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Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

Paige was afraid to discover what would wait for her on the other side of the building, but she continued to march toward the exit regardless.

The words of the homeless woman still lingered in her mind, but Dave was right. She had more pressing matters than launching herself into another mission, even though it was tempting. She rubbed her head and felt a big bump. It has to be the bump. People don’t glow.

The sun beamed in through the windows, illuminating their path, allowing them to swiftly and somewhat safely make their way out of the old train station, just as the family had done a short while before.

Paige had no idea what to expect, so after taking the deepest breath she could, she stepped outside. Dave was close by, but she knew she couldn’t allow herself to become dependent on him no matter how much the idea tempted her.

Looking around at the city, she was horrified and heartbroken at the same time. She’d always loved New York, and to see it in such a state was devastating.

Everywhere Paige looked, only chaos greeted her. Pure and simple chaos. There were no other words to describe the mess that surrounded them.

People raced through the street, heedless of others and obviously in panic.

“Infected people are everywhere,” one man screamed at the top of his lungs, running past her.

He was not the only one. “Save yourselves…they are coming,” a woman shouted. She ran with her hands full of bags, but she dropped one.

Paige wanted to go grab it for her, but the woman hesitated for a second before abandoning it all together. “Save yourselves.”

“Please, Matt, pick up,” another one cried into her phone, clearly trying to reach a loved one.

“Daddy’s on the way, don’t worry,” a man promised into a phone while a trickle of blood ran down his lip.

A few people noticed just as he did.

“He is infected,” a group shouted at once. “Stay away from him. He’s gonna kill us all.”

The man in question wanted to defend himself but panic sparked violence, and he did the only thing he could. He ran away.

Paige noticed all this, and much more, in a flash.

Sounds of breaking glass and things being smashed mixed with the rest. She was shocked that some people had evidently decided the end of the world was the perfect time for vandalism and looting.  

She saw one young guy carrying a TV from the store and simply shook her head in disbelief. What a strange, crazy thing to do in a moment like that.

The pillaging and destruction told only half the story.

Those who were clearly infected staggered around and mixed with the healthy. But they were easy to spot.

For some reason, Paige thought of River again and hoped she would get better.

One guy who was obviously affected since his whole shirt was bloody, as was his face, walked about aimlessly, practically in a circle.

Then something else snatched her focus. “Please help me. Oh, God, no…please,” a woman wailed. She looked at her bloody hands as the blood poured from her nose, and she was clearly terrified. “I don’t want to die. Please! Can someone help me.” She sobbed, alone in the little space the crowd had created around her like a lonely island.

Paige wanted to cry with her but needed to remain strong for the people she loved.

Healthy people around the woman started moving farther away. “Get away from me,” one man shouted in anger.

“No one can help you now,” screamed another.

Again, Paige wished she could help in some way but like many others, had no clue what to do.

Most of the healthy people simply moved away from the infected like they had the plague or something—which, of course, they did, though one wearing a whole new face. It was a modern-age kind of a plague but just as deadly and destructive, as it turned out.

Maybe even more so.

“Score!” Suddenly, Dave cheered beside her and she watched him disappear into a souvenir shop.

Paige paused for a second, frowning as she tried to figure out what he was doing.

He was looting a store.

Once she saw this, she sighed and continued her journey. She didn’t have time for petty crimes right now. Her sister’s life was at stake. And even if she had the time, she’d never have the inclination. She’d only borrowed the car because she had no choice, but outright stealing was way beyond her comfort zone.

Saddened, she left Dave behind to pillage the store with the other people like some movie villain.

The journey from the station was hard on Paige, but what she saw happening all around her on the streets was far worse than anything she could imagine. It felt like she’d stepped into an end of the world movie without an exit.

A booming honk from a car quickly snapped her from her glum reverie, returning her to the harsh reality.

The streets almost resembled a car park with everyone making noise and trying to force their way through gaps that weren’t even there. Blockages and chaos inevitably resulted, pushing tempers even further.

Thank goodness I decided not to drive into the city, she thought with relief. But remembering how that turned out put a dampener on her small victory.

She’d made it this far—and alive, too, and unhurt—so that was a definite win in her book. And once she found Willow, things would be golden.

Once she reunited with her sister, though, what was the next step? Paige had no idea how they would get out of the city.

The subway was out of the question. Taxis were hard enough to hail even when the world wasn’t flipped upside down, so that wasn’t a viable option either.

She could really use the bikes she’d seen back at college, but thinking about useless, unreachable things now wouldn’t get her anywhere.

So, her face set and resolute, Paige simply held her head up and continued her journey.

If only she could run.  Agitation pushed her to speed up but running wasn’t possible at the moment. Too many people were in her way, and the roads were jammed as well. She’d simply waste her energy trying to do the impossible

Making her way slowly through the crowd, Paige saw the best and worst of humanity in one frame. Somehow, it was logical to think there were good and bad people in the world and a whole lot more that fell in the middle area. The problem was that when crisis struck, you could never be too sure how some people would react.

