Tuesday 30 June 2020

The Flying Circus

by Harman Burgess

Red Bull 

Charles had been having a quiet evening before the circus crashed into his house. His parents had left him alone at their country house long enough for him to realise his natural calling as a poet. And guided by the gram of pot he had smoked earlier; he went outside to feel the connection to nature necessary for a poetic endeavour- just in time to see a blazing mass of metal and heat sail over his head into the side of his living room.

Pen and paper in hand, Charles watched as a constellation of timber and dirt exploded into the sky above him, before crashing back down to the earth. It was then that Charles got his first proper look at the circus; apart from it being on fire it looked like something you could see at any showground across the country, red cone top and everything. 

The guts of the thing had spilled out across the field surrounding the now demolished house, a collection of cages lodged into the ground at weird angles, a number of unconscious creatures in clown suits, and a hot tub. The tent flap opened, and a thin man wearing an outrageously flamboyant dinner jacket stepped out from behind an orange inferno. 

The man surveyed the wreckage before fixing on Charles’s shivering form. “Well, then we’re back on Earth! Allow me to introduce myself, I am the one the only: Marquis de Hauteur,” the thin man bowed, his lace and sequins shimmered and clinked with the movement. “I’m the owner and sole proprietor of the Intergalactic Flying Circus, the only space-based entertainment company that can boast performances at both the Ruler of the Universe’s imperial court and the Astro Dive Bars of Salvador 9. You have said nothing, boy, are you mute?”

“Sir, Mr Marquis, sir. With all due respect, you just demolished my house. My parents are going to kill me!”
The circus was almost fixed before Charles and the Marquis de Hauteur got to the really nasty stage of their argument. The clown creatures had woken up and, with surprising seriousness, gotten to fixing the circus- gathering all the spilt cargo and reattaching the yellow trimmings to the circus top.

“Why would you even want to leave Earth?” asked the Marquis.

“Why did you?” shot back Charles.

“That’s… that’s not important, young man. And that kind of disrespect won’t get you anywhere in life.”

“Fuck you. Surely there’s some position available.”

“What skills have you got? Do you even have a resume?”

“At heart I’m a poet,” said Charles dreamily.

“So unemployed, great.”

“Come on Mr Marquis, sir. I have to know what it’s like up there.”

The Marquis sighed. “All right, I’m sure we can find something for you to do. But no more of this Mr Marquis, sir crap, Marquis is a title. That’s like calling me Mr Sir, Sir. Got it? Follow me.”

The Marquis put his arm around Charles and led him into the now fully operational circus. Inside, the main area of the circus was like a regular Earth one with trapezes and a stage. The clowns, which up close looked like humans except with an extra mouth on their forehead, ran around making sure everything was secure. 

Charles followed the Marquis up a ladder near the entrance which lead to a spherical metal room. He watched as his new boss flicked some switches and typed data strings into a console. The room hummed, and the outside exterior of the circus spun around. Slowly the circus hovered above the ground. Then it launched with bone shattering energy into the night, leaving the earth far behind it. 

“What now?” asked Charles.

The Marquis picked up a broom from next to the console and handed it to him. “Well, boy. Go help the clowns clean the stage.”

“Hey,” said Charles as he took the broom. “We never talked about pay.”

“My friend. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you learn to transcend such small-minded beliefs as currency. Now get out there, don’t make me regret this!”

The years flew by like Gerbils dropped from the roof of an apartment complex. Charles had been a good boy, sweeping the floors and doing errands like he had promised, as the circus hurtled about from planet to planet. One time when the warm-up band was sick, he filled in for them with some stand-up comedy. The crowd laughed (or did what sounded like laughter) and it had been fun until the Marquis came on and the actual show began. 

One particularly dull day, while the circus was travelling between gigs, Charles pulled the Marquis aside. “Hey, Marquis. When’s the next time we’re near the Milky Way?”

“Well, we’re playing Live for Apollo at the New Pantheon for the next couple of months, so not for a while. You’re not getting homesick, are you?”

“What if I was?”

The Marquis stopped looking at his chart. “Come now, Charlie boy. You don’t want to go back to that Earth dump. This is the best job in the universe! The travel, the fame, the women. Oh my god, Charles, the women!”

“You didn’t even pay me the first year.”

“There’s more to life than money kiddo. Now run along, we have to get a move on before this next meteor shower hits if we want to make it to the New Pantheon on time.”

Charles continued to daydream about the Earth and seeing his parent’s faces again, but he did nothing about it until after Apollo flayed the warm-up band. After the Marquis had given a semi-serviceable eulogy he asked if Charles would like to reprise his role as warm-up comic for tomorrow’s performance. 

The flying circus was all well and good, but it wasn’t worth losing your skin over. Charles explained to the Marquis that it was time for him to head home, and the Marquis begrudgingly agreed- he even personally charted the flight plan for the trip back and entered it into the return ship, a little dodgem car shaped escape pod. Charles got into the return ship, waved goodbye to the circus, and started the flight home. It was a quick journey, the lightyears crossed in mere seconds. And when he saw his parent’s old country house (newly renovated) from his ship, he smiled. Smiled right up until he smashed into it.

About the author 

Harman is a Psychology student at the University of Newcastle, Australia. When he isn't studying or worrying about studying he enjoys spending time with his friends and writing. This is his first publication

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