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Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Four

With the tank now full, Dave let loose.

He couldn’t drive full throttle the whole way because panicked people were still everywhere, but they managed to make up a fair amount of time.

They were now driving through an area that had lots of traffic and houses, and apparently, the people hadn’t realized that they needed to ditch their cars and find another way to get the hell out of there.

Infected people were still mixed with those who looked healthy, but to Paige’s relief, they didn’t act crazy like some they encountered.

Just as before, Dave was very creative with his driving.

“Hold on,” he advised once when they had to use a flight of stairs to avoid a traffic bottleneck.

Paige squeaked, feeling like she would definitely fall off, but she held on tight and surprisingly, they made it without incident.

That little adventure made them slow down a little and suddenly, a man who still looked healthy ran toward them.

“I need the motorbike,” he yelled. “Give it to me now.”

That alarmed a few others nearby and they all looked toward them. It was obvious that the whole damn lot of them now coveted the bike as well.

Not again.

Paige debated with herself whether she should pull her sword from the backpack, but Dave solved her dilemma.

“Over my dead body, man,” he yelled, charging straight at him. “But you first.”

Naturally, the man jumped to the side at the last second and they managed to zoom around and between the others without mishap.

They whizzed by Mac D’s, and Paige’s stomach groaned. She wondered if she’d ever taste a juicy chicken nugget again.

“Do you think we should get away from the main roads?” She had to yell to be heard over the roar of the engine.

“I do, but I don’t know the way,” Dave confessed but then added, “Ah, screw it, let’s go for it.”

She couldn’t help but grin as he headed down a side street. They proved to be a great team and once again, she was grateful he was there with her.

Paige was pleased to discover they were finally moving along nicely.  Using the quieter streets had been worth it. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but the street lights were on in preparation for the evening.

There were still people trying to escape the devastation and chaos, but the number seemed less than before.

A family of three to her left caught her attention. They stood in their driveway in obvious distress.

“Let me go.” A young girl around Willow’s age was screaming. She was being pulled from her parent’s arms.

Even though both parents tried to hold on to their little girl, the man who had accosted her appeared freakishly strong.

“You’re my Seedling,” he screamed in the frenzied way Paige had learned to dread. “I will take you to the mothership,” he added with a gloating, manic laugh. He looked like a businessman in a very expensive suit, which somehow made what he was saying even more ridiculous and terrifying.

Dave slowed down as they passed the family drama. Neither of them could look away, and Paige tapped him gently on the shoulder.

He turned around without hesitation.

Paige held her breath as he drove straight for the assailant. She grabbed her sword, and when they were close, she swung with it with a shout. Her aim was off, though, so she only managed to tap him. Still, it was enough to make him stumble.

Dave braked and cut the motor. He lunged off the bike, and while the man tried to fight him off, Paige swooped in and yanked the girl away to safety.

That was when she noticed something strange about the girl’s skin.

It appeared to be glowing as if covered by some faint, golden dust. Her own experience in the restroom flashed into her mind. Impatient with the memory she couldn’t explain, she remonstrated with herself. It was probably simply her tanning lotion or something, she told herself firmly.

Then she looked at her own arm and could see the glow again, a luster they both shared now. It’s the bang over the head that’s making me think I’m glowing. Paige convinced herself that it was her mind playing tricks on her. That was the only rational explanation.

“Go back into the house,” she told the scared parents once they were reunited with their daughter.

They did as they were told, and she decided to join the fight.

The businessman absolutely lost his mind once he spotted her. He lunged without a moment’s thought, even though Dave was wrapped around his torso like a sash.

“The shed,” Dave yelled. In a split second, Paige turned, and in the next, she managed to open the door.

Quickly, she tried to move away but the force of the struggle gathered momentum and shoved her into the shed along with both combatants.

Dave released the man quickly and, yanking Paige back to her feet, dragged her out and slammed the door. He twisted the lock, securing the man inside.

