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

Saturday 6 September 2014 by

For August’s (and September’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 Three

The corridors under the arena were dark and wide. Dan had a torch on his phone and it was proving useful. There were plenty of places to duck for cover anytime a Minotaur or a goat boy came down the corridor. The show could still be heard above and Captain Xanado was distracted, there was no way he could be detected but he kept his wits about him. There was no hurry and Dan had time to think. Where would the seven foot tall freak keep his dragons? The creatures were big and so couldn’t be kept on this level, Gulch reasoned he had to go further below. Luckily a staircase presented itself and in a greater stroke of luck a sign read Cages this way. This was too easy. Dan drew his laser pistol from its secret compartment and put the teleportation device in his pocket for easier reach. His crime would be quick and easy. The next level didn’t prove to be the cages. It was mostly machinery that powered the openings to the arena but through gaps the circus creatures could be seen heading up and down. Dan felt a gust of heat as his silver Dragon descended into the bowels of Xanado. He picked up his pace knowing the show would be drawing to an end soon. He changed his plan in his head. Instead of grabbing the first animal he could he would wait till they all returned to their cages then take his pick. Although in his head he had already made his choice; the silver Dragon would be his. Dan crept around the machinery and no one seemed to notice him, he was stealthier than he thought. Another sign told him the cages were two more levels down. The first level seemed to be the sleeping quarters of the workers. Bedrooms and offices in a labyrinth of corridors but Dan didn’t need to worry about them as the stairs lead straight past that level. The whole time Dan was creeping around Xanado he could still hear the Captain above, constantly keeping his voice in his peripheral hearing. He heard the words then he wanted to hear:

“Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and girls! Please give a round of applause to my magical performers though they need no praise. They love to perform for you and I hope you will dream of the things you saw today for years to come. Please head back to my Galleons in an orderly fashion. Thank you and good evening! ” The bowls of Xanado began to rumble and Gulch could tell the crowd were on their feat cheering and screaming wondering if they would ever see anything like what the Captain had shown them. They would see it again, in Marini’s circus. It wouldn’t be free either. The men would have their wages and Gulch would pay off his menacing debt collectors, live the life of fame and fortune he secretly had wanted all along. Around him were passages he couldn’t see but he could hear hooves and claws and wings heading down to sleep. Eurodollar signs danced through Gulch’s mind but he had to remain focused. One more stair well stood between him and the cages and it made a perfect hiding place.

An hour waiting felt like minutes as the hustle and bustle of Xanado wound down. The place was quiet and no one had used the staircase where Gulch was hiding. It seemed lady luck had finally found him five years later, after his winning card game. Dan emerged from his hiding space with lady luck holding his hand and edged to where the cages were. A heavy door ahead read Cages and the Eurodollar signs danced again and he grabbed the handle not checking the window to see if anyone was on the other side. The door creaked open and the golem with a blonde beard stood there. There was no way he couldn’t have seen Gulch but before he had time to react Dan’s finger had squeezed the trigger on his laser pistol. The tank of a man fell to the floor with a burning hole in his chest and a sense of urgency struck Dan Gulch from head to toe. He burst into a run down a corridor of arrows pointing to Cages. Behind him hooves had discovered their dead friend and were following Gulch rapidly. He fired some more cursory shots behind him with no particular accuracy but he hoped they would ward off his pursuers. They didn’t. Another door and this time a Minotaur was waiting. He grabbed Gulch but took his own hole in the chest and Dan slipped his grip. Where was his Dragon? How many doors saying Cages on did he have to get through? Another door, this time no one greeted him. Instead iron bars were there, he had found the cages, and they were empty.

Where were the creatures? Where was his Dragon? He looked up and down and side to side and all the cages were empty. How was this possible? He had seen the animals and heard them coming below but they were not here. A growl behind him let him know he was discovered and he turned to see angry Centaurs and menacing Goat-boys staring at him. He could strap the teleporter to himself but the thought of leaving empty handed was not an option. He ran at the nearest Minotaur who opened its arms to grab him. Instead of firing his pistol he led with the teleporter smashing it into the creature and pressing the engage button. Nothing happened. The last thing Dan Gulch saw was a hairy fist heading towards his face before he was knocked unconscious.

