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Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

Everywhere they looked, injured passengers—some of whom they had saved— staggered through the terminal. The infected people were even more easy to spot since they walked with odd, jerky movements, apparently without any real direction in mind.

Paige had passed through this station so many times, but it had never looked as glum or alien before.

The place was overcrowded with people pleading for their lives, praying for the salvation of their souls, shouting angrily at the few staff members, or simply screaming.

It was chaos.

The eerie, unnatural busyness seemed surreal. Gone was the upbeat vibe of one of the main places of transportation in and out of the city. It had somehow been transformed into a macabre reminder that the world had morphed into something unrecognizable.

A lot of things had that same effect on her throughout the entire day.

“Get out of here while you still can,” a man in a sharp suit told the ticket salesman who for some reason, refused to leave his post.

Up ahead of them, there were sounds of hurried footsteps as a family ran down the marble stairs at one of the entrances and hurried toward the train timetables that hung in the middle of the station.

They made a lot of noise, even though the whole station had descended to hell and resounded with the sounds of the desperate and dying.

Paige slowed down, then paused, observing them.

With the iconic clock still ticking away as if counting down the end of days, fear washed over their faces.

Curious now, Paige looked up at the huge overhead timetables as well.

Next to all the trains was the word, “CANCELLED.”

That would explain why there are no emergency staff, she thought to herself. Crews had no doubt gone home—they wouldn’t be needed if there were no trains running.

That also meant that nobody would be able to leave the city. Not without some creative thinking, at any rate.

Their train must have been the last one running.

And that turned out splendidly.

The family, still huddled together, looked back and forth among themselves, obviously not knowing what to do. The caution and fear on their faces were plain for anyone to see.

They clustered together as they whispered. Then, their decision made, they turned quickly and ran back towards the stairs and exited the station, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. 

Paige found their behavior strange but didn’t have time to linger.

“I want my money back!” a man shouted, banging rhythmically on the countertop. The frightened salesman on the other side tried to explain to him that he had no money to refund him, but the irate passenger clearly wasn’t listening to reason.

Is he infected? she wondered.

“We should hurry.” Dave nodded, but then he turned toward her with a strange expression on his face.

“What is it?” she asked, thinking they should leave the station—and fast, just like that family before them.

“I need to pee,” he informed her, and she busted out laughing because he’d delivered that line while acting like a small child.

“It’s not funny. I’ve been holding it in for ages and I can’t any longer,” he whined, and she stifled another giggle.

“You are right. We should both go while we still can,” she agreed because there was no telling when the situation would present itself again. There never seemed to be a decent place to pee in NY.

Finding a bathroom, they parted ways with Dave warning her not to linger—like she would in a place like this at a time like this. She held her tongue, simply rolling her eyes at him, and went inside and recoiled.

The place was packed with people trying to clean the blood off their loved one’s faces. Some of those infected were already in the stupor phase, while the others tried to help as well.

The horror movie running in her head seemed to have found another scene with blood everywhere, but Paige really had to go. Carefully, trying not step in too many bodily fluids, she moved toward the stalls.

Finding an empty one, she did her business quickly.

While she concentrated on the task at hand, she could hear one voice overpowering all the rest.

“You’re making a mess of my bathroom!” a woman announced in a shrill voice.

She flushed the toilet, then exited the stall and immediately matched the voice to the face. The homeless woman in question didn’t look infected but she was, on the other hand, all kinds of annoyed.

While Paige moved to the other section to wash her hands, the woman paused mid-rant and looked at her with wide eyes.

For the briefest of moments, Paige felt insecure. Did she maybe have a piece of toilet paper stuck somewhere or forgot to zip her pants?

“You are glowing,” the homeless person informed her, pointing at her skin.

She must be drunk. There could be no other explanation for the crazy comment.

Paige looked down at her hand. What the— A golden glow seemed to emanate from her. Speechless, she looked at the woman again, then back at her hand. The glow remained, and she wondered for a single crazy moment if she’d finally lost her mind completely.

