Of cannons and other such machinery.
So, I just spent the whole weekend in a field rocking out to Avenged Sevenfold and System of a down at the legendary Download Festival and lemme tell you, it was amazing (even if I did have to leave a day early thanks to a bad back brought on by a giant mosh pit...), did any of you guys go? :D
But yeah... that’s my reason for taking a while to get this next chapter out, but I hope you guys like it anyway. R&R, you know what to do ;D
Must be skilled in the profession of ballistic machinery. Creating, fixing, replacing etc.
Must be able to travel.
Consistent wage of £3 to be paid every week on the seventh day in the following coins;
Ten coins of the value 6p
Eleven coins of the value 3p
One coin of the value 2p
Please refer to The Steam Circus currently located at Rose Lane Gardens.
The young man dropped down his heavy bag with a huff and squinted at the poster stuck to the wall of the train station. He had seen the poster everywhere around town but thus far hadn’t stopped to read it, but he had seen plenty of people who had. The poster had a different type of font used for each line to catch the eye and the young man’s curiosity had finally got the better of him.
Frank was not a fabulous reader, he had attended school until the age of twelve and then gone down to work in the mines as his parents had wanted. He had learnt the basics of writing and such before he had left the school house, but it still took him a long time to carefully break up each word of the poster, sounding out each part separately before he was able to read it fluently.
“M.... Mesh... Mec... Mec-hanic... Mec-hanic?... Mechanic! Mechanic... Re...Re... Rekwu... Rekw... uh... Err...D... Rekwuherrd... Re... Required... Mechanic required...” Frank frowned deeply as he concentrated hard on the font, people ignoring him as they bustled about, hurrying to catch their train or find loved ones who had just stepped off the steel creature onto the platform. Frank himself was due to get on the train but the poster had well and truly snared his attention.
He was a mechanic. A really good one too. He had become a locomotive engineers apprentice when he was sixteen and five years on he was one of the best mechanics around. Turned out he’d had quite the gift when it came to treating machinery, but sadly the old man who had taught him had died and Frank, unable to read and write enough to run the business had had no choice but to leave and find his fortune somewhere else.
So the young man had found himself in the city train station, due to leave for a different city where he would have to roam the streets until he found another job. But maybe this poster was his ticket to remain here, maybe it was just what he needed.
Frank struggled through the second line, biting his lip as he hesitated. Ballistic machinery... like guns and cannons and such. He had never worked with such things other than loading a pistol or two when he went with his master to other towns for supplies. He had been taught how to shoot a pistol should bandits or highwaymen attack but Frank hadn’t been trained in the skill of ballistic technology.
Just a little detail though. He thought to himself, shrugging it off. I can learn.
Frank had no doubt he’d be able to figure it all out, he was gifted in this he reminded himself. And he really didn’t want to leave for another city all on his own to try and find his feet in life. It was far too daunting for him.
“Mu – Must... Be... Abb... Leh... Abbleh... Abul... A.... Able to... Travel...” Frank huffed softly, the exhale of air sending his fringe up for a second. Able to travel? He wasn’t so sure about that. He liked this city, he was used to it. But then... he couldn’t stay here. He already knew there was nothing here for him, and if he was leaving anyway then wouldn’t it be better to travel around and see many different places, and at least if he took this job he wouldn’t be travelling alone.
Frank quietly spelt out the next line of words, grinning slowly as he realised what it said. £3 a week was nothing to grumble at, hell that was... Frank closed his eyes and his lips mouthed words silently as he worked it out in his head. £12 a month? That was good, Frank could live with that. If he was roaming about he wouldn’t need a home to uphold, just food and clothing and such, £12 a month should be enough.
Growing more and more interested Frank read on, skimming through the detailing of the wage since he didn’t really care how he was paid, just so long as he was. Once he reached the last line his eyes grew wide, landing on the word ‘circus’ and a smile split his features.
Circus... Frank knew that word alright. He loved the circus. He had never been of course, his parents had been too poor to take him and when he had been working in the mines and with the locomotive engineer he had been too busy to attend any that came to town. But to work with one? Imagine that!
Franks hazel eyes roamed slowly over the name of the circus, locking it into memory and he nodded slowly. He had never heard of The Steam Circus before but it sounded interesting. And Rose Lane Gardens? He knew where they were, he had been there plenty of times in the summer after working at his apprenticeship to relax in the dying light of the sun. He could be there in ten minutes easily, maybe five if he ran. He didn’t know how long the posters had been up or how many other people might be able to apply but he certainly didn’t want to miss the chance. Maybe this was exactly what he needed. Maybe this was a stroke of destiny.
