MacWarren's Sandbox

"Are we there yet?" Marie asked, fiddling with her fingers. She looked out the car window to her left as she put her middle finger to her mouth, biting on the nail.

"No biting, Mar." Lena scolded her as her gaze met Marie's.

"Babe, tell her." She said.

He was too busy driving down the dirt road. He realized that wherever he was supposed to go, was pointless. He should've just gone with his gut and made another left at the last corner. Going all this way for a vacation was starting to get muddled by the thoughts of having a hot shower and a cold bed to sleep in. They had been inside the car since three in the morning to get to the "nice spot" that he promised them.

"Babe."

He noticed something off about the sky, it wasn't normal. It had an eerie haze to it.

"Greg…"

"Hm? What?" He said as he was brought back to reality.

He had been driving for almost six hours non-stop.

"Well? Aren't you going to tell your daughter?" She asked with a scowl.

"Tell what?" He was confused. He was looking at her and gave a lazy expression. "What do you want?"

"Nevermind. Lena was rolling her eyes. "Want me to take over?" She asked.

"Sure." He steps out of the car and go to the other side, Lena did as well. "You know, Greg, I have a feeling that you don't know where the hell we are." She said as she went over to the front, smiling. "You could've asked me to open-"

"No, no, no, I told you that we weren't going to lose our way." He retorted back at her. "I am not going to have any of this. You and I know that."

"Sure." The woman replied sarcastically. There was nothing but vast plains that stretched on for miles. Not a single soul to be seen.

Greg rolled his eyes. He wanted to stay out of this and not argue with her anymore. He'd already argued with enough people trying to get out of here.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see two squatting structures.

"Hey." He said tugging at Lena's shoulder. "Let's go there." He pointed towards the distance of where he saw the structures.
Lena squinted her eyes. "What do you mean there? There's nothing." She said.

"Look, Lena, just go there. Don't you think turning the wheel would be a nice change for once?" He asked his wife.

"Fine, so we're checking this out then, I suppose." She said turning over to the left. The turning of the car made everyone feel like there was a sense of progress being made.

As they drove closer, the environment around them slowly changed. The grass started to look strange, almost giving them a "fuzzy" look to them. The small structures in the distance soon turned out to be part of a small town. There were signs of people that were dressed radically differently from each other.

Marie was excited to see a glimpse of civilization, anything really, as long as it looked man-made, she would be happy to see more than just the same dirt path.

"Mom, is this the "nice spot" dad told us about?" She asked.

"No, I don't think so, sweetie," She looked over and found a decent space between one of the buildings close by. There were a few cars but most of them looked like they were dismantled.

As they left their car, Greg went into the apartment complex closest to them, Lena and Marie unpacked the back of the car. Most of the townsfolk were… "off",to say the least, they all had the same blank expression on their face.

Greg was still inside asking for directions to the nearest gas station, he was told there wouldn't be any for the next couple of miles so they had to stay here for the time being.

"How much for one of the rooms here?" He asked.

"Ah well, tourists and visitors from out of town get to stay one night for free." The attendant replied.

"Wait, what?" He stammered, confused. "You're saying that we get to stay here for the night for free? No strings attached?"

"Yup, only here at Cunningham Falls." The man replied.

"I- I'm sorry, what?" He stammered. He wasn't sure if he heard correctly.

"Cunningham Falls. The town you're in. He answered. "Didn't you see the sign on your way here?"

"Ah, no, I'm afraid I haven't."

Lena came inside, all their things were neatly packed and ready.

"Well?" She asked him."We're staying here?"

"Yeah, we're only staying here overnight anyway. You didn't have to put down all of our things you know." He told her.

"Whatever, you fix it. I hope this place is cheap." She said.

"Oh it's even better than cheap." His demeanor changed to having a more jovial outlook. "It's free."

"What? How?"

"Apparently, visitors and tourists get to spend the night here for free, so I guess we don't have to worry about spending money on gas or shelter!"

"Seriously." She asked sternly.

"I am."

"No strings attached?"

"As far as I'm aware, nope." He smiled at her.

"Alright then, Where's the room we'll be staying at?" She asked him.

"Your room will be on the second floor, Room 084. He handed him the silver-colored key. "We hope you enjoy your stay here and at Cunningham."

Greg grabbed the keys and the family went up the stairs. As soon as they reached the second floor, they walked for a lengthy bit until they found their room.

"Oooookaaay…" Greg said as he inserted the key in the lock and turned it.

