The thief in the kayak heard only a strangled slurp as the bow of the now empty dinghy nuzzled into his boat's side
Oil in Water art
Illustration by Dr. Christy Corp-Minamiji/VIN
They were too busy arguing to notice the oily black fin sliding through the moonless waters. The furious whispers rustled the leaves shadowing the shore as their feet muttered across the crushed shells.
“Just cut the damn chain and let's get out of here. This place creeps me out. Who knows what's in those trees.”
“Don't be soft. Grab those paddles; we can get something for them too. What an idiot leaving all this down here. Who leaves a perfectly good boat where just anyone can come by?”
“I don't care. Just hurry up. It's cold and creepy, and I can't get busted again.”
“Whatever.” The bolt cutters snapped, cracking the night and making both thieves jump. “There. Done. Help me push off, then you take that kayak.”
“How come you get the motor and I have to paddle?”
“Jeez. Is there anything you won't whine about? I thought you were the one in a hurry. Quit griping and shove me off.”
The dinghy crunched across the shells and rocks before sliding into the silvery blackness. An owl's hollow cry muffled the muttered swearing and splashing as the kayak was shoved off the shore. The small outboard motor sputtered, died, and sputtered again to a coughing start as the two small craft drifted with the currents between the islands.
“What's this black crap?” The kayaker's voice echoed over the water.
“Shut up.” The whisper wasn't much quieter. “What black crap?"
“There's some weird stuff on my paddle. It's kinda oily and gooey looking.”
“Probably seaweed. Quit being so weak.”
“It's like it's sliding up the paddle. Ugh… It just touched my hand.”
“Gross…heyyy…” The scornful voice shifted. “There's something on the sides of this boat, too. It's oozing up from the motor. I wonder if there's an oil leak or something.”
“Did you see that?” The kayaker's whispered shout breached the darkness. “There! That white thing. It looks like an eye in the water.”
“Where? I don't see anything. Heck, I can't even see you.” The sputtering motor cut, leaving silence lapping at the sides of the boats. “Now something's clogged up the motor. I'll see if I can get it free.”
The thief in the kayak heard only a strangled slurp as the bow of the now empty dinghy nuzzled into his boat's side. With a gasp, he raised his paddle to shove it off. A black sheet streamed along the handle, enveloping his arm.
A white oval rolled in the water, tipping a triangle of black into the air.
The stolen craft were found beached on a nearby shore the next morning, smeared with the oily prints of grasping hands.