The small, isolated town of Oak Hollow is actually relatively ordinary as far as the places I investigate are concerned. It was refreshing to be around friendly, welcoming people, considering everyone I encountered over the past several months. But the real reason Oak Hollow is on the map are the rumors of a mysterious beast that lives in the surrounding forest. Unfortunately, during my visit I was informed that the beast was apparently in its hibernation cycle, so I’ll have to stop back next time I’m in the area.
“May I refill your drink?” the waitress asked, interrupting Evaira as she read the diary entry.
“Yes, thank you,” Evaira said.
The waitress poured some soda into Evaira’s glass, and then walked to the next table in the small town restaurant where Evaira and Bill were dining.
“Liza is right,” Evaira said, “the friendly people here are a welcome change of pace, I mean, considering places like Carlsburn or Calmview.”
“Well,” Bill said, “as far as we know, these are ordinary humans. They’re not trying to hide their true identities. The only strange thing here is a beast in the forest, just some local legend, I guess.”
“So,” Evaira said, “Liza wrote down her plan to find this beast in her diary. Do you think we can implement the same plan?”
“I don’t know,” Bill said, “but this hardly seems like the type of thing we should be talking about on a date.”
“A date?” Evaira asked, surprised and confused by Bill’s comment, “this is a date?”
“What do you think it is?” Bill asked.
“You just asked me to have dinner at the café,” Evaira said, “we have dinner together every night already; I thought you just wanted a change of environment.”
“No,” Bill said, “I was talking about a date. Otherwise I would have asked Alpha and Chira to come along.”
“But Alpha doesn’t eat,” Evaira said, “and Chira can’t be seen in public. Besides, Chira’s too busy stalking the forests for the beast.”
“Oh,” Bill said, “I guess I should have been more specific. I’m sorry. So should we make this a date, then?”
“I don’t think so,” Evaira said, “I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to be dating anybody, especially after what happened with my last boyfriend.”
Though deep inside, she was also a bit uncertain about the idea of dating a shapeshifter.
But before their conversation could continue, a woman burst in the front door of the restaurant.
“He’s gone!” she cried, “My son Tommy’s gone!”
At this point, all the conversations in the café grew silent, and the people turned to face the woman who had just entered.
“June,” one of the waitresses said, approaching her, “what happened?”
“It was the beast,” June said, “my son was playing in the forest, and hasn’t come back! All we found was his jacket on the ground, torn. The beast took him!”
The people in the café were surprised.
“My husband’s in the town square,” June continued, “he’s gathering a search party to go into the woods and hunt the beast. We need your help.”
Most of the people in the café left to go to the town square and join the search party.
“Well,” Bill said, “looks like we arrived at a rather interesting time.”
“Let’s go to the town square,” Evaira said, “ and see what’s going on.”
Bill and Evaira got up and followed the townspeople to the center of town. The townspeople were gathering around the fountain, where a somewhat muscular, dark-haired man with a goatee stood. Evaira suspected he was June’s husband, and the missing boy’s father.
“We’ve ignored this beast,” the man rallied, “we figured that if we left it alone, it would leave us alone. But as we let the monster live, it’s taken one of our own: my son! We must get Tommy back from the beast, and make sure this beast doesn’t take anybody else!”
The townspeople cheered with agreement.
“It’s time we go hunting,” the man said, “Now the beast could be anywhere in this forest, so we’ll have to split up. Dawson, Mitchell, you two gather a group and search the forests north of the town.”
“Right, Martin” one man, obviously either Dawson or Mitchell, replied.
“Johnson,” Martin added, “You lead a group and search the eastern forests, and the area near the old stone bridge.”
“That’s over by old George’s place,” Johnson replied, “We can borrow some torches and pitchforks from him.”
“Ross,” Martin continued, “you and Morris lead a group in the western forests, by the main road out of town, and I will personally lead the search in the south forests. It’s time we kill the beast.”
The mob cheered.
“But are you sure we have to kill it?” one man asked, “It’s mostly just left us alone. Do we really have any evidence that it was the beast that took Tommy, and he didn’t just go walk off on his own?”
“It was the beast,” Martin said, “Tommy was playing alone in the forest when he disappeared, and I saw the beast’s tracks in that area. If we don’t stop the beast, it might take more people! We must kill the beast!”
“Kill the beast!” the mob cried.
“He’s sure got a lot of influence over this mob,” Bill whispered to Evaia.
“Yes,” Evaira said, “but I’m concerned that one guy might be right. A previously peaceful beast wouldn’t just kidnap a child for no reason. I think there’s more going on here. We should go looking for the beast ourselves.”
“But there’s so many of the townspeople going out to search and they know much more about this area then we do,” Bill said.
“True,” Evaira said, “but we have resources they don’t. Come on!”