“Can I help you?” Frank jumped in surprise and quickly turned round, biting his lip as he came face to face with a tall, broad, bald man. He was wearing a tight white vest and black trousers, the leather belt around his hips completed by a silver buckle that was shining in the sunlight. The man’s arms were so muscled they were like tree trunks and Frank gulped, having to tip his head right back to come face to face with the skinhead.
“I err... Erm... I c – came about the posters... i – in the town?” He stuttered, the man quirking an eyebrow and pursing his lips, making his French moustache shorten a second before he gave a cheery ‘oh!’ of realisation and grinned a straight, white toothed smile.
“Yes yes, the advertisement!” He beamed, Frank nodding and hoisting his bag further up on his shoulder, biting his lip. “You are mechanic?” The man asked, his voiced lilting from a foreign accent. Frank wasn’t entirely certain what accent it was, but he quite liked it.
“I err... yeah. Yes. I am.” He stuttered, his stomach churning with nerves. The man before him, though friendly, was intimidating and Frank felt terrified of what he might do to him when it turned out he didn’t have a clue how to handle ballistic technology. He only knew about trains and such, but he forced himself to suck down his fear and follow the muscle man as he began to lead the way round the back of the big top that had been erected in the middle of the field.
The big top looked just like other big tops Frank had seen when circus’ came to town, but instead of the usual bright red fabric they were made from this one was made of a beautiful, shimmering bronze material that turned emerald green when the sun hit it just right. Frank was mesmerised by it and he gazed at it with parted lips as he followed the muscle man round.
All about the field other strange people were bustling about, setting up separate tents and what appeared to be market stalls. A ticket booth was at the gate of the park and Frank felt some of his fear disappear to be replaced by excitement. There were townsfolk and children watching from the road, chatting excitedly as the circus was set up. Frank wondered why he hadn’t seen any of the posters around, there must be some if people were already watching. When would the first show start? That night? Frank hoped he’d be able to get the job so he could stay and watch.
“You are quiet man.” The muscle man stated, looking down at Frank as the two men walked. “You are shy?” He asked kindly, his smile warm and friendly beneath his moustache and Frank couldn’t help but smile a little back, shifting the heavy bag on his shoulder.
“A little.” He consented, his heart hammering. “Nervous mostly. I err... I’ve never been to a circus before.”
“No!?” The man gasped dramatically, Frank giggling and the man shook his head, clicking his tongue. “Tut tut tut, this will never do. Circus is magical event. You have not lived if you not seen one.” He exclaimed, Frank relaxing a little as the two men came to the back of the big top and began to wander through what had become a little village of gypsy wagons.
“I’ve always wanted to come to one...” Frank mumbled softly, gazing around in awe at the many brightly coloured wagons. “But I err... I was... Never had the time...” He whispered, left in shock at the beautiful travel homes around him. He couldn’t imagine living in such a beautiful atmosphere. The man beside him smiled, pleased by the look of pure happiness on the shorter man’s face.
“Ah, well if you work for us you see circus all the time.” He beamed, Frank nodding silently at the muscle man smiled warmly, nudging his arm. “Tell me then your name.” He chuckled and Frank blushed, grinning at him.
“Oh, it’s Frank.” He giggled, the man nodding and repeating his name carefully, as if testing how it felt in his mouth before he grinned, apparently satisfied.
“Frank... Yes. My name is Pierre.” He introduced himself, stopping outside one of the wagons and shaking Frank’s hand vigorously. His grip was firm and hurt a little but Frank got the impression it wasn’t that Pierre was trying to hurt him on purpose, he just didn’t realise his own strength. “This is ringmaster’s wagon. He give job to you if it so pleases him. Come, knock, knock.” Pierre held his hand out to the door of the wagon they had stopped outside, Frank’s nerves returning as he looked at it.
This wagon was bigger than all the others and the grandest looking. It was painted mostly red, a red so deep it was like pure ruby. The windows, door and roof were outlined in bright gold as were the wheels, and the window shutters were painted in bronze. All along the red panels there were tiny, intricate patterns in bronze metal and three wooden steps led up to the door completed by a large brass knocker.