“We should make a career out of this,” he said, a little winded as Paige made sure the padlock would hold tight.

“Definitely,” she joked in response. “I can already see that business will be blooming.”

“We will be millionaires in no time,” he replied, winking.

“Let me out. I need my Seedling,” The man raged from the shed, screaming nonstop, and there seemed to be no way to stop him.

The parents rushed out of the house.

“Thank you so much for saving our Tatyana,” the mother said and to Paige’s surprise, she hugged her.

The men shook hands.

“It was nothing,” she replied a bit sheepishly.

“You have to let us repay you in some way,” the father added.

“We really should get going.” Dave looked both impatient and uncomfortable.

But the couple insisted, and they didn’t have the heart to refuse.

 

***

 

They ended up in the Millers home and Judith made them a plate of sandwiches.

They shared a quick meal with them, but Paige couldn’t help but stare at Dave while he ate. The girl sat next to her parents, and yet everyone seemed oblivious to the reality that stared them in the face. She really is glowing. Why isn’t anyone looking at her? Can’t they see it? The kid looked at Paige and smiled an odd, knowing kind of smile. Disconcerted, she returned her gaze to watch Dave as he all but inhaled another sandwich.

“What?” he asked abruptly.

“You eat like there’s no tomorrow.”

His eyes practically gleamed. “In case you didn’t notice…” He waved a hand, and his meaning was clear. They were already there.

“If you don’t slow down, you’ll choke, and then I’ll lose my chauffeur.” She continued to tease him, more to distract herself from the girl opposite her than anything else.

Dave chuckled. “Point well taken.” He winked and pretended to behave for five whole seconds.

 Even though their situation was serious, Paige was glad they’d had a break. In the Millers house, she felt sheltered from everything—but not oblivious. Too much had happened for her to be able to pretend it hadn’t.

She wanted to find out more if she could, and the kid’s parents might know something. Either way, it wasn’t difficult to ask.

“Mr. Miller,” Paige said politely, getting the man’s attention.

“Yes, Paige?”

“Do you know what is happening—and not with the virus,” she added because, by the look on his face, he had misunderstood her.

He sighed, shaking his head.

“Honestly, we are as confused as anybody else.”

Judith moved to sit beside Paige. “Once we believed that all the talk about the virus was real, we started packing. Tatyana was by the window when that man came.” Mrs. Miller’s voice hitched a little and she glanced at her daughter as if she needed confirmation that she was safe. Once satisfied, she continued.

“He was banging like a madman and we thought he needed our help.”

“I foolishly opened the door.” Mr. Miller continued the story. “And when I asked him what the matter was, he simply pushed past us and went after Tatyana.”

“We tried to stop him, but he simply mumbled something about a Seedling.”

Again with that whacky word, Paige noted with concern.

“We didn’t know what was happening,” Judith said helplessly. “But he was taking her away. And then you showed up.” She patted Paige’s hand. “It was like the Lord himself sent you.”

She simply smiled, not knowing what to say to that. Her family had never been particularly religious, but today had made her pray more than a few times. And she was still alive, so who was she to judge?

Tatyana looked freaked out as well, and with good reason, but Paige noticed that she was calming down with each passing moment, and that was good.

They all had a lot of crap coming their way, and only those who could adapt quickly and not succumb to fear or panic had a chance at survival.

Dave glanced at her when the mother mentioned Seedlings, and Paige understood why.

Because, apparently, she was one as well.

“I wonder why these people are going after some people and not the others,” he mused out loud, confirming her assumption.

“You mean it’s not just me?” Tatyana spoke up for the first time.

“No,” Paige replied. “They are after me as well,” she said in an attempt to ease her anxiety.

That wasn’t one hundred percent possible since infected people were actually targeting them and actively hunting them, but there was some reassurance in knowing you were not completely singled out.

Misery likes company, I suppose.

