I’ve amplified it. And with this drone connected to it, we can scan larger areas. We’ll find her, Sir. Wherever she’d hiding, we’ll find her.”

              “And end her and this madness…” Ed twirled his mustache lost in deep thoughts. It was good to have his Team back, to take care of all the little things. More or less.


                “I think you’re ready now” the techromancer said to an incredulous Bea.

                “Really?” Bea looked suspicious.

                “Yeah, well…” the techromancer looked embarrassed “Not really. You’re not so easy to teach, and I’m not a great teacher either, but with what you learnt, you should be fine. Besides, you need to go now. They are coming for you.”

                The techromancer pointed to one of the directions in his hut, one of the many paths or tunnels that would lead her to a safe escape. For now.

                “So this is goodbye.” Bea said, a tad annoyed by the unceremoniousness of it all. “What next now?”

                “Remember what I told you,” the techromancer said enigmatically “about the custard.”

                “Oh well, that makes it so much clearer now.” Bea sighed as she popped out of the hut towards her new destination.

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