The park was empty as Lisa sat on a weathered bench watching her two-year old twins jostle back and forth in the sandbox. Her hair flailed around her pale face from the warm July breeze, and overhead, a flock of small birds soared toward their unknown destinations.
Her boys, Jack and Evan, were typical toddlers. They loved to watch cartoons and play with their trucks, while constantly at odds with each other to see who could get more attention. Jack had a bit of a temper, which surfaced more frequently than Lisa would have liked. Evan on the other hand was a quieter child, usually content to play by himself. And her husband, Frank, was at work, as usual. It seemed that whenever Lisa had something bothering her, he wasn’t there. She knew what she was signing up for by marrying a detective, but it was still difficult to deal with.
Leaning back on the bench, Lisa took a deep breath. She wished for a cigarette or a winning lottery ticket, or both, but knew that neither would be possible. She quit smoking when she got pregnant with the twins, and rarely played the lottery. Her mind began to wander, affixing weird scenarios to any passing thought. She looked at the twins in the sandbox, playing with their trucks; building sand castles; digging holes. They seemed to be having so much fun.
Sand pits can have a solid bottom, or be built directly onto the soil.
The strange thought and the sudden onset of it startled Lisa. She didn’t know where it came from; it just sort of popped into her head. In an attempt to dispel it, she focused on her children and their playing. Evan was busy filling a small plastic bucket with sand. Jack was pushing one of his toy trucks through a small mound in the box. Neither was aware of their mother watching them. Lisa yawned deeply and stretched. She was feeling the effects of the fresh air; it always relaxed her, sometimes the point of making her sleepy.
And then she noticed it.
It was small, so much so that at first she thought she imagined it. But when she leaned forward and looked, she knew it wasn’t just in her mind. Jack’s truck was pushed into a mound of sand up to its little plastic windshield. He was trying to nudge it forward, but couldn’t. Something was stopping it.
Something in the sand.
And Lisa saw what that something was a finger, or more accurately, a couple of fingers. They jutted up from their grainy home about an inch or so, and were blocking the path of the toy truck. Tiny flecks of sand dotted the mouldering appendages. Lisa felt a scream take root in her gut, and begin to work its way up to her mouth. Eventually, her comprehension of what she was seeing would catch up to the rising scream and all come out in one big cry.
Jack didn’t notice his mother. He was too busy trying to force his truck into the sand. But Evan saw her. He dropped his plastic bucket, intent on running over to her.
Lisa screamed when the fingers rose up from the sand, showing the grey, skeletal hands they were attached to. Dripping fungus oozed from the terrible things, forming grainy clots of sand. One hand snatched the toy truck from Jack’s grasp, neatly snapping it in two before yanking the remains into the sand. And another pulled Evans bucket onto its side, its chipped nails gouging into the frail plastic. It too was pulled into the sand.
But that was not what scared Lisa the most. It was when three new hands sprouted up from a corner of the sandbox, and went directly for Evan’s feet, and before she could react, pulled one of her little boys kicking and screaming to an impossible death. Jack started to cry. Lisa jumped to her feet, and despite being handicapped by the crushing grief over Evan, sprinted straight for the sandbox. By then, her remaining son was himself in the powerful grip of two of the hands.
Lisa dove headfirst for the reaching arms of Jack. She saw his tiny face contorted into an expression of pain and disbelief as he was forcibly yanked, first down to his waist, and then up his neck. And all in a split second.
“Help me Mommy!” The last time Lisa saw her son he was crying the words – and then he too, like his brother, was gone.
Lisa fell face-first onto the ground next to the sandbox. She was numb with grief, and shock threatened to overtake her. Her anguished sobs were muffled by the grass. Reaching into her pocket, she slipped her cell phone out. She fumbled with the buttons, but knew she had to call for help. She also knew that nobody would believe her, but that didn’t matter. All that did was getting help.
Sandpits can have solid bottoms, or be built directly onto the soil.
With shaking hands she dialed 9-1-1. A dispatcher answered after the first ring.
“This is 9-1-1 Dispatch. Can you tell me the nature of your emergency? Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?” But Lisa couldn’t answer. All she could do was gasp for air. The hands had shot out of the sand and wrapped themselves around her throat with brutal efficiency. And then, in seconds, she was unconscious. And then dead. Her body was pulled into the sandbox, leaving only her cell phone behind.
“Hey, someone left their bag here,” Andy called out as he strayed away from his friends, moving towards the bench. The sun was starting to dip towards the horizon and they had decided to cut through the park on their way to the party at Scott’s house. Greg put the six-pack of beer down on the ground at the edge of the sandpit, then noticed something wedged up against the wooden surround.
“Someone dropped their phone here too,” He added, stooping down to pick it up. “It’s not locked.”
“Any interesting photos on it?” Andy replied as he rifled through the bag’s contents. Locating a purse he opened it – finding a driver’s license within seconds.
“No, but there’s a message,” Greg responded. He began to retrieve the message before he paused for a second. “Did you hear that?”
“What?” “Some sort of scratching sound.” He explained as he put the handset to his ear. “Probably a squirrel.”
“Hi Honey. It’s me, Frank. I’ll be home late tonight. I have to go to Stellar’s Beach. It seems that a couple of kids have gone missing there. Witnesses say they vanished right on the beach. I have to go now. Love you.” The message ended as abruptly as it started.
“I know this woman,” Andy said as he ventured across to his friend, holding up the driver’s license in one hand and the purse in the other. “She lives over on Elm – husband’s a cop from what I remember.”
“Any money in it?” Greg joked as he looked around quizzically at the ground.
“Are you nuts? My parents would kill me…what’s wrong?”
“Did you just pick up the beer?”
“No,” Andy half-laughed. “You had it.”
“I know – I put it down just there…” he pointed to the spot next to the sand pit. “I swear, I…”
“Come on, let’s get out of here.” Andy said, the tone of his voice suddenly different, more insistent. “I always hated this place as a kid, used to creep me the fuck out.” Greg moved around the sandpit, still looking for the six-pack. “Greg, let’s go.”
“Okay, okay, I’m coming.” He said, giving up his search. He looked at his friend with an expression of pure confusion. “Is it true what they said about this place? With the kids going missing and all that?”
“I don’t know,” Andy said, grabbing Greg’s arm and finally dragging him away. “But I don’t want to stay here and find out.”