Frank looked to Pierre for confirmation that he should indeed knock but the muscle man only grinned at him, nodding his head encouragingly. Frank bit his lip and took a deep breath, stepping up onto the first of the wooden steps so that he could reach the knocker, rapping it against the door three times before he stepped back onto the grass and waited.
From inside the wagon footsteps were heard, a lock being slid open before the door was swung out and a man appeared in the doorway. He had black hair that fell over his shoulders and the nape of his neck, a side fringe sweeping across his forehead though both of his brown eyes were still visible. He was wearing a loose white gypsy shirt tucked into tight black trousers, the strings of the collar open so that part of his chest could be seen. His skin was quite pale and his face incredibly handsome, when he looked down at Frank the mechanic almost forgot how to breathe. The ringmaster quirked an eyebrow and turned his face to Pierre, looking at him questioningly.
“Sir, this is Frank. He comes for mechanic job.” Pierre announced cheerily, the ringmaster giving a soft ‘aah’ and he looked at Frank again, scrutinising him with his eyes for a moment before standing aside with a small nod.
“I see. Come in please.” He said coolly, his voice delicate but full of authority and Frank shuddered, his heart missing a beat and for a long second he couldn’t move until Pierre gave him a helpful shove in the back. The young man jumped and stumbled forward, tripping his way up the stairs and into the wagon. The ringmaster looked to Pierre and gave a short nod, Pierre bowing his head with a smile and bidding Frank a soft farewell before he left to continue setting up the big top with the others.
The ringmaster shut the door behind Frank softly and quietly told him to remove his shoes before he walked down the tiny walkway to sit at a window seat at one end of the wagon. Frank was trembling a little as he kicked off his boots and laid them gently by the door, hesitating a second before he followed the taller man and sat opposite him at the window seat, a tiny table separating them.
Inside the wagon there was a bed pushed up at the end opposite the window seat and table, and tiny cupboards and shelves filled up the remaining space. The roof was curved up like a rainbow for extra space, a beautiful painting of angels and cherubs covering the whole of the wood. The tiny windows were completed with little red silk curtains and the bed was a nest of silk blankets and cushions, a purple velvet drape pulled up against one wall which Frank realised would go round the entire bed when released, allowing for privacy. It was all so ostentatious; Frank had never seen such grandeur let alone in such a small space. He suddenly wanted nothing more than to live in such a quant slice of heaven and he prayed he would be given the job.
“So, your name is Frank?” The ringmaster began, pulling two small wooden wine cups and a bottle of wine out of a nearby cupboard. He placed them on the table and filled the two cups with the deep purple liquid, handing Frank one and keeping one for himself.
“Y – Yes sir, oh, thank you.” Frank mumbled, taking the cup gratefully and allowing himself a sip when the ringmaster drank some himself. It was very weak wine, but fruity and delicious and Frank was terribly thirsty after a long day of nothing to eat and drink. “I... I came about the posters in the town...” He whispered stupidly, as if the ringmaster didn’t already know that.
“Yes yes. But please, introductions first.” The pale man chuckled, the airy laugh relaxing Frank somewhat as the man put down his cup and offered Frank his hand. “My name is Gerard; I’m the ringmaster of this circus. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He smiled, Frank unable to stop the wide smile that lit up his eyes.
“Like wise.” He said gently, Gerard’s grip firm but oddly delicate as they shook hands before Gerard let go and picked his drink back up, Frank doing the same. “Please, drink.” Gerard smiled, noting the tense way the short man held the cup, as if he desperately wanted to drink from it but wasn’t sure he should. Frank jumped a little and offered a soft ‘thank you’ before he took another sip of the liquid, unable to stop himself before he couldn’t stand it anymore and he drank deeply from the cup. Gerard watched him curiously, a small smile on his lips.
“So, Frank.” He smiled once the man had put his cup down and the ringmaster took the liberty of filling it up again for him. “You are a mechanic?”
“Mm... Mhmm...” Frank nodded, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand after another gulp of the sweet wine. “I was a locomotive engineer’s apprentice.” He explained and Gerard gave a thoughtful hum as he nodded.
“Steam trains eh?” He purred, leaning back in his seat and taking another sip of his wine. “Interesting... Have you ever worked with cannons Frank?” He asked, observing the young man over the rim of his cup and Frank looked up at him with wide eyes, biting his lip. On the way he had told himself he would just lie and say he had, but now he was sat facing the ringmaster he couldn’t bring himself to do it. How would he ever get away with something like that when it came to actually working on a cannon and finding himself completely lost? Gerard seemed nice enough but Frank was pretty sure he’d take no shit from him.
