Night of the Beast

Welcome to Oakwood, Missouri population 1,013, a small town that is just about to have its foundation rocked due to an event so small it would take a microscope to view.

At a rave in a decrepit warehouse in Kansas City, Missouri, a young man performs a head-first dive onto a concrete floor. It isn't readily apparent if it was deliberate suicide or the result of a dissociative episode caused by drugs. Kansas City detectives Quinton Belford and Emanuel Ortega, investigating the incident, uncover evidence indicating that a new designer drug has hit the streets, a powerful hallucinogen with a sophisticated chemical signature and a catchy trade name: Oakwood Gold. It's cheap, it's powerful, and it can be deadly. The two detectives begin an investigation to find the source of the new synthetic, unaware their investigation is going to lead them on a hunt they never expected, and confront them with a foe they didn't know existed.

There is a world where splicing is done, not with a sharp blade, but with a carefully prepared chemical formula. It is a microscopic universe of protein strands, tiny building blocks; the very foundations of life as we know it. The genome, chains of proteins that form an instruction set for building an organism, have been, until recently, beyond the limits of direct manipulation by science. The splice, breaking a protein sequence, leaving an incomplete strand of genetic material, can, with current technology, be completed by inserting a new strand of information in place of the sequence that had been removed. Once linked, the completed chain with new instructions may be used as a blueprint to build a new organism; an organism that may have never existed before, as Dr. Anton Kirilova, Lead Geneticist for VetAmerica discovers.

The small town of Oakwood, Missouri, had enjoyed a tranquil way of life for many decades. Crimes that had grown to plague major metropolitan areas such as Kansas City and St. Louis seemed remote events in the small town; only something to be seen on television or heard on the radio. Residents watched with mixed emotions at changes wrought by their new neighbors, a large research facility, run by a corporate conglomerate, which had provided jobs and spurred modest growth in the area. Two local residents hunting are caught unaware as an experiment in transgenic splicing leaves the confines of its controlled laboratory environment for a walk on the wild side!

Crazy Otis Shelton, town-drunk emeritus, warns anyone within earshot about the "Pigs from Hell". However, Otis has a creditability issue, generated by previous warnings to all within hearing distance about Bigfoot stalking the nearby woods. Most residents of Oakwood attribute Crazy Otis' ravings, which have exchanged a mythical creature haunting the woods with devil pigs, as a result of Otis switching from bourbon to gin. But when two hunters, both local boys, disappear, it becomes more difficult to dismiss his rants as merely alcohol-induced hallucinations.

Welcome to Oakwood, Missouri population 1,013, a small town where you can get a good burger, have a drink, and listen to live music, no cover. Just beware of the nightlife; it can be a real killer!


      

“No more gin,” Otis slurred. This would never have happened if he had been drinking good bourbon, instead of gin, he reasoned. He would stick to bourbon from now on, the hell with the gin—no more gin. At least, not after this bottle he swore, taking another long pull from the bottle. He closed his eyes and rubbed his eyelids with the back of his hand. Gin made your breath smell like a Christmas tree had just farted and made you see giant, ugly pigs. Otis chuckled at the thought. But once he stopped shaking, he pulled his knees up against his skinny chest and wrapped his arms around them. There wasn’t much humor in what he had just seen.

Otis had seen any number of strange things wandering through the woods. He was willing to concede that on occasion what he’d seen was simply a figment of his imagination. Fueled by alcohol, there were occasions when he had managed to escape the boundaries of his empty existence. But, this was different. Otis knew no matter how much he drank, the nightmare he saw peering up at him through the fog was something beyond his imagination. He also knew, with a certainty, he wasn’t getting out of the tree while it was still dark. No sir, no way, no how. Taking another deep swig of the gin remaining in his bottle, Otis settled down to wait for sunrise. Three fingers of gin later it dawned on him why he hadn’t seen Bigfoot lately. Those devil pigs done ate him, by God!


      

The skull is a fossil of an entelodont, Archaeotherium mortoni, a distant relative of modern pigs, that existed from the Eocene through the Oligocene epoch. They did not have tusks but did sport canine teeth up to six inches in length.The largest entelodont, Daeodon was even larger. The skull could be three-feet long, and the animal stood nearly 6 feet tall at the shoulder. Estimates of live weight range from 1,320 lbs. to over a ton. Entelodonts were one of the larger animals in their habitat. Their dentition indicates a very high jaw strength and extreme tooth wear. They had large canines, much like modern carnivores. Analysis has noted a characteristic "pie crust" fracture wear on the triangular premolars of Archaeotherium a feature also seen in modern hyenas, which suggests they possessed a degree of specialization for bone-eating. Like modern pigs, entelodonts had flat crushing molars to process a variety of foods; fruits, nuts, invertebrates, fungi, and other animals. They were omnivores, surviving by scavenging carcasses, hunting, and browsing. Their size and teeth suggest they would consume just about anything that wasn't fast enough to get away from them!

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Order a copy of the Kindle version or purchase a Print edition today! The image of the skull is from a digital photo taken at the University of Wisconsin Museum of Geology.