The woman fixed her with a hard look. “They will come for you,” she warned in a hushed voice. “Just like they did for me when I was a child. But I ran away.”

They stood in silence for a moment, the woman looking anxious and Paige wishing a hole would simply open up and drop her off the edge of the world.

“No place is safe,” she continued after a short pause. “No matter how much I tried to hide from them, they always found me. They will find you too.”

Paige’s heart squeezed painfully inside her chest.

This woman reminded her so much of her own mother and all the times she’d hidden her and her sisters when they were all younger and living together. The wardrobe was her favorite place, and Paige learned to hate it, but for the sake of her mother’s love, she always did what she was told.

Until the moment mother was hospitalized.

Thankfully, the non-sick people in the bathroom paid no attention to the crazy homeless woman. “Can you tell me more about them? Who are they? What do they want?” Paige asked, using her most soothing, non-threatening voice.

The woman grinned, revealing her rotting teeth. “You always want to know more.” She raised her hand and tapped the side of her head.

“I will never tell you where Sarah is,” she snapped, surprising Paige so much that she took a step back.

“I will never lead you to Sarah,” the woman yelled at Paige.

“Please calm down, I—” she protested, but the woman had slipped into another place, her mind wandering again.

“Leave me alone, you spy! Tell your Nano masters I have nothing for you.” She spat and snatched up her stuff to turn and run from the bathroom.

“Please tell me more. I need to know what’s going on.”

The homeless women threw her belongings at Paige and fled out of the restroom. It took a few minutes for her to throw the things to the side and go after her.

She ran right into Dave, and she would have fallen flat on her ass if he hadn’t caught her.

“Causing problems again, I see,” he commented mildly. She looked blankly at him, barely registering what he’d said.

“I really can’t take you anywhere.” He continued to tease her, but she had more pressing matters and shrugged her impatience, peering around for some sign of the strange woman who seemed to have vanished.

“Did you see that woman running away?” she asked urgently.

“Yeah.”

“Where did she go?”

“Why does it matter?”

“I need to find her.” The things she’d said were maybe borderline crazy, but that didn’t mean they were untrue. The whole damn world was crazy too

Paige looked back down at her hands. They were glowing, but they started to tremble as she curled her fingers inward as if to close off the source.

“Dave, I’m glowing,” she told him in a panic as she held her hands out in front of her.

Dave looked at her, confused. “You’re not. That knock on your head must be worse than we thought. We don’t time have for this, remember? We have to get to the museum…find your sister and my brother.”

“Of course I remember! And I am glowing—that woman saw it.” She held her hand up. “See? I’m glowing.”

Dave stared at her, bewilderment etched on his face. “I’m sorry, Paige, I really don’t see it.”

“Maybe you were hit on your head?” she retorted, folding her arms in belligerence.

Dave clearly didn’t want to argue. “Maybe. Can we go already?”

Paige gave in. “Okay, let’s go.”

 

***

 

Still freaked out by the voodoo charge shit Francis had performed on him, AJ watched as they passed through the gates of a military base that was heavily guarded.

Okay, you can go in but you definitely can't get out. Good to know.

As before, they parked near the entrance of a building that resembled a hangar—obviously, he realized, so the worst patients could be easily transported.

River's condition had worsened since they’d left the college, and he was worried.

On the other hand, he felt great. More than great, actually. AJ felt like a freaking king and debated whether he should fake the illness or not.

Oh, fuck it.

“I can walk,” he informed a man in a suit once it was his turn to get off.

He was directed into a vast room and once inside, AJ was surprised to see—yet not surprised at all—how many children were already there.

A red bracelet was put on his left wrist, and no matter what he did, he couldn't take it off.

The smell of blood with its metallic sting was heavily present in the air, and AJ felt slightly nauseated by it.

A nurse escorted him to his bed and he lay down like a good little boy.

He couldn't help glancing left and right every once in a while, on the lookout for any Seedlings.

But nobody stood out in that regard and he was relieved.

Now what? he asked himself, looking around. He couldn't simply lie there and do nothing.