He woke up in Captain Xanado’s office and sleeping quarters. The walls were decorated with posters from where the show had been. Some new some curling at the edges from their age. A technicolour coat hung from a hook and a top hat sat on the desk with Captain Xanado on the other side looking ominously at Dan Gulch. He tried to move but was tied to the chair he sat in.

“Hello Mr Gulch. Hope you slept well. My friends here tell me you were sniffing down bellow looking for the cages. Did you find what you were looking for?” said the Captain knowing full well Gulch hadn’t. Gulch was angry at himself for being caught but felt he would take it out on the gangly freak in front of him.

“What are you trying to pull?! I saw those creatures come down! Where’s my Dragon!?”

The Captain remained calm; he simply beamed a secret smile back at Gulch.

“You saw what you wanted to see Daniel. This is the greatest show on Earth.”

The answer made Dan confused but the anger was still there. Who was this circus freak to pull the wool over his eyes? A clever answer was somewhere in Dan’s mind but his anger had other ideas.

“Where’s my Dragon!?”

“You saw a Dragon Daniel but would it interest you to know that the person sitting next to you in the audience didn’t.”

What was he talking about? Why couldn’t Dan be untied so he could throttle his torturer? “Let me help you understand. I’d like you to meet my mother.”

More confusion was not answering Dan’s questions. He turned in his chair and saw the Minotaur wheeling in the young girl from the pedestal. Up close she was a feeble thing of about ten years old. She had a vacant expression and it was clear she couldn’t move her own body. She sat awkwardly in the chair and Gulch felt very sorry for her, until he looked in her eyes. There was magic in her eyes. If the eyes are the windows to the soul then her soul was a magical kingdom. He was nearly lost until he remembered the situation he had got himself into.

“You are a madman Captain. How can this girl be your mother you fool? She’s no older than ten.”

His response was his beaming secret smile.

“She gave me life Mr Gulch and her name is Sophie Kinder. Let me explain. Sophie was born a paraplegic, unable to move her body or express herself in any way. Can you imagine that Mr Gulch?” Dan could imagine it but he didn’t like the thought. “But her mind was very active behind her vacant expression. In fact it was supernatural. By the time Sophie was five physically her mind was that of a grown woman’s.” What trick was this? “She can take in information at a faster rate than most.”

“She’s a little brain box, good for her.” Dan genuinely felt that.

“It’s more than just that. In the hospital she would see glimpses of charts the Doctors brought in, and after a while, strangely, she began to understand them. Bear in mind she was three at this time, at least physically. Other times her parents would bring books and read to her. Story books about Centaurs and Minotaurs, myths and legends. One day her mother was reading a book about Sophie’s condition and she left it lying open. Again Sophie grasped a vague knowledge of the subject. A year later a specialist came to visit Sophie and then it clicked. She grasped the basic information herself and once the expert came in range she filled in the gaps using his years of training, extracting the information from his mind. He came to no harm and hadn’t noticed Sophie performing her little trick.” Dan couldn’t really respond. What was he responding to? The Captain’s tale was too strange.

“What’s this got to do with the Dragons?”

“Patience Mr Gulch, we are getting to that. From that day on Sophie was a sponge for information. Every doctor who visited, orderly that attended, relative that visited, she read their minds and lived through them. She couldn’t move herself, couldn’t go outside, but every person that came by had a different story to tell her. They were never hurt by her little “readings” and she wasn’t trapped in her room anymore, she was seeing the world in her own way. But at age seven things took a terrible turn for Sophie. Her mother fell pregnant with a second daughter. Sophie held no remorse for her sister, it wasn’t her fault, it was just that her parents had no room for her in their lives anymore. Sophie’s mind was highly advanced, by now she had full knowledge of her condition, and knew she would be like it forever. She almost couldn’t blame her parents for giving up. That didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. She had to fight not to fall into darkness. All the knowledge, all what she had seen, she wanted to scream at her mother and father but couldn’t. “Don’t go mother, father I’m here” she was screaming for a month inside her mind, until POP! I was born.”

“What! This is getting ridiculous now Xanado, kill me or let me go.”