Evaira and Bill walked to a small, partially overgrown, parking lot at the edge of the forest where the RV was parked. Evaira called into the forest for Chira. Shortly Chira climbed out of the brush on the site of the crumbly pavement. The little grounder was difficult to see as you blended in with the foliage.
“There you are,” Chira said, “you’re later than you said you’d be.”
“The townspeople are hunting the beast,” Evaira said, “they think it’s taken a child. I think something more is going on, though. Any luck locating it?”
“I didn’t see the beast,” Chira said, “but I suspect it’s staying not too far from here, in the southern part of the forest.”
“Why do you say that?” Bill asked.
“Certain smells,” Chira said, “sounds. And a general lack of activity. Big beasts like this one scare away all the forest life.”
“Then we’ll start searching the southern forests,” Bill said.
“Alpha,” Evaira called, “Come out here for a moment.”
“As you request,” Alpha’s voice replied, as their robotic friend stepped out of the RV.
“Can you do an infrared scan of the southern forests,” Evaira said, “and locate the beast.”
“As you request,” Alpha said again.
Alpha paused as he turned his head, and began looking around the forest, scanning it for the beast.
“The beast is located at approximately 208 degrees,” Alpha explained, “at a distance of 1.962 miles.”
“Guess we’ll need the dirt bikes,” Bill said.
“Not a good idea,” Evaira said, “the noise will scare the beast off. Alpha, Chira, come on. We’re going to walk over to where Alpha says the beast is and see what’s going on.”
“Right,” Chira said.
They walked into the woods, and continued to hike through the woods, led by Alpha. After walking for a while, they approached a small clearing, with a stone cave on the edge.
“This must be the beast’s lair,” Evaira said, “am I right, Alpha?”
“Based on my infrared readings,” Alpha replied, “the beast is inside the cave, along with another reading of a much smaller person, human.”
“That must be the kidnapped boy,” Evaira said, “it’s time we figure out what’s going on. Bill, get ready to shapeshift. If the beast does turn out to be aggressive, we’re going to need your help.”
“Of course,” Bill said.
“Then let’s move,” Evaira said, “quietly.”
Evaira stepped into the clearing in front of the cave. The others followed her. They approached the cave, slowly, careful not to attract the beast’s attention. Then, they heard a cracking noise. Bill had inadvertently stepped on a stick.
“Sorry,” he said to Evaira.
Evaira put her finger over her mouth.
“Oh, right,” Bill said, realizing what he did.
Evaira and Chira quietly sighed. As they did so, they heard a growling noise coming from inside the cave. Then, they heard approaching footsteps. The beast had heard them.
“Quick, hide,” Evaira said, quietly, but clearly in a rush.
Evaira prepared to step into the bushes, but before she made it out of the clearing, she saw the beast emerge from the cave, obviously very angry.
The beast was very large, about seven to eight feet tall. It stood on two legs, and had two arms, much like a human, except the legs were digitigrade. The body was coated in brownish-black fur, it had long, sharp claws on the ends of its paws and on its feet. Its face was very furry, but in the fur, you could see two large golden eyes, and a mouthful of sharp teeth.
The beast held its arms in the air, and roared. Chira quickly ducked her head into the ground, concealing herself from view.
“What do we do?” Bill asked.
“The thing to do with bears is to back away slowly,” Evaira said, “maybe that will work here.”
Evaira started to step back towards the woods, very slowly. The beast began to follow her. It then turned to look at Bill. Bill ducked behind Alpha. Alpha remained motionless.
“Alpha,” Evaira said, “get the beast!”
“As you request,” Alpha answered.
Alpha quickly stepped towards the beast. The beast turned to him, but before the beast did anything, Alpha grabbed the beast’s claw. When he did, the beast froze.
“What’s he doing?” Bill asked.
“He’s using his power as a weapon,” Evaira said, “He’s giving the beast a shock.”
“We’re trying to kill the beast?” Bill asked, surprised.
“Not kill,” Chira said, peeking her head out of the ground, “we’re not killers. That move is meant to stun enemies, not kill.”
“It should give us enough time to get away.” Evaira said, “Get ready.”
They prepared to run.
“Alpha,” Evaira cried, “enough!”
Alpha let go of the beast. It fell to the ground. They began to run, but before they got into the trees, the beast stood up, and roared again. It began to pursue them.
“Run!” Evaira said.
That was all she could think to do, but fortunately, before they got very far, they heard another loud voice cry “Stop!”
The creature stopped in its tracks. Evaira, Bill, and Chira turned back to see what had happened. They saw the child was standing outside the cave. He looked completely unharmed, but even stranger was the fact that the beast obeyed the child.
“They are not the bad guys!” he said, “let them be.”
The creature stopped, and walked back to the child. The child rubbed the creature’s leg.
