Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Entertained by Gary Hewitt

Gary Hewitt tells the story of a doomed intergalactic circus troupe featuring an old-time cannon launch with a jetpack twist.

Being spat from a metal tube isn't the most pleasant experience you can enjoy. I ensure everything is strapped down before I hear the countdown. I don't move. The count reaches zero. I'm rocketed into the atmosphere.

We don't need the 'Big Noise' but Pomuh insists. He says the sound reminds him of sideshows from ancient Terran circuses.

I'm flying across the plains of Zemedia. Twenty disinterested spectators look up. I remember how different the interest was when I joined Pomuh's troupe twenty years ago. People flocked from all over the moon to watch. They loved Pomuh's bombastic style.

We're met by indifference these days. We're too set in our ways to learn a wealth lesson and compete with these new shows and their huge budgets.

I engage my jetpack. I float into the outer atmosphere. I know maybe a couple of spectators are watching with their optic scopes. I press three on the keypad on my chest and perform my ritual of aerial gymnastics.

I dive towards the ground at high speed. I hit the buffers at the last possible moment before spiraling back to the atmosphere. I learned years ago not to eat before taking part in this routine.

"Behold the amazing Space Rocketeer! Look how he spins! See how he defies gravity and gaze in wonder at his impossible stunts!"

I'm sure I could hear Pomuh's ravings without my earpiece. Pomuh is answered by a sudden splattering of golf claps and several yawns.

I have to admire Mr. Pomuh. I remember being blown away with his enthusiasm two decades ago. His energy and belief convinced me to join.

The man was a formidable sight back then. His frame comprised eighteen stone of solid muscle, a ridiculous curling moustache he swore was authentic from some era called the Victorian age, a grease-laden head of fiery hair, a solid steel whip and the brightest orange jacket you could imagine. He was a man you remembered for the rest of your life.

His muscles are flabby now; his moustache is bushy; his hair has thinned and whitened. His jacket is still bright and his enthusiasm never diminishes.

"Mr. Pomuh, Surely it won't be long before they'll look to close us down?" I asked him once several years ago.

He beamed his huge smile and clapped a huge hand on my shoulder.

"Joe, Joe, Joe. People always need to be entertained. As long as I draw breath, Pomuh's Big Top isn't going anywhere."

We're still going. Even though the cigar republic wolves are threatening to shatter the door he insists everything's fine. At least I have a job. I don't think there is much call for forty five year old rocketeers.

I'm descending. I'm not surprised to see the spectators leaving. Pomuh is trying to attract their attention to the remaining attractions. We've got Zerba, the two headed horse from Aqua, the amazing empath twins from Aonia and some human clowns. I can't understand the attraction in big nosed flat footed unfunny people. Pomuh insists back on Earth they caused great enjoyment. No-one is laughing.

Pomuh approaches and congratulates me on another fine performance.

"Well done Joe. Did you see them applaud? You were fantastic, fantastic."

I shake his hand.

"Yes Mr. Pomuh. There's nothing better than happy crowds. I think for tomorrow's performance I'll add in another routine. I'm sure Freddy can add in some more rotations."

He walks away preparing a grand entrance for his two headed horse. I stroll back to my cabin. I forgot to tell him about a slight buzzing from the keypad.



I wish I could stay in bed another hour. I scrabble to my feet and quaff a glass of juice. I vapour blast my sweaty body of all noxious odours before settling down for nourishment. These cereal bars are tiny but two mouthfuls are enough to see me through to the main digestion break.

My wall flickers. A girl's voice tells me I have a new message. I'm taken aback to see Mr. Pomuh staring in a distressed state.

"Joe, they've come for me. Those crooks from AKU Enterprises want over 40,000 credits to cover the loan. They know I can't pay."

He looks to the floor. My throat throbs with bitterness. His eyes fill with frustration. His speech is scarred with emotion.

"I fear today will be our last performance. Freddy has the new programme ready for you Joe. Your last voyage is going to be remembered forever."

My wall flickers and Pomuh's image fades.



My cab drops me off dead on ten o'clock. To my astonishment Pomuh is wide eyed and bounding across the forecourt of the big top.