Gerard quirked an eyebrow as he waited for Frank to reply, the short man staring at him with wide eyes in silence for a long moment and Gerard sighed, knowing his answer before he finally managed to choke it out.
“Well erm... I... N –No, I... I’m afraid not.” Frank admitted eventually, Gerard sighing with a small nod.
“But I’m sure I could figure it out!” Frank added quickly, desperate not to lose his chance for this job. When he had seen the poster the decision to chase it up had been spontaneous and Frank hadn’t really been sure what had possessed him to come here and miss his train even when he’d found himself outside the big top, but now he was here, now he had seen what it could be like, he wanted it more than anything. Beside, his train was long gone by now and another one wouldn’t be along until the next day. He had nowhere to go that night, he needed this job.
“Hmm... you think so?” Gerard asked softly, tapping his chin thoughtfully as he looked at the young man. He was very handsome, and his large hazel eyes swam with desperation and hope. He was clearly genuine, and Gerard liked that. He could tell he was quite naive, not yet tainted by the evils of the world that the ringmaster had suffered himself, as had many in his circus. Everyone had a sob story to tell but this boy was pure and untouched. But that did not mean he would be good as a mechanic. “I can’t mislead you Frank; we’re really looking for someone more experienced.” He said gently, Frank’s face falling.
“I... I understand...” He whispered, bowing his head. He couldn’t pretend to this man that he was perfect for the job, of course he wasn’t. He worked with trains, not circus cannons. “But I really could learn. I... I’m...” Frank closed his mouth, blushing as he almost said he was gifted with machinery. He didn’t want to make himself sound like an idiot so he promptly shut up.
Gerard quirked an eyebrow at him, curious to know what he had been about to say but he didn’t push him, still in two minds himself as to whether he could really just turn this man away. “But then... We have been looking for a mechanic in three towns now; this is fourth we’ve put posters up in. You’re the first to apply...” Gerard sighed; Frank looked up with hope once more in his eyes. “Would you be happy to look at some of the things you would be working with, and whether you think you can understand their mechanisms?” Gerard asked softly and Frank nodded without hesitation.
“Of course. I... I understand if you don’t employ me, I know I’m not exactly what you’re looking for but I really... I erm, I have a knack for this kind of thing.” He said timidly and Gerard chuckled, smiling widely at him.
“In that case, since we have nothing to lose, if you would just follow me I will show you the cannons.”
The circus owned three cannons that Frank, assuming he got the job, would have to attend to. They were kept beneath a red sheet, chained down to the ground behind the big top with many of the acts rushing about around them getting everything prepared for their first show. Frank assumed they must be performing that night from the speed everyone was going out, and his stomach churned with nerves for them.
“Now then, these smaller cannons are not as important as the big one.” Gerard explained lightly as he gripped the corners of the sheet and whipped it off the metal devices. “But you’d need to know how all three work.” He added. Frank stood beside him and swallowed thickly, his eyes growing wide at the intimidating machinery. The ‘smaller’ cannons were what Frank considered normal size; if he lay down beside them they’d be longer than him by at least a foot, and on their stands they went right up his chest. To him they were huge, but they were nothing compared to the cannon in the middle.
The ‘big’ cannon was the biggest weapon Frank had ever seen, though of course he knew it wasn’t used as a weapon. It was made of gold and Frank would have to sit on top of Gerard’s shoulders if he had any hope of seeing inside it. The stand was studded with red and green gems and there seemed to be pearl set into the cannon itself making white rings around the muzzle and chase. It was a grand, beautiful device but Frank felt sick looking at it. He had no idea where to even begin.
Gerard turned as Frank stared at the cannons and gave a loud whistle, one of the circus hands turning to look at him. Gerard made a gesture and the circus hand nodded, bustling away. “We’re getting you a ladder, you can take a look inside and if you think you can understand the mechanism we’ll see about you trying to fix it.”
“Fix it?” Frank squeaked, looking at the ringmaster in shock. Gerard hadn’t said anything about him needing to fix it. “But I –”
“Don’t worry; I’m not saying you have to. I’m just saying if you think you could you can try.” Gerard quickly cut across him, shrugging casually. “That’s what mechanics do after all.” He pointed out sweetly and Frank blushed deeply, bowing his head as he bit his lip. He wanted nothing more than to work for this mysterious man and roam around with the circus in the colourful gypsy wagons, but right now he just felt the overwhelming urge to run away. He was an idiot for ever thinking he could do this, just because he’d been able to learn how to work with trains easy enough didn’t mean he’d be any good at teaching himself how to work a cannon. Especially one this big that was clearly specially made for a specific purpose.
