When we left the Convention Center the Chief was determined, anxious, confused and frustrated. She had planned this trip with plenty of time to do everything and now time did not seem to be on our side.
I was rattled. Though our radios and cell phones still did, the satellite phones didn't work and I didn't know how to get them fixed. I still wasn't sure where we were or where we were going, and how we were getting there. The heat had me soaked and partched, despite the fact that at each of our stops we had watered up with commercial bottled water. The thing I had almost seen kept nagging at my memory, I don't know if it was because I vaguely, hauntingly remembered glimpsing something like it before, or because it was wholly unlike anything I had ever experienced. I busied myself between the map and my watch. I wasn't about to be caught off guard by the time at least, or so I determined.
Now she brought up my aleged sighting again. "I wonder what that was you saw sir."
"I probably didn't see anything, maybe some floating Spanish moss."
She didn't seem to think so, "Didn't you say it swam away? Did it come up and down?"
I tried not to think about it, so I didn't answer her, but it didn't dissuade her from continuing the conversation without me. She suggested it was some sort of domestic animal, maybe a ferret or another more exotic pet. She told us of her pets at home. It was clear that she missed them. She was so young that she still lived at home with her family, and there were several more animals in the house, but a particular dog and cat seemed to be hers alone. She mixed wondering if they were being well cared for, with wondering if we would see my cryptozoophyte. She was excited to be trying different routes, most with at least some water on them.
I wondered aloud if going through the water were a good idea since we really didn't know how deep it was. The Chief agreed and said we wouldn't go down streets unless we could clearly see that we would not be swamped under.
We kept a sharp eye out. In a way it emboldened the Private to go down streets with water, where she avoided them as a rule. Now the rule had changed and she seemed to joyfully plunge forward.
After what my watch told me was just under an hour and my memory told me was far less we heard the distant sound of choral singing.
"Do you hear that?" The Chief asked. I was surprised because with my less than stellar hearing I couldn't at first and it was jarring that the Chief would mention something that so clearly did not advance her mission.
"It sounds like someone is going to church," Brown added while I still could not hear it.
When it finally crept up on my hearing like a train in the night passing far off, I recognized it. At least I thought I did at first. "I think it's a mosque," I said.
Chief Mac agreed that it had the tone and rhythm of Islamic Arabic, but she swore she didn't recognize any of the words. It was never loud enough for me to make out individual words, because almost as soon as I heard it, we turned down a different street and the ghostly a'cappella died away again.
"Is it close to nightfall?" I asked, wondering if it could be a mosque and since I really didn't trust my sense of time anymore, and I looked at my watch. It wasn't any closer to night as the sound had been audible for only a few seconds. "Odd," I said and as soon as I did, still looking down at my watch, a shape appeared in my peripheral vision.
"What?" Both women asked, but I made no reply, I sat stone still and without even turning my eyes focused on what I thought I was seeing.
In the wake from our tires, the water coming to just below where the door openings were, there was another bump in the waters. It was the kind of bump a submerged log makes in a river flowing swiftly over it. The watery disturbance was longer than the opening for the door and wider than my thighs.
The water flowed smoothly over it, then as it rose closer to the surface the water began to undulate as the texture of what lay beneath started to affect the flow. Just before it pulled away from us and plunged completely out of sight again I thought I saw something break the surface.
"Do you see it again?" Brown asked excitedly.
"It's bigger than I thought before."
"Is it still there?"
"No, it's gone - not near us now," I said as a shiver ran up my spine.
"It's not a dog or rat then?" The Chief said.
"No, it's too big. I dont' think it's a mammal at all," I said and pulled out my map. I wanted to think about something else, anything else.
"I know, it was an alligator!" Brown declared more excited than frightened, "There are alligator in the streets, wow."
"I'm sure it wasn't an alligator," the Chief said, I said nothing. I was sure it wasn't an alligator as well because I had seen part of it and I was sure alligators didn't have tentacles.