Mr. Blue’s Wonderful Transporting Aquarium
Billy, Sam, and I were kicking my bright red ball out the back of town one cloudy Sunday morning. There was little else to do in this tiny little beach town when the weather turned rotten. So, we ran along, splashing the ball through the puddles of last night’s downpour, and waiting for something more exciting to do. I heard a noise up ahead on the road.
“Car!” I shouted instinctively at Sam and Billy, warning them to move our game out of the way.
Then I realised that the sound wasn’t quite right. An old horse and cart rattled up over the hill, coming from the mountains. It was driven by a well-dressed man in a top hat. I stared blankly and the man tipped his hat to me as the cart rattled past. I don’t think I’d ever seen a horse on this road. I wasn’t even sure I’d seen a horse in all of Baron Bluff. On its side, in big blue block letters, the cart read Mr. Blue’s Wonderful Transporting Aquarium. Sam was the first to register the absurdity of the situation.
“An aquarium? What? In that little cart? pulled by a horse? I don’t think so,” she sneered at the man.
The man whistled and his horse came to halt.
“It is indeed an aquarium. My aquarium,” the man in the top hat responded, claiming the title of Mr. Blue. “But this is not just any kind of aquarium, this aquarium is a wonderous, magical, transporting aquarium!” he continued.
“I doubt that,” Sam responded, turning away with a huff.
Billy was a little less sceptical than Sam.
“Magical? How?” he asked.
“Well step inside and I’ll show you,” he said.
First, Billy looked at me. I shrugged and looked at Sam. She was still turned away from Mr. Blue, arms crossed, but she snuck a little side-glance at me. Then I looked to the sky. Storm clouds were rolling in and it was getting darker by the minute. It seemed like all of today’s other activities would be washed out. I gave Billy the nod and we approached the cart, Sam begrudgingly turning to join us.
“Wonderful!” exclaimed Mr. Blue as he slid out of the front seat. He was an old, rotund man; smaller than Billy, who had only turned fourteen last week.
Mr. Blue waddled down to the back of his cart, struggled with a latch on the door, and slowly dropped a small flight of stairs into a puddle. I made a move to go first, but Mr. Blue’s arm shot out in front of me, blocking my path. He gave a small cough and held out his hand. Sighing, I felt around in my pocket. Great. Now this weirdo had conned me for my lunch money. He raised an eyebrow as I dropped a few coins into his palm. I shrugged again, signalling there wasn’t any more to give. After a moment’s pause, he decided it was enough, and he gave me the nod to proceed. Ball in hand, I headed inside.
When I stepped into the back of the cart, it was empty, except for a plain white sheet hung on the furthest wall. I stopped in the doorway, a little confused and slightly alarmed. But then Billy pushed in from behind me and wandered across the vacant space. He knocked the ball from my hand and it rolled into a corner.
“What gives? There’s not even a tank,” he said.
Mr Blue slipped into the doorway behind us.
“Who said anything about needing a tank?” he asked.
He pulled a lever on the wall and slammed the door shut. A projector cranked on, beaming across the room towards the sheet. It flickered at first, but soon came to life with a blue so bright and vibrant that, as it reflected upon us, we too looked like we were under water. The video panned down, and it felt like we were diving. The image swam along a rocky edge, skimming past schools of little fish, and at one point, an octopus. It felt like we were swimming with it. There was bright seaweed, beautiful shells. I had never seen anything so wonderful. It made the ordinaries movies look so fake. I started to wonder how he had ever managed to get a camera to work under water…
Billy inched closer to the projector with each passing creature or wonder, yelling with delight. Behind me I could see Mr. Blue smiling, revelling in Billy’s enjoyment. Sam, as always, seemed rather unimpressed, still standing in the back corner, half turned away from the screen.
“Now, get ready for the big one,” Mr. Blue cautioned.
