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Inhabitable | Invasion Survivor Book Two | Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven

Being trapped on a rooftop when aliens were looking for you sucked, but it was still better than the alternative—like being captured by said aliens.

From Paige’s vantage point, she could barely get a glimpse of the moon.

Moon... like their last name. Paige wondered if her name was real. She’d have to ask her mom later now that she had more pressing things on her mind.

There has to be a way out of this place, she mused, refocusing on the more pressing issue. Paige surveyed the rooftop, making sure she didn’t miss anything, but the place was pretty bare other than the door they came through. Going back down wasn’t an option, so she came to the same conclusion that their only escape was to jump.

 “What is it, Paige?” AJ asked when he heard her sigh.

Paige shook her head. “No matter how I look at it, the only way we can get out of here is by jumping.”

“Oh, joy,” Dave grumbled.

 

* * *

 

“I agree,” AJ said reluctantly. “It’s the only way, but we don’t have to do it right now. We’re safe here for now, so let’s just chill for a bit. We don’t know when we will get another opportunity to rest.”

The three of them sat down on the roof. Paige looked up at the hovering alien spaceship and sighed again. “Safe? I don’t think I know the meaning of that word anymore.”

AJ understood what she meant by that. None of them knew how to stay still because moving forward was what kept them alive.

Sometimes, waiting for a disaster was worse than an actual event, but not in this case. AJ was grateful for the opportunity to just be. Even though he had to ignore the fact that a ship was over his head while aliens were wandering below, doing God only knew what.

“You know what we need?” Dave asked suddenly. Both AJ and Paige looked at him questioningly. He grinned before answering. “A couple of X-men to even the odds.”

AJ stared at him with obvious confusion, thinking his friend had just lost his mind.

Paige smiled. “Yeah, the Blackbird would appear any second now, and a couple of them would come to the rescue,” she played along.

“Someone like Night-girl and School-boy?” Dave asked, winking.

“Exactly,” Paige replied, laughing even harder.

“Deadpool would be with them, of course,” Dave continued.

Paige nodded in agreement. “Of course, and the three of them would do...”

“The superhero landing,” they finished in unison and laughed even harder.

“What are you guys talking about?” AJ questioned, a little lost at their conversation.

“You don’t know what a superhero landing is?” Dave asked.

AJ simply shook his head.

“It’s just from a movie we saw,” Paige replied.

Now AJ felt sorry for making the situation awkward. Nice going, jerk, he chastised himself. AJ looked at the skies, pretended he could glimpse at the stars beyond the ship.

“I wonder what it’s like in space,” AJ mused out loud.

“Cold,” Paige replied.

“Dark,” Dave added.

Lonely, AJ added to himself.

It’s not that bad. I think you guys will quite like it. But I have to admit, Earth has grown on me,” Francis admitted, taking AJ by surprise.

Francis, what did you say?” AJ asked. Francis was silent. “I heard you, buddy. This place is growing on you.” AJ couldn’t help but grin.

Like mold.” Francis replied bluntly.

AJ wondered if he’d miss hearing Francis.

“I will miss looking at the clear blue sky on a sunny day,” Dave confessed.

“And the change of seasons. I will definitely miss the sound of rain and the feel of snow,” Paige said wistfully.

“I definitely won’t miss traffic jams,” AJ chipped in, and his companions nodded.

“Commercials,” Paige added.

“English Lit,” AJ said back.

“Heatwaves,” Paige listed next.

“Eggplants,” Dave finally said. AJ looked at him with confusion.

“Eggplants?” Paige asked, equally confused.

“Yeah. My Mom is a vegan, and I really hate that shit.” He visibly shook, disgusted to even speak about it. They all laughed.

Paige was the first who recovered. “I will miss… everything,” she said as she stood and walked away from them both.

AJ didn’t know if he should walk over to her or give her a bit of space. Looking at Dave, it was clear he was thinking the very same thing.

