📚 › Cackletown

A town going upside down, reality shook by strange cackling, and a woman with a strange power to unwittingly reshape reality, creating chaos and personality shifts all around. Can the Surge Team keep up with this impossible situation?

Strange cackling occurrences rip through the fabric of realities, and seem to impact every story characters.
Story refugees appear and disappear unexpectedly, and the ones that are here to stay must be given new identities, roles and purposes.
After much confusion, Ed Steam manages to track the source of it all to a not so innocent Bea, whose self-realization and disappearing ego has launched the whole Universe on a nonsensical spin.

Could Ed and other unexpected allies bring back the balance to the verse?

So the Story goes...

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  • in Reply To: Circle of Eights, Stories #1252

    Jobson Batt and Ernie Young were taking a vacation in between so called natural disasters, as the financial disaster claimed the populations attention. They knew that the result of the energy being pushed from pillar to post as everyone fretted and worried about the monetary system would manifest in some natural disasters, and they knew they would have their work cut out as highly skilled members of the DDT team (otherwise known as Disaster Damage Team) in due course. Meanwhile, they had the foresight to take a well earned break while the attention of the population was otherwise engaged.

    Unable to settle on just one destination, they opted for a World Cruise.


    Evangeline Spiggot slammed the telephone down. Another call from someone wanting that other DDT company, Dead Dick Tracy Productions. Business was slow at Disaster Damage Team, with Jobson and Ernie on holiday, but Evangeline was left holding the fort, just in case a major disaster came in, in which case she would inform Jobson and Ernie on their cruise ship. It was boring sitting there alone in the office though, and Evangeline decided that the next wrong number she answered, she would pretend to be Dead Dick Tracy, just for a laugh.

    in Reply To: Strings of Nines #2690

    Evangeline Spiggot sat outside the DDT bosses office, nervously twiddling her pony tail. She had no idea why she’d been summoned, but the tone of the memo was ominous. Eventually her boss, The Right Honourable B. F. Deale, was ready to see her.

    “What ho!” said Evangeline, in an effort to sound breezy and efficient.

    B.F. Deale glared. “Can you explain yourself?” he asked grimly.

    “Why, yes, sir! Sumari belonging, Ilda aligned, politic….”

    “I’m talking about DDT!” he shouted. “You’ve been diverting all our disaster damage calls to that ridiculous channeling show!”

    “Ah” she replied, “Yes, well, it seemed much more fun.”

    “Ah” replied B.F. Deale, momentarily non plussed. When he’d finsished unnecesarily shuffling some papers around on his desk, he continued. “Well, what about the disaster damage team? Hhhm? How are they supposed to, er, deal with disasters if they don’t even know about them?”

    Evangeline paused, giving the impression that she was deep in thought. In actual fact, she was deep in no thought, due to the influence of the Dead Dick Tracy channeled messages.

    “Well, sir, perhaps this indicates a changing trend towards having more fun and less disasters? Perhaps we could diversify, start our own Fun Department?”

    “By George, I think you’re on to something, Spiggot! I will hire someone to investigate this trend.”

    “Might I suggest Blithe Gambol, P.I.? Very hightly recommended, so I hear.”

    in Reply To: The Surge Team’s Coils #2969

    Evangeline Spiggot put the phone down, and turned to old Flanigan, the cleaning man. “Another request to investigate the death of Ed Steam! Three already, and it’s not even lunch time. I think this is a case for Blithe Gambol.”

    “Lift your feet up, will you, I’m trying to make a clean sweep here” Flannely replied.

    Evangeline obliged and put her feet up on her desk, and put through a call to Blithe. After a few pleasantries, Evangeline explained the case. “So the question is, is Ed Steam really dead, or not?”

    “I can tell you the answer to that right away,” replied Blithe. “Yes, and no.”

    “Er….thanks, I think…”

    “You see, the difficulty with facts these days is that none are true, and all are real ~ well I know you know that dear, but it becomes something of a problem when clients want to know the Truth. Probable realities are pretty loosely woven these days; now, I can stitch together the case, and give you a more definitive answer. Or I can stitch together the case differently, and give you a different answer. The question is, really, what is the answer you want to hear?”

    “I’ll confer with the clients and call you back.”