"Roll up, roll up and enjoy the final curtain on your favourite circus. I, Pomuh, will entertain you for the last time with the wonders of our fantastic galaxy."

His solid stentorian voice captures several people who stop to look at the demented orange dervish.

"Today is completely free. Yes, you heard right. There's absolutely no charge. We will fill the rafters for our last hurrah. This will be the show to end all shows."

I have to hand it to the old bounder. I thought he would go through the motions.

I spot two suited men alarmed at Pomuh's declaration of free tickets.

"Aha, you must be from AKU. Gentlemen, please do come in."

He frog marches the astonished duo inside despite their protests.

"Quick, Joe. Get dressed and jump into the cannon."

I march over to the immortal spike. Freddy greets me. There is nothing that Freddy can't do with a jetpack. I know he has been working overtime with the crazed circus master through the night.

"Joe, you should see what we've come up with for the finale. You're going to love it!"

"Am I?"

He ignores my cautious tone and tells me about triple head turns, leg flips, stomach breaks and rib crackers. My apprehension doesn't fade.

"Are you sure this is safe? After all I'm not twenty one any more you know."

He laughs.

"I know, but don't worry. I ran the bioscan programme and you may experience some strange rumblings but you'll be fine."

"You mean I'm going to vomit?"

He wrinkles his upper lip.

"There may be a sixty percent chance, but, think, it's the last show. We can't let Pomuh down, can we?"

I strap myself into the jetpack. Pomuh's words about this being the last voyage resonate deep in my mind.

The tube is positioned to aim for the stars. I can't help but marvel at the size of the crowd. I'm daydreaming of what will happen tomorrow. The booming blast in the tube wakes me. I'm jettisoned and glance at the ever shrinking fairground. There must be at least eight hundred spectators clapping below.

I follow Freddie's instructions and press sequence four eight two. The jetpack does not respond.

"Fred, I pressed those buttons and guess what?"

"Sorry, what was that?"

Typical, his mind is elsewhere.

"Nothing happened, I'm drifting. Any suggestions?"

Static.

"Hello? Joe, are you there? I can't hear you. Have you pressed the sequence yet?"

"Fred, stop messing around. I pressed the sequence and nothing's happened. I'm going to start the old sequence."

"What? I can't understand you Joe."

I press three to initiate the old routine.

My jetpack continues to head for the outer atmosphere.

Panic hits me for the first time since I almost crashed into a Benson cruiser fifteen years ago.

"Fred, I'm drifting out of the atmosphere. You better call for recovery."

Static responds. I recall Pomuh waiving the premiums to the standby units last year. He said we'd didn't need them and we'd sort out our own problems.

I'm floating towards the chill of space. There is nothing in my earpiece. I feel light headed and a bamboo knot seizes my stomach. This jetpack isn't designed for space travel.

"Fred, Mr. Pomuh, get help. I'm almost out of range."

I look down. The fairground is tiny.

My mind numbs. The suit begins to fail. I choke. My breath shortens. My thoughts cloud. My heart drums and my vision is splattered with blood spice.

Pomuh was right. My last voyage will be remembered.

4 comments:

  1. "And all this science, I don't understand
    It's just my job five days a week.
    A Rocket man, a Rocket Man." - Elton John

    And the show must go on. Been nice to have some hint of what sort of advertisement / promotion was provided to draw the bigger crowd. Though that would have been tough and still keep Joe in the dark (literally). Fun read.

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  2. good read, thought he´d be saved, but that would have been too twee.
    so that´s the future, not so different after all

    Michael Mccarthy

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  3. Good imagery and character descriptions and a nice build to a not too unexpected end. A delightful read. The story might benefit if it is revealed that Pomuh has taken out an insurance policy on Joe and gotten him to sign unknowingly before his final flight. Joe only remembers signing something as he realizes his last flight will not only be remembered but also will also benefit Pomuh and the circus. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Hewit’s work. His style is believable yet capable of surprise. Congratulations.

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  4. This was a good read, like the descriptions, it seemed believable. The ending was captivating, a bit predictable, although a part of me kept thinking he'd come back down and the stunt was made that a way to scare him and the crowd.

    Ethan Regal

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