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    Anomaly
    John Owens
    Do mermaids exist? Discovery of a strange fossil in the storm-washed dunes of a Florida beach forces a couple into the devil's triangle and into the hands of a reclusive genetic scientist. Transgenic global preparation is secretly underway in the depths of the Atlantic involving supernatural forces.

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    book excerpt

    GREEN PORT BEACH, FLORIDA - Joel Landon wouldn’t miss his morning beach run, even with a category-four hurricane slamming the shore. A good storm sweeps out the trash. He was pumping south, energized by the wind. Churning waves pushed glistening foam across his path as runoffs cut through the sand. He loved where he lived, the rhythmic sounds of the sea, the smell of the air and the crunch of coquina beneath his feet. Good riddance to the treadmill and big city crowds.
    Close to his usual turn-around, he heard a female voice, but saw no-one, just the cloudy seascape to the south, bending palms and water-streaked dunes to the west.
    “Midnight.” Her cry came again.
    Joel slowed his pace and rounded a dune. There she stood in a gray fitness hoodie, slightly over five feet tall, looking away. He stopped.
    “Midni–” She turned and faced Joel, her hand reaching into a pouch at her waist. “Keep your distance!”
    Joel lifted his arms.
    Her hand withdrew and tossed back the hood revealing a familiar face and brown shoulder-length hair blowing in the wind. “Isn’t your name Joel?”
    “Amber?” He had seen her a few times at the weekly recovery meetings.
    “Thank God.”
    “You were going to shoot me?”
    “Of course not.”
    “So, who’s Midnight?”
    “My black lab. He ran ahead of me somewhere into the dunes.”
    “Haven’t seen him, but let’s look.” The hurricane was eroding the coast on its pathway north, opening up new areas.
    “Midnight likes to explore. What are you doing here?”
    “I’ve got a place just up the beach.”
    “I didn’t know there were any homes in this area.”
    “No regular homes.”
    “Don’t say it - You’re the boat guy.”
    “My reputation gets around.” Joel led the search through the dunes. “What brings you to my beach?”
    “Oh, it’s your beach?” Amber had an attractive smile.
    “Not really, but I like to meet those who visit.”
    “Fair enough. We recently moved into a rental trailer at Oceanside RV Park – less expensive than an apartment, and right on the beach.”
    “We?”
    “Me and my rescue dog, Midnight.” Amber walked along with Joel, both alert for any sign.
    “So you like all animals, or just dogs?”
    “Most animals. It helps in my work.”
    “Your work. Are you a vet?”
    “Not me. I assist the doctor at Beaches Animal Clinic.” Amber stopped. “I hear Midnight.”
    An excited bark could be heard to the north. Following the sound they ran further up, away from the water. Finally they spotted some movement through the sea oats near the bottom of a huge dune.
    “Midnight?” Amber called, while continuing to move closer.
    The dog was deeply occupied, growling and glued to its spot.
    Water run-off from the higher inland elevation had eroded a sharp trench through the center of the dune, and it was at its base that the dog was digging furiously. Heaps of sand had been moved, exposing a long bony object.
    “What have you found?” Amber pulled a leash from the open pouch at her waist. “Midnight! Come!” She went to the animal and attached it. Reluctantly the dog yielded to her tug, still barking and growling as Amber restrained him.
    Joel glanced from the dog to Amber’s face, following her gaze to the dug out area.
    A well-preserved, possibly fossilized, massive fish skeleton at least six feet long lay unearthed, stretching from its fluked tail down toward the sea. He figured that it had been buried for a long time. “Some fish,” breathed Joel.
    Amber edged closer while shortening the leash on Midnight. “Those appendages on the sides don’t look very much like fish fins.”
    Joel stepped forward to inspect the fish, fossil, or whatever it was. What she said was true. Two opposite sets of bones stretched from the upper part of the skeleton outward from each side, just like… “arms?”
    “Sea cows or dugongs have arm-like appendages,” said Amber.
    Joel grabbed a piece of driftwood and pushed it into the dirt just below one of the unusual bones and slowly levered it up. What appeared connected was a shock –a splay of finger-like bones. “Do sea cows have appendages like these?”
    At first Amber was silent, still intently studying the mysterious remains while trying to keep Midnight away. “Can you get the head up?”
    Joel brushed that end with his stick exposing the surface of a large rounded bone. He then started to lift. At first it held tight, then something snapped and up it popped. Joel stepped back.
    “If I didn’t know better…” Amber couldn’t complete the sentence.
    Joel was also at a loss for words. Such things didn’t exist. He slowly scanned the skeleton again – the distinct fluked tail and fish-like lower body. Then above a pelvic area, the spine and rib cage, arms, neck and skull – almost half-human, except for one thing.
    “There’s no jaw,” he said, with a sigh of relief.
    Amber was pointing to a pile of dirt not three feet from the head. “What’s that?”
    Joel saw a protruding bone that Midnight was sniffing, stepped closer, and slowly worked it free from the pile. He could feel his heart thump.
    "What is it?" Midnight responded with another bark as Amber knelt for a better look. "Sit!" Finally the dog obeyed her command.
    Joel ran a finger over the large dark teeth. There were two rows with a few broken off and missing. The width of the jaw was well over a foot. "He may have found a primitive shark. They have double rows." What does the Vet's assistant think?"
    "We don't work on sharks, but if this is from one, a lot has changed. The teeth look freakishly human. And the structure of the mandible... It seems to match the skull."
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