After a while, he noticed that some of the kids were wheeled away to a separate room. They seemed to be the ones who looked really close to dying, and he hoped they would be treated there. Nothing special was done in the general area.

After about a whole second of consideration, AJ stood and started wandered about, investigating the now crowded building.

As far as he could tell, all the kids were given the same red bracelets while the military personnel wore blue.

That wasn't particularly interesting, but he stored the information for later. You never know when you'll need something.

Eventually, he stumbled upon River and saw immediately that she didn't look particularly hot at that moment.

“Hey, River.” He tried to get her attention, but her eyes were out of focus.

AJ tried again, patting her hand, and it worked—kind of.

She turned her head toward him but that was that.

“River?”

“What do you think you're doing?” A nurse appeared out of nowhere. “You can't bother the patients. Return to your bed,” she ordered, leaving no room for alternatives.

But that was his specialty.

“She's my friend. I only want to know how she is doing.”

“We are doing everything we can, now do as you're told.”

He was taken aback for a second since it had been a while since anyone had treated him like a child or a moron.

The nurse practically pushed him out of the way to reach River, and she started checking her vitals or something.

To AJ, it more looked like she was pretending to be busy rather than actually being busy.

“Don't worry,” a girly voice said from the nearby bed. “She is my sister's friend as well. I'll look after her.”

AJ smiled at the kid. “Thanks.”

Still frowning, he walked toward his bed when something else occurred to him. AJ marched straight to the door in the corner of the room, where some of the kids were being taken—never to return—but the goddamn door was locked.

“Can I help you?” a man in a hazmat suit inquired.

“Yeah, my friend just got wheeled inside and I want to make sure he's okay,” AJ lied like a pro.

“I'm sure he's taken care of,” the man replied cryptically.

“Was he given the cure?” AJ went straight to the point because he was curious to know if there was a cure in the first place.

“There is no cure.” Francis decided to throw his two cents in, but he was a bit biased.

Stay out of this. Nobody asked you.

“Believe me.”

You are full of crap, Francis.

“Well?” AJ prompted when the scientist kept looking at him.

“We are doing everything we can,” he said, the words clipped and rushed, and he unlocked the door.

AJ tried to follow him inside but was stopped by a guard.

“You need to return to your—”

“My bed, I know,” AJ interjected, a bit annoyed.

He hated all the red tape and the way they kept them all in the dark.

They were all in this boat together, so why all the secrecy?

Maybe they don't want to cause panic. AJ tried to rationalize things, looking for an explanation that made even a tiny bit of sense.

Or maybe they don't know what the fuck is going on.

“Why are you still out of your bed?” The same nurse appeared again.

How does she do that? Is she magic?

“Honestly, if one more person tells me to lie down, I'm gonna scream,” he snapped back, not caring that he sounded like a spoiled brat. And while he was on that subject, he might as well follow through. “And I want to speak with my parents.”

AJ couldn't remember where he’d left his cell, but someone could at least provide him with one phone call. Even prisoners got that much.

“I'm sure they're notified already and are on their way.” She tried to placate him, but he saw right through her.

Not bloody likely, AJ thought, since they were in London.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, fixing him with a curious look.

“Great.”

“When did you manifest the first symptoms?”

AJ struggled. “I don't know, a couple of hours ago maybe.”

She frowned at that. “Are you sure? You look pretty lively.”

He wanted to laugh at her choice of words. He was more livid than lively, hating everything about the place, but he kept that to himself.

“Come with me. I want the doctor to—”

“That's okay,” he interrupted, not wanting to be poked and probed. “I'm just gonna go and lie down for a moment. I suddenly feel a bit tired.” He even yawned for good measure, shuffling backward so he could keep an eye on her.

Of course, she wasn't fooled, but she still let it slide.

Stretching out on his uncomfortable bed, AJ thought about all the things he’d learned so far. And how he could use them to his advantage.

Maybe he could speak with someone in charge, maybe even help find a cure for this thing.

“I told you, there is no cure,” Francis insisted.

And I told you before that you are full of crap.

AJ was determined to find the truth, one way or another.

***

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