 

* * *

 

Looking at the city plunged into darkness, it was hard not to think about all the things she would be leaving behind. How can someone say goodbye to a planet?

Dave neared Paige, his face scrunched up. Before she had a chance to ask what was going on, he raised his finger to his lips. Paige listened intently. AJ appeared then, listening as well. At first, she couldn’t hear anything and wanted to tell Dave to stop goofing around, but then she got it. There was a faint sound, so faint at first that she had to concentrate really hard to hear it, but it sounded like waves. It was so weak, Paige wondered if she hadn’t imagined it, but the looks on AJ’s and Dave’s faces convinced her otherwise. Paige knew they were too far away from the ocean to hear anything like that, yet that was exactly what it sounded like—water washing over the city, lulling it with his rhythmic melody. It was slowly flowing up the steps of the apartment building they just ran through. Unconsciously, Paige held her breath and listened to the soft sound of the waves. It was so soothing.

“Paige, do you hear them?” AJ broke the spell.

Paige looked at AJ, and suddenly, everything clicked. She knew exactly what he meant by them. Shadow Men were in the building and climbing the stairs. She knew that was true with every fiber of her being.

Her mother even made up a rhyme to warn them when they were little, but Paige forgot about that.

They come like waves, don’t miss the sound,

They come like the night, stay in the light,

When Shadow Men come, you better run, you better hide,

And stay silent from dusk till dawn.

Until the danger is gone.

And it’s safe to return home.

Paige sang to herself.

They had to think fast. Paige sprang into action and found a piece of a metal pipe to jam the door with. She knew it wouldn’t stop them, but it would at least slow them down—or so she hoped.

“It’s just a matter of minutes until they’ll be on the roof with us,” AJ said.

“Ok, it’s jumping time,” Dave announced.

“What?” Paige exclaimed.

She couldn’t explain why she was acting like this suddenly. It was her idea for them to do this in the first place.

“Paige, we have to jump,” AJ repeated.

Paige hated the idea, but hated the darkness more. On a more rational level, she knew they had to jump. She wasn’t afraid of heights, but plummeting to her death, smacking against the Earth was a different story entirely. The distance between the rooftops just made her too anxious.

“Paige, I know it’s scary, but the Shadows are even scarier. Believe me,” AJ said, trying to be persuasive.

She nodded, but still refused to move. Paige knew she was acting like a big baby, and it was ironic that after everything they’d been through, this was her undoing. But still, she couldn’t make her legs listen to her.

This is our last chance, Paige! She tried to encourage herself, but it wasn’t doing much good.

The roof door started to shake violently.

“Oh, no. They’re here!” Dave growled.

The metal door squeaked like some demonic creature as it slowly began to mold into a new shape as the Shadows pushed it from behind.

“They’re trying to get through the door!” Paige shouted in a whisper, feeling her voice trembling with terror. She took two deep breaths and steeled herself. “Let’s go,” she said in a voice that was much stronger than she felt.

Dave grinned, taking her hand as AJ took the other.

Jump already, you human,” Francis mocked.

Shut it. I’m trying not to kill us.

Really? I can read your pulse. You just want to hold Paige’s hand longer. Don’t you?” Francis questioned.

Francis was right, but AJ wasn’t going to admit it. He needed to focus on getting to the other building.

Going all the way to the other side for a better start, they started running together towards the edge of the roof. The soft gravel crunched under their feet as they tried to catch the right momentum for the leap. As they ran as far as they could, they planted their feet on the concrete ledge and took a big leap. Everything seemed to move in slow motion.

Paige’s heart pounded in her chest, and she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. Instead, she clenched her jaws, not wanting to tip everyone off of their whereabouts.

The roof of the opposite building slowly got closer. A little bit more, and they would land.

Trying hard not to look directly beneath herself, Paige did her best to push herself forward like a bird. Suddenly, Paige felt all alone in the air, and pure panic started to rise in her throat. She was sure she wouldn’t be able to make it.