When the circus hand returned with the ladder Gerard said nothing as he laid it against the side of the big cannon and beckoned Frank over with his finger. He stood aside so that Frank could step up to the ladder and he smiled comfortingly at him. “There’s a hatch just up there –” He pointed up to the top of the cannon as he handed Frank a golden wrench. “Undo the bolts and you’ll be able to look inside.”
Frank took the wrench with a silent nod, gulping as he looked up to the top of the cannon. “And then I just... figure it out?” He clarified, Gerard nodding with a shrug.
“Pretty much. If you think you can tell how it works then you can try to fix it. It’s basically just not firing anymore.” He sighed, Frank nodding his understanding and hooking the wrench onto his belt so he’d have both hands free to climb the ladder.
Gerard stood back and watched as Frank began to climb the ladder, his slender hips swaying a little as he carefully stepped up from rung to rung, his trousers hugging his pert butt in all the right places and Gerard wasn’t one to miss out on such a good view. He folded his arms across his chest and bit his lip with a small smirk, looking up as he watched the boy climb to the top of the cannon.
Once Frank reached the top of the ladder he stepped right up to the second to top rung, resting his feet on the wooden bar and leaning his body over the domed top of the cannon. He could see the hatch that Gerard had mentioned and he reached down to grab the wrench, sliding it into place against the first bolt and using all his strength to unscrew the tight bolts.
Down on the floor Gerard could only see Frank’s legs and hips, his pert little butt sticking out from the way he’d draped himself over the cannon and Gerard began to sincerely hope that the guy would be able to figure out the mechanism just like he said he could so that he could get the job after all. God only knew how desperate they were for a mechanic who was able to fix it, their old mechanic had retired a year ago and the cannon had stopped working some months after. They’d be desperately searching for a replacement ever since.
Frank unscrewed the final bolt with a soft ‘ooft’ and laid it down beside the others precariously on top of the cannon. He then put the wrench back on his belt and lifted the heavy hatch to peer inside the cannon.
It took a long moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness inside the beast but once they had he began to see the different things inside the metal casing. There were cogs and tiny metal wires, wheels and pullies and weights. It was unlike anything he had ever seen and he assumed other cannons probably didn’t look like this, but this cannon was different. “This is used for firing people?” Frank called down to the ringmaster; Gerard’s smooth sailing back up to him.
“That’s right. We light the fuse like any cannon and it should explode, but recently it just doesn’t work. Not a single pop. We’ve tried everything to fix it.”
“Hm...” Frank frowned and bit his lip thoughtfully, pushing his hands into the hatch and feeling about as he peered down between his arms. He was careful not to dislodge or move anything, just trailing everything with his fingers and trying to confirm what attached to what and how the whole came together to create the explosion that would send a human flying through the air without harming them. “Do you use gunpowder?” He called again, Gerard replying that they did indeed use gunpowder but only in the cascabel, not the bore, just to create an explosion the audience could hear and enough force to release a spring loaded platform that pushed the person out of the cannon.
“Oh!” Frank gasped as Gerard explained it, the coil of metal he had been currently feeling over curiously suddenly making sense. “I see...” He breathed, Gerard frowning from the ground and tiptoeing up as if he would be able to see inside the cannon himself.
“See what?” He called but Frank didn’t reply, the young man apparently lost in his thoughts as he tinkered about inside the cannon.
Gerard stared up at the back of Frank’s legs and waited to see what the man would conclude. Things were looking optimistic though Frank was up there for a long time, wriggling further up every few seconds until only his feet could be soon and Gerard began to wonder if he was going to disappear down the hatch all together.
“Okay... I think I’ve got it! Do you have any pliers!?” Frank shouted down after a long while, his voice echoing from inside the cannon and Gerard quirked an eyebrow, calling one of the circus hands to fetch him a tool kit and he sat down on the grass, guessing they were going to be here for a while.
When the circus hand came back Frank made his way down the ladder to gather the tool kit, his face and hands covered in soot but his grin was so wide Gerard couldn’t help but laugh softly and smile back.