“Okay,” Bill said, “now, I’m confused.”
“You’re Tommy, aren’t you?” Evaira asked the child.
“Yeah,” Tommy said, “but who are you?”
“My name’s Evaira,” Evaira said, “these are my friends. We were in town investigating the beast.”
“Investigating the beast?” Tommy asked.
“Yes,” Evaira said, “but why is the beast so friendly to you.”
“He’s my friend,” Tommy said.
“Your friend?” Bill asked.
“He’s a lot friendlier than most people think,” Tommy said.
“But the people in town,” Evaira said, “your father has them thinking the beast kidnapped you. He’s got some people forming a mob, trying to kill the beast.”
“Then we’ll have to hide,” Tommy said, obviously scared by the idea, “and quickly! Don’t tell anybody we’re here, please!”
“If you’re out here,” Evaira said, “and were gone long enough for them to be forming a lynch mob, you must have run away from home…”
“It’s not like that,” Tommy cried.
He pulled up his shirt, revealing several large bruises.
“What happened to you?” Evaira asked.
“Dad,” Tommy said.
They followed Tommy and the beast into the cave. They all sat around a small fire.
“So, your dad beats you?” Evaira asked.
“Yes,” Tommy said, “he gets in these fits, and, well…”
“This is serious,” Evaira said, “you should have told your mom, or the police.”
“Mom’s too scared to do anything about it,” Tommy said, “and my dad is friends with a lot of the policemen. They’ll just take his side. That’s why I ran out here with my friend. He protects me.”
“But isn’t it difficult living out here, just the two of you,” Evaira asked.
“He can’t hit me here,” Tommy said, “I do miss living in town, but at least here, I’ll be safer. And my friend gets me whatever I need: dinner, something to play with…”
“Unfortunately,” Bill said, “right now, it looks like it’s the beast that needs protection.”
“If they’re all hunting the beast,” Evaira said, “Eventually, somebody will find this cave. We can only hide him for so long.”
“But what can we do?” Tommy asked, looking at the beast, scared and uncertain.
“I think the only way we can really help the beast is if we could tell the townspeople the truth,” Evaira said, “but they probably won’t believe Bill or myself. We’re just a couple strangers passing through. Tommy, you’re the only one they might believe.”
“I can’t go back there,” he said, “dad will beat me again.”
“Besides,” Chira added, “most of the townspeople are already hunting the beast.”
“Who said that,” Tommy asked looking for Chira.
As it was difficult for Chira to camouflage herself against the stone floor of the cave, Chira was hiding in a shadowy area.
“That was me,” Evaira said quickly, trying to keep Chira’s existence secret, “practicing my…uh…voice acting skills.”
“Real smooth, Evaira,” Chira muttered under her breath.
Despite Evaira’s obvious lie, Tommy seemed to believe it, or at least, not care in light of the circumstances.
“Anyway,” Evaira said, “we need to find a way to gather the townspeople. Maybe we can plant some misleading evidence about the beast’s whereabouts.”
“Good idea,” Bill said, “or I could make myself look like the beast, get noticed, and draw their attention.”
“You can do that,” Tommy asked surprised.
“I’m somewhat of a master of disguise,” Bill said.
“Except that nose of yours,” Evaira added.
“If it will fool the townspeople,” Tommy said, “but it won’t have to be very good for that. Not many of them have seen the beast.”
“And if you don’t want to be seen,” Evaira said to Tommy, “I can record a cell phone video of you telling your story and what your father has done to you for the mob.”
“That would be great,” Tommy said, “let’s get started.”
“Then we’d better go outside,” Evaira said, “I can’t get a good video in this lighting.”
They proceeded outside the cave. Tommy walked ahead, anxious for them to put their plan into place, but the moment he stepped into the light, everything changed.
“You are in big trouble, young man!” a very angry voice cried out.
Evaira recognized the voice immediately. It was Martin, Tommy’s father.
“You thought you wouldn’t get in trouble if you ran away,” Martin’s voice said, growing angrier, as he approached the entrance to the cave.
“He knew Tommy ran away?” Bill whispered to Evaira. Evaira and Bill were still too deep in the cave to be seen by Martin.
“I suspected that when Tommy told us the truth,” Evaira said, “he’s blaming the beast for what he’s done to his son. It is a convenient excuse for the bruises and the other townspeople wouldn’t suspect him.”
“Stop!” Tommy pleaded.
But Martin came closer. Evaira and Bill prepared to act to stop him, but before they could do anything, they felt a gush of wind as the beast ran past them!
The beast approached Martin, growling angrily. Martin stepped back twice, and the beast stood right in front of him.
“Stand back, you monster,” Martin said, aiming a shotgun he was carrying at the beast.