At first, it looked almost like a small smudge on the screen. A dark patch, off in the distance as we curled around the edge of a rocky platform. Then it grew bigger, darker, and began to take shape. A shark, of course. I heard Sam huff again. It drifted by and disappeared from view. Then suddenly the camera spun rapidly to follow. The shark moved closer again before slinking out of the screens view. Another quick twist to follow, but it wasn’t to be found. A quick turn of the head back in the other direction, and then frantic twisting all about.
I could feel my own heart racing and I moved my head from side to side like it was somehow going to help. Then, one final turn, to find the shark coming head on, jaws open wide, rows and gleaming white teeth rushing towards us!
The screen blackened. Billy yelled, this time in fright, as he stumbled back a few steps. Sam tried to play it cool, but I saw a little jump from her too before the lights went out. I thought my own heart was going to jump out as well. Mr. Blue laughed, and the projector turned back to a beautiful, calming blue.
“Wonderous isn’t it? Did you feel transported?” he asked us.
“Did I ever!” Billy replied, thrilled with the excitement. I laughed and nodded in agreement. Sam huffed. Again.
“You didn’t like it madam?” Mr. Blue queried.
“Well, it certainly wasn’t magical,” Sam retorted.
She glared at me for backup, and Mr. Blue’s eyes followed.
“I suppose…” I said, unsure of what to say next, “…it didn’t feel that … real.”
I was lying. I had never seen anything like that. But I didn’t want Sam to think I was as easily impressed as Billy.
“Not real?” Mr. Blue shrieked as if he had been wounded. “Why, would you like to be transported again? I can show you more.”
Billy nodded enthusiastically and I shrugged. Sam rolled her eyes.
“Sure, old man, do your best,” she said.
This time Mr. Blue pushed the lever in the other direction, and it went completely dark. I could hear the storm reaching town outside, and the cart shook in the wind. The lights had been out for a good 20 seconds as the cart continued to shake.
“Now, you have been transported” he declared happily.
I was about to ask what was going on when the floor suddenly gave way, and we all plummeted.
I landed with a splash, the salty water suffocating my scream. No stranger to the surf, I quickly oriented myself corrected and headed to the surface of the water. What the hell had just happened? I looked around me and Billy and Sam appeared, equally wet and equally confused. It was dark and I couldn’t really see. Then lightning flashed, and I saw the vast ocean around us. I turned and waited for the next flash of light. It lit up the high sandstone walls of Baron Bluff behind us. We were a few hundred metres offshore. I reached down and felt my clothes. I was really wet alright. I looked around me again, in all directions. I couldn’t see any sheets, or projectors.
“What is happening?” Sam shouted over the noise of the swell.
“Wow, this thing is incredible, how does it all fit inside?” Billy asked in wonder.
“We have to move” I shouted back.
I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew I didn’t want to stay here. I turned towards the bluff, there was a rocky platform off the bottom, good for fishing at low tide in calm waters. Right now, it wasn’t either of those things. I still wasn’t sure where I was, but if I was in some sort of weird horse and cart contraption, at least by swimming I’d reach an end. The others must have agreed because they quickly started following. We were making good progress in some rough water, obviously, we were all very good swimmers. Then, in front of me, I thought I saw a fin break through a trough.
I swallowed a mouthful of seawater. It disappeared. I kept swimming. A few moments later, it reappeared. Closer.
“Did anyone else see that?” Billy asked.
I turned to look at him and opened my mouth to speak. Then, in an instant, Billy was just gone.
Sam squealed and swam to me, clinging on to my chest. I pushed her off, unable to keep us both afloat on my own.
‘What is happening!” She screamed again. “Help! Billy! Help!”
My mind went into overdrive.
“Just swim!” I shouted back at her, grabbed her shoulders for a moment and turning her to the shore. “Just move!”
We swam as hard as we could for what felt like forever. Each second, I was in agony, scanning around me for any sign of danger or any sign of Billy reappearing. It was madness. This wasn’t happening. I could hear Sam crying beside me as we swam. She must have been howling to be heard out here in the storm. I felt bile rise up into my throat, but I push it back down with another accidental gulp of seawater.