“Looking good up there?” He asked, Frank nodding excitedly as he took the toolbox from the circus hand and began scuttling back up the ladder.
“I think I got it sir, I promise you, you can be using this cannon in the show tonight!”
“Well Frank, you excited.” Gerard smirked as he nudged the young man who was watching the seats inside the big top fill up through a gap in the curtain that led to a long tent attached to the back of the big top where the performers got ready. The short man was looking pale and slightly green, his teeth clamped over his lower lip.
“I... yeah.” He lied, his voice coming out as a high pitched squeak. Of course he wasn’t excited, he was terrified. He had spent the day fixing the cannon as best he could, and they had tested it out by lighting it and listening to it give a satisfying explosion but as yet no one had been inside it to be fired and Frank knew that if he had messed up even just a little then a person’s life could be on his conscience. “Are you err... you sure you think it’s gonna be okay?” He asked quietly, looking at Gerard and the ringmaster shrugged, smirking softly at him.
“I hope so.” He chuckled, doing nothing to make Frank feel better. “Say, Pierre told me you’ve never been to a circus before. Why don’t you take a seat in the audience and watch from there for tonight?” He smiled and Frank bit his lip, considering declining but then he figured he was going to feel sick with nerves no matter where he watched from so he gave a tiny, silent nod and padded out into the big top to find a spare seat.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEEEN!”
Frank jolted upright in surprise when Gerard’s voice suddenly rang out inside the big top. The man himself was nowhere to be seen and Frank had been just nodding off, so tired after an early morning and long day that the sudden shout nearly gave him a heart attack. All around him the rest of the audience fell silent and an excited energy filled the air as that deep, seductive voice introduced the show.
“And now – for one night only – I give to you.... THE STEAM CIRCUS!”
Frank sat up straight and stared in awe as tall, slender women bounded out from the back tent, rushing into the ring created by the circle of seats, wearing nothing but skimpy dresses that barely covered their backsides, feathers adorning their hair; they gave the audience no time to feel shocked by their tiny outfits though before they were shocking them with their movements. What had began as a dance somewhat like ballet immediately became a blur of colour and music as the women ran about and jumped to the music, springing off each other’s hands and backs, impossibly high into the air and somersaulting sometimes up to five times before landing on the floor. Others were pulling themselves into the most impossible of shapes, a wooden music box being dragged into the centre of the circle. It was only about two feet in height and diameter but when the lid was open one of the girls actually stepped into it and began to fold herself up to fit inside.
Frank felt his jaw drop along with every other person in the audience, staring in awe as the woman somehow managed to fit herself inside the box and another closed it for her. The music changed into that typical of a music box and after a long minute the lid opened and the girl inside gracefully unfolded herself, being lifted by two other girls and then set down on one foot. She lifted one leg up vertically, making it look so effortless as she balanced not just on one foot, but on the very tips of her toes. Frank felt like his eyes were going to fall out of his head as she turned gracefully in a slow circle to the music, like a little figurine inside a music box would. Around her the other girls continued to dance, bending and dipping their bodies like they were made of goo.
Frank felt like he could sit and watch the beautiful women all night long, but all too soon something much better was making itself apparent.
As if from nowhere Gerard sauntered into the ring, the music fading away and the girls bent backwards until they landed on all fours, their backs bent so their stomachs faced upward, holding their positions as the ringmaster took centre stage.
Gerard was wearing a long military coat of deep red velvet, completed with brass buttons and shoulder plates. The coat was open to reveal a bronze waistcoat but no shirt, just enough milky chest on show to make Frank’s stomach tingle pleasantly. There was a gold pocket watch in the breast pocket of the waistcoat, the golden chain visible against the bronze fabric. The trousers were red and bronze pin striped, tucked into heavy black, buckled boots. A black top hat was set atop Gerard’s silky black hair, bronze and gold cogs bunched into one side of the top hat that sparkled in the dim light.
Frank was aware that Gerard was saying something, arms spread wide and white gloved hands gesturing as he spoke, but all Frank could hear was a pleasant buzz in his ears. Gerard looked magnificent and he held the audience’s attention with ease, introducing them to the next act like a conductor to a song. His hands like the baton that forced your gaze where it was needed, and when the ringmaster left for the next act to take over Frank couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
With each new act that came on the amazement was stepped up a notch, no one in the audience ever seeing such a magnificent show as they were being given. But Frank could only think of the ringmaster and how his stomach clenched happily when he came out to introduce each new act. He didn’t even feel nervous about the cannon anymore, his thoughts completely redirected.
