Gene Murphy is a writer/Copywriter from Co. Kerry, Ireland. His short stories and poems have appeared in Sonder Magazine and The Places, and in 2020 he won the CFLT Short Story Competition. Gene, who has undertaken writing courses with the DFEI and the Irish Writers Centre, is hoping to complete his first novel in 2021.

The man who walked in circles  

By Gene Murphy

The story goes that there once was a man who walked in circles. His unique way of walking is said to have begun, as it so often does, when the man moved into a round tower.

The round tower forced the man to navigate his living space by walking in circles. To go from one side of any room to the opposite required the man to circumnavigate his furniture. One moment it was the bed, the next the dining table. Sometimes the circles were wide and sometimes the circles were made on a penny. With each passing day the man grew more comfortable with walking in circles until finally, he forgot how to walk any other way.

The man didn’t mind having to walk in circles until it was time to go to the village. Locals, unsure of the man whose walk differed from theirs, went as far as crossing the road when they saw him coming. Children taunted the man and tried to obstruct his arc, standing in his way and throwing rocks at his feet. In the village shop, the man would pick up on snippets of conversations and know each time that they were founded on his style of walk. Once, while circling a rack of maps and postcards, he bumped a bottle of vinegar which promptly smashed to smithereens on the tile floor. That day it took him five hours to circle his way home to the round tower.

As time went by and word spread about the man who walked in circles, curious people began to show up to the round tower. One by one, a small cohort of followers developed. Each afternoon, they would meet at the round tower to walk and sit in circles and pluck daisies. They sang hymns and pleaded with the man who walked in circles to appear and acknowledge them. Frustrated, the followers began to light torches, chant, and walk aimlessly in an attempt to rouse the man.

But, it was not long before the followers grew tired and returned to their daisy plucking and knitting. In the end, they stopped showing up to the round tower having agreed that they did not need evidence to justify their devotion to the man who walked in circles. Belief, they decided, would suffice.

At this point in the story, you’re probably wondering how it was that the man who walked in circles got anywhere at all? Of course, a circle is a circle. Well, it’s quite a straightforward answer really: vertigo. Vertigo altered the man’s perception of space and tricked his feet into minute increases and decreases of his circular motion. Yes, he felt ill at times and it took hours to go from Point A to Point B, but the man who walked in circles always got where he needed to go.

One day the village shopkeeper knocked on the round tower door. He had not seen the man who walked in circles in his shop for some time and had grown concerned. When the shopkeeper got no answer, he fetched a Garda who, upon hearing no noise within the round tower, kicked down its door.  

Together the shopkeeper and Garda searched the round tower high and low, checking under the bed and sticking their heads into the tiny tepee-like attic. The shopkeeper sieved through the warm ashes of a recent fire while the Garda took note of belongings. They found no signs of distress, no clues upon which to build a lead. In an instant it seemed, the man who walked in circles, had vanished.

The story of the man who walked in circles is an old one. And yet, his legend lives on in the village where his life and peculiar way of walking are spoken about to this day. Locals even host a festival in his honour each August, during which time tourists can visit the round tower and listen to a guide recite his story.

But still, the question remains: what happened to the man who walked in circles?

Well, some say he grew tired of the locality and moved on to another round tower. Others believe he lost his way while out for one of his circle walks, vertigo sending him spiralling into a ditch or river.

But there is another theory worth mentioning. Some people propose that the man who walked in circles was taken from the round tower one night and moved to a city. Once there, they suggest, the man who walked in circles was forced to walk the same way as everyone else: