Something in the Water
The sun lay just above the horizon, casting diminishing florescent beams
across the sky. Cold wind coursed through the wilderness, rippling the
Muskogee, a river that ran through Baroke County, New York like a seam
through a snake-skin jacket.  Crickets whistled a somber serenade.  Subtle
raindrops fell.

Vincent Wilkins peered upon the river’s surface and shuddered at his
reflection.  He was out of focus, distorted.  His eyes resembled deep dark
puddles, his mouth a lagoon, his round and wrinkled face loomed like a mirage.  
Even the yellow raincoat he wore drooped and sagged.   

A dark, murky substance drifted throughout a river that had once been so
crystalline, so pure.  He bent low to inspect it, curiosity superseding his better
judgment.  He recoiled, his hand quickly covering his nose and mouth.

A disturbing thought occurred to him.

“Those two men at the restaurant, the two that nearly killed each other,”
Vincent held a finger to his lips, pondering, “what if it had been more than just
an escalated argument.  What if something corrupted them?”

Vincent closed his eyes, vaguely remembering what life was like when he had
been a young man.  Lampton, his hometown, had been safer then.  People were
kinder and seldom turned on one another.  Where had things gone wrong?

Vincent stared at the Muskogee and grimaced while foul sludge continued to
slide along the surface.  “What if it was something in the water?”

A tremor in his heart confirmed his suspicions.  The truth was inevitable,
shocking.  It drove Vincent to his knees.  “I can’t believe it’s come to this,” he
whispered, remembering going fishing and swimming in the Muskogee as a
child.  “I don’t want to lose you, old friend,” he said.

A loon let loose a lonesome cry as if to echo that sentiment.

Vincent observed the water flow at a lethargic pace for some time before finally
leaving.  Thoughts of the contaminated river and the way it affected the
townsfolk haunted Vincent on his long walk home.

Lying in bed later that night, he experienced a turbulent sleep.  Hot tears
streaked down his cheeks, soaking his pillow.  “Jesus wept.”