But before he could act, the beast swung its claws at the shotgun, knocking it out of Martin’s hand, and to the ground. The beast then growled even louder. Martin had just made it angrier.
The beast swung its claw at Martin. Though he struggled to defend himself, and evade the beast’s attacks, the beast was too quick, and strong. The claw left a large mark across Martin’s chest, and knocked him to the ground.
Martin weakly struggled against the beast, but soon fell unconscious. The beast then reached its claw into the air, preparing for the fatal blow.
“Enough!” Tommy cried, knowing he didn’t want anybody to die.
The beast was about to lower its claw, but before it could, they heard gunfire. Another man had approached from the forest. He had just shot the beast.
“No!” Tommy pleaded, “Stop!”
But before he could do anything, sounds of several gunshots rang through the air. More of Martin’s hunting party had emerged from the woods, and were shooting bullets into the beast. Tommy continued to plead for them to stop, but it was no good. The beast soon had enough, and fell to the ground, dead.
“No!” Tommy cried again, as he ran over to the beast’s corpse, and began to cry over it. Tommy’s mother, June, approached him and hugged him, for she knew what really was going on.
Evaira was initially angered and upset that the townspeople shot the beast, but soon realized that they did not know the full story; all they saw was the beast about to kill Martin, and they were protecting their fellow citizen. She cooled down, and stepped out of the cave.
“I think you made a mistake,” Evaira said.
“What do you mean?” one of the shooters asked, “and who are you?”
“My name’s Evaira,” Evaira said, “my friends and I were just passing through town to investigate the beast. Well, we were until you killed it.”
“It was attacking Martin,” the shooter said.
“It was protecting Tommy,” Evaira corrected, “I saw the bruises. Martin beats him. Tommy ran away from him, and the beast protected him.”
The shooters all heard Evaira’s claims. Most of them were surprised by the claim, but given Tommy’s reaction to what happened, they weren’t so quick to dismiss it.
“I have proof,” Evaira said, “Alpha, did you record the whole thing? Martin approaching the cave and threatening Tommy?”
“Yes, Miss Evaira,” Alpha answered.
“Tommy,” one of the shooters said, “is this true?”
Tommy was too distraught by the event to speak, but he nodded yes.
“With the beast gone,” Evaira said, “we’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. But before we go, we’ll drop off the footage with the local police.”
“Then Martin will be taken to the hospital,” the shooter said, “and if what you’re saying is true, he’ll answer for beating Tommy as soon as he’s released.”
“Then we’ll head back to town,” Evaira said, “There’s nothing more we can do here.”
Bill looked sadly on the scene for a moment, before accompanying Evaira, Chira, and Alpha back towards the town. As they walked through the forest, Evaira and the others talked about the beast.
“You know,” she said, “I wonder what that beast was. It didn’t look quite like a sasquatch. Could it be some cryptid we’ve never seen before?”
“Maybe,” Chira said, “but I have a different idea. Remember the cavadorono?”
“Cavodorono?” Bill asked.
“That’s the name some locals gave to a strange creature we encountered some time before we met you,” Evaira said, “we figured out that it was a genetically engineered hybrid of several animals. You think the beast of Oak Hollow is the same?”
“It’s a theory,” Chira said.
“Well,” Evaira said, “it’s certainly a good idea, especially considering the connections. I’ll have Alpha look into it”. “Alpha, did you get good data of the beast and good picture as well?”
Alpha answered, “Yes, Miss Evaira.”
“But if the beast was genetically engineered,” Bill said, “who created it?”
Two nights later, a red-haired man got off his motorcycle and entered a morgue in Oak Hollow. He approached the beast’s corpse, which was being held there while the townspeople decided what to do with it. He pulled out his cell phone and made a call.
“Professor,” he said, “this is Axel. I have located the escaped experiment number 605. It’s dead.”
“I see,” the professor’s voice replied, “Is the corpse intact?”
“Yes,” Axel answered, “though it was clearly shot twice at close range.”
“Then its corpse may still contain some useful information,” the professor’s voice replied over the phone, “Can you send your GPS signal?”
“Of course,” Axel said.
“Then we should have the corpse sent to Area Six for a necropsy,” the Professor said, “I’ll pull some strings to make it happen.”
“Also,” Axel said, “there’s evidence that Liza’s sister was here too…”
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
Another story with a twist – I love twists. Making him look like a concerned father before revealing his true face at the end. And the townspeople still didn’t know when they saw the beast attacking – what you see is not always the way things are. Evaira knew that from experience, but the townspeople sure didn’t.
In describing the beast, I wanted it to seem like a wild animal, dangerous and threatening-looking, with some familiar traits, but not like your standard creature, before making him seem more human-like when Tommy tells his story. It was basically a fun story to write, and probably my favorite Evaira story to date.