Image Flash #27
“What time did he go out?” Asked Brian.
“He was due back for lunch.”
It was nearly two. The look of concern on Shauna’s face was justified.
“Do you know where he was headed?” She nodded, crossed the cabin, and pulled out a map of the shoals.
“He’d been moving in a grid pattern, like you suggested. Today he was supposed to search this area.” She poked the map with her finger. Brian looked.
“Yeah, that’s too shallow for us. He took the zodiac?”
She nodded. Brian didn’t really have a choice. If Burns was missing, they had to find him. Quickly. “We’ll move as close as we can, suit up, and then Marcos and I will paddle in on one of the smaller rafts. From there we’ll look around.”
It was all they could do and Shauna knew it. Brian went up top and gave the directions to move the ship. By the time they’d dressed in their wetsuits, inflated the bright yellow raft, and found paddles they’d arrived. They took a flare gun, box of flares, and an emergency tool kit.
“I’m sure it’s just a mechanical issue with the outboard. We’ll have him back in no time.” Brian told Shauna.
But he also brought the trauma kit.
The entire bay was massive and shallow. They could see the coast in the distance, much further than they’d normally have to weigh anchor. The lagoon looked like normal water but the bottom was a series of sand bar ridges held in place by sea-grass. It was a maze that varied from being knee deep to over forty feet deep in some places. It had claimed many ships in the past. It was exactly why they were out there, hunting wrecks. They wouldn’t make the same mistake.
The wind was at their back and helped move them quickly. Marcos spotted the zodiac first. It bobbed, unmanned, on it’s short anchor rope. Brian strapped a bungee between the two and Marcos boarded the empty vessel. He gave a quick look at the engine and shrugged.
Brian pulled on his mask and adjusted it. “You stay here, in case he comes back. He probably lost track of time. Maybe found something. I’ll go down and have a look about.”
Marcos nodded and Brian rolled overboard into the water.
The first moments were always stunning. What looked like rolling hills of grass spread out beneath him, blowing in the current. He felt a little like he was flying. Everything pulsed with the rhythm of the waves. He felt the hairs on the back of his hands moving with the same languid motions as the grass below. He was instantly a part of it. Something else.
He didn’t let it distract him. He kicked out with his flippers, looking for Burns. The man was an excellent diver; athletic, Jamaican born, and he’d been raised on the water. Brian really wasn’t ready to entertain the possibility he was in trouble. Not without any clear sign of it. The lagoon was calm, the sky was clear, and the local black tip sharks weren’t known to be a problem.
He decided to follow the path of least resistance. Burns hadn’t been to this area before. That meant he’d likely keep to the deepest channels first, looking for water with enough depth to conceal a wreck. After that he’d expand out. So Brian did the same.
He kept his breathing paced and paired it with his kicking. Slow and steady, he moved along with his arms at his sides. He kept tipping his head up to look for other snorkelers on the surface, but it was unnatural feeling. It was better to lead with the top of his head and scan the bottom with his eyes. It was morbid, but if there was a problem, that’s where he should be looking.
He rounded a curve in the bank and saw a flicker of light beneath him. At first he thought it might be a reflection, but he realized it was a small part of something larger. A long, flat, concrete structure was built into the ground. It was covered with algae, green, and there was a single spot where it had been wiped away. Light came from out of it and he realized he was looking down at a window. He took a deep breath and dove down to get a closer look.
It had been wiped away by a hand, recently. He peered in. It was a leaky room, with puddles on the cement floor. Light bulbs were strung along the ceiling and most of them were blown. There were enough windows that, even with the algae turning the entire room green, that the interior could be seen.
There were banks of old cabinet sized computer machines with over-sized spools. What looked like a trio of operating tables, trays, and instruments. There was various other crap littered around.
He could also make out, faintly, a pair of wet footprints crossing the room.
So Burns had discovered something after all! And he’d found his way inside it. He was immediately relieved that his friend wasn’t dead. As intriguing as the strange room was, his lungs were beginning to spasm. He needed to go up for another breath of air.
He was about to push off to the surface when he saw the second trail; long and black streaked, like someone dragging an oil soaked mop.
Whatever had made them were fresher than Burns’ tracks; following him.