      Bea took another frightfully long sniff of her computer duster. Her rat looked at her horrified. It rolled its eyes and moaned “Bea, you’re such a dustard…”


        A raucous explosion of laughter cackled in the neighbourhood, waking up Bea from her afternoon siesta.
        SHUT UP!” she bawled covering her ears with a cushion, and looked desperately at something she could throw at the window. Alas, save for a manikin’s leg that looked like she owned a pegleg, and a piece of half-eaten banana, there was nothing she could find.

        She resigned herself to waking up, and pried open her little wrinkled eyes in the late afternoon purple light.

        Every time she woke up, she had to reacquaint herself with her reality. Not that she was such a junkie on computer duster, as that rat had rudely implied, it wasn’t only that.
        A few months before, she had an epiphany. Many years of meditation, guided, in groups, alone, with zen masters and copious reading had amounted to nothing but the occasional nice fluffy feeling. It was when she had decided to drop it all of sheer frustration, and burn all the stupid self-help books that something had chanced upon herself.
        She’d lost her ego. Poof, disappeared, like that.

        Before that, she was completely adverse to endings, and to any form of deleting.
        But now, she understood the words she’d read many years ago that had infuriated her profoundly at the time : “Everything must be scrutinised and the unnecessary ruthlessly destroyed. Believe me, there cannot be too much destruction. For, in reality, nothing is of value.”

        She was. And every waking up was a wake up to her eternal self.
        So obviously, the external appearances left a bit to be desired, now that desire was not. Continuity was never there in the first place.

        But to live, she had to find again what new reality she had just awoken to, as she did every morning, and after every siesta.
        Truth is, she kind of liked it, the non-continuity of it. Before, she would have gloated to whoever that name of an old friend of hers, that she was right about it, the unnecessary of that continuity babble. Now there was no need of it.

        A loud cackle outside stirred her back to reality.

        F LoveF Love

          “We have registered your complaint and our Noise Control Officer will be around shortly.”

          The smooth voice of the woman on the other end of the line did little to placate Bea. In fact, she could feel herself working up to a frenzy.

          “The damn officer will come around and that cackler will stop cackling and your officer will say: we can’t do anything about the cackling if we don’t hear the cackling for ourselves. Because we have to measure the decibels of the cackle and we have to ascertain the cackle is indeed loud enough for us to warrant confiscating the cackle.

          Bea knew she was getting agitated and took a deep breath. Just breathe. Calm down.

          “It really is most annoying to be woken up continually by cackling. What would you do in my situation? she asked, miserably imagining the red manicured fingernails and perfectly coiffured hair which surely must be attached to a voice this calm and imperturbable.

          “Have you tried talking to the Cackler? It’s always best if people can work it out between themselves. Point out to them how their cackling is impacting on your quality of life. I am sure they will be reasonable.”


            “The proud cackle of the ego-laying laying hen…” that bizarre thought managed to distract her from the tantalizing drama that had jsut materialzed in a jmbleud mess of her haed. Seh wonrdered fi seh hatn’d teleproted to anthero dimesnion.

            To her dismay, the raucous clucking cry started again.


              The lone cackler of the Frackleton Fells snorted, as she pressed her ear trumpet to the whitewashed stone wall. Cakletown was going to be a doddle: the inhabitants were ripe for insanitizing. She couldn’t resist another loud cackle as she heard the the occupant inside muttering sarcastically “have you tried talking to the cackler? No I facking haven’t, you cracked sack of shit for brains, if I could get facking close enough to talk to the facking cackler, I’d smack the facking cackler right up her slack cakehole!”

              Evangeline Spiggot admired her long crimson polished nails before pressing the button for the Noise Control Officer, Ed Steam. He answered the call with a muffled “hwellflow?”

              Ed, are you eating peanuts again? Vangie here, just had a call from Muffin Mews, another complaint about the cackler, over in Cakltown this time.”

              “Cakltown! I say, she’s frightfully efficient, she must have finished Bunbury already, I must see the boss about giving her a bonus.”

              “Oh, I don’t think Bunbury’s finished yet, Ed, you know these freelancer chancers, they don’t usually stick to the plan. Hedging her bets, I expect, covering her trail. Most of Tartlett Terrace has been insantizied, but I haven’t had a single call from Croisssant Crescent in Bunbury yet, nor Pieman Park.”

              “This mission is taking a good deal longer that I imagined,” replied Ed. “Might have to see if we can insantitize en masse at the bake sale next week at Lemoine Meringue Hall.”

