Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Twenty-Three
Paige fought to catch her breath, but she was laughing like a complete nutcase.
“Holy crap!” she said, and Dave said, “We did it!”
They were both so happy to be alive that they couldn’t stop laughing and shrieking.
“That was really badass,” he announced smugly.
“Me? I did nothing. You drove,” she countered, still in high spirits.
Suddenly, the motorbike caught her eye. It was still caught and now dangled off the edge of the bridge. She grinned, not quite able to believe their good fortune. Their wheels had made it as well, and they needed them more than ever.
Which also meant that the last thing they needed right now was to lose it.
There’s no way I will get to Willow in time without it. Anxiety reared up once again and she bit her lip to force it back.
Dave followed her gaze. He understood immediately and jumped up on his feet. Paige stood as well, and they sprinted back to the motorbike. Working together, they fought to pull it up beside them on the bridge.
“Damn, why is this motorbike so heavy all of a sudden?” he muttered, though she didn’t think it was too heavy.
After dragging it to a point where she knew it wouldn’t fall off, they simultaneously collapsed next to it, exhausted.
Lying on her back on the ground, she allowed herself a few minutes’ rest.
“I can’t believe we just did that,” Dave said softly, and she understood what he really meant by that.
“Yeah, me neither.”
In such a short period of time, so much had fallen on her shoulders. Paige was used to security and the feeling of being protected by others, but that was all gone now. It all fell on her.
It wasn’t only her own survival at stake here, but the survival of her sister and mom as well.
On the other hand, it was empowering to know that she was tougher than she realized, though it was sad that it took the world to end for her to realize that.
“Do you think we can survive all this?” she heard herself ask.
Dave remained silent for so long she was sure he wouldn’t answer her. Then, taking a deep breath, he did.
“If you’d asked me that question yesterday, I would probably have laughed in your face. Because yesterday, I was just a punk, too wrapped up in my own stuff to notice anything. But then today happened...and everything changed.”
“But to answer your question, I really don’t know.” He rose so he could look her in the face. “But I am optimistic. We managed to survive this long, and with style.” He delivered that last part with a smile and she smiled back, pondering over what he’d said.
Survival. That was what all of this was about, and it was the only thing that mattered. Slowly, they stood and pulled the motorbike up, readying it for the journey ahead.
“I gotta say, after the frigging leap over that abyss…” Dave exaggerated the last word with a dramatic tone. “My confidence in riding the motorbike has skyrocketed. I believe I can ride it through anything now,” he joked.
“Oh, the horror.” She pretended to be afraid and he laughed out loud.
They headed off with only one thought on both their minds—to get to Fort Hamilton in one piece.
Paige rested her head on Dave’s back. She was glad he was there. It was funny that they’d only met a few hours before but felt like they’d know each other for years. Still, she realized, they didn’t really know much about one another at all. She made a mental note to ask him what his last name was. It seemed important. She should really know that.
They got no further than ten minutes of solid riding away from the bridge when the bike began to sputter.
“What the hell?” Dave exclaimed, trying to steer a clearly dying motorbike.
Give us a break, Paige pleaded. “I think we ran out of gas.”
When they first found the bike, Paige hadn’t given much thought to the gas part of it, and because of that, they were now paying the price. It definitely didn’t sound like it had enough gas to go anywhere, much less to their actual destination.
“Yeah, I think you may be right.”
The good thing was that on Long Island, gas was for sale on almost every street corner. It wouldn’t be long until they came across a gas station.
Dave slowed and coaxed the bike onward. Paige thought it would die on them in earnest, but a gas station came up just ahead. She patted him on the shoulder and pointed, and he immediately coasted the slight downhill into it.
There were cars parked around the pumps, but Paige couldn’t see any people. He was probably wary about the same thing and approached slowly.
The cars were all abandoned.
Weird. The thought pushed itself into her consciousness. Something must have happened here. No shit, Sherlock. The world has been flipped upside down with people acting all crazy.
There were cell phones on the ground and wallets tossed aside like they had been abandoned on purpose.
The people must have seen something and decided to make a break for it, she speculated.
Can’t say I blame them at all, the way this virus seemed to work. All she wanted to do was run away too.
Although right then, her concern wasn’t the virus or the sick. It was the healthy people who would want their motorbike. As they’d proven so far, it was the best transportation available, which made them both lucky and royally screwed at the same time.
There was an empty spot near a pump, and Dave headed toward it.
Getting off, he said. “I’m gonna go and see if we can score some food from the store while you fill the tank.”
He jogged toward the store while she fumbled with the backpack.
* * *
Dave whistled some stupid tune he’d heard the previous night while going to bed, and now the darn thing wouldn’t stop playing inside his head.
No matter what was going on around him, he realized—whether chased by crazy people or stealing a car—his personal background music seemed to have remained a constant.
And it was slowly driving him insane.
Leaving Paige alone to fill the tank, he walked into the store and was disappointed.
“All the Tootsie Pops are gone,” he whined, discovering a sudden craving for an apple-flavored one.
Debating whether he should use a cart, he strolled about, looking happily for something he could actually take. A lot of things were already gone, and the rest were on the floor, broken and trampled.
“The horror,” he screeched in outrage, looking at his favorite can of Pringles. Picking it up, he noticed that some were still inside and edible, so he started munching.
Making a full circle with practically nothing to show for it, Dave acknowledged his disappointment—like he’d somehow been robbed of a fun experience. Reaching the register, he jumped, startled, only then noticing a cashier behind the desk.
“Sorry, man, didn’t see you there,” he muttered but the other man ignored him. With dread, Dave figured out why. The clerk stared blankly into space, a telltale sign of the virus infection, and a trail of blood seeped from his nose.
Freaked out by all the people he’d encountered in the recent past, including the man at the museum and the running pack at the park, he stiffened instinctively. He knew how this would inevitably play out.
Looking around him to find some type of weapon, Dave came up empty-handed.
There is nothing in this piece of crap of a place, he raged, walking slowly toward the cashier. He waved a hand in front of him but there was no response.
Realizing that he was too far gone in his catatonic state, Dave leaned in and tapped the register. It sprang open with a loud dinging sound and for a split second, he worried that it would bring his new best friend back from his stupor.
Thankfully, it didn’t.
“Easy money,” he said cheerfully, collecting all the cash—partly because he could, and partly in case the world righted itself tomorrow. It was always preferable to have a bit of spending money stashed away.
Besides, he wasn’t like the rest of the rich snobs at his college. He didn’t have wealthy parents who bought him an admission. He had to fight and work hard for everything he had.
“Thank you very much for everything.” Dave bowed to no one in particular, but something else caught his eyes.
Paige would like this, he thought and stashed the item in his pocket.
A loud scream from outside sent him hurtling out of the store.
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