Josh’s mind snapped back to the present as he heard a car drive into the parking lot of the marina by the dock. It was a small, beige sedan: Sam’s car. No sooner had it parked than a young man, not a day over 18, stepped out in worn jeans, sneakers, and a faded blue polo. He had a slender build and light skin that contrasted with his medium length chestnut hair.
“Sammy boy!” Josh called out. Sam turned and smiled, throwing a sling bag over his shoulder and strolling onto the dock.
“Hey, Josh. How are you?”
“I’m pretty good, man. Got the boat all set to go. We headed to the usual spot?” Josh asked.
Sam hopped into the boat, placing his bag in the same compartment as Josh’s pack. “Actually,” said Sam, “I was hoping we could go a bit deeper into the swamp this time. The readings have been inconclusive down river and I think it’s because the water is diluted as it goes further.”
Josh shrugged his shoulders. “Sure, man. Let’s get underway then.” Josh turned the key. The engine stalled for a few seconds before roaring to life. Josh untied the moorings before shoving the hefty boat away from the dock. He took the helm and started the easy trek upriver.
For a little while, the two friends didn’t say anything to each other. Josh was busy piloting the boat and Sam was arranging all manner of glassware and equipment, thoroughly inspecting every implement in the bag.
“What exactly is all of that for?” Josh asked aloud. Sam didn’t look up as he answered, still focused intensely on a small vial used to contain samples.
“Well, remember how I told you that my research is about the ecological aftereffects of the oil spill?”
Josh remembered Sam talking his ear off at the onset of this research a month ago when he had asked what he was doing it for. Sam had told him that he was looking for any changes in the ecosystem linked to the oil spill from a few years back. When they were still in high school, New Orleans had experienced a catastrophe when United Petroleum had a massive accident on one of its largest rigs. Not only had the oil rig been structurally compromised, but the broken pipeline had drained billions of gallons of harmful crude oil into the gulf. Much of it was cleaned up within a year or two, but Sam was convinced that the small ecosystems upriver had been irreversibly altered due to their ability to retain the contaminants. He had explained more, but Josh was no scientist and the terms Sam was using might as well have been a separate language.
“Yeah, I remember. You thought the bayou was isolated enough that there were still harmful chemicals and even some crude here,” Josh said.
Sam nodded. “Exactly. But, that’s the weird part. You see, last time we cruised around the southwestern part of the bayou, the results were very inconclusive. I saw a few contaminants, but they weren’t numerous enough that I could identify them, and even if I could link it to the spill, there are too few of them to hold up on any solid evidence.”
“So then why are we going back up river?” Josh pondered aloud.
“That’s the thing. You remember how we got lost last time and kept going north so we could loop around the fork in the river to go back south? Well, I was bored, so I took a water sample, and there was some weird material in it. I’d never seen anything like it on the microscope. It was phosphorescent, but not man made and not part of native life.”