Day 1: The Shape in the Water

“Come one, come all,” barked the barker. “Come and see the mysterious Shape in the Water.”

One and all came to where the circus barker stood, there at the end of the dock, atop an upright barrel. Why so far away from all the tents and festivities? everyone wondered. But there he was, in that red-and-white striped suit, with his twirly mustache, swinging a cane in sweeping gestures as he hollered through the megaphone. Curiously, the circus-goers approached.

“Careful now,” the barker called. “You don’t want to take a tumble into the drink, no, not today, folks. For the Shape is waiting for you.”

General inquiries as to what the hell the Shape was supposed to be echoed all down the dock, which was growing dangerously crowded.

“I wonder!” laughed the barker. “Is it a square? A circle? A ruh-hom-bus? Oh, but the water plays tricks on the eyes. One moment it is the shape of an elephant, the other it’s clearly an eagle, wings spread oh-so wide, folks. With every wave, a new shape. But always a Shape.”

Some murmurs of discontent. Threats to leave.

“You need not take my humble word for it, sirs and lady-sirs. Behold! Behold, beyond and below.

And so the carnival barker swung his cane in a slow, 180-degree turn, like the hand of a barrel-clock, and pointed to the ocean beyond the dock.

At first, it was ocean, and nothing more. Shimmering, dark blue, and–

Darker than blue. The Shape in the Water.

Gasps. A whale! A shark! A school of sharks! But no, its shape was not so consistent as that. It moved, or it changed. It reached. It curled–somehow, they knew it was curling, or parts of it were.

Bullshit, called a young man. He could have been the circus strong-man for his size, but he was not. He was a patron. And he called out accusations of tricks, of mirrors.

“Then I don’t suppose you’d like a closer look?” asked the barker. “Go on, sir. Go for a little swim.”

And so, chin up and chest puffed, the man swam. And became a man-shaped shape. And then, there was just the Shape.

As the audience leaned over the dock and waited, the barker slid through the crowd and was never found by the authorities thereafter.



The three prompt categories for today were: “Handed on a platter,” “”The circus,” and “A strange shape in the water.”

Lovecraft in an episode of Boardwalk Empire. I can dig it. Boy, I wish I could edit some of the cheesiness out of this. But 15 minutes is 15 minutes. So I hope you enjoy!

– H.

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