              “Oh, what a perfectly splendid idea.You are a genius.” Evangeline smiled to herself as she imagined Ed fingering his moustache—a sweet little habit he had whenever he felt embarrased— and blushing at her praise.

              “Well I don’t know about that; let’s see if it works first,” said Ed gruffly. “Insanitization en masse at a bake sale is no piece of cake.”

              He paused significantly but when nothing was forthcoming from the lovely Evangeline he added a little impatiently: “No piece of cake. Get it?”

              Evangeline (who had not got it) quickly tried to make amends. “Hahahahahaha you are a droll fellow!” she chuckled, just a tad too loudly. It almost sounded like a cackle and if there was one thing Ed Steam was renowned for it was his ability to sort out the chuckles from the cackles.

              There was a strained silence.

              “Anyway, Evangeline, who made this latest cackling complaint? Are they going to cause any trouble or are they just your usual run of the mill cackle complainer?

              Bea somebody. She just moved to Cackletown recently and we don’t know much about her yet. Or what she is capable of. I think we need to keep a close eye on that one.”


                “Oh Patty, you naughty ratty!” exclaimed Bea, as she trundled into the kitchen to make her morning coffee. “I left you your marie biscuit on top of the microwave as usual and you haven’t even touched it. But look at my banana!”

                The banana had been dragged from atop the bowl with the oranges, across the kitchen counter to nestle between the greasy gas cooking rings, the skin neatly opened in a perfect square cut.

                “I was going to have that banana on my toast this morning,” Bea grumbled crossly. “You are overstepping the line now, Patty Ratty.”

                “But Bea,” replied Patty, “I’m a new age ratty, a healthy ratty and a global warming conscious vegan ratty, and I do prefer a nice banana to a lousy factory made cheap biscuit, don’t you know.”

                At least, that is what Bea imagined the rat might say, if it could speak. Everyone knows rats don’t speak. And notwithstanding, the rat had retired for the day and wasn’t in the kitchen anyway.

                “I’m a raw food vegan gluten free health food rat!” shouted Patty from under the wood pile just outside the kitchen door. “You’re trying to kill me with that crap food!”

                Momentarily speechless at the audacity of the uninvited guest, Bea struggled quietly with her roles and responsibility beliefs. Should I serve the food the uninvited guest prefers? Or should the gatecrashing rat be grateful for the food it was given?


                  Gustave Butterworth cackled delightedly. The crowd control custard gas formula experiments were looking promising. The first batch, all being well, should be ready for a trial run in time for the bake sale at Lemoine Meringue Hall. If only he could deduce that vital missing ingredient in time!

                  Gustave looked at his watch and decided to call it a day. He was the last one in the laboratory as usual; before turning the lights out and locking the door, he made a quick tour of the lab rats accommodation. There were no cages like in the old days: scientists in this partially enlightened age were not allowed to keep rats and beagles against their will, and only volunteer creatures were used in modern laboratories. Thus, no actual physical abuse was administered, but the energy the creatures reflected off the experiments, and the scientists themselves, was monitored; and human “animal whisperers” were employed to communicate directly. Gustave was a scientist, not a whisperer, but he had been developing his whispering skills secretly, while observing the staff.

                  Most of the rats has nestled down for the night in their miniature studio apartments, but one comfortable little abode was empty. “I say, Rodean,” said Gustave to the neighbouring occupant, “Has Penelope gone for an evening stroll again?”

                  Rodean shuffled around in his tiny bean bag chair to look at the scientist.

                  “What, gone to visit her cousin Patty, you say?”

                  F LoveF Love

                    Gustave felt a wave of anxiety as he put the key in the lock to open the door of his apartment.

                    Something felt wrong.

                    It was nothing he could immediately put his finger on but he had learned to trust his intuition in these matters.

                    He stood still and listened, his senses heightened and alert.

                    Was that a faint cackle he could hear in the distance?

                    He held his breath. There it was again. A cackle. Definitely a cackle, but an unusual cackle. His scientist brain began to assess the parameters of the cackle. It was a dry, reverberating cackle. A non-conformist, discordant cackle. It was a cackle with intent.

                    Evil intent.

                    “Good God,” he whispered , “It’s the Contumacious Cackler”.


                      The Cacklversity campus was surrounded by a custard lake, the smell of which was often ewwing at the students during a stinky hot day. The dean often said it was good for your cackle. Hubert Howlick did not share that opinion. He had always thought the custard lake was a nuisance.