They opened the door and the room looked subpar in quality. Some of the curtains had stains and the entire room smelled of wet cardboard.

Lena and Greg laid down their things on the two beds. Lena laid down their stuff while Marie searched for the remote to turn on the TV. Greg went to the window and checked the scenery.

It was mostly just a bleak landscape, save for a radio tower in the distance.

Looking at it, it made him feel… something, he didn't know what exactly. He saw that the sky had an unusual grey tinge to it. The clouds that loomed over the city looked "fuzzy" in a sense that it wouldn't be possible.

"Dad? There's no reception here, it's just static." Marie said as she pointed at the screen.

"What? Yes, Mar?"

"Dad, there's no reception, can you fix it or something?" She asked him.

"Mar, we went on a vacation to relax ourselves. I think you've put enough strain on your yes watching TV." He said.

"Guys? Let's go out. This room's pretty bland, but it'll have to do." Lena said.

Greg was the last one to leave, he checked first to see if they've forgotten something.

He looked at the window and the tower was gone.

He thought he was hallucinating. He squinted to make sure that he was sure that he saw what he thought he saw but wasn't able to.

"Just my imagination."

"What did you say, babe?"

"Uh- nothing. Nothing."

As they left the building, they went on a walk out on the small city.

The group came across a small but niche café, across the street. Lena and Marie decided to take a rest and stay there while Greg went on to explore the rest of the city.

He was morbidly curious about that radio tower that he saw from the window of the room. He remembered the location of where it was, but he had difficulty finding the exact spot.

He pulled out his phone to see if he could get a nice picture of the scenery but it froze and became unresponsive.

"The hell?" He asked.

"Why are you here?" A voice cried out from behind him. It sounded female and hoarse, like an old lady.

"What?" He said as he turned around.

He was surprised to see an old woman in a lab coat.

"You aren't supposed to be here when it happens. You shouldn't have come here." She said to him.

"Excuse me for asking but, who are you?"

"Who I am doesn't matter. What does matter is that you get yourself and your family out of here as fast as possible before the next resurgence."

"I'm sorry, what? How do you know my family?"

"I've watched you from a distance, I've always watched many come here but they could never escape the fate that awaits them." She said.

"This is the final resurgence period. Once it happens, anyone and everyone that's still in this God-forsaken town will be trapped and tied to this place forever." She looks at the same place that Greg had seen the radio tower. "Just like me."

"Look." She says, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small watch. "Take this, it will tell you how much time there is left until the final resurgence. Plea-"

"I- I'm sorry, but I think you've mistaken me for someone else. Goodbye." He said as he tries to walk away from the strange woman, but she grabs him by the hand and the hood of his jacket.

"Please, you don't understa-"

"No, I perfectly understand, You're fucking crazy and you need to stay the hell away from me and my family."

His demeanor had changed from stoic to sinister as the words left his mouth.

He pushed her away, put his hands in his pockets and quickly went back to where his wife and daughter stayed at.

As Greg picked them up, he felt uneasy. After that encounter with that stranger, he wanted to leave this place.

Greg and his family went back to their rooms without him saying a single word. He kept quiet, he didn't want to turn this vacation for them into something bad, but he'd keep watch just in case.

It was almost dark, they had to wake up early in the morning to leave and hit the road again. Lena had already fallen asleep in her bed. Greg allowed Marie to sleep in his bed since he wanted to know if that stranger was still following them.

Greg changed his clothes, as he removed his jacket, he noticed something inside the hood.

It was the watch that old woman tried to give him. He checked it, it was at seven hours and counting down.

Greg threw the watch in the wastebasket and put on a plain shirt. He stayed in a chair watching the door, just in case.

Eventually, he started to get drowsy until he closed his eyes and couldn't pull them up anymore.

He found himself in a trance, materialized in a grassland. Upon him was the radio tower that he saw through the window, it was calling to him.

Beckoning him.

He didn't know what he was doing, but he walked. He walked towards the tower of steel but he never seemed to get anywhere, like he was in a loop.

But then, he stopped, and screamed. He had no idea why but he screamed at the top of his lungs.

He could hear the gradual buildup of white noise getting louder and louder as his screams started to die down. His view of the radio tower started to become obscured slowly by the hazy static that seemed to get more and more dense with buildup of the white noise.

The noise grew louder and louder until he couldn't hear the sound of his own voice. He begged for whatever was out there to stop but it wouldn't, it just kept on going and going until…

It stopped.