The heavy metal door burst off its hinges behind them and flew across the roof they’d just jumped from. Paige could clearly hear its whizzing sound as it came at her. Instinctively, she ducked just as she harshly landed on the other rooftop.

“Ouch,” Paige gasped as she hit the roof rolling.

Two thuds followed hers which meant the guys had landed as well. A wave of relief washed over her. They’d made it. Paige looked down to see her hands and knees bloodied and scraped, but she didn’t feel any pain. Yet.

“No time for finger-painting with your own blood, Paige. We have to run,” Dave said. Even though his words were light, his tone was deadly serious.

Paige risked a glance behind her, and she saw that the black mass had completely filled the roof they’d jumped from only a minute ago. The strange mass started to acquire a new shape, and Paige couldn’t make herself look away. They all stared at the dark cloud as it transformed into a bridge like structure.

“Well, damn me to hell,” Dave exclaimed.

AJ yelled. “No freaking way!”

Paige settled for a good old-fashioned, “Oh, no.”

At that moment, they realized the Shadows could morph into anything. AJ just stared at them and shook his head. To her complete shock, the Shadows paused. Paige held her breath, hoping against hope they would start to retreat, but unfortunately, they resumed building their bridge.

Crap!” Paige exclaimed in exasperation.

“Guys,” AJ spoke softly, slowly, seemingly afraid any loud noises would agitate them, “they aren’t going to stop.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Dave mumbled next to them.

Paige knew AJ was right, just like she knew they still had to make a lot more jumps over the rooftops, to survive. Thankfully, the next wasn’t that far. By the end of this affair, if they survived, Paige was certain she would be a parkour pro.

Without further words, they leaped over onto the next roof. The only good thing in this entire nightmare was that they were together. Paige knew there were a lot of moments in the past where she would have stumbled if she was alone. Luckily, she’d had Dave and AJ by her side.

She wasn’t too worried about Willow or the rest of their gang because her fierce mother was with them, keeping them safe.

“Hey, this is kind of fun,” Dave said at some point, and Paige rolled her eyes.

“Yeah,” AJ said between ragged breaths. “Wish alien assassins weren’t after us, but it beats Mrs. Wilkinson’s introduction to classic literature.”

Paige groaned in reply. She accidentally took that class junior year and wanted to kill herself after one lecture. She barely survived through the entire semester.

They jumped from rooftop to rooftop, and it seemed to be an endless process

Maybe it was just in Paige’s imagination, but she thought the aliens were building their overpasses more quickly over time. It was like they were learning on the spot how to do it in the most efficient way.

Still, it was too early for cheers, so Paige simply gritted her teeth and moved onto the next leap.

After several running and taking several jumps, they had to rest on one of the roofs. The next building was too far to reach.

There was a road between them, making it impossible for them to jump.

“We won’t make it this time,” Paige said.

Dave nodded in agreement as AJ looked behind them to see how close the Shadows were to them.

“I agree, guys,” AJ said, “but we can’t stay here either.”

Dave looked around. “Let’s find a roof door.”

“Return to the streets?” Paige recoiled.

“Do you have a better idea?” Dave argued back.

“Maybe we can convince someone to let us in their place and hide,” AJ suggested.

Yeah, because that worked for us so well last time, Paige thought. Instead of arguing, she started looking for an escape and found one over the edge of the roof.  “Look, guys, a fire escape,” Paige said, pointing. On the side of the building was a fire escape.

“Great catch,” AJ said.

The trio quickly made their way down the metal frame. The streets were filled with Shadows. Gunshots and people’s screams were captured in the darkness and broke the dead silence ever so often. The black mass looked so fragile from a distance, but it was quite solid. It seemed to swallow people, absorbing them and taking them to some unknown destination. No matter how much the people struggled, when captured, they couldn’t escape the mass.

