AS, V1, Chapter 1: Ocean City

August 1st, 2021, Ocean City Maryland.

It was a hot summer day and tens of thousands of people were scattered across the long, winding beach. The boardwalk was also filled with families; old, young, middle aged. Nearly every major human ethnicity was displayed. A scene of orderly chaos. No violence, just too many voices to hear anyone clearly among the noise.

The most popular areas were on the southern end of the boardwalk, which included the huge pier that jutted out into the ocean. It was wide enough at the beach portion, that there were roller coasters and even a carousel, with room to spare. Eventually, the pier got narrower, but was still large enough for five people to easily walk side-by-side. Near the end of the pier was a shack, which sold fishing supplies and allowed people to buy or rent fishing rods.

“Can’t believe this place still exists.” A tall and lanky brown-skinned middle-aged man, with short grey hair was standing at the entrance to the shop. Next to him was a young teenage girl, who was constantly staring at the small and flat cellphone in her hands. Her head was shaved bald and she had a pale complexion, considering that she was in direct sunlight.

“James, Jamie, are you coming or what?” A feminine voice rang out from inside the shop, causing the father and daughter to enter the shack. There was a tall woman, with long and straight brown hair, already holding a blue fishing rod in her hand. Even though she was around the same age as her husband, Anna had almost no indications on her face or body. She appeared to be only in her early thirties. She wore a white tank-top and brown shorts, while a red and blue tackle-box was dangling from her other hand.

“How did you find a rod so fast?” James smiled and then walked over to give her a peck on the left cheek.

“Gross.” The little girl sneered, continuing to type on her phone and ignore her parents.

Anna sighed, complaining “All she does now days is text her friends. She can’t even bother to look at us anymore. When I was her age…”

“When you were her age, cellphones didn’t even exist.” James snickered, “Don’t act like you aren’t spending all day on Facenovel or playing video games when you’re home. I’m just glad she’s only texting and not getting pregnant or doing drugs.”

“Honey, she’s only twelve.” Anna giggled, picking out a large red fishing rod for her husband and a small green one for her daughter. Then she asked, “Can you pay the man, my hands are full?”

The three of them left the shack and headed over to the end of the pier, which was relatively wide, with several people already standing there, fishing off the edge. There were wooden railings tall enough that most children couldn’t even see over them, though there were small holes between the planks, so that it was possible to see through the cracks.

“Dad, I have to pee.” The girl finally spoke to her father, but it wasn’t something he wanted to hear.

After letting out a sigh, he said “Alright, I’ll go with you. And no, you can’t go alone. Sorry Anna, we’ll be right back. I’ll make sure she doesn’t sneak off somewhere.”

“It’s alright James, be careful though, she’s a sneaky one.” She winked at him and then started baiting her hook.

“You guys know I can hear you, right?” Jamie pouted, before putting her phone in her black leather purse and turning away. She wore a blue jean skirt and brown tank top, with black flip-flops that made a ‘clacking’ noise every step she took.

As James turned around towards his daughter, he noticed out of the corner of his right eye, something odd in the distance. He turned towards the anomaly and then blinked a few times, squinting his brown eyes as he wondered, “Am I goin crazy or what?”

There was a red-brick house… On the beach. Not along the boardwalk, just sitting in the middle of the orange sand. He could see people casually walking around it, as if it wasn’t even there. As if it wasn’t strange at all for someone to put their house on a public beach. No, the weirdest thing was that there were people sunbathing… Behind the house.

“Hey, wait, Jamie…” James ran over to his daughter and tapped on her shoulders, she scowled at him, but then stared blankly at the strange scene that he pointed towards. He asked, “Are you seeing that too? There ain’t even a shadow!”

Jamied gasped, taking out her phone and snapping a picture. However, when the two of them looked at it, there was nothing. As if the house didn’t even exist. She murmured, “No, it’s definitely there. Look, you can even see it in the pic when I zoom in…”

It was close enough to the beach that people had set up their beach towels and huge umbrellas. Although it was overcrowded everywhere, that huge area of the beach was completely devoid of anyone. People could be seen talking to each other, with that massive space in between them, yet they didn’t even seem to notice or find it strange at all.

“Dad, we need to go there.” Jamie was smiling for the first time since they arrived in Ocean City. Then she said, “I need to pee first though.”

“Uh, yeah, maybe we should bring your mother?” James hesitated, but his daughter was already briskly walking towards the concrete part of the bridge, so he had to quickly follow after her…

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