By R.A. Jetter
Author’s note: This story/novel idea came about as a result of Denver’s Rocky Flats closure, the plant, situated, on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the outskirts of Denver, was home to manufacture of plutonimum triggers for nuclear bombs… “Secrets” is a story about Cameron Bishop, a just-graduated environmental lawyer and his father, the director at the government-run Rocky Flats. It presents a “what if” scenario questioning exactly what happened to all of the radioactive material the government disposed of since 1952, when Rocky Flats was started. This novel is nearing completion. Chapter One is presented here.
The brackish water bubbled. Two, three bubbles, quarter-sized. Intermittent. Silver dollar sized at times, popping onto the surface. Floating a second or two before bursting, away from the sandy beach of Cherry Creek Lake. Six, eight feet off the shore.
One large bubble floated on ripples toward the shore. It burst. Reddish-green scum floated on the surface, looking a lot like body powder poured in the very spot the bubble had formed. Perfectly round, dry patches of floating powder, for just a millisecond, mixed with the water, releasing an insignificant puff of orange smoke wafting on the breeze toward the weeds and bushes lining the shore. Nothing out of the ordinary for a reservoir. Innocent enough, especially for a man-made dam and lake.
Over a period of years, after a dam is finished and water backs up into the draws, canyons and valleys, lots of trees, bushes and animal burrows get drowned and waterlogged. This time it was somehow different. The bubbles appeared not in the draws, but in the middle of them, away from the shore and at irregular intervals, surfacing in pairs or fours or fives.
Dead fish lay strewn on a seventy-foot wide area of the shoreline, as if someone had a field day catching them on hook and line and tossing them ashore, with no regard to keeping them or throwing them back. Normally, a few dead fish are always found washed up on the shore of any lake, victims of old age, predators or non-sporting fisherman. But here, there were several dozen. Not just small fish. Medium sized fish. Large whoppers hardy enough to be fought into a boat or onto the beach… sporting fish of huge proportions. Upturned. Once bright color fading in the sun’s ultra-violet. Tails and fins unwillingly flap in swells, simply not moving on their own, lying on their side.
The brush and weeds surrounding the isolated area appeared brown. It had been dying a slow death, or at least, starved of water, which was quite inconceivable, growing next to a lake. The native grasses also looked like they had endured months of drought. Yellowed, brittle stalks held clumps of unbloomed flower now bent and decaying. New plants poked their heads out of the dirt only to succumb before enjoying brief days in sunshine. This wasn’t the time of year for drought. The past several weeks had brought deluges to the eastern plains of Denver. Water of unimaginable proportions was right at the root tips of grasses, lowly weeds and trees. Water starvation was not present here.
Water lapped against ragged edges of dirt and range grass where it had been dry and cracked just weeks before along the draws and ditches. Rivulets of rainwater had rushed down the waterway, swelling and gathering, carrying the detritus of months of winter. Dirt, trash, weeds, twigs and nearly everything else rushed into the reservoir, raising the surface. As the depth of the lake increased, water flowed into crevices and cracks it had never reached months and years before. If it wasn’t simply a case of drought., it had to be something more sinister, something more deadly than natural attrition causing the death of fish, weeds and grass.
The water along the shore bubbled, making plinking sounds as it burst.
No songbirds trilled around the burnt beachfront. No crickets sang. Frogs had deserted the area. The silence was deafening.
The sound of brush scrunching and twigs breaking disturbed the environment.
“I know I saw it right in here somewhere,” a small voice said. The loudness of dead branches breaking and dry leaves crunching announced an adventure.
Tommy, Sammy and Dianna trampled into the burnt, dead area of the lakeshore on a warm Thursday afternoon.
“Yeah, right. Just like you told me last week that you’d seen that green UFO hovering over the lake,” Tommy, a short-for-ten towhead said. He brushed weeds from his blue shorts and stomped dead grass to the ground making the path wider.
“I did.” Sammy’s feet crunched brittle twigs. His short red hair matched the color of dead leaves on the oak tree. “I know what I saw… it was bright. Lime green… and real low to the water.” Pushing tree braches out of the way, he forged on toward the shoreline.
“Sure,” Tommy said, “now you’re saying there’s a giant ten foot snake lying on the beach down here somewhere just waiting for us to find it.”
“I don’t believe that,” Dianna said, following Tommy’s lead and trail
“It is here somewhere!” Sammy motioned, his arms extended. “I saw it through my telescope, from my bedroom window.”
“Next you’re gonna tell us it glowed green, too,” Tommy said. He pushed tree branches and brush out of his way as he followed.
Dianna brought up the rear. “Yuck, it really stinks down here. Lookit all the dead fish.” She was almost too short to be seen in the brush but she followed closely, not wanting to be left behind.
Sammy gave Dianna a disgusted look, dismissing her remark. “It didn’t glow green, but it was thrashing around pretty good while I watched. It was eating something… or it was hurt.” He turned to Tommy and grinned. “Check out the smell, Tommy, that’s almost as bad as your dog after he’s eaten cheese curls.”
Adventure. Nothing is more important in a child’s life than discovery. Self inflicted discovery, learning something new by exploration. Not afraid of anything if anyone asked. And definitely not knowing fear like a full grown man. Sammy and best friend, Tommy; and newly acquired younger friend, because she just moved into the neighborhood; Dianna, were on a quest… finding the ‘humongous ten foot’ snake Sammy had seen the day before from his house on the ridge above Cherry Creek Lake.
“Look… bones. It’s been here!” Sammy pointed at what appeared to be bones of a jackrabbit. “See, I told you it was eating something.” No vestiges of fur or flesh remained. The bones were incredibly clean… and stark white and arranged in a serene pose of quiet death.