He opened his eyes as he saw nothing but darkness and the old woman that he pushed away in front of him.

Out of her lips, came no sound, but he seemed to hear her say:

"I warned you."

He opened his eyes and body in cold sweat. His family right beside him and pulling at him to wake up.

"Greg! Wake up! Please!" Lena cried out to him.

"What!? What happened?!"

"There's something wrong outside! There's static everywhere! I can't see can't see can't see can't see can't see-"

"Mom! Dad! Make it stop!" Marie covered her ears, she was bleeding from them.

Greg immediately jumped off of his chair and looked outside. The radio tower from his dream was there. There was static everywhere they looked and the deafening white noise.

"We have to go! Now!" Greg yelled as they grabbed their jackets and backpacks. He went to the wastebasket to get the watch that he threw and wore it on his wrist.

Looking at it, there was only ten minutes left until it reached zero.

They bolted out the door, went down the stairs and ran through the doors that led out of the building. The young attendant that gave them their key had his face stuck in a smile. His entire head was shaking erratically. His arms were nonexistent and his body had been submerged with the front desk.

They tried to get to their car, only to find it frozen in place and "flickering" from right to left. They couldn't get in.

"We have to run!" He shouted as they followed suit. All the people that they ran past by, had been moved and rearranged erratically in various disturbing places.

They ran out of the city, trying to get to the end of the dome that had surrounded the entire town.

Greg looked behind him and saw it. The radio tower was covered in a dense static and seemed to get closer and closer to them no matter how fast they ran.

"Come on! We're almost there!" Lena yelled as they ran across the grass. "There! I can see it!"

And there she saw it. The static wall that befell on the town and everyone in it. Salvation was just a couple feet away from them.

Greg was the first to get through, and then Lena, they ran through the static haze that had covered the whole area like a dome with Marie just behind them.

There was a small ditch that Marie didn't see. She lost her footing and had fallen into the depression in the ground, hitting her nose on the ground and breaking her right leg's tibia. She winced and shrieked in agony as she saw that the bone had not only been broken, but was poking out of the skin.

She couldn't breath. All the running. All the pain.

"Marie?! MARIE!" Lena screamed as she turned around.

"NO!" Greg shouted as he saw his daughter on the ground behind the static that covered her face.

Lena managed to reach her first, she covered her mouth to prevent herself from screaming again as she saw the small open fracture on her. She tore off a part of the shirt that she was wearing and carefully tried to wrap it around the wound. Her screams of pain only intensified each time her mother had to wrap the piece of clothing around the wound.

Greg wasn't too far behind, but was slightly still further away from them. He was close to them until the point that he was in between the border that separated the dome from the rest of normality.

He couldn't move. He couldn't even turn away. His mind was in a panic.

Until the thought dawned on him as he remembered.

They were out of time.

"Lena… Lena? I can't move." He said as tears fell from his eyes. "We ran out of time, Lena."

Lena tried to prop up Marie but she found herself "flickering" a few feet away from Marie, running in place. She looked like she was running but she made it appear as if she was trying her hardest to move.

Marie was slowly sinking into the ground. She descended up until the grass had reached her chest and it stopped.

"Dad? Dad!" Tears in her eyes, she tried to claw her way to him, ripping the grass to no avail. She was stuck, but she couldn't do anything about it.

"Greg, please…" She managed to choke the words out of her mouth trying not to break down.

"I can't. I can't. I can't. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I'm so sor-"

The static quickly enveloped their field of vision. They could hear the screeching of the white noise mix in with their own screams of despair. All of their belongings that they carried with them, their clothes, had disintegrated into nothingness.

And then, there was silence.

Greg opened his eyes. He found himself in a strange grassy area, somehow, vastly different from before.

He looked around. His mind racing to find an answer for what happened. Where was he? Why wasn't he dead? And where was his family?

He pulled his arm to himself and pushed his body up.

"Where the hell am I…" He said with a heavy sigh. Everywhere he looked, was more or less, radically distorted in a way that shouldn't even be possible. He had no idea where he was going.

He looked up to see what lay before him, it seemed like it was metal, like a pole. He could just barely make out what the peculiar symbols appeared in front of him were.

"Bryson… Texas…" He said, softly.

Well, that more or less answered where he was, but he still couldn't figure out where his family went, how he managed to survive and how he ended up in Texas of all places.

He didn't know. He started crying. He wanted to find someone. Anyone. That can help.

Don't leave me, please.