                      “Lift Uranus”, said he, lifting his hands to the heaven as if he was actually lifting a planet. The students mimicked his movements and he could see some of them taking the ancient rhymes to the heart of the matter.


                        There’s only one way to handle this, Bea reminded herself, if we don’t wish to be a lightning rod for continuous creating of cackle incidents, and it’s a good old spot of alieniloquy.


                          Gustave jumped when the phone rang, his heart hammering unpleasantly. Get a grip! he told himself sternly. Hesitantly he answered the call, expecting to hear an ear grating cackle.

                          “Can I speak to Leonora, please? It’s Bea here,” the voice requested.

                          “Er, sorry, I think you have the wrong number,” replied Gustave, feeling like a fool as he tried to calm his shaking hands.

                          Leonora Butterworth?” insisted the voice calling herself Bea.

                          Startled, he said “Ah, Butterworth’s the name, but I’m afraid I don’t know anyone called Leonora,” and then, astonished, he heard Bea start to sob and mumble incoherently.

                          “I’m so sorry, was it urgent?” he asked, already feeling a responsibility to help the unknown woman. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

                          “It’s the cackling,” Bea answered with a sniff, “It’s driving me mad. I thought a chat with Leo might help take my mind off it, but I haven’t seen her since the fiasco in Spain and I don’t know where she is, I was hoping this Butterworth number would be her and…..” her voice trailed off disconsolately.

                          “It’s driving me mad too,” Gustave was surprised to hear himself say. “I say, er, Bea,” he cleared his throat, “Would you fancy meeting for a drink in the Spotted Dick Inn? To, you know, take our minds off it?”

                          Gustave had regained his scientific composure somewhat, and was considering the benefits of an unexpected opportunity to research the effects of the cackling on the ordinary population.

                          Bea readily agreed, old tart that she was, and said she would be there in half an hour.


                            When she saw the sign at the entrance of the Spotted Dick Inn, Bea thought it might not have been such a good idea : “Tea Time Cackle Contest”.
                            She looked at her watch. It said 3pm. She took a breath in and hoped tea time was the same everywhere. It would give her plenty of time with Gustave.
                            She pushed the door which responded by a cackle. Bea’s body stiffened but she braced herself and decided to enter nonetheless.

                            Gustave was having second thoughts. What had possessed him to suggest meeting this unknown woman? What if he was spotted in the Spotted Dick and Fanella found out? He hesitated outside the pub with his hand on the door. What was this woman like? It could ruin his image as a respected scientist. What if she was one of those new age high vibrations positive thinking ignore the evidence types and someone from the Institute saw them together?

                            A cocophanous group cackle ricocheted through the building and snapped him out of his indecision. He was here on a mission, his role was to collect data on the cackle phenomenon. Bracing himself, he pushed the door. Feeling foolish, he noticed the “pull” sign on the door and his squared shoulders drooped. Is it a sign? he wondered.

                            “Sorry to bother you again, Ed.”

                            This was a lie; Evangeline wasn’t at all sorry. There was nothing she loved better than to be the bearer of bad news and she was rather pleased to have an excuse to call Ed Steam so soon after their last conversation.

                            “The Cackle Insanitization Committee contacted me. Their spies reported that Gustave had a meeting with that awful whinging Bea woman from Cackletown.”

                            Ed was shocked. “Gustave? Gustave Butterworth, the scientist? He’s supposed to be working for us, isn’t he?”

                            Evangeline sniffed dismissively, eager to pass on her next tantalising morsel. She tried to keep the excitement out of her voice and sound appropriately serious.

                            “The other concerning thing is that the Contumacious Cackler is in town. There have been several verified hearings of him.”

                            “The Contumacious Cackler!” Ed’s horrified reaction was music to Evangeline’s ears, although she was not entirely sure who the Contumacious Cackler was or why the mention of his name elicited such horror. She decided to ask.

                            “It’s rather a sad story. His mother ran away from home when he was just 3 years old, due to his father’s incessant cackling. The Contumacious Cackler never saw his mother again and he grew up with an obsessive hatred of cackling. He vowed to put an end to cackling. He cackles so evilly that he stirs up trouble wherever he goes. His dastardly plan is to create so much resistance to cackling that the people are inflamed sufficiently to rise up against cacklers. He is reported to be responsible for the demise of cackling in 2 of the provinces.”

