August’s Writing Workshop: The Flying Circus of Captain Xanado

Saturday 9 August 2014 by

For August’s Writing Workshop, I am doing something ever so slightly different, again! Housemate Tom has written a short story, and wants some good, honest feedback. But instead of giving it to you all at once, we will be running this as a series. Check back in a fortnight for the next instalment. Here is what Tom has to say…

Xanado was more so I could write about mythical creatures juxtaposed in the not too distant future. I’m not sure it reads right though, feels like there’s a glaring error but I can’t see them because I wrote it. A second set of eyes needed really!

The Flying Circus of Captain Xanado

Part One

Dan Gulch’s circus was a failure. A shadow of a show that was once a pathetic excuse for entertainment: and revenue. Why had Gulch thought it was a good idea to accept a circus as a gambling debt? Five years ago he had been drunk in one of the red light districts and, as well as some of the cleaner ladies that night, Lady Luck was also with him intimately. He had won 50,000 Eurodollars that evening and he felt like he had spent the same amount on booze buffets. He reasoned this was why he had taken the circus off the man who had gone all in and lost. He regretted his alcoholic adventures often. The 50,000 had been fluttered away in similar situations but the circus remained. He had inherited Marini’s circus originally with eight lions, big ferocious lions who didn’t enjoy breeding. Now he just had one old cat barely strong enough to lift its own weight. Ten white horses that could dance better than some humans who now staggered around the ring impressing nobody. An elephant that over the years had grown very angry but couldn’t be put down because of extinction laws, strangely though it was quite fond of Gulch. He saw himself in that elephant sometimes. He’d had twenty devoted workers and performers who had by now moved on to better things, the good ones that anyway. The ones who stayed with Gulch were drunks and convicts with no where else to go. He couldn’t argue they were good workers though who still, like Gulch secretly, wanted to see the circus survive. But Gulch had a plan. Xanado was coming to town.

Gulch had heard wonders about Xanado. Wonders wrapped in mystery, a flying arena that hovered above cities and could seat 100,000 people. It went from city to city all over the world and for one month at a time it would ferry its audience from the ground by extravagant Hover-Carriage to see, Gulch was told, the greatest show on Earth. Accounts from audiences though were vague. Everyone Gulch had spoken to said they couldn’t remember details just that Xanado was magic; pure magic. What was even more curious though was that Xanado was free. Gulch often wondered how it kept itself in business when he struggled against the tide to get people to pay to see his pathetic show. He thought back then to the shady deal he had made two years ago with a geneticist. He had spent his crew’s monthly wage on a cross between a lizard and a bat in the hope it would convince his audience he had a Dragon in his circus. He had been rumbled early though when one of the wings fell off during a show. When the audience commanded it to breath fire it threw up and died on stage. That was a slow month for Marini’s circus. Gulch’s plan was to use two months of the crews wage to try and buy one of the Xanado attractions. Surely the owner was a reasonable man who could appreciate a fellow circus’s struggle. The workers were not happy about this at all so Gulch couldn’t fail. This was why he had stashed a laser pistol in the bottom of his briefcase. If the owner wouldn’t sell him an animal he would take one by force. He had also invested in a small teleporter with a receiver in an underground bunker out of town. If he could attach the teleporter to an attraction and beam him and it to the bunker his crew would be waiting there to load it onto their hover train ready to move onto the next city, and success.

He stepped out of his trailer and looked up at his target. Xanado could be seen from miles around, decorated in red yellow and white it looked like a circus tent, except it was upside down and massive. A week ago, mysteriously, everyone had received a golden ticket inviting them to Xanado and assured if they missed tonight they would still see the show another night. Tonight the flying carriages would descend on the awaiting crowds to take them up and Dan was determined.  Outside his trailer Dan Gulch looked at the mess of his own making. The clowns and the convicts had just finished loading the biggest tent onto the hover-train. The angry elephant was on its back legs trying to scare the man with its chain, hooting and causing an awful mess. As ring leader and owner Dan had to do some work sometimes. He walked over to Nelly, his angry elephant soul mate and took the chain from the incompetent acrobat. Instantly Nelly was back on her four legs still looking angry but her eyes were fixed on Dan’s and she was calming. It was at these times he saw himself the most; in the elephant’s angry eyes. He had had a life once, a family and a purpose but had lost them, his own fault of course. The similarities with the elephant ended there. It wasn’t the elephant’s fault that it had lost everything, it was his. He stroked the elephant’s trunk then and made a vow to himself that one day he and the elephant would have something again. If he could soothe this savage beast maybe it would soothe the anger in himself. He attached the chain to Nelly and began to lead her to the train when Bobo the drunk clown staggered over to Gulch, looking unusually focused.

“Got your keys boss. The lads have just finished loading up the train and we are going to head out of town as soon as we see the carriages head up.” Bobo was his man on the ground with the teleporter receiver. Hopefully he wouldn’t be too hammered to act his part of the plan. Night was creeping. Once it got dark Xanado would light up decorating the sky with lights and magic. Even those who could not see inside the flying show would be treated to its magic from outside, until it was their turn to venture inside. Dan would see the show tonight even if it meant trampling over children; he was getting his new attraction tonight.

There was little traffic on the road leading into town. Gulch knew it was because they were waiting in Central Square or somewhere else mentioned on the ticket. He checked his top pocket again to make sure he had his golden ticket. It was still there. He checked his bag on the passenger seat to make sure he had the laser pistol and teleporter. They were still there. The golden ticket simply said to be ready at eight o’clock, your carriage awaits. By tomorrow morning he would be racing out of town by hover train and Xanado short one attraction. They wouldn’t miss just one. He smiled at the brilliance of his plan. He knew he was in the right place when he saw the crowds, thousands of people waiting in Central Square, with eagerness. The mysterious Xanado was opening its doors to them. Finally they could share in its magic. But where was the carriage? It was eight o’clock and the anticipation was palpable. Where was Xanado? It was as if the carriage had heard the crowds thoughts, a flash of colour and light lit up the crowd’s faces and the carriages could be seen heading towards them. Not just one but many: All over the city.

Don’t forget to tell us what you think – share your thoughts, comments and your own contributions on Twitter, Facebook, and below in the comments.

You can follow Tom on Twitter: @ThomasBazza

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