Then the fin returned. It was odd, misshapen, to rounded. It crept towards me and I froze, treading water. Then it veered off to my right and disappeared below the water. I spun my head wildly. It reappeared further to my right, then seemed to be doubling back. I spun again, madly searching for it. It moves closer and closer. I had spun myself all the way around to be facing Sam. She looked six again, terrified as that first time we had been stuck in storm outside.
The misshapen fin reappeared. Now it was so close I could understand what it really was, a bulging pointy snout the size of a fin. It was bigger than anything I had ever seen. It surfaced higher, exposing its giant, knife-like teeth ready to tear me to shreds, and rushed. I closed my eyes, and it engulfed me.
“Real enough for you?”
The words made me jump. Wasn’t I dead? Didn’t the most monstrous shark just swallow me whole with its gaping jaw? I opened my eyes. Back in the cart with Mr. Blue. The projector screen now showing the stormy sea off the edge of the bluff. I stammered some response that didn’t make any sense. For a moment I couldn’t put sounds together to make real words.
“Sam?” I croaked. “Billy?”
“Your friend is outside,” Mr. Blue said. “Go and see him.”
“Sam?” I asked again.
“She’s not finished yet. Now go on,” Mr. Blue responded, opening the door, and pushing me out.
I didn’t get a chance to protest. When I turned outside, I saw Billy sitting on a rock. He seemed fine. Much finer than I felt. As I stepped out, I realised the storm had well and truly arrived. I looked down at the rain hitting my body. I didn’t matter though; I was already soaking wet. Billy stood up as I wandered over.
“Wasn’t that amazing!” he said with a big stupid grin.
“I don’t know,” I responded.
I sat down on the rock and tried to stop my spinning head as Billy kept yammering about the aquarium. After a while, I stood up and went back to the cart and knocked on the door. There was no response. I went back and sat on the rock for a while longer, the rain still pounding on my head. Eventually, the door opened, and Sam stepped out, arms crossed, as she had entered, but now rubbing against herself, trying to bring some warmth and comfort. I rushed over to her and grabbed her shoulders. I looked at her and asked if she was okay, but she just stared back blankly. Mr. Blue stepped down after her, fumbling to close the latch again, and grunting as he pulled the stairs from the muddy puddle.
“What did you do to us?” I asked angrily, stepping towards Mr. Blue.
He chuckled and tipped his silly top hat at me.
“My boy I transported you to the greatest aquarium of all,” he said.
I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I pushed further. Mr. Blue just laughed it off and waddled back to his seat at the front of the cart. With a pull of reigns his horse started moving again, turning back the way it had come. Sam was still shivering. She still hadn’t said a word. Billy had barely noticed, still chuffed, and pumped full of adrenaline.
“But what did you actually do?” I asked again.
“I gave you my best shot,” he said, glancing at Sam as he spoke.
Then he was gone, back the way he came, without another word. I told Billy that we should walk Sam home. The storm was getting worse, and our parents were probably wondering where we’d been. She didn’t say a single thing until we got to her front doorstep. By that time, the shocked seemed to have settled.
“I watched the shark eat you,” she said. “Then it hunted me for what felt like hours. It was all so real.”
“It was just those projectors and screens. And a tank. Lights and tricks,” I tried to explain. But I wasn’t really sure how.
“Yeah, we were in the aquarium,” Billy laughed.
We left it at that. There wasn’t really anything else to say. From Sam’s house Billy and I went our separate ways. He headed back towards the main street, and my house was further along the beach towards the bluff. I looked out over the bluff, still frightened, afraid, and most of all, confused. The storm had quietened a little now, and there were a few breaks in the clouds.
Then, I noticed something striking on the shore.
Washed up on the beach, was my bright red ball.
I never told Sam. She wouldn’t have ever gone swimming again.
About the Creator
Fiction writer and traveller, hoping to one day live on the road and write from there. Seeking challenges to broaden my skills and influences through a diverse range of writing techniques and genres.
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