“But why?” Tatyana cried.

“We don’t know. But maybe there’s a way to find out,” Paige added, thinking on her feet.

They all looked speculatively at her and she simply nodded toward the yard and the prisoner they accidentally had.

“Oh, me like,” Dave replied with a grin. His last sandwich was long forgotten, and he popped his knuckles.

“If you’re thinking about questioning that piece of crap, count me in.” Mr. Miller sounded both determined and stern.

Easily striking an accord, they decided to question the man in the shed. There was a little resistance when Paige suggested Tatyana should be present as well.

“Absolutely not,” the Millers said, almost in unison.

“I am not letting my only daughter near that monster ever again.”

Paige understood where that was coming from, but still.

“I want to do it,” Tatyana interjected, ending the argument, and everyone paused to look at her.

“Honey...” Judith started, already shaking her head, but Tatyana raised a hand to stop her.

“No, Paige is right. He will be more talkative if I am present because he wants me, right?”

Even though she was putting on a brave face, it was clear the girl was scared shitless. It tore Paige’s heart that they had to do something like that in the first place.

“Kid, you are awesome, crazy brave,” Dave said in his usual manner, going to Tatyana and hugging her with one arm. Seriously, you deserve a cookie or something. But I am fresh out of them.”

At first, Paige was confused why was he was acting that way, but then she understood. He was trying to lighten the mood and make Tatyana less afraid. And by the look on girl’s face, it was working.

Or maybe it’s due to the fact that Dave is kind of cute.

“I know,” he exclaimed as if he’d remembered something. He pulled a metal mini replica of the Empire state building from his pocket. “I got this one just for you.”

Tatyana looked at her parents. “Can I have it?” She gave them her best puppy dog eyes.

“Are you sure?” Tatyana’s mom asked.

“Yeah, totally. I got it for times like this.” He grinned at the girl.

He really is good at thinking ahead.

She accepted the gift and nodded. “Thank you. We can go now,” she said with such confidence that her parents relented.

On the way to the shed, even Paige started to get nervous, but seeing that girl march beside her with confidence made her want to do the same.

The place turned overcrowded once they entered and at first, the infected man looked like he was prepared to bust free. This time, however, they were all armed to the teeth, so he wavered and held back.

He also looked overjoyed at spotting Tatyana, then Paige.

“Two Seedlings,” he intoned in a singsong voice. “I am certainly going home now.”

“Where is home?” Paige asked.

Still grinning, he simply pointed upward to the sky.

“What do you want from us?”

“Where did you come from?

“What’s a Seedling?”

Dave, Mr. Miller, and Paige started bombarding the prisoner, but he remained tight-lipped.

Sending one wistful glance toward Tatyana, he retreated to the very back of the structure and refrained from saying anything else.

Frustrated, they locked him in and returned to the house.

“What was that about?” Mr. Miller grumbled, clearly thinking out loud. “Does this virus make people delusional?”

Paige really wished she could simply say yes, but the problem with that was that all the crazy people said the same things.

“Unfortunately, those we managed to escape from said the same thing,” Dave replied. “Even mentioning a mothership.”

“A mothership?” Judith Miller exclaimed.

“Has this world completely gone insane?” Mr. Miller asked rhetorically.

“Sadly—” Paige started to reply as Dave said, “Pretty much.” They smiled at each other without humor.

There was nothing more to say after that. They were fed and rested but more confused now than ever. Knowing they’d find no more answers there, they thanked the Millers and decided to continue with their journey.

“We’ll call the police and get them to sort him out,” Mr. Miller told them.

“Don’t leave the house.” Paige pleaded with Tatyana, and she nodded.

Then she hugged them, thanking them both one more time. Once again, Paige couldn’t help but notice the soft golden glow around her once again.

What is wrong with me? Paige asked herself in exasperation. Was there something wrong with her eyesight, or was that perhaps the very first symptom of the virus?

I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

***

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