A smash and a screech of tires accelerating made her turn her head toward the street again. In the middle of all this chaos, another tragedy unfolded. A car had crashed into another vehicle and the driver didn’t even pause to see what damage he’d caused. He’d simply driven away.

As far as Paige could see, a whole family was inside the wrecked car, and badly hurt, too. Instinctively, her legs seemed to pull her in that direction but something else made her pause. A guy who was clearly in some motorbike gang stopped beside the car on his Harley.

He circled the car once, clearly assessing the damage, then returned to the driver’s side and yanked the door. It had been mangled and bent crooked in the impact and wouldn’t budge.

Frustrated, he returned to his motorbike, and Paige worried that he would simply walk away.

She could hear cries from inside the cars and the biker responded, but Paige was too far away to hear the actual words. It looked like he was reassuring them, and she held her breath, hoping she was right.

That proved to be true as he returned with a crowbar and smashed the window. He managed the pull the man from the car, and then together, they helped the rest of the family out one by one.

“My daughter needs help,” the man urged as they worked to get the child out. Paige held her breath when she saw all the blood staining her clothing.

“That’s not hers,” the father explained. He looked torn between helping the rest of his family or staying with his daughter, so the biker urged him.

“Go, help them. I got her. Grateful, the father rushed back to help his wife.

The girl looked unconscious, but the biker placed her on the ground and started CPR.

Barely a minute later, she moved, and Paige exhaled slowly. The man and his wife, now free of the wreckage, rushed to her side. They hugged their daughter and the man who saved her.

For the briefest of moments, Paige thought that humanity maybe still had a chance.

Witnessing one happy ending, at least, she managed a small smile as she continued her journey.

Over time, she managed to pick up her pace a little, as much as something like that was possible on the crowded streets. She needed to get to 79th and Central Park where the Natural History Museum was located. She prayed with all her might that Willow was still there because if she wasn’t—

No. She stopped that train of thought with a firm denial. She wouldn’t entertain that idea for even a microsecond.

Willow would be waiting for her at the museum and together, they were going to get their mother. End of story.

Determined, she picked up her pace for real now, trying to reach her goal as quickly as possible.

“What are you doing?” Dave’s question made her jump. She turned to look at him and he was bent in half, trying to catch his breath.

Where did he come from? she wondered, trying to stop her racing heart.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” she muttered. “Please don’t sneak up on me like that.”

Instead of apologizing, he only looked amused. “I gave you a heart attack? I’m the one hyperventilating here,” he complained. “For someone your size, you sure can move.”

Paige continued to walk at a fast pace and he followed her.

His pockets were bulging with goodies that he’d stolen. It even looked like a had a metal mini replica of the Empire state building that he played with as he walked.

“Did you really need all that stuff?” Paige asked suddenly, not able to help herself.

He shrugged calmly. “Why not? It’s free.”

“It’s not free,” Paige countered immediately. “That store has an owner. And he probably has a family that he supports with it.”

Dave looked at her for a moment before he exhaled pretty loudly, as if annoyed. But with whom was unspecified. “Fine, I’ll find a way to get it all back,” he declared, catching her off guard. “But not the food. We need that, right? To survive?”


      Paige paused because maybe he was right.

She had been so focused on getting there she never stopped to think about the essentials like food and water. She didn’t need to though, because Dave had them. He was clearly the practical one. She shook her head at that thought.

If the world really went crazy they would need provisions and somehow, she doubted she could waltz into the first store and buy what she needed.

Most of the stores were already cleaned out by shoppers and looters alike, as far as she could see.

Right on cue, her stomach growled.

“Here, have a Snickers and a bottle of water,” Dave said, sounding like a commercial, and Paige took the offering.

“Thanks.”

She gulped down half the water, then slipped it into the side pocket of her backpack. Unwrapping the Snickers and taking the first bite made her sigh with contentment. It wasn’t a Mac D’s but tasted just as sweet, and Dave chuckled beside her.

He was eating as well, and when he noticed her watching him, he winked. “Doesn’t it taste better knowing you got it for free?”

It did, though Paige would never say that out loud.

“You’re not planning on walking all the way there, are you?” he asked.

She shrugged. It seemed like a stupid question, so there was no point in trying to answer.

“You know it’s more than fifteen blocks away. It’ll take us forever with all these people in the way,” he pointed out.

Paige looked around for an idea and thought she saw the woman and baby from the train.

“It’s not like we have any other choice. Do you have a helicopter I don’t know about stashed someplace?” She didn’t really look at Dave, more focused on finding out if it was the mother. The woman’s white dress with red roses danced in the late afternoon breeze.

It is her.

Dave chuckled. “I have an idea—wait here.” Paige pulled on his jacket, stopping him in his tracks.

“What?”

“The woman and the baby from the train.” She pointed down the street in the direction they had come from. The woman stood there, looking confused. They hadn’t made it to her mother’s house.

“We need to help them first.”

***

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