The audience were treated to acrobats that swung through the air above them, fire eaters and magicians who stunned them all with tricks completely unlike those seen in a typical circus. When the clowns came out they had the audience in tears of laughter and squeals.
There were only two clowns, a short, skinny man with hair that fell right to the base of his back, white blonde and silky. His eyes were so blue they seemed to shine from inside their sockets, and he wore knee length blue trousers and a tight white vest, identical to the outfit worn by the girl with him. The two were twins, and though technically not identical what with being different sex she too had long, white blonde hair that fell down her back and shining blue eyes. Her features were softer than the boys, her lips deep pink and pouty, where as his were thin and arched in a perfect cupid bow. Frank had never seen such attractive people, though it was impossible to tell whether they were mature looking children or incredibly youthful looking adults. They were silent through their whole act, keeping it to mime like most clowns do, but even Frank was crying with laughter by the time their act ended, having rushed about energetically, tripping each other and play fighting and tugging audience members into the ring for a variety of ‘games’ that usually ended with someone making a fool of themselves.
Once the clowns had left Pierre was up next wearing tight black trousers and no shirt, many of the women in the audience blushing deeply and fanning themselves as he flexed his large muscles and grinned cheekily at them all. He then proceeded to show his strength by lifting an assortment of things, including a bench filled with about twenty audience members. He then proceeded to stun them all by walking across the tightrope strung across the top of the big top, walking so daintily across he was like a strange sort of muscled ballet dancer. Frank was just as lost and amazed as the rest of the audience, his heart hammering with joy. All of his dreams of coming to the circus and he knew that what he was witnessing was better than any other circus he could have come to.
More acts followed, the time disappearing quickly and by the time Gerard came out to announce the final act of the evening Frank had such a wave of horror wash over him that his head span violently. His eyes grew wide and he whimpered softly as Pierre and a few more of the performers wheeled the giant cannon into the ring, the top of the big top coming apart on a strange sort of pulley system so that the starry sky could be seen. There was a line of multicoloured hoops hovering in the air, stemming off a tall pole. The final hoop just a few feet above the biggest, thickest cushion Frank had ever seen in his life.
The big top was silent as Gerard skipped to the back of the cannon and grinned, the beautiful boy from the clown act padding into the ring with his hair tied in a ponytail. His feet were bare and he looked so small and helpless as Pierre picked him up and effortlessly threw him into the muzzle of the cannon. Frank almost jumped out of his seat as if to help the poor boy and he was not the only one, women around him gasped and men looked on in horror, the air filling with tension as the boy disappeared inside the cannon and Gerard was a handed a flaming torch.
Frank’s ears were filled with a roaring and everything seemed to go in slow motion as Gerard moved to light the fuse of the cannon, Frank’s heart beating so fast he was sure he would suffer a heart attack before he saw whether the boy survived or not.
Oh God. He thought, his chest heaving as he breathed heavily, struggling to stay calm. What was I thinking!? I don’t know anything about cannons, that boys going to die and it’s all my fault!
Frank couldn’t keep back his horror and he jumped to his feet in horror, opening his mouth to scream at Gerard to stop but it was too late, the fuse was lit and burning rapidly down. Frank barely had time to gasp before the cannon exploded loudly, the force sending it back a few feet and the muzzle lifted into the air, a blur of white and blue speeding from within.
All around him people gasped, a few women screamed and Frank stared with dropped jaw and frightened eyes as the blur that was the boy shot into the air, through the multicoloured hoops as if he could move himself in the air, shooting through the hoops without missing a single one before he landed heavily on the giant cushion.
For a long moment there was silence, and then the boy got to his feet, perfectly unharmed, only a few strands of his hair having fallen loose to show he had ever been fired from a cannon and the audience sprang to their feet, cheering loudly as the boy gave a low bow, grinning widely.
Frank felt ready to faint as a slow smile split his features, laughing breathlessly and turning to look for Gerard, his heart lurching and his cheeks burning as he realised the ringmaster was already looking at him. Gerard was grinning widely and he laughed when he saw how Frank was swaying a little on his feet.
“Welcome to the family Frank.” He called and Frank barely managed to mouth a soft ‘really?’ back before he fell back into his seat and pressed his head between his knees, breathing deeply between relieved giggles as the audience continued to cheer around him.