“I am a construct Mr Gulch, a phantom brought into reality by my mother Sophie. We all are. Tell me, what colour is my coat?”

To Dan Gulch, inside a flying circus, after being captured by a Minotaur, now was not the time for an eye test. From lack of options he decided to play along.

“It’s technicoloured.”

“And how tall am I?”

Dan surrendered to the madness of the man in front of him. “I don’t know, seven feet something.”

Xanado beamed again, his smile was really starting to make Dan uncomfortable. His eyebrows then narrowed and Dan could suddenly see anger lurking in the Captain.

“Would it interest you to know that the last man who came sniffing round our home said my coat was black and I was only three feet tall? Who knocked you unconscious?” Dan didn’t like this side of Xanado, up until now Dan felt he had kept his cool. The atmosphere now was ominous, threatening. Dan believed what the Captain was saying.

“It was the M-Minataur.”

The Captain’s rage came forward and he stood up.

“The man before you said a walking lion man punched him and brought him here. Don’t you see Mr Gulch? Sophie made us but she used your mind to do it. She uses everyone’s minds to help us live. When the people come to our show she just wants to make them happy. In return she gets a hundred thousand stories, a hundred thousand minds to live in. The people see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, they get their own private show that only they see thanks to Sophie’s gift. Xanado really is the greatest show on Earth.”

Dan was totally convinced. He was scared to. The Captain smiled at his mother with genuine affection then nodded as if she had told him something with her mind.

“Blanco,” He shouted at the door. In walked the Golem with the blonde beard, minus the hole in his chest. Now Dan was petrified.

“What, what is this? His brother?”

“You can’t kill a figment of your imagination Gulch. Bring him,” ordered the Captain.

Dan was overwhelmed with fear. The big man picked up Dan still tied to the chair and they all left the office. Dan’s chest hurt, they were going to kill him and no one would miss him. Marini’s would move on without him, Bobo the drunk clown wouldn’t come looking, what would happen to poor Nelly? What could he do? They were heading down to the cages. But the cages were empty. Captain Xanado lead the way followed by the Minotaur, or whatever it really was, pushing Sophie in her chair and a very squeamish Dan Gulch. His struggling was pointless though. He was held round the arms and chest and had no chance of escape. All he could do was listen to the Captain.

“Sophie thanks you by the way Mr Gulch,” his tone had relaxed slightly. “She loved your story, pathetic as it was, the tale of a cheating, gambling murderer who inherited a circus and didn’t know how to fix it. Instead he sought to kill and steal for his fortune.” The sarcasm was vicious in the Captain’s mouth.  The precession was passing the empty cages now. Ahead Dan could see an open door with only darkness behind it. They were going to lock him up, hand him to the authorities later. He could taste the relief. “Your tale is a pathetic one, but oh your visions! Sophie had never seen a Kraken before and you managed to make three dance for her.” Dan felt he was safe and he wanted to apologise. From Blanco’s arms he turned his head down at the feeble girl being pushed ahead of him.

“You’re welcome Sophie. It was my pleasure. I’m very sorry about what happened.” He almost convinced himself he meant it. They reached the open door and the Captain stood aside as Blanco slung Dan into the darkness where the chair Dan was sitting on splintered to pieces, then slammed the door behind him.

“The problem with the Kraken, you thought, was transporting it. Am I right?” Dan had managed to get to his feet and was pressing his face up to the small window in the door. He nodded feebly knowing now how the Captain knew that. Sophie had told him. Sohie was Xanado. All of it.

“No, it was something else you planned to steal. Good bye Mr Gulch.” Captain Xanado, Blanco, the Minotaur and Sophie all turned and headed back upstairs. Dan was thankful he was still alive, but was concerned as to how long they would wait till handing him to the authorities. Dan jumped as suddenly he felt like he wasn’t alone. The darkness felt warm suddenly.  With warm air dancing across his face he walked towards the source in investigate. Two huge yellow eyes opened then and the room lit up, the silver Dragon sat curled staring at Gulch. He could see whose eyes they really were. They were Sophie’s. The last thing Dan Gulch saw was blue flame heading towards him.

And that was the last instalment! 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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