                            “‘allo? ‘allo, is Fanella there? Zis is ‘er friend, Mirabelle, wiz an urgent message.”

                            “A massage, you say? For Fanella?” Vincentius covered the phone with his hand and shouted “Oy! get down off there, you rascals, and go and call your mother, she’s wanted on the phone. Somebody about a massage.”

                            “No, no, a message! I must speak to Fanella about ‘er fiance,” the woman said.

                            “Well bloody speak properly then,” Vincentius muttered. “Bloody foreigners!”

                            Vincentius, for goodness sake, can’t you keep these children under control!” Fanella said crossly, irritated at being interrupted from her massage. “Couldn’t you have just taken a message? And get this place tidied up before Gustave comes over!”

                            Vincentius scowled, his once handsome features faded with drudgery. He’d been a fool to leave the old country, notwithstanding the destruction. He should have chanced it, dodged the bombs, he’d have been a free man still. This life of servitude as a fostered refugee wasn’t what he’d hoped for when he set off in the overcrowded dinghy all those months ago. Cold, wet and tired, he’d stepped ashore full of anticipation. But nobody had told him just how awful the weather was, and how dreadful the children. Spoilt wilful little rotters! No discipline, no matter how hard he tried to control them. No wonder everyone had refugee childminders these days, who but the destitute and homeless would want to look after the unspeakable brats?

                            “In the Spotted Dick with a tart, you say?” Fanella snorted into the phone. “I’ll be there in ten minutes”


                              Penelope and Patty Ratty had packed their bags, procuring the necessary items from Bea’s cluttered house. Candles (it was always so dark behind fridges), bar of soap (some of these human houses were not all that clean, a self respecting rat felt quite filthy after a midnight stroll around some kitchens and needed a good wash afterwards), mince pies, used teabags to use as in flight pillows, and an unexpected prize of a half an antibiotic tablet, thoughtfully left out in a convenient position. Patty often got an upset stomach when travelling in human spaces, and was inordinately pleased to find the pill.


                                Twas the morning before the new year celebrations and all through the house, the creatures were stirring, with the noteworthy exception of the rodents.
                                Bea congratulated herself on her successful manoeuvres in the kitchen to disorient and discourage the rats, unaware that they had gone on vacation anyway, and planned to return after the holidays.

                                “Pssst, Vincentius.”

                                Vincentius swung around in alarm, dropping his feather duster in the process. The potted spider plant appeared to be talking to him.

                                “It’s me, Arona,” said Arona, peeping up from behind the plant and barely managing to suppress an eye roll at the sight of Vincentius.

                                “Tsk, tsk, what in Flove’s name have you done to yourself?

                                Vincentius continued to gape silently at her.

                                I see the sight of my beautiful self has rendered you momentarily speechless; well, don’t worry about that now. I’ve come to rescue you!”

                                She beamed proudly at him.

                                “Cheers!” said Bea, batting her eyelashes at Gustave while trying to suppress a grimace at another round of cackling coming from the contest in the function room. The combined effect was an alarming expression sensation saturation, and Gustave took an involuntary step backwards. He bumped into Linda Pol, who was wrapping her luscious lips around an authentic straw and sucking up voraciously the glowing rainbow cocktail.

                                Linda! Fancy seeing you here!” Gustave exclaimed, trying to suppress a cackle at the sight of the rainbow cocktail running from Linda’s nostrils as she tried not to choke.

                                Gustave! What on earth are you doing here with that old slapper!” she replied in between coughs and splutters, with a dismissive glance at Bea.

                                Fortunately Bea was cackling so loudly at the sight of Linda choking that she failed to hear the remark.

                                Not for the first time, Consuela, dolled up to the nines behind the bar in a purple wig and elaborate make up, wondered what it was about humans that they found it so amusing when people choked.


                                  “This is not fair !” The guy put down the blue dragon head on the table next to the ladies. He was still wearing the rest of his costume, scaly tail included.

                                  “Oh shut up Leo,” Linda cackled softly, making it sound like she’d called him Leormn or something. “We’re all prisoners here of our own device” she sang. “Who cares about how unfair it is. Even the rat took a break to Mumbai, instead of waiting for his next call by the Board of Authors. You should do the same. And get rid of this silly costume, you’ve had it for as long as I’ve known you. Or keep it. I don’t care.
                                  Next round of cackle is on me!”

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