Paige gulped, unable to stop herself. It was a true battlefield down there, but the gang didn’t have another choice if they wanted to live. About halfway down, Paige spotted a window that looked like it might be unlocked. There was a small crack between the frame and the window.

She saw understanding on Dave’s face as she nudged him and pointed at the cracked window. Together, they forced it open.

Paige wavered as the window opened. This is so wrong, she thought to herself. In her moment of the moral dilemma, she looked down toward the streets again, and what she saw made her breath hitch.

Five people stood in the center of a circle of Shadows that were closing in on them. It rose in height as it crept closer to the frightened people.

The people were fighting to get out of it, but it was impossible. It captured them effortlessly. They were prisoners, stuck in a dense wave, swaying around slowly and helplessly while waiting to be devoured.

Unable to withstand the horrible sight, Paige quickly squeezed through the window. When she was safely inside, Dave and AJ climbed in after her. They looked around and saw they were standing in what appeared to be a little boy’s bedroom. The walls were blue, the furniture had train decals, and toys were scattered everywhere.

AJ stepped on an action figurine and stumbled over a chair, which he accidentally shoved against the desk.

Paige cringed at the loud noise. Almost instantly, the door flung open, making Paige wish she had her sword again. As the three of them looked ahead with wide eyes, prepared to fight whoever charged inside, an Asian boy stood in front of them with his mouth gaping open with terror.

The sleepy boy woke instantly. As his little eyes wandered over all the people in his semi-dark room, that was illuminated only by a soft battery-operated nightlight, he screamed bloody murder before Paige even had the chance to speak.

“Daddy! Daddy! Help!” the boy yelled.

AJ moved fast and grabbed the kid, covering his mouth to muffle his screams. “Hey, look, kid, we’re not going to hurt you,” he said in one breath as the boy tried to escape.

“We need to move away from the window,” Dave said, closing the window behind him.

Paige nodded. That was smart thinking since that kid obviously had great pipes. AJ carried the boy out of the bedroom, then stopped as the boy’s parents ran toward the gang.

They looked startled, which was completely understandable considering three people broke into their home and held their son hostage. The woman was slightly taller than the man, and they wore matching pajamas. Paige realized that the boy’s night attire matched his parents’ as well.

“What are you doing?” the father asked. “What do you want? Get out!”

“We mean you no harm,” Paige spoke quickly, raising her arms to show she was not armed. The gun at the small of her back didn’t quite count since it didn’t have any bullets left in it.

Paige saw the disbelief on their faces, but she still pressed on. “Please stay quiet—we just want a place to hide.”

“Please don’t hurt my son,” the woman pleaded.

“I said get out, or I’ll call the police!” the man insisted.

 “There are aliens all over the place,” Dave interrupted. “They’re coming into the buildings and taking people away. There’s no electricity in the entire city, and phones no longer work.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” the woman snapped.

“Don’t you know what’s been going on outside?” AJ asked in disbelief.

“We caught the flu on our trip to Disneyland so we decided to just stay in and recover,” the man replied, equally confused.

On closer inspection, Paige noticed their puffy eyes and red noses in the dim light.

If they had a high fever that knocked them out, they wouldn’t hear the chaos on the streets, Paige mused.

“We’re telling you the truth,” Dave insisted. “The aliens came, released a deadly virus, and they’re now rounding up the survivors.”

“The only way to stay safe is to hide in a wardrobe,” Paige added.

AJ let go of the boy, and he ran into his mother’s open arms. The boy’s parents stared at them as if they’d lost their minds. Paige honestly felt daft talking about hiding in wardrobes, but that was what she was taught when she was a little girl.

“Please take whatever you want and go. Just don’t hurt us,” the farther pleaded in return, clearly not ready to accept the truth.

Paige sighed.

They didn’t believe them. Her mother must have felt the same way for many years.

“Look out the window and see for yourselves,” AJ offered, but before they could, the building began to tremble.

The wave of the Shadows was already there.

***

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