A dog lay on the porch just out of the hot, afternoon sun. The casual observer would think that he was sound asleep. Odd, on a sunny afternoon like today. Must be an old dog, too tired to investigate the summer meadow that surrounded the old cabin. The dog, however, was not asleep. On close inspection the ears were cocked; on occasion rotating like radio telescopes, listening, while the dog barely breathed. Without warning he sprung up, fully alert, watching the path to the creek bed.
Jake came sauntering up the pathway, wet to his thighs. Even in the warm sun he was shivering from the chill water. He carried a satchel, one he had carried for many years as he made his daily trek to the creek bed. It wasn’t fish he was after. No. Neither dog nor man could eat the fish in that stream. Long ago the runoff from farms and mines further upstream had tainted his catch. Now he relied on other sources of food. He and his dog.
Adele sat in front of her screen and tried to make sense of the readings forming on the charts in front of her. She had monitored output from this particular site for over two years and she had never seen this particular combination of chemicals and byproducts. In some ways she hated her job. She was supposed to be a safety inspector. Someone who reported when levels of waste were toxic and should not be released into the river banks below. But those reports never seemed to get to the right desk.
The filtering plant they had constructed a year ago did not follow the design drafted by the engineers. She wasn’t sure if it was time or money or both, but it sure didn’t do the job is was supposed to. She had seen the original plans, it should have worked, but it didn’t. In fact, things seemed to be getting worse. What she could not understand was the change that was occurring. Why were these things combining this way? They should be breaking down in to less hazardous byproducts, not building something new.
The hunt for how life sparks had been going on for decades. Some labs had found ways to combine inorganic chemicals to create amino acids. Even some of the building blocks of RNA had been created in laboratory circumstances. Research had also been conducted on the possible formation of the first cells membranes; something absolutely required in the creation of a living thing. A wall that says, me and not me. Science had failed, however, to find that spark, the leap from inorganic chemistry to organic life. Some, of course, felt the question could not be answered by science alone. Adele was uncommitted.
Throughout her career, Adele had kept an open mind on the origin of life. She knew there were holes in evolutionary theory, but for all intents and purposes, it was a good working model. If only biologists could learn the same sanguine method of addressing questions as physicists had. Most physicists just followed the numbers and didn’t worry too much about the argument. Ask a biologist something that sounded like you were a true believer and more times than not, well, Adele just didn’t have the patience. It was probably the reason she chose inorganic chemistry. It seemed safer. Until today.
Something was happening in the slush pond above the drainage field and Adele was pretty certain she wasn’t going to figure it out sitting behind a computer screen. A field trip was in order. Knowing that people were touchy about samples being taken from the ponds she planned her trip at a time she might not be disturbed. She could work up some preliminary tests in her home lab. If there was something interesting she would figure out what to do next.
Jake and his dog entered the old cabin and Jake put the hare he had snared on the kitchen counter. He had dressed it in the field to make sure that it was healthy and unharmed. Since his rabbits were kept in a separate pen far from the creek and given filtered water, he really hoped they would be fine. At least for a bit longer. He and dog would be moving soon. Really, couldn’t stay much longer. Nope. Not after what he found in the creek